Young earth view crucial to Christian doctrines, prof says
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--In Kurt Wise’s office at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary you can find fossils that secular scientists claim are billions of years old and are part of the long process of man’s evolution.
But this Harvard-trained paleontology expert is out to show a better explanation for fossils -– and why neither science nor the Bible allow for evolution. That’s why Wise, director of the Center for Theology and Science and professor of theology and science at Southern, also has agreed to serve as a consultant for the Creation Museum in Florence, Ky., near Cincinnati.
The museum, scheduled to open in April 2007, will feature 50,000 square feet and more than 250 exhibits countering the errors of evolutionary science and demonstrating the reliability of the first 11 chapters in Genesis.
Laid out in a walk-through format, the museum shows how science supports the Bible’s accounts of creation, the origin of man and the worldwide flood. The Creation Museum is a project of Answers in Genesis, an apologetics organization focused on answering questions about the Book of Genesis.
“It’s a good balance of philosophy, theology and science with the priority being on Scripture as a starting point,” said Wise, who came to Southern in 2006. “We understand science because we start with the Bible. We understand philosophy because we start with the Bible. [The museum] is an attempt to weave those together.”
One goal of the museum is to combine the expertise and resources of two groups in the creationist movement that too often work separately -- scientists and popular conveyers of creationist concepts, Wise said. He noted that scientists often have nuanced data that they have difficulty communicating with the public while popular creation speakers often give imprecise scientific data in an effort to present a simple message.
The Creation Museum meshes precise science with understandable presentations of data, Wise said, adding that he has consulted with other experts in the fields of biology, geology and astronomy.
“It’s not just my personal expertise I’m bringing in, but that of everybody I know,” he said.
The material presented in the museum is important for Christians to understand because it shows that biblical inerrantists who take Genesis literally have scientific support, Wise said. He noted that believing the earth was created by God 6,000-7,000 years ago is the most consistent position to take in light of Scripture.
“If you don’t believe in a young earth, you really cannot -- and be consistent -- believe in the truth of much of Genesis 1-11,” he said. “You have to reject a Babel origin for modern languages. You have to reject a global flood -- it has to be a local flood. You have to reject the longevity of the patriarchs -- they couldn’t possibly have lived for 900 years.
“You have to reject that the first city was built by Cain or anything associated with Cain. You have to reject that Adam was the first human. You have to reject the origin of agriculture spoken of in Genesis 4,” Wise added. “You have to reject the description of Eden -- it becomes absurd with rivers on three different continents coming out in one place. You have to reject Genesis chapter 1 -- the order of creation is wrong, not just the days or the length of the days.”
Wise acknowledged that the majority of Christians and even the majority of conservative evangelicals believe the world is older than 7,000 years, but he argued many of the foundational doctrines of the Bible -- such as marriage, the literal fall of man, the necessity of a Savior and the end times -- depend on belief in a young earth.
The same data which leads geoscientists to the conclusion that the earth is billions of years old, Wise said, also indicate that the fossils on the earth range from thousands to billions of years in age.
“This includes such things as human fossils hundreds of thousands to millions of years old and such things as disease and suffering of animals hundreds of millions of years older than that,” he said. “If humans really date back that far and Adam lived far enough in the past to be their ancestor, then the genealogical record of Genesis 5 is wrong and thus the Bible and its author, God, are wrong.”
If humans really date back that far and Genesis 5 is correct, Wise said he believes Adam and Eve could not be ancestors of all humans.
“In this case, Adam's sin could not be passed on to all humans, and such things as agriculture, religion, marriage and even human death would have preceded Adam and Adam's sin,” Wise reasoned. “This not only means that the biblical account ... would be wrong, but Jesus would be wrong when He referred to marriage beginning with Adam and Eve, and Romans 5 would be wrong claiming sin and death by sin entered the world by one man.
“And if Adam's sin is not the reason we are sinners and did not lead to human death, then what does Christ's ‘second Adam’ status mean?” he added. “And if Adam's sin did not lead to a curse -- because death and thorns and toil and disease and suffering preceded Adam's sin by hundreds of thousands or millions of years -- then what is heaven like with ‘no more curse’?”
Believers don’t have to understand all the details of science in order to understand the creation account; they just have to rely on God.
“The most important thing is that you ought to be able to trust your God and the claims the Bible makes. I know most people don’t understand what in the world the scientists are saying. That’s OK. Just pay attention to what God says. If you trust what God has given us, it becomes an appropriate foundation for every aspect of our lives.”
As believers examine science, the most important thing they can remember is to always pay attention to Scripture above any scientist, Wise said.
“The most important thing is, regardless of what all the scientists are saying, the Bible is true and you can accept it by faith,” he said. “God is only pleased with faith, as a matter of fact. To trust the scientists is not faith. It is, in fact, trusting in man’s reason rather than God.”