An article by a popular evangelical blogger arguing that the six “days” of creation in Genesis were not literal 24-hour periods has prompted discussion among Christians about the earth’s age and whether orthodoxy necessarily entails believing in a young earth.
Justin Taylor, senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway, posted a blog article Jan. 28 arguing that there are “biblical reasons to doubt the creation days were 24-hour periods.” The article, which was shared on Facebook 15,000 times during its first two weeks online, also noted famous people from church history who did not believe Genesis describes six 24-hour days.
“I want to suggest there are some good, textual reasons — in the creation account itself — for questioning the exegesis that insists on the days as strict 24 hour periods,” Taylor, a Ph.D. student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote. “Am I as certain of this as I am of the resurrection of Christ? Definitely not. But in some segments of the church, I fear that we’ve built an exegetical ‘fence around the Torah,’ fearful that if we question any aspect of young-earth dogmatics we have opened the gate to liberalism.”
“Defenders of inerrancy” who did not believe in six 24-hour periods — like Augustine, J. Gresham Machen and Carl F.H. Henry — “show that this is not the case,” Taylor wrote. “And a passion for sola Scriptura provides us with the humility and willingness to go back to the text again to see if these things are so.”
The BF&M & creation
Southern Baptist seminary professors — though divided on whether Taylor’s conclusion is correct — agreed that old-earth creationism falls within the bounds of the Baptist Faith and Message. However, they distinguished old-earth creationism from theistic evolution.
Old-earth creationism contends that God brought the world into existence from nothing by His direct action and not evolution. Old-earth creationists say the earth is billions rather than thousands of years old and that the “days” of Genesis 1 were not 24-hour periods. Theistic evolutionists claim God used evolution to create, directing the process but not simply speaking things into existence.
Young-earth creationists believe God created the world from nothing between 6,000 and 50,000 years ago in six literal days.
Jason Duesing, provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press he disagrees with Taylor’s blog post but believes it “is helpful because it reframes a well-worn debate topic back to what the text actually says.”
“As the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 does not specifically address the age of the earth, much like the finer points of eschatology, it is a secondary matter to determine what SBC seminary professors believe about the issue. I do not mean to imply it is not important for under the BF&M, SBC faculty must affirm the creation and existence of a literal Adam and Eve and see no room for the affirmation of theistic evolution,” Duesing said in written comments.
“Personally, I remain convinced that the young-earth view best accounts for the plain reading of the Bible, and while I have not polled the faculty at Midwestern on this topic, I suspect the majority of the faculty would as well. For those who hold to an old-earth view, I support the legitimacy of their doing so and enjoy the sharpening that comes from healthy dialogue, even as their conclusions and implications do cause me some good natured head-scratching. In the end, I see this as an intramural discussion among creationists and hope that such only serves to bind us closer together in refuting that which is clearly contrary to Scripture, the theory of evolution,” Duesing said.
The Baptist Faith and Message refers to God as the “Creator” and explains, “Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press