SEBTS hosts dialogue among YEC & OEC proponents

WAKE FOREST, N.C.—The tone and tenor of a recent debate between proponents of old- and young-earth creationism was diplomatic, but the underlying subtext of the presentations made at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary intimated that the other side was wrong in their assumptions and nothing less than the communication of the gospel was at stake.

Representatives on both sides of the issue said it was essential that Christians have a gracious yet vigorous debate regarding the age of the earth during the conference held on Oct. 25.

Appropriately titled “Noah’s Flood and the Age of the Earth: A Dialogue Between Old Earth and Young Earth Creationists,” the conference included old-earth scientists who said the young-earth model generates ridicule from peers and a crisis of faith for young adults.

Young-earth proponents said acceptance of an old-earth paradigm essentially rejects the first 11 chapters of the Bible and calls into question fundamental doctrines about the nature of God, man and sin.

“Some of you will be pastors where you will be ministering to … scientists, and they know what the earth is like,” Ken Wolgemuth told the audience of seminary students and faculty. “If it is misrepresented it leaves a black eye on Christianity.”

Wolgemuth, a geochemist and founder of Solid Rock Lectures and old-earth proponent, was one of four scientists lecturing at the conference. He was joined by Gregg Davidson, University of Mississippi professor of geology and geological engineering.

Presenting evidence for a young earth were Ronald Marks, North Greenville University professor of chemistry, and Eugene Chaffin, professor of physics at North Greenville.

Ken Keathley, director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, moderated.

During their lectures each scientist testified to his Christian faith, belief in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, and that God created the universe and all that is in it.

Wolgemuth and Davidson added the caveat that their old-earth presuppositions did not conflict with the Bible. Christian proponents of old-earth creationism contend the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old and generally discount the global scope of the Genesis flood. Instead, they argue for a regional flood.

But, said Davidson, a partner of Solid Rock Lectures, science will never “trump” Scripture. Rightly understood the two do not conflict, he argued.

“The reason why we’re here is a love for the Bride of Christ and a concern over some hindrances that we feel exist to the mission of the church,” Davidson said.

What the church typically communicates is a dogmatic adherence to a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of creation as a tenet of Christian faith, pitting those with differing views as apostates, he insisted.

Davidson then suggested Christians who espouse a young-earth theory are less than truthful in their evidentiary presentations.

“Scientific evidence that supports a young earth is invariably based on incomplete information,” Davidson wrote in response to several questions following the dialogue.

Wolgemuth, who asserts that “95 to 98 percent” of all Christian geologists believe in an ancient earth, was more direct in his refutation of the young-earth view. “It is claimed by those with a flood geology viewpoint that Noah’s Flood formed most of the Earth’s sedimentary layers, including the mile of exposed layers of the Grand Canyon, in one year about 5,000 years ago. This hypothesis is not in the Bible, and does not stand up to scientific scrutiny,” he wrote.

Davidson asked, “When the church teaches and promotes misrepresentations of history and of scientific evidence, what impact does that have on our ministry to the body and the lost?”

But an old-earth interpretation not only discounts a straightforward interpretation of Genesis, it indicates a worldly bias brought to the study of the evidence, Marks and Chaffin countered. And the notion that all “acceptable” science must be couched in old-earth presuppositions blindly discounts any evidence to the contrary, they said.

What the old-earth view calls “scientific evidence” requires an a priori commitment to millions of years of uniformly deposited geologic data. Any other possibilities—including a catastrophic global flood—are ruled out of bounds, the young earth proponents contend.

“If the evidence is the same and we’re drawing different conclusions, than either we’re being dishonest and untrustworthy or we simply have different worldviews,” said Marks, a former theistic evolutionist.

To view the lectures go to: sebts.edu/faithandculture/events/past_events_cfc/Noahs_Flood_conf_oct13.aspx.

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TEXAN Correspondent
Bonnie Pritchett
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