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Common Ground on Genesis

On the Spectrum blog there’s quite a lot of discussion of the age of the earth and a search for common ground. The problem with the phrase “common ground” is that it can mean many different things. Two recent articles on the age of the earth had quotes that caught my attention. As far as I can tell (my specialty is Biblical languages, not any of the various sciences involved), the discussion of the various dating methods is quite good.

This material comes from members of the Seventh-day Adventist church, my former denomination, and one that is pretty firm on the young age of the universe and a literal seven day creation week. Watching this discussion unfold amongst SDAs is something I find fascinating.

The first article, Genesis Literalism and the Temple of Doom – I, after summarizing some of the methods, concludes:

Even if the message is not one we want to hear, recognizing the validity of these tools of science should be the basis for common ground.

Sounds good thus far. Then we continue with the second article, creatively titled Genesis Literalism and the Temple of Doom – II, and after some more dating methods are summarized we have another conclusion:

The obvious question, then, is, “how should the Church respond to this evidence?” As suggested previously, perhaps the best way to deal with this evidence, given a predisposition in favor of YEC, is simply to say nothing about age. Taking this approach would act as a hedge against further compelling scientific confirmation of a very old age. To proceed in this way would preserve the Church’s credibility, and would seem to be the only approach to common ground.

This one doesn’t strike me right at all. Essentially keeping silent about age when you’ve just admitted that the scientific evidence is entirely against young age seems very odd, and doesn’t seem any basis for common ground at all. Common ground between what groups or positions? In essence, by its silence, the church would say “We were wrong, but we don’t want to admit it, so now we’re going quiet.” Or so it seems to me …

I see two options for someone convinced that the earth is old, yet who espouses some form of biblically based Christianity: 1) Take a new look at the biblical evidence or role in the discussion or 2) Admit science is against you, but uphold what you believe the Bible teaches. The first approach is mine, looking both at how we understand certain passages of scripture and also looking at the role God intended scripture to play in scientific discussions. I’ve written on that before. Dr. Kurt Wise and Dr. Todd Wood are examples of folks who take the second approach.

I don’t think silence is going to work long term. I hope I will see in future installments that I have misunderstood the intent of the writer. I will certainly continue to read the series.

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  1. As you know, I have taken the 1st approach you site as well. In fact, I was moved enough that I started my own blog. In my experience, common ground is a very hard thing to find. Young Earthers tell me that I don’t take the bible seriously enough, while Old Earthers tell me that I’m thinking too much. I could talk for hours on the quest for common ground.

    I once got up in front of my church to teach on Genesis 1. I volunteered because I was afraid the planned teaching would alienate 1/2 the church, one way or the other. My message? That whatever God did, whatever Moses wrote, the truth will be painfully obvious when God shows us our lives from Heaven (assuming that’s what He does). So, what message to get from it now? Today? That God loved us enough to create us, loved us enough to create an entire world just for us, and finally, loved us enough to give His Son for our sins. If we really want to see common ground, it needs to start with God’s love. As much as I love science, starting there is just too cold.

    1. I understand the frustration. I think relatively few are seeking any sort of common ground. Personally, I think a great common ground would be “let’s agree to disagree and debate vigorously, while not condemning one another to hell.” That would work for me! 🙂

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