Those who believe that the earth is young hold this view because of the record of scripture. They are convinced of the truthfulness and reliability of scripture, and they see in the Bible a clear teaching that the earth is young. These people believe that any scientific data must be interpreted according to the foregone conclusion that the universe is young.
Those who believe that the earth is old hold this view because of the record of nature. They are convinced of the reliability of the scientific method, and they see in nature a clear indication that the earth is old. Christians who hold this view believe that the Biblical account of creation can be interpreted in a way that does not conflict with these scientific findings.
So it all seems to come down to this question: Should our faith be rooted primarily in scripture or primarily in science? For a Christian, it seems that the answer should be straightforward. Our faith is rooted in our knowledge of God as revealed to us in the scriptures. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis frequently puts it this way: It is better to put trust in the infallible word of God than in fallible human reason. However, I believe that this perspective is flawed, and I will explain why.
Science is based on observation and logic. Very few people would deny the validity of the laws of logic or argue that what is observed by many people does not correspond to reality. Yet when observations about the world are made and logical conclusions are drawn, and this is given the name science, suddenly some people feel that it is okay to disregard it.
For those not familiar with the scientific method, let me summarize it. (This is not the sequence of steps you learned in your middle school science class; I think that would more accurately be called the method for completing a science fair project.)
- Observations are made about the world that do not have a known explanation.
- A theory is proposed that can explain the observations. This theory also has the capacity to make predictions about things that have not yet been tested or observed.
- Experiments are performed to test the predictions of the theory. If the results of the experiments contradict the predictions of the theory, then the theory is abandoned or modified. (Return to step 2.) If the results of the experiment agree with the predictions, then the theory is confirmed. (Repeat step 3.) The theory is never proven, however, because results of subsequent investigations could contradict the theory.
So we see that although science is based on observation and logic, scientific theories are always subject to change. It is reasonable to have faith that our observations of nature are an expression of truth, but it is not reasonable to have absolute faith in any particular scientific theory. However, it is also unreasonable to put faith in a theory that is contradicted by observation, and it is perfectly reasonable to place a large measure of confidence in theories that have been supported by the results of numerous tests.
The Bible is the Word of God. I will not attempt to prove that here. It is important for any Christian to consider why they believe this, but that discussion is outside the scope of this blog. I will consider as a starting point the premise that the Bible is the word of God. As such, it must be entirely correct because God does not lie.
The Bible is entirely correct, but it is often misunderstood. For instance, those who teach Calvinism and those who teach Arminianism both base their arguments on scripture, but both positions cannot be correct. Thus, it is evident that at least one of these positions is based on an incorrect interpretation of scripture. Similarly, those who teach dispensationalism and those who teach covenant theology both base their arguments on scripture, but both positions cannot be correct. Thus, it is evident that at least one of these positions is based on an incorrect interpretation of scripture. So we see that although it is reasonable to have faith in the accuracy of scripture, it is not necessarily reasonable to have absolute faith in a particular interpretation of scripture. It is also unreasonable to put faith in an interpretation that is indisputably contradicted by other passages of scripture.
Ken Ham states that the Bible is infallible because it comes from God but that science is fallible because it is the interpretation of men. However, both nature and scripture come from God, and both are subject to the interpretation of men. So what does all this have to do with creation? It means that it is not reasonable to believe in a particular method of creation by interpreting scripture alone and not considering the record of nature. It also means that it is not reasonable to believe in a particular method of creation by interpreting nature alone and not considering scripture. Any theory of creation must be in harmony with both scripture and science.