Will Pastors Miss the “Millions of Years” Point?

Recently, Baptist News reported on research in regard to what pastors believe about evolution and millions of years. The news item stated the following:

Pastors overwhelmingly believe that God did not use evolution to create humans and think Adam and Eve were literal people, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research.

The survey of 1,000 American Protestant pastors also found that ministers are almost evenly split on whether the earth is thousands of years old.

The major portion of the report concentrated on the issue of evolution and Adam and Eve. For instance the item continued as follows:

In response to the statement, “I believe Adam and Eve were literal people,” 74 percent strongly agree and 8 percent somewhat agree. Six percent somewhat disagree, 11 percent strongly disagree and 1 percent are not sure.

“Recently discussions have pointed to doubts about a literal Adam and Eve, the age of the earth and other origin issues,” said Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. “But Protestant pastors are overwhelmingly creationists and believe in a literal Adam and Eve.”

Based on a Gallup poll from December 2010, pastors are more creationist (referring to the belief that all things were created substantially as they now exist as recounted in the first chapter of Genesis and not gradually evolved) than the American public at large.

Forty percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form, 38 percent say God used evolution to develop humans and 16 percent think man evolved with God playing no part in the process, according to Gallup.

In the LifeWay Research survey, about one in five pastors agree that most of their congregation believes in evolution. That includes 10 percent who strongly agree and 9 percent who somewhat agree. A majority (62 percent) strongly disagree and 13 percent somewhat disagree.

At the bottom of the article, we also read the following:

In response to the statement, “I believe the earth is approximately 6,000 years old,” 34 percent of pastors strongly disagree. However, 30 percent strongly agree. Nine percent somewhat disagree, and 16 percent somewhat agree.

“Earth’s age is the only issue in this survey on which pastors are almost evenly divided,” Stetzer said. “But to many of the pastors, belief in an older earth is not the same as belief in evolution. Many pastors who believe God created humans in their present form also believe that the earth is older than 6,000 years.” …

Those with a graduate degree are more likely to strongly disagree that the earth is 6,000 years old than pastors with a bachelor’s degree at most (42 percent vs. 18 percent).”

Lifeway (the organization that conducted the research) also reports on the statistics at the Lifeway Research’s website—again with most of the article dealing with the evolution issue. Lifeway also explains how the research was conducted.

The phone survey, conducted in May 2011, sampled randomly selected Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called and responses were weighted to reflect the geographic distribution of Protestant churches. The completed sample of 1,000 phone interviews provides a 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed ±3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

You can read the full report.

Here is the major observation I want to make. I have had Christian leaders get upset with me for publicly challenging certain academics who are Christians but who adamantly teach an old earth. I have been told, for instance, that one such academic is known to debate the existence of God with atheists, and he is not the “enemy” of AiG—those who reject God are the real enemy. Over the years, I have found many Christian leaders who don’t believe in evolution, but they do accept millions of years before Adam and his fall. Some are very conservative in their doctrine, but they may teach the “gap theory” or ”day age theory” to try to fit millions of years into the Bible. The point is, many Christian leaders think as long as they are against evolution, it doesn’t matter what they believe about the age of the earth. But the problem really is millions of years—not evolution! What do I mean by that?

I have written many articles and blogs over the years to explain this important issue. I thought it would be good to point out that we have been saying these same things for years and years. For example, back in 1998, I wrote an article titled “A Young Earth—It’s Not the Issue!”

I decided to republish this article here for you, as it is a good reminder for us.

Time and time again I have found that in both Christian and secular worlds, those of us who are involved in the creation movement are characterized as “young Earthers.” The supposed battle-line is thus drawn between the “old Earthers” (this group consists of anti-God evolutionists as well as many “conservative” Christians) who appeal to what they call “science,” versus the “young Earthers,” who are said to be ignoring the overwhelming supposed “scientific” evidence for an old Earth.

I want to make it VERY clear that we don’t want to be known primarily as “young-Earth creationists.” AiG’s main thrust is NOT “young Earth” as such; our emphasis is on Biblical authority. Believing in a relatively “young Earth” (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.

Recently, one of our associates sat down with a highly respected world-class Hebrew scholar and asked him this question: “If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with millions or billions of years of history for the Earth and universe?” The answer from this scholar? “Absolutely not!”

Let’s be honest. Take out your Bible and look through it. You can’t find any hint at all for millions or billions of years.

For those of you who have kept up with our lectures and our articles in Answers magazine, you will have heard or read quotes from many well-known and respected Christian leaders admitting that if you take Genesis in a straight-forward way, it clearly teaches six ordinary days of Creation. However, the reason they don’t believe God created in six literal days is because they are convinced from so-called “science” that the world is billions of years old. In other words, they are admitting that they start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture.

When someone says to me, “Oh, so you’re one of those fundamentalist, young-Earth creationists,” I reply, “Actually, I’m a revelationist, no-death-before-Adam redemptionist!” (which means I’m a young-Earth creationist!).

Here’s what I mean by this: I understand that the Bible is a revelation from our infinite Creator, and it is self-authenticating and self-attesting. I must interpret Scripture with Scripture, not impose ideas from the outside! When I take the plain words of the Bible, it is obvious there was no death, bloodshed, disease or suffering of humans or animals before sin. God instituted death and bloodshed because of sin—this is foundational to the Gospel. Therefore, one cannot allow a fossil record of millions of years of death, bloodshed, disease and suffering before sin (which is why the fossil record makes much more sense as the graveyard of the flood of Noah’s day).

Also, the word for “day” in the context of Genesis can only mean an ordinary day for each of the six days of Creation [see Get Answers: Genesis for more information].

Thus, as a “revelationist,” I let God’s Word speak to me, with the words having meaning according to the context of the language they were written in. Once I accept the plain words of Scripture in context, the fact of ordinary days, no death before sin, the Bible’s genealogies, etc., all make it clear that I cannot accept millions or billions of years of history. Therefore, I would conclude there must be something wrong with man’s ideas about the age of the universe.

And the fact is, every single dating method (outside of Scripture) is based on fallible assumptions. There are literally hundreds of dating tools. However, whatever dating method one uses, assumptions must be made about the past. Not one dating method man devises is absolute! Even though 90% of all dating methods give dates far younger than evolutionists require, none of these can be used in an absolute sense either. [See Get Answers: Radiometric Dating and Get Answers: Young Age Evidence for more information.]

Question: Why would any Christian want to take man’s fallible dating methods and use them to impose an idea on the infallible Word of God? Christians who accept billions of years are in essence saying that man’s word is infallible, but God’s Word is fallible!

This is the crux of the issue. When Christians have agreed with the world that they can accept man’s fallible dating methods to interpret God’s Word, they have agreed with the world that the Bible can’t be trusted. They have essentially sent out the message that man, by himself, independent of revelation, can determine truth and impose this on God’s Word. Once this “door” has been opened regarding Genesis, ultimately it can happen with the rest of the Bible.

You see, if Christian leaders have told the next generation that one can accept the world’s teachings in geology, biology, astronomy, etc., and use these to (re)interpret God’s Word, then the door has been opened for this to happen in every area, including morality.

Yes, one can be a conservative Christian and preach authoritatively from God’s Word from Genesis 12 onwards. But once you have told people to accept man’s dating methods, and thus should not take the first chapters of Genesis as they are written, you have effectively undermined the Bible’s authority! This attitude is destroying the church in America.

So, the issue is not “young Earth” versus “old Earth,” but this: Can fallible, sinful man be in authority over the Word of God?

A “young-Earth” view admittedly receives the scoffing from a majority of the scientists. But Paul warned us in 1 Corinthians 8:2 (KJV), “And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” Compared to what God knows, we know “next door to nothing!” This is why we should be so careful to let God speak to us through His Word, and not try to impose our ideas on God’s Word.

It’s also interesting to note that this verse is found in the same passage where Paul warns that “knowledge puffeth up.” Academic pride is found throughout our culture. Therefore, many Christian leaders would rather believe the world’s fallible academics, than the simple clear words of the Bible.

At Answers in Genesis, we believe this message needs to be proclaimed to the Church as a challenge to return to Biblical authority, and thus stand tall in the world for the accuracy of God’s Word. Ultimately, this is the only way we are going to reach the world with the truth of the Gospel message.

Let’s start the year by putting more and more pressure on our Christian leaders to take a long, hard look at how they are approaching the question of the authority of the Bible! Please help us fulfill our mission statement: to bring about reformation in the Church!

[http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/1998/01/23/young-earth-not-issue]

I have also found over the years that evolutionists don’t really care as much if a Christian leader doesn’t believe in evolution (they will still mock of course), but they really care (and become emotional about it) if a Christian leader rejects millions of years. When a person today stands up (as we do at AiG) and proclaims that we believe in no death before sin, only thousands of years for the age of the universe, and that most of the fossils were formed during the Flood of Noah’s day around 4,300 years ago—then that person will be mocked at by the world and called “anti-academic,” “anti-science,” “anti-intellectual,” etc.

For the secularists, they have to have millions of years—without this they can’t postulate enough time for evolution. Millions of years is absolutely vital to the secularists in their attempt to explain life without God. They just can’t allow anyone to question the idea of millions of years. And if you think about it, the millions of years was popularized before Darwin proposed his ideas. Without millions of years, Darwin could never have proclaimed his evolutionary ideas.

This is why millions of years is so aggressively pushed in the culture—on the TV, in public schools, museums, zoos, etc. This is also why the secularists have worked hard to indoctrinate Christian leaders/academics to accept millions of years. In doing so, they know two things will happen.

  1. These Christian leaders/academics will have then allowed for the pagan religion of millions of years that is so necessary for secularists to teach their evolutionary beliefs.
  2. These Christian leaders/academics will have then allowed for God’s Word to be reinterpreted because of the millions of years beliefs. Thus this undermines Scripture and usually results in a loss of biblical authority in subsequent generations. This is exactly what the Already Gone book research details.

Bottom line—evolution is really not the problem as much as the age of the earth. Millions of years is the problem in today’s world that has resulted in a loss of biblical authority in the church and culture and has led to an increasing loss of generations from the church.

I personally believe that belief in millions of years is the lie of Satan in this present world that is used as one of the greatest attacks on God’s Word. Yet the acceptance of millions of years permeates the church. Really, it is no different than the Israelites who adopted the idols of the pagan cultures and worshiped pagan Gods—often mixed in with what God’s Word instructed them concerning holy days, sacrifices, etc.

The church needs to wake up to the fact that when God’s people accept the pagan religion of millions of years, they are helping the enemies of God attack His Holy Word.

I do appreciate the research that was conducted and reported on. I just pray people get the point concerning the millions of years issue.

You can read the full Baptist News report.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken