Millard Erickson—Failing to Do His Homework on Creation

Dr. Millard Erickson is one of the greatest evangelical theologians of our generation. In 2013, Erickson published the third edition of his book titled Christian Theology, which is widely used as a textbook in seminaries and Bible colleges in America and other countries. His chapter on creation is no different from his second (1998) edition, which is essentially the same as his first (1983) edition, both of which I analyzed in this article. The only difference between the second and third editions is the third’s addition of four lines of text about the “revelatory day” view of Genesis 1 (which he rejects) and one page about the Intelligent Design movement (citing the post-1991 writings of Philip Johnson, Michael Behe, and William Dembski).

As in previous editions, under the heading “The Age of Creation” Erickson summarizes the various views on Genesis 1 and the age of the earth: the “gap theory,” the “age-day theory,” and the “pictorial-day (or literary framework) theory.” It is hard to imagine that he is unaware of the labels “young-earth creation,”  “biblical creation,” or “scientific creationism” that are so widely used today by both proponents and opponents of the view. But Erickson never uses any of those and instead in this section (as in previous editions) refers only to the “flood theory” and the “ideal-time theory” thereby dividing the young-earth view into two different views.

With respect to the (global) flood theory, he still only refers to the 1923 book by the Adventist George McCready Price. Why the continuing avoidance of Whitcomb and Morris’s epic The Genesis Flood (1961) that launched the modern creationist movement, and numerous other more recent books scientifically and biblically defending the global-Flood/young-earth view?1 In this third edition he still refers to only two young-earth creationist books: Price’s 1923 book and Philip Gosse’s Omphalos, a 1857 book which Erickson (as in the previous editions) has footnoted as being published in 1957.

After once again affirming his non-dogmatic belief in the day-age view of Genesis 1, he again states, “The age of the universe is a topic that needs continued study and thought” (p. 352).  But in the thirty years since Erickson’s first edition he gives no indication that he has done any serious study of and thinking about the voluminous biblical and scientific scholarly literature defending the global-Flood/young-earth view.  It is hard not to conclude that he has deliberately avoided that literature. Why has he?  After all, for this third edition he obviously did some reading of scholarly literature from the Intelligent Design movement. I suggest it is because he has uncritically accepted what the majority of scientists say about millions of years.

It is very sad that Erickson’s widely used text is misleading many evangelical seminary and Bible college students not only in America but through translation in other countries as well.  I know the director of a creation apologetics ministry in Ukraine that is working all over the Russian-speaking world.  He told me the Russian version of Erickson’s text—like the Russian translation of Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology textbook—is leading many young Russian pastors astray on creation, which is why my whole article here has been translated into Russian.2

Dr. Erickson needs to do his homework in creationist literature, repent of his erroneous teachings on creation and the age of the earth and his ignoring of creationist writings, and then he needs to do a fourth edition to his theology text to affirm faith in the literal truth of Genesis.  Join me in praying that he will do so.

Footnotes

  1. E.g., John Morris, The Young Earth (1994, revised and expanded in 2007); John Whitcomb, The World that Perished (1973, revised in 1988); John Whitcomb, The Early Earth (1972, revised in 1986); Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury, eds., Coming to Grips with Genesis (2008); Andrew Snelling, Earth’s Catastrophic Past (2 vol., 2009); and Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise (2004, revised in 2011), the most thorough refutation of the day-age view (as promoted by Hugh Ross) that Erickson favors.
  2. This is the link to the Russian article: http://scienceandapologetics.org/pdf/earth.pdf. Anyone who has a Russian keyboard installed on his computer should see it correctly in Russian.