Pat Robertson yesterday dismissed the “young Earth” theory of creation. As reported in the Christian Post, Robertson stated, “I know people will probably lynch me for this, but Bishop (James) Ussher, God bless him, wasn’t inspired by the Lord when he said it all took 6,000 years. It just didn’t” (link) — Ussher is the 17th century Irish clergyman who first argued that the earth was created in 4004 B.C.E. “If you fight science,” Robertson stated, “you’re going to lose your children, and I believe in telling it they way it is” (source: The Huffington Post). The evangelist’s position mirrors the view of increasing numbers of religious conservatives, namely that the Earth is old.
Back when I was a student in the 1990s, I organized a debate at North Seattle Community College between an evolutionist and a creationist. With nearly 400 in attendance — a record for the college — the creationist asserted that creationism can support either the “young Earth” or “old Earth” theories. I must admit that I found his statement to be contradictory (science and the Bible cannot assert such disparate notions), but, nevertheless, I felt his comment was revealing. The plain truth is that not every Christian accepts the “young Earth” stance. More critically, the physical evidence does not support a 6,000-year-old Earth.
We Christians find ourselves in a bind. We are told in many churches that the Earth is but a few thousand years old, but, simultaneously, we are taught in schools and universities that the physical evidence shows the Earth to be billions of years old. Can both be true?
Holding contradictory positions results in what is known as cognitive dissonance — the discomfort one feels when one draws and maintains contradictory conclusions. Ultimately, a person will accept one conclusion and reject the other. So, a question worth discussing — openly — is, does the Bible allow for the “old Earth” interpretation of natural history?
- Gallup: Only 39 percent of Americans believe in evolution
- Vatican official calls atheist theories ‘absurd’