Deep Time: It’s “Discovery”, Promulgation, and Use Against the Biblical Worldview: Part 4

Dearest hijas,

The history of ‘deep time’ is a fascinating one to follow. What I mean by that, is that it’s fascinating to follow how many times the dates changed and their progression, and the infighting and grandstanding with the individuals involved and the dates they were trying to protect. We didn’t start out with a 13.8 billion year old universe and a 4.5 billion year old earth. We arrived there over the course of time and after a lot of fanagling and arm-twisting, and push-pull between the secular parties wishing to separate science from theology.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Greeks from the 3rd and 4th centuries BC, and even earlier perhaps with the Milesian school of Greek philosophy in the sixth century BC, had believed in long ages and had taught a theory of evolution long before Darwin. One can study the writings of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes to see this. Evolutionary myths had also found their way into the religions, philosophies and mythology of countries from Egypt to China. Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism all reflect an evolutionary cosmology as part of their story of origins. One might even begin to argue that the beginning of evolutionary cosmologies and long ages goes back to the Sumerian/Babylonian civilization that arose after the universal and worldwide judgment of God in the Flood of Noah and scattering of people groups at the Tower of Babel in the 3rd millennium BC.

We have to remember that the Hebrew people group have always believed in a recent creation and thousands, not millions and billions, of years for the age of the cosmos and earth. The Jewish calendar of today reflects this; 2013 in the Gregorian calendar is the year AM (Anno Mundi or year of the world) 5773 in the Jewish calendar. That is, according to the Jewish way of reckoning, it has been 5,773 years since ex nihilo creation by God of all that exists. The early Christian Church in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries AD took this reckoning from the Jewish Scriptures and carried it forward. It comes from Genesis 1 and the Biblical chronologies found in Genesis 5, 10 & 11, 1 Chronicles 1, Matthew 1 and Luke 3.

When we come to the beginning of the Christian era we find a fascinating thing. Humans have for the most part, always tried to keep track of time, in an historical sense. Early Christian historians and chronologists were no exception. Eusebius of Caesarea (265-339 AD) was just such an historian and chronologist.

Eusebius

Eusebius was the bishop of Caesarea and a prolific writer. Writing in honor of Emperor Constantine around the time of the Council of Nicea, he put together a book that was a chronology of world history; combining as he did the histories of the Jews, Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans. He used three sources: the Hebrew Bible, Flavius Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, and Julius Africanus’ Chronologia. Africanus (160-240 AD), was considered the father of biblical chronology and may have borrowed from a brief chronology by Theophilus of Antioch (115-180 AD), 50 years earlier. In each historian; Josephus, Theophilus, Africanus, and Eusebius, the date for the age of the creation by God of all things was not yet 6000 years. This was carried forward by later chronologists: Isidore of Seville (560-636), Bede the Venerable (673-735), Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202). When we get to the 1500’s, Martin Luther’s chronology (Supputatio Annorum Mundi) had a creation date of 3961 B.C. A century after Luther, Archbishop of Armaugh, James Ussher calculated a creation date of 4004 B.C. in his Annals of the Old Testament. Ussher’s calculations were placed in the margins of the then very popular King James Bible. The great astronomer Johannes Kepler’s chronology and after him, Isaac Newton’s chronology all had a recent creation of the cosmos and earth, and all were not yet 6000 years to the date of their writings.

The point, mis hijas, is that the church, since its inception and through the ages with the writings of these historians and chronologists has always believed in an approximately 6000 year old date for the cosmos and earth. It wasn’t until the late 1700’s that this changed. ‘Deep time’ would be conceived once again in the birth of modern geology and men like James Hutton, William Playfair, and Charles Lyell. The church would then capitulate, trying to accommodate long ages to Biblical statements. This was disastrous, and we are where we are today with numerous compromise theories vying for market share in the minds of the Christian community. Very few churches, very few denominations, very, very few seminaries and theological institutions teach and believe what the church once believed through 18 centuries of its history. This to a complete shattering and undermining of the gospel we say we believe and preach to an unbelieving nation and world.

With love, I remain,

Dear ol’ Dad

Vaya con Dios mis hijas

Deep Time: It’s “Discovery”, Promulgation, and Use Against the Biblical Worldview: Part 3

Dear hijas,

The Man Who Found Time

Let me preface this post on the topic of ‘deep time’ by drawing your attention to a couple of book titles by secular authors on this very topic. The first is a book by Jack Repcheck called ‘The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton and the Discovery of the Earth’s Antiquity’. Notice the words ‘found’ and ‘discovery’ in the title. Mr. Repcheck is a book editor, and had been for 20 years as of the writing of the book in 2003. It is a popular read as opposed to scholarly, and although the book has no footnotes, Repcheck has included a ‘Sources and Suggested Readings’ section at the end of the book that is chalk full of reference material for further study.

The Dating Game

The second book is called ‘The Dating Game: One Man’s Search for the Age of the Earth’ by Cherry Lewis. Notice the words ‘game’ and ‘search’ in the title. Her title was deliberate. No, it’s not a book on male-female relationships and the how to’s of ‘going on a date’. It’s about ‘deep time’ and in the author’s opinion the ‘dating game’ of the individuals who played major roles in searching for earth’s antiquity. Lewis’ lead actor in this game and to whom she is ebulliently praising is Arthur Holmes and the book is about Holmes’ vision of developing a geological timescale that would finally lead to an accurate date for the age of the Earth. She calls Holmes ‘the greatest geologist of the twentieth century’.

As these book titles would suggest, ‘deep time’ was a search, a game, a discovery and a finding. But isn’t all science some sort of new discovery? Doesn’t it entail searching, and questioning, and looking and finding? Yes, it most certainly does. That is the essence of science. There’s a big difference however when we’re talking about unobserved past events. ‘Deep time’ is just such a forensic type endeavor that is unobservable. It’s one thing for scientists to discover bones in the ground, to assemble and classify them according to types, and to find blood cells, DNA, and C-14 in these bones, it’s quite another to tell us because these bones were found in Triassic rock, that they are then older than 65 million years. Do you see the dilemma? The fossils are given an age based on the rock, and the rock is classified according to what fossils are found in it. It’s quite circular. Circular arguments are never good science.

So where did the idea of deep time come from then? Repcheck says Hutton ‘found’ it. Lewis says Holmes ‘searched’, agitated, and promoted it. They both argue, along with others such as MJS Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution  that it first came out of geohistory, long before it came out of astronomy. The idea of long ages and deep time has been around since the time of the Greeks in the 3rd and 4th century B.C., but it wasn’t until the burgeoning science of geology got off the ground in the late 18th century with the thinkers that came out of the Enlightenment that hundreds of thousands, even millions of years of prehistory was postulated for the planet we call home. Enlightenment thinking was dead set against Biblical thinking and the Biblical worldview which to a man had in the majority believed God’s account in Scripture that his creation and the history of the people he created, only stretched back thousands of years (approx. 6000), not hundreds of thousands or millions. For 1800 years of church history, a 6000 year old earth was the predominant view. It was held by the vast majority of those in the Christian faith right through the writings of the Westminster Standards of Faith, and one of the greatest church historians and chronologists of all time Bishop James Ussher in the 1650’s,  the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith that followed a few decades later, and right up until the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

So what happened? What changed? Not to throw in a teaser here, mis hijas, but something indeed did change, and it wasn’t good for the church. Unregenerate man is always looking for ways to discredit God, to dismiss, discount, and dismantle God’s own account of what He did recorded for us in Scripture, but it it another thing altogether when Christians do it. This is indeed what happened. The history of the Church’s accommodation and compromise on this issue is a long and storied one and will be addressed in my next post.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad