Essential Elements of Young Earth Creationism and Their Importance to Christian Theology (Part 7)

From DBSJ. This installment discusses the seventh, eighth, and ninth of nine essentials of YEC. Read the series.

(7) Sin as the Cause of Death

Somewhat paradoxically, the evolutionary model makes death an important ingredient for life even though it cannot really explain why death came about or why it was necessary to begin with. Without continued death of the unfit and repeated “experiments” that result in death, life cannot arise or continue. Biblical theology teaches an entirely different idea. The creation was initially perfect, but then sin intruded.

Sin caused the Fall of mankind and death came as a consequence of sin. Thus death came about only after the Fall. We have to believe this if we are to take Romans 5:12 seriously: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death [came into the world] through sin.”25

One of the purposes of the Genesis text is to explain where death comes from. God through Moses is giving to later generations the precise cause of death. Everyone experiences death of loved ones, but apart from the Genesis history of creation, they may wonder why death happens. The plain explanation of Scripture is that death occurs because of sin.

Perhaps it could be argued that death in Romans 5 refers to spiritual death entering the world in addition to the physical death that already was present. This idea is theologically strange because it puts physical death before spiritual death, the opposite of the biblical order. Only with a spiritual separation from the sustainer of life is physical death possible.

The repeated testimony of Genesis 5 is that Adam and all his descendants died physically after living a certain number of years and having children. Genesis is a book of death as well as a book of beginnings, from Adam in 5:5 to Joseph in 50:26, with better than 60 references to physical death in between. Genesis 3:17–19 proves that the death in view is physical death, because it says that, as a consequence of disobedience, Adam’s body would decompose into the organic matter from which it came (Gen 2:7; see also Ps 103:14 and Eccl 12:7).

Theological Importance

In short, if man does not die as a judgment of God because of sin, there is no need for the gospel. Because of the attribute of God’s holiness, sin causes a separation between the sinner and his God. In consequence, the sinner is cut off from the author and sustainer of life, God himself, which is spiritual death. Finally he experiences physical death after his natural vitality wears away. The gospel is the antidote to this terrible problem.

Besides being textually irrefutable, the gospel makes it axiomatic that death had to come from sin, because otherwise the fix for sin would not necessarily entail a fix for death. But it is clear that the gospel of Christ is the fix for both sin and death, by means of removing the penalty and power of sin. Death is cured by the bodily resurrection of the believer, likewise made possible only in Christ.

(8) Global Catastrophic Flood as a Judgment of God

The watershed book by Whitcomb and Henry Morris entitled the Genesis Flood26 is rightly credited with starting, or at least re-starting, the young earth creationist movement in the last century. The book presupposed a young earth interpretation, and focused on the literal biblical account of the flood during the life of the patriarch Noah. Ever since its publication, the idea of a global deluge has been a litmus test for young earth creationism.

Although the flood is removed by some centuries from the opening days of creation, it is significant to creationism because it is the primary explanation for many of the geological and topographical features of the earth that we see today. It also explains the vast fossil graveyards and fossil fuels that are used to power much of the world’s economy. It explains the elderly appearance of the earth despite its youth.27 Such features are most commonly interpreted from an evolutionary, uniformitarian perspective. Young earth creationism, together with the global flood, provides a competing and biblically consistent explanation of these features. This is why the flood is essential to YET.

Actually, in addition to being itself an essential part of YET, the interpretation of the flood in Genesis 6:3–9:19 relies upon the same essentials as YET. Our essay started with the essential of a literal hermeneutic. The same is critical to properly understanding the flood. The flood is a direct supernatural judgment of God, just like young earth creation is a direct supernatural act of God. The flood is comprehensive in extent like young earth theology, although it is limited to the globe instead of the entire universe. The duration of the flood was much longer than six days, and at about a year in length it was certain to accomplish its purpose to cleanse the earth of the sin that had overtaken it. The flood account requires a literal Noah with his family to build the Ark and populate the earth after the flood. And as in the previous section, sin was the cause of the flood and its death-dealing blow to humanity.

The large amount of revelation on the flood will prohibit a detailed examination of all the pertinent points here; all of them have been ably covered not only in the Genesis Flood but also in more recent articles and books. Even so, a couple of truths bear repetition. First, Genesis emphasizes that the entire earth was covered in the flood (7:17, 7:18, 7:19, 8:9, 9:19). A local flood is a poor explanation for the enormity of the ark, the migration of the animals, and all the other aspects of the biblical narrative. Second, the genealogical records carry a reminder of the flood (Gen 10:1, 32, 1 Chron 1:4, Luke 3:36). Third, the historicity of Noah is supported by a number of biblical texts.28 Fourth, the flood was not an accident, but a supernatural divine judgment. The flood “swept them all away” (Matt 24:35–39) and “destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26–27). This truth figures importantly in Peter’s argument that God will once again judge the earth for the sinfulness of its inhabitants.

(9) Sufficiency of Scripture

The final essential aspect of young earth creationism is a truth that was recognized by the Reformers centuries ago, and that is the sufficiency of Scripture alone as the Christian’s rule of faith and practice. When Scripture speaks, it speaks as the ultimate authority. We cannot take just any view of creation that we wish, at least if we consider ourselves to be under the authority of God and his Word. Contemporary advocates of young earth creationism express this truth using phrases such as biblical authority, or ideas like historical science as over against observational science.

Regarding biblical authority, when Scripture speaks to a topic and science contradicts what Scripture teaches, the science must be set aside. As a Ph.D.–trained scientist and engineer, I don’t say that lightly. But the Christian life is not directed by the principle Sola Scientia. Nature is not a 67th book of the Bible. Science is not permitted to usurp authority from God’s Word even though some make a mighty effort to use science in this way. Certainly scientific inquiry can complement our knowledge of Scriptural truth. In fact, scientific study is implied in the stewardship mandate that God delivered to Adam and, by extension, to us (Gen 1:26, 28). We are commanded to inquire and investigate the creation and with the knowledge thus gained, practice good stewardship over it. We are to do that precisely because God created the universe and we are responsible to manage it with care. Modern science has turned that reality on its head and claimed for itself the title of revelatory source and vehicle.

Observational science, a key support of all the old-earth views, cannot prove an old earth apart from evolutionary presuppositions. But questions of history must be answered using different means, and YET holds that there is only one way to know the details of how creation happened, and that is through biblical revelation.

Perhaps this essential element of YET should stand at the front of the list along with literal hermeneutics. Where it is placed is a secondary matter to the fact that it is on this list. If Scripture is not the Word of God, and if there are sources of information outside of Scripture that “correct” the Bible, then the entirety of Christian [belief] unravels.

Notes

25 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version, 2001.

26 John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1961).

27 The other main “aging” mechanism of the creation is the curse.

28 Isa 54:9; Ezek 14:14; Matt 24:37–38; Heb 11:7; 1 Pet 3:20; and 2 Pet 2:5.

Matthew Postiff bio


Dr. Postiff has served as Pastor of Fellowship Bible Church since 2006. He holds a PhD in computer engineering from University of Michigan and ran an engineering consulting firm specializing in design and simulation of computer microprocessors. He earned his ThM from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in 2010.

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