We continue to explore the comments made by Phil Vischer and his friends, Skye Jethani, Christian Taylor, and Jason Rugg, on their recent podcast.  Recall that Phil had claimed that the young earth creation taught by Ken Ham is a surprisingly young movement that had sprung from the visions of Ellen G. White in the mid-1800s.  We have seen that this is wrong.  In reality, young earth creation had been the consistent position of the church until the last few centuries. 

Phil: “Basically by 1840…  most learned Christians had moved on to an old Earth…”[1]

Lisle:  Moved from what?  From young earth creation?  But previously Phil had claimed that young earth creation is “a surprisingly young movement.”[2]  He further claimed that “YEC, as taught by Ham and others, was born out of interpretations of a ‘vision’ one of the founders of Seventh-Day Adventists claimed to have had, which was turned into a book called ‘A New Geology’ by one of her followers in the 1920s.”  But if young earth creation didn’t develop until the 1920s, then how could people have moved away from it in the 1840s?  In reality, young earth creation was the consensus position of the church throughout its history until the last few centuries. 

Phil: “Where that didn’t happen is among Seventh-Day Adventists.”[3]

Lisle: Phil’s claims here are somewhat anachronistic.  He seems to be saying that most Christians had moved away from young earth creation by 1840, except among the Seventh-Day Adventists.  But the Seventh-Day Adventist Church was officially formed in 1863.[4] 

Phil: “And the reason it didn’t happen among Seventh-Day Adventists is that the co-founder of Seventh-Day Adventism, Ellen White, had visions that were considered divinely inspired.  And one of Ellen White’s visions, in the 1860s, was of the Noah Flood….   It was published as a book in 1864.”[5]

Lisle: Again, we have some anachronistic claims.  If the reason that the Seventh-Day Adventists didn’t abandon young earth creation by 1840 was because of Ellen White’s visions in the 1860s, and the book she published in 1864, how would that work?  Giving Phil the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he misspoke and instead intended to convey the idea that young earth creation was revived or revisited within the church as a result of White’s visions. 

Do Seventh-Day Adventists believe that Ellen White’s visions were “divinely inspired?”  Well, some do and some do not.  Many accept them as inspired and yet not canon – not part of Scripture.[6]  If only we had some texts that addressed the timescale of creation – texts that we knew were inspired by God.  Oh, wait.  We do!  They are called Scripture.  Exodus 20:11 teaches that God created in six days as the explanation for our work week (Exodus 20:8-11).  And this text is not only inspired by God, but was inscribed by God’s own finger in stone!  Furthermore Genesis 1 was also written by inspiration of God, and this text specifies that God created all things within the span of six days, and even specifies these as ordinary Earth-rotation days consisting of one evening and one morning (e.g. Genesis 1:5).

Phil: “It was a very scientifically specific vision that she wrote down in a book…”

Aside from some Seventh-Day Adventists, creationists today (and those in the 1800s) reject White’s “visions” as being inspired by God.  Furthermore, we reject many of the “scientific” details of White’s claims about the flood.  Perhaps this is what Phil meant previously when he referred to “alternative science” supposedly taught by Ken Ham.  If so, then he is mistaken.  Creation scientists base their understanding of the scientific details of the flood on testable, repeatable, observational science in the present, and guiding our reconstruction of past events in light of the history recorded in Scripture.  In fact, many aspects of Ellen’s supposed vision are rightly rejected by modern creationists due to being incompatible with Scripture, or being scientifically implausible.  

For example, Ellen White claimed that there was no rain before the flood year, which most modern creationists would reject.[7]  She believed that Satan feared for his own existence as the floodwaters increased; but Satan is a non-physical spirit and thus completely unaffected by physical effects like the flood.  White believed that one of the great sins that led to the flood was the amalgamation of beasts – presumably a reference to offspring of two unrelated kinds, and the amalgamation of man and beast.  However, the Scriptures implicitly teach that organisms reproduce only after their kind, and hence an amalgamation between two unrelated kinds (not species, but kinds) is not possible.[8]

Perhaps Phil is attempting a circumstantial ad hominem fallacy.  This is when a claim is discouraged because of the circumstances of the person making it.  Namely, should we disbelieve in a global flood because someone had a false vision that advocated a global flood?  Of course not.  The claim should be evaluated on the basis of the Scriptures.  Besides, Ellen White was not the first person to promote creation in six days and a global flood.[9]  That honor goes to Moses and the Holy Spirit.  Creationists accept the details of Scripture on their own merit, because those details are inspired by God. 

Phil: One of the guys selling Ellen White’s books around the country was a guy named George McReedy Price….   He was real interested in geology.  So he started writing about evolution and geology based on Seventh-Day Adventist teaching, which needed a young earth for Ellen White’s visions to be true and divinely inspired.[10]   

Lisle: First, I along with most other creationists, reject Ellen White’s visions as either true or divinely inspired.  Second, the Scriptures require a young earth in order to be true and divinely inspired.  It is the Scriptures that teach that “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them…” (Exodus 20:11).  If the Scriptures are wrong about that, how can they be true and divinely inspired? 

Phil:  Well, I knew the rough outlines of this which is what I tried to tweet.  But when people, you know, when an astrophysicist was poking holes in my rough outline…[11]

Lisle: You’re welcome!  🙂

Phil: I was like, okay, I need to dig in deeper.[12]

Lisle: I appreciate the start, but Phil still has many, many misconceptions about biblical creation.  That’s bad enough because it undermines the authority of God’s Word.  But what is worse is that such errors are being promoted publicly. 

Skye: To summarize up to this point, before you continue Phil, what you’re basically saying is, through a lot of history, pre-scientific history, people just accepted the Bible’s timeline of creation because they had no reason not to.[13]

Lisle: Three brief points:  First, they still have no reason to reject the Bible’s timeline of creation.  Second, yes, until recently the majority of Christians did indeed accept the Bible’s timeline of creation.  It is not a “surprisingly young movement.” 

Third, Skye rightly refers to the young earth position held throughout most of the church’s history as “the Bible’s timeline of creation,” which it is!  This shows that he knows in his heart of hearts that the Bible really does teach that God created in six days, a few thousand years ago.  That’s the Bible’s timeline.  The notion of deep-time (“millions of years”) is a secular position, and there is not the slightest hint of it in Scripture. 

Skye: Once the origins of modern science start investigating fossils, geology, and stuff like that, it becomes apparent that you need a longer timeline to explain these naturally occurring phenomena…[14]  

Lisle: Why?   Why – scientifically – do we need a longer timeline to explain these phenomena?  Skye mentioned “fossils, geology, and stuff like that.”  Which of these has been scientifically proved to require a longer timeline than the Bible allows?  It certainly wouldn’t be fossils.  In laboratory conditions, we can fossilize specimens in hours to days.[15]  And what about rock layers?  Do rocks require millions of years to form?  No, they can form very quickly under the right chemical conditions.  I have seen documented images of car keys and even a mechanical clock embedded inside solid rock.  Concrete is man-made sedimentary rock.  Does it take millions of years to harden? 

But what about all these sediment layers we find around the world?  Wouldn’t that take millions of years?  The debris avalanche produced by the 1980 eruption of Mount Saint Helens deposited over 3 billion cubic yards of sediment, with an average depth of about 145 feet.[16]  The critic might respond, “But such things are rare today.  At today’s average rates, it would take a long time to build up all these sediment layers.  In fact, the only way to do it within the biblical timescale would be to have some sort of global watery catastrophe!”  And that’s the point.  The global flood readily explains the fossil and geological evidence: a flood would kill many organisms and bury them in sediment which is compressed into rock. And it naturally explains the ice age which followed (an accomplishment the secularists have yet to achieve).

So, there is nothing in the science that requires millions of years.  That was true in the 1800s and it is still true today.  Deep time is not a conclusion that a person draws from unbiased evaluation of the evidence.  Rather, it is a preconceived belief that is imposed upon the interpretation of the evidence.  The move away from biblical creation in academia in the 1800s had nothing to do with science.  It had to do with the philosophies of naturalism and uniformitarianism.  These anti-biblical, anti-historical positions were imposed upon the evidence, often with the clearly stated intention to “free the science [of geology] from Moses.”[17]

Thus, the belief in deep time has nothing to do with science.  But secularists like to pretend that it does.  Since people rightly respect the accomplishments achieved by proper use of the scientific method, secularists like to paint their beliefs as the results of science.  They claim that the move away from biblical creation was due to scientific progress.  And they have been pushing that narrative for such a long time that many people are fooled by it.  Phil Vischer has certainly parroted this secular narrative.  But that narrative is false.  The move away from biblical creation was due to an uncritical acceptance of secular philosophy – uniformitarianism and naturalism.  There is no argument for deep time that does not assume at least one of these antibiblical principles.

To be clear, Skye has correctly summarized Phil’s incorrect view of history.  But Phil is simply parroting the secular narrative.  Even today, there is absolutely no scientific basis for deep time.  It is a belief driven by the secular philosophies of naturalism and uniformitarianism – not scientific evidence.

Skye: And a lot of Christians go, “okay, fine.”  But, to those who have to hold on to a short timeline, they do so not because of scientific evidence, but in order to maintain the authority of their religious leaders who are having revelations that require short timeline.[18]

Lisle: Wow.  That’s just so wrong that it’s difficult to know where to begin.  The reason we believe that God created in six days is because this is what the Bible states.  We hold to a young earth because we have a high view of Scripture.  We believe Scripture is God’s Word and absolutely inerrant in the original autographs.  It is God’s Word that teaches that God created in six days, and that human beings were made on the sixth day.  So, it has nothing to do with “religious leaders” nor the supposed visions of Ellen G. White.   Young earth creation was always the historic position of the church until the last few centuries.  Why?  Because it is what the Bible teaches

And what about the science?  The science overwhelmingly confirms the biblical timescale!  Consider the abundance of c14 found in organic remains deep in the geologic column.  C14 is produced in the upper atmosphere by cosmic rays.  Plants absorb this c14, and animals eat the plants.  Therefore, a small fraction of the carbon in plants and animals is c14.  But c14 is unstable and decays into nitrogen with a half-life of only 5730 years.  In any specimen older than 1 million years, there should be not a single atom of c14, yet we routinely find it in organic remains that secularists claim to be over 10 million years old!  Furthermore, we have even detected c14 in diamonds which secularists believe to be over 1 billion years old.  That’s just one example of many.  The science certainly confirms the biblical timescale.  Indeed, it is the deep time advocates that hold to their beliefs despite scientific evidence to the contrary, because they are committed to the unbiblical philosophies of naturalism and uniformitarianism. 

Phil: Here’s the deal.  By 1900, uh, belief in a young earth because the Bible says so was almost gone entirely from the American church, except in Seventh-Day Adventism and Missouri Synod Lutherans.[19]

Lisle: But Lutherans reject Ellen G. White’s supposed visions.  So this admission goes against Phil’s narrative.  The Lutherans’ acceptance of the biblical timescale was certainly not “in order to maintain the authority of their religious leaders who are having revelations that require short timeline.”  So why would they continue to hold to a young earth?  Could it be because that’s what the Bible so clearly teaches? 

There was tremendous social pressure in the 1900s to abandon the biblical timescale in favor of the secular view.  Many Christians were fooled by the secular narrative: that deep time is required by science.  Of course, it isn’t.  But people are so easily intimidated by “experts.”  And many Christians compromised, rejecting the exegetical interpretation of Genesis in favor of views such as the gap theory and the day-age theory.  But there were always a few that stood on God’s Word.  God always reserves a remnant who will not bow the knee to Baal (Romans 11:4), or in this case, to deep time

Phil: So, George McReedy Price starts writing new books based on Ellen White’s visions and his own kind of, you know, closet geology study….   He basically reintroduces flood geology to the United States called A New Geology.[20]  

Lisle: The ironic thing about the title A New Geology is that understanding geology in light of the global flood is really the older position.  The alternate view in which people reject the recorded history of Genesis and substitute an alternate, secular history is the newer position.  In any case, Phil seems to be attempting to use a genetic fallacy, in which a person is discouraged from accepting an argument due to its source.  Namely, most Christians would reject Ellen G. White’s visions as neither authentic nor divine, so why accept Price’s arguments if he accepted such visions?  But the soundness of an argument is independent of its source.  A rational person evaluates an argument by its own merit, not its source.  Thus, we should reject as unsound any argument Price makes that assumes the authenticity of White’s supposed visions.  But we should accept any sound argument Price makes from the Scriptures.  And we should embrace any cogent argument he makes based on science.  A mature Christian can discern truth from error by comparing whatever he or she hears or reads with the Scriptures.

God can use a bent stick to draw a straight line.  He can use people with imperfect theology to expose and correct other imperfect theology.  And perhaps that is the case with Price.  However, my understanding is that the Morris and Whitcomb book, The Genesis Flood, was far more influential in drawing Christians back to a proper exegetical interpretation of Genesis, and to an understanding of science that is not chained to the unbiblical philosophies of naturalism and uniformitarianism. 

So, we have seen that Phil’s claim that young earth creation is a recent movement is a false claim.  It has always been the consensus position of the church until the last few centuries.  The biblical timescale was largely rejected in academic circles by 1850, but this had nothing to do with science.  Rather, it was due to the acceptance of naturalism and uniformitarianism, which were imposed upon the evidence.  However, the secularists promoted the narrative that science was the reason for rejecting the biblical timescale, and many Christians were intimidated by this claim and compromised.  This paved the way for further compromise when Darwinian evolution become popular.  In 1961 Henry Morris and John Whitcomb published The Genesis Flood which demonstrated both a “young” earth and a global flood on the basis of proper exegesis of Scripture, and also showed how the science of geology confirmed this.  The book is a brilliant example of Christian scholarship, and was perhaps the major catalyst for Christians returning to an exegetical understanding of Genesis.

Skye: How much of what we think of today as young earth creationism was fueled by a desire to come up with an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution, and how much of it was a response to, pre-dating Darwin, the geological stuff that was coming out and the need for ice ages and all that, which pre-dates Darwin but people, you know, Seventh-Day Adventists were freaking out about?[21]    

Lisle: The answer is: none.  Young earth creationism is the conviction that God created the original universe and all that was within it in the span of six days and that this occurred roughly 4000 years before the birth of Christ, as recorded in Genesis.  Since Genesis pre-dates Darwin by over three thousand years, how can it possibly have been fueled by a desire to come up with an alternative to Darwin’s notion of evolution, or to recent ideas about geology or ice ages?  None of those ideas existed when the Lord God wrote with His own finger in stone, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11).

Skye has things backwards.  Young earth creation was not invented as a response or alternative to Darwinian evolution.  Rather, Darwinian evolution was fueled by the desire to have an alternative to biblical creation.  Darwin did not believe in the biblical God, and therefore needed to come up with a plausible explanation for how life could come about without God. 

Phil: William Bell Riley said, as far as he was concerned, there was (and this is an exact quote), “there was not an intelligent fundamentalist who claims that the earth was made 6000 years ago and the Bible never taught any such things.”[22]

Lisle: Students of logic will recognize the many fallacies in Riley’s statement.  First, we see the faulty appeal to authority.  Riley is attempting to persuade us that the Bible doesn’t teach something on the basis that no “intelligent fundamentalist” believes that the Bible teaches such a thing.  But that is utterly irrelevant to what the Bible actually teaches.  If all intelligent fundamentalists claimed that the Bible doesn’t teach the resurrection of Christ, would that make it so?  Of course not.  We don’t need someone to tell us what the Bible says; we can read it for ourselves.  And when we do so, we can see that Riley’s assertion is false.

Second, we see the no true Scotsman fallacy, in which the argument is protected from counter-argument by falsely constraining a term.  We are told that no intelligent fundamentalist believes in 6000 years.  But what of those fundamentalists who do teach a 6000-year-old earth?  Well, the arguer will simply respond, “Obviously they are not intelligent.”  However, that doesn’t follow logically because the original claim has not been demonstrated, but merely asserted.  We could equally assert, “no intelligent fundamentalist denies that God created in six days.  Thus, any fundamentalist who believes in an old earth is not intelligent.”  But that would not be productive.  Riley’s argument is essentially saying, “If you don’t agree with me then you are stupid.”  But such childish bullying is not conducive to rational dialog.

Perhaps Riley himself had been fooled into accepting the day-age theory by such means.  In any case, later in life, Riley began to move away from old-earth, secular interpretations of geology to a more biblical perspective.  He apparently found the scientific arguments of George McReedy Price convincing.   In 1945, Riley wrote, “Some of us believe that the enigma of geology will never be explained until Price’s theory on flood geology is accepted. It, and it alone, can account for the great coal beds of the earth. We feel that it, and it alone, can account for the great deposits of oil and of gas.”[23]  It seems by this time Riley understood that the global flood (and not long ages) more naturally explains the geology.  I wonder why Phil Vischer failed to mention this?      

Phil: So he thought it was embarrassing to say that the earth was young.[24]

Lisle: (Perhaps before he learned about flood geology, but not after this.)  In any case, here we see the heart of the issue.  The rejection of the biblical timescale has nothing to do with science, logic, or exegesis.  It comes from pride.  Many people reject what the Bible plainly teaches because they don’t want to be embarrassed!  They don’t want to appear foolish in the eyes of unbelievers.  The unbelieving world mocks biblical history.  The world says, “Creation in six days, only about 6000 years ago?  That’s ridiculous!”  And many Christians, not wanting to appear foolish, go along with this saying, “Yes, it is ridiculous!  I sure don’t believe that nonsense.”  People have a desire to be respected and to be considered intelligent by their peers.  Christians are not immune to this vice.  Believers are happy to be a respected scholar for Christ.  But very few are willing to be a “fool” for Christ, and boldly proclaim everything the Bible teaches – no matter how unpopular. 

But here’s the problem.  The secular world also says, “Resurrection from the dead!  That’s ridiculous!”  Will Christians compromise on that issue too?  After all, the same Bible that teaches that Jesus was raised from the dead also teaches that God created in six days.  The compromised Christian says, “Oh, but it doesn’t literally mean what it says in Genesis.”  Then how do you know it literally means what it says in the Gospels?  Both are written in the same literary style: historical narrative.  No matter what you believe, some people will think you are a fool.  So, why not stand up for all that God has said in His Word?  Better for men to think you are a fool and have God’s approval, than for men to think you are wise and for God to know you are a fool (see 1 Corinthians 3:19).

More to come.

[1] Podcast 18:02

[2] This is from Phil’s twitter feed.  The full comments and my response are documented here.

[3] Podcast 18:22

[4] Someone might appropriately point out that Adventists preceded the official formation of the denomination.  But they cannot be pushed back to 1840.  Even the name “Seventh-Day Adventists” was not agreed upon until 1860. 

[5] Podcast 18:27

[6] https://thecompassmagazine.com/blog/adventism-202-part-9-what-should-we-do-with-ellen-white

[7] There was a time when many creationists hypothesized a canopy of water vapor enshrouding the earth before the flood, and some hypothesized that this would have prevented rain before the flood.  However, the science behind this has been largely refuted, and it is doubtful that it would be truly compatible with the biblical details.

[8] This is indicated in the purpose of God bringing two of each kind of organism aboard the ark to preserve life (Genesis 6:20).  If kinds could give rise to other kinds, then the ark would have needed to house only two animals!  All the kinds could then arise as the descendants of those two.  But since God brought two of each kind to preserve life, the kind must mark the boundary of diversification.  Many species diversified after the flood, but descendants always remain the same kind as their ancestors. 

[9] Ellen G. White was familiar with the Bible, and was baptized when she was 14 years old. She knew of the creation and flood accounts in Genesis. And so it is not surprising that her visions incorporated many biblical details along with augmentation from her own imagination.

[10] Podcast 19:45

[11] Podcast 20:22

[12] Podcast 20:32

[13] Podcast 20:34

[14] Podcast 20:48

[15] Saitta, E., Kaye, T., Vinther, J., Sediment-Encased Maturation: A Novel Method for Simulating Diagenesis in Organic Fossil Preservation, Palaeontology, 2018, pp. 1-16

[16] https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/About/Current-projects/Mount-St-Helens-EIS/

[17] Lyell, Charles, in a letter written to George Poulett Scrope, June 14, 1830.   

[18] Podcast 21:01

[19] Podcast 21:22

[20] Podcast 21:57

[21] Podcast 24:05

[22] Podcast 25:38

[23] Riley, W.B., Prophecy and Past History, The Northwestern Pilot 26, no 2, November 1945, p. 57

[24] Podcast 25:54