Interpreting Genesis 1 and the Scientific Evidence about the Age of the Earth

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Noahs floodOver 200 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) students, faculty, and guests gathered at Wake Forest Baptist Church on Friday for the Noah’s Flood and The Age of the Earth conference.

The L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture (CFC) at SEBTS hosted an event, which featured lectures and a panel discussion with four believing scientists as well as a panel discussion with several SEBTS Old Testament faculty members.

“The conference gave our students an opportunity to hear a dialogue between believing scientists who respectfully disagree about the best way to relate the Genesis account with the evidences found in nature,” said Dr. Ken Keathley, director of the CFC.

Keathley opened by encouraging the participants to think of the conference as a conversation about these issues and to enter into that conversation with respect. He also encouraged the audience to separate those aspects of faith that are concrete and immovable and the things that are secondary.

The four scientists, Dr. Gregg Davidson, Dr. Ronald Marks, Dr. Ken Wolgemuth and Dr. Eugene Chaffin, are all professors at colleges or universities and all affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. However, they differ in their interpretations of the Genesis account of creation and the scientific evidence about the age of the earth.

Davidson and Wolgemuth hold to old-earth creationism. This view holds that God created the world in stages over a period of millions of billions of years, which requires a looser interpretation of the Hebrew word translated as “day” in Genesis 1.

Marks and Chaffin are both young-earth creationists who believe that God created the world in six days approximately 6,000 years ago, adopting a more literal view of the word “day.”

Each speaker talked about the Biblical and scientific evidence central to his beliefs. Despite their differences, they all came back to the authority of Scripture and emphasized how important it is for church leaders to think through these issues.

“Suppose that in spite of all this the earth is actually young,” Davison said. “Should the church not still be at the forefront of insuring that what we teach about this subject is truthful? When the church teaches and promotes misrepresentations of history and of scientific evidence what impact does that have on our ministry to the body and to the lost?”

Wolgemuth asked a similar question as he closed his lecture.

“Why should you as theologians and future church leaders care?” Wolgemuth asked. “Because you will be ministering to people in our culture, some of whom will be scientists, and they know what the earth is like. When it’s misrepresented, that leaves a black eye with Christianity.”

After the lectures, Keathley moderated a panel discussion with the four scientists. He asked them to share their testimonies and gave them an opportunity to ask each other questions. After the discussion, Keathley invited four SEBTS Old Testament professors to share their interpretations of the Genesis account of creation.

The panel included Dr. Shawn Madden, Dr. Chip McDaniel, Dr. Tracy McKenzie and Dr. Heath Thomas. After the two panel discussions, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions.

“We have to be asking questions,” said Thomas. “Whether you’re a 6-day creationist or hold to an old-earth view. It’s not like one side or the other escapes bias. Part of the reality of hermeneutics is that your dealing with interpretation issues on both sides and you want to be as faithful to the text as you can.”

Keathley said after the event that he was just as encouraged by the topic of the conference as the way the speakers dealt with it.

“They discussed a very important topic, and just as importantly, they modeled the proper way that Christian brethren should handle disagreements,” said Keathley.
Whether the earth is young or old, Wolgemuth reminded the audience of one thing that is certain about the Christian faith. Quoting R.C. Sproul, he said, “There is not an atom in the universe that is not under the sovereignty of God.”

To view photos from this conference, please click here

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