A practical appendix to the ‘appearance of age’ question

Following up on my last post, I wanted to share a link to another article—entitled Apparent Age: Craters on Mars—that appeared last month on the Natural Historian blog. The author eloquently demonstrates how an appeal to ‘appearance of age’ self-destructs in practice. He does so by addressing the origin of craters on Mars and the moon (as well as a handful of geological features here on earth). He states:

“Today, modern creationists would have us believe that these features really do have real histories and some have even gone as far as trying to make the craters on the moon and Mars the result of real events in time and space after the creation week.  If this is the case and God created something in the space of 6 days, where then is the dividing line between apparent age and real age?  This is a critical part of the creation debate that is rarely acknowledged or talked about but is very important in understanding the differences between some of the views even among modern creationists.”

If you have time, take a look. The article is worth reading and is bound to constructively criticize your own thinking, wherever you may stand with respect to ‘appearance of age’ in the cosmos.

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Several days ago, Dr. Peter Enns posted an article on the same topic. He specifically identified two problems with the ‘apparent age’ perspective offered by Al Mohler (which I linked in the last post). First, he says (emphasis original):

“Mohler needs to account not only for why the cosmos looks old, but why the cosmos–including the earth and life on it–looks like it evolved.

This goes back to my analogy with the portrait and the brush strokes. To the natural scientist, the cosmos appear as more than a beautiful picture to be adored. It is rich with brush strokes that explain how all the pieces formed and came together so as to function as a meaningful whole.

Dr. Enns further addresses whether Dr. Mohler has arbitrarily chosen which “portions of Scripture he reads ‘plainly'”. To be fair, hermeneutical consistency is a rare find. But Dr. Enns’ criticism is concise and straightforward, and he raises questions that need to be answered by any person involved with the origins debate.

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4 responses to “A practical appendix to the ‘appearance of age’ question

  1. Maybe I’m just not reading properly, but I can’t see how the Natural Historian post shows that the “appearance of age” argument self-destructs. Isn’t it consistent to say as the lay Christian in the article does that the features of Mars and the moon, like the earth, look young but are old? The article says that that kind of reasoning can’t apply to Mars and the moon, but (I don’t think) it shows why not…

    re: Dr. Enns’ post. Asking Mohler to account for why the universe looks like it has evolved is just another way of asking him to account for why it looks like it’s old. To take your painting example, I am in complete agreement that if you pay attention to the brush strokes, it looks like the painting was executed in a certain way over a certain period of time. But let’s expand the analogy. Let’s say that the painter is busy and won’t answer anyone’s questions about the way he made the painting, but he did leave a book on his doorstep to go with the painting, and it says in the introduction that he made the painting in a way that doesn’t fit what we infer from the brush strokes and materials.
    Some people think that the book is being figurative about the artist’s process. Others say that it’s not. In this situation, wouldn’t it be absurd for the former group to accuse the latter group of making the painter out to be a deceiver? Given the presence of the book, and the divided opinion about it, wouldn’t it be odd for them even to demand that the latter group must explain why the painting looks like it was done differently than the book (at least on the surface) says? as if the content of the painting in the moment they were arguing mattered less than the process. Or that somehow now the painting could not witness to the artist’s skillful and beautiful treatment of the painting’s subject matter?

    Surely the worth of a painting is not merely a function of how transparently it reveals the processes that the painter used to make it.

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    • Hello again! Thanks for taking the time to read through these. I think your questions are very perceptive, and they remind me that we should be careful in the accusation that God is made out to be a deceiver. Just to clarify, I don’t mean to condemn you or anyone else for holding to a sort of ‘omphalos’ view. If within this view, you can still appreciate the artistry of God in creation, I think it’s wonderful and would encourage you on such a path.

      I suppose that for me, personally, it will always be difficult (or impossible?) to accept the ‘appearance of age’ view for two reasons. First, as a scientist, I will always be interested in the process as much as the final result, just as a fellow painter could appreciate those brush strokes more than I ever could (I can’t paint!). For me, it certainly detracts from the artistic value to perceive Earth history as artificial in any way. So when we find things like craters on Mars and the moon, which represent millions of years worth of steady impacts, the wonder in this phenomenon is cheapened by positing “God just made these impacts already formed so it appears to have a complex, multimillion-year history”. So this is not a definitive argument, but a subjective matter that forms our disagreement.

      Secondly, I like your analogy of the book to go with the painting. I have a good friend, with whom I’ve argued for years about this, who would put it very similarly. Ultimately, as we’ve noted already, it goes back to how certainly this book describes that process. Given the nature of the creation narratives (the literary tools and symbolism employed, etc.), I cannot accept that the Bible ever meant to provide the ultimate key to the processes involved in creation. To me, it’s simply too vague (even if we do read it more literally than I do now). So I will always defer to the scientific method, which I believe offers far more precision in unlocking the history of God’s cosmos.

      You’re probably right about Enns’ challenge to Mohler, but I think it’s at least important to establish that we are not simply debating why the Earth looks old—we want to know why it appears to have a long and complicated history involving processes observed today. A walking, talking, 6-foot tall adult may only appear old if ‘snapped’ into existence. But scars and belly buttons and broken bones indicate a very real history. In any case, I know you already understand this well, but many Christians do not.

      I’m sorry I can’t offer anything more profound at the moment, but I hope we’ve identified the source of our disagreement and given each other something to think about. I know you’ve sparked my curiosity. 🙂

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      • I appreciate your response; you certainly have given me something to think about! Especially about principles of interpretation. I have more questions about some of your other posts but I think it would be best to let them percolate while I do some more reading.

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