Free to Disagree – Part 3

Posted: December 13, 2010 in church, creation, theology

See Part 1 and Part 2.

Dr. Mohler’s Arguments

I would like to examine Dr. Mohler’s arguments, and will attempt to demonstrate that they are either non-sequitors, fallacious, or simply unconvincing.

Mohler clearly poses the question he is trying to answer: “Is this [the age of the universe] an urgent question?  Is it one that calls us to account?”  He then gives his answer: “The answer to that has to be yes.”  And so he begins…

The first thing that Mohler does is describe the the current “mental environment” in which we (conservative evangelical Christians) are constantly being pressed toward acquiescing to the demands and supposed authority of science, primarily in the form of the theory of evolution.  He mentions the new atheism, citing examples of how its proponents argue that evolution is “the intellectual equivalent of a universal acid…[that] destroys everything in its wake,” adding that it “completely redefines every understanding of life and its meaning.”  And Mohler agrees.

He then cites evangelical theologians who assert that conservative Christians must “get with the program” with regard to evolution.  Next, it’s the professors of evangelical colleges and seminaries, who argue for an “acceptance of evolutionary theory amongst evangelicals.”

All this, says Mohler, is why the issue of the age of the universe is an “urgent question” that “calls us to account.”

The only problem with this is that Mohler has incorrectly (or at least, without any demonstrated rationale) linked Darwinian evolution with the belief in an old earth.  There are plenty of Christians who accept that the earth is old while rejecting evolution.  Mohler doesn’t make this distinction (at least, not yet).  Perhaps this is an argument from fear, based upon an implied “slippery slope”.  In other words, belief in an old earth will eventually lead to belief in evolution, and that’s what the atheists are saying, so you better not go there).  That’s fine.  But if that is Mohler’s argument, he needs to demonstrate that accepting that the earth is old necessarily leads to accepting evolution.  He hasn’t done that.  To be honest, I was confused as to why Mohler spent so much time describing the progress of the theory of evolution in our “current mental environment.”  It seemed beside the point.

But let’s continue.  Next, Mohler lists the four “major options” as he sees them: 1) the 24-hour view, young earth view; 2) the day-age view; 3) the framework theory; 4) the “merely literary,” myth view.  He notes that “only the understanding of a 24-hour day creation necessitates a young earth,” while the other views “allow for, if they do not directly imply or assume, a very old earth.”  So far so good.

Mohler rejects view 4 (“merely literary,” myth) out of hand, and I would agree with him (although, I will not detail my specific reasons in this post).  He then rejects view 3 (framework theory), saying that it is simply “not credible, at least to me, that God gave us this text with such rich detail and sequential development merely that we would infer from it his providential direction without any specific reference to all the direct content he has given us within the text.”  He concludes, “It certainly seems by any common sense natural reading of the text that it is making historical and sequential claims.”

I have a problem with this “argument.”  My problem is essentially that its not really an argument; rather, its an assertion.  Mohler doesn’t give any specific reasons for why he feels like he does, nor does he actually engage any framework theory arguments.  He merely asserts that it doesn’t seem “credible” to him.  Now, I understand that he cannot possibly engage each position on every argument.  His time is limited.  However, he seems to imply (in my opinion) that those who hold to the framework theory position must either have a very low view of Scripture, or else be, at best utterly deficient, and at worst willfully distortive, in regard to their interpretation of the text.  Reread that last sentence: “It certainly seems by any common sense natural reading of the text that it is making historical and sequential claims.”  That is exactly the question, and he is begging it! I think this is an example Mohler portraying this issue as more clear in the Bible than it really is.

Mohler then turns his attention to the day-age view, calling it “much more attractive on theological…[and] exegetical grounds.”  He admits that many evangelical proponents of the day-age view are striving to be faithful to the Bible, defending its inerrancy and infallibility against those who would question biblical inspiration.  However, he then comments that “there is no such need for strained defense when it comes to a 24-hour understanding of creation.”  But, why does Mohler call the day-age attempts to defend the Scriptures “strained”?  He is operating on an unsubstantiated assumption that the day-age view necessarily leads to (or at least suggests) that the Scriptures are not divinely inspired.  He is merely asserting that day-age attempts to demonstrate the harmony between correct interpretations of science and the correct interpretations of the Scriptures are “strained.”  These things may be true, but he has hardly demonstrated them to be true through an examination of the biblical texts, the scientific data, or the day-age arguments.

Mohler then shifts gears, saying that he will turn to the theological problems associated with the day-age view.  Aside from merely asserting that “the exegetical issues [with the day-age view] are real” and that “the exegetical cost – the cost [to] the integrity and interpretation of Scripture – to rendering the text in any other way [than 24-hour days], is just too high,” this is the sum total of Dr. Mohler’s exegetical arguments relating to the age of the earth and/or the nature of the creation days.  In other words, he doesn’t really make any exegetical arguments.  He doesn’t engage the text.  Rather, all Dr. Mohler does is make assertions based on unproven assumptions.  Thus, his arguments are unconvincing and do not support his claim that the issue of the age of the universe is an “urgent question,” nor that the young earth position is most faithful to the Scriptures.

Part 4

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