Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is all about interpreting the Bible literally. They take the days of creation literally as well as the genealogies. YECs are very critical of Old Earth Creationists (OEC) for not taking the Bible literally on these and other creation issues. For years I have tried to get YEC organizations that push for literalism on creation issues to insist on the same hermeneutical model when the subject turns to eschatology. Many YECs I know do not see the relationship or do not want to see it since so much of the YEC movement is supported by dispensational churches. YECs want to keep the two theological issues separate. It can’t be done.
I believe that one of the reasons Christians are not making much headway culturally is because we lack a vibrant eschatology. Every competing worldview pushes an optimistic eschatology while Christians are continually bombarded by books assuring us that the end of the world is near. But if the same hermeneutic that is used by YEC were applied to eschatology, end-time speculative theology would bite the dust and a new vibrant vision for the future would emerge.
Two examples come to mind. The first is the way Henry Morris, author of the Genesis Flood (1961) with John C. Whitcomb, handles Matthew 24:34, and the second is the way prophetic gaps are used by dispensational authors who are also YEC to account for why certain prophecies were not fulfilled.
Let’s begin with Matthew 24:34 and the way Henry M. Morris, Sr., a dispensationalist and a founding father of the modern-day creationist movement, handles the passage in his dispensational-themed Defender’s Study Bible which was first published in 1995: “The word ‘this’ is the demonstrative adjective and could better be translated ‘that generation.’ That is, the generation which sees all these signs (probably starting with World War I) shall not have completely passed away until all these things have taken place” (1045).
Morris describes the use of “this” as a “demonstrative adjective.” It is better designated as a “near demonstrative” adjective identifying what generation will see the signs. In Greek and English, the near demonstrative (this) is contrasted with the far demonstrative (that). Prior to his comments in his Defender’s Study Bible, Morris wrote the following extended comments on Matthew 24:34 in his Creation and the Second Coming:
In this striking prophecy, the words “this generation” has the emphasis of “that generation.” That is, that generation — the one that sees the specific signs of His coming — will not completely pass away until He has returned to reign as King. [There is nothing in Matthew 24 that says Jesus is going to return to earth to reign as king.] Now if the first sign was, as we have surmised, the first World War, then followed by all His other signs, His coming must indeed by very near [Why does “near” mean “even at the doors” for Morris in the twentieth century, but it did not mean “near” in the first century?] — even at the doors! There are only a few people still living from that generation. I myself was born just a month before the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. Those who were old enough really to know about that first World War — “the beginning of sorrows” — would be at least in their eighties now. Thus, we cannot be dogmatic, we could very well now be living in the very last days before the return of the Lord.” ((Henry Morris, Creation and the Second Coming (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1991), 183. Morris died on February 25, 2006 at the age of 87.))
Consider what a YEC would say about this interpretive maneuver if an OEC applied the same logic to Genesis 1.
Then there’s the issue of “gaps.” Jonathan Sarfati of Creation Ministries International (CMI) writes the following in his summary to his very thorough and important article “Biblical Chronogeneologies:
A straightforward reading of the biblical genealogies according to the reliable Masoretic text shows that Adam was created about 4000 BC, and this was on the 6th day of creation. The existing copies of the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch are not as reliable, but at most could only stretch this date out to about 5400 BC. There is no justifiable reason to believe in gaps within the chronogenealogies of Genesis, as the arguments presented for such views are denied by contextual, linguistic and historical analysis.
Can the case be made for a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 in note-bearing Bibles like the Scofield Reference Bible and Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible?:
- Scofield Study Bible: “The first creative act refers to the dateless past, and gives scope for all the geologic ages [1:1]. . . . The face of the earth bears everywhere the marks of such a catastrophe. There are not wanting intimations which connect it with a previous testing and fall of angels [1:2]. . . . Relegate fossils to the primitive creation, and no conflict of science with the Genesis cosmogony remains [1:11].”
- Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible: “When men finally agree on the age of the earth, then place the many years (over the historical 6,000) between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, there will be no conflict between the Book of Genesis and science.” ((F.H. Dake, Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, (Lawrenceville, GA: Dake Bible Sales, Inc., 1961), 51.)
YEC do not support Scofield or Dake on the creational gap theory. Here’s what Henry Morris said about the Scofield notes about geological time without referencing the gap theory directly. Did Morris realize that to mount a frontal assault on creational gaps would jeopardize his believe in prophetic gaps?:
While anti-evolutionism was strong among the fundamentalists, almost none of their leaders questioned Lyeilian uniformitarianism and the geological-age system. The Scofield Reference Bible, originally published in 1909, had actually incorporated both these theories in its notes, while at the same time ignoring the critically important question of the universality of the Flood, and it had a tremendous impact on fundamentalists in many denominations. ((Henry M. Morris, History of Modern Creationism (San Diego, CA: Master Book Publishers, 1984), 58–59.))
The gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 was the first of many by Scofield that became the basis of what we know today of dispensational premillennialism. Once you start the Bible off with a gap, there is no reason why there can’t be additional gaps. Scofield wasn’t the first to establish biblical creation in terms of gaps in time and history, but he was the first to codify it in a study Bible that millions of Christians have used since 1909. The Scofield notes . Noted dispensational author Harry Ironside makes this honest admission:
[U]ntil brought to the fore through the writings and the preaching and teaching of the distinguished ex-clergyman, Mr. J. N. Darby, in the early part of the last [19th] century, [the pretribulational rapture] is scarcely to be found in a single book or sermon throughout a period of sixteen hundred years! If any doubt this statement, let them search, as the writer has in measure done, the remarks of the so-called Fathers, both pre- and post-Nicene, the theological treatises of the scholastic divines, Roman Catholic writers of all shades of thought; the literature of the reformation; the sermons and expositions of the Puritans; and the general theological works of the day. He will find “the mystery” conspicuous by its absence. ((Harry A. Ironside, The Mysteries of God (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1908), 50–51.))
Larry T. Smith is right when he argues that “Dispensational . . . stands or falls on whether or not there is a . . . gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel 9:24–27,” a gap that is now nearly 2000 years long. He goes on to write that as Christians search
the Bible without the aids of Dispensational study notes, they soon discover they cannot find any mention of a gap for Daniel’s prophecy, and to my knowledge, there were not any references to this supposed gap even in study notes before the time of Dispensational Theology. All these teachings about a pre, mid, post, or pre-wrath tribulation are based on a false teaching of a future seven-year tribulation that was created by claiming the points of Daniel 9:24 are yet unfulfilled and are for a future time.
It’s time that the YEC movement starts to develop a consistent interpretive model that includes Bible prophecy. There’s little since dealing with creation when millions believe that the end is near and there is nothing we can do about the created order.