That’s how Dr. S. Joshua Swamidas of Washington University St. Louis (MO) wants Republicans, evangelicals, and Democrats to deal with the question of the age of the earth.
If it was only that simple for evangelicals.
Let’s begin by narrowly defining ‘evangelicals’ as ‘people who believe the Bible is an accurate representation of history’, which seems to be how Dr. Swamidas is defining it, because he tells us that ‘I see the episode as an opportunity for both Republicans and evangelicals to establish a more coherent policy on evolution, creation and science, for two reasons’ (the ‘episode’ is Marco Rubio’s response to a gotcha question asked of him by a GQ ‘reporter’).
Now, to Dr. Swamidas’ ‘two reasons’:
First, the age of the Earth and the rejection of evolution aren't core Christian beliefs. Neither appears in the Nicene or Apostle's Creed. Nor did Jesus teach them. Historical Christianity has not focused on how God created the universe, but on how God saves humanity through Jesus' death and resurrection.Let’s look at these point by point.
The second reason that Republicans, including evangelicals, need to come up with a more coherent stance regarding the "age of the Earth" question—which journalists will always be happy to ask—is that there is simply no controversy in the scientific world about the age of the Earth or evolution. Evidence points to a 4.5-billion-year-old planet. (emphases mine)
1) The age of the Earth and the rejection of evolution aren't core Christian beliefs.
Actually, they are core beliefs; if the first chapter of Genesis is a fairy story, or an allegory, or the way the author made sense of the world around him (all explanations given for the chapter), then there’s no reason to believe the story; which means there’s no reason to believe that Adam was specifically created by God in God’s image; which means humanity isn’t all that special; which is what evolution teaches. Secondly, if Genesis 1 isn’t true, then there’s no reason to believe Genesis 3 – which deals with the disobedience of Adam and Eve, the Fall, and the origin of sin; which means there’s no such thing as sin; which means that there’s no reason to believe that Jesus was the Son of God; which means that there’s no reason for God saving humanity ‘through Jesus’ death and resurrection’, because there was nothing to save us from.
As an aside, the reason that the creeds don’t mention the age of the earth is simply because when the creeds were written (AD 325 for the Nicene, AD 700 for the Apostle’s), evolution wasn’t much of a consideration (and it remained such up to the mid- to late- 1800’s). Jesus did allude to Adam in His teachings on divorce (see Matthew 19 and Mark 10), but, , again, since His contemporaries would never have questioned the historicity of Adam and Eve, it would have been unnecessary to mention it.
As far as the lack of discussion of the age of the earth, again, the men who formulated the creeds and Jesus and His contemporaries would have taken it as gospel (no pun intended) that God had created the universe as the Bible relates – six days of 24 hours, a few thousand years previous.
2. How God saves humanity through Jesus' death and resurrection.
Well, we’ve already pointed out that if you subscribe to the scientific theory of origins, there’s no need for Jesus to save anybody from anything, since sin doesn’t exist (it’s as fallacious as believing that God created the earth in six days and created Adam on the last day from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life). But for the sake of argument, let’s continue.
We’ve already established that God sent Jesus to save us from sin. Since it took the death of the Son of God to do it, sin must be pretty bad, right? Well, the apostle Paul tells us just how bad in Romans 5:12:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—Here we have two things which must be taken into account regarding whether or not we can ‘reconcile’ evolutionary theory with the Bible.
a) Sin entered the world through one man – Adam. Adam, an individual, is considered Patient Zero in the plague of sin. This leads to the conclusion that Adam was the only man on the planet at the time. Sin isn’t like a cold – it’s not contagious – but it’s more like (in a manner of speaking) a sexually-transmitted disease: you get it from your parents, who got it from their parents, who (backtrack generations) got it from Adam and Eve. Therefore, had Adam and Eve had contemporaries, those contemporaries wouldn’t have been infected with sin, would they? That would mean that their offspring wouldn’t have been affected by the curse of death God laid on Adam, which means that those people would still be around.
If anybody finds them, let us know.
b) Death entered the world through sin. That suggests strongly that before the Fall, death didn’t exist. In fact, there are two other verses which suggest this: Genesis 2:16-17 (The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”) and Genesis 3:22-23 (Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.) Conclusion: before the Fall, life was everlasting, since there was no prohibition on eating of the Tree of Life. After the Fall, and the curse of death, God was forced to exile Adam and Eve so they couldn’t eat of the Tree of Life.
3. There is simply no controversy in the scientific world about the age of the Earth or evolution.
Really? Talk about marginalizing your enemy (kind of like the scientists who think anthropogenic global warming is a hoax).
4. Evidence points to a 4.5-billion-year-old planet.
For the moment, let’s pretend we’re the type of evangelical who believes that the current scientific theory of origins can be reconciled with the Bible’s account of creation.
Okay, the Bible states that the universe was created in six consecutive 24-hour days. Back-counting through generations (as Bishop Ussher did) gives us an origin date somewhere around 6000 years ago, give or take a couple of years.
The scientific theory of origins says that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, that life first appeared around 3.5 billion years ago, that human beings became anatomically-modern about 200,000 years ago and behaviorally-modern around 50,000 years ago.
That’s a lot of numbers, but stay with me, here.
Let’s take the 50,000-year number from above for roughly when Adam and Eve were created (after all, they could communicate, they could name and label things, and they understood the marriage bond – I think that qualifies them as ‘behaviorally modern’). Since the Fall occurred not long after Adam and Eve were created, we can safely date that to 50,000 years ago.
Now go back to Romans 5:12, specifically this part: ‘and death through sin, and so death spread to all men’. The coming of sin meant the coming of physical death (along with spiritual death). Genesis 3 makes it plain that not only were Adam and Eve cursed, so was the land – this means that death came to the creation as well.
Now, try to reconcile this: from Day 3 of creation (where God created plants) and the sin of Adam which brought death was roughly three billion, four-hundred-ninety-nine-million, nine-hundred-fifty-thousand years, according to adherents to theistic evolution. That means three billion, four-hundred-ninety-nine-million, nine-hundred-fifty-thousand years of reproduction and deathlessness.
Exactly where did all of those plants and animals live? Adam and Eve at the time of their creation would have been throat-deep in critters and vegetation. And what happened to all those animals and plants when sin came and brought death? Was it a Dorian Gray moment, with everything that was more than, say, ten years old suddenly dropping dead where it stood or was rooted? The decay would have made the planet uninhabitable (not to mention the stench would have been enough to drive the moon into an orbit around Jupiter).
Just bringing this stuff up makes me understand why some folks would prefer it if evangelicals would ‘leave science curriculums to scientists’.