The Great Debate on Science and the Bible – Program 8

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Ken Ham, Dr. Jason Lisle, Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©2005
What Does Science Evidence Reveal about Creation and the Flood?

Program 8: The Great Debate on Science and the Bible – What Does Science Evidence Reveal about Creation and the Flood?

Introduction

Today on The John Ankerberg Show, The Great Debate on Science and the Bible. My guests are Ken Ham and astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle of Answers in Genesis, debating astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, and Dr. Walter Kaiser, distinguished professor of Old Testament and President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Today, has science proven through astronomy, modern physics, and geology, that the universe and the earth are billions of years old? If this is true, are Christians who teach that the universe is only 6,000 years old erecting a hindrance to those looking for a factual Christian faith? Or is the opposite true: that Christians who teach the days of Genesis are six long periods of time are really the one’s not interpreting the Bible literally?

These four men model how Christians who strongly disagree can discuss their different views with love and respect.

Join us for this important debate and hear both sides present their case.


Ankerberg: We’re talking about the Bible and science. We’re talking about “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Does the scientific evidence back up and support that statement? And then we want to talk about the significance of Noah and the flood. Does science agree with that? How does this impact the two views?
The subject of Noah and the flood; I want to bring up why it’s important to this discussion of whether you believe young earth, old earth viewpoint. Can you hold to the flood being a local flood and be young earth? Or is it only possible to hold the young earth view and hold to a global flood? Jason?
Lisle: Well, it goes back to starting points. I mean, I would say I start from biblical authority. I try to read the text, within the best of my ability I try to read the text for what it says. And I would conclude just from reading the text, that the flood was in fact a global flood. It covers all of the high hills under the whole heavens. God has Noah build this enormous ark, capable of supporting two of every kind of animal that God made, to preserve their kinds, because the flood was going to wipe the rest of them out. If it was just a local flood, why wouldn’t they just move, right? I mean it would make a lot more sense, be a lot easier, than building an ark. So I would say, just, if you read the Scriptures at face value, you would come to the conclusion that it’s a global flood. And I would also say that about the young universe. So I would say the two go together, but they’re both connected by biblical authority. If we start from biblical authority we end up with a young universe and a global flood.
Ankerberg: Okay, Hugh, was the flood universal, but not global, or was it global and universal?
Ross: Yes, I hold the point of view that it was universal: it wiped out all of humanity, except for Noah and his family, and wiped out all the nephesh creatures, the soulish creatures, associated with humanity except for those onboard the ark. And again, I would start from the Bible. I find five different places in the Bible that tells me, in the context of what we see happening on creation day three, when God is forming these continental land masses for the first time, just like it says in Psalm 104, once God has established these continental land masses, “You set a boundary they cannot cross, never again will they cover the earth.” [Psa. 104:9] That would rule out the possibility of a global flood on biblical grounds. And this isn’t the only place in the Bible. All the creation accounts that reflect on Genesis 1 – Psalm 104, Job 38 and Proverbs 8 – also tell us about how God has set limits for the ocean. And, as we see here, this can’t cross…
Ankerberg: Alright, answer…
Ham: Can, can I…
Ankerberg: … just before, answer the question, if you hold to the universe being old, can you hold to a local flood, or must it be a global flood?
Ross: Well, I know a geologist in Alberta, Canada, who is staunchly old earth in his interpretation of the Bible, and yet he believes in a global flood. He’s not the only one I know of, but it is rare. Most people who believe in interpreting these days as longer than 24 hours, would also take the point of view that it’s a flood that wipes out all of humanity, but not necessarily Antarctica.
Ankerberg: Alright, hopefully, we can continue this discussion sometime in the future, in terms of this, because we’re not going to be able to cover all of the points. But let me get to the main points that I think are at issue here, and it has to do with these verses here: “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail [that’s 20 feet]; and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth.” [Gen. 7:18-21] What does this mean, Walter?
Kaiser: John, again, I think God’s going to hold us responsible, just as in the discussion of creation, whether there was an absolute beginning, and whether it came about through the mouth of God, so here, the factor which not only in Genesis but later on in the New Testament, in Peter’s writings, it is “all people save eight.” [1 Pet. 3:20] It is universal with regard to humanity. Now, I think as believers we need to put on the shelf those things that we agree on, and which are the main points of the text. The flood was not given as an illustration for geology or for arguments of dates. It was given as God’s judgment on humanity. That we must stress. And that’s where the text stresses, not only in Genesis, but of course also in the New Testament. Whether it was local or universal, I don’t know. Why? Because the terminology used is used consistently throughout the Bible.
Since Christians generally just read the New Testament, let me show you some references there. Colossians 1:23 for example, as I recall, “the Gospel must be proclaimed to every creature”? No! “The gospel… has been proclaimed,” says Paul, “to every creature under heaven.” That sounds like it’s all done! The Great Commission is over, Colossians 1:23. So, if I’m going to use the same kind of woodenness, I would call that not literal translation, I would call that wooden translation.
The other thing is, the word for earth. Why is it, throughout this whole narrative it doesn’t use erets, it uses the word for the inhabited world. The text is specific at that point. Now, the Bible could have used, the Holy Spirit and God the Father could have said erets. We translated it earth, but on the other hand, we don’t hold to the inerrancy of any translation. We hold to the inerrancy of the Word of God in Hebrew, Aramaic and in Greek. Therefore we’ve got a system of checks and balances. The word ought to be perspicuous and clear with regard to its main message, so that even a plowboy could understand it. But yet, like the checks and balances in the American government, so here too, we also say, “but our appeal must be to the original.” So it must be explained to the laity, but it also must have backing from the text here.
Or Genesis 41:57, “the famine was severe in all the earth.” That was during the days, Moses writing again, using a phrase with regard to that which Joseph had sort of under his aegis at that point. So I think that, for a number of reasons, we ought to keep on affirming the immutables. And the immutable in this case is, all people, save those eight, Mr. & Mrs. Noah, their three sons and their wives. That was it. No one else survived. And none of the vertebrate survived. They were on the ark. Now the other question, then…
Ham: Can I jump in here…
Kaiser: … then, how far should it go? That I think we ought to keep discussing, and be kind with each other. Keep on thinking that, perhaps, we may have not gotten all the information.
Ham: You know, the word “all,” you know can be used in different ways. We even say that today. I might say, “Well, I think all the people in such and such a town,” you know, are this or that. And you don’t really mean “all.” But the difference is here, “and the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth and ALL the high hills under” and then there’s another “all”, it’s the same word that’s translated here “whole”, but “ALL the high hills under ALL the heaven were covered; the waters prevailed 15 cubits upwards.” [Gen. 7:19-20] In other words, you have them above the mountains. The mountains were covered. A local flood, the water’s not going to stand there for months, you know, as the water goes down. Besides which, you know when the ark landed, Noah had to wait, what, 70 days before even other mountaintops were seen. I mean, this was a massive flood! In fact, the word for flood, mabbuwl, isn’t it? It’s only used two or three times in the Old Testament, used of the flood here, it was a cataclysmic event. It was very different. And ALL living things, not just humanity, by the way, “all living things which were on the face of the ground,” [Gen. 7:21] man, cattle, creeping things, birds of the air, all that were on the face of the earth were destroyed, except those that God took on the ark, because He gives the exceptions.
Kaiser: Ken, I used the same response that you used, and that is, our God is an omnipotent God, with enormous capability. If He wanted to make the waters stand straight up, vertically, like He did at the Red Sea, that’s His business. As to what contained it and held it, I really don’t know.
Ham: So you invoke a miracle to make the water stand there for a local flood?
Kaiser: No, I just trying to have fun with you and show you how you used the argument previously on creation.
Ham: Actually….
Ankerberg: Alright, it seems like we’ve got a couple of things on Noah. It’s interesting that Genesis 8:4, guys, says that the ark did not come to rest on the top of Mount Ararat, but it came to rest on the “mountains of Ararat.” What’s the significance of that? I think that makes a difference. The word har here, the Hebrew word har, does it mean all the high mountains like all of them are Everest, or does that also include, a Hebrew lexicon definition, hills? And does the word kacah mean, the fact is, residing upon, in other words, over the top, or falling upon? Aren’t those parts of the meaning? Start us off, Ken.
Ham: If you level out all the mountains in the ocean basins, you’ve got enough water to cover to a depth of almost two miles. In other words, there’s plenty of water to cover the earth. And when you look at mountains, we would say one way in which God ended the flood, in fact I suggest Psalm 104 might even allude to this, is the mountains rose, the valleys sank, water poured off the earth. That’s why you find, on the top of Mount Everest, you find marine fossils. You find them on most mountains, actually, across the earth. And those sediments usually continue in a massive way, because they were laid down by the flood and they’ve been uplifted. That’s why you see water lines in continents all around the world. That’s why you see most river valleys far wider and deeper than present river systems require. In fact, all geologists agree the whole earth has been covered with water. They just don’t agree it was all at one time. And see, one thing that… I do want to make a point that’s important: those who believe in millions of years cannot believe in a global flood. Because if all the layers were laid down with the fossils, contain all those dead things and evidence of cancer and so on, if all that was laid down over millions of years before man, you can’t have a global flood. It would rework those deposits. So that forces the hermeneutic to have a local flood.
Ankerberg: Hugh?
Ross: Well, I mean, we do have old earth creationists who do believe in a global flood.
Ham: Well, that may be true…
Ross: Right. So…
Ham: …but they’re inconsistent; because once you hold to a global flood, you’ve got a problem with all those sediments with the fossils. Because a global flood is not a tranquil event. I mean, I think Norm Geisler holds to a global flood, but a tranquil event. But it’s not a tranquil event.
Ankerberg: But isn’t the assumption that the sediments that you see at Mount St. Helens that were brought up before, the fact is that the whole earth is not like Mount St. Helens.
Ham: No, that’s true, but the point is, we see catastrophic processes today that can lay down layers. And we’ve seen lots of other catastrophic processes, too. What we’re saying is, the flood was a massive catastrophe. Imagine what it would have done, which is what you see…
Ross: We’re not denying catastrophes. I mean, we believe that the earth’s history is one of multiple catastrophes of vast nature, stretched over the billions of years. We would also point out, we would agree with you that, yes, we do see marine fossils on top of Mount Everest. But keep in mind, India is still moving north into Asia. And it was the collision of India with Asia that led to the formation of the Himalayas,…
Ham: Stop right there. Assumption. See, we do see little movements today that we can measure, but you’re extrapolating into the past and saying this built this, this did this. People need to understand, we all have presuppositions that are determining how we interpret the evidence of the present.
Ross: Understand that these assumptions can always be tested. I mean, it tells us in the Bible everything must be tested. And we’re not just to have blind faith. Our faith is to be tested.
Ham: But you can’t go back and test unique events in the past. We can’t test a global flood. What we can do is look at the present to see if the evidence is consistent with it, which it is.
Ross: We can directly observe the past, as I’ve pointed out many times. That’s what astronomers do. We directly witness the past and see what God has done.
Ham: Jason,…
Ankerberg: Can I jump in here and ask you both, in other words, the non-Christian scientist out there says, “What I don’t like about you Christians is, you don’t give me a testable model.” What’s your model, quickly, what’s your model that we can look forward, in the months ahead, and in the years ahead, that are going to be shown to be true? What’s your model for the flood, for the young earth?
Ham: Well, I think it’s more than just a model for the flood. If we start with the whole of Scripture, God created in six days, we look at the event of the Fall,…
Ankerberg: But what would scientists find to back that up? To show that you’re right?
Ham: Well, here’s the whole point. You can’t prove things in relation to the past. But we have a revelation from God…
Ankerberg: Will they be able to find anything in the future that will prove what you’re saying?
Ham: You can’t ultimately, scientifically, prove the past. But here’s…
Ankerberg: Will there be no evidence, then?
Ham: Well, here’s the point. When you start with the record of history, God’s Word concerning the past, and you connect it to the present, it explains why there’s death, why there’s life. It explains why we have fossils all over the earth.
Ankerberg: But what evidence in the future here, or that we’re going to be able to see, is there any evidence that will prove what you just said?
Ham: There’s evidence consistent with what the Bible says. There’s evidence for fossils all over the earth consistent with the Flood. There’s evidence that people groups all originated from one group.
Ankerberg: Okay,
Lisle: John, can I…
Ankerberg: Give me your model here, quick.
Ross: Okay, there’s a simple way to put this to the test. You have a model, we have a model. We make radically different predictions about what scientists and theologians will discover in their future research. I closed my book A Matter of Days with a chapter where I simply laid out your predictions side by side with our predictions. My appeal is this, let’s wait one year and see which side’s predictions come true.
Ham: You know why it’s not going to work that way, Hugh? Because you’re committed to a Big Bang billions of years, you’ll always interpret evidence in a particular way. We’re committed to taking Genesis literally…
Ross: Let’s just take that one example…
Ham: …and we’re going to show you that the evidence is more consistent with our…
Ross: If you’re right, the scientific evidence will go against Big Bang cosmology. We’ll see increasing numbers…
Ham: Actually, there is some that is, and there’s an increasing number of secular scientists that are giving it up.
Ross: They’re all atheists, you know that, and …
Ham: So what?
Ross: Well, I mean, as you point…
Ham: The point is that there is contention even in the secular world. And there’s an increasing number of scientists giving up the Big Bang.
Ross: Okay, let’s just put it this way, okay? Astronomy is advancing very rapidly. If you’re right, in the next year there should be a number of tests performed that show that the Big Bang model is incorrect. But if we’re right it’s going to be the opposite way.
Ham: You know why it can’t work like that, Hugh? Because we live in the present. Regardless of what you say, you can’t… I mean, we live in the present, and we have God’s Word to enable us to explain the present. God’s Word already explains why there’s death in the world; it already gives us a basis for why there are fossils all over the earth; it already gives us a basis for understanding all the different people groups. And faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. [Rom. 10:17]
Ross: That being the case, your particular interpretation of the Bible can be put to the test through theological and scientific research.
Ham: Oh, and we do that now.
Ankerberg: Okay, let’s wrap this up. Walter, I’ve appreciated this conversation, I think you have too, in the sense that we’re able to talk about these things with Christian love to one another. And we can agree on the basic things of the Word of God, and that the Word of God is the inspired Word of God, and it is our authority. And we can disagree on some of these other things. And for people in the church, okay, you’ve got churches that hold to the old earth, if some of the people want to look at the young earth viewpoint, and if people have a young earth church, in the sense that the majority hold that viewpoint, but they want to investigate old earth, how can we do this in the future in a civil way, in terms of a Christian way? What’s the manner in which we can do this? How can we model it?
Kaiser: John, our debate here is just a microcosm of a watching world. They want to see, What makes these Christians work? And how do they treat one another? What’s their mindset? How do they handle the whole spectrum, not just the specialties there, but how well do they listen to each other? What spirit of humility and what things are really non-negotiable, and what things are they saying, “Well, here’s my view, but I’m listening, and I’m open.” I think the watching world has a right to expect that of us, and therefore, what we have tried to demonstrate here is that indeed there are some things that really join us together, as you just went over.
But there are other areas where God is so much greater than what we are. His mind has spoken here in the Word, but we’re grasping after it. And like Peter, who looked at some of Paul’s writings, he said, “Boy, some of these things are hard to understand. I just can’t quite fathom all of that.” [2 Pet. 3:16] If that’s an apostle, who got the Word of God, methinks that little Walter Kaiser ought to also fall down before the Word and say, “God is greater than I am, or even my interpretation or theories.” That doesn’t mean I have no certainties. I surely do think God made the whole thing. He’s started it. There was nothing before He started it. He did it by His word. He was the one who took out all of the inhabited world, except eight persons, and that for good theological reasons. But there are many other things beyond this that are extremely important and that will play a role in this, but which I’ve not quite yet comprehended it all. And I suspect every one of us must have that pocket, an area in which we are willing to give it over to the Lord.
Ankerberg: Ken.
Ham: You know what we’ve got to be doing? Looking at Scripture. It’s not young earth vs. old earth. It’s what does this [the Bible] say? Is this, or is this not, the Word of God that we can trust?
Ankerberg: I think we all agree on that. And guys, I want to say, thank you, first of all. People don’t know how we’ve broken into everybody’s schedule and how early we had to get up and how late we had to be in taping these programs. And I appreciate your willingness to do that and I also appreciate your kindness to each other, and I think that you modeled how we talk about this in the church. So, thank you to each one of you, and God bless you.

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