Editor's Note: One of the issues that seems to occupy a lot of people's attention is the age of the cosmos. We have tried over and over to show that the age of the cosmos is a denominational tradition, not a biblical claim. From time to time, we have quoted well-known Bible scholars who have pointed this out in their writings many years ago. Here is a quote from a 1946 book titled God's Prophetic Word by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. that we think is very relevant. It is followed by one of our consultants, Hill Roberts, of Huntsville, Alabama."Much argument has been made as to whether the record of Genesis is scientifically correct and historically accurate. Some men in the realm of science complain that the Bible teaches that the earth is only six thousand years of age. But science claims for it a much higher antiquity than that. I recently called upon a man of science for proof that the Bible teaches that the earth is a mere six thousand years old. `Well,' he said, `I just assumed it. I thought this is what religious folks claim.' That is the trouble with some men in the scientific world. They assume too many things. They assume just about everything they say on matters of religion, and they assume some things they say when they are not talking on matters of religion.
"There is no statement in the Bible which indicates the age of the earth. `In the beginning God' is a phrase that defines a period of remote antiquity, hidden in the depths of eternal ages. If the scientists, or the pseudo-scientists, want to ascribe to the earth the age of a million, a billion, or three hundred billion years, I will not pause to argue the question with them now. Let their imagination play on, and their fancy with it, but when they get back to the beginning, it will be the beginning of the first sentence in the Bible, `In the beginning God.' That is all that the Bible affirms on the question.
"I am making no charges against science. There is no conflict between the Bible and science. The word science means to know, and there is not anything any man can prove that he knows that contradicts the Bible. I want to avoid leaving the impression that I am speaking in any derogatory manner against science. The Bible and science go hand in hand. They are halves of the same sphere. Properly considered, they illumine one another. They are co-servants; they support each other.
"But the man of science is not always scientific, and the man in religion is not always biblical. It is when the man of science gets unscientific or the man in religion gets unbiblical, that the clash comes.
"Some pseudo-scientists have much to say about the discords, disagreements and divisions among those who believe the Bible. But the various groups of scientific men, or unscientific men, if you please, tell us that the earth is a million years of age, and then ten million, then a billion, and then ten billion. And now its age has been raised to three hundred billion. If the scientists cannot get any closer together among themselves than the distance between a million and three hundred billion years as to the age of the earth, what right have they to talk of disagreements between others? You may have your billion, your ten billion, or your three hundred billion, but I will take the first sentence in the Bible, `In the beginning God.'"
*Wallace's original material was somewhat revised in the 1960 edition. The 1960 edition condenses these ideas on pages 16-17, 27, although the 1960 edition is 50% longer overall. Wallace's book was a rebuttal of the premillennialism emerging in churches of Christ during the 1930s and 1940s. The premillennial doctrine was intimately associated with early twentieth century fundamentalism, dispensationalism, and Seventh-Day Adventism. Wallace devotes an entire chapter to SDA. However, he makes no mention of the fact that SDA dispensational premillennialism was based on E. G. Whites' vision of the Creation by which she claimed the seven 24-hour days of creation typified seven millennial dispensations in 2 Peter 3:8 style. Hence dispensational premillennialism was directly connected to a doctrine of a six-thousand year earth in accord with Ussherian chronology. Since about six thousand years had passed, the seventh millennium was imminent--the advent was upon us! This thinking is yet popular at the end of the twentieth century. The premillennial connection was more about the timing of creation rather than any creation/evolution issue. Wallace does not even touch on evolution, but he clearly refutes the notion that the Bible requires a young earth doctrine. SDA also claimed that the Sabbath covenant was not established at Mt. Sinai, but at creation based on the six 24-hour days she observed in her vision followed by a 24-hour Sabbath. White suggested that the flood was responsible for apparent geological antiquity, again as a result of her vision. Wallace, while taking no comfort from science, explicitly rejected that either geology or the Bible addressed the antiquity of the creation. Rather he suggested that the Bible emphasized the source of creation--God (page 27, 1960). In the late 1950s and early 1960s the topic of the age of creation was becoming a renewed point of contention among both conservative and fundamentalist theologians. This was reflected by the conservative Bernard Ramm (Protestant Christian Evidences, 1956) and dispensational millennialists Whitcomb and Morris (The Genesis Flood, 1961) who followed E. G. White's SDA vision of creation as developed by self-styled geologist George McCready-Price. Such remains an issue among churches of Christ in the 1990s as a heritage from those premillennial influences, although somewhere along the way the connection to dispensationalism was obscured. Today young earth doctrine in churches of Christ is typically connected only to the doctrines of creation and the flood, most being none the wiser that the doctrines' roots are in visionary dispensationalism. Numbers (92), Wolfgang (97), and Harrell (00) provide fascinating insight into various portions of this history.
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