John Byl on “Grudem’s Old Earth Inconsistency”

I like reading John Byl’s material.  He is a first rate Christian thinker in the “Bible and Science” debate in the presuppositional mold.  He doesn’t post too often, but his writing is always interesting.

He has recently posted a piece on theologian Wayne Grudem’s rejection of evolution while accepting the “scientific evidence” undergirding so as to believe in Old Earth Creationism.  This position, so popular among evangelical scholars, is, as Byl shows, inconsistent.  Moreover, it violates the principle of the sufficiency of Scripture as well as grammatical-historical hermeneutics.  If secular scientific dating methods are required to interpret the Creation narrative, the context which the Bible itself supplies must be supplemented by the “findings” of modern science.  We think not.  Here is the article:



  1. I personally hold to a literal six day creation as taught in Scripture in Genesis 1. The hardest part of the time table for the age of the earth is we dont know the time fram between the creation of Adam to the time of the call of Abraham. Many times those who deny a literal six day creation also usually deny premillennialism by a reinterpretation of Revelation 20:4-6 on the words thousand years used there. Grudem is an odd case considering hes premillennial.

  2. Thanks for sharing this article. The issue of “Old Earth Creationists” is endemic in the sober/non-charismatic part of the evangelical church in this part of the world. Its spread closely correlates to the influence of Reformed theology (chiefly through low church Anglican, conservative/confessional Presbyterian, Reformed, and Reformed Baptist movement) through the bigwigs of Reformed theological academies such as Moore Theological College in Sydney, Westminster Theological Seminary, London Theological Seminary, and Oak Hill College. I’m still shocked why people who can hold to otherwise presuppositional form of apologetics and such high view of theology as God revealing Himself can deny 6-day creation and even literal account of creation?

    I know people who are respected in my own church circles like Simon Manchester, who are otherwise very good in keeping the gospel presentation and not compromising on the issue of seeker driven mentality or the social gospel, claim that the serpent in Gen 3 could be “just a symbolism” and not a literal snake indwelled by Satan!

    1. Joel,

      Byl himself bemoans the spreading influence of OEC in Reformed circles. Of course, their pliable hermeneutics makes nearly any position defensible. What I find herder to stomach id dispensationalists who are old-earthers (e.g. Geisler).

      Richard Phillips, a PCA minister, has just written a piece about the worrying influence of theistic evolution in that denomination. He believes a split may be looming!

      1. Old Earth views among premillennialists have been more common than young earth ones since the 19th century. Even C.H. Spurgeon was an Old Earther..

  3. I always thought Grudem was young earth from my reading of him. He sums up his discussion of creation this way: “Although our conclusions are tentative, at this point in our understanding, Scripture seems to be more easily understood to suggest (but not require) a young earth view, while the observable facts of creation seem increasingly to favor an old earth view” (308). Obviously, he is talking about both young earth and old earth views in that quote, but it seems that he slightly tilts toward young earth since he sees it as more faithful to Scripture.

    Or have I misread him?

  4. ‘Why do you think OEC has been more common among premils since the 19th Century?’

    That is an interesting historical question. One might imagine that with the emphasis on literalism, premillennialists would be more inclined to YEC views.

    Possibly the tendency to embrace the OEC view is simply reflective of evangelicalism in general. On the whole, most evangelicals in the 19th century did not resist the idea of an old earth. Premillennialists were simply more inclined to go for the Gap theory than the Day Age view, as that fitted their overall theological approach better. The resistance to OEC views among some Reformed amillennialists probably has more to do with loyalty to creedal statements than a preference for literal interpretation.

    The rise of the Creation Science movement and the revival of Young Earth Creationism is probably connected with cultural trends such as the Culture Wars in America.

    1. What, you think the Westminster Confession suppors Old Earth views?

      Uniformitarianism, yes. Most 19th century evangelicals accepted uniformitarianism. The Flood Geology view was debated in that era, but a lot of it’s advocates were High Anglicans, rather than evangelicals.

      Darwinism arrived on the scene a bit later than uniformitarianism and got a much frostier reaction from most evangelicals. Modern premillennialists have for the most part accepted uniformitarianism, but not Darwinism.

      1. I said OEC but I meant YEC! Doh! The Confessions and Creeds support (and were written by those who supported) Young Earth Creationism.

        You say, “Modern premillennialists have for the most part accepted uniformitarianism, but not Darwinism,” and I have to ask again why have they accepted uniformitarianism? The Gap Theory, as you no doubt know, was introduced by Thos. Chalmers to wed uniformitarianism (and, in some cases, evolution) to Scripture. It was adopted by premils like Pember and, later, Sauer for that very purpose was it not?

  5. Yes, the Westminster Confession seems to teach a Six-Day view of creation; which is why I think Young Earth Creationism has found stronger defenders among Reformed Amillennialists than among Premillennialists.

    You seem to want to imply a strong connection between the acceptance of uniformitarian geology and acceptance of evolution.

    I think you would have a very difficult time making an historical case for a strong connection between the two. Darwin’s Origin of the Species was published in 1859, while the debate about uniformitarian geology had begun in the previous century. I know there were theories of evolution before Darwin, but it’s doubtful that they had much to do with the rise of uniformitarian geology.

    From what I have read on the subject, the debate about the new theory of evolution in Darwin’s day didn’t really go into uniformitarianism as a topic much. Most Christian critics of Darwin, such as Charles Hodge, had no issue with uniformitarian geology.

    You mention Thomas Chalmers. He died before Darwin’s Origin of the Species was published, so it’s difficult to see much of a connection there.

    G.H. Pember was by no means the first Premill to adopt the gap theory. Early advocates include J.N. Darby, William Kelly and C.H. Spurgeon.

    While there were 19th century advocates of flood geology (mostly Anglican high churchmen) and Young Earthers who believed that the fossil record was created to test men and women’s faith (for instance Gosse and B.W. Newton), there was nothing like the organised Young Creationist movement that we have today in Answers in Genesis and other creationist ministries.

    1. Matthew,

      You are taking this thread in a direction of your own choosing rather than sticking to the point of the original post. I am not and have not said that every one who holds to uniformitarianism is an evolutionist. I ask you to read what I say more carefully. I did not say Chalmers was an evolutionist and I did not say Pember was the first pre-mil to adopt the Gap Theory. I too have read a bit on this matter and I would appreciate a sympathetic reading.

      Counting noses is, after all, never a way of deciding truth.


      1. Fair enough, it’s your post. I just raised a point about Premillennialism. If you didn’t want me to ramble on, you could have stopped me two or three comments ago.

      2. Yes, but I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. I think Byl’s points are well made and important no matter which side of the eschatological fence one sits on. Peace brother 🙂


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