Being a "nutter," for my non-British friends, means being crazy, doolally, mad and irrational. And young earthers, those who hold to the view that God created the universe six to ten thousand years ago in roughly six twenty four hour days, are, according to many people (mostly in academia or media), nutters. The reason they might be deemed nuts is mostly a matter of supposedly ignoring what's in front of them - the evidence. Of course there might be more to it than mere stuff (see here for my comments about the logic of evolution), but let's leave that aside for a minute. I want to suggest that it is not nuts to think that the world and all that is involved in what Christians call "creation" was created more recently than modern naturalistic scientists suggest. The objections to the young earth view are multiple, but no objection lands a final punch. Furthermore, upon examination of the so called evidence, the young earth view finds itself in pretty good shape in comparison to the incoherence of naturalistic evolution.
First of all the matter of knowledge, how one could know how anything came to be. The young earther is often accused of ignoring the evidence. When it comes down to it this is more a matter of what counts as evidence rather than ignoring it. What counts as evidence is an eye witness account. For the young earther the most binding evidence is scripture. It is an account of origin provided by God in human language made understandable to humans by virtue of their design (by God) and, for some, by the work of the Holy Spirit in their minds to receive the Bible as authoritative over all interpretations of reality.
This doctrine, though many find unsatisfying, is not nuts. And to hold to a doctrine of inspiration, one does not first have to become a nutter. One might wish to point out to the young earther that the Bible does not teach young earth or that evolution is compatible with it, but that is not the point. Since it is perfectly reasonable to interpret scripture in the way the young earther does it does not rule out young earth views.
Given that the young earther will always turn to scripture in giving evidence, what is to be done with other evidence? "Facts," according to evolutionists, should lead the young earther to give up this view in favor of eyewitness accounts of how matter relates internally. In other words the Bible and conclusions of naturalistic science must be made to work together. This requires a synthesis between the Bible and naturalistic science. But hold on a minute. That sounds suspiciously like evolution sets the agenda. Since, as I take it, evolution is more than mere observation--it is an assumption--what is it that obliges me to make such a synthesis? The logic of my interpretation does not necessarily have to be set by the idea that thought should progress toward a synthesis of two propositions. Many Christians do attempt such a synthesis (for example, the "day-age" theory, theistic evolution etc), but I am only obliged to follow that route if I already think that thinking on the matter should evolve. Of course that does not mean I am not open to changing my views; only that what obliges me to change them is derived not out of a prior commitment to "progress" in my thinking.
I might think (and do think) that previous views of the world are sometimes better than present views. Think of ethics, for example. I think that the view that marriage is between one woman and one man is a better view than the emerging consensus on homosexual marriage. This might sound strange to some and they might reason that I should give up such an archaic view. But I do not necessarily think that the world and ethics should evolve. Just because something is old does not make it wrong; age is not necessarily a grounds for suspicion. For the same reason I do not think that I should evolve in my view on creation. The age of the view is not the necessary grounds for suspecting it to be misguided. And, to continue my claim, an old view, just because it is old, is not a nutty view.
Let's take some objections to the young earth view. And to be sure, the view must tackle the evidence found in naturalistic science. And this points to the first charge - to be a young earther one must ignore the evidence of science. The first thing to say is that this is not the same as saying that young earthers ignore the conclusions of scientists who are committed to a naturalistic worldview. One can disagree with popular interpretations of data without committing a nut making folly. One can also interpret data in ways that accord with one's presuppositions, even a presupposition such as young earth.
There are two recourses for a defense of the young earth view that are sufficient to ward off a slam dunk from the naturalistic scientist. First, one can point to actual events in history (as described by the Bible) that would explain certain phenomena. The most obvious is the global cataclysmic flood. This, for many creation scientists, goes a long way to explain the fossil record. This may be unsatisfying for one committed to evolution and entails animals going into a boat two by two, but there is nothing intrinsically irrational in the account. And given the assumption that Moses' description of the event is accurate since his words inspired by God (2 Pet 1:21) who knows exactly what happened and cannot lie (Num 23:19) it is warranted by scripture.
The second, more fantastic sounding explanation, is the "appearance of age" account. If one thinks that the earth appears to be old, but cannot conclude that it really is old, it is possible to say that God created the earth (and everything else in the universe) with the mere appearance of age. Sounds strange, but, if one is commited to a young earth view, the appearance of age view is actually entailed by it.
Why so? Vern Poythress argues that it would not be possible for God to create the universe without the appearance of age. Think of what is required for an ecosystem such as ours to operate A plant requires soil, light and water. But what is soil made of? What the plant needs is nutrition supplied by the decomposing of formerly living things. The soil must have been made with dead things in it that never really lived!
Poythress also points to the creation of Adam. Adam would have had a navel, but never an umbilical cord. His body was mature complete with functioning muscles and grammar ready mind, trained vocal chords and rational thinking apparatus. Furthermore, Eve would have emerged in much the same state when she was formed from Adam's rib. Both Adam and Eve would have been aware of their mature nature when they gave birth to Cain.
If they had been able, both Adam and Eve could have conducted experiments to determine the age of the earth. Even while they knew their own recent origins, an application of modern science may have shown otherwise.
If it were merely origins that depended on appearance of age theory one might be tempted to drop the idea. However, Poythress reminds us that other incidents rely on appearance of age. Take, for example, the miracle at Cana. Jesus transforms water into wine. But what is the origin of the wine? A modern scientist can examine a wine, test it, and determine the vineyard from which it came (and probably the date). What vineyard would the wine Jesus made from water have been from? God may have chosen any one, or none, but the wine, since it is made from crushed grapes, would have been made from real crushed grapes that were never crushed.
Of course, it is quite probable that the naturalist finds this all the more reason to reject the young earth view. He cannot, however, call it nuts. One can, on the other hand, suggest that to hold to a combination of evolution and naturalism is nuts. But more on that another day.