Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Changing My Mind

As far back as I can remember in my life I was interested in science and technology particularly in the manned exploration of space and the human endeavor to land a person on the moon. As a teenager and young adult, this interest in science combined with my Christian faith motivated me to read books on the integration of science with Christianity. Most of the books I read during those years promoted a "young earth" view of the Bible and science stating that the universe was less than 10,000 years old and that scientists were misinterpreting the data when they proposed that the universe started with a Big Bang almost 14 billion years ago. At that time I was not aware of much material written from a Christian and biblical perspective that promoted an "old earth" view of the Bible that agreed with the scientific timescale of the universe as determined by modern observations.

However, as a Christian post-doctoral researcher at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, I decided that I should investigate in detail what the Bible said about the age of the earth and how strong the scientific evidence was for the claims made about the history of the universe. The first book I ever read that promoted the idea that the biblical account of creation was in complete agreement with the scientific observations and determination of the age of the universe was The Fingerprint of God, by Hugh Ross, published in 1989. He claimed, not only that the Bible fully supported a 14 billion year old universe, but also that the Big Bang provided amazing evidence for a transcendent creator with the characteristics of the Christian God. Since Dr. Ross is an astrophysicist and a theologian, his writings, presentation, and logical style resonated with me and caused me to want to explore his perspective in more detail. I went on to read two more books that he wrote, The Creator and the Cosmos, and Creation and Time (since updated and released as A Matter of Days.The Creator and the Cosmos presented one of the most well-researched and compelling cases for God from science that I had ever read and Creation and Time made a strong argument that the biblical record of creation fit nicely with a universe that was billions of years old.

As a scientist I tend to not accept anything at face value without investigating it myself and determining what conclusions should be drawn from the facts and evidence.  Since I had grown up believing the universe was thousands, rather than billions, of years old, I could not accept any other possibilities without investigating the facts for myself. I started my investigation by studying what the Bible said about creation. My father was a pastor with an extensive library so I had access to thousands of books written about the biblical record. I gathered resources that claimed the biblical record favored a young earth, resources that claimed the biblical record favored an old earth, and unbiased resources such as Hebrew interlinear Bibles, ancient Hebrew dictionaries, commentaries on Genesis, etc. (The original text of most of the Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew so a proper in-depth study of the original meaning of the text requires some knowledge of Hebrew.) As I compared the different viewpoints on the age of the universe to the unbiased resource material I found that time and time again the old earth interpretation of the Bible actually fit the original text better and more closely agreed with the unbiased reference works. Contrary to the claims of many proponents of the young earth view that supposedly uses the Bible as the foundation for their beliefs, the unbiased resources showed that the biblical record actually agrees better with an old earth view rather than a young earth view. After studying this issue from a biblical perspective for a long time and in much depth, I changed my mind about what was the intent of the original authors of the Bible regarding the timeline of the creation of the universe.

Now is good time to share this significant story from my life because the 4th edition of The Creator and the Cosmos has just been released (pictured in the opening figure of this article). Its recent publication has caused me to reminisce about my search for truth and the process that I went through that ultimately led to my current beliefs. It was not primarily the scientific evidence that caused me to change my mind, but rather good and proper biblical exegesis. Of course, over the decades since I initially adopted my current position I have continued to study this issue from both a scientific and biblical perspective. My further study has only strengthened my original conclusions since both biblical theology and scientific observations fit much better into an old earth paradigm compared with a young earth one. Of course, this makes perfect sense if Christian beliefs are true and God is both the author of the Bible and the creator of the universe. Then the message of the Bible, God's word, and the message from creation, God's work, should be in complete agreement since they declare truth from the same source.

If you or someone you know still believes that science and Christianity are in conflict I would encourage you to investigate this subject, maybe starting with some of the same resources that I used early in my search for truth in this area. The 4th edition of The Creator and the Cosmos is about twice the length of the original edition since the evidence for God from science has only increased over the last two decades. Other material is available at the organization Dr. Hugh Ross founded over three decades ago, Reasons to Believe. I would also recommend the many excellent resources available there. An understanding of how seamlessly science and Scripture correlate can strengthen the faith of believers and encourage nonbelievers to spend time investigating the person and claims of Jesus. That is a journey well worth taking.


  1. Your story is in some ways similar to my own, though mine is less scholastic. I had the nickname Moon-man as a fifth grader because I idolized Werner Von Brauns books on proposed trips to the Moon and to Mars. Later in high school I read Rockets, Missles and Space Travel by Willie Ley. Then in 1975 came a two day seminar with Henry Morris and Duane Gish. I was convinced of their young earth and creation arguments leading me to read the Genesis Flood..etc. I remain swayed by the arguments against Neo-Darwinian explanations as argued by Gish. The Flood remains to be argued further as to its extent. Currently your presentations and the cosmological and physics arguments confirm the agreement between good science and scripture as to the age of the universe. I am convinced of the truths extolled by A.E. Wilder-Smith hand lately by the Discovery Institute scholars best expressed as Intelligent Design. Thanks for your testimony concerning science and scripture.

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  3. I have similar problems with the typical YEC interpretation of specifically Gen.1&2. I am not convinced that the 7 24-hour day interpretation is truly the most natural or original meaning (with time dilation I also have the question if the time was measured on earth (as they assume) or from God's perspective).
    However, I have 2 questions and I don't know if this book by Dr. Ross addresses them:
    1. What do we make of Adam and Eve as ancestors of all mankind. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the most natural and straightforward reading of Genesis and the rest of the Bible.
    2. What to make of recent dinosaur bones that were found to be essentially unfossilised, including still having collagen (cartilage) and the remains of blood vessels and even red blood cells? Evolutionists are working very hard finding possible causes that would result in such extraordinary preservation over millions of years (and do not even consider the possibility that their dating methods might be defective or based on false assumptions).

    1. Thanks for your questions. There are good answers to both the questions at the Reasons To Believe web site. Fuz Rana has written a book called "Who Was Adam?" that gives a reasonable answer to the first question, and does interpret Adam and Eve as the first humans and genetic ancestors of us all. Here is a link to an answer to question 2, but there are many more articles about that at reasons.org. http://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2016/04/28/structure-of-dinosaur-collagen-unravels-the-case-for-a-young-earth

  4. I suggest that you look into the Setterfield and Norman research into the speed of light. They have, as far as I can see, proved that the speed of light has been decreasing, ostensibly since the Fall. They that shown that the speed of light was asymptotically approaching infinity about 6,000 years ago, as measured by dynamical time. Since the determinations of the age of the earth to be 14 billion years were done through methods that invariably involve "c" in their basic equations, and the determinations assume a constant "c", then it is obvious that those measurements would always be at variance to dynamical time measurements, the equations of which do not involve "c" at all.

    You agree that the Bible is true, but I suggest that your determination that the Bible agrees with the "scientifically" determined age of the earth as 14 billion years has required the "bending" of the Scriptures. Why not consider that the plain statements of the Bible indicating an age of the earth at about 6000 years as being absolute truth and see that a constant "c" is NOT absolute truth?

    1. Thanks for your comment. I, too am "abiding."

      However, I don't understand why those who disagree with me assume I haven't read both sides of the issues. Abiding, have you read both sides of the issues including good evangelical scholars who hold a high view of scripture who disagree with you? Of course I am familiar with Setterfield and Norman's "research." They wrote their initial paper way back in 1987 and I have followed their work since then. Unfortunately, their conclusions are flawed and incorrect for they don't understand the need to properly take into account the uncertainty on the measurements of the speed of light, nor do they understand how measurements of physical quantities with large errors eventually converge on a more precise and accurate measurement. I, personally, have plotted and fitted the measurements of the speed of light over a period of many years and seen that there is no trend to a lower speed. No scientist I know of who looked at their data, Christian or nonbeliever, would agree with their conclusions.

      As far as taking the plain meaning of scripture as stated, that is exactly what I have done in my understanding of scripture. However, to get the plain meaning, it is important to study the original language and culture rather than take any particular English translation as definitive. I have done just that and present some of my findings in blog posts on the biblical records such as http://www.michaelgstrauss.com/2017/06/the-six-days-of-creation.html and http://www.michaelgstrauss.com/2017/06/genealogies-and-creation-of-heaven-and.html. There is no "bending" of scripture, just good exegesis and hermeneutics. I get my information from the best scholars in ancient Hebrew. Unfortunately, most of the organizations that promote a "young earth" do not follow good principles of biblical exegesis and interpretation, nor good principles of science.

      The truth is out there for you to find and the truth neither distorts the biblical text or the record of nature.

  5. Purely from "napkin math" a decreasing c would lead to some observable phenomena, I think. E.g. Either energy is not conserved and is decreasing, or masses must increase over time, or both. If any of that were happening I would imagine somebody would have observed it in the last century.