Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Untraditional Traditionalists (Part 3)

They've been arguing for more than a century. They disagree about how to interpret dozens of Biblical passages. Many theological, moral, and practical issues are involved.

I'm referring to the dispute over the age of the earth. And who better to settle the dispute than the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and others who tell us so often about their deep historical roots, their concern for church unity, and their unchanging traditions? The solution to this dispute over the age of the earth is at their fingertips, and surely they aren't afraid to speak the truth and preserve the tradition and unity of the church, even if it's culturally unpopular.

Why do I say that the solution is at their fingertips? Because whatever issues the church fathers may have been unclear about, one issue about which they spoke in a clear manner was the issue of the age of the earth. The concept of a young earth or the recent creation of mankind is stated or implied in The Epistle of Barnabas (15), Justin Martyr (First Apology, 31), Theophilus of Antioch (To Autolycus, 3:24-25), Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 5:28:3), Clement of Alexandria (The Stromata, 1:21), Hippolytus (On Daniel, 2:6), Origen (Against Celsus, 1:20), Julius Africanus (Chronology, 1), Cyprian (Treatise 11; Preface, 2; On the Exhortation to Martyrdom, 11), Victorinus (On the Creation of the World), Lactantius (The Divine Institutes, 7:14), and Augustine (City of God, 12:12), for example.

And this isn't just a scientific issue. There are many issues of Biblical interpretation, theology, morality, etc. involved. Was there animal death before the fall of mankind? How historically accurate is scripture? Surely those who frequently criticize Evangelicals for not being historically deep enough, not following the teachings of the church fathers enough, not being able to settle their disagreements, etc. will settle this dispute by publicly teaching, with the fullest authority they have, that the earth is less than ten thousand years old.