Can special revelation contradict general revelation? As a geologist I am struck by God's majesty seen in the history of the earth. It is impossible for the earth to only be thousands of years old especially in light of the geological revolution of the late seventies. Genesis 1 was written to convey God's power to all believers throughout time and not for scientific purposes. Would this mean the young earth creationist is in grievous error, as it is a great offense to our Creator when Christians bypass his intricate handiwork clearly seen through geology?
Thanks so much for your question to Q&A.
As you may know, the question of the age of the earth is hotly debated in Reformed and Presbyterian circles. Often more heat than light is brought to the subject because of people's unwillingness to listen to one another. Some young earth creationists paint those who hold the earth is very old as liberals who deny the authority and perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture. Likewise, some who hold that the earth is very old treat young earth creationists as scientific neanderthals (pun intended) who simply need to get with the program and accept the obvious. Both attitudes lack charity and do nothing to further the cause of Christ and his gospel. Dialogue, then, regarding this subject must be done with humility, realizing that we are utterly dependent upon God for any knowledge we have about his creation. Now, to your question.
You ask if special revelation can contradict general revelation. The short answer is "no." Since truth is an attribute of God and he is the source of all truth (both in general and special revelation) contradiction in truth is impossible. It is our finiteness and fallibility which often contribute to seeing contradictions when in fact there are none. Sometimes those supposed contradictions are even the cause of sinful presuppositions about the existence (or lack thereof) of God and an unwillingness to interpret the evidence in submission to him.
With this in mind, you say that "it is impossible for the earth to only be thousands of years old, especially in light of the geological revolution of the late seventies." I think it helps us to point out that the very existence of a geological revolution at all points to the finiteness and changeability of science. This should, at the least, cause us to hold our views of the age of the earthly very loosely in our hands, noting that science is done by humans who by no means are infallible in their methodologies or observations. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn shattered our preconceived notions that the hard sciences are as hard as we believe them to be. Rather, they regularly undergo paradigm shifts to account for ever-emerging data. With this understood, we need to see the question regarding the age of the earth as a legitimately debatable topic, and young earth scientists should not be so easily dismissed out of hand.
Finally, though godly men and women might disagree on the age of the earth there are certain tenets to which they should hold. These are, among other things:
For a further discussion of these things I would simply point you to the Report of the Committee to Study the Views of Creation presented at the 71st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. You can find this at the following address: http://opc.org/GA/creation.html.
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