Grudem's Systematic Theology is a wonderful and extremely helpful resource for any Christian. In fact, I would be in agreement with the majority of what is written in it. However, when it comes to the topics of the age of the earth and the global flood, Grudem clearly misses it.
Quite frankly, his views are inconsistent, illogical at times, fallacious (some of his arguments), and even unbiblical. I honestly expected better from a scholar.
Below, Answers in Genesis reviews a section of his disappointing chapter about Creation.
See entire article here:
Views of Wayne Grudem
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994
Wayne Grudem’s theology text is immensely influential, having been translated into at least eight major languages. On the positive side, Grudem affirms ex nihilo creation and the direct supernatural creation of Adam and Eve (Grudem 1994, pp. 262–266). He has a helpful discussion of the biblical view of God’s relation to creation compared to the views of deists, atheists, pantheists, and others (Grudem 1994, pp. 266–270). He rejects biological evolution and presents good reasons for rejecting theistic evolution, the framework hypothesis, and the gap theory (Grudem 1994, pp. 279–286 (biological evolution), pp. 276–279 (theistic evolution), pp. 300–304 (framework hypothesis) and pp. 287–289 (gap theory). He also affirms belief in a global Flood (Grudem 1994, p. 306). In the bibliography at the end of his chapter on creation, Grudem refers to a number of young-earth books dealing with the age of the earth (most of which he identifies with “young earth view” after the citation). In this he is far more up-to-date and fair in his treatment of the young-earth view than Erickson and Lewis/Demarest are. But his old-earth arguments fail at many points.
Inconsistencies in rejecting some old-earth views
For example, he affirms that an atheistic form of the big bang theory is inconsistent with Scripture, but his qualified wording does not rule out a theistic big bang theory (Grudem 1994, p. 275).45 Since he is open to the evolutionary timescale as advocated by old-earth proponents who are astrophysicists and do accept the big bang as fact,46 he must, to be consistent, be open to the big bang order of events which contradict the order in Genesis (with the earth created before the stars and sun), even though he rejects theistic evolution. In rejecting the framework hypothesis, he says that the strongest argument against it is that “the implication of chronological sequence in the [Genesis 1] narrative is almost inescapable” (Grudem 1994, p. 303.) But if the days are sequential, then the events that occurred on each day must be sequential also (unless the text explicitly tells us otherwise, which in the case of the sun, moon, and stars, it does not). So any theistic version of the big bang theory is also inconsistent with Scripture. But Grudem does not clearly say so.
Three of his arguments against the gap theory also count against all other old-earth views, including Grudem’s tentatively-held day-age view. First, Grudem correctly says there is no verse explicitly speaking of a previous creation before this one. But likewise there is not a single verse in the Bible that explicitly speaks of or supports the idea of millions of years of time in Genesis 1. Second, he explains that if the gap theory is correct, then God calls the creation “very good” as He looks at an earth “full of the results of rebellion, conflict and terrible divine judgment” (Grudem 1994, p. 288). But in accepting the millions of years, Grudem is implying that God looked at the fossil record of death and disease, the destructive results of supernova explosions and asteroids bombarding the earth and other planets, and the other evidence of His apparently clumsy attempts at creation over millions of years, and then He called it all “very good.” Third, Grudem rightly reasons that the theistic evolution theory
must assume that all of the fossils of animals from millions of years ago that resemble very closely animals from today indicate that God’s first creation of the animal and plant kingdom [sic] resulted in a failure (Grudem 1994, p. 289).
But the same indictment can be made of all old-earth theories, for they would concur with theistic evolution on this point. Only the young-earth view reflects the wisdom and power and creative success of our Creator, because in that view all the death and suffering is post-Fall.
As noted, Grudem rejects theistic evolution. But his first two reasons for doing so also stand against all other old-earth views. First, he says that the “purposefulness in God’s work in creation seems incompatible with the randomness demanded by evolutionary theory” (referring to the millions of random mutations that the theory requires) (Grudem 1994, p. 276). But this counts equally against the blind, random, millions-of-years process of star and galaxy evolution in the big bang theory and the randomness of the millions-of-years formation of the earth and its strata to become our current habitable planet. If Scripture speaks of God’s intelligent design of living creatures, as Grudem rightly understands, it equally clearly speaks of His intelligent design of the stars and the earth, which were made for His glory and by His wisdom and have always operated according to His righteous ordinances.47 Grudem holds to a “straightforward biblical account of creation” to oppose theistic evolution (Grudem 1994, p. 276) and insists that the account of the Fall of Adam and Eve is a “straightforward narrative history” (Grudem 1994, p. 493). But the same straightforward exegetical approach to all of Genesis 1–11 requires the rejection of all old-earth theories.
Second, Grudem quotes Psalm 33:6–9 and says that we should reject theistic evolution because “Scripture pictures God’s creative word as bringing an immediate response” (Grudem 1994, p. 277). He rightly says that these verses seem incompatible with the idea that “after millions of years and millions of random mutations in living things” the creation was what God called for. But the verses are equally incompatible with the theory of slow gradual, millions-of-years evolution of nonliving things such as the stars, galaxies, and the earth. In fact, these verses specifically mention the heavenly bodies, but not living creatures. So, Grudem has missed the explicit teaching of the passage. God did not need and God did not take billions of years to make the earth and the heavenly objects. As the psalmist says, God spoke and it was done. He spoke and there was light. He spoke and dry land appeared. He spoke and the sun, moon, and stars came into existence. He did not have to wait millions of years for things to happen in response to His commands.
Since Grudem accepts the Creation account as straightforward history and the chronological sequence of events in Genesis 1, and since he believes the divine acts of creation were instantaneous, then by accepting millions of years he must necessarily believe that the divine creative acts were separated by millions of years. There is no other place to put the time. But where is the wisdom or even purpose of God in creating plants instantly and then waiting millions of years to create the sun, or in creating the sea and flying creatures instantly and then waiting millions of years to create land animals and man?
The importance of the age of the earth
Before entering into a discussion of the age of the earth, Grudem says that the topic “is really much less important than the[se] doctrines:” (1) God created the universe out of nothing; (2) creation is distinct from God, yet always dependent on God; (3) God created the universe to show His glory; (4) the universe God created was very good; (5) there will be no final conflict between Scripture and science; and (6) secular theories that deny God as Creator, including Darwinian evolution, are clearly incompatible with belief in the Bible. Grudem then says that the age of the earth is much less important than two additional subjects to be treated later in his text: (7) the creation of the angelic world, and (8) the creation of man in the image of God (Grudem 1994, p. 289).
But this statement about what is most important is simply an assertion. He gives no arguments or biblical evidence to support it. In response, we should note that his first point is not explicitly stated in Scripture, although it is a sound theological conclusion based on Scripture. Contrast that to the many explicit statements about the days of creation (in Genesis and other Bible passages) and the time since creation in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 and the other chronological statements in Scripture covering the period from Abraham to Christ. Also, as I previously explained, points 3 and 4 affect our conclusions about the age of the earth and are consistent only with the young-earth view. The age of the earth is directly related to point 5 as well.
Furthermore, judging from how much God says about the age of the creation (as presented earlier in this essay) compared to how much He says about most of these other matters that Grudem mentions, the age of the earth is far more important. And the age of the earth strikes at the heart of the question of the authority of Scripture. Whether secular scientific theories (based on antibiblical, philosophical presuppositions) should be the controlling judge in the exegesis of Scripture (the hermeneutic of the old-earth views) or whether Scripture truth should be determined by comparing Scripture with Scripture and careful attention to the text and context (as young-earth proponents insist) is vitally important.
Grudem is correct that secular theories which deny God as Creator, including Darwinian evolution, are clearly incompatible with belief in the Bible. But we can only say they are incompatible with the Bible, if we interpret literally the Genesis account about the creation of the first plants, animals, and people, where ten times God emphasizes that He made these creatures as distinct “kinds” in mature form ready to reproduce “after their kind” (rather than to change from one kind into a different kind). If this be the case, then why not take Genesis literally about the date and duration of creation week and the order of creation events? Why not reject the big bang cosmology completely because Genesis says that God created the plants before the sun, moon, and stars? And why not assume that the global, world-destroying Flood would have produced a massive amount of lasting geological evidence (for example, sediment layers, erosional features, lava deposits, and fossils), instead of following Davis Young’s tranquil flood view, as Grudem appears to do? Furthermore, the evolutionary theories for the origin of the universe and the earth over millions of years equally deny God as Creator and so are just as incompatible with belief in the Bible.
The age of the earth
Turning to arguments regarding the age of the earth, Grudem begins with a discussion of the Genesis genealogies (Grudem 1994, pp. 290–291). Earlier in his text he had said that no evangelical scholar today holds to Bishop Ussher’s date for creation (Grudem 1994, p. 273). But this statement probably was incorrect when he wrote it in 1994 and is demonstrably incorrect now, as several scholars have contended for no gaps in the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies (Freeman 1998, 2008; Jones 2005; Pierce 2006.48) I and other scholars think their arguments are compelling as well. Grudem’s argument for gaps, which he takes from Francis Schaeffer,49 is weak. The fact that Matthew 1 has missing names does not mean that Luke 3, or 1 Chronicles 1, or Genesis 5 and 11 do also.50 The other verses Grudem uses are not genealogies but rather verses where (as he rightly shows) the verbal pattern “son of” does not mean a literal father-son relationship. However, Genesis 5 and 11 do not use this “son of” language but rather say that one man “begat” (ילד, yālad) another. This construction always means a literal parent-child relationship (Ham and Pierce 2006).51 In any case, these verses cited by Grudem are irrelevant to the question of Genesis for the same reason that Matthew is—unlike these verses cited by Grudem, the Genesis genealogies give detailed chronological information and other personal details. Grudem says “it seems only fair to conclude that the genealogies of Scripture have some gaps in them” (Grudem 1994, p. 291). Actually, it is only fair, or rather faithful to all the biblical data, to say that some of the genealogical statements in Scripture have gaps. Neither Grudem nor his cited references have demonstrated that Genesis 5 and 11 have gaps.
Aware of the young-earth theodicy, Grudem devotes a mere two paragraphs to the issue of animal death before the Fall (Grudem 1994, pp. 292–293). Earlier he had affirmed that the initial creation was called “very good.” But he added that, in spite of sin, the material world is presently good, citing 1 Timothy 4:4–5. However, in the context of the preceding verse, Paul is talking about food, not everything in the material world. Furthermore, Paul’s statement here must be interpreted in light of his Romans 8:20–23 teaching about the nonhuman creation’s bondage to corruption and longing for redemption. The present creation is not all good. It is a fallen, cursed creation with remnants of goodness from the original creation.
In the section on animal death, he says that “there was no doubt death in the plant world” before the Fall (Grudem 1994, p. 292), but his comments reveal a need for further study of the creationist view on this point. He cites Romans 8:20–23, but does not discuss this very relevant text. His objection that Genesis 2:17 indicates that Adam’s disobedience would only affect man is an argument from silence, which is invalid, given all the texts I discussed on this point earlier. I would agree with him that Romans 5:12 is irrelevant to this question (though it has often been mistakenly used this way by many creationists) because context shows that the verse is only referring to Adam and his descendants. But Grudem has not refuted the young-earth argument about no pre-Fall animal death. And as we have seen, some of his own statements weigh heavily against the acceptance of millions of years of death, disease, and extinction of animals before the Fall, including the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, which Grudem leans toward accepting (Grudem 1994, p. 293). In a footnote, he admits that having all that fossil evidence of death in a very good creation is a “difficulty” for old-earth views and “perhaps” favors young-earth Flood geology, but he asserts that “this is not a decisive objection” (Grudem 1994, p. 305, footnote 75.) Why not? God’s description of the pre-Fall creation, the impact of the Fall and the cosmic consequences of the full redemptive work of Christ is not decisive for a Bible-believing Christian?
In his later chapter on the Fall of man he does not discuss the impact of the Fall on the nonhuman creation. But in his chapter on the glorification of the believer he affirms that God cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin, “so that it brought forth thorns and thistles and would only yield food useful for mankind by painful toil” (Grudem 1994, p. 835). He quotes Romans 8:19–23 to say that the creation will be set free from corruption when Christians receive their resurrection bodies. He says,
In this renewed creation, there will be no more thorns or thistles, no more floods or droughts, no more deserts or uninhabitable jungles, no more earthquakes or tornadoes, no more poisonous snakes or bees that sting or mushrooms that kill (Grudem 1994, p. 836).
But he apparently does not realize that in accepting millions of years, he is accepting that the thorns and thistles and all those other things were part of the pre-Fall “very good” creation. So, none of those things could be part of the curse of Genesis 3, as he previously said. Like Erickson, he has not carefully considered the implications of his belief in the cosmic impact of the Fall.
Grudem acknowledges that young-earth biblical arguments about death have “some force” (Grudem 1994, pp. 295, 296 and 297). But he does not present those arguments very thoroughly, which significantly diminishes their force on the minds of his readers.