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.
Science and the Flood
Like Erickson, Grudem frequently refers to “scientific data about the age of the earth” and the “overwhelming evidence from geology,” (Grudem 1994, pp. 279, 295, 298, 302, 307, 308) as if the data and evidence speak for themselves and scientists are unbiased, objective pursuers of truth. And like Erickson, Grudem shows little grasp of the role of assumptions used in theinterpretation of the geological (and astronomical) data relevant to the age of the earth. Therefore, he believes that the scientific evidence is against the young-earth view (Grudem 1994, pp. 307–308).
In arguing against theistic evolution, Grudem says that “the scientific data do not force one to accept evolution” (Grudem 1994, p. 279). But the scientific establishment insists that the biological and paleontological data do force us to accept evolution. Why then should we trust the conclusions of the same godless scientific establishment about the age of the earth, when that establishment insists that the geological and astronomical data also force us to accept millions of years and reject Noah’s Flood? Why not believe God and doubt the evolutionists on all these points, especially since, as Grudem rightly says, “sin makes us think incorrectly about God and about creation” (Grudem 1994, p. 79) and most evolutionists are unrepentant sinners? To believe some parts of Genesis 1–11 but not other parts is neither reasonable nor consistent.
While Grudem affirms belief in a global Noachian Flood (Grudem 1994, p. 306), he does not accept the geological evidence for the Flood and a young earth (including why radiometric dating cannot be trusted) presented in nine of the thirteen young-earth creationist books that he cites in the bibliography. But it is not clear to what extent he has read those works that he cites, since he says that some of the titles were supplied by a young-earth creationist.52 He states plainly that he leans toward an old-earth view because of the arguments of Davis Young (Grudem 1994, p. 307)53 who for many years was a geologist at Calvin College and who has accepted the naturalistic and uniformitarian assumptions that have controlled geology for the past 150 years. At the time of Young’s 1977 book Creation and the Flood (which has greatly influenced Grudem), Young believed in a global, tranquil Flood which left no lasting geological evidence, a view that essentially turns the Flood into a myth.54 Grudem accepts Young’s interpretations of geological arguments but gives no reasons for rejecting John and Henry Morris’s strong scientific rebuttals to Young’s assertions, although Grudem cites the Morris book in a footnote.55 He says that “the controversy over flood geology is strikingly different” from other aspects of the creation-evolution debate because “its advocates have persuaded almost no professional geologists” (Grudem 1994, p. 306). Even at the time Grudem wrote that, there were a small number of Ph.D. geologists in many countries who were young-earth creationists. There are more now. But the number of geologists who accept flood geology should not be the criteria for determining the truth. If it is, then we all (including Grudem) should accept biological evolution too, since the vast majority of biologists do. But truth is not determined by majority vote.
If Grudem does not feel confident to assess the various geological arguments, why does he trust the Christian geologists who reject Noah’s Flood and follow the assumptions and interpretations of godless, secular scientists rather than trusting Christian geologists and other geologically well-informed creationists who like Grudem do believe God’s inerrant Word about that Flood? Furthermore, the unsoundness of trusting Young is shown in the fact that Young no longer holds to the day-age view defended in his two books that influenced Grudem.
When Grudem’s theology text was published in 1994, he may not have been aware that at a 1990 conference on Christianity and science at Wheaton College, Young said that he had “repented” of his previous day-age view because of all the “textual mutilation” and “exegetical gymnastics” involved. But that so-called repentance did not lead Young to believe Genesis as literal history, as the Church did for eighteen centuries. Rather, Young advocated the utterly illogical view that Genesis 1–11 “may be expressing history in nonfactual terms.”56 Why should anyone trust a geologist (even if he professes to be an evangelical) who reasons and “repents” like that? Young has since abandoned the tranquil flood view and now argues (contrary to Grudem’s view) that the Flood was localized in the Middle East (Young 1995, p. 242). Such changing interpretations of Genesis result from Young’s elevation of current majority views in geology and archeology (which are controlled by naturalistic, uniformitarian assumptions) above the authority of the Word of God. In Young’s latest book, he is not sure what the Genesis text means for he does not clearly advocate any view, except for rejecting the young-earth view without dealing with the best defenses of that position (Young and Stearley 2008). This makes Young an unreliable guide for understanding both Genesis and the geological evidence.
The length of the creation days
Grudem gives a few of the young-earth arguments in support of literal days (Grudem 1994, pp. 295–297). He says that the repeated refrain of “there was evening and there was morning, the Xth day” in Genesis 1 is a “strong argument from context.” But he then objects that we could not have evening and morning before the sun was created on Day 4. He fails to note that all that is needed is a source of light external to the earth on the first three days. And God made that light on Day 1. Can our supernatural God not create the phenomenon of light without the sun? He did so in the middle of a sunny day to blind Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4 and 22:6) and will do so in the new creation (Revelation 21:23 and 22:5). Why not on Day 1 (Genesis 1:3)?
As noted at the beginning of this essay, Exodus 20:8–11 is a very important passage for the defense of young-earth creationism, and Grudem says that it “is hard to avoid” our conclusion. However, he attempts to neutralize these verses by saying that the passage teaches that the Jews were to work six days because God set a pattern of working six successive periods and resting on the seventh period (Grudem 1994, pp. 295–296). But if God created over six long ages of time and was only establishing a pattern of 6 + 1 for the Jewish work-week, He could have (and would have) used an indefinite time word or phrase,57 rather than the only Hebrew word that means a 24-hour day. Also, Grudem declares that in the very next sentence (and commandment, Exodus 20:12) “‘day’ means ‘a period of time’.” However, that verse does not use “day” singular, but “days” plural, and everywhere else “days” (Hebrew, yamim) is used in the Old Testament, the context shows that it always means literal days. Furthermore, when the commandment says that our “days may be prolonged” it does not mean that the days will be longer than 24 hours (and Grudem agrees), but that we will live a greater number of (literal) days, that is, a longer life. So, Grudem’s comments fail to refute the creationist argument from the fourth commandment.
His arguments against literal days and for the day-age view include the fact that Genesis 2:4 is a nonliteral use of yôm (day) in the creation account and yôm sometimes has a nonliteral meaning elsewhere in the Old Testament. But all his verses supporting the latter point have yômconnected to nouns in the construct state (for example, day of God’s wrath, day of battle, day of harvest, etc.). Furthermore, none of these verses prove a nonliteral meaning for yôm, because these phrases can also just as legitimately be interpreted as the first literal day of a longer time period (for example, battle, harvest, etc.). Also, in Genesis 1 (as in Exodus 20:11) we do not have this grammatical construction (nouns in the construct state with yôm). Rather, in Genesis 1we find yôm modified by number, which everywhere else in the Old Testament always means a literal day. A similar argument applies to Genesis 2:4 where the construction is beyom (literally, “in day”), an adverb (functioning as a prepositional phrase) which is not used in Genesis 1 with respect to each day of creation. Numbers 7:10–84 provides a similar use of beyom (in verses 10 and 84, referring to a 12-day period of Jewish sacrifice) in context with yôm + number (verses 12, 18, 24, etc. where the days are literal, when each Israelite tribe sacrificed). So, the nonliteralbeyom in Genesis 2:4 does not negate the literal interpretation of yôm in Genesis 1.
Grudem also raises the old (and frequently refuted) objection that too much happened on the sixth day of creation to fit into twenty-four hours. But no time duration for the events is given in the text. The miraculous events of creation (creating all the land animals, making the Garden of Eden, creating Adam, putting Adam to sleep and creating Eve) were instantaneous or required only minutes, at most. Surely, putting Adam in the Garden (for the purpose of caring for it)58 and telling him not to eat from one tree took at most two minutes to accomplish. Grudem assumes that an “incredibly large number of animals” were named (Grudem 1994, p. 294). But what is that number? The text does not inform us of the number of “beasts of the field” and “birds of the sky” God brought to Adam to name (he did not need to name sea creatures, “beasts of the earth,” or creeping things). They may have only been only the animals that Adam would domesticate. Naming at the leisurely pace of six animals per minute, Adam could have effortlessly named 3,000 animals and birds in ten hours as God brought them by Adam (Genesis 2:19). Nor does the text require us to think that the names were technical (for example, double- Latin), taxonomic names based on extensive scientific observations, rather than simple names like dog, pig, cow, goat, horse, duck, chicken, or robin, which have no connection to the morphology or behavior of the animals. So there is no logical or textual justification for saying that these events of Day 6 could not happen even in just twelve hours. Contrary to Grudem’s assertion, the “contextual considerations” (Grudem 1994, p. 294) do not support the day-age view.
The fact that the seventh day of creation does not have the phrase “there was evening and there was morning, the seventh day” does not necessarily imply that it is continuing through to the present time, as Grudem suggests, and that therefore the six days of creation were not literal (Grudem 1994, p. 294). The phrase’s absence may be a literary device to reinforce the fact that God completed His creation and did not resume creation activities on the eighth day of history. The parallel of the creation week to the Jewish week in Exodus 20:8–11 confirms that the seventh day in both weeks was completed, and it was the same length as the previous six days. Also, the past tense verbs59 of Genesis 2:1–3 and Exodus 20:8–11 show that Moses is looking back at past completed days long before he wrote either book. Furthermore, Adam was created on the sixth day and lived on the seventh day and all the literal days of his literal life totaled 930 years of days (Genesis 5:5). So, if the seventh day is still continuing, then Adam is not yet dead. But also, if we accept that the seventh day of creation week continues to our time, then this means that God is not now creating but is resting. Consequently, the processes that scientists study today are not God’s creation activities, but rather His resting activities of providence. Therefore the old-earth theories, which rely on evolutionist geological and astronomical interpretations of and extrapolations from present-day processes to say how things came into existence and how long ago, are false.
Another objection raised by Grudem to the literal-day view is that although God could have used other time words in Hebrew (rather than yôm), if He wanted to say He created over long ages, “the original readers knew that the word ‘day’ could mean a long period of time,” so there was no need to use one of those other words (Grudem 1994, pp. 294–295). But how does Grudem know that the Israelites at the time when Moses wrote Genesis knew this? He offers no biblical or logical justification for this assertion. None of the poetic or prophetic books of the Old Testament where a nonliteral yôm is used (and which Grudem cited earlier) were written at that time. So we can just as well say that the Jews only had literal uses of yôm to reference. Besides, orthodox Jews took the creation days literally until they, along with most Christians, accepted the idea of millions of years in the early nineteenth century).
Grudem acknowledges that the young-earth argument from Jesus’ words in Mark 10:6 “has some force.” His one-sentence reply is that “Jesus is just referring to the whole of Genesis 1–2 as the ‘beginning of creation,’ in contrast to the argument from the laws given by Moses that the Pharisees were depending on (verse 4)” (Grudem 1994, p. 297). But this is precisely what creationists believe, so this does not refute their argument.
Grudem expresses hesitancy about his views on the age of the earth more than once (Grudem 1994, pp. 297, 308) and this is understandable, given his admitted need for further study. But given his uncertainty about the age of the earth, how can he be so confident in telling Christians that the age of the earth is not important and “that God may not allow us to find a clear solution to this question before Christ returns,” so that therefore old-earthers and young-earthers should just work together in peace? If the Bible teaches a young earth, then it is very important that we believe it and not compromise with contrary ideas.