Nearly 1,000 Virginia Baptists gathered last Saturday for a day-long conference aimed a proving the Earth was created by God and is about 6,000 years old.

Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and First Baptist Church of Roanoke co-sponsored the “Thousands … Not Billions” conference, featuring creation scientists from the Institute for Creation Research in El Cajon, Calif.

“Even most Christians believe the Earth has been around for millions or even billions of years and that the Bible really isn’t accurate when it talks about when God created the Earth,” Larry Vardiman, professor of atmospheric science, told worshippers at Roanoke First Baptist the Sunday morning following the conference.

“Most Christians believe that God created, but they have a very fuzzy idea about how that was done and when it was done,” Vardiman said in a sermon archived on the First Baptist Church Web site. “And after a while you begin to lose confidence in the Scriptures.”

Established in 1970, the ICR conducts research, publication and teaching to challenge traditional science’s interpretation that the universe is billions of years old and that life is the result of evolution.

“We believe God has raised up ICR to spearhead biblical Christianity’s defense against the godless and compromising dogma of evolutionary humanism,” the group says on its Web site. “Only by showing the scientific bankruptcy of evolution, while exalting Christ and the Bible, will Christians be successful in ‘the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.'” (II Corinthians 10:4,5)

Counting the 77 genealogies in the Bible between Adam and Jesus, one ICR scientist told Saturday’s conference, covered by the Roanoke Times, the Earth’s age is about 6,000 years.

Conducting independent tests on rocks and coal, ICR scientists came up with a strikingly similar dating–6,000 years, plus or minus 2,000 years’ margin of error.

Scientists traditionally date Zircon crystals, formed by molten rock, by the rate that uranium breaks down into lead. But they also contain helium, the ICR says, which is lighter than air and should have escaped into the atmosphere, just as helium escapes gradually from an inflated balloon, if the rocks are billions of years old.

The discovery of Carbon 14 in coal deposits, they also say, supports a young Earth. Used to date organic material as far back as 50,000 years, Carbon 14 should not be found in coal if it is the conventionally viewed 100 million years old. While most scientists view it as contamination, Vardiman said for him it is confirmation of the Genesis flood.

Vardiman said scientific confirmation of a young Earth “brings credibility to the Scriptures.”

“It doesn’t prove what God did,” he said. “But what it does, it answers questions that many have, particularly those with a scientific bent, and have questions that they haven’t got answered, which prevents them from accepting the Bible as God’s word, and many, preventing them from accepting Christ as their Savior.”

“We want to be able to help people have confidence in God’s Word, that it can be taken at face value,” he said.

Dawson Bailey, minister of education and adults at First Baptist Church of Roanoke, wrote an article publicizing the conference in the most recent church newsletter.

“As a parent of four daughters, three of which who are now enrolled in the public school system, I know that the Christian worldview has been nudged to the margins of intellectual acceptance,” Bailey wrote. “Often as Christians, we are culturally and academically shamed when we stand for a biblical position of creation.”

“Many people in our culture today have shaved off the sections of Scripture they prefer not to acknowledge,” he continued. “They have created a God of comfort, or a God who fits within their personal preferences.”

The Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia Web site billed the conference as “a one-time only, must-attend event” for “church members, public school students, home schoolers or anyone interested in learning more about these historic breakthroughs revealing evidence of a young earth.”

Robert Benne, director of Roanoke College’s Center for Religion and Society, told the Roanoke newspaper the view advocated by the ICR scientists would “not be credible in most academic communities.”

“They make a mistake and argue that the Bible is a book of science,” he said.

Benne often speaks in churches, where he lists six perspectives ranging from young-earth creationism to neo-Darwinism that claims there is no God.

He said a person can be a Christian and believe one of the theories in between. “There’s not just one view, there’s not just two views,” he said. “There are many different options that Christians take.”
Mark McEntire, an assistant professor of religion at Belmont University, said genealogies in the Old and New Testaments are “stylized” to serve literary and theological purposes. Genealogies in Matthew and Luke do not agree, he said. Those differences are not errors, McEntire said, but literary devises.

Using genealogies to construct a timeline for dating the earth, McEntire said, “is a misrepresentation of their genre and purpose.”

First Baptist Roanoke, Virginia’s largest church west of Lynchburg, is currently between pastors. James Austin resigned last October after four years as senior minister.

Austin labored in the shadow of Charles Fuller, pastor of the church for nearly 40 years and a popular preacher and leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, who retired in 1999.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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