Pat Robertson is turning heads with a 700 Club segment this week in which the televangelist apparently recommended that Christians stop trying to harmonize Genesis with mainstream paleontological and geological history:

You go back in time, you’ve got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things, and you’ve got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas. They’re out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth, and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don’t try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That’s not the Bible.

And: “If you fight revealed science, you are going to lose your children, and I believe in telling them the way it was.”

This is akin to the argument the Christian geneticist Francis Collins has been making for years:

The tragedy of young-earth creationism is that it takes a relatively recent and extreme view of Genesis, applies it to an unjustified scientific gloss, and then asks sincere and well-meaning seekers to swallow this whole, despite the massive discordance with decades of scientific evidence from multiple disciplines. Is it any wonder that many sadly turn away from faith concluding that they cannot believe in a God who asks for an abandonment of logic and reason? [emphasis mine]

A “tragedy”: to that I would add the modifier “unnecessary.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. At the ripe old age of 82, it seems Pat Robertson finally understands that. What a pity it took him so long. Think of the impact he could have had if he had taken this position 20 or 30 years ago. Imagine the intellectual agony many smart young believers could have avoided if an influential evangelist like Robertson had released them from the burden of trying to prove, as Collins argues, that 2+2=5. I fear, however, that many people, not just evangelicals, will greet Robertson’s about-face as another instance of an old man going rogue, if not insane. He favors pot decriminalization! He jokes about wife-beating! He advises a man to go ahead and ditch his wife with Alzheimer’s!

There’s a sharp lead editorial in the current print edition of TAC that argues that, “Policy and elections alike are the end results of a long chain of production, much as computers and automobiles only reach consumers after their components have been manufactured and assembled by companies which, in turn, depend on other capital goods and an infrastructure of finance. Candidates and laws are finished goods …”

I suspect the analogy holds true in the case of Sen. Marco Rubio’s hedging on the question of the age of the earth. Is Rubio a young-earther? Or is he wary of offending the GOP base? It doesn’t much matter. That we even must ask the question is (to paraphrase the TAC editorial) the end result of a long chain of intellectual malpractice. We need more — many more — evangelical pastors and and theologians to “tell it like it was,” as Robertson put it. The earth-is-old-but-man-is-young casuistry of John Piper is not good enough. We need more Francis Collinses.

Come forward — and faster, please.