Why is that a big deal?
This is an important scientific question, from which a lot follows. Modern science now dates the age of the earth as around 4.5 billion years; or 4,500,000,000 in numerical terms.
The problem for Bill is that there's an awful lot of religious folk out there who think the world is around 6,000 years old, because this seems to be what the bible says (and we all know that the bible is true, right?). Bill Muehlenberg's constant rants against science (particularly evolutionary biology and climate change, surprise, surprise) have earned him a following amongst the simple-minded religionists who hate science because it contradicts what they want to be true, ie the bible. (Also because they can't understand it and don't like to feel belittled by people who do.) Many of these people are Young Earth Creationists, who believe that the world is only a few thousand years old, and that a deity created all living species in their current form and plonked them down on earth from the heavens. Obviously, there is nothing reasonable in this opinion. It is stupid and ignorant.
For what it's worth, I don't think Bill's stupid enough to believe the world is only a few thousand years old. Sure, he holds plenty of other barmy views, and all of his articles drip with logical fallacies and non-arguments. However, the fact that he's able to churn out article after article, admittedly recycling the same old nonsense, demonstrates a level of cognitive ability above the regular troglodytes who post replies to him. He's ended up in the unfortunate position of having to fence-sit because by shouting down "scientism" (which seems to mean science that doesn't posit "god" as the explanation of an observable and testable phenomenon) his followers infer that he is on their side. When Bill Muehlenberg claims he has "problems with macroevolution" (yeah, because you don't like it, that makes all the evidence go away, Bill) and denies global-warming, the more hard line flat-earthers assume he must also be a Young Earth Creationist.
What if I'm wrong? What if Bill Muehlenberg really is a Young Earth Creationist? Well, that's not a persuasive hypothesis because he is deafeningly quiet on the question. If he did hold the view that it's reasonable to believe that the world is only 6,000 years old, he would come out and say so. After all, he's not exactly reticent about saying what he thinks, is he?
So why doesn't he come out and say how old he thinks the world is? Well, because he's much safer perched on the fence. You'll notice how, if he thinks he may have sniffed out an "atheist" with an "agenda" amongst the commenters, he'll demand that they be intellectually honest and "show their hand". See his treatment of "Tom" in the comments here:
Obviously, his own rules don't apply to him. How very telling. When challenged on the issue of the age of the earth, Bill censors (I've written a lot about Muehlenberg's stifling of debate) or evades. If Bill were to side with the Old Earth Creationists and admit that he thinks scientists have it right, he will alienate his Young Earth buddies, some of whom, like the oddly quick-to-take-offence-and-start-name-calling Jonathan Sarfati, have ministries of their own. Bill simply can't afford to lose the support of either the Young Earthers or the Old Earthers by siding with either one.
The YECs seem to be more numerous and more powerful in religious circles, so why doesn't he lie and claim to be a Young Earth Creationist and alienate the Old Earth lobby? Because nobody outside his already-deluded bunch of followers and the comfort of his blog would ever take him seriously again. On anything. He would lose all credibility. That's why it's such a big question, and why Bill has to hide in shadows and cower.
So how does Bill Muehlenberg address the issue age of the earth on his website? By evasion. Let's see what the great man himself said about it on 11.7.09 at 2pm:
"-The truth is, on and off for over thirty years now I have read, studied, thought and prayed about this issue, and I have not fully come to a firm conclusion on the age of the earth debate."
Ah, the classic theological mindset! The best way to arrive at the "truth" is to pray about it. No amount of clasping your hands together and asking for guidance will arrive you at the truth, Bill. What you need is evidence, such as that provided by radioatomic clocks. But, wait! That's "scientism", isn't it? And all the mountains of evidence point to the age of the earth being 4.5 billion years, despite what your deity's book says. Aren't you all for following the evidence wherever it may lead?
Muehlenberg is equally profoundly dishonest about other scientific subjects that puncture holes in his sky-daddy hankerings. Those, as the great Bill Muehlenberg himself might say, will be "covered elsewhere".
Come on, Bill Muehlenberg. Please provide a simple answer to a simple question: "How old do you think the earth is?" No evasions, no praying, just tell us what you think. Or is intellectual honesty too tricky a position for you to maintain?
Pursuit of truth, my foot! No, when his hand is forced he'll side with whichever group will mean the most support for him, and bring in the most money to his ministry. Thus proving Muehlenberg is more materialistic and less honest than any atheist I know. Well, he does have his agenda to push, after all...