The debate on the age of the earth has been ongoing for epochs…or at least for 150 years since Charles Lyell worked to “free the science from Moses.” I’ve addressed this particular issue many time before, and while not an issue of salvation, it has great importance for Christians in the area of biblical interpretation. So, while people can still be redeemed and not understand the intricacies of biblical hermeneutics, it is still important for maturing Christians to learn to correctly understand the revelation of God as intended.
So, if the age of the earth is not an issue of salvation, why does it seem to bring such division? The division comes from how to interpret the Bible. If the Bible is the Word of God, then it should be the epistemic authority. Typically, it is those that are identified as youth earth creationists or biblical creationists that take this view. The Bible is authoritative, and outside sources are subject to what God has revealed. If the Bible is just a collection of loosely-affiliated religious writings then there can be other authorities (culture, scholarly paradigms, other historical documents) that can OVERRULE biblical texts. This is typically how old earth believers tend to view the Bible. They typically say, “We believe the Bible to to true” but then they immediately say, “Genesis needs to be interpreted differently than written because science proves it to be wrong.” See what happens there? They hold interpretations of evidence in authority over scripture, so that the Bible gets re-interpreted when the materialist assumptions of the foundation of the current scholarly paradigm. Below is an example.
Recently, I came across a blog that attempted to build a case that God’s Word can somehow accommodate billions of years and even evolution.
Sadly, this blog post starts out with an equivocation fallacy, and it’s a very common one, so the author, Candice Brown (CB hereafter) is probably just quoting from someone else who uses this particular mantra.
I remained convinced that science and religion were not compatible
The equivocations are that
1) science = old earth or evolution
2) religion = young earth
However, science is the systematic study of nature through observation & experiment. So, science is a method, not an entity. Science measures evidence. Evidence is analyzed by people with presuppositions. The combination of presuppositions and science can be used to make conclusions. Someone who has the presupposition that the universe is old will use the tool of science to conclude that the universe is old. How would someone get the assumption that the universe/earth is old? For the last century, all universities have taught that the universe is old because of the work of Lyell, whose stated purpose was to “free the science from Moses”. This quote is a mutiny from the clear teachings of the Bible, which Lyell hated. So, all of today’s professors have been taught that the universe is old. Should someone raise doubts about this, they are figuratively and well as (sometimes) literally expelled from employment and teaching/learning at university.
The forensic scientists at Creation Ministries International, The Institute for Creation Research, and Answers in Genesis understand from God’s revelation in the Bible that God intended for the audience to see his handiwork in history, and the scientific studies seen today confirm this in every respect.
CB continues in her blog post with the idea that the Earth appears to be very old. She’s not wrong. It does look to be thousands of years old. That is a REALLY long time, and the maximum time that can be historically verified. Were the earth to be millions of years old (or older), the mountains would, at the very least, be rounded smooth by wind/water erosion. And if the earth were more than 10 million years old, the continents would have been ground into the sea by wind/water erosion based on current erosion rates.
A common response to the erosion problem by old earthers is “Well, you forget about the concept of continental uplift. As continents collide, the continents are being continually recycled up.” There are reasons that show why this does not help the old earther:
- This concept has already been factored into the erosion rates
- The fossils are still there. Since the rate of continental erosion limits their age to (at most) 10s of millions of years, then the fossils would have long ago been eroded along with the rest of the sedimentary layers if the recycling of uplift has renewed the continents. Since there are still fossils, the continents are young. Old earthism is falsified.
CB also quotes Reasons To Believe (an old earth organization) saying that humans emerged somewhere around 150 thousand years ago. This number is counter to the biblical genealogies in Genesis 5, against the population growth statistics, and against the latest research in genetics, which show an increase in entropy. The latest work in genetics confirms exactly what the Bible revealed in the biblical genealogies that have been repeated in 1 Chronicles 1 and Luke 3. The human genome accumulates hundreds of mutations in each generation that natural selection cannot remove since natural selection works on the phenotype level and not the genetic level. Since humans have not gone extinct, old earthism is falsified.
CB continues with:
In order to dispute this evidence, Christians must make several leaps, such as believing dinosaurs and humans co-existed
The evidence is strongly in favor of humans co-existing with dinosaurs, but most people are unaware of the evidence. The links below are not comprehensive, but provide strong justification for the facts that dinosaurs and humans co-existed in the past.
- Dinosaur cave paintings
- Brass Dinosaur on Bishop Bell’s tomb
- Stegosaurus in Cambodia
- While not necessarily man with dinosaur, soft-tissue being found in dinosaur bones falsifies the mantra that the dinosaurs went extinct 65 millions years ago. At most, the bones are only a few thousand years old. The link of this text shows over 100 “ancient” bones that contain soft tissue. Old earthism is falsified again
- Historical accounts
CB goes on to dispute the clear teaching of the days in Genesis to be of the 24-hour variety.
Much like the English word love has five meanings in ancient Greek, the Hebrew word yom יום (translated day in Genesis) has four meanings, one of which indicates not a twenty-four hour period, but an age of time
Biblical creationists are well aware of this meaning of the Hebrew word yom, and there are several reasons why the context of Genesis 1 demands they be literal days, and not figurative ones.
- The author intended his audience to see the Genesis days as literal days
- The days have boundaries (ordinals and morning/evening)
- Other scriptures confirm literal days
- God spoke to Abraham using analogies for incredibly large numbers, so it’s not that Hebrews were simple people and could not understand numbers greater than 10 as old earthers would contend. Gen 22:17 “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.” To describe a more consistent way that God would have communicated the many epochs of days, were old earthism to be true, would be for Him to have use language where He already shows His intention to communicate large numbers. But He did not. God instead chose to perform his creative works in 6 days as He said.
- There are contexts (plurality, modifying words, suffixes) in Hebrew for yom to mean more than a day, but none of these contexts are present in Genesis 1.
- There are 2 Hebrew words (zeman – H2165 and eth H6256) for epochs or long indefinite period of time, BUT THIS WORD IS NOT USED IN GENESIS 1
The biggest obstacle that old earthers must overcome to inject their biases into the biblical text is to somehow justify the curses of sin (death, suffering, and thorns) as being present in creation PRIOR to the rebellion of mankind. When they insist on this, it becomes an issue about the gospel. Invariably, when I ask old earthers to justify their position on this, I get either “well, it’s only spiritual death” or “I just interpret the Bible differently than you.”
- God declared his creation “very good.” Since creation is very good, there could not have been disease, bloodshed, and harm. Isaiah 11 and 66 confirm this. Harm, disease, and bloodshed prior to sin is unbiblical and therefore old earthism is falsified
- In Genesis 3:17-19 God said to Adam “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten from the tree…to dust you will return.” The curse of sin resulted in both spiritual and physical death. Both Romans 5 and 1 Cor 15 are strong confirmation. So the debate is: Did death bring mankind into the world (old earthism) or did man bring death into the world (YEC). The Bible clearly answers that man’s sin brought death into the world. Death before sin is unbiblical and therefore old earthism is falsified
- One of the curses is thorns. Jesus took the crown of thorns upon Himself at the cross to complete taking the curses of sin as our punishment. But if thorns existed prior to mankind as old earthism demands, then what was the curse of sin? There are fossil thorns buried in layers that old earthers “date” as having been made prior to mankind. This view is unbiblical and therefore old earthism is falsified
Biblical interpretation is not an arbitrary function. When people interpret the Bible to mean whatever is popular in culture (homosexuality, old ages, contrary historical documents), then the body of Christ is divided and suffers.
Christians should be united. And the unity should center around God’s revelation in scripture and its fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus confirmed the testimony of Moses (Luke 16) and confirmed the historical nature of Genesis (Mark 10:6). So, God’s people should not be divided about the age of the earth. They should be united around a healthy understanding of the Bible, so that Jesus can be glorified.
We can trust God with our future because we can trust his revelation about the past.