For the most part, I have never really given a lot of thought to the Creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 beyond a fairly literal interpretation of what we read in those chapters. Creation itself is an established fact in Scripture and easily points to the work of an Intelligent Designer. Moreover, Exodus 20:11 repeats the idea that God created the heavens and the earth, and everything in them, in six days and rested on the 7th. My reasoning has been that since God is so powerful anyway, it surely is possible that He was able to create everything in the space of six days. Besides, when it comes to biblical interpretation, we should, for the most part, take the reading of Scripture at face value. If God would have meant something else about the way in which Creation took place, would that not be clear in the text?
Not long ago, I had the privilege of touring the Museum of Natural History in New York City. I think it was there that I first felt compelled to think again about the nature of our world and its creation. The few hours that we spent there merely scratched the surface of all there was to see and consider. The magnitude and magnificence of God’s creation as displayed there is overwhelming. I was especially impressed by the geological exhibit that so ably demonstrated the large variety of rock and mineral formation that there is on the earth. One could spend several days examining all the different kinds of stone and how they came to be.
And then there were the dinosaurs. In my Bible education, I don’t recall hearing a good explanation about where these amazing animals fit into the whole scheme of things. For the most part, my own understanding and explanation of phenomena related to geology and the dinosaur has to do with the idea of the flood spoken of in Genesis 6 – 9. I’ve always considered that the geology of our times as well as the existence of fossils were the result of the force of nature in the large volume of water that deluged the earth at that time. And the dinosaurs became extinct after the flood because conditions on the earth at that time couldn’t sustain their unusual appetites. Yet it seems strange that the Bible doesn’t seem to have much to say about these great creatures.
So I’ve been prayerfully reconsidering this matter of the creation. I’ve been looking for some good biblical scholarship that takes the Genesis account of creation seriously while also giving an explanation of it that fits with the evidence that seems to point to large amounts of time for the development of the earth as we know it today. In some rather rapid reading and research, I came to the conclusion that there are well-informed biblical Christians who have found ways to reconcile the biblical account of Genesis with well-established scientific evidence for a much older earth than I imagined.
I discovered there is a classic paper written on this subject by Dr. Joshua Zorn called, The Testimony of a Formerly Young Earth Missionary. It is actually a humble testimony of an earnest Christian who sincerely tried to reconcile what he came to appreciate as reality and the biblical account. In the course of time he found that a literal rendering was being forced upon the text against the better judgment of scientific evidence. This came to a head for him when it was discovered that the idea of human foot prints next to dinosaur tracks in the sediment of the Paluxy River in Texas was actually spurious.
I liked the tone of Zorn’s paper, and the good solid support that he had accumulated for his position such as the views of the early church fathers concerning Genesis. In the paper, he refers to the work of Dr. Hugh Ross, a Canadian, who has established the organization called, Reasons to Believe, through which he successfully debates the idea that the Hebrew word for day (“yom”) can actually be interpreted as “a long period of time.” Dr. Ross demonstrates his quiet debating skills in a variety of YouTube videos that can easily be accessed by the reader. It is interesting to note for example that it wasn’t until the 4th day that God created the sun and the moon (and the stars) to define day and night. And, as Ross points out, in the text there is no definition of the 7th day in terms of morning and evening. In his view, we are now living in the 7th day of God’s rest. Yet it is important to point out that this conclusion doesn’t mean that the development of life on earth was by some kind of natural evolution. Christians don’t have to concede natural selection simply because there were large amounts of time involved in the creation of our world. But conceding an old earth point-of-view could give the Christian message more credibility among unbelievers.
One of the side effects of this study has shown me that Christians often demonstrate an air of arrogant dogmatism when it comes to defending their faith that is not only possibly ignorant but also quite offensive. If we hope to be successful in defending a strong biblical faith, it is supremely important that we are humble enough to acknowledge our lack of knowledge, listen to honest and well-qualified students of the natural world, and measure our response carefully and prayerfully. Christ’s cause and His wonderful purposes are not advanced when we do not open our hearts and minds to all that God is saying through the Scriptures.
Much more could be said regarding this matter, but at the least, for me it is an introduction into a deeper understanding and appreciation for the value of seeking ways to reconcile Scripture with good science. Though they speak to different aspects of our lives and use different language they should not be considered mutually exclusive.
Well stated. I am struggling with a 6000 year old earth as well, yet for different reasons. Bruce Waltke responded to a student in the 90s with and a compelling statement. The student asked three times if Bruce thought the earth was 6000 years old (implying that any other response was proof of Waltke not taking the bible literally). After dodging the question three times Waltke finally said: “young man, Gen.1-3 is literature designed to ask you questions, not answer yours.” The clear intent was that a literal reading that recognized the Hebrew word play, rhythm, poetic structure may never directly answer one’s Western/Roman questions (especially the timeline ones), but a Biblical-literature reading would bring personal and corporate truth precisely where the Biblical literary ignoramus’ lust for brute facts flattens them into liberals.
I have had my own questions regarding earth age however, I believe that you are standing on the edge of a very slippery $lope. When you open scripture to anythiing but a literal translation you open it to subjective translation. The question remains what part of God’s word is not His word? In my view it is not our job to reconcile the wold view with God’s Word.
Thanks, Michael. I’d love to hear your questions. My contention is that acknowledging that the earth may be older does not take away from the authority of God’s Word; otherwise I would be opposed to this idea too. But I think it can be shown that an understanding of these chapters may entail thinking of “day” in terms of a “long period” definition, as in “the day of the Lord” spoken of in other passages of Scripture.
Nice to hear from you. Hope all is well in your world. Would love to visit again. Keep the faith!
Hi Ed, I also agreewith Michael that this is a slippery slope towards a dismissal of truth, miracles, and the basic tenants of our faith as taught in scripture. For example Scripture teaches that there was no death until sin was introduced into God’s perfect creation. How do you explain the “Millions of years of dead things” that were on earth before mankind “evolved” or was created later and then sinned? I would encourage you to consider some of the creation sites that talk about how the fossil record fits nicely into the Biblical account of the flood. There are also many new discoveries that are showing that fossils are perhaps not as old as once thought. For example there are dinosaur bones that still contain preserved soft tissue, and blood cells. I could go on but the scientific evidence for a young earth has been suppressed for so long that I fear that even the elect will be decieved by it’s attractive lure. Continue your search for truth Ed!
Yes, that’s a good point, Garth. According to the Genesis account, animals were created just before man (Adam). It could easily be that dinosaurs were around in the time of Adam, and even after for a time. But the fall into sin by Adam and Eve would have been a factor in the eventual extinction of the dinosaurs. I don’t think anything died before Adam sinned. I’m not sure that the flood alone explains the existence of fossils. I don’t think conceding the possibility of an old earth takes away from the wonder (or miraculous nature) of God’s creation of every aspect of it.
I’m leaning more and more to the Young Earth camp these days Ed. It would take pages of writing to explain it all in detail, but there are several key points to consider.
1. The same people who proclaim an old earth are also atheists to the point of total blindness to the fact of Intelligent Design. For any modern biologist to claim “it all happened by chance” shows a refusal to accept the truth. They are equally resistant to any data suggesting a young earth.
2. Same as “Garth” mentioned above. Evolutionists are sticking hard to their story that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. They also just as adamantly claim that mankind didn’t appear on the scene until very recently, like 20,000 years ago for intelligent man. Was there 65 million years of death and decay BEFORE Adam appeared on the scene? Was Adam a real individual? Or just a mythical person? The writer of Corinthians refers to “The First Adam…”, and in total there are 8 verses in the New Testament that talk about Adam as a real historical character. If Adam was a real person, and he lived 20,000 years ago or even 100,000 years ago, there is a big problem here with death entering the world before sin.
3. I have been astounded to find how often the things surrounding creation, Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, and sin are sprinkled throughout scripture, not just in Genesis. I don’t have the proof of that with me, but if you look at “The Answers Book”, books 1,2 and 3, by Ken Ham, you can get the details.
NOTE: these three points are even BEFORE considering actual scientific evidence!
4. As Garth mentioned, a current major problem for an old earth is the dinosaur soft tissue discoveries. There have been over 30 cases where dinosaur soft tissue has been found. There have been careful, peer reviewed studies by evolutionists that prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is truly dinosaur tissue, not modern bacteria, not modern infilling of current life. There has also been a careful study by an evolutionist to prove that DNA cannot last more than 100,000 years at extreme! If dinosaurs are not 65 million years old, the whole thing comes crashing down. See this article with references: http://www.icr.org/article/7093/
5. There are even some exotic but workable proofs worked out on how galaxies can be 200 million light years away while earth is only 10,000 years old or less. Fascinating stuff!
6. Hugh Ross also claims that Noah’s flood was only a local flood. Geological evidence is much more easily explained by a global, cataclysmic flood complete with repositioning of the continents. All over the world there are beds of sediment thousands of meters thick, spreading across hundreds of kilometers of territory, exactly what you would expect to find from a world wide flood.
There is much more, but I need to stop.
Well, it’s good to see that there are people who have been reading and thinking about this — probably a lot more than me. I think this is a worthy and important question because depending on how we manage it our response has a lot to do with the credibility of the Christian message. If in fact there is some good solid evidence or argument for an older earth perspective and this can be shown to fit in with the biblical account then the biblical account can be shown to be valid to the skeptic. If there is good evidence that the days spoken of in Genesis 1 may actually be long periods of time, and good scientists effectively challenge the six day or the young earth idea, then we need to consider that fact.
I don’t think it is the case that old earth theorists are all atheists. In fact, it sounds to me like there are many credible scientists who see the wisdom of thinking in terms of an older earth who are also strong believers, as evident in the document that I referenced. Also, I don’t think postulating an older earth means that existence of dinosaurs did not overlap with the existence of at least some people. I’m sticking closely to the Genesis account but simply allowing for larger periods of time than six days as we know them. And I think this is the perspective of people like Hugh Ross. And again, I don’t think the Genesis account insists that the flood was necessarily global. There may be other explanations for the fact that there are sediments thousands of feet thick.
One of the reasons I think we need to be careful about being too dogmatic about our views on these things is that Christians have made these kinds of assumptions and mistakes before — as when Copernicus discovered way back in the 1500s that the universe didn’t revolve around the earth as the church had preached and assumed. My plea is that we wouldn’t assume that our current traditional view of how creation took place is necessarily watertight. I want to be open to the findings of good honest scientists and then figure out how this can also be reconciled with Scripture.
In looking at Proverbs 8, for example, I note that wisdom accompanied God’s creation. It sounds to me like creation as we know it, though it came about by the word of the Lord, was not a simple matter. And scientific observation, I think, would confirm this. But it definitely came about as a result of God’s creation. Evidently God wants us to trust Him concerning this fact. But I don’t think He’s offended by our good questions about the details of how this might have taken place.
Let’s keep exploring and asking questions — while we also keep studying the sacred text.