Should Christians Believe in an Old Earth?

Yes!

Our books are intended to help Christians understand that they can (and should) believe both Genesis and most of the findings of science regarding how the earth came to be.

How can this be? By reading Genesis critically, but from a position of faith; and understanding that science has learned a very great deal about how the earth was formed. This resulting synthesis sometimes goes by the name of Old Earth Creationism, though some view it as a type of Theistic Evolution. The label is not as important as the insights to be gained by the careful analysis.

Why is it Wrong to Insist that the Bible Says the Earth was made in a Week?

Lots of reasons:

-          It gives young Christians a false foundation when they head off to college, only to have a crisis of faith when they discover they have been taught a false view of the earth and the universe.

-          It trivializes the amazing story of how the universe and the solar system and the earth actually came about, replacing a dramatic and fascinating subject with what is essentially a ‘fairy tale' version.

-          It ruins Christian witness to scientifically educated people.

-          It is a desperate and unworkable attempt to do an end-run around the issue of biological evolution. God's work does not need an apology: it needs to be understood as it actually occurred.

-          It ignores St. Peter's exhortation about God's time scale being different from ours. (But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8.)

-          It ignores the fact that the church has always eventually lost arguments about science when it has insisted on trying to use scriptures - which were written for a spiritual application - to extract unintended scientific conclusions.

-          It is just plan factually wrong, and Christians should be seeking the truth.

So What is the Answer?

There is no absolutely clear, single answer for exactly what Christians should believe about the age of the earth and how the earth and its inhabitants were formed. We believe the best approach is a view that is sometimes called Old Earth Creationism. This means that we believe Christians should assume that the Bible and Science both are valid sources of truth about this subject (though with limits as to how far each should be applied) and our beliefs should integrate these disparate sources.PastorsLighthouseFront.jpg

Our specific focus is the age of the earth. There are excellent other books on other aspects of the larger issue. We list a few below that we reference in our books.

Our latest version, published recently in paperback by Lighthouse Christian Publishing, is intended to meet the needs of busy pastors and other church leaders and teachers who need to understand the issue comprehensively without a large investment of time. The title of this version is Should Christians Believe in an Old Earth? (Study Questions about Creation for Pastors and Teachers). See cover art at right. Also, here is a screen shot from their introduction of this book as their 300th publication: Announcement.

This book can be bought at the Lighthouse web site.

Or, it can be purchased at Amazon.com.

 

Cover2.0ForCollegeStudentsKindle.jpgA slightly different version, in Kindle format only, can certainly be read by any adult, but is intended to address primarily college students who are questioning what to believe about creation. It is titled Is It OK to Believe in an Old Earth? (Study Questions about Time in Genesis for Young Adults). See cover art at left. I have been concerned about such young people for many years, since I arrived at college with an overly simple idea of what to believe about the Genesis version of creation, and then encountered a taste of what science has discovered about the origins of the world and its inhabitants. The problem is NOT your faith. It is the too simple interpretation of Genesis that you have been taught.

 

 

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Our original paperback version, titled Is It OK to Believe in an Old Earth? is now going out of print. See cover art at right. There may still be copies available at some sellers. This original version lacks the new chapter which discusses various objections made to an old earth by advocates of a young earth.

 

 

 

 

 

All of these books use an engaging Question/Discussion format. The contents are wide ranging, covering careful exegesis of the two-part Genesis story in Genesis 1 & 2; a study of historical errors in interpreting seeming scientific aspects of the Bible; looking to the future of how Genesis and science may be seen more and more as telling the same story; and (except for the first version) examining common objections to an old earth.

Other Recommended Books

There are an increasing number of really good books and Web sites that try to help Christians understand a better way to view Genesis. Here is a short list of some good ones, in alphabetical order.

A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, David Snoke, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006

A New Look at an Old Earth, Resolving the Conflict Between the Bible & Science, Don Stoner: Harvest House Publishers, 1997

Navigating Genesis, A Scientist's Journey through Genesis 1-11, Hugh Ross: Reasons to Believe, 2014. (Hugh Ross and his organization, Reasons to Believe, http://www.reasons.org/ , have published a number of excellent books, including The Fingerprint of God, and A Matter of Days, and Who Was Adam?, and others.)

Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science, John C Lennox: Zondervan, 2011 (Amazon Kindle book 2011)

The Language of God, A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Francis Collins: Free Press (a division of Simon & Schuster), 2006, ISBN: 978-0-7432-8639-8.

The Rocks Don't Lie, A Geologist investigates Noah's Flood, David Montgomery: W. W. Norton, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-393-0839-5.

Common Objections to an Old Earth

It is not our goal in our books to counter all the issues that come up regarding problems with believing in an old earth. We prefer to focus on finding the truth in the bible and science. But some questions are too common to ignore. So in the latest versions of our books we have added a chapter where we try to answer some of the common question which seem to keep coming up. We present the content of that chapter here, using the version from the book for young adults, Is It OK to Believe in an Old Earth?

Note that in our books we usually pose questions for you to consider and then discuss them. But here we take questions that others have asked (many times) and then we try to answer them.

Objection 7.1:Doesn't Noah's flood explain how all the geologic layers and the fossils in them came to be, just a few thousand years ago? See our Response.

Objection 7.2:But maybe science just has the whole time scale all wrong. That would explain it. Response.

Objection 7.3:But I have heard that science is wrong about some particular ages, such as the age of stalagmites in caves. Scientists say they are many thousands of years old. But young earth creationists say they can form in a short time.Response.

Objection 7.4:But I have heard that light used to travel faster than today, and that is why astronomers think the light from the stars took a long time to get here.Response.

Objection 7.5: But I have also heard that if the earth were billions of years old then all short-period comets would have disappeared long ago. Every time they come near the sun they burn off a lot of material which forms the tail of the comet. They could only have lasted for a few passes by the sun. Response.

Objection 7.6:Maybe God simply created the earth in six regular days, 6,000 years ago, with all the fossils and geologic layers in place, and with light from stars in place as if it had come from them billions of years ago. Couldn't He have done that?Response.

Objection 7.7:Well, some people say that time just went faster back during creation, and that explains the problem. Those 4.5 billion years must have happened in a few days.Response.

Objection 7.8:But aren't there a lot of scientists who firmly believe that the earth was made in six days about 6,000 years ago?Response.

Objection 7.9:But it doesn't seem right that scientists can just ignore God when studying His creations!Response.

Objection 7.10:It is hard to tell when reading scientific explanations whether they are 'good' science or 'bad' science. Response.

Objection 7.11:Is science always right? Response.

Aliens In the News

The public is more and more aware that it is likely there are other worlds in the universe… maybe in our galaxy.

Since the late 1940's the public (not just in the U.S.) have been fascinated by the idea that aliens from another planet may have visited earth. The Roswell incident (see Wikipedia article) was just an early event in this saga. While this and most other UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) sightings have been discovered to be other, natural, phenomena, the public's fascination has never abated. (We don't personally think any of the claimed UFO sightings have actually been real.) This fascination resulted in a large wave of science fiction movies in the 1950's, including classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still. Then, in the 1970s, the blockbuster Star Wars series so embedded itself in our culture that most people under retirement age just accept as natural that 'people' might come from other planets orbiting other stars. (Science calls these exoplanets now.) More recently, more scientifically founded movies like Interstellar have begun to put some real scientific possibilities into the public's minds.

But of more concern to us, news writers are beginning to make the point that religion needs to address the increasingly real possibility of intelligent life elsewhere. (Not that we would actually get to meet them; but we might discover real evidence that they do actually exist.) A New York Times article asks whether Aliens Know it is Christmas? And this recent newspaper article in the Huffington Post about consequences of the discovery of Kepler-452b aggressively points out that many Christians have put themselves in an awkward position by pushing the idea of a too literal interpretation of Genesis in which the creation story is overly earth-centric: for example, scheduling the creation of other earth-like planets according to earth's specific daily schedule. Our books have discussed this issue since the first version.

Contact Us!

Questions? Comments? Please email the author at rejones7@msn.com.

Keywords:  Genesis, Creation, Creationism, Science, 'age of the earth', 'age of the universe', 'old earth', 'young earth'