Must Christians Believe in a Young Earth???
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Who would have thought that well in to the 21st Century we would still be discussing the age-old question of what the Bible’s Genesis story really means? You would almost think we were back in the 14th Century debating whether the sun goes around the earth or the earth goes around the sun. (See article on Galileo on Wikipedia.) But the question just won’t go away… Must Christians believe that the earth was created in six regular days just 6,000 years ago?
Let me ask you a question: Has someone told you that you need to believe in a “Young Earth” to be a Christian? That is, that the earth was created in a real week, about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago? Many influential people are telling Christians (especially young Christians, or persons seeking to understand how God should fit in their lives…) that they must believe in a recent creation of the earth or they can’t be a real Christian! That claim is false. One’s opinion about detailed interpretation of the Genesis creation story has nothing to do with your salvation. You should probably run from anyone who tells you any such thing. In fact, you should probably back away from any religious leader who wants to you follow their particular “rules” which are not thoroughly based on sound Biblical principles.
Note, on the other hand, I am not telling you that you must believe any particular theory about the age of the earth or how creation happened to be a Christian. (You will need to understand and largely accept the scientific view of the age of the earth if you want to be accepted as a good scientist, but that is another matter.)
So why should you, or I, care about this subject at all? For one reason: all this demand that people believe in a quick creation a few thousand years ago is a very unfortunate barrier to nonbelievers accepting Christ as their savior. Also, it is a big cause of young people quitting the faith they learned when young after they see the compelling science for an old earth! That is the problem. And that is why I object to anyone “preaching” the Young Earth idea. (If there were anyone preaching the opposite -- that is, that you must believe that the earth is billions of years old, to be a Christian -- then I would object to that also.)
To reiterate, I am trying to counter a false teaching which is damaging the spread of the Gospel message in America today. No Christian should have to believe in a “young earth”. (Or and “old earth”.) On this website I am trying to show the unbiblical nature of the idea that God rushed up the creation of the earth – and, indeed, the entire universe – into a matter of a week. Instead, Old Earth Creationists, like myself, understand that God created natural processes which in themselves largely formed the physical earth over billions of years. And He appears to have slowly made larger and more complex life forms over most of that time.
Does believing in an Old Earth make us heretics? Hardly. Like virtually all other Christians, we believe in the same basics, as might be summarized in the Apostle’s Creed:
“I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.”
(*) ”catholic” here mean universal
It is worthwhile at this point to remind ourselves that God reveals Himself to us in ways other than the Bible. The Bible actually attests to this. For example, Psalms 19 says:
“1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. 6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.”
And Paul in Romans 1 says the unsaved should be able to see God at work:
“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: … ”
The reason this point is important is that many YECs (Young Earth Creationists) feel that if science ever seems to contradict their interpretation of the Bible, then we must believe their interpretation of the Bible, not the science. This is a wrong approach. The Bible’s purpose is always to tell us about God’s relationship to men, not scientific information. Even in Genesis, scientific information is not the focus. God has given us other ways to learn about science. To clarify this, let’s review:
God’s creation of the earth, the heavens, and us who dwell there,
God’s plan to defeat Satan through his Son.
God’s chosen people, the Israelites.
God’s law, which was given to Moses and the Israelites.
God’s people, such as patriarchs, prophets and kings, apostles, disciples, and ordinary people who honored God in their lives (or failed to!).
God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who is the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
God’s Holy Spirit, who came more specifically and individually to us after Christ’s resurrection.
God’s requirements for salvation and how we should live our lives.
God’s plan for the end of the ages.
God’s nature as seen throughout the Bible.
God’s Nurturers: We are taught God’s moral law and natural laws by our parents, our grandparents, our siblings, our extended families, etc.
God’s Ministers: We are molded in God’s fashion by Godly teachers, Godly pastors, etc.
God’s Ordained Authorities: God places boundaries around our behavior in the form of the governments of our country, our state, and our city, etc.
God’s Ordained Institutions: Our character and behavior are shaped by churches, schools, employers, neighbors, co-workers, friends, etc.
God’s Rules: When we fail to live as God planned then disease, harm, and loss quickly come. Fail to follow your mother’s word and you may get run over by a car. Fail to treat others as you should and you will lose your friends, your marriage, your children, and your job. Fail to follow God’s clear morals and disease, poverty, and broken families result. Fail to care for the temple which is your body and disease or decay will rapidly come.
God’s Limits: We are limited, and our lives are shaped, by natural limits on our lives. We can only live so long; move so fast; think so clearly; work so hard; eat so much; etc.
God’s power: God created the whole vast universe of which we have a hint when we see the stars, sun, moon, and planets in the night sky.
God’s nature: Any power who can create this universe, and the planet we live on, and everything we see, is far different and greater than any of us.
God’s beauty: One aspect of God’s nature is made clear by all the fabulously beautiful places on this earth. This God-created beauty is even observable under a scientist’s microscope.
God’s care: God’s creation feeds thousands of elephants, millions of pigs, billions of people, trillions of insects, and quintillions (at least) of microscopic organisms every day.
God’s physical phenomena: By observing the world God has given us we can understand God’s natural forces and processes, like light, heat, radiation, mass, gravity, electricity, magnetism, chemical reactions, the construction of atoms, nuclear forces, quantum forces, optics, mechanical motion, etc., etc.
God’s wisdom: The design of this world, when examined in close detail, shows an amazingly detailed and elaborate structure. Study biology, geology, chemistry, electricity, magnetism, astronomy, ecosystems, quantum mechanics, materials science, or any other scientific or engineering topic and the amazing detail, complexity, and beauty of God’s design always is apparent.
So, when we want to understand a difficult topic like creation we should realize that God has given us multiple sources of insight. It is not reasonable to focus just on the written word if we truly want to understand God’s work in the physical world. That was not His intent for us. For more on this topic, see below.
There may be slight variations of the definition of these terms. But these definitions should be close enough to consensus to avoid confusion in discussing this issue.
Creation: The idea that the world (and the rest of the universe) and all the living beings (both plant and animal) on earth came to be (almost entirely) by direct action of the creator of the universe (that is, God).
Fiat Creation: This term is used to emphasize the viewpoint that creation was done in a miraculously short time, not millions or billions of years.
Young Earth Creationism: This theory is a type of Fiat Creationism in which the six “days” of creation in English translations of Genesis 1-2 are taken to be actual, normal, 24-hour days. Thus, the world is considered to have been created along with all animals and people in a week, no more than 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. (Note: Genesis 1:5a uses “day” to mean the hours of light in a day, and Genesis 2:4 uses “day” to refer to the entire process of creation, so these two uses of “day” in the Genesis creation story are not considered by any reasonable person to mean 24-hours.)
YEC: Is an abbreviation for Young Earth Creationism or Young Earth Creationist. The exact meaning is usually clear from context.
Evolution: This word is used for the idea that all currently existing plants and animals on earth arose as natural modifications of earlier, somewhat different and usually simpler life forms. This idea derives popularly from Charles Darwin’s 1859 book, The Origin of Species. The term “biological evolution” is sometimes used to clarify that one is speaking of lifeform appearances over long periods of time, not just simple “evolution” of some physical process as it naturally changes over time, whether in microseconds or millennia.
Secular Evolution: This term is used when wants to clarify that one is speaking of biological evolution completely apart from any involvement of the creator, God.
Theistic Evolution: This term is used to refer to a variety of related ideas that assume that “day” in Genesis was originally intended to refer to indefinite, possibly vast, time periods. Thus, the apparent sequence of geologic phases and lifeforms seen in the layers of the earth’s crust reflect God’s patient use of His own created natural processes, plus His intelligent intervention, as needed, to slowly develop into the world we see today over billions of years. This term would apply whether one believes that God intervened constantly, or frequently, or perhaps infrequently as needed to guide the processes. Processes such as “natural selection” may be considered to be a part of theistic Evolution.
Old Earth Creationism: This term refers, in essence, to Theistic Evolution when the time scale is assumed to be consistent with the scientific view that the earth is several billion years old.
OEC: Is an abbreviation for Old Earth Creationism or Old Earth Creationist. The exact meaning is usually clear from context.
YECs (Young Earth Creationists) make a big point of saying that the word “day” in the Genesis creation story in Chapters 1 & 2 “means day!” (For example, see https://answersingenesis.org/days-of-creation/ )
Let’s look at little closer at that point. For reference here are the first few verses of Genesis 1 as in the traditional King James Bible:
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
(Note: most Bible quotes in the website are from https://www.biblegateway.com)
There are some reasonable concerns about this passage. First, there is a big problem: Genesis was not written in English! It was written in ancient Hebrew. Ancient Hebrew was a very “small” language. Figuring out how many words there are in any language is difficult because the same spelling is used for completely different words (like to “sow” seeds, versus a “sow”, or female pig). Also, a single word can have many quite different usages. For example, look up a simple common word like “run” in a dictionary and you will see a surprising number of uses. “Run” can mean simply to “run”, not walk; a river “runs”; you can get a “run” in your stockings; you can “run” a red light; you can “run” for political office; you can “run” before the wind in your boat; if you want to buy a cheap ad in a magazine you can order it as “run of the book”, which is just wherever the printer wants it; a highly colored fabric can “run” in the wash and tint the other clothes; you can “run” a business; you can “run” several tests on a blood sample. One dictionary I looked had 27 different categories of meanings for run, with as many as eight meanings in each category! And this is in a large, modern language with hundreds of thousands of words, and many other words that can be used instead for most of the uses of “run”.
In contrast, ancient Hebrew had about 1/20th the number of words that modern English has. So, imagine how many different uses there were for common words in that language! Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible tries to compactly convey the many uses of “yom” in its abbreviated, compact form here. More specifically, it is easy to research that “yom” is translated, in addition to “day” many times, as “time” 64 times, as “ever” 18 times, as “year” 14 times, and also as “continually”, “when,” “while,” “always,” and many other words (in the KJV). (See So why can’t serious Christians “just believe a day is a day”? Well, maybe because which “day” is which “day”???
Now we need to ask seriously if there is any hint in the Bible about whether the six (or seven) “days” of creation mean a regular 24-hour day, or a more generic meaning such as a vague time period. The answer us, “Yes, there is!”
First, in just one verse above (Genesis 1:5) “yom” is used for two different periods: as daylight, and as a “Creation Day”. Now, did Hebrew have a different word for “daylight” that could have been used if the author (probably Moses, with God’s inspiration) had wanted to be precise? Yes. It is the Hebrew word “yomam”. But that word isn’t used here… just plan “yom” is used. Why would that be? Well, the lack of use of a more precise word for daylight is, I think, a clue that the author is speaking vaguely about time. But there is a bigger hint if this: in the next chapter of Genesis, a second, complementary story is given about Adam and Eve specifically. Here it is in the more literal NASB:
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven. 5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, …
Oops! Now we have the word day, and yes, it is “yom” in the Hebrew, referring to the entire process of creating everything… the same process which took six “yom”s in Chapter 1. This is an even stronger indication that the author is not being specific about what “yom” means!
And here Is a fourth use of “day”, or ”yom”, still in Genesis 2:
15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Here, in the last line, we have a very generic use of the word ”yom”, which is in fact the more typical use of ”yom” in Hebrew. Consider this comment from the Ancient Hebrew Research Center:
The Hebrew word יום (yom, Strong's #3117) means a "day," but not specifically a twenty-four-hour period, but instead more generically like in "a day that something occurs." An example would be "a day of the month" (Genesis 8:4), "in that day Yahweh made a covenant" (Genesis 15:18) and "until the day" (Genesis 19:37) …
So, we have here, in this brief discussion, not one precise “day means day” (whatever that means) but four different meanings of “day”, or ”yom”:
- Daylight part of a day
- One of the six “creation days” (which is what we are discussing)
- The entire creation process of six “creation days” (God rested the seventh day)
- A generic use of “yom” as some unspecified moment in the future
And that’s just right here in well under two chapters. And there were other more precise words for some of these meanings, which seem to have been specifically avoided. These usages are a strong indication that none of the instances of “day”, or “yom”, in this passage are intended as having a precise 24-hour meaning.
Note the early readers (or hearers) of Genesis would have a very different reaction to the story than we 21st Century hearers. The original hearers would first and foremost would have realized that this creation story in Genesis was very different from other accounts of creation from all the other cultures in the Near East that they had been exposed to. The other accounts were mostly concocted tales of conflicts between various “gods”, and somehow the world was created out of that struggle. In Genesis all of creation is simply a series of commands by the almighty God, and nature obeyed.
Gleason Archer, who wrote the textbook, A Survey of the Old Testament (Introduction), says this: “On the basis of internal evidence, it is this writer’s conviction that yôm in Genesis could not have been intended by the Hebrew author to mean a literal twenty-four-hour day.” There is no greater expert on the subject of interpreting Old Testament Hebrew than Gleason Archer. Probably no one in the YEC community can speak with equal authority as Dr. Archer on this subject.
Some YECs try to bolster the idea that the six Creation Days being 24-hours long by bringing up other less direct implications. One I have heard, as I recall it, is that all uses of the phrase “first day”, meaning “first day of the week”, in the whole of the Old Testament after Genesis 2 refer to a 24-hour day, so why wouldn’t the usage in Genesis 1 mean the same? There are two very good reasons why not:
(1) The phrase “first day” meaning “first day of the week”, or “second day”, meaning “second day of the week”, etc., in fact does not occur anywhere in the Old Testament! Is this surprising to you? Well, look it up. There are resources for such searches on the Internet. I have done that and been unable to find a single use of “first day” in the Old Testament which actually means “the first day of the week”. There are many uses of “first day” but they often refer to the first day of a month, and when that is not the case it is the first day of some time interval such as the days of Passover, or the days of some other celebration, or battle, or some such.
(2) Further, the term “first day” does not even appear in Genesis 1:5 in the Hebrew! It is a mistranslation created by the relatively “liberal” (horrors!) translation approach used by the translators of the King James Bible, and then followed by most later translators as a tradition too firmly established to dare change. However, the much more literal New American Standard Bible gets it right:
Genesis 1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
Why does this matter? Because what we have here is apparently an attempt by the author of Genesis to define his terms, much as a mathematician defines exactly what he will mean when he uses some common word to mean something special in a particular context. For example, a mathematician may say:
The “normal” line, L, to a curved surface at a point, p, is the straight line that intersects that curved surface at point p in such a way that every possible tangent line to the surface at p is perpendicular to L.”
Now, you may say that doesn’t sound “normal” to you, but that is exactly how mathematicians define the use of the term “normal” in 3D Geometry. And that seems to be what Genesis is trying to say to us: Genesis is defining the word day to mean whatever the time interval is that spans the time from the “evening” to the “morning” (details about those terms in the next section).
For the record, here is a snippet of interlinear Hebrew/English from the web site http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Hebrew_Index.htm .
First, Genesis 1:5 which uses “one”, not “first” for the first day of creation:
And, Exodus 40:2 which actually uses “first” while mentioning the “first day of the month”:
No good story teller attempts to tell a complex story in precise chronological order. Instead, as here in Genesis 1-2, the writer has organized a complex story into six overlapping phases, followed by details in Chapter 2 about the creation of man. This approach is used for clarity and simplicity and compactness. It was not meant to be read so strictly chronologically as to make nonsense of it. There is good evidence of this fact in Genesis 2, where the sequence of creative events appears to be different than in Chapter 1. I am sorry if all this is new and painful for you to hear. But it is clearly so.
So what we have here is a situation in which the very foundation of Young Earth thinking is unsupportable. This SHOULD be the end of the subject. But opinions/beliefs are very hard to change.
In the King James Bible in Genesis 1:5 we have:
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Exactly what was this “evening”, and this “morning”? If this were a normal day, then the evening, in Hebrew tradition, would have started at sundown, and the morning would have started at sunrise. But by the Young Earth Creationism view this could not have happened, since the sun did not exist. For that matter, the earth did not exist yet as a globe. So “evening” and “morning” can’t have their usual meaning and must be implying something else. This phrasing is used identically for each of the first six days of creation, regardless of whether the sun or earth exists or not. This may suggest that the words are intended simply as each phase’s beginning and ending. (These words are not used of the seventh day, which suggests that the seventh day is not over, but is rather the phase of creation in which the earth still remains.)
Why is this obvious problem so seldom mentioned by YECs? Shouldn’t this be one of the very first things to be explained by them? And what would their explanation be? Yet, I am sure I know the answer: It would be a “God could have” cop-out. That is, they would say something like, “Well, God knew what a twenty-four-hour day would be, so He could have done the first few days of creation in that same amount time, and so just used the usual terms for the length of a day.” By the rules of logic this is something like the classic “begging the question” fallacy, in which one assumes from the beginning that one’s claim is true, then proceeds to make argument based on that. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question, or for a list of many logic fallacies see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies .)
On the third “day” of creation, God said,
“Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” (KJV)
If a very powerful force – but not God – were to decide to take over the earth after Creation Day 2 and separate the “waters under the heaven” into seas with dry land between, as God apparently did in Day 3, how long would it take? Let’s suppose the force had 50 times as many earth-moving and digging machines than exist in the world today. Or maybe 500 times. Or 5,000 times. Could this force make all the water separate from the land in a day? (Not even counting how long it would take to dig all the mountains of dirt out of the primaeval seas!) Well, consider this: if you pour a gallon of a tracer substance -- such as a radioactive source – into the headwaters of the Colorado River in Colorado, it would take about two weeks for the first radioactive molecules to reach the ocean at the mouth of the river. No amount of human-and-machine-level effort can greatly decrease this length of time.
YECs are prone to saying fanciful conjectures such as “Well, God could have first caused the mountains and plains to be very high, maybe hundreds of miles, so the water would run off fast, then lower the land down to its present place.” (I made that up!) But would God violate His own amazing laws of physics (which scientists have spent centuries discovering and formalizing) and do something in direct contradiction to His laws, just to hurry up the process? I think not. Why? Because it is made clear in the Bible that God created everything… including the physical laws themselves, and even time itself. But God himself is timeless. 2 Peter 3:8 (KJV) says:
This verse is telling us that God’s timescale, if He has one, is not measurable in our time scale or convertible to our time scale. His time is both 1,000 times faster than ours, and 1,000 times slower. In other words, it is utterly different. So, we have to assume, in the absence of any hint otherwise, that the transformation of the formless earth to a more organized one was entirely done under God’s natural laws, and therefore in a timescale that would look normal to us. The casualness with which YECs dismiss God’s physical laws to serve their distorted view of the Bible speaks volumes about their actual purposes, which apparently are to protect their own agendas.
Also, we know that God created not just one “sun” and some planets around it, but many such “solar systems”. The Milky Way Galaxy, which our solar system is a part of, is estimated to have 200,000,000,000 such systems. (That’s about double the average galaxy, by the way.) And there are estimated to be 100,000,000,000 galaxies, more or less the size of our galaxy.
Did you know that astronomers see new stars “turn on” every so often? At least one every several weeks. God’s creation is ongoing!
A widely stated claim by those who avidly promulgate a 1-week creation is that there was no death before Adam and Eve’s fall. This idea is applied to every living thing… plant and animal. (And presumably, even microorganisms.) But this idea is not biblical. Certainly, Adam and Eve expected never to die, unless they ate of the forbidden fruit. But the scripture makes it clear that Eve, in particular, was familiar with death before the fall. Of course this would be the death of plants and animals, not people. Consider this conversation between Eve and Satan in Genesis 3 (KJV):
1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Notice how normally Eve discusses death when quoting God, and how she is successfully tempted to eat from the forbidden tree by Satan assuring her that she would not die if she did eat from it. If Eve had never seen an animal or plant die then that conversation might have proceeded more like this (which is NOT a Biblical quote!):
1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye macsqwibble… whatever that means.”
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, “You don’t know what “macsqwibble” means? Well, let me explain. It sort of means that you can’t stand up, so you lie down and never get up again.”
5 And Eve responded, “Well, that is not sensible… who needs that much rest?”
6 And the serpent replied, “Well, no, it’s not exactly rest. You see, while you are lying there you no longer think, or feel, or breathe, or anything. And eventually you slowly disintegrate and turn back in to dirt.”
7 Then Eve was shocked, and responded, …
A ridiculous situation, right? Obviously, Eve knew what “die” meant.
Now, of course, YEC advocates usually bring out the “God could have…” weapon. That is, any time their reasoning leads to absurd situation they simply say something like “God could have put the idea in Eve’s mind. After all, God created her in a matter of minutes, with the ability to speak, so “die” was just in her vocabulary.” Thus, they build up a higher and higher “house of cards” that is sure to fall down.
There is a sense in which the Bible is the foundation of all science. I will explain that shortly. But Bible passages always have a message, and that message is never (even in Genesis 1) about the scientific details relating to the topic. The message is always about God’s relationship to people. When some have relied on their understanding of the scripture to try to derive actual scientific facts that has generally ended up badly. Let’s look at some examples not in Genesis 1-2, to avoid further confusing the subject.
Scientifically minded people surmised many centuries ago that the earth is round; or more correctly, that the earth is a sphere. One simple observation gave them a clue: when ships sailed away into the distance, the bottom part of the ship slipped from view first. The tall sails took much more time to disappear from view. This implied that the surface of the ocean was curved, not flat.
Regardless of that, until well along in the Renaissance most people assumed the earth was flat, without having any clear idea how far the flat surface went, or where and how it ended. Searching the scripture for clues they found this in Isaiah 11:12:
And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Now, the subject of this passage is the regathering of Israel from its Babylonian captivity. The passage is referring to gathering Jews from all directions (though probably mostly from the east, where Babylon was). The expression “four corners of the earth” is still in use today to mean from all the far reaches of the earth, in all directions. But the pre- and early-Renaissance readers took this phrase to be literal proof that the earth has corners, and therefore must not be spherical. They were wrong in two ways: (1) the earth is indeed roughly spherical; and (2) Isaiah had no interest at all in discussing the shape of the earth in this passage – so it was an “abuse” of Isaiah’s prophesy to read this incorrect application in to it.
Everyone knows that the earth and other planets (Mercury, Venus, etc.) all orbit around our sun. But before Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo explained how the solar system works it was widely thought that the sun orbited the earth. (That theory is labelled Geocentric, whereas Copernicus’s theory is labelled Heliocentric.)
Now, the transition from Geocentric to Heliocentric thinking took quite a few years and caused Galileo to be brought before the Inquisition, forced to recant, and put under house arrest for the rest of his life. His detractors thought they had adequate evidence that the sun revolved around the earth because of nine instances of the phrase “rising of the sun” in the KJV Bible. For example, in Psalm 113:3 we see:
From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord's name is to be praised.
They thought that such wording surely meant that the sun was literally moving around the earth. They were wrong in two ways: (1) the earth and the other seven planets (sorry, Pluto!), plus the asteroids and a bunch of comets and other miscellaneous bodies do indeed orbit the sun, and their paths were worked out by Kepler as being elliptical, with the sun at one of the two foci of each orbital ellipse; and (2) neither Moses, Joshua, the Psalmists, Isaiah, Malachi, nor Mark -- who all used that phrase -- had any intention of implying anything about the physical layout of the solar system when they happened to use this phrase. Again, it was a misuse of these scriptures to try to read “science” into their comments.
The definition of the mathematical value pi, or π, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It is an irrational number (“irrational” here does not mean stupid or unreasonable; it means the number is not expressible as a fraction) and its digital expansion has been worked out to thousands and thousands of digits. That sequence begins like this: 3.14159265358979…
So, what does it mean in 1 Kings, Chapter 7, when we see this description of a large “sea”, or water feature, which was built as a decorative part of King Solomon’s palace?
23 And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
How was it that the “line of thirty cubits” was not 31.4159 cubits, as math would require? (*) Some have derisively said that the “Bible says pi is 3!” But in reality, the Bible just was not concerned with a small measurement discrepancy. The scripture passage has a message (that Solomon put enormous effort and funds into his own home, which perhaps was inappropriate when the materials and effort could have gone in to the Temple he was building.) If ancient builders had tried to make circles using the “Biblical rule” that the circumference was 3 times the diameter they would have been very mixed up. The Bible is not a book of science, and it is not a book of engineering either. It is a book about God’s relationship to men.
(*) Alternatively, it could simply have been that the “sea” was slightly elliptical. An ellipse with major axis of 10 cubits and minor axis just over 9 cubits could indeed have a circumference of 30 cubits.
We may eventually come to view the present altercation about the “Biblical six 24-hour day creation” versus a more scientific view (such as Old Earth Creationism) as just as misguided as previous attempts to derive scientific or mathematical or engineering insights from the Bible.
Now, I said above that there is a sense in which the Bible is the foundation of all science. I mean this: in order for people to be motivated to go about spending a lot of effort and expense to closely examine the laws of the physical universe, they have to first have a firm expectation that that universe is stable, predictable, well designed, and can be known in detail. The early Renaissance scientists, mathematicians, and engineers had such a mindset largely – it is said – because they believed that the universe had been created by a God whose stability and designs can be trusted.
There is a big problem with simplistic reading of Genesis. By “simplistic”, I mean reading each “day”/”yom” as a normal day, and that these days are strictly separated from each other.
It can be very difficult for any writer to convey a complex story in strictly sequential order. One reason for this is that in reality many actions are happening at every moment. So, any complex story has to be told in segments which make sense… and this means that strict sequential descriptions are seldom used. This is the case with the six days of Genesis also. When we realize that what we have in Genesis 1 is six – um, shall we say, phases – of creation, which greatly overlap, then confusions begin to disappear. A serious question which is brought up by some who take a very simple view of Genesis is: How is it that plants were make in Day 3, but the sun, which provides the energy for plant growth, is not created until Day 4? The explanation is that the six days of Genesis 1 are for ordering and structuring the complex story of creation and were never intended as being equal in length or utterly separated. A fairly common idea (whose origin I do not know, so I can’t reference it here, unfortunately) is that the six days are in two parallel sets (This particular version I am using is a little different than ones I have seen):
2: Earth & Heavens
4: Sun, Moon, Stars
5: Sea creatures
3: Land & plants
6: Land animals & Man
The first column, which corresponds to the first three days, is almost entirely involved with creating spaces which are then filled in the second three days. One point of this chart is that the whole creation story becomes much more understandable and reasonable when we quit trying to think that the six “days”, or phases, or eras, or whatever, are strictly sequential. Instead, we should think of them as describing facets of the creation process, in a roughly chronological order, and with substantial overlapping. It is God’s careful planning and layout of living spaces and the placing the appropriate living organisms there which is more the point. Also, a major point to original hearers of the Genesis creation story is that God performed all these things by his wisdom and power, by merely “speaking” His plans: not with some series of battles between conflicting mythical “gods”, as contemporary myths portrayed creation.
When we begin to see Genesis’ six “days” as a way to cleanly and clearly depict the main actions required to build our world, we can begin to see how surprisingly that story aligns with modern scientific thinking about how the world came to be.
While most of you viewers of this material are probably more or less aware of the debate between “creation and evolution” when it comes to how plants, animals, and man came to be. But you may not know as much about the scientific view of how the stars, planets, moon, and other heavenly bodies came to be. To understand how science and Genesis may be in more agreement than most people are aware it will be useful to review at least an outline of how science understands this process. I will try to provide that:
Briefly, the creation (or formation, or evolution, or whatever you want to call it) of our solar system and the trillions of other solar systems that exist was evidently something like this: It began with an incredibly powerful explosion in which all energy and mass that will ever exist came into existence. (Note that energy and mass are interchangeable.) All physical laws including time itself had to be created also, so ascribing a time interval to this process may be meaningless. But after a period of settling down, some the enormous energy of the Big Bang condensed into matter, which clumped into billions of portions, each of which became a galaxy. To the degree that we can put a time interval on this period it was probably only a few thousand or million earth years. In each clump, or galaxy, a large mass concentrated at the center, forming a gravitational center to hold the galaxy together. These central masses are still present as what we call Black Holes. The remaining matter in each galaxy clumped into smaller portions which each became a solar system. In each solar system the bulk of the material concentrated into a gravitational center which condensed into a hot mass which became a star. The remaining matter (there is a trend here!!) clumped into yet smaller masses orbiting the central star. These masses – mostly planets -- were usually made of heavier elements than in each star, because lighter elements would have escaped the small gravity of the planets. The remaining material which did not coalesce into planets mostly formed moons or rings around the planets. Other lesser parts formed miscellaneous objects like asteroids and comets which settled into various unoccupied bands around their star.
Note the pleasing repeating pattern:
1. The (first-level) “clumps” which settled out of the Big Bang each became a galaxy with a central mass (a black hole) and many smaller outer (second-level) clumps orbiting the central black hole. Our galaxy is called the Milky Way and forms most of what we can see in the night sky without a telescope.
2. These smaller (second-level) clumps each formed a star system, with a central mass (the star) with a number of yet smaller outer (third-level) clumps orbiting the star. Our “star” is the sun.
3. These yet smaller (third-level) clumps formed planets, each with remaining material forming even smaller (fourth-level) outer clumps orbiting the planet. Our earth is the third planet from our sun, out of a total of eight planets.
4. Many of these even smaller (fourth-level) clumps formed moons or rings around their planet. Earth has one moon, but Mars has two, Jupiter has at least 16 -- some are still being discovered -- and Uranus has at least 27. Saturn has a series of rings, but no moons.
5. Material that did not end up as a star, planet, or moon formed various fields of debris or gases.
The remaining material that did not become part of a star, planet or moon in our solar system formed several fields of smaller-than-planet objects: (1) the rather stable Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which is evidently the leftover remains of a failed planet; (2) the Centaurs, between Jupiter and Neptune which resemble asteroids but have erratic orbits that often cross the orbital paths of Jupiter, Saturn, or Uranus; (3) the Kyper belt beyond Neptune; (4) the so-called Scattered Disk, beyond the Kyper belt, which evidently consists of one-time Kyper belt objects whose orbits were disrupted by Neptune’s gravity, and (5) the Oort Cloud , beyond the Kyper belt and Scattered Disk.
See more at https://space-facts.com/oort-cloud/ which includes this image:
(Here is a detail that I find fascinating: Objects from any of these five fields still are occasionally bumped or drawn by gravity from their usual orbits and head any direction in our solar system. When these happen to be icy objects, we may eventually see them as comets when they pass near our sun. These comets eventually erode away to nothing due to the heating effect of the sun on them. We see this erosion of material as the “tail” of the comet. When small rocky objects actually collide with earth, we see them as “shooting stars” in the night sky, as they burn up on entering earth’s atmosphere. Rocky objects up to a few feet across that collide with earth -- or just graze the atmosphere -- may be visible as meteors. Sometimes these meteors land on the earth and are found by people. When these rocky objects are a little larger, like tens of feet or more in diameter they can cause serious damage. An example of this happened a few years ago when one about 65 feet in diameter skimmed the atmosphere above Chelyabinsk, Russia. Thousands of windows were broken there and millions of dollars of damage to buildings occurred. A few people were injured. Rocky objects very much larger than that can cause catastrophic damage. This has happened twice that we know of in the last billion years. One was 250 million years ago, in the vicinity of Antarctica, which evidently resulted in what is known as the “great dying”, when most species of animals went extinct. Interestingly, this impact evidently reverberated around the earth, refocused on the opposite side, which was then in Siberia, and caused such disruption to the crust of the earth there that volcanic activity resulted for thousands of years. The second such impact happened 65 million years ago, in the Gulf of Mexico, and caused the extinction of most dinosaurs. This event is especially well studied. Scientists tell us that there is a somewhat less than 1% chance of a specific, known 160-meter diameter rock hitting earth in the late 2100’s. See https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/sentry/ . Don’t worry. It won’t kill us all.)
Now, back to our main point here: Since other galaxies than our Milky Way were unknown to the Hebrews, and not visible without telescopes, they are only mentioned as part of the heavenly bodies described in Day 4. Understanding that, the Genesis account aligns shockingly well with the above more scientific overview of creation… especially when we remember that Genesis was written in a time when other contemporary creation stories were absurd, fanciful myths. We see the Big Bang in Day 1, depicted as the creation of pure light. We next see the clumping of the material of the earth into an entity separated from the visible heavenly bodies (Day 2). Then we see the maturation of the earth as it settles into stable land masses, seas, and of course, air (Day 3). Genesis then inserts a separate “Day” to discuss the non-earth bodies that Hebrews could see in the sky. Then in Day 5 we see sea life created (which indeed happened first, according to science) and also birds. While birds appeared later than sea life, they are evidently mentioned in Day 5 to allow Day 6 to focus only on land life. Day 6 describes the appearance of the land animals as known to the Hebrews, and finally man. A slightly more detailed and more scientific timeline for creation (what we call the Old Earth Creationism, or OEC view) would be something like this:
Light: the Big Bang
Over 13 billion earth years ago
Galaxies, solar systems, planets, moons
Continuously since the Big Bang
(On earth:) Stable land, seas, and atmosphere
Starting around 4 billion earth years ago
Microscopic life in the seas
Starting over 3 billion earth years ago
Multicellular life in the seas
Starting 1 billion earth years ago
Full size plants, animals and fish
Starting 500 million earth years ago
Starting 250 million earth years ago
Birds and Primates
Starting 50 million earth years ago
Starting 2 million earth years ago
Adam & Eve
6,000 to 10,000 years ago
Adam and Eve were evidently the end result of God’s long creation process. They were considered by God to resemble Himself in certain ways, evidently mostly intellectually, and were given an eternal soul. All current humans derive from them.
There are lots of websites that tell about the scientific processes of determining the age of the earth to be 4.5 billion or so years. Here is an example: https://www.space.com/24854-how-old-is-earth.html .
Some YECs claim that Noah’s flood (see Genesis 6) explains how all the geologic layers and the fossils in them came to be just a few thousand years ago. But this seriously and possibly deliberately wrong. The main problem here to my mind is that some YECs encourage followers to ignore the facts. They seem to encourage people to take a childish approach to the flood and just believe that the flood caused all geologic anomalies that seem to point to an old earth.
But the Bible itself refutes that idea. Genesis 2:14 mentions four rivers that were the headwaters for Eden: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris (or Hiddekel in KJV), and the Euphrates. While it is unclear what modern named rivers correspond to the Pishon and Gihon, the Tigris and Euphrates have been important rivers since Genesis 1. The Euphrates in particular is mentioned many times in the Bible. The point is, that after Noah’s flood the Tigris and Euphrates continued to be mentioned as if nothing were changed. This is a significant indication that the flood had essentially no effect on the landscape.
Consider the Grand Canyon, which is often referred to in such discussions. Some young earth creationists claim that the fossils in obvious evidence at various levels of the Grand Canyon were laid down during the flood, and then the draining away of the flood waters caused the erosion that created the Canyon. But there are problems with this claim.
First, the layers of fossils bear no resemblance to the way they “should be.” That is, if the flood had caused the fossils that we see in various geologic strata there should be at least some ordering of the animals and plants that are in the various layers: perhaps large animals might be on the bottom, then smaller at higher levels, etc. But there is in fact no simple layering by animal size, or density, or some such. Instead, animals of a given size and type, such as clams, appear in many layers, but appear different (in species) in each layer. This is true even at the microorganism level. Such variations can’t possibly be related to Noah’s flood because there is no difference in density, size, etc., that could cause the stratification.
Secondly, a careful study of the layering of the Canyon shows that the land which has been eroded to create the canyon was built up by being covered by the seas for long periods at least seven completely different times —not just one.
Thirdly, the fossils in those layers are of animals that have not lived for thousands of years, whereas no fossils exist there of the animals Noah would have known well: sheep, goats, lions, rabbits, horses, etc. This suggests that the layers all predate Noah’s flood.
Refusal of young earth creationists to look carefully at the physical evidence and instead just plunge on to wrong conclusions is an example of what I refer to as ”intentional ignorance.” YECs are essentially saying, “Don’t look too close at the evidence or you will see through our lies!”
For illustration of such geologic layering, here is a photo I took along the roadside in central Arizona, about 100 miles from the Grand Canyon. Note the dramatic multiple layering. There are, coincidentally, seven layers obvious here. The area in the picture is about four feet high. The Flood is a poor explanation for such places.
Some people who object to an old earth simply claim that science “must have their time scale wrong”. But there is a big problem with that thought: There is no such thing as one master time scale that all scientists use, and that therefore can be tossed out as wrong. Instead, many areas of scientific study have produced insights about the time scale of earth’s history, and they all align well with each other to confirm the age of the earth and the universe as billions of years old. And within a particular scientific discipline there are often a range of techniques which work together to confirm the validity of their time scales. Here is a quick look at some scientific dating methods in use. Note: God created all the physics behind these methods: scientists did not make these things up. They just use information that God Himself put there.
Biology and Anthropology: Carbon-14 dating (also called radiocarbon dating), can quite accurately determine when an organism lived, up to about 50,000 years ago. Briefly, this is how carbon-14 dating works. High energy radiation constantly hits the upper atmosphere of the earth, and it causes a certain amount of the nitrogen in the atmosphere to transmute (that is, to change the form of the nuclei of the atoms) to a radioactive form of carbon called carbon-14. When a plant or animal is living it absorbs the radioactive carbon-14 gas from the atmosphere (or plants it eats) and incorporates it in its tissues. After the plant or animal dies it no longer absorbs carbon-14 and the radioactive atoms of carbon-14 slowly revert back to normal nitrogen. (Half the atoms revert back every 5700 years.) Scientists can tell from sample tissue how long ago a plant or animal lived by measuring what fraction of the carbon-14 has reverted to nitrogen.
Carbon-14 dating doesn’t work for recently dead organisms because very little of the carbon-14 will have had time to transform back to nitrogen-14. But after several hundred years a significant difference in the fraction of carbon-14 can be measured. Equally, it can’t be used for older objects than about 50,000 years because virtually all the carbon-14 will be gone and no further change happens. One can only say that the plant or animal lived 50,000 years ago or longer. Other similar dating methods are used for longer times. See more about this topic here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon-14
Geology and Paleontology: Using relative dating (that doesn’t mean they are going out with their cousins!) or the “principle of superposition,” these scientists have been able since around 1800 to determine the sequence in which many fossilized animals lived. But they were not able to determine absolute dates until the availability of potassium-argon dating and uranium-lead dating. Conceptually these processes work somewhat like carbon-14 dating. Potassium-40 decays to argon-40 with a half-life of 1.28 billion years; Uranium-235 decays to lead-207 with a half-life of about 700 million years. So, these two methods can be used to date the age of objects which are from a fraction of a billion to several billion years old. These methods work on rocks and other objects which were never alive. For a hint as to how complex this area gets, see https://geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/common/geochronology.html .
Physics: Physicists have worked out a detailed description of the creation of the universe, beginning with the “Big Bang.” While skeptics dismiss all the theorizing about the Big Bang, scientists have been working out the details to an incredible degree. Recently some new research caused some rethinking of this sequence. Headlines in the news said scientists would have to “totally rethink” their theory of the origin of the universe. It turned out that the confusion had to do with what happened in the first tiny fraction of a second of the Big Bang. (See for example http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/03/17/290862157/a-new-window-on-the-big-bang-has-been-opened .) Scientists are rather confident of the sequence beyond that first tiny moment, and for the next 13.5 billion years. Amazing.
Summary: So, there isn’t just one-time scale. Several dating methods exist, with different fields of study using them, and they all play together like instruments in a symphony. And anyone who actually thinks that “maybe science just has the time scale all wrong” is uninformed.
Astronomers and Physicists tell us that light has been travelling for over 13 billion years to get to us from the most distantly observable galaxies. Some people who believe in a young earth claim that surely light must have just travelled a whole lot faster at earlier times in the creation, and that explains the appearance of great distance and great age. That claim brings up a couple of serious questions. The first question is, “Does God lie to us? Does He make things only appear to be old and distant? Does He place fake fossils deep in the earth so scientists will think those animals lived long ago, when they didn’t?” We will discuss that elsewhere.
The second issue is whether there is any justification of the claim that light went faster at some time in the past. This claim is evidently based on the history of scientific estimates of the speed of light. Here is a graph of several of the known estimates, versus a scale of years:
Do you see the big slow-down in the estimated speed of light in those three centuries? No? I didn’t think so. The estimates look almost identical. That’s because they were in fact almost identical, at least on a normal vertical scale. To give the light-slow-down crowd a chance, let’s zoom in a factor 10 to try to see the slow down:
Hmm. Still not showing much. Let’s zoom in a factor of 30:
OK, now you see the “big” slow down. For the record, if you take the two points at about 1780 and 1840, when seem to have the greatest ramp-down of estimated speed, and graph it all the way back to Adam’s time, you get an estimated speed of light then of about 340 million meters per second instead of the actual 300 million meters per second. Big deal. Not enough difference to bother talking about.
What is really remarkable about this data is how incredibly accurate the measurements were in the 1700’s. They were only one-fifth of one percent off at the worst. Amazing.
It is extremely unlikely that light ever travelled at any different speed than it does now, except perhaps in the first moment after the Big Bang, when everything was just forming, including space and time themselves. The speed of light in a vacuum is one of a small set of completely reliable constants in the universe.
Why do I bring this topic up? Because YECs (Young Earth Creationists) are still trying to discredit the well-established timeline for how God created our universe. I understand that some are going to far as to suggest the speed of light is INFINITE when going in just one direction. They claim that all our current measurements of the speed of light are round-trip measurement and therefore wrong. But Einstein himself told of some of his early thinking about relativity while he was on a train pulling away from a train station, while looking at a clock on the station. He realized that if the train could continue to accelerate to very high speeds that the time he would read on that clock (if he had really good telescope!) would gradually slow down versus the time on his watch. This is because of the increasing time it would take for the light from the clock to reach him on the accelerating train. His further thinking on this contributed to his Theory of Relativity, which has been validated again and again and has led to atomic bombs and atomic power plants. (I am not saying you should LIKE those things!) So, the idea that the one-way speed of light is infinite is fundamentally false.
Note: This topic and others that we do not discuss here are well presented in the book A New Look at an Old Earth by Don Stoner, which I highly recommend. The speed of light table below, which I used in the graphs and calculations above, was extracted from that book. I am more familiar with the slightly shorter and simpler 1992 version of the book. The 1997 version might be preferable to religious professionals. Both are available at Amazon.com.
Some YECs, trying to cram all of creation into a few days, 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.
Wow, what a statement. Mind boggling. “Time going faster.” But isn’t time the very thing that we use to measure the speed of things? But does “time going faster” even make any sense? Isn’t it sort of like the old problem of trying to define a word by using the word itself? But let’s try to think briefly about the idea of time going faster. When we need to analyze a problem which we cannot physically try out, one can try to do a “gedankenexperiment”. In other words, we will carry out an experiment in thought only, since we can’t think of any way to do it in reality. So, let’s try this:
Imaginary Experiment: Let’s assume that a couple of minutes from now God is going to speed up everything in the universe to double its current rate. Of course, He is not changing His own time, just ours. (It seems clear in the scripture that God created our time, and does not live inside it.) As persons who live in that universe, how would things be different?
Imaginary Result: OK, a couple of minutes have passed. So, consider your heartbeat. Before the time change, your heart beat about once every second. Now, in the same one second – from God’s unchanged perspective – your heart would beat twice. But if time has sped up for everything in the universe, then the seconds on our clocks would click by twice as fast also. So, in one second of God’s unchanged time scale you would now count two heartbeats and your clock would click off two seconds. So, your heart rate would appear to be unchanged at once a second! All other physical processes would seem unchanged too, since the relative rate between any two processes would not change.
So, is there any sensible meaning to the idea of “time went faster back then”? Maybe so from God’s perspective, but not as experienced here on earth!
Some YECs suggest that 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. Well, I suppose God can do anything He wishes. This question is just another instance of the over-used ”God Could Have…” claim of YECs. But if you think it reasonable for God to create the universe with all the seeming artifacts of age in place – but without that age having actually happened – then couldn’t God have created the whole universe 5 minutes ago, with our bodies, minds and memories all intact? Then all the experiences we think we have had would be simulated just like the fossils supposedly simulate old animal leftovers.
But is it in God’s nature to do such a thing? Does God deceive? Does He mislead people? Does he set traps to fool us? To understand this better, try this: (1) Think about the “5 minutes ago” question for a few minutes. (2) Take a walk outside for an hour. (3) Ask yourself the same “5 minutes ago” question again. Now, do you seriously believe that the walk you just took, and the things you saw happening, might not have really happened, and might themselves just be another created memory when God created us all 5 minutes ago from the (hour later) time right now?
No, there are not a lot, at least not in the United States. As a percentage of all scientists, the number who are YECs is actually quite low, especially outside conservative religious circles. The web site, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Earth_creationism , quotes an estimate that “700 scientists ... (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists” believe in a Young Earth. That is about one-seventh of 1% of those scientists.
The percent of scientists that are YECs (though still small) seems to vary with the scientific area. Scientists whose work involves observing the world on a “macro” scale generally all accept that the earth is billions of years old. This would include Biologists, Geologists, Astronomers, Anthropologists, Paleontologists, etc. Scientists who look at “micro”, or atomic, scale phenomena, like Chemists or Physicists, mostly also accept the scientific age of the earth, though this issue is not actually very relevant to their work so they may be able to believe whatever they want about the age of the earth without having a direct effect on their professions. (Except for the opinions of them by the peers!) The same is true of most engineering professions, whose studies (while equally important) have nothing to do with the age of the earth. So, beware of YECs whose background has nothing to do with the age of the earth or the universe, as they probably know no more about the age of the earth than any other high school educated person walking down the street. Letters after your name (and I have a few) may mean very little outside one’s exact area of expertise, though the academic discipline of achieving an advanced degree typically sharpens one’s thinking processes in a way which can apply, hopefully, in other areas of life.
While we are on this topic, what if we look at the whole world? How many YECs are there, in total? The following breakdown covers about 75% of the world population. The remaining 25% or so either have no religious beliefs, or have various indigenous beliefs, or they are too small to consider in this broad depiction, or we have no data for them.
· There are nearly 2 billion Hindus and Buddhists, to whose faiths this debate is not directly relevant, as their thinking is so different from Abrahamic religions.
· There are 1.3 billion Muslims, whose faith has always considered the “days” of Genesis to be eras of unknown length. So the young earth concept never arises here.
· There are about 1.2 billion Catholics. The Catholic Church now officially endorses the scientific view of the age of the earth!
· There are about 900 million Protestant Christians world-wide. The best estimate I can find is that about 50% of those believe in an old earth or lean that way, while 40%, or 360 million, believe in a 6,000 to 10,000-year-old earth, or lean that way. (10% are unaccounted for.)
· There are about 6 million Jews in the world. They generally take an old earth view.
So about 360 million out of 7.5 billion people on earth agree with Young Earth Creationism. That constitutes about 5% of the world who agree with YEC. Of those, very few are educated at the college level in the “macro” level sciences discussed above. Just sayin’.
Unfortunately, many devout, conservative Christians and organizations outside of mainstream denominations (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mainline_Protestant ) are determined to promulgate their anti-scientific views on Genesis. They will even claim that their anti-scientific views are in fact the correct scientific views! And they feel that you must believe their reading of Genesis 1-3. A very small number of them are scientifically educated. See above. When you hear one of these seemingly compelling persons try to convince you the earth is 6,000 years old, look them up on the internet. For example, here is a link to an article about one of them: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Jason_Lisle . You will see that they get very little respect outside their rather insular community.
We have tried to show in the earlier material on this web site that these people are purposely ignoring evidence in Genesis 1 which indicates that the 24-hour day theory of Genesis is wrong. But they persist anyway. Why? There are various reasons for that. Here are a few, as I see them:
1. Fear: The average member of conservative, non-mainstream Protestant denominations grew up hearing the Young Earth interpretation and fearing “evolutionists” (see*). And many have never taken college coursework in the hard sciences, so they continue with their childhood beliefs. I have found over many years of observation, that most people are much more concerned about bolstering their current beliefs than seeking the truth.
2. Human Nature: It is a common human reaction anytime one’s religious-, political-, or cultural-based views are challenged to resist. There is an insightful comment that is sometimes attributed to Mark Twain: ‘It’s Easier to Fool People Than to Convince Them That They Have Been Fooled’. I have been trying to show people that they have been fooled by YEC teaching for years, but only a few young people care to hear. A related quote which is very relevant is by Bertrand Russell: ‘The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.’ So careful thinkers, who express their views thoughtfully seldom get as much attention as people “shouting” bad ideas.
3. Money: One thing you can do is follow what investors, criminal investigators, and other such persons do to try to understand some confusing situation: FOLLOW THE MONEY. That is, just how much money are these people raking in? How much money did wealthy donors give to AiG to fund their full-size replica of the ark? How much more money are authors of Young Earth books making, as opposed to those trying to teach people the truth? Answer: A lot.
(*) There are actually very few people on the face of the earth who would readily accept the label “evolutionist”. It is a made-up word, intended as pejorative, that YECs use for biologists, geologists, paleontologists, etc., for whom evolution is a well-established tool. But they are biologists, geologists, etc. NOT ‘evolutionists,” any more than a car mechanic should be called an “internal combustionist”, or a “monkey wrenchist”.
Creationists at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) have claimed that C-14 in coal and other deposits, and even in diamonds, shows the earth is young. But ICR seems to rush to judgment on anything that seems on the surface to contradict mainline science. This issue is well addressed at this web site: https://ncse.com/cej/3/2/answers-to-creationist-attacks-carbon-14-dating
Quoting from that web site:
Radiocarbon dating doesn't work well on objects much older than twenty thousand years, because such objects have so little C-14 left that their beta radiation is swamped out by the background radiation of cosmic rays and potassium-40 (K-40) decay. Younger objects can easily be dated, because they still emit plenty of beta radiation, enough to be measured after the background radiation has been subtracted out of the total beta radiation. However, in either case, the background beta radiation has to be compensated for, and, in the older objects, the amount of C-14 they have left is less than the margin of error in measuring background radiation.
YECs often point out what they see as a problem: that if the earth is billions of years of old then by reasonable calculations there seems to not be enough mineral deposits on the ocean floor and nor enough salt in the ocean. Regardless of how they calculate that sort of thing, they are wrong because they ignore the big picture about how the world works. Correct understanding of such issues requires that one take into account how the earth has changed continuously for the last few billion years. Specifically, plate tectonics is important. (Please follow that link to learn more about that topic.) On a long time scale the surface of the earth has been continuous molded similar to the way a ball of dough can be kneaded, pressing the surface down inside the ball repeatedly. So the floor of the ocean now is not at all what it was a billion years ago. That old ocean floor has largely slid, or subducted, under the lighter continental tectonic plates, and new ocean floor has formed from the great ocean trenches as they slowly spread apart. (See for example A map of the mid Atlantic Ridge by Marie Tharp . There is a small version of this image just below.) One consequence of all this “folding” of the ground is that the “missing ocean minerals” are now somewhere under the ground. We see this very clearly in the huge salt deposits that are mined daily for our table salt supply. These salt deposits formed long ago and then slowly became underground deposits. There are no missing ocean minerals. The YEC claim is just another misrepresentation the true science and of God’s plan for forming the earth.
We are all made from dust. On Ash Wednesday we are all reminded, “You are dust, and to dust you will return.” To help us focus on that sobering fact a small smudge of ash is often marked on our foreheads.
How are we “made of dust”? Plant life grows straight from the ground. Animals eat those plants, or else eat animals that do eat those plants. We eat the plants and the animals that eat plants. Every gram of carbohydrate, fat, and protein in us comes to us that way, except for a few minerals like salt or calcium that we take directly from the earth itself. When we die, we eventually decay away into the components that formed us from the soil. (OK, there are a few exceptions: people who are mummified naturally or artificially. But they also are so transformed and dried that they are easily crushed to powder.)
It is interesting to note that even cultures far removed from the Judaic/Christian/Islamic, or Abrahamic, traditions recognize this relationship of man with earth. Many ancient cultures used the idea of “Mother Earth”. Some coupled this with some version of a “Father Sky”. Some Native American tribes, particularly the Navajo, hold these two ideas dearly. This belief is traditionally depicted in Navajo sand paintings. They never allow their actual precise spiritually significant forms of these paintings to be distributed outside their culture, but “watered down” versions are commonly sold commercially. Below are a few examples from various public postings on the internet. It appears that the black figure contains stars and moon depictions and would therefore be Father Sky. Mother Earth is depicted variously, as you can see here.
No one knows. But it is worth thinking about.
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. 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.
However, regardless of UFO enthusiasts and serious efforts by astronomers there is no scientifically accepted evidence that we have ever been visited by intelligent beings from another planet, nor any evidence that such life actually even exists. This situation has caused serious discussion among scientists. See for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox .
We know there are no intelligent beings on other planets in our solar system. But astronomers are getting closer and closer to being able to determine if there are any earth-like planets “nearby” in the Milky Way. I understand that the next generation of telescopes designed for this purpose will be able to tell if the atmosphere of various exoplanets is earthlike. If they find planets suitable for life like on earth, then a lot of further questions will then arise. What if we could communicate with such a race of beings? 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 asked Do Aliens Know it is Christmas? And this 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.
So, keep your eye on the scientific news. And if you ever do get to talk to an other-worldian, please don’t tell them the we are more important than they are, because God made everything based on earth’s days – not theirs. They might be offended.
This is a small website, operated mostly by one person. But if you have serious questions you would like an Old Earth Creationist’ view on, please go to Contact Us and let us know your interests.
This web site is just an introduction to the problems with Young Earth Creationism, and the better choice of Old Earth Creationism. It is far from complete in any sense. Indeed, it is only a beginning for you if you are new to this subject. There is much more to learn. See References below for a few suggestions as to where to look next regarding this subject. I don’t claim that everything will be peachy once you accept that science is generally right about the age of the earth. I haven’t even addressed here the issues in the story in Genesis 2. You will need to take a somewhat less literal viewpoint about Genesis 1—but only somewhat. We have addressed above how nicely the Genesis 1 creation story, read as intended, matches with the scientific view of how we and the earth came to be.
The so-called “debate” among Protestant Christians about the age of the earth is an unnecessary conflict. A young earth is an unbiblical teaching which is distracting Christians from the more important task of reaching non-Christians with the gospel message of forgiveness of sin and a new life of freedom from the slavery of sin and joy in knowing the Lord.
Presented from most recent to oldest except for the first item.
1. The Holy Bible. This is actually the only reference you need on this subject. Just read it with an alert mind, seeking the truth, and not putting up with nonsense and demands from others. The thinking that produced this website can serve as an example of clearheaded understanding without being afraid that God is going to send you to hell for finding your own way in understanding how He made the earth.
2. Should Christians Believe in an Old Earth? (Study Questions about Creation for Pastors and Teachers), by Rondall E. Jones, Lighthouse Christian Publishing, 2015
3. Is It OK to Believe in an Old Earth? (Study Questions about Time in Genesis for Young Adults), by Rondall E. Jones, Amazon Kindle book, 2014
4. Navigating Genesis, A Scientist’s Journey through Genesis 1-11, Hugh Ross: Reasons to Believe, 2014. Hugh Ross and his organization, Reasons to Believe, , have published a number of excellent books, including The A Matter of Days, and Who Was Adam?.
5. The Rocks Don’t Lie, A Geologist investigates Noah’s Flood, David Montgomery: W. W. Norton, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-393-0839-5.
6. A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, David Snoke, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006
7. 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.
8. A New Look at an Old Earth, Resolving the Conflict Between the Bible & Science, Don Stoner: Harvest House Publishers, 1997 (older, but still good and sound)
9. A New Look at an Old Earth, What the Creation Institutes Are Not Telling You About Genesis, Don Stoner: Schroeder Publishing, 1992 (earlier version of the above)
10. Sailing Alone around the World, by Joshua Slocum: Adlard Coles Nautical, 1954 (reprinted 2004) Not strictly about creation, but his very early single-man trip around the world – and dealing with some Flat-Earthers along the way -- is fascinating.
http://www.rejones7.net/Genesis/ Which is the address for THIS website. This is a small website, unlike the next two much larger ones. I hope you will find it helpful.
Hugh Ross’s organization, Reasons to Believe.
https://biologos.org/ A large organization of people who serve as an antidote to the unfortunate “disinformation” on Young Earth web sites.
A very nice PowerPoint presentation on OEC and YEC issues. A very nice PowerPoint presentation on OEC and YES issues. Well-reasoned and well balanced. Unsigned by the author, but from the web address it originates from the University of Oklahoma Department of Physics and Astronomy.
http://www.bcbsr.com/survey/genint.html A small web site by a church with useful information
http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/old_earth_creationism.html This is just a portion of a larger website. Worth seeing.
You will probably find these anyway, so I might as well list them.
https://answersingenesis.org/ AiG is one of the largest sources of disinformation on the Young Earth. While they are no doubt Christians, their obfuscation of the issues around the age of the earth has confused many. And their confusion on the role of the flood in forming the earth is massive. Noah’s flood didn’t significantly change the face of the earth and it doesn’t explain the fossil history of the earth.
https://www.icr.org/ (You may have to type “icr.org” directly into your browser as this link sometimes doesn’t work.) This is the site for the Institute for Creation Research. I would point out that when someone starts out to find research that agrees with their view, then there isn’t much hope for finding the real truth. Though, again I believe these people to be Christian, just obsessed with an outdated reading of Genesis.
There are a lot of resources for science information on the internet, but finding one that is both informative and accessible to the general public (not just scientifically inclined people) is harder. I recently heard of the “It’s Okay to be Smart” channel on PBS Digital Studios at https://www.pbs.org/show/its-okay-be-smart/ While some readers may be put off by the strictly secular scientific approach, the material is well presented and can help you understand the scientific view of natural history. Remember, professional scientists cannot recognize any role for God. But a lot of those same scientists are Christians as well.
https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/creationist-wisdom/ This sub-site of a larger website is just brimming with anti-creationist thought. They seem to mostly be knocking YEC positions. It has a somewhat snarky attitude, but their clear-eyed thinking will give serious YECs a lot to lose sleep over.
Questions? Comments? Please email the author, Ron Jones, at email@example.com. Thoughtful questions or comments are welcome. Angry diatribes will just be deleted.
Note: Material above which is original to me is hereby copyrighted by myself, year 2019. But you may copy and use any of this material if you reference this web site as the source.
When I first became interested in this question (in 1965) I was in my first college biology course. I had never even thought of the issue of how creation actually occurred, or how long it took. But the very compelling information I was exposed to caused a crisis for me: Didn’t Genesis say “six days”??? How does that jibe with millions of years of “evolution” of the earth and its inhabitants? I will not trouble you here with the subsequent years of struggle before I came to a much fuller and deeper understanding of the whole topic. Eventually I published a book which attempts to educate readers about how Science and Genesis are in agreement, not conflict. This web site attempts to summarize all the important points I have accumulated in years of concern about this still-current topic. If you are interested in my book, please look on Amazon for it. There is a slightly different Kindle version intended for mature students. These media are purposely cheap. My book is 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.
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.
23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the … God made the earth and the heavens,
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.
6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
9 Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.16 God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. 17 God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. 19 There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” 21 God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after [ai]their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
2 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
(Note: all explanatory notes in the NASB have been removed. Any resulting errors are my fault.)
Keywords: Genesis, Creation, Creationism, Science, “age of the earth”, “age of the universe”, “old earth”, “young earth”