Anyone reading this needs to understand this first: Knowing Almighty God, through the person of Jesus Christ is the most important thing any human can do. Probably the second and third most important thing as well. One can be completely ignorant of all knowledge, save for the Lordship of Jesus Christ and spend Eternity in Heaven. Having all knowledge of this world, to include the Universe at large but lacking Jesus will have one spending Eternity in Hell.
The following discussion is therefore intended for Christians who – as I did – wrestle with the problem of reconciling the brute fact of the Universe with the truth of the Bible. Secondarily, it is intended for those noble non-believers who truly want to find God, but have a problem with the simplicity of the Creation story of the Bible. (By the way, if one truly desires to find God, God will find you first.)
So then, if the reader is comfortable with their belief in God and really don’t care about the mechanics of the Universe, give this one a pass. Many people live full lives and honor God in their life with no clue of the origin of the Universe. If the reader does not feel up to a challenge, give this one a pass. An honest reading of this essay will cause some serious challenge.
You’ve been warned.
“If you believe in the historical basis of the Bible how old do you feel the earth actually is?” was a question posed to me in an apologetics forum on the internet. If I’m recalling correctly, he was a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) – believing the Universe and Earth are only 6,000 years old or so. If I’m still recalling correctly, he was just a little uncomfortable with his belief.
I believe in the historical accuracy of the Bible in context. F’rinstance, the Bible makes no mention of China or India. Not that those nations didn’t exist, but they aren’t part of the story. The Bible’s primary purpose is to identify God, to identify mankind, explain the problem between man and God, and announce the solution to that problem.
Therefore, the Bible lumped all the time period prior to the emergence of humanity into the first six verses of the Bible. In that sense, the pre-human history of the world isn’t important to the story of the Bible. The language of the Bible indicates the ‘days’ of creation are metaphorical rather than literal. So, on the historical basis of the Bible, the earth is certainly older than humanity, but there is no clear statement of how much older.
My answer has to be “insufficient data”. One cannot make a determination of the age of the earth based only on the Biblical record.
Here is as good a place as any to point out the origin of the ‘dating’ of the ‘world’ in the YEC understanding.
First: The dating is not recorded in the Bible. Not at all. No where. The dates were ‘calculated’ by one James Ussher, Bishop of Armagh of the Church of Ireland. The information was published in book form called “Annals of the World”. The dating was ‘calculated’ by comparing the genealogy lists of the Old Testament and counting up the year involved. Bishop Ussher did a lot of work and spent a lot of time in the calculations. For the record, work similar in scope was undertaken by various other Biblical scholars with various results – although all giving a similar origin date ranging from 3761 B. C. to 4000 B. C.
The problem is those genealogy lists are not all inclusive. They are correct in that they show the lineage of certain people – King David being one of them – but they are rather sketchy in the period prior to Abram, later Abraham, progenitor of the Nation of Israel.
Also, it should be noted and is studiously ignored by current YEC adherents, the Ussher dating of the World – a term which in Ussher’s time meant ‘all of Creation’ or ‘Universe’ to us – was predicated on the theory the World would only exist for 6,000 years. This was based on the Six Days of Creation and the statement in the New Testament book of Second Peter (3:8) where Peter writes “…one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The assumption was this verse was a hard and fast rule, and any prophetic reference to a day was to be considered 1,000 years.
I point out here this particular belief is no longer considered a ‘hard and fast rule’. It is certainly ignored in the six days of Creation. Peter is merely telling us God does not keep track of time in the same way humans do. We see this in the ‘difference’ in time between children and adults. To a child, an hour seems like forever; to an adult, not so long. What may seem like a ‘long time’ to a human is ‘not so long’ to the Eternal God.
The upshot of the 6,000 years of the world based on the six days of Creation is, the world ended in 1997. That’s the end of the six thousand years. If we sigh and write off Harold Camping as a well-meaning but erroneous preacher (or a charlatan), we must do the same for Bishop Ussher. Either that or all of us missed the Rapture. (Maybe both times?)
The Eden Account
Another question: “What the account of Adam and Eve allegorical in any way or is it to be taken as literally true? Do you consider this a salvation issue?”
In reverse order, No! It is not a salvation issue. Salvation is dependent on a full belief and relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ. If believing one must fully believe the Eden account is literal in order to be saved, we have removed from Grace and are now dealing in works. One of the most comforting thoughts about Christianity is we only have to get the question of Jesus right. One can be wrong about everything else, get Jesus right and go to Heaven. (Conversely, one can get everything right, be wrong about Jesus only and go to Hell.)
To the former question, I think it more allegorical than literal. From a biological standpoint, geneticists have determined the entire human race is derived from one woman and one man – however, the two are in different time eras. The point is the species could have sprung from a single set of ancestors.
Creationists, get a Tums ready
Those scientists who study the history of the development of the human race agree ‘human history’ in the modern sense is no less than 30,000 to 40,000 years old. Those are the Cro-Magnon people who moved into Europe and one way or another replaced the Neanderthal people.
There are older forms of possible humans and ‘proto-humans’, but ‘modern humans’ (I’m using quotes because there is a bit of disagreement on what a ‘modern human’ really is) have only existed for the last little while. Compared to the time of the Earth or Universe.
The earlier beings – creatures may (or may not) be what became humans (in the evolutionary sense), but ‘Lucy’ the marvelous and important discovery of an early, two legged critter for example is-was not a human being. Nor has anyone ever claimed she was. She was an ape or monkey-like creature who walked upright on two legs. This is well shown by the structure of her legs, especially her hips and knees. There are other examples of what scientists call ‘pre-humans’ or ‘proto-humans’. These are also referred to collectively as ‘hominids’, but the definition of hominid also includes apes who walk upright and leads to rather heated discussions.
If Darwinian evolution is true, there had to be a time – event/episode/occurrence – where this line of creatures stopped being ‘pre-human’ and became ‘human’. Even if several generations or several hundred generations of ‘half-humans’ or ‘semi-humans’ existed, at some point they have to become ‘humans’. When the ‘pre-humans’ became human is where Adam and Eve appear.
(However, ‘human civilization’ is not as old. There are towns and building sites being excavated showing human activity in organized building campaigns some 7,000 years B. C. The Mesopotamian Valley civilizations of Akkad and Sumer date from the middle Third Millennium B. C. Egypt is close on that, claiming a beginning around 3050 B. C.)
So, it that a literal or allegorical happenstance? I do not know. Certainly God ‘literally’ created mankind (from nothing, God caused humanity – no matter how long He took in doing it). Certainly mankind was ‘literally’ on a personal basis with God at one time; that relationship was damaged when man ignored God’s authority. Literally or allegorically, it works out the same. Frankly, I feel the lessons of 1) Who is God?, 2) Who is man? and 3) What’s the problem between them? is far more important than details of how the first man became the first man or how long it took.
“Some Christian’s believe that if you do not interpret scripture in a literal way you are dammed? Why?”
In short, no; I don’t see it that way. Salvation is based on a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, not a formula of doctrine or tenets to memorize and repeat on demand. In my own case, it may be more correct to say what some folks take to be literal isn’t really literal. Like the six days of Creation, for example.
Darwin’s theory came hard on the heels of other scientific discoveries in geology and physics casting doubt on the accepted timeline of Bishop Ussher; the world created in 4004 BC and all that. This was just some 200 – 300 years after the Aristotle flat Earth centered universe was overturned. All this change in the world!
Now, for all the ‘literal Bible readers’; you need to know the Roman Catholic Church demanded believers to accept the Aristotle model of a flat Earth centered universe based on the literal wording of the Bible. (Isaiah 40:22 [It is] he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof [are] as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.) The Sun ‘standing still’ in the times of Joshua and Hezekiah absolutely prove the Sun revolves around the Earth. This brings up an interesting question: Why did the Church accept the meditations of Aristotle, a pagan Greek, as the definitive nature of the universe? Another question, I suppose…
By the way, the reason the flat Earth centered universe model was discarded was Christianity – in the form of ‘organized religions’ – had its head held down and its nose rubbed in it – ‘it’ being reality – to the point where ‘it’ could no longer be ignored.
At any rate, once the ‘science’ cat was out of the bag, both sides took rigid positions.
The following is just my conjecture, but I think the anti-deist philosophers of the ‘Enlightenment’ were searching for any excuse to discredit God, gods, religion, superstition; all of a kind to them. So they jumped on the “Hah! This proves the Bible is false!” argument. In point of fact, nothing about Darwinian evolution removes an unseen God from the picture. But evolution can be used in such an argument.
Not to be over run, the fundamentalist-hardliner-Bible Thumpers saw the potential of the evidence and took an immediate and opposite position: “It’s all a fraud!” Spurred on by various actual frauds (Piltdown Man being a great example) and some mistakes (ranging from honest to negligent) the YEC faction claimed all of Darwinian evolution to be a fraud perpetrated by Satan to discredit the Scriptures. I wish to note the Piltdown Man and all the other exposed frauds and mistakes were corrected by other scientists; not by YEC proponents.
I note both sides of the argument rely on a very tight and literal reading of the Bible for their disagreement. I also note both sides are still alive and well. I am also rather saddened by that.
Historical Reliability of the Bible
Pretty much everyone agrees, if one does not believe the Bible, one is not a Christian. (There are those who claim being a “Christian” is just a matter of giving alms to the poor, being polite to others and an elaborate set of rules regarding recycling plastic and giving equal opportunity to minorities and the sexual deviant. Side issue not discussed this time.) Then, what must I believe of the Bible? This was put in the form of a question to me as “Where do you draw the line on what constitutes a “correct” interpretation? Do you rely on church elders or denominational councils or the Holy Spirit?”
I’m rather conventional in the main. I think the Bible is pretty obvious in the more important concepts; like the nature of man and salvation. I pay a lot of attention to ‘church elders’ and ‘denominational councils’ in the generic meaning of both those phrases. ‘Accepted Doctrine’ is accepted because it’s been pored over and argued and discussed and fought for a good long time now. However, it was ‘church elders’ and ‘denominational councils’ that gave us and then kept us on a flat Earth. So I do a bit of study and meditation and rely on the Holy Spirit to keep me honest. One of my constant prayers is that I don’t get too far out on a limb due to my own ego. More than that, I regularly pray for God to make any mistakes I make very plain to me. (I wonder how many Creationists do that. Not about me, about themselves. I’ve had one or two tell me they’re praying God will convict me of error.)
Why am I not a Young Earth Creationist?
The simplest reason is, the YEC stance is not Biblical. In order to ‘understand’ the Genesis account teaches YEC, one must ignore – gloss over – what the Bible says.
I received an email a couple years ago listing several reasons the writer was a YEC believer. I’ve long ago discarded the email and sadly, I find it would be handy to have right now. I dug around on the internet and found ‘Eight Reasons I am a YEC’. It’s not the same as the older email, but it will have to do. This is from the Sully Community Church in Sully, Iowa.
I’m not going to deal with all eight reasons, only the ones dealing with the Bible; specifically the text in Genesis. So…
1) The plain reading of Scripture points in this direction. The Hebrew word for day [Yom] as used in the OT when connected with a number such as 1st or 2nd is always used to refer to a literal 24 hour period. Not only does the text refer to day 1 and day 2, etc. but it further describes the passing of the day with both ‘evening and morning’. In Exodus 20:11 Moses bases the Sabbath day off of the fact that the creation of the world took place in 6 days followed by the 7th day of rest. Clearly the burden of proof is upon those wishing to allegorize the meaning of the word ‘day’.
The word translated as ‘day’ is indeed yom in Hebrew. It also mean ‘era’ or ‘unspecified period of time all pertaining to a single theme’ – like ‘David’s day’ or ‘… the coming day of the Lord’. Using an ordinal number is claimed to restrict this, but the text does not so read. Pay special attention to the ‘evening and morning’ clause. Without question the Jews accepted the reading as meaning regular calendar days. That is beyond question.
Here’s the problem: The words ‘evening’ and ‘morning’.
Evening is ereb. It means ‘evening’, ‘sunset’ or ‘night’.
Morning is boqer. It means ‘morning’, ‘end of night’, ‘of coming of daylight’, ‘coming of sunrise’, or ‘beginning of day’.
Any surprises? No? Seriously, this is exactly what one would expect, is it not? Evening is when the Sun goes down and morning is when the Sun comes up. So it is for every day outlined in Genesis One.
Except the Sun doesn’t exist for days One, Two or Three. The Sun is listed as being created on the Fourth day. There can be twenty-four hour periods, but without a Sun, there is no sunrise; no ‘morning’. Nor is there a sunset or evening. That just cannot happen. One can start a work day without a sunrise, but the whole concept of ‘morning’ and ‘evening’ is predicated on the positional relationship between the Earth and the Sun.
Therefore: The Bible in the Genesis account does NOT literally say what YEC proponents claim.
2) The literal 6 day view and young earth position has been the commonly held view of the historic church.
Yes, it has. It is also the commonly held view of Orthodox Judaism. So what? See the previous section regarding the Flat Earth being the Center of the Universe.
3) The facts of science are usually not ‘facts’ but interpretations of data by flawed men often biased by philosophical assumptions.
I’ve truncated this entry; the original cites a couple quotes in support. Essentially, this is the ‘evil scientist conspiracy’ theory and just isn’t a serious argument. Bias? As in denying anything not supportive of one’s pet theory?
4) The philosophical assumption of uniformitarianism cannot be proved.
Uniformitarianism is the scientific assumption that all the laws of physics remain constant – i.e. the speed of light, the rate of decay, deterioration, etc. However, the natural sciences are unable to be consistent with this overriding principle as the laws of physics in their own framework are said to break down at the point of singularity or beginning. [Collins, The Language of God, p. 65] i.e. no matter which view one adopts of origins you have to accept that the known laws of physics cannot explain all existing phenomena we see today. Uniformitarian principles are unable to take us from here back to creation.
‘The philosophical assumption of uniformitarianism cannot be proved.’ In other words, the laws of nature established by God when He created the Universe are not reliable. That is what the writer is claiming.
I personally think God’s design and physical laws are reliable.
‘…the laws of physics in their own framework are said to break down at the point of singularity or beginning.’ That is correct; there are circumstances in which physicists cannot get ‘reasonable’ answers from the known mathematics dealing with the conditions. Scientists admit this. They can only calculate functions back until 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds AFTER the beginning of the expansion called the Big Bang. Before that, it’s all mystery, and every Cosmologist admits it. Many don’t think there is a way to look past the origin point. Those who do have some tightly stretched models.
Okay, I’m being a bit flippant. This argument is based on a serious lack of information regarding scientific inquiry. Theirs, not mine. The philosophical assumption that all philosophical assumptions must be proved prior to proceeding cannot be proved.
‘…you have to accept that the known laws of physics cannot explain all existing phenomena we see today.’ Nor is there any claim the current knowledge of physics does explain all existing phenomena we see today. Nor is there any reason to believe once physics does explain all existing phenomena, more phenomena will be found to explain. In fact, that’s already happened a couple times. This claim does not invalidate what science – physics has determined and explained. For instance, there have been new discoveries regarding the flow of electrons; light bulbs and television sets still work. The problem with the argument is the Bible doesn’t explain existing phenomena either.
5) Creation was a miracle and a miracle by definition defies naturalistic explanation and the laws of physics… Adam and Eve were not created as babies one day old – but rather as mature adults.
This is pretty much what most Cosmologists say about the origin of the Universe. Current physics cannot explain – and freely admit it – the ‘cause’ of the Big Bang, nor can current physics explain what happened ‘before’ the Bang – and freely admit that as well. Without doubt, scientists don’t use the word ‘miracle’ so much but nearly all of them will stipulate the Universe and Earth does exist.
What the argument does not do is to offer an explanation of anything other than ‘God did it’. Frankly, that speaks to the reason for the event – to glorify God – rather than explain the mechanics of how it occurred.
In fact, my opinion is that sums up the problem: Science works on the mechanics – the ‘how’ – and sometimes sees that as ‘the why’, while religion deals with the ‘why’ and typically claims that as the ‘how’.
Allow me a parable: Jones is found dead. Police investigate, and over the course a day or two get three statements of Jones’ death.
The medical examiner says “Jones is dead because a bullet entered his head.”
A witness, Zanderfelt, says, “Jones is dead because Smith shot Jones.”
Another witness, Yoder, says, “Jones is dead because Jones was having an affair with Smith’s wife.”
Which statement is correct?
(Who does NOT see all three statements are true and interlink?)
‘Adam and Eve were not created as babies one day old – but rather as mature adults.’ The Bible does not say this. It is generally assumed, and this is the ‘traditional’ view; I find traditional views to be valuable, but subject to exploration. Since I’m not inextricably bound to a ‘literal’ – in the ‘literal’ of the YEC proponents – reading of the rest of the Genesis account, I’m not tied to this being a ‘literal’ statement but an allegory of the unity of man and woman.
6) Scientific experiments that point to a relatively young age of the earth.
Not going to waste time on this. Every time I’ve been shown ‘scientific proof’ of YEC, it’s all nonsense. It’s a variation of the ‘evil scientist conspiracy’ argument.
7) To give up the literal reading of Genesis and adopt the evolutionary hypothesis of deep time involving the death of animals over billions of years before sin entered the world presents a picture of the creation that does not seem to fit the assessment that all was very good before the Fall of man into sin.
The ‘other’ listing of reasons to believe in YEC phrased this argument as “Death did not enter the world until Adam sinned, so nothing died prior to that time.”
Addressing the current argument, the only – and correct – answer is “Hogwash!”
Why doesn’t death fit into ‘… was very good’? Because current humanity is afraid of death? This is simply a case of man attempting to dictate what God ‘likes’. For those who haven’t noticed, death is a part of creation and always has been. For those who haven’t noticed the other blindingly obvious fact is Christians have no reason to fear death. I’m a Christian, I’m not afraid of dying. (I have reservations about how I may die, but not being done with Earth and this life.)
The ‘Death did not enter the world until Adam sinned…’ claim fails to track. God told Adam (Genesis 2:18) “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
There is no record of Adam saying, “Die? What’s that, Lord?” No. From the text, Adam understood what God meant. That understanding indicates a familiarity with the concept prior to that moment.
Then in Chapter three, when Eve eats the fruit and then Adam eats, they do not fall dead. Nor does God execute them on the spot when He catches up to them. But back in chapter two, v. 17, God said Adam would die ‘…in the day that [he] eatest…’ he would die. Need I point out in the YEC lexicon, that meant a twenty-four hour period? But Adam went on to have several children and died at the age of – according to Genesis 5:5 – 930 years. Neither Adam nor Eve physically died the same day as he ate the fruit.
Later, in the New Testament, 1st Corinthians 15:21-22 one reads, “For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Yet all those who have believed in Jesus as Savior die anyway. My parents, for example.
So, the Bible in Genesis 2:18 is not talking about physical death. It is talking about spiritual death. Nothing to do with animals or plants.
If death did not exist prior to Adam’s sin, why a Tree of Life?
Genesis 3:22-23 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
There is no need for a ‘Tree of Life’ in a world without death.
8 ) The creation event is not repeatable, nor was it observed by any human being. Empirical science should humbly recognize its limitations particularly in light of the regular fluctuations that occur within scientific theory. In science, today’s ‘fact’ quite often becomes tomorrow’s discarded theory. Collins points out: ‘At the beginning of the twentieth century, most scientists assumed a universe with no beginning and no end.’
That is true. It is also true ‘scientists’ determined the Universe had a beginning and an end, and reasons to show why it is so. It is also true a faction of scientists objected to the Big Bang theory as it was far too close to the Biblical account for their taste.
It is equally true none of the YEC proponents witnessed the event(s) either. The unspoken conclusion of the YEC which says “… so it had to be my way” is not true.
One of the final arguments of the YEC people is “Do you believe could create the Universe in six twenty-four hour periods back to back?”
Of course I do. God is limited in very few matters*. Then the YEC proponent ALWAYS says, “Well, that proves it!” No. It doesn’t.
Allow me a question: Do you (presuming you are a believer, non-believers are exempt) believe God was unable to, prevented from, or for any reason at all couldn’t create the world in the fashion described by the Big Bang theory, including creating life from inanimate chemicals and then developing life along the lines of Darwinian evolution? Yes or no?
When I asked this question the first time, one would think I had burnt a child in sacrifice to Moloch. (I had not, just for the record.)
In order to fully be a YEC supporter, one must believe God is limited in His time. Or that He works on a deadline. Possibly that He is very unimaginative. All YEC supporters deny this, of course. These characteristics are all contrary to the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent Living and Eternal Creator God. No basically educated New Testament Christian would believe such a thing.
However, the Creation of the world in six days implies a certain haste in the matter. Why not Create the whole shebang in six hours? Is that not possible for God? Six minutes? Six seconds? Just like the Second Coming, everything in God’s Universe happens when God gets good and ready for it to happen. God can surely take nearly fifteen billion years to get the Universe and us to the current state. It’s not like He’s going to run out of time.
The most important concept for any human – believer or non-believer – in the Creation is not the time or method employed for the Creation. The most important concept is the Creator. There is a God, He did Create all that was created, and He’s still running the show.
There’s one more argument attributed to YEC proponents. It is so absurd in some forms I suspect it may be an urban legend. This is the “God created it just like that” argument.
The oldest version of it I’ve heard is that God created all the fossil record in the ground at various levels to ‘confound the unbelievers’. NOTE: I cannot find – on line – any record of the original event. I cannot find any notation of who it might have been or when. I really hope it’s a falsely attributed argument.
However, I have heard (read) directly from YEC people the claim about God creating the Universe with starlight ‘in place’ at the time of creation. That’s why we can see stars that are 10,000 light years away when the Universe is only 6,000 years old. If true, that means God is planting false evidence. Anyone who proposes that argument is slandering God’s character. End of that discussion.
Here’s one more thing that bothers me about the discussion. Why does the age of the Universe change the reality of God? I’ve read several Creationism articles making a statement to the effect of ‘if the Earth is over 6,000 years old, then God doesn’t exist.” That is nuts. Just silly to even say. How is it that an Omnipotent God runs out of horsepower at 6,000 or 10,000 or [you pick] years or so? Why does Eternity stop at some given point? God is Eternal; but only for 6,000 years.
Does anyone – YEC proponents included – see a problem with that line of thought?
I will end this now. I welcome and even invite comments, questions and discussion. However, don’t bother with nonsense accusing me of being an agent of Satan. I will not allow that sort of slander to be printed. I don’t need anyone to send me cut and paste quotations from the Bible. Trust me, I know the Bible pretty well. Using citations from Scripture interspersed in a discussion to underline your point is just dandy; just don’t bother sending me the first three chapters of Genesis. If you are a King James Version only (KJVO) sort, don’t mention it. If you only use KJV in your discussion, that’s fine; but I won’t tolerate the myopic view of KJVO telling me I’m wrong because I use another translation. One last restriction, accusing all scientists as being a pro-Satan conspiracy will not be published. Specific instances may be used with some form of rationale.
* God is limited; there are things God cannot do. The things God cannot do come in two basic divisions; logical contradictions and His character attributes.
God cannot make an eight sided triangle as a two dimensional construct. Triangles are three sided; not eight. One can form that grouping of words as I just did, but it’s meaningless. So is ‘a rock so big it cannot be moved’. It sounds profound to a high school sophomore, but it is nonsense.
God cannot lie. God cannot cheat. God cannot fail. God cannot go back on His word. God cannot see a forgiven sin. Some might see this as a ‘lack’. It is one of the best bits of news for humanity, ever.