Tim, from Ohio, submitted the following:
Many people at my church and many Christians in general often argue that the creation story in Genesis is meant literally, which leads them to conclude that the Earth is about 6,000 years old. Yet science is full of evidence that makes that notion essentially impossible. One need only look at the strata of rock to see that there are many distinct layers that aren’t likely to have developed in such a short amount of time. One could point out the fact that if the Earth and Universe were made in 6 days, and that was 6,000 years ago, there is no way we could perceive light from stars millions of light years away. One could consider the fact that there are tens of thousands of creatures on Earth, and Adam could not have possibly named them all in one day. What about dinosaurs and radiometric dating? To me these things suggest the Earth must be millions or billions of years old. Am I wrong to believe such things since the Bible doesn’t explicitly say them? Am I wrong to consider the notion that much of the Bible (parts of the Old Testament) are merely illustrations to explain things we can not comprehend and/or to teach lessons? Does that idea take away from the truth of Jesus and other parts of the Bible that literally happened, such as the story of Jesus?
Here are some responses to consider:
Tim, you have raised several important issues. The question about the age of the universe is extremely divisive. And some Christians can get heated up over it pretty quickly. In general, however, I think it’s important to know that strong Bible believers who are Biblical scholars hold a range of interpretations on the the age of the universe and earth. Several resources survey these options. Here are some samples:
- J. B. Stump, ed. Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017. Chapters on young earth creationism (Ken Ham), old earth creationism (Hugh Ross), evolutionary creation (Deborah Haarsma), and intelligent design (Stephen Meyer).
- Hagopian, David G., ed. The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation. Mission Viego, CA: Crux Press, 2001. Includes the 24-hour view (by J. Ligon Duncan and David Hall), the Day-Age view (by Hugh Ross and Gleason Archer), and the Framework View (by Lee Irons and Meredith Kline).
- Moreland, J. P. and John Mark Reynolds. Three Views on Creation and Evolution. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999. Young earth creationism by Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds; Progressive Creationism by Robert Newman, and Fully Gifted Creation by Howard Van Till. Responses within each chapter are offered by Walter Bradley, John Jefferson Davis, J. P. Moreland, and Vern Poythress.
Many of the names mentioned above may not mean much to those reading this response. While we don’t endorse all of these views, the important point to note is that all of these devoted scholars take the Bible very seriously and regard it as having God-given authority. Yet, they disagree on the significant question about the age of the earth.
Some believers contend that we must accept just one interpretation on this issue–theirs!–if we are going to be truly “biblical.” But clearly, sincere Bible believers can have understandable differences on this issue. This does not mean that any position is as good as any others, but it does mean that we should be more cautious about insisting that only one interpretation on this issue is biblically allowable. If we start with this strategy, then maybe we will create an atmosphere for genuine dialogue where we can discuss the issues with mutual respect among fellow Christians and non-Christians.
Especially for the sake of those who doubt or dispute the existence of any God, it seems more important to focus initially on the who, the what, and the why, and not so much the how or the how long. It seems that biblical creationism has a very strong case to make about God being the best explanation for the origin of the universe and of life. And much of this can be done before we insist on a particular view about the age of the universe.
–Dr. Rich Knopp, Program Director, Room For Doubt; Professor of Philosophy & Christian Apologetics, Lincoln Christian University.