AGE OF THE EARTH
One of the principal provocations for Christians to attempt to combine the theories of Creation and Evolution into a single belief is the purported age of planet Earth. Contemporary scientists claim the Earth’s age as ~4½ billion years. This estimate is obtained only via an inferred argument from determination of the age of the solar system from the population of aluminum radionuclides in meteorites.1
Is it possible to retain a belief in both the Biblical account of Creation and an “Old” Earth? Here we consider a variety of “Old Earth” theories within the framework of theistic evolution (Theistic evolution, broadly speaking, purports God ‘created’ the Earth through evolution, therefore incorporating both the Bible account of the existence of the Creator alongside contemporary evolutionary theory of the Earth’s existence.) Since these evolutionary theories are supposed to meld with the scriptural record, which doesn’t obviously report such long time scales, we identify potential points in the Bible where these ‘missing’ billions of years could lie. We choose four Biblical ‘Events’ defining key moments of human history, and postulate billions of years existing before or after each of them (Figure 1). The four events are labeled with “E” prefixes: E1: God creates light, E2: God creates Adam, E3: The ‘Fall of Man’: Adam sins by taking the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, E4: Adam’s expulsion from the garden of Eden with a sentence of mortality, E5: Today. We thus identify five possible periods in which these billions of years might reside, we label these theories with the “t” prefixes (Figure 1).
Figure 1: The spaces for 5 potential theories"t#,"between Biblical events"E#,"in which billions of years are postulated to have elapsed.
“Extended Human History” Theory
This theory places billions of years between Adam and the current day (Figure 1: t5): before Christ since history thereafter is well documented. The theory is seldom invoked, failing on both scriptural and secular analysis; we include analysis here for completeness. Yet even human history before Christ is too complete to insert billions of years. Independent dating of societies and events in the Biblical text, e.g. the time of the Babylonian Empire,2 suggest a range of thousands of years.
Figure 2: Babylonian coins dated to the 4th century BC, and a Babylonian tablet dated to 1800 BC.
The Bible also contradicts the notion of billions of years since Adam left the garden. The theory suggests that the vast majority of God’s plan with mankind is not included within the Bible. The Bible describes God as a loving Father who is constantly attentive to the needs of His children and does not permit human needs to go unanswered over incompatibly long periods of time:
During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (Exodus 2:23-25)
“Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:20)
These comments are invalidated within a model where God leaves mankind without the Messiah they so badly need for literally billions of years.
Science also rejects the claim that the human race has existed for that long. Evolutionists claim the existence of homo sapiens is limited to the last 0.5 million years,3 and other varieties of the human species for up to 7 million years.4 (In both cases estimates have varied widely over the last few decades, and doubtless will continue to do so.) It is also beyond scientific reason that the expansion of the human population and their consumption of the natural resources of the Earth could have continued for billions of years without the planet being totally exhausted and desecrated.
“Extended ‘Post-Fall’ Eden” Theory
Figure 3: 'Tree of Life,' 1999, Barnett
This theory places billions of years between the Fall and the Expulsion from Eden (Figure 1: t4). Again this is seldom advanced and we consider it merely to ensure every potential avenue for theistic evolution is tested. The scriptural language seems to describe the expulsion from Eden on the same day as the sin itself (Genesis 3:6-18), but the text is not conclusive. What is conclusive is the reason God dismissed Adam and Eve from Eden was so that they would no longer be able to partake of the tree of life:
And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)
Thus the expulsion must have occurred before Adam or Eve had the possibility to do this, certainly precluding the elapse of many years.
“Extended ‘Pre-Fall’ Eden” Theory
This theory places billions of years in Eden before the Fall (Figure 1: t3). This requires that Adam’s total lifespan of 930 years (Genesis 5:5) excludes his time in Eden, which is quite possible. It also requires that during his time in Eden he did not age by reason of his constant sustenance from God. But unfortunately this theory fails wholly on scriptural grounds by contradicting the Biblical description of the nature of man. The Bible says:
…every inclination of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5)
By contrast proponents of this theory are required to believe that Adam, a man with the human nature described above, was wholly obedient to God in Eden for billions of years before he finally stumbled and fell. This belief is wholly inconsistent with the message of scripture concerning the nature of man: that man frequently, even perpetually, indulges his selfish desires.
“Long Days” Theory
This theory suggests the creation period, described as six days in the Bible, was actually protracted over billions of years (Figure 1: t2): a relatively common belief amongst theistic evolutionists. In support of this theory is often proffered the verse:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8)
The theory that God’s six part creation took billions of years stumbles on Biblical grounds, and collapses on scientific grounds. On Biblical grounds it requires the ‘six days’ to be taken symbolically. It is highly advisable to have a sure scriptural precedent for establishing a symbol in scripture, (e.g. the symbolic representation of the body and blood of Christ’s sacrifice with bread and wine has clear Biblical footing: compare John 6:48-56 with Matthew 26:26-29), which the claimed symbology of “1 day of creation = 1000 years” lacks. Peter’s comment concerns reassurance to those who believe Christ’s coming is delayed overlong, which has nothing to do with the creation sequence per se. Furthermore even if the quote is employed (a highly dubious application of Peter’s words) it is still completely inadequate to satisfy contemporary scientific opinion of billions of years.
On scientific grounds this theory collapses entirely. Expanding the six portion sequence of creation over billions of years creates a scientifically impossible situation: an interdependent eco-system is required to exist for billions of years in an incomplete form. For example: plants (Day 3), many of which require animals to pollinate and fertilize them, are required to exist for billions of years until the co-dependent animal life (Day 6) comes into existence. The theistic evolutionist may argue that it is within the abilities of an omnipotent God to sustain this state of affairs, (which is obviously allowable since an Omnipotent God can do anything). But let us not forget the theory of theistic evolution is proposed entirely for the purpose of offering a more scientifically palatable version of the Biblical creation. Thus the proposal of the six periods of creation extending over billions of years each is wholly self-defeating since the result is scientifically nonsensical. [Interestingly the notion that an omnipotent God created an interdependent ecosystem in six actual days; where the partially complete ecosystem only existed for days, and would therefore not collapse, is within scientific reason. It should not be considered coincidental that this explanation is harmonious with the naturally undistorted reading of Genesis 1.]
“Gap” Theory places the billions of years between the Creation of Earth (Genesis 1:1) and the Creation of Life on Earth (Genesis 1:3) (Figure 1: t1).
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)
Figure 5: Biological trace fossils, claimed to be 1,250,000,000 years old (Mesoproterozoic era), Van Horn, Texas, USA.
This is another relatively common proposal amongst theistic evolutionists. It suggests God created a dark and formless planet and then waited billions of years, for reasons unknown and unspecified, before beginning to develop that planet into a living ecosystem. This thinking seems unlikely at best, but is not immediately impossible.
What is fatal to this theory, however, is that it only permits the rocks to be “very old,” but not any fossilized remains of plant or animal life within the rocks. It is important to realize why this would be. The reading of Genesis 1:1-3 which postulates Gap Theory still insists that the billions of years elapsed before any component of the creation (and thus any plant life) was created by God The plants and animals would still be created after billions of years in total darkness, (before the creation of light), where nothing can grow. Modern science, which the theistic evolutionist claims is true along with his Bible, rejects this, claiming fossils of comparable age to the oldest rocks, i.e. over 1 billion years old (Figure 5).5 Thus “Gap” Theory also collapses.
“Days of Declaration” Theory
We have exhausted the theories that attempt to fit billions of years somewhere within the Biblical record. Nevertheless a couple more theories require our attention. One is the “Days of Declaration” Theory (sometimes referred to using the more portentous nomenclature “Days of Divine Fiat”6). This theory reads the Genesis account as almost entirely parenthetical, thereby allowing all evolutionary requirements to reign unhindered. Scientific rejection of this theory is (initially) non-existent, since the theory panders entirely to the scientific proposals of the day, whatever they may be.
Scripturally, however, this theory founders. The notion is that God uttered his intention to create the respective components of creation on each of the six real, 24 hour days, but the concrete reality was not effected on that day. (An alternative is similar, that the six consecutive days are when God described his creation to Moses.) Whilst this may sound initially plausible, consideration of scripture reveals the manifold improbabilities of this reading method. To remove the physical reality of Genesis 1 yet (supposedly) maintain belief in the veracity of the text itself is a very difficult exercise. An annotated typical example from Genesis 1:14-19 is given for the interpretation of Day 4:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” [True: God made this announcement on Day 4 of the history of the Universe, or on the fourth day of recounting to Moses.] And it was so. [This is only true on the proviso that it happened billions of years later.] God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. [Again, this did not occur on Day 4, nor in any 4th period of creation, but only through proposed evolutionary consequences of stellar matter interacting over billions of years.] God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. [Only billions of years later did God see that it was good.] And there was evening, and there was morning-the fourth day. [But this is true, and also enfolds the opening statement: God’s announcement happened on this fourth day. But everything between the announcement, which happened on Day 4 and this closing statement, reporting the end of Day 4, did not actually happen until billions of years into the future – even though it is sandwiched between the two quotes from Day 4. Again, if the “six days of Creation” are merely six consecutive days of revelation to Moses the argument is similar.]
The trend continues in this manner. Each time Genesis 1 says “God made” it is read as “It actually happened over billions of years through the statistical perturbations of evolution and is only ‘made’ by God in the sense that He wanted it to happen” and each time the verse continues “God saw that it was good” the interpretation states either that He actually didn’t see that it was good, at least not until billions of years later, or that God only saw that it was good in His imagination.
It is probably already evident that this reading of scripture places an unreasonable strain on the text. Nevertheless the weakest points of this theory still lie ahead! Days 6 and 7 confound this version of theistic evolution.
Figure 7: Proposed evolutionary epochs
“Days of Declaration” theory is based on capitulating entirely to evolution. What then of the origin of man? Did he too evolve? The “Days of Declaration” proponent is faced with a simple decision: Did Adam have two physical parents at the end of a long line of evolution? If “yes,” then the origin of man, along with many vital moral consequences, is denied and the Bible thereby rejected (For example one is required to believe either Adam’s ancestors died sinless, in which case sin is not the origin of human death, or that they sinned, in which case Adam’s sin was not precedental. Nor are these the only problems, but they are enough.) If “no,” and Adam was created by God from the dust then the entire purpose of the theory (to earn scientific credibility by adhering to evolution wherever possible) has been lost, since evolutionists advance the evolution of man as strongly as evolution of any other living matter. Either way, come Day 6, this version of theistic evolution fails outright. Indeed the Origin of Man proves fatal to any version of theistic evolution.
Yet more scriptural rejection arises from Day 7. God’s rest, on Day 7, was the precedent for instituting Sabbath law. God commanded the Israelites to rest on the seventh day after performing six days of work entirely because He created the Earth and all things therein in six days and rested on the seventh:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
Now if “Days of Declaration” Theory is true, God did not actually achieve His work in six days. A Jew is thus enabled to follow Sabbath law by merely making announcements of work he intends to do for six days, and resting (although from what it is not clear) on the seventh! Doubtless this is not the model God intended to promote.
The final nail in this theory’s coffin comes from Day 7 itself.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)
The text is explicit. By the seventh day God had finished His Creation, and rested because He was finished and the Earth created. There is no known reading of this passage, parenthetical or otherwise, that rescues “Days of Declaration” Theory here.
“Previous Creations” Theory
This is a version of “Gap” Theory. The notion is that planet Earth has been host to one or more ‘cycles’ of creation, containing biological and human constituents each time. An additional lure of this theory is the seeming provision of an explanation for scripture’s angels: they are expounded to be immortalized humans from previous ‘dispensations’ of creation. Each time creation is brought to a conclusion and then (presumably) the Universe is plunged into total darkness, for reasons unknown and unspecified, so God can start all over again with the creation of light. This version of theistic evolution fares least well under both scientific and scriptural scrutiny.
Scientifically this theory enjoys no support whatever. Whilst the theory itself is designed to support dating of ‘old’ biological matter, the scientific record strongly rejects ‘cycles of existence.’ Cyclic periods of biological life interspersed with periods of lifelessness, in repeating cycles would be one of the clearest things to observe in the fossil record. No such fossil evidence exists (Figure 7), and therefore any evolutionist peremptorily dismisses the idea. Furthermore the idea of life coming to existence, then winking out and then (seemingly spontaneously) reappearing grossly contradicts all proposed forms of contemporary evolutionary theory. “Previous Creations” Theory is spurned by the scientific record and must look to the Bible for ratification.
Unfortunately, the scriptures condemn “Previous Creations” Theory as energetically as does science. Not only is there no evidence for the theory (which will not necessarily concern the advocate, since he argues the entire period outside of the scriptural record), but there is ample evidence against it. To summarize simply: this theory destroys the work and position of Jesus Christ. Proponents of this theory (generally) advance that ‘previous’ humans are now alive and immortal as the angels. This requires one of the following to be true:
a) Previous versions of humanity did not sin and thereby attained immortality.
b) God was more tolerant to sin before and thus immortalized sinners.
c) Sinful humans escaped sin by means other than Jesus Christ.
d) These ‘previous’ humans were saved by other begotten sons of God.
e) Jesus Christ also visited these other cycles of creation and died on the cross then, too.
f) For completeness: if ‘previous’ humans did not attain immortality (which robs “Previous Creations” hopefuls of the favored prize of postulating the angels’ origin) they therefore died without hope.
Yet all of the above flatly contradict core scriptural doctrines, as detailed respectively below:
- a) Jesus is the only sinless human
- For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
- (also see Romans 3:21-25)
- b) God’s character does not change
- I the LORD do not change. (Malachi 3:6)
- c) Jesus Christ is the only means to salvation
- Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
- (also see John 10:1-7)
- d) Jesus died once only for sin
- For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Romans 6:9-10)
- e) Jesus is the only begotten Son of God
- For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
- f) God does not leave humanity without hope
- For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
Thus “Previous Creations” theory enjoys support from neither science nor scripture and is accordingly abandoned.
Figure 8: A created tree immediately has implied age.
Must we therefore reject scientific dating methods? Not necessarily, but what should be realized is that dating techniques themselves rest on the prior assumption that the subject has not undergone any catastrophic changes – of which the act of creation is the definitive chief! The Bible declares God created life in mature and not embryonic form (Genesis 2). Automatically therefore there is an implied age in all life forms created, and one which varies from creature to creature depending on how long maturity would require by natural growth. An adult mayfly, for example, may have an apparent age of only a few hours, but a human man (Adam) would exhibit the age of decades. Similarly, a fully formed tree may seem centuries old (Figure 8), whilst any fully composited rock cannot fail to exhibit an implied age of several thousand millennia. Thus the modern dating methods may be sound but, since they are extrapolative calculations, they necessarily rest on the prior assumption that the subject evolved in the first instance. Thus the act of creation itself must create a discrepancy when it is later dated by an extrapolative measure, which can account for the discrepancy between Biblical descriptions of history and modern dating calculations.
Marriage of “Old Earth” theory with the Biblical record, however desirable, cannot be achieved. We find no place to insert the requisite billions of years before or amongst Biblical events without creating a scenario that is forbidden either by science, scripture, or both. Nor do we find a tenable method by which to read Genesis 1-2 in metaphoric or parenthetical manner to enable it to describe an evolutionary sequence. We conclude it infeasible to adopt both “Old Earth” theory and the Biblical record and remain both scientifically and scripturally credible.
SOME RESPONSES YOU MAY HAVE TO THE ABOVE ARTICLE
But doesn’t modern science demonstrate that parts of the Bible are clearly untrue?
Where can I find concrete evidence that any of this Bible is true?
return1 Podosek F.A., Science 1999, 283: 1863-1864.
return2 Ellis E. S., Horne C. F., “The Story of the Greatest Nations from the Dawn of History to the Twentieth Century,” 1906, Vol 1, Niglutsch, New York.
return3 Templeton A., Nature 2002, 416: 45-51.
return4 Brunet M. et al, Nature 2002, 418: 145-151.
return5 Breyer J. A., Busbey A. B., Hanson R. E., Roy E. C., Geology 1995, 23: 269-272.
return6 Hayward A., “Creation and Evolution: Rethinking the Evidence from Science and the Bible,” 1995, Bethany House, Minneapolis, MN.