The Age of the Earth

Like most people raised in fundamentalists Christian settings, I was brought up to believe very clearly that the earth was created in six days and is 6,000 years old, give or take a decade. Considering that all my mentors believed this way, it seemed that there was no other option for me, other than being an atheist. Seeing that I was a Christian, I didn’t particularly like the atheist option, so I stuck with the six days. After reading others that differed with the standard view, I came to see there was quite an array of thought on the age of the earth and how many actual days the creation story of Genesis gives an account of. While I have no desire for atheism, shout out to Ray Comfort for helping me on that, the young earth, six day creation story wasn’t as appealing to me as it once seemed. I was bothered that there were a lot of things in the world that seemed older than 6,000 years. Once I heard the belief expressed that the earth is very old and God’s ordering could be young, things started to make sense. When you look at Genesis 1:1-3, there is a gap of time that seemingly exists. Here is what I couldn’t let go: How long was there between Genesis 1:2 and 1:3? The Scripture doesn’t say. It says there was God, a formless earth and then God speaks. How long between the hovering and the speaking? The text isn’t clear, but its possible it could have been millions of years. Knowing that there were quite a few respected pastors and theologians, both currently and historically, I found this belief in an old earth and young ordering of days rather satisfying, much more than my mentors seemed to.

But as I said at first, this is an article about things I’ve changed my mind over and in this particular case, its something I changed my mind on once and eventually went back to my old fundamentalists roots. I no longer hold to an old earth, young ordering view. It now seems clear to me that the Scriptures would have us understand the way and time in which God created the earth was in six literal days and it happened roughly 6,000 years ago, give or take a millennia. Here is why.

1. I hold that every story in the Scripture that is written as a narrative event is a literal event, particularly the book of Genesis. For me to say that I shouldn’t take Genesis chapter 1 as literal and then take the story of Noah or the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus literally I found to be highly inconsistent. Both are written collectively and presented as events that happened in space and time that could be recored and calculated. Why shouldn’t I see Genesis 1-2 as the same?

2. God operates in space and time. No matter how unclear the time might be, there is in fact time involved in God’s creating. If it took a million years, that is an amount of time that could be determined by us for how long God acted in creating. The Scriptures speak of God acting in a creating way and there doesn’t seem to be a hint of it taking millions upon millions of years.

3. When the Bible does speak of time, it does so in distinct ways. Long period of times are generally used figuratively such as, “a day is like a thousand years,” or “to a thousand generations.” We never speak of God’s acting in time in actual events with the language of thousands and millions of years. This is reserved for speaking of eternity and God’s plans for all of history, not events that occurred in time. Yes, God will keep covenant in time and it might actually be a thousand generations, but time in prophecy and poetry aren’t to be taken the same way as time in history. Do you interpret a husband’s “unending love for his bride” the same way as “the contract will be held in perpetuity?” Neither do I, therefore “on the first day” and “a day is like a thousand years” aren’t the same thing.

4. Remember also the clear words from Exodus 20:11: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” This is a clear statement of actual time. Six days is used here for the time of creation in the same way and vein that it’s used to say the Hebrews had six days to gather the grain.

5. An argument from those who don’t hold to a young earth: “Genesis 2 is more poetic and doesn’t give the same reading as Genesis 1 as regarding time.” To which I say, “So?” Poetry can take actual events and speak of them poetically. Seems like something a poet would do.

6. Lastly and highly important: It allows the combination of two stories that are different and aren’t heading towards the same end goal. The Christian story is one of a Creator who makes, shapes forms and is deeply involved in the formation of his world. I want Him near, not to be at a distance and my previous thoughts had God doing work at a distance and somewhat inactively. The story actually had a beginning and the Book tells us when and how. God has existed for all eternity. He planned to write this story in eternity past and one day He began to write it down. I used to believe He began writing, took a break for a few million years to get the story fleshed out and then came back. He did in fact rest, but on the seventh day, an actual day that was 6,000 thousand years ago, give or take a millennia.