Feel free to read this in a movie announcer’s voice:
In a world filled with people pitting science against Scripture, one man wrestles with how old the earth is.
Ok, it would make a terrible movie, but it does make for an interesting season of study and prayer.
I like wrestling with tough ideas because I genuinely enjoy finding questions I do not know answers to. It forces me to read resources I would not otherwise open and exposes me to new areas of discipline and study that I did not know existed. When it comes to the age of the earth and similar issues, I can study my entire life but probably won’t find a 100% satisfactory answer. Why? Because there are great resources and devout believers on each side of the debate.
That is part of the reason I have not broached the subject of earth’s age in writing. Whenever an article is posted, the author is supposed to have come to a very sure, very concrete decision about where he or she stands. And while I have my belief, I am not going to evangelize it because I do not want to be more dogmatic about the issue than Scripture. I can only share with you the questions I have asked and the answers I have found. If you have more questions or different answers, feel free to let me know in the comments.
The fact of creation
There is not much in Scripture about creation, but it clearly states: "God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). I find the use of the Hebrew word bara, which means “to create from nothing” fascinating. In Scripture, God is always the subject of bara because only God can bara. That is different from another Hebrew word asah, which has the connotation of using preexisting materials to shape something. So God created out of nothing in the beginning, and then used what He had created to make other things. It is a fascinating distinction to a word nerd like myself.
A question of time
There are many Scriptures that speak to the fact God created the earth and the universe. But nothing lays out exactly how He did it. Did He use millions of years, signifying different ages by the six days? Did He literally use six, 24-hour periods? I’ll be honest and say I am not 100% sure. Much greater minds than the one in my skull have written and debated that topic and I will leave it to them to continue doing so.
For me, I can only humbly come to Scripture and say that I have to take the Word at face value. If Scripture says God created everything in six literal days, I believe He took 144 hours. But why do I choose to embrace this?
The most basic reasons is this: I believe Scripture is the special revelation of God. It is inspired and without error. It is written in the way God chose it to be written and He made the decision to convey the truth of creation in this manner. The most plain reading of the text lends itself to a literal, six days of creation.
But that does not mean this interpretation is without challenge. Some questions I still do not have answers for:
Why didn’t God just create everything in an instant? He had the power.
If God created the heavens and earth, then light, and later the stars, where did the light come from? If God did not create the sun and moon until fourth day, how were the days measured?
So in recognizing even this interpretation has questions I cannot answer, I have to look beyond this singular issue and consider the larger issue: if I am going to trust Scripture, I have to trust all of Scripture and approach it in the most consistent way possible. My consistent way is this: read it as it is written. Where there are questions, look to see what the rest of Scripture says.
In my limited understanding of this issue, I can only see where Scripture points to God creating in the time frame of six days.
Age and appearance
Whenever I have this conversation with Christian friends, especially those who hold an old-earth or theistic evolution view, a common objection arises: If the universe is young, why does it appear so old? Isn’t that God deceiving us?
For this, I always point to Adam. Scripture does not say Adam was created as a newborn or a toddler. It says after Adam awoke in creation and was able to walk, talk, and name animals. He walked with God and searched for a companion. That means he must have been created as a young adult, at the youngest.
If Adam was born in a state of maturity, why could the universe and earth not be as well? That is not deception. That is practicality.
What it’s not
The doctrine and theology of creation is important, but nowhere do I see in Scripture where it is salvific. Again, we can only be as dogmatic about a particular issue as the Bible is, and if the Bible does not make belief in a literal, six-day creation a prerequisite for a relationship with Christ, how can I?
So if you believe God used millions of years to shape the earth, cool.
If you believe God created everything in an instant, then let everything in the universe happen according to the laws of physics He designed, great.
If you believe God created the universe, planted life, and then let evolution take its course, neat.
Notice what we all agree on: God created. Because of that we can both celebrate this created world with the shared belief in the Creator God.
That’s my two cents, but as I mentioned earlier, there are many believers with different beliefs and there are lots of questions not discussed here. So what are yours? Let us know your thoughts and beliefs about creation, or how you handle different beliefs in your Christian friends in the comments below.