How Old is the Earth?

by Sean Perron

by Sean Perron

Seven Reasons for Seven Days – audio.mp3

There are many Christians who believe God created the world over billions of years. I submit that this is uncritically assumed. Some people view this issue as unimportant. Others view this as the issue to break fellowship over. How should we view this issue? Is it essential or is it a waste of time?

Whether you are going to the movies or whether you are going to school, the issue is bound to surface. The topic of the age of the earth can surface on Fox News or the Discovery channel. It would be odd if Christians never talked about an issue so common in our culture. Christians are not to be ostriches. We are not to drive our heads in the sand. Rather, we are called to think critically and winsomely. We want to be people who bleed Bible and have all of our thinking informed by the Scripture. We want to view life through the lens of the Bible and then proclaim it to the world in a bold and winsome manner.

Seven Reasons for Seven Days:

You can have convictions about secondary issues and still love other brothers and sisters who disagree with you. It is possible to extend fellowship while also discussing controversial matters. Without further ado, here are seven reasons why I believe the days in Genesis are seven literal twenty four hour days.

1. I take the book of Genesis as historical narrative

This all comes down to what type of Genre you are reading. Genesis is different than Psalms. After reading through the book of Genesis, it seems to me that the author is intending to convey a real historical account of real people who lived and died. The book has the markings of historical narrative. Genealogies abound along with specific names and ages of people. It seems out of place to narrow in on the first few chapters and treat them in a different category than the rest of the book. It is true that God creates the world in an orderly and beautiful manner, but it is illogical to think this necessitates inaccuracy. Beauty and order should not be equated with historical inaccuracy. Neither should it be automatically translated into allegory or mere imagery. God can create both in a historical and factual way while also maintaining beauty and symmetry.

2. I am not persuaded by other interpretations of the word “yom” (day)

The number one meaning of the word day is a literally 24 hour day. Only context should cause us to rethink the meaning of a word.

It is true that the word day can mean many different things. “In that day” – meaning a designated time in the future. “Back in the day” – meaning an undesignated time in the past.

The question for interpreters must be, how is the word day being used in a particular context? I have been helped by several articles from Answers in Genesis. Here is a survey of the different uses of the word day:

  • Yom is used 3,000 times in the Old Testament.
  • Yom is used 359 times with a number (1,2,3,4,5,6…) In all of these instances, it refers to a literal day when used with a number.
  • Yom is used 23 times with the phrase “evening and morning.” In all of these instances, it refers to a literal day when used with these phrases.
  • Yom is used 53 times with the word “night” In all of these instances, it refers to a literal day when used with this word.
  • The plural of yom, which does not appear in Genesis 1, can be used to communicate a longer time period, such as “in those days.”
  • There are 9 other Hebrew words that could communicate long periods of time such as “Olam” or “Qedem”
  • What about the fact that the sun is not created until day four? This question does not affect the exegetical nature of the text. The text is still communicating the same reality about “Yom” before day four and after day four.

3. The Torah confirms literal days in the 10 commandments.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 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. (Exodus 20:8-11, ESV)

It seems that the author of Genesis believed that the days in Genesis should be interpreted as literal days. The fourth commandment would not make sense if the days were actually millions of years. To import millions of years grates against the natural reading of the text. “For” = “just as.”

You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord.Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed. And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:14-18, ESV)

The question must be addressed: Why do people struggle so much with Genesis 1? I am not aware of anyone questioning the days Jonah was in the whale or how many days Jesus was in the wilderness. No one is questioning the days Saul ran from David. And yet there is more biblical evidence to show that the days in Genesis 1 are more literal than nearly any other days in the Bible. Why question Genesis 1?

 4. It seems the New Testament assumes a young earth

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’  ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:2-9, ESV)

Jesus says that man and women were created from the beginning. This statement fits best with a young earth account rather than a long day account of creation. Now certainly it could be assumed that Jesus is accounting for 13 billion years when he makes this statement, but again, this appears to assume a lot more than the text gives. No matter how you dice it, six days is closer to the beginning than 6 billion years.

5. I am not persuaded there are enough gaps in the Biblical genealogies

Even if you had massive gaps in the biblical genealogies, it would not equal enough years to make the evolutionary time scale work. It would not be in the millions. It would be in the thousands.

6. It is the most natural reading of the text

You would never believe in millions of years if you only read the Bible. It is completely true that everyone who reads Genesis for the first time is a young earth creationist. The only reason we are having this discussion is because of Darwinism. Why would you need millions of years otherwise?

The goal of a Christian is to think through the lens of the Bible. The goal is not to unwittingly think through an evolutionary lens. I submit that most Christians assume that this issue is not important and have adapted a foreign worldview into their reading of the first chapter of the Bible.

The question we should be asking is why did God take so long? I remember Ken Ham quoting Martin Luther on one occasion. Luther aptly said, “If you cannot understand how this could not have been done [creation] in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned that you are… God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His Word in the direction you wish it to go.”

7. Death could not have existed before the fall

This is the central issue.

“The secrets of evolution are time and death.” -Carl Sagan (Cosmos, part 2: One voice in the cosmic fugue)

If you remove death, you remove evolution. The struggle for survival and the need to adapt is at the heart of the evolutionary process. To say that God created through evolution is to say that God used death, disease and destruction in the creation process.

The Fossil Record shows: Death, Disease (Cancerous Tumors) and Destruction (Violence and Thorns)

The fossil record reveals death, cancer, tumors, thorns and bloodshed. These are all fossils that are reportedly millions of years old and existed before man sinned. This is contrary to the Genesis account. Thorns are a result of Adam and did not come into the world before him. How could God permit death, disease and destruction into the world when Romans 5:12 says death came through Adam? How could God have used these death and disease to create when he calls all of his creative works “very good” in Genesis 1:25? What you believe about Genesis 1 affects what you believe about Romans 5. If you compromise in one area (intentionally or unintentionally), you might just be compromising in another.

Practical Applications:

1. You need to major on important doctrine without neglecting “smaller” doctrines.

You should welcome and extend the hand of fellowship to those who disagree with you, but you need to have a firm position about things in life. “Young Earth” creationists get slammed for being narrow minded and majoring on the minors. However, I don’t think they should get slammed for this. Rather, the thrust here is to defend the Bible from the very first verse of Genesis. I think it is a big deal. Not because I want to make it my campaign in life to trumpet literal 24 hours days, but because I want to think critically about the Bible. Christians cannot say a rock with thorns in it existed before Adam. We need to think critically and theologically. If I accept that that rock is millions of years old, I am accepting death existed before Adam existed. This has significant implications.

2. We should trust the Word of God from the very first verse. (Proverbs 30:5-6)

The application is not for us to run out of here and interrogate everyone at our church to find out if they believe that God created the world in six literal days. The application is for us to ground ourselves in the Bible and to trust it with all of our might. I want us to be people to think through the lens of the Bible. I don’t want us to unwittingly think through an evolutionary lens.

 

 

 

Small Group Questions:

1. Did you learn anything tonight that you did not know before?

2. Are you afraid to take a stand on the Bible? Why or why not?

3. Brainstorm. What are some “primary” doctrinal issues that are non-negotiable? What are some “secondary” doctrinal issues that are important but you can still fellowship with each other?

4. Do you ever focus on learning theological issues while neglecting personal spiritual growth? Why or why not? Discuss the relationship between learning about the Bible and growing in love for others.

 

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One thought on “How Old is the Earth?

  1. Excellent post. One additional argument I use when it comes to interpreting the term “yom” is that although in some contexts it is used to communicate a period longer than a day it is never used to the extent of describing millions or billions of years. To impose an understanding of millions or billions of years on “yom” is definitely eisigesis, not exegesis.

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