|The Bible, science and age of the earth
Norbert Smith, Ph.D.
Introduction. The age of the earth is perhaps the greatest point of contention between modern science and the Genesis account of creation. The secular scientific evidence for a very old earth is diverse and substantial. If one holds the view that the present processes are fixed and provide insight into the past, then an earth age of billions of years is logical and seems to be supported broadly by science with only a few minor anomalies. The evidence from growth rings of old trees, formation of limestone and petroleum deposits, mountain formation, continental drift and the fossil record to mention a few, all seem to indicate a earth history of billions of years.
In an attempt to resolve such contradictory views the Institute for Creation Research (www.ICR.org) recently published a book, Thousands…Not billions by Don DeYoung. Attempts were made to find errors and inconsistencies in the way modern science interprets the age of the earth. In a review for my website, my long time friend Dr. Stan Robertson discusses why the arguments in that book are weak and will not have a major impact on secular science. As a secular physicist he finds strong scientific evidence for an earth age measured in billions not thousands of years. Here is a link to his essay: Thousands not Billions--review
Biblical view. Bible scholars and Christians have widely divergent views on the age of the earth from a biblical perspective. In an attempt to avoid contention between science and the Bible many see the Genesis account as allegorical with few or no scientific implications. Some see the days in Genesis as major geological eras and thus find vast ages consistent with scripture. Others see Genesis 1:1 as indicating an early, but incomplete creation and possible old earth age. Many see the entire Genesis account as mere legend, lacking any actual truth in science or history.
It seems God in His Infinite wisdom, knew the historical account of Genesis would be doubted in these last days. Jesus himself and several New Testament writers referred to Moses over 75 times and Noah 8 times. In each case the reference is simply to the historical account of these as REAL people. If the Creation of Man, subsequent fall into sin did not actually occur then we have no need for our Savior. Indeed, Our Christian faith rests firmly on the first 12 chapters of Genesis. The Word of God has no authority or meaning if man decides this part is true, but that part does not agree with today’s science so it must be allegorical.
As readers of these essays and other current scientific apologetics are familiar, there seems to be a great deal of scriptural support for a literal 6 day creation a few thousand years ago. Although there are many minor arguments and a host of biblical references the two strongest evidences are the obvious use of the literal day in Genesis 1 by the repeated use of “evening and morning.” This clearly defines the meaning of the Genesis Day here to mean a rotation of the earth. The other strong argument comes later from the Ten Commandants. 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. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 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. (Exod 20:8-11, NIV) For us to accept a literal Sabbath Day of worship demands the other six days were of similar length.
I am certainly NOT anti-scientific. I have spent most of my life doing scientific research and publishing well over 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Like Newton, I feel honored to be thinking some of God’s thoughts after Him. How then can we relate the clear teaching of scripture that proclaim a supernatural creation a mere few thousand years ago with the scientific evidence? I agree with Stan the recent attempt by ICR may fail to have any scientific impact. Let me share my thoughts on this, but before I do let me give a simple illustration.
Evolutionists see the similarity in structure between animals and DNA as evidence of a common ancestor. Certainly they are free to do so and to them it seems logical. They honestly see the facts from living animals as supporting their view. I see the same similar structures as evidence of a common Creator. I too have that freedom. To me the evidence I see from living animals supports my view. Please understand neither view is a proof…but simply different ways of viewing the same facts. So it is with the age of the earth. I honestly feel there are two ways of looking at the same facts. People tend to see what they want or expect to see…yes, even in science. Scientists MUST assume the physical laws in the universe are constant…they have always been and will always be the same. They attempt to explain and understand the world through this lens.
If instead, there really was a Creator-God who created our universe supernaturally, then it is logical that our present natural laws were suspended for a season. Secular scientists too accept the suspension of both common sense and natural law and miraculous creation of matter from nothing…they call it Big Bang.
Creation of apparent age. The earth age issue was addressed in detail many years ago in the classic Genesis Flood book by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb. Perhaps others had used the same argument before him, but it was my first exposure to the creation of apparent age. I think this offers the most rational explanation for the apparent old age of the earth. Let me explain.
Two things stand out in the Biblical account of the creation of Adam. The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen 2:7, NIV) The event was supernatural. Man was formed from the dust of the ground NOT from some previously living animals. Evolution is strictly forbidden. Also it seems Adam was created with an apparent age for shortly after his creation God brought all of the animals to Adam for him to name. Perhaps God also created Adam as a full grown man in order to have fellowship. Regardless of the reason, God created Adam with an apparent age older than the actual time he had lived. God could have created Adam as a child…or even as a newborn infant, but even baby Adam would have an appearance of age…of having lived longer than he had actually lived.
So it was with the trees God created on the third day. Again, if they were seen as trees and not seedlings they were created with an apparent age of perhaps hundreds of years. To be complete and strong these newly created trees must have also had growth rings since the structures that make up growth rings add strength. When the mountains were formed they appeared older than they actually were and no doubt already had fertile top soil in anticipation of the vegetation God would soon create. When God created the stars, He also created light reaching far out from those stars so the newly created man could see them on the newly created earth. The creation of matter from nothing was a miracle. Science can not understand it. According to modern science even the elements evolve. The starting point is hydrogen. In other words if God created the universe and it included any element other than hydrogen then it had the appearance of being older than it actually was. The original creation was sudden…a miracle…a complete and fully functional universe was created with an apparent age of billions of years. Indeed to be functional it MUST have been created with apparent age. In geological terms, six days is certainly sudden.
This passage speaks of the suddenness of Creation, but also of the reason we have over 500 verses in Scripture about God as Creator. We are NOT given all these passages so that we might understand HOW God created, but simply THAT by HIS Word they were created. And for that we are to lift our hands and our hearts in praise of Him. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. (Ps 33:6-9, NIV) Or my favorite passage about Creation: You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (Rev 4:11, NIV)
Please understand as I see the similarities of animals as evidence of a common Creator I also understand it is not a proof. So it is with the creation of apparent age. It is NOT a proof, but provides a rational way to understand the secular scientist’s view of the age of the earth and universe. They see the world through the eyes of the present with natural immutable. I see the world through from a Biblical prospective and understand it implies a older apparent age for Adam, trees and the universe than actually existed at the time of Creation. This is not a proof, but simply a different viewpoint. I am NOT anti-science, but I do accept the Word of the Living God as true.
The Bible was NOT written by mere fallible men: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17, NIV) For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet 1:21, NIV)
The choice is simple...I choose to trust God and His word than man or modern science. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. (Ps 118:8, NKJ) How fitting! This verse is the middle verse in the Bible...and our acceptance of God's Living Word truly pivots on the Truth and acceptance of this verse.
Our Bible does NOT just contain some truth...it is TRUTH. Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar. (Prov 30:5-6, NIV)
Just something to ponder.