Author: Paul A. Bartz
Is the age of the Earth important enough to argue about? It can be said, in a limited and incomplete sense, that it really doesn’t matter whether the creation was made 2,000 years ago or 20 billion years ago. Unlimited billions of years won’t perform the miracles evolutionists hope to find by multiplying eons by eons.
On the other hand, God could make a universe that lasts as long as He wants. However, as I said, this is a limited and incomplete view. These are but two trees that tell us little about the forest itself. What is the most ancient, complete, and well-attested record we have of the earliest history of the Earth and the universe? It’s the Bible, of course.
Long histories can be written, speculating about the nature of a species from a few particles of bone. Yet these “histories” cannot possibly be more detailed or accurate than the clear written communication of Scripture. And though scraps of other ancient historical records survive, the oldest among them is but a youth when compared to the Scriptural record. The Dead Sea scrolls provided us with documentation from some biblical texts that were a thousand years older than any we had before.
How much had the text been changed through scribal error in a thousand years of copying and re-copying? Virtually not at all. For example, in the entire book of Isaiah, scholars found only five differences that justified notation. Most of the errors are nothing more than minor spelling differences.1 This gives us logical reason to expect the same faithfulness in the transmission of the earlier biblical texts.
Those texts that had been in existence a thousand, even two or three thousand years earlier, if they could be seen today, would show as little difference. This kind of accuracy suggests divine protection in the faithful transmission of the sacred revelation.
Unbiblical biblical critics
It is clearly impossible to consider the question of the age of the Earth and the creation apart from the biblical record. Historically, believers have considered the Genesis account of creation and the genealogies that follow to be accurate history. Many great teachers in the Church’s history, and even scientists, have used the genealogies presented in the Old Testament to determine the date of creation.
We are all familiar with Bishop Ussher’s dating of creation at 4004 B.C. He based this dating on the assumption that the biblical record is accurate history. Isaac Newton accepted Ussher’s figure. Jewish dating places creation in 3760 B.C. Johann Kepler dated creation at 3993 B.C.2 The great reformer, Martin Luther, dated creation to 3961 B.C. He wrote, “We know from Moses that the world was not in existence before 6,000 years ago.” He quickly adds that you will never convince a philosopher of that.3
Claims that the creation is relatively young seem absurd to philosophers who operate merely on the basis of human reason. Luther wrote that the “absurdity” of a 6,000-year-old Earth offends human reason that is, itself, “blind, deaf, senseless, godless, and sacrilegious, in its dealing with all God’s words and works.”4
However, about two centuries ago some scholars began questioning the accuracy of what believers had always believed about the Bible. Yes, even in the Eighteenth century, long before Darwin, some scholars had begun to embrace materialism. Just as the world around us has a natural, rather than supernatural, explanation, so must the Bible, they said. Christianity, they said, is a product of evolution, not revelation.
As early as 1823, Rev. John Fleetwood wrote a defense of biblical Christianity against skeptic scholars. Fleetwood wrote that, “they content themselves with cavilling at some circumstance attending the revelation, without dating to encounter its grand evidence” that is, they have been laboriously attempting it to be improbable, or absurd, to suppose it to have been, which nevertheless plainly appears to have been facts. One of them, most weakly and sophistically, attempts to prove, in defiance of the common sense of mankind, that the light of nature is a perfect rule, and therefore, that all revelation is needless, and indeed impossible.
Another disguises the miracles of Christ by false representations of them and then treats them as idle tales. A third takes a great deal of fruitless pains to show that some prophecies referred to in the New Testament are capable of another sense, different from that in which the Apostles have taken them. “As to the wretches that add insult and derision to their infidelity, we tremble to think of that load of guilt which they are bringing upon themselves” and how near their approach to the unpardonable sin, if they have not already committed it. (Emphasis in original)5 Fleetwood’s reaction to biblical critics 175 years ago provides us with a stark contrast between Christianity’s historic position and biblical criticism.
First to be dismissed as myth by the critics was the Genesis account of creation. These scholars “knew” that the Earth was much older than the Bible indicated. And here was the door through which the idea of an ancient Earth entered the church.
For the sake of the gospel
The question of the age of the creation goes to even more profound issues than the reliability of Scripture. The entire Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, consistently implies a relatively young creation. If, in fact, the Bible is consistently in error about this, then the Bible is also wrong about salvation.
The Bible says that death first came into the creation because man sinned. This made it necessary for the Son of God to suffer and die for us to do away with death’s dominion through the forgiveness of sins. However, if death was around long before there were men to sin, and this is what those who believe in long ages believe, then death has nothing to do with sin.
If the Genesis history is in error, then the New Testament is equally in error in its presentation of the gospel! The “gospel” of a long-age theology goes above and beyond the question of the accuracy of Scripture. It requires an understanding of the relationship between sin and death that contradicts the warp and woof of the entire message of the Bible. It is truly “another gospel.”
This explains why, historically, churches that abandon Genesis inevitably become less involved in home and foreign mission work and more active in here-and-now social programs. Yes, there are some who believe in long ages and at the same time believe the truth of the gospel of salvation. However, they are precariously balanced on a deadly high wire of intellectual and logical inconsistency.
History is littered with the corpses of those who have been snatched by their skepticism, as if by gravity, and have tumbled into complete agnosticism.
The integrity of Scripture
One must ask what the gospel of salvation is if Scripture is merely a human record of what past generations thought was God’s activity. One typical conclusion is that the Gospel is any “good news in a bad situation.” Rather than offering the forgiveness of sins, the gospel is in the eyes of the beholder.
This religious aberration is not as illogical as it seems. If Genesis is nothing more than a flawed human record, so must be Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If the genealogies of Genesis are suspect, so are the sayings of Jesus. If the first Adam is a mythical character, logically so are the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Second Adam. Problems?
Many within the church who accept evolutionary ages say they do so to avoid problems created by accepting Genesis as accurate history. However, does acceptance of Genesis as history create problems?
One of the most often mentioned problems of late has to do with the speed of light. If the universe is only about 6,000 years old, how could we see stars whose light took billions of years to get here? However, this question isn’t as much of a challenge as it might appear. First, the only direct method of measuring the distance of objects in space is limited to establishing distances out to roughly 200 light-years. The precise position of an object in the sky is recorded twice, six months apart, when the Earth is at opposite ends of its orbit. The resulting angles, plus the known size of the base of the triangle (the width of the Earth’s orbit), allows a distance to be calculated. However, many objects in space are obviously much further away, since there is no apparent change in their position over six months.
This means that there is no direct way of measuring most of the objects we see in the sky. Most of the objects in the sky are measured using various mathematical interpretations of other information from these objects. These approaches always assume that evolutionary ideas such as the big bang are true. Other possible, and often more likely, interpretations are ignored, even when raised by non-creationists. Since evolution is assumed in each approach, the results will always be biased in favor of an ancient universe.
In truth, the evidences for great distances in space – approaching millions of light-years and more – is poor. Objects in space probably are great distances away. However, we add, no one has any way of knowing whether those distances are 300 light-years or a thousand or more light-years – or millions.
One conclusion is obvious. There is not enough information to arrive at an age for the Earth or the universe. There certainly is no justification for dismissing Scripture for this! In Genesis 1:14-19, we twice read that the stars were created to give light on the Earth. This offers what many creationists believe may be a clue to the answer. Many parts of the creation were created in what we know today as mature form. Adam, less than a day old, was placed into a garden that was recently planted with plants less than a week old. Do we then picture an infant on the barren ground where perhaps a few seedlings are beginning to break through?
God’s instructions that Adam could eat of the fruit of all the trees except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil wouldn’t make any sense if given to an infant about potential trees and fruit. The creation was, on day six, mature in many of its aspects. Perhaps the created trees even had rings in them. Seawater may have had elements dissolved in it that are necessary for life, but ordinarily take centuries to accumulate. The soil had organics in it from things that had never lived so that it could support life.
In other words, the forces at work in the creation during creation week were very different from the forces that are at work now. Just as the fruit trees were created to provide fruit for Adam’s first meal, the stars were created to be seen on Earth on the fourth evening. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the “stream of light” from a star to the Earth was created at the same time as the star was created. God, Who is beyond space and time, could as easily create a star as He could the stream of light extending out from the star into space.
Some have objected, complaining that a created light stream would represent a history that never took place. This, they say, would put God in a position of misrepresenting history. This is a specious argument. God has told us when history started and how it started. He has told us that He created a mature creation rather than setting potentials into motion. To dismiss what God says and then fault Him for not saying it tries the patience of both man and God! Please keep in mind that by showing that there are no problems, we are not trying to “prove” the Scriptural age of the creation from science. Science can only set general limits on the age of the creation. We must rely on Scripture for more precise detail about the age of the creation.
There are many other arguments from astronomy and the other fields of science for a young creation. If you are interested in reading more about them, search our website for books and videos on this topic.
Copyright © 1992 Bible Science Newsletter. Creation Moments, Inc. PO Box 839 Foley, MN 56329 800-422-4253 www.creationmoments.com
1. Raymond F. Surburg, How Dependable is the Bible? (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company) 1972, pages 77-79. 2. For more examples see Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1976, pages 43-46. 3. J. Pelican an