by Steve Lemay (guest blogger, Writing for a Reason submission, Adult Division)
The age of the earth is a critical issue in the ongoing battle for the truth in today’s world. It has also become a highly controversial issue in evangelicalism. The dominating belief for the age of the earth in academia and the media is billions of years. Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis, calls the millions of years the pagan religion of today. He’s right, because deep time is the supernatural, miracle-working god of the naturalists/evolutionists. They reject the Creator God of the Bible and His clear revelation and put their faith in deep time, somehow creating everything out of nothing by pure chance (the doctrine of evolution).
Can we know the approximate age of the earth? Is it about 4.6 billion years old (modern science)? Or is it 6,000 or so as derived by young-earth creationists based on the Bible and known evidences of world history? Several thousand or several billion is the question that must be addressed in defending the authority of Scripture. Man’s word or God’s word? That’s the cru-cial question because all attempts to reconcile the two fall short and Scripture loses in the debate. The western world is now post-Christian as a result of the church’s compromise with deep-time evolution. Witness the exodus of youth from Bible-believing churches in our day once they are out from under parental control.
Sadly, many Christians have compromised with deep-time evolution, including many evangelical pastors and theologians. Al Mohler Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY said in 2010: “The mention of Genesis 1:1 in today’s academic circles, whether secular or Christian evokes far more heated responses than one might assume in our science-saturated culture” (Mohler Speech). Regarding origins he adds: “Christian intellectuals … are even now wrestling with this subject in the context of trying to discover harmony between science and faith, between the … scientific pursuits and the bedrock doctrines of biblical Christianity.” He believes that the key question in the conflict is the true age of the earth: “The question is: Why does the universe look so old?”
Mohler points out the huge “disparity between evolutionary theory and the biblical ac-count of the age of the universe” (13.5 billion versus just several thousands of years), calling it “no small matter”. He further stated: “What is most lacking in the evangelical movement today is a consideration of the theological cost of holding to an old earth … the cost of the integrity and interpretation of Scripture … the doctrine of creation is absolutely inseparable from the doctrine of redemption.”
John MacArthur agrees with Mohler. In The Battle for the Beginning he says: “It is a necessary inconsistency if one is to affirm an old earth and remain evangelical. Because if Adam was not the literal ancestor of the entire human race, the Bible’s explanation of how sin entered the world makes no sense.” He adds that means “we cannot be redeemed in Christ …” (MacArthur 19). Both Mohler and MacArthur, along with others and the “young earth” creation ministries (AIG, CMI, ICR, etc.), have clearly discerned the importance of the age-of-the-earth issue.
This essay will explain:
- Where “old-earth” ideas came from
- The true nature of “science” and Scripture
- The fallacy of evolution and naturalism
- The serious mistake of theological compromise with deep time
- The true age of the earth and
- The importance of creation evangelism
The advent of uniformitarian geology, Darwinism, and then Neo-Darwinism over the past two centuries has steadily indoctrinated and dominated the education institutions of the West. Naturalistic macroevolution is a pseudoscience belief system – a “religion” – that reigns supreme in the media, museums, and both public and private education today.
The false idea of billions of years came from outside the Bible by those who explain origins apart from a Creator whose laws and revelations they did not want to accept. Beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the church began to accept the deep-time beliefs of scientists as valid and began the compromise process of finding ways to fit millions (now billions) of years into the Genesis account of creation. From the UK and Europe, it soon spread to the USA, gaining a major foothold in the media and public education in the aftermath of the famous 1923 Scopes Trial in Tennessee. W.J. Bryant and the Bible were made to look foolish when he couldn’t answer where Cain got his wife (Gen 5:4 provides the answer)!
In 2014 at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham debated Bill Nye (The Science Guy of PBS) and pointed out the importance of distinguishing historical science claims versus testable, verifiable operational science. Creationism only clashes with the historical science. Historical science is forensic in nature: all its evidence and data must be interpreted through worldview biases (naturalism, supernaturalism, gradualism, catastrophism, etc.) which every scientist has. Surveys tells us that 64% of the world’s scientists are atheists or agnostics (Bill Nye for one). This explains why mainstream science is anti-God and anti-Bible. The reigning science paradigm is billions of years of naturalistic gradualism (uniformitarianism). The Bible teaches supernatural catastrophism over just thousands of years. These are opposing scientific worldviews that can’t be reconciled – if one is true then the other must be false.
Understanding Science and Scripture
A basic understanding about science and its limitations is needed in order to be able to discern true facts from what are just theories. Jesus quoted from Genesis more than any other book and said the Scriptures cannot be broken (Matt. 5:18; John 10:35). Therefore, no true fact of science can ever overturn the Genesis account of origins in six days about 6,000 years ago.
In The Battle for the Beginning, the author perceptively states: “Scripture, not science, is the ultimate test of all truth. And the further evangelicalism gets from that conviction, the less evangelical and more humanistic it becomes.” Also: “Give evolutionary doctrine the throne and make the Bible its servant, and you have laid the foundation for spiritual disaster” (MacArthur 26). But true science and the Bible are not in conflict and both refute the notion of millions and billions of years. The Bible shows that Jesus was “young earth” and we should be also. He placed Adam at the beginning of the creation, not billions of years later (Mark 10:6).
Origins are not subject to the scientific method since men did not observe them and they can’t be repeated or tested. Therefore they are in the realm of forensic or historical science. Scientific facts and laws exist in the present and can only be used to model theories about the past. Observational or operational science is that which is based on testable, observed proofs and is how we get medicines, computers, etc. Creation and evolution scientists can work together on medical and technological advancements with no controversy. It is the interpretations involved with forensic science that is the big debate.
The Fallacy of Naturalistic Evolution
“Evolution” needs to be clearly defined. “Microevolution” has to do with natural selection which is valid, proven science. It’s how we get new species of living things – not new kinds (dogs are still dogs and finches still finches, but with new variations). “Macroevolution” is the idea of molecule-to-man progression over deep time and requires the gaining of new DNA in-formation in the process. Natural selection is falsely posited as the means of somehow gaining new information, but DNA information is always lost through natural selection. The fossil record clearly refutes macroevolution by Darwin’s own admission in Chapter 10 of his book The Origin of Species: “Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain;” (Darwin 292-293). That fact remains today!
Science means knowledge. Today, we marvel at many scientific discoveries and advancements in medicine for example. But honest scientists will admit that when it comes to ex-plaining our origins, they really don’t know very much. The Revised Quote Book catalogs many such admissions by prominent scientists:
“In explaining evolution, we do not have one iota of fact” (Dr. T.N. Tahmisian, Atomic Energy Commission, USA); “to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study” (S.J. Gould, Professor of Geology and Paleontology, Harvard University); concerning the search for “missing link” fossils: “there is not one such fossil for which we could make a watertight argument” (Dr. Colin Paterson, Sr. Paleontologist, British Museum of Natural History, London). The book contains 130 such admissions, mostly by evolutionists themselves (Snelling 5, 8, 9).
The above clearly shows that evolution and its billions of years is not factual science, but only an unprovable hypothesis or belief system (religion) – a fairy tale story! Conversely, the Bible’s account of origins is a historical narrative by our Creator to teach us how we came to be humans made in His image or likeness (Gen. 1:27). We are the ultimate purpose of God’s creation, which gives abundant meaning and purpose to living. The false teachings of evolutionary science destroy all purpose and meaning of life and, thus, the very “fabric” of civilization.
The booklet Evolution: Fact or Fiction notes:
The Bible is “the world’s most reliable database”. Also, “archeology, astronomy, geology, and biology have all endorsed it, and no scientific discovery has ever contradicted anything it says. As great an authority as Sir Isaac Newton, universally recognized as the Father of Modern Science, called it ‘a rock from which all the hammers of criticism have never chipped a single fragment’. This is exactly what we should expect if the Bible is what it claims to be – ‘the living and enduring word of God’” (Blanchard 32).
The Serious Mistake of Old-Earth Compromise
If deep time is true and somehow accounts for origins, then the Genesis account is false and/or just an allegory or myth. If that is so, the rest of the Bible can’t be trusted because its many teachings are founded on Genesis 1-11. That is why compromising theologians have and continue to reinterpret, add to, and manipulate Scripture in order to accommodate deep time. It hasn’t worked, resulting in the church in Europe and the UK dwindling to a remnant. America’s church is also in steep decline.
Paul instructed the young pastor Timothy to avoid the contradictions of false science/knowledge in order to guard or defend the truth of the gospel (1 Tim. 6:20). Old-earth beliefs are poisonous to the gospel for many reasons:
- It demeans the character of God by attributing to Him dominion over billions of years of the cruel process of evolution of life.
- It makes Jesus (the Creator – Col. 1:16, 17) a liar because He said God made Adam and Eve at the beginning of the creation (Mark 10:6). They were made on Day 6 of the Creation Week, so if you believe the days of Genesis 1 to be billions of years, it makes Jesus a liar (or ignorant of the facts).
- It mocks God’s pronouncement of His finished work of creation being “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Billions of years of suffering and death would be anything but “very good”.
- It posits death, suffering, thorns, etc. prior to Adam’s sin. Untold bloodshed before man’s sin refutes the doctrine of blood atonement. Jesus’ shed blood as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) becomes meaningless.
- It demeans the power of God by refuting His creative power of speaking things (light, etc.) into existence. Why would it take Him billions of years of painful gradualism to get around to creating “mankind” (Gen. 5:2), the ultimate purpose of His creation? Was He impotent? God forbid!
The fact of the matter is that deep-time beliefs cannot be reconciled with Scripture as many evangelicals are attempting to do today. They are essentially bowing the knee to false historical science, needlessly giving credence to the presuppositions, interpretations, and theories of evolutionary science as being true facts. When John MacArthur commented on the issue and the Genesis text, he said:
“The main thrust of the passage simply cannot be reconciled with the notion that creation occurred via natural evolutionary processes over long periods of time. And I don’t believe a faithful handling of the biblical text, by any acceptable principles of hermeneutics, can possibly reconcile these chapters with the theory of evolution or any of the other allegedly scientific theories about the origin of the universe. Furthermore … all sorts of theological mischief ensues when we reject or compromise the literal truth of the biblical account of creation and the fall of Adam” (MacArthur 18, 19).
The True Age of the Earth
Taking Genesis 1-11 at face value, its genealogies of Adam to Abraham add up to about 2,000 years with Abraham known to have lived about BC 2100. Thus creation took place around BC 4,000 (plus or minus depending on calendars, etc.). Many biblical scholars have attempted to calculate the date of the creation and they vary a bit, but are in the realm of BC 4,000. (The New Answers Book 2, pp. 184-186).
Orthodox Jews still use the Jewish calendar that posits AC (after creation) and this year is 5779 after creation to the Jew. The point is that God’s people have believed the creation to be about BC 4,000 until the past 150 years or so. No one reading Genesis at face value would ever get the idea of millions (much less billions) of years out of the text. That idea comes only from outside the Bible and is impossible to reconcile with what God has revealed to us.
The Creator incarnate, Jesus Christ, affirmed every word of the OT to be the word of God, including Ex. 20:11, that unequivocally states He created in six literal solar days. Unless one can posit a way to insert gaps into the Genesis genealogies, you can’t get past much more than 6,000 years for the age of the earth. Jude teaches that Enoch was “the seventh from Adam” (v.14) which strongly refutes any gaps in the Gen. 5 genealogy of Adam to Noah. The Gen. 11 genealogy from Noah through Shem to Abram is written in the same airtight way as Gen. 5 and is not representative.
Observational science overwhelmingly confirms the thousands-of-years’ timeline of the Bible. NASA has been unable to confirm even one prediction of the big bang theory. They keep discovering a young solar system with their space probes (seismic activity, magnetic fields, and other data). Comets that can only survive about 80,000 years exist in abundance.
Scientists with Answers in Genesis present evidence for the young-earth position based on the Bible in AIGs Pocket Guide to Best Evidences. A few examples are:
- Very little sediment on the sea floor (erosion rates).
- Soft tissue in fossils (dinos only thousands of years old).
- Rapidly decaying magnetic fields (life impossible on earth just 10-20,000 years ago).
- Helium in radioactive rocks (test at 6,000 +/- 2,000 years old – a very reliable “time clock”).
- Very little salt in the sea (if seas are 3 billion years old according to evolutionists, there should be 70 times the amount of salt in the oceans).
The age of the earth issue is critical to the authority of Scripture and its gospel founda-tions. The battle is between God’s word and man’s word as to the truth about our origins, and only two choices exist: a supernatural creation by an all-powerful God, or naturalistic evolution over deep time. Naturalism is replacing Christianity as the dominant belief system in the Western World, and evolution has become naturalism’s creator/god.
Teaching a young earth and its defense is critically important to establishing the authority and truth of Scripture in its very foundational teachings upon which the doctrine of redemption rests. Old earth beliefs posit death before Adam sinned, which contradicts Gen. 3 and the Bible’s teaching on sin, suffering, the curse, and death. Blood shed before Adam contradicts blood atonement and mocks God at Gen. 1:31 where He pronounced the finished creation “very good”.
John Stott in his book The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus says: “We tend to have a better doctrine of redemption than of creation and so are more grateful for the blessings of grace than of nature and of art.” Francis Schaeffer is quoted as saying that given one hour with an unbeliever, he would spend 55 minutes on the creation and conclude with 5 on redemption. Paul in Acts 17 first preached creation truth to the evolutionary philosophers of Athens, and concluded with the gospel. The church should see the need, change its focus and priority, and preach and teach more on creation apologetics, just as Paul did in his day to reach the pagans of Athens. All Christians, as well as pagans, need to realize they are the “offspring of God” (Acts 17:29) and accountable to Him as their final judge.
AIG Scientists. Pocket Gide to Best Evidences. Hebron, KY: Answers in Genesis, 2013.
Blanchard, John. Evolution: Fact or Fiction? Grand Rapids, MI: JPL Fulfillment, 2002.
Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. London, England: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., 1971.
Ham, Ken. The New Answers Book 2. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008.
MacArthur, John. The Battle for the Beginning. W. Publishing Group, Div. of Thomas Nelson,
Mohler, Jr., Al. Speech to Ligonier Conference. Why Does the Universe Look So Old? icr.org,
Acts & Facts Magazine, 2010.
Snelling, Andrew. The Revised Quote Book. Brisbane, Australia: Creation Science Foundation, 1990.
Stott, John R.W. The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus. Downer Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press,