There is an intensifying controversy in the church all over the world regarding the age of the earth. For the first 18 centuries of church history, the almost universal belief of Christians was that God created the world in six literal days, roughly 4,000 years before Christ, and destroyed the world with a global Flood at the time of Noah.
About 200 years ago some scientists developed new theories of earth history, which proposed that the earth and universe are millions of years old. Over the past 200 years Christian leaders have made various attempts to fit the millions of years into the Bible. These include the Day-Age View, Gap Theory, Local Flood View, Framework Hypothesis, Theistic Evolution, Progressive Creation, and so on.
A growing number of Christians (now called Young-Earth Creationists), including many scientists, hold to the traditional view, believing it to be the only view that is truly faithful to Scripture and that fits the scientific evidence far better than the reigning old-earth evolutionary theory. Many Christians say that the age of the earth is an unimportant and divisive side issue that hinders the proclamation of the gospel. But is that really the case? AIG and many other creationist organizations think not.
In this short article, I want to introduce you to some of the reasons I believe that Christians cannot accept the millions of years, without doing great damage to the church and her witness in the world. I hope that it will help you think more carefully about this subject and will motivate you to dig deeper into the excellent resources recommended at the end of this issue of Theology for Life, which thoroughly defend the points made here.
- The Bible clearly teaches that God created in six literal, 24-hour days a few thousand years ago.
The Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis 1 is yôm. In the vast majority of its uses in the Old Testament (OT), it means a literal day; and where it doesn’t the context makes this clear. Similarly, the context of Genesis 1 clearly shows that the days of creation were literal days. First, yôm is defined the first time it is used in the Bible (Genesis 1:4–5) in its two literal senses: the light portion of the light/dark cycle and the whole light/dark cycle. Second, yôm is used with “evening” and “morning.” Everywhere these two words are used in the OT, either together or separately and with or without yôm in the context, they always mean a literal evening or morning of a literal day. Third, yôm is modified with a number: one day, second day, third day, and so on, which everywhere else in the Old Testament indicates literal days. Fourth, yôm is defined literally in Genesis 1:14 in relation to the heavenly bodies.
That these creation days happened only about 6,000 years ago is clear from the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 (which give very detailed chronological information, unlike the clearly abbreviated genealogy in Matthew 1) and other chronological information in the Bible.
- Exodus 20:11 blocks all attempts to fit millions of years into Genesis 1.
This verse (Exodus 20:11) gives the reason for God’s command to Israel to work six days and then take a Sabbath rest. Yôm is used in both parts of the commandment. If God meant that the Jews were to work six days because He created over six long periods of time, He could have said that using one of three indefinite Hebrew time words. He chose the only word that mean\s a literal day and the Jews understood it literally (until the idea of millions of years developed in the early 19th century). For this reason, the day-age view or framework hypothesis must be rejected. The gap theory or any other attempt to put millions of years before the six days are also false, because God says that in six days He made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. So He made everything in those six literal days and nothing before the first day.
- Noah’s Flood washes away millions of years.
The evidence in Genesis 6–9 for a global catastrophic flood is overwhelming. For example, the Flood was intended to destroy not only all sinful people but also all land animals and birds and the surface of the earth, which only a global flood could accomplish. The Ark’s purpose was to save two of every kind of land animal and bird to repopulate the earth after the flood. The Ark was totally unnecessary, if the Flood was local. People, animals, and birds could have migrated out of the flood zone before it occurred, or the zone could have been populated from creatures outside the area after the Flood.
The catastrophic nature is seen in the nonstop rain for at least 40 days, which would have produced massive erosion, mud slides, hurricanes, and so on. The Hebrew words translated “the fountains of the great deep burst open” (Genesis 7:11), clearly point to tectonic rupturing of the earth’s surface in many places for 150 days, resulting in volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Noah’s Flood would produce exactly the kind of complex geological record we see today worldwide: thousands of feet of sediments clearly deposited by water and later hardened into rock and containing billions of fossils. If the year-long Flood is responsible for most of the rock layers and fossils, then those rocks and fossils cannot represent the history of the earth over millions of years, as evolutionists claim.
- Jesus was a young-earth creationist.
Jesus consistently treated the miracle accounts of the Old Testament as straightforward, truthful, historical accounts (e.g., creation of Adam, Noah and the Flood, Lot and his wife in Sodom, Moses and the manna, and Jonah in the fish). He continually affirmed the authority of Scripture over men’s ideas and traditions (Matthew 15:1–9). In Mark 10:6 we have the clearest (but not the only) statement showing that Jesus was a young-earth creationist. He states that Adam and Eve were at the beginning of creation, not billions of years after the beginning, as would be the case if the universe was really billions of years old. So, if Jesus was a young-earth creationist, then how can His faithful followers have any other view?
- Belief in millions of years undermines the Bible’s teaching on death and on the character of God.
Genesis 1 says six times that God called the creation “good”, and when He finished creation on Day 6, He called everything “very good”. Man and animals and birds were originally vegetarian (Genesis 1:29–30, plants are not “living creatures,” as people and animals are, according Scripture). But Adam and Eve sinned, resulting in the judgment of God on the whole creation. Instantly Adam and Eve died spiritually, and after God’s curse they began to die physically. The serpent and Eve were changed physically and the ground itself was cursed (Genesis 3:14–19).
The whole creation now groans in bondage to corruption, waiting for the final redemption of Christians (Romans 8:19–25) when we will see the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21, Colossians 1:20) to a state similar to the pre-Fall world, when there will be no more carnivore behavior (Isaiah 11:6–9) and no disease, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:3–5) because there will be no more Curse (Revelation 22:3). To accept millions of years of animal death before the creation and Fall of man contradicts and destroys the Bible’s teaching on death and the full redemptive work of Christ. It also makes God into a bumbling, cruel creator who uses (or can’t prevent) disease, natural disasters, and extinctions to mar His creative work, without any moral cause, but calls it all “very good”.
- The idea of millions of years did not come from the scientific facts.
The idea of “millions of years” was developed by deistic and atheistic geologists in the late 18th and early 19th century. These men used anti-biblical philosophical and religious assumptions to interpret the geological observations in a way that plainly contradicted the biblical account of Creation, the Flood, and the age of the earth. Most church leaders and scholars quickly compromised using the gap theory, day-age view, local flood view, and so on. To try to fit “deep time” into the Bible. But they did not understand the geological arguments, nor did they defend their views by careful Bible study. The “deep time” idea flows out of naturalistic assumptions, not scientific observations.
- Radiometric dating methods do not prove millions of years.
There are thousands of PhD and MS scientists around the world (and the number keeps growing) who believe the earth is only about 6,000 years old, as the Bible teaches. It is simply false to say that creation scientists do not have reputable degrees, do not do real scientific research, and do not publish in the peer-reviewed scientific journals. Visit our creation scientist section to read about a few of them, past and present.
Radiometric dating was not developed until the early 20th century, by which time the whole world had already accepted the millions of years. For many years creation scientists have cited many examples in the published scientific literature of these dating methods clearly giving erroneous dates (e.g., a date of millions of years for lava flows that occurred in the past few hundred years or even decades). In recent years creationists in the “RATE project” have done experimental, theoretical, and field research to uncover more such evidence (e.g., diamonds and coal, which the evolutionists say are millions of years old, were dated by carbon-14 to be only thousands of years old), and to show that decay rates were orders of magnitude faster in the past, which shrinks the millions of years dates to thousands of years, confirming the Bible.
These are just some of the reasons why we believe that the Bible is giving us the true history of the creation. God’s Word must be the final authority on all matters about which it speaks: not just the moral and spiritual matters, but also its teachings that bear on history, archeology, and science.
What is at stake here is the authority of Scripture, the character of God, the doctrine of death, and the very foundation of the gospel. If the early chapters of Genesis are not true literal history, then faith in the rest of the Bible is undermined, including its teaching about salvation and morality. The health of the church, the effectiveness of her mission to a lost world and the glory of God are at stake.
This article first appeared in Theology for Life Fall Issue. To download the rest of the issue click here.
Dr. Terry Mortenson earned an MDiv (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and a PhD in history of geology (Coventry University) and has lectured on the creation-evolution controversy in 25 countries since the late 1970s. Before joining AiG, he served for 26 years in university campus ministry in the US and Eastern Europe with Campus Crusade for Christ and has written many articles and books, including The Great Turning Point and Coming to Grips with Genesis.