Young Earth vs. Old Earth… Does it Really Make any Difference?

Ph10107_1_3The current rage over the young earth (6000 years) vs. the old earth
(millions and millions of years) is an interesting debate that sheds even more light on current Biblical thinking in the 21st century.

I would like to take you on a mental stroll through this question and see if there are any implications for today’s church. The starting point in any discussion should be the Scriptures and so I offer them here:

        Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… And God said, “Let there be light”… God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

        Exodus 20:11

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the 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.

        Matthew 19:4

And He [Jesus] answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female”

The most difficult question evidently in this debate centers on “When was the beginning?” However, in one sentence, Jesus makes it very clear that God made Adam and Eve “from the beginning”.

God has an order and structure in His creation that is profound in its simplicity! If you take a moment, you can see easily God’s wisdom and glory. 

(Please note: each day was called a day: “one day, a second day, third day, etc.” and each day was described as a 24-hour period, one revolution of the earth: “and there was evening and there was morning”. No exceptions!  The 7th Day is never mentioned in the same way as the previous 6 days! That goes without saying, I guess…)

Day 1  Light: Day and Night
Day 2  Heaven
Day 3  Earth, Plant Kingdom
Day 4  Sun, Moon and the Stars (“to give light on the earth…”)
Day 5  Birds and Fish: Air and Water
Day 6  Land Animals and Man
Day 7  Sabbath: The day of Rest

“In the beginning God…”

On Day 1, God spoke and there was light. Amazingly enough, this light was not the sun or moon but it “separated the light from the darkness”.

Then God spoke again and created the Heavens. The earth followed a day later along with all plant life and then came all animal life. Finally, God spoke one last time during the creation week and said: “Let Us make man in Our image.” Here we plainly see that God made man “from the beginning” and that it was on Day 6.

Adam lived to be 930 years old (Gen 5:5), so there is little question that – at least from Day 6 on – there is no “old earth” theory kicking in! The question we should be asking is: “Why should the previous days be any different?”

      > Did the Plant Kingdom (Day 3) exist without out sunlight (Day 4) for millions of years?

      > Were the plants (Day 3) that are now pollinated by birds (Day 5) and insects (Day 6) pollinated for those millions of years some other way?

      > Were Days 1-5 a million year “age” and Day 6-7 merely a “24-hour day”?

The “old earth theory” makes plain text in the Bible very puzzling and problematical!

Two words I cannot let stand in my vocabulary regarding Scriptures. If I gave the Bible to 50 people who had never read it before and asked them to interpret Gen. 1 from what they just read, I believe 50 people would say that creation lasted 6 days and on the 7th day God rested.

If we have any other interpretation it must be due to non-Biblical sources…

Martin Luther writes quite convincingly on this point:

”I have often said that whoever would study Holy Scripture should be sure to see to it that he stays with the simple words as long as he can and by no means departs from them unless an article of faith compels him to understand them differently.  For of this we must be certain: no clearer speech has been heard on Earth than what God has spoken.”

”Unique interpretations are usually wrong…”

I guess this is where I am heading with all this! It appears to be easier and easier to let private, unique interpretations slip into orthodox Christian beliefs. Church, this is a poison that we cannot swallow!

Every “molecule” of what we believe and how we practice it must come again under the microscope, I say with a tenacity that we have never known before.

     “Interpretation that aims at, or thrives on uniqueness can usually be attributed to pride (an attempt to ‘out clever’ the rest of the world), a false understanding of spirituality (wherein the Bible is full of deep truths waiting to be mined by the spiritually sensitive person with special insight), or vested interests (the need to support a theological bias, especially in dealing with texts that seem to go against that bias). Unique interpretations are usually wrong.”  (Gordon Fee, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth)

Today, as we pursue the passion to prepare on earth a church built in heaven, we cannot let outside influences/trends/pet areas shape our theology!

The Enlightenment Age still lives on in the minds and hearts of millions of believers on this planet and many cannot tell exactly where and when "it" exerts its influence. (ie. “Gifts of the Spirit. The Roles of Men and Women in the church. Clergy vs. Layity.”)

     “It is really a matter of how one approaches the Bible, in principle.  If we do not allow the language to speak to us in context, but try to make the text fit ideas outside of Scripture, then ultimately the meaning of any word in any part of the Bible depends on man’s interpretation — which can change according to whatever outside ideas are in vogue.” (Don Batten, answersingenesis.org)

I write most passionately to those giving their lives on the great mission fields of our world. Those who are faithfully seeking to reproduce church “not as we know it, but church as God wants it” all around the globe! My suggestion for all of us is to “re-boot our hard drives” on everything we thought we knew was church and let the Holy Spirit “come alongside” and lead us and guide us into all the truth.

Let’s take our time as our computers re-boot. Let God set His default settings! Everything depends upon getting the foundation right! 

“That… the Father of Glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph 2:17)

Yours for the Least in the Kingdom,

Jeff Gilbertson

4 thoughts on “Young Earth vs. Old Earth… Does it Really Make any Difference?”

  1. We do know that the creation and the Word are both from God, and ultimately tell the same story. We may not interpret scripture absolutely perfectly, and there has been considerable debate over the Genesis account. There is also good and bad science based on the creation, but in the end, when we know perfectly, it will be interesting to see how all of these issues resolve. While we advocate our best understanding of the text, we should be careful not to impose a young earth view on all believers. When the issue of circumcision came up for Gentile believers in Acts 15, the ultimate ruling basically ruled out fornication, things contaminated by idols, and from blood. That leaves out a bunch of things, including a young earth or and old earth view.
    Randy

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  2. Thank you, Jeff, for a fine explanation of an all-to-clear reality: The God we serve made all creation in six, 24-hour days. Moreover, the Bible is written for us in simple and clear language. One does not need a seminary degree to understand it OR TO TEACH IT! One merely needs the Holy Spirit, fear of God, and a humble heart.

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  3. Haha! You deleted my comment! You only accept comments that do imply you have it all figured out? It’s a humble heart thing I guess.

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  4. Jeff, for the first time going right through your blog, I find I disagree with you – but I agree with your title, for I think we should NOT make a big point of this.
    From my viewpoint, it is too simplistic to say the Bible said it so I believe it. The Bible says lots of things that none of us actually believe literally, and lots more that we interpret very differently.
    For example, do we endorse the teaching of Psalm 137: “Happy is the man who pays you back for what you have done for us – and takes your babies and smashes them on a rock!” ?
    And why do most christians accept the applicability of the ten commandments, but not the applicability of all the other Levitical laws? (I know, some make a distinction between ceremonial law and moral law, but this is a distinction not made in scripture, and contrary to clear statements that the whole law stands or falls together!)
    And who follows Jesus’ teaching literally that “if our right eye offends, cut it out.”? (One of the early church fathers, Origen I think, castrated himself on the basis of this teaching, because he had trouble controlling his thoughts regarding sex – in our sex mad world, how many of us would survive that literal interpretation?)
    So it is not unreasonable to ask, in the light of scientific discoveries, whether we have interpreted things rightly in Genesis. After all, some people once justified slavery, apartheid and even a flat earth and the centrality of earth in the cosmos on the basis of literal and somewhat contrived reading of scripture. Like Randy said, God has revealed himself in both scripture and creation, so we can look for truth in both.
    So the question becomes, “what does God intend us to believe and hold to?”, and I don’t see many people seeking the discernment of the Spirit on that question!
    I think we are painting ourselves into a corner which will prove to be a mistake if we make too definite judgments on these matters, certainly if we do it based on an inconsistent standard of literalness. It is interesting to note that Augustine made a similar warning back in the 4th century, long before Darwin!
    So there, belatedly, is another viewpoint. Best wishes.

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