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Age of the Earth and Universe

 ( Part 1: The Bible & Christian Theological Perspectives ) 

An overview of this page is in the homepage for Views of Creation.

Sections in this page:
Searching for Truth in the Two Books of God 
Linking The Gospel with a Young Earth 
Interpreting Genesis 1 & The Bible 
Animal Death before Human Sin 
Adam & Eve in Historical Context 
Noah's Flood — Was it local or global? 
Appearance of Old Age in a Young Creation? 

This page describes educational web-resources with a variety of views, to stimulate your thinking and help you explore a wide range of ideas.   {information & disclaimer}

        Searching for Truth in the Two Books of God
        When we ask five important questions about creation (who, what, when, how, why) we can use information from two sources provided for us by God:  the Word of God (in the Bible) and the Works of God (in nature). 
        What is the best way to learn from these two revelations, and find harmony in what we learn?  Is harmony impossible because there is inherent conflict between the information we see in scripture and nature?  Can science provide reliable information about the history of nature?  These questions, and others, are explored in SEARCHING FOR TRUTH IN THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD and in the rest of this page.

        We should use both of God's informative revelations, in scripture and nature, so usually the reasons for adopting a particular view are both theological (the focus in THIS PAGE) and scientific (the focus in AGE OF THE EARTH — SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE). 

Is it wise to link The Gospel with a Young Earth?
Is a young earth an essential foundation for Christianity, because the Bible clearly states that the earth is young?  Or should we avoid this claim because it is theologically questionable (if there are reasons to question the Biblical support for young-earth claims) or is scientifically questionable (due to the strong evidence-and-logic supporting old-earth theories) and because a claim that "if the Bible is true, the earth is young" is logically equivalent to declaring that "if the earth is not young, the Bible is not true"?  Is it wise, for faith and evangelism, to imply that a young-earth view is necessary for Bible-based theology?

When we examine the certainty and importance of a young earth by asking, "Is this view taught with certainty in the Bible, and is it theologically important?", should we conclude that a young earth is an essential doctrine for Christians?

• Henry Morris, the pioneer of modern young-earth creationism, defined people in terms of two worldviews:  "The basic conflict of the ages is between the two world views of evolutionism versus creationism. ...  The road of compromise [defined to include all Christian old-earth views], however attractive it seems, is a one-way street, ending in a precipice and then the awful void of ‘rational religion,’ or atheism." (source, 1988)
Should a church take a stand on creation? by John Morris, the son of Henry and current president of the Institute for Creation Research, explains why "beliefs in creation and a young earth are integral parts of Christianity" so young-earth belief "should be a requirement for Christian leadership!  No church should sanction a pastor, Sunday school teacher, deacon, elder, or Bible-study leader who knowledgeably and purposefully errs on this crucial doctrine."  (3 k)
A Young Earth — it's not the issue! by Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, explains that "AiG's main thrust is NOT ‘young Earth’ as such; our emphasis is on Biblical authority.  Believing in a relatively ‘young Earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator." (emphasis in original)  (7 k)
• Later in this page, regarding death before sin, John Morris and Ken Ham declare that if the earth is old, "the Christian faith is all in vain" and "the whole message of the Gospel falls apart."  (*)

    TWO WORLDVIEWS — YOUNG EARTH (biblical) and OLD EARTH (unbiblical) — ?
    According to Henry Morris, quoted above, there are only two basic worldviews:  creationism (believing the earth is young) and evolutionism (believing the earth is old).  The dividing line is belief about age.  A young-earth view, based on the Bible, is biblical creationism;  all old-earth views — even those of Christians whose beliefs in every way are based on the Bible — are unbiblical evolution.
    John Morris has adopted this "two views" rigidity, as you can see in his "requirement for Christian leadership" where he views the best old-earth Christian as only a semi-Christian.  Similarly, Ken Ham declares that there are only Two Histories of Death (young-earth Christian and atheistic) by ignoring old-earth Christian.  Unfortunately, young-earth creationists often declare that Christian old-earth creationists have surrendered to anti-Christian pressures.  But, as explained in THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD, "proponents of both views [young earth and old earth] include intelligent scholars with expertise (theological and/or scientific) who are devout Christians with high moral character, who sincerely want to find the truth."
    a clarification:  Prominent young-earth creationists seem to claim, as in the quotations above (*) that if the earth is not young, the gospel cannot be true," which is extremely unwise.  They do claim that young-earth doctrines are necessary as a foundation for correct doctrines of Christianity;  but they don't claim that young-earth belief is necessary for personal salvation by Christ, so they would not say that "if you don't believe in a young earth, your faith in Jesus will not save you."
    a question about humility:  When those who boldly declare that "if the earth is not young, the gospel cannot be true" get to heaven, if they discover that in reality "the earth was not young" will they reject this reality and refuse to joyously proclaim, along with the heavenly elders (in Revelation 4:11) that "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"?  If not, then maybe some current humility would help us more fully achieve the command of Jesus (to love each other in the way He loved us) and behave with a kindness that transcends our differences, so "everyone will recognize that you are my disciples, when they see the love you have for each other." (John 13:34-35)
    hope for humility:  Some young-earth creationists have a different attitude.  Because they want to learn, they carefully and prayerfully examine, with an open mind, all arguments (for both a young and old earth) for the important questions — about interpretations of Genesis 1, animal death before human sin, and scientific evidence for an old earth — and they see reasons for humility.  They put things in perspective and decide that a young earth is not taught with certainty in scripture (or nature) and is not theologically important, so it is not an essential doctrine of Christianity.  But their humble voices are soft and their influence is small.  By contrast, those with the extreme views you see in the quotes above and below are prominent leaders (John Morris & Ken Ham are presidents of the two largest organizations promoting young-earth creation) who speak loudly and exert a strong influence on millions of Christians, by telling them to also adopt these extreme views.  If there is hope for humility in the community of Christians, it will require either an effective "grass roots" movement, or leaders with attitudes that become more humble and gentle.

Many Respected Christian Leaders are Open to an Old-Earth Perspective
Does the method of creation matter? — no, says Billy Graham.  (1 k)  
• But when a Christian who thinks "believing the Bible requires belief in a young earth" examines the scientific evidence (as in AGE OF THE EARTH: SCIENCE) and concludes "the earth is old" and then "if the Bible is wrong about the earth's age, maybe it's also wrong about the rest," faith can be weakened or abandoned, as described in Personal Experiences of Former Young-Earth Creationists (17 k) which contains quotations from (and links to) their web-pages.
Why can young-earth rigidity be harmful to Christian faith? by Greg Neyman (6 k), who says you can be a Christian and believe in an old earth (13 k) and explains (6 k) how to become a Christian.  In his pages about relationships and arguments he has a good attitude toward young-earth creationists, and he is trying to improve relationships between devout, theologically conservative Christians who differ mainly in their conclusions about age of the earth.  (6 k and 3 k)
The Creation Date Controversy by Hugh Ross, who suggests that we "distinguish between the essential belief in creation, more specifically in Jesus Christ as the personal, transcendent Creator, and the nonessential belief in a particular view of when creation took place and over what time span. The issue of when God created must never again be used as a yardstick to measure a person's sincerity of faith or spiritual maturity."  (19 k)  {this page is on the website of Leadership University, which is a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ}
Biblical Theology for "young earth" Christians by Craig Rusbult, encourages respect (for other Christians) and faith (in God and the Bible) because "the full gospel of Jesus... is fully compatible with a young earth or old earth."  (27 k + 15k)

    Is an old earth a slippery slope?
    In a slippery slope argument, a view is evaluated for what it might become if it was taken to an extreme, instead of evaluating the view for what it actually IS.
    Let's return to a question from earlier: "Should we conclude that a young earth is an essential doctrine for Christians?"  Ken Ham says "yes" because he thinks belief in a young earth "is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator," and because he thinks old-earth beliefs are a Slippery Slope to Unbelief"If we re-interpret God’s Word in Genesis to fit man’s fallible opinion, then ultimately, it would only be consistent to apply this same hermeneutic (method of interpretation) elsewhere, even to Christ's Resurrection."
    If we think the earth is old, is a "slippery slope to unbelief" inevitable?  No.  Do all claims that "the Bible teaches this" have equal support?  No.  We can rationally decide that 144-Hour Creation is not true, but The Resurrection is true and is an essential doctrine because (compared with a young earth) it is much more certainly taught and important.   Why does Ken Ham think the earth moves?

Why shouldn't Christians accept millions of years? by Terry Mortenson in AIG's New Answers Book  (11 k)
The Danger of Misplaced Dogmatism by Vance McAllister (7 k + 34 comments in 34k), and a follow-up, The Gospel of The Young Earth by Michael Patton (3 k + 190 comments in 302k, including some from Vance);  in his own blog, Vance says "I am dedicated to standing strongly for Scripture in those areas that are essentials of the faith, regardless of what the ‘world’ says.  I can join Luther and say ‘here I stand’.  But when we are talking about areas that are not essential, which are not ‘salvation issues’, and upon which sincere and dedicated Christians differ, dogmatism can be dangerous. ...  I want to remove the stumbling block to the Gospel message that is being created by a dogmatic presentation of Creationism,... by the ‘either/or’ teaching that [often] comes with it."
A New Look at an Old Earth, by Don Stoner, Chapters 1 (Judging Ourselves First), 2 (Science, Theology, and Truth), and 7 (Repairing the Damage)

• In another page you can see the vigorous ACTION STRATEGIES FOR EDUCATION ABOUT AGE by Christians with young-earth views, and responses by Christians with old-earth views.

• Ken Ham explains the necessity for believing in six literal days.  (6 k)

The two most common claims for young-earth theology are:
A) young-earth history is clearly stated in Genesis 1,
B) death before sin is theologically unacceptable.

A. Interpretations of Genesis 1 and The Bible
Does Genesis 1 describe a 144-hour creation?  Or when we examine the text, are other interpretations possible and preferable?  And when we carefully study the Bible as a whole, should we conclude that the universe is young, or old, or that neither view is clearly taught?

This section — which describes interpretations of Genesis as chronological history (day-age, consecutive days, nonconsecutive days, days of proclamation, or restoration after a gap) or nonchronological history (in a logical framework), and also asks whether descriptions in Genesis use cultural concepts from the Ancient Near East — is in a separate page, CREATIONIST INTERPRETATIONS OF GENESIS 1.


B. Death and Sin
The section asking "is it wise to link the gospel with a young earth?" ends with Ken Ham emphasizing the need for a young-earth interpretation of Genesis, and his strongest claim is about death and sin: "The Bible is adamant that death, disease, and suffering came into the world as a result of sin. ... As soon as Christians allow for death, suffering, and disease before sin, then the whole foundations of the message of the Cross and the Atonement have been destroyed. ... The whole message of the Gospel falls apart if one allows millions of years for the creation of the world."

Before human sin entered the world in Genesis 3, was there no death of higher animals (soulish nephesh-creatures) in nature?  Or was a full supernatural protection from death, provided by God in Eden — symbolized by "the tree of life"removed by God (in Genesis 3:22) due to sin, so Adam and Eve would begin to perish, with natural processes temporarily allowing life while gradually leading to death?  If the earth is old, is the sinless life and sacrificial substitutionary death of Jesus (followed by His supernatural resurrection) sufficient for salvation, to convert sin and death into grace and life?   (later, "the tree of life" is in heaven, in Revelation 2:7 & 22:14)

Death before Sin? — John Morris says "no" and explains why "If death existed before Adam, then death is not the penalty for sin.  How, then, did Christ's death pay the penalty for our sin?  If death is not tied to Adam's sin, then life is not tied to Christ's death and resurrection, and the Christian faith is all in vain."  (2 k)
TWO Histories of Death (young-earth Christian and old-earth atheistic) by Ken Ham  (7 k)
THREE Histories of Death — Theology for Humans not Animals by Craig Rusbult, explains how old-earth Christian is similar to young-earth Christian (not old-earth atheistic) in an overview of what the Bible clearly teaches about death and sin.  (18 k + 4k)
The god of an old earth (Does the Bible teach that disease, bloodshed, violence and pain have always been ‘part of life’?) is a gift from Ken Ham, who concludes that "the god of an old earth destroys the Gospel" after emphatically declaring (in bold font!) that "the god of an old earth cannot therefore be the God of the Bible who is able to save us from sin and death," so Christians who think the earth is old are "worshipping a different god, the cruel god of an old earth."  This harsh accusation brought a response from Greg Moore, who was motivated by the hope that more Christians will "focus on the things that unite us, and avoid passing judgment on nonessential matters" when he wrote Old-Earth Creationism: A Heretical Belief? to explain why an old-earth view of creation (specifically, Hugh Ross and his evangelistic ministry, Reasons to Believe) can be authentically Christian.  John Morris disagrees, and in Evolution and the Wages of Sin he explains why "if the earth is old, if fossils date from before man's sin, then Christianity is wrong!"   (8 k, 24 k, 12 k)
• If the earth really is old, these harsh accusations against an old earth (by Ham and Morris) are really accusations against God.  Instead, it would seem wise to adopt an attitude that is more humble, as described above.
No Death before the Fall? by Richard Deem, shows why this young-earth claim (which is defended "primarily by an appeal to emotion") is actually "a young-earth problem" because it is not supported by a careful study of the Bible.
Why is there death and suffering? is a young-earth view from Ken Ham & Jonathan Sarfati (it was on the web for free but now it's being sold, and the link forwards to a page by Tommy Mitchell)  (28 k + 1k)
Theological Analysis of Young-Earth Assertions about Death Before Sin by Gary Emberger, concludes that "an old-earth position... is theologically compatible with accepted approaches to biblical interpretation."  (37 k, PSCF)
Chronology of the Fall by Randy Isaac, looks at history and the effects of sin, in a comprehensive examination of five possible time scales — instantaneous, double, retroactive, gradual, atemporal — and (for the instantaneous time scale) four ideas about the scope of the curse — physical, physiological, anthropological, and spiritual plus psychological.  (40 k, PSCF)
Why Were Dangerous Animals Created? by David Snoke, who looks at scripture and sees that "violent and dangerous creatures are affirmed as good creations of God in the Bible" and discusses "the biblical rationale for their creation."  (40 k, PSCF)
Death before Sin is a links-page (in the old-earth creation website of Answers in Creation) with links to articles by Greg Neyman (Death before the Fall of Man) and other authors.

• SIN AND THERMODYNAMICS?  Henry Morris taught that The Second Law of Thermodynamics began at The Fall, but this wild claim has been criticized — first by old-earth creationists, and then by fellow young-earth creationists (including Answers in Genesis) — as explained in EVOLUTION AND ENTROPY.

Human Origins — Adam and Eve in History
When and where did Adam & Eve live?  Are they the parents of all humans?  Did nonhuman "hominids" exist before them?  Are the lists of their descendants complete, and what about the long lifespans?   HUMAN ORIGINS: THEOLOGY & SCIENCE

Noah's Flood — Was it local or global?
Did this flood cover a local region or the entire world?  When we consider all questions — by asking "how could all species fit on the ark? does erets mean "planet" or "land"? what does geological evidence show us?" and more — which type of flood (local or global) is more consistent with evidence from scripture and nature?   These questions are examined in NOAH'S FLOOD: THEOLOGY & SCIENCE which looks at our interpretations of scripture and nature, although most age-science questions are in AGE OF THE EARTH: SCIENCE.

Appearance of Old Age in a Young Creation
Was the universe created recently in a mature state, so it has a false "apparent history" and appears to be much older than it really is?  This question is explored in APPEARANCE OF AGE — THEOLOGY and DISTANT STARLIGHT — SCIENCE.

INFORMATION for readers is in a brief page about our Goal (a quick education for you), Quality (because we've made choices) and Variety (you'll see multiple positions, hence the disclaimer below), Exploring with Freedom (you can use sections and page-links in any order), Size ("20 k + 5k" is for main body + appendices/references), and Links (that open in a new window).


In this page you'll find links to resource-pages expressing a wide range of views, which don't necessarily represent the views of the American Scientific Affiliation.  Therefore, linking to a page does not imply an endorsement by the ASA.  We encourage you to use your own critical thinking to evaluate everything you read.

This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
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  this page, written by Craig Rusbult (editor of ASA's website for Whole-Person Education), is
and was revised June 4, 2010

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