How old is the universe?

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

Advocates of young-earth views should be admired for their
sincere desire to believe what they think the Bible teaches.
But they should seriously consider the possibility that their
interpretations are unjustifiably rigid, and may be wrong.
This page explains why young-universe theories
are not
theologically necessary and
are not scientifically plausible

I suggest that you begin with a "big picture" overview
by reading a condensed summary of this page about

1. Young-Earth Theology
Interpreting Genesis 1     Other Questions from Genesis
Efficiency (Resources and Time)     Animal Death and Human Sin
Death in Nature     Creation in Biblical History     a summary

2. Young-Earth Science
Abundant Evidence     Apparent Age    Two Questions

3. Logical Adjustments

4. Why does it matter?
Practical Results in Science and Education
Should the gospel be linked with a young earth?
Truth and Theory, Humility and Respect

Theistic Action     Old-Earth Creation(s)
    Bible first and then Science     Does the gospel require a young earth?
    Understanding and Respect     Personal Experiences (of former yeCs)

  1. Young-Earth Theology
    Advocates of young-earth creation (yeC) claim theological support based mainly on their interpretation of the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

    Interpreting Genesis 1
    According to a young-earth interpretation of Genesis 1, the entire creation process occurred in six consecutive 24-hour days.  But other interpretations, which also seem linguistically and theologically plausible, have been proposed.  In a day-age view, each "day" is a very long period of time.  { The Hebrew word "yom" that is translated "day" can mean daytime (sunrise to sunset), a solar day (sunset to sunset), or a long time interval of unspecified length. }  A gap theory postulates an initial creation (in Genesis 1:1), a catastrophe (in 1:2), and a re-creation (from 1:3 onward).  Or creation might have occurred during six non-consecutive 24-hour days, with long periods between each day.  Or perhaps, in six consecutive 24-hour days of proclamation, God described what would occur, and then the actual process of creation occurred.
    I think the most plausible interpretation is indicated by an important characteristic of Genesis 1, the logical framework formed by the six days.  Genesis 1:2 describes two problems: the earth was "formless and empty."  The two solutions are to produce form, and to fill.  The first 3 days produce form (by separations that produce day and night, sky and sea, and land with plants) and the second 3 days fill these forms (with sun for day and moon for night, birds for sky and fish for sea, and land animals that eat plants):

    produce form by separation     fill each form
  1 separating day and night   4 sun and moon for day and night
  2 separating sky and sea   5 sky animals, sea animals
  3 separating land and sea,
land plants are created
  6 land animals and humans,
plants are used for food

A coherent "form and fill" structure seems clear.  After recognizing this, we can ask whether the six days are also chronological.  The meaning intended by God for the six days could be only structural with no implications for the duration of creation (this is my view), or both structural and chronological, or (if the framework is illusory) only chronological.  A major difficulty for chronological interpretations is the creation of the sun in Day 4, after three 24-hour days (that were not normal solar days) if a young earth, or following a long period with plants (but without the solar energy used by plants) if an old earth.
    It is important to recognize that nonchronological does not mean nonhistorical.  In a framework interpretation, Genesis 1 describes historical events that actually occurred.  These real events are just described in a way that is logical, not chronological.  This is consistent with the fact that history is often written (now and in the past, in the Bible and elsewhere) with a topical structure in which topics are arranged in a logical framework, not in a chronological sequence.
    In Genesis 1, for example, Days 1 and 4 describe two related aspects of what actually happened during history — there was a separation of light from darkness due to God's creation of our sun — even though there was no separation (Day 1) until the sun was created (Day 4).  When combined, the "form and fill" description in Days 1 and 4 is historical but not chronological.  Similarly, Days 2 and 5 describe two historical aspects of creation for the sea (which was then filled with sea animals) and sky (filled with sky animals), as do Days 3 and 6 (for the creation of land, land plants, and land animals).

    All interpretations should acknowledge and emphasize the important theological statements in Genesis 1:  All that we see in nature is a creation of God, subordinate to God.  There are no polytheistic "nature gods" so we should worship only the one true God who created everything.  God declared the creation to be "very good" so we can reject any idea that physical things are intrinsically bad.  Our problem is sin, not physicality.  Nature is placed in proper perspective;  God's creation is good but not divine.  And humans are special because God created us in his own image.

    Other Questions
    In addition to the six days of creation, other interesting questions from Genesis involve the historical context of Adam and Eve, whether Noah's Flood was global or local, and if the genealogies are complete or (as in other places in the Bible) incomplete yet accurate.  These questions are discussed in other parts of the website but not in this page.  But two other questions, regarding time and death, are examined below.

    Efficiency (resources and time)
  Is a long process of creation a waste of time?  Why use billions of years, instead of 144 hours?  Or is this a needless worry?  God has plenty of resources, including time, and the evidence of nature strongly indicates that God — like a gardener lovingly caring for a garden, or a master potter carefully molding clay — really did take a long time to shape the creation, to gradually form its inhabitants along with the earth's geology and ecology.  And perhaps the process was pleasing: "Maybe God enjoys watching his universe operate.  Maybe he delights in seeing processes he has designed unfold.  Maybe a few billion years watching an incredibly intricate, complex, beautiful creation in exquisite operation does not strike him as a waste of time.  And maybe we should be a bit cautious about humanly decreeing that it would be. (Del Ratzsch, in The Battle of Beginnings)"  Instead of challenging God's wisdom by asking "Why did you waste billions of years?", it seems wise for us to adopt an appropriately humble attitude, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. (Job 42:3, in the context of 36:22 to 42:6)"

    Animal Death before Human Sin
    Could animal death precede human sin?  During a process of old-earth creation or theistic evolution, many animals would live and die.  Young-earth critics of old-earth theology place a very heavy emphasis on their claim that a loving God would not use this cruel process, and that "death before sin" is incompatible with the central Biblical doctrine (firmly established on Genesis 3, Romans 5,...) that death is the result of sin.
    Initially this argument seems impressive.  But when we look more closely, we see that even though the Bible refers to death as an enemy of humans, to be overcome by the death and resurrection of Christ (I Corinthians 15:12-57), the Bible doesn't say much about the death of animals.  Based on what is written in the Bible, animal death before human sin is not a theological problem because eternal life through the supernatural "tree of life" (in Genesis 2-3) was available for humans, not for animals;  although a claim that "death is the result of sin" is correct, when we look more carefully it seems that "human death is the result of human sin" (which can be an old-earth view or young-earth view) is more justifiable than "all death is the result of human sin" (only a young-earth view).  Here is brief history of salvation:  eternal life, without death, was offered by God to humans, was lost by Adam (Genesis 3:22), was regained for us by Jesus, and will be actualized in the future (Revelation 2:7, 22:14).
    This brief outline (of a Bible-based view of sin and death) is examined in more detail below.

    Ken Ham helps us understand why life is what it is now — after God, because of human disobedience, decided to "give us what we asked for: a taste of life without God" — by comparing current life to life with God's protective power: "In the Old Testament, we get a glimpse of what the world is like when God upholds things one-hundred percent.  In Deuteronomy 29:5 and Nehemiah 9:21, we are told that the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, and yet their clothes didn't wear out, their shoes didn't wear out and their feet didn't swell.  Obviously God miraculously upheld their clothing, shoes and feet so that they would not wear out or fall apart as the rest of the creation is doing.  One can only imagine what the world would be like if God upheld every detail of it like this.  /  The book of Daniel, chapter 3, gives us another glimpse, when we read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walking into an intensely blazing furnace yet coming out without even the smell of smoke on their clothes.  When the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of the universe, upheld their bodies and clothing in the midst of fire (v. 25), nothing could be hurt or destroyed." (source)
    God's protective theistic action can be either miraculous-appearing (as in the furnace, or viewing the Israelites for 40 years) or normal-appearing (as in viewing the Israelites for a short time), can vary from partial protection to full "one-hundred percent" protection, and can be uniform (applied to all of creation) or selective (applied to only some aspects of creation, at some times).
    In Ham's young-earth view, there was full protective power for all of creation, from the beginning and into Eden.  After the disobedient sin of Adam, God decided to make the protective power only partial and selective, until the new creation when full protective power will be restored.  { The new creation is described in Revelation 21-22. }
    In my old-earth view, there was full protective power in Eden for humans.  After the disobedient sin of Eve and Adam, God decided to make the protective power only partial and selective, until the new creation when full protective power will be restored.  In all of this, Ham and I agree.  But unlike Ham, I think that before Eden (and outside Eden) the protective power was partial and selective, and that although animals in Eden may have had full protection, it is possible (since "the tree of life" was offered only to humans) that in Eden the animals were not fully protected. ==[fix last sentence, explain more][original no-death probably wasn't natural, was supernatural protection, was not due to a change in the Second Law of Thermo, describe fine tuning balance]

    A common young-earth claim is that the character of the entire creation changed, due to Adam's sin, from a state with no death to a state with death.  A passage often cited is Romans 8:18-25, "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:20-22, NIV)"  The present state of the creation, without full protective power, is being compared to a future state with "the glorious freedom of the children of God" as described in Revelation 21:4, when God "will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (NIV); ...the former things are passed away (KJ); ...the first things have passed away (NAS)"  Instead of saying "creation will be restored to its first state," it says "the first things have passed away," which does not support a young-earth view, and may provide support against it.
    Another verse often cited is Genesis 1:31, "And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (NIV)"  When this is combined with a young-earth interpretation (which is not in the Biblical text) that "very good" means "no death," it seems to support a young-earth view.  But I think it's more probable that "very good" means "very good for achieving God's goals for the creation and (especially) for humans."  When Paul says that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)," this does not mean "no death, mourning, crying, or pain."  Instead, it means "good for achieving God's goals for us, in this life and the next life."

    Were all animals vegetarians?
  A young-earth theology of "no death before sin" claims support from Genesis 1:29-30, "Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food.'  And it was so."  But this claim requires an unjustifiable assumption that "I give every green plant for food" (in the Bible) really means "I give only green plants for food" (not in the Bible).  This passage allows a vegetarian diet for animals and humans, but does not require it. *  { Perhaps the main function of the passage is to serve as part of the framework described above (to produce a parallel between Days 3 and 6) and to set a context for the importance of the two trees in Genesis 2-3. } { * But Genesis 9:3 does indicate that, until after Noah's flood, God wanted humans to be vegetarians. }
    But if all animals were intended to eat only plants, why were some animals designed with carniverous features (sharp teeth,...) that are useful for killing other animals and eating meat?  This is a tough question, but perhaps young-earth answers are satisfactory.  One possible answer, proposed by John Morris and Ham/Sarfati/Wieland, is that after Adam's sin, God changed some animals using the "creation by modification" that is discussed below.

    Since Genesis 2-3 is a key episode in salvation history, let's look at what happened.
  In Genesis 2:17, God says "you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."  In Genesis 3:6, Eve and Adam ate from this tree, choosing to make moral decisions for themselves, independent from God, instead of trusting and obeying God.
    Their sinful disobedience had three results:  The immediate intrinsic result of disobedience was a loss of their innocence and their intimate relationship with God, as described in Genesis 3:7-11.  Then two judicial results were decreed by God, as described in Gen 3:14-24.  The judicial penalty for sin begins with a decrease in quality of life (Gen 3:14-19,23) for humans.  And the ultimate penalty (Gen 3:22,24) involves death and the tree of life:  God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."  To prevent disobedient sinners from living forever, God removed "the tree of life."  Without supernatural protective support from God (symbolized by the tree of life) Adam and Eve began to perish, with natural processes leading gradually to their eventual death.
    The fall into sin produced three results, one intrinsic and two judicial: a decrease in quality of relationship with God, a decrease in quality of life, and a loss of everlasting life.  Through God's grace and power, the initial gift of life (with relationship, quality, and immortality) was offered to Adam, but was lost by his sinful disobedience.  Later, this gift of life (with relationship, quality, and immortality) was won back for us by our savior.  Jesus accepted the penalty of death that each of us earns by our spiritual disobedience, and (by living in obedience to the Father) Jesus earned the right to make His own Eternal Life available, as a gift of grace, to all humans who will accept: "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)  The immortality taken from us in Genesis is given back to us in Revelation: "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. ... Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." (Revelation 2:7, 22:14)  At this time, God's goal of "no sin and no death" will be permanently actualized.
    The "tree of [everlasting] life" was (and will be) a supernatural gift from God.  God gave the tree of life to humans (in Gen 2:9), temporarily removed it (Gen 3:22) due to the disobedient sin of humans, and will give it back to humans (Rev 2:7, 22:14) through the salvation that Jesus earned for humans and offers to us (John 3:16, Romans 6:23).

    Death in Nature
  The death of animals is a necessary part of nature.  If every animal lived forever, eventually either there could be no more reproduction, or the number of animals would increase so much that there would be a depletion of natural resources.  A healthy ecological system depends on a continuing cycle of new life followed eventually by death, and more new life.
    The ecological function of death raises important questions.  Are there satisfactory young-earth answers?  Death is necessary in nature as we see it now, but this nature is not the only world that is possible.  For example, the new creation (Revelation 21-22) will operate with no death, so maybe the original nature was designed, as young-earth creationists suggest, so it had a different ecology and could operate without death.
    And in response to other questions about vegetarianism and natural lifespans, one young-earth proposal (which seems reasonable) is that plants, bacteria, and lower animals (insects,...) have a much lower level of mental ability and consciousness, so even if some of these died (to be used for food, or due to a short lifespan) after being created but before Adam's sin, this would not cause any difficulties for a young-earth claim that there was no death of higher animals (of soulish nephesh-creatures) before sin.

    Creation during Biblical History
    In young-earth special creation, God "used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe. (Duane Gish)"  But in old-earth progressive creation, God's theistic action during the long creation process is similar to God's action (usually normal-appearing and occasionally miraculous) during the long salvation process (recorded in the Bible) that extends from the Fall through Abraham and Jesus into the present and future.
    And in old-earth creation by modification of existing matter, another analogy with Biblical history is that, when doing miracles, God usually has worked with available resources instead of "starting from scratch" with independent creations.  For example, Jesus converted water into wine (in John 2) instead of creating wine from nothing.  At the beginning of history, Jesus created the universe from nothing, but during history Jesus preferred to create wine from water, not from nothing.  And when God acted through Peter and John to miraculously heal the lame man in Acts 3, there was major biological constancy — the lame man retained his body (with most of it unchanged, so he was recognized by everyone) — despite the major biological changes in his muscle tissue and in "coordination knowledge for his nerves" so he could use his new leg muscles.  Throughout almost all his life, except for the instant of miraculous change, natural process (partially or totally guided by God) seemed to be the only factor operating in his life, with everything occurring naturally in the usual normal-appearing way.  A time-line of his life would be "natural (for a long time), miracle (for an instant), natural (for a long time)," analogous to the time-line that is proposed in old-earth "creation by modification" for the development of earth's biological life.  {details}
    Of course, the fact that this "natural miracle natural" pattern occurs repeatedly throughout the Bible is not a proof, but if there is analogy between Biblical history and creation history, Biblical miracles do provide theological support for "old-earth progressive creation by modification of existing resources" as the most common method (but not necessarily the only method) used by God during the process of creation.

    a summary
    Advocates of a young-earth position should be admired for their desire to take the Word of God seriously, to determine what it teaches and then believe it.  But perhaps their interpretations are unjustifiably rigid.  Linguistic scholars and theologians, after careful studies of Genesis and the Bible as a whole, have not reached agreement about the meaning of Genesis 1-11.  For example, in 1982 the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy decided (by agreement of all members except Henry Morris) to not include a 144-hour creation as an essential component of a fundamentalist belief in inerrancy. *  In my opinion, a young-earth interpretation of the Bible is possible but other interpretations are preferable, linguistically and theologically, so belief in the truth of what the Bible teaches does not require belief in a young earth.   {* the ICBI's Statements of Affirmation }


    2. Young-Earth Science

    Abundant Evidence
    Do observations support young-earth scientific theories?
    A thorough examination of the evidence shows that yeC flood geology theories — which claim that a global flood produced most of the earth's geology and fossil record — lead to incorrect theory-based explanations (*) for many phenomena, including geological formations, the arrangement of fossils within this geology, and the biogeographical distribution (both now and in the fossil record) of animals and plants.  { * A theory-based explanation can be either a prediction (made before observations are known) or a retroduction (made after observations are known).  When predictions and retroductions are done well, using valid logic to derive explanations from theories, they are logically equivalent. }
    In order to get theory-based explanations that agree with observations, a long time interval (much longer than allowed by yeC) is required in many modern theories in a wide range of fields, including the study of sedimentary rocks, coral reefs, the fossil record in its geological context, seafloor spreading and continental drift, magnetic reversals, genetic molecular clocks, radioactive dating, the development of stars, starlight from faraway galaxies, and more.
    The support for an old earth increases because "a long time" is an essential component of many theories that in other ways, such as the domains they explain and the other components they use, are relatively independent.  This makes it less likely — compared with a situation where two theories are closely related and share many essential components, or where the plausibility of each theory depends on the plausibility of the other theory — that suspicions of circular reasoning are justified.
    With this independence, the evidence that leads scientists to an old-earth conclusion is not like a "house of cards" where if one part falls it all falls.  It is more like an extremely strong house that has a ceiling supported in many different ways:  with concrete walls reinforced by steel rods, plus granite pillars, wood beams,...   Each type of support would be sufficient by itself, but when combined the support is even stronger.  The yeC task of pulling down the "old earth house" would require discarding much of the knowledge and structure of modern science.  This isn't likely to happen, nor does it seem to be a desirable goal.
    In an attempt to show that the earth is not old, yeCs have proposed a variety of arguments ranging from dust on the moon to salt in the sea, from vanishing magnetism to a shrinking sun.  All of these arguments are easily answered by current scientific theories.  And while yeC does make some valid claims for the geological importance of catastrophic events, this does not contradict the old-earth theories of modern geology, which postulate a combination of slow-acting uniformitarian processes and fast-acting catastrophic events such as volcanoes, earthquakes, and floods.
    a summary:  Although yeCs can hope that in the future their scientific theories eventually will obtain a closer match with observations, this optimism does not seem justified.

    The scientific evidence for "age of the universe" is carefully examined in this website, in Origins Evidence.

    Apparent Age
    yeC theories propose a young earth and also a young universe.  But if light is reaching us from stars that, by plausible calculations, are billions of light-years away, how could this light have been emitted billions of years ago if the universe is less than ten thousand years old?  Dividing 10 billion years by 10 thousand years shows that, according to yeC, estimates of star-distances are in error by a factor of 1,000,000, which doesn't seem likely.
    To avoid this difficulty and others, both celestial and terrestrial, many yeCs postulate a universe created with apparent age (AA) so that some features (or all features?) appear to be extremely old even though the actual age is very young.  According to AA theory, proposed in 1857 by Phillip Gosse, God formed a suitable environment for the first humans by creating an immediately functional universe with mature humans, complete ecosystems, our solar system and sun, and starlight created "in transit" so the night sky would not look dark and empty.  All features, despite their recent creation, would appear to be old.  But what about features that weren't necessary for human functioning?  Perhaps these were also created with apparent age to provide accurate data that, when analyzed by scientific methods, would let us construct reliable theories to serve as a basis for making rational decisions about nature.
    If God was not theologically interested in the pre-human history of nature, he could decide to skip it, just as we "fast forward" through a long tape.  How?  Consistent with the principle of theistic action sustaining the universe, God could instantly create — with a single divine thought — a universe that looks exactly the same as if it had been created with a Big Bang billions of years ago, complete with an accurate history of "what would have happened since the beginning" even though it never happened.  If the antiquing was done perfectly it would be impossible, using scientific observation and analysis, to distinguish between a universe that really is billions of years old and a universe created 6000 years ago (or 5 minutes ago) that just appears to be old.  In this situation our only reliable source of knowledge about the true age would be revelation from God, which according to yeC has been provided in Genesis.
    When AA defends it, yeC seems immune to testing.  But even though AA by itself cannot be empirically tested, usually yeC combines a theory of AA (with a false observed age for everything created during the first 144 hours) and a theory of flood geology (with a true observed age for all features produced during the flood of Noah).  A hybrid theory of "AA plus flood geology" produces theory-based explanations that can be scientifically tested, and many of these predictions do not agree with observations.  This is a scientific reason to reject AA.

    Observations also provide a theological reason to reject AA, when we observe detailed evidence indicating the occurrence of events that, if the universe is young, never really occurred.  For example, when scientists observe light whose characteristics are changing in a way which corresponds to the sequence of events that occur during a supernova explosion, should they conclude that this event really did occur, or that it is part of an apparent history (created by God) about events which never really happened?
    In a 144-hour creation it would be necessary, for practical reasons, to create some things (humans, ecosystems, our sun,...) in mature form so they would be immediately functional.  In contrast with this essential-AA, there seems to be no practical reason for nonessential-AA (such as the details of a supernova which never happened) that wouldn't be necessary for the functioning of Adam and Eve in Eden.  /   nonessential-AA is examined in more detail in Apparent Age: Young-Earth Creation with a False Appearance of Age
    If the universe really is young, are we seeing what would have happened if there had been a Big Bang Beginning in an old universe?  Should scientists try to figure out which data shows "what really happened" and which data shows "what would have happened" but didn't really happen?  This could be very confusing.  Or should we conclude that an origins theory which includes nonessential-AA is theologically questionable because God probably would not create an old-looking universe with a variety of "false history" details (including the sequential characteristics of supernova starlight, and much more) that are confusing and misleading.  If God wants to avoid misleading us with false history, He could do this by creating a universe that is old, so it can actually be the age it appears to be.
    It is even difficult for proponents of "a young universe that looks old because of AA" to logically determine what they should believe.  If there is a superb "antiquing job" that provides all details of the history that would naturally occur following a Big Bang, and therefore the scientific evidence clearly indicates a history that began billions of years ago with a Big Bang, then why should young-universe scientists challenge the scientific credibility of this conclusion?  Should they agree with the logic of old-universe science, but not its conclusions, by assuming that although it's possible to reach valid historical conclusions for events that seem to have happened less than 6000 years ago, all conclusions are automatically wrong for everything that seems to have happened more than 6000 years ago?  And should they encourage all scientists to adopt this assumption?

    In my opinion, a theory of apparent age should be taken seriously.  But there are serious questions — including a theological question posed by God creating evidence that misleadingly indicates an old age for a young universe, and the difficulties of determining what a yeC should believe — that don't seem to have satisfactory answers.  Although I think "apparent age" theories are worthy of careful, respectful consideration, I don't think, when all things are considered, that it will seem wise to use apparent age — especially when, as is usually the case, it is combined with scientifically inadequate flood geology — as an essential part of a foundation for science or faith.

    Two Questions
    Decades before Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published in 1859, scientists were proposing (and accepting) old-earth theories to explain what they observed in geological formations.  These scientists thought the earth was old because this idea was useful in explaining geological observations, not because an old earth was needed for Darwinian evolution, since Darwin's theory did not arrive until later.
    It is important to understand the distinction between two separate questions: the age of the earth, and Darwinian evolution.  Of course, evolution would be impossible with a young earth, so we can say that "if the earth is young, then evolution is impossible."  But evolution may also be impossible if the earth is old.  Other papers examine the many reasons to think that, even with an old earth, full-scale Darwinian evolution is implausible, and a natural origin of life is even less plausible.  Therefore, "old earth" does not equal "evolution";  old-earth creation, with God miraculously creating new forms of life, is not the same as old-earth evolution, with all forms of life evolving through a natural process.  These two theories are different, and it is wrong to imply that an old-earth worldview is necessarily an evolutionary worldview.  For precise communication, to avoid misunderstanding, young-earth creationists should distinguish between general evolution (with a long period of change, not a quick creation in 144 hours) and biological evolution (a natural development of all biocomplexity).  {the many meanings of evolution}

  3. Logical Adjustments

    In my opinion, advocates of young-earth creation (yeC) begin with a firm commitment to young-earth theology (an example) based on their interpretation of Genesis, and then adjust their yeC-science to make it fit their yeC-theology.  In my opinion, this does not produce satisfactory science;  although a yeC interpretation of the Bible is reasonable, this makes it necessary to accept science that is unreasonable.
    On the other hand, old-earth creation (oeC) begins with support from science, and this motivates an examination of old-earth theology. When we study the Bible carefully, we find valid reasons, both linguistic and theological, for concluding that an old-earth interpretation is logically justified;  in fact, I think that, based only on the scripture itself, it's best to view the six days of Genesis 1 as a logical framework.  Therefore, the old-earth science has produced "a motivation to reconsider" rather than a logical adjustment.  { This distinction is consistent with the principle that the logic used to evaluate a theory can be relatively independent from the motivation used to propose the theory. }
    Intelligent people who are devout Christians disagree about the amounts of theological and scientific adjustments in yeC and oeC views.  But to me it seems clear that there is much less logical adjustment with oeC theology (which seems very satisfactory) than with yeC science (which seems very unsatisfactory).

    Some critics of oeC disagree by claiming that old-earth theology requires adjustments that are large, not small.
    Other critics agree that oeC interpretations and theology are reasonable, but they propose that, out of respect for The Word of God, we should consider a small adjustment in the Bible to be more significant than a large adjustment in science.  Or they question the legitimacy of using science as a reason to reconsider our Biblical interpretation.  But this argument becomes much less impressive when we look at it logically, when we remember that we are not comparing the Bible with science and deciding which is more important;  instead, we are comparing some fallible human interpretations (of the Bible) with other fallible human interpretations (of nature) while trying to search for the truth.  Let's consider an example from the history of theology and science:

    In the early-1600s, did some interpretations of the Bible disagree with reality?  Yes.  Did the Bible disagree with reality?  No.
    It is easy to argue for an earth-centered universe by appealing to what the Bible clearly states about a stationary earth — "the world is firmly established; it cannot be moved (Psalm 93:1)" — and compare this with a mobile sun that "rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other (Psalm 19:6)."  Also, Ecclesiastes 1:5 declares that "the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises."  During the period of time when earth-centered theories (in astronomy and physics) were being challenged by the sun-centered theory of Copernicus, "Both Protestant and Catholic geocentrists customarily cited verses [about a stationary earth and mobile sun] and interpreted them to refer literally to the physical world. ...  The literal interpretation of these passages springs from different sources for Protestants and Catholics.  For Protestants, it came from a steadfast faith in the inerrancy of the grammatically literal text; for Catholics, the literal meaning was legitimated by appeal to the (allegedly unanimous) authority of previous interpreters."*  Does this appeal to Scripture sound familiar?  (* from page 90 of Robert Westman's chapter, The Copernicans and the Churches, in God and Nature, edited by Lindberg & Numbers)  
    Initially, for 70 years after Copernicus published his theory, most scientists thought the earth-centered theories were more plausible.  Eventually, however, sun-centered theories were accepted by scientists, and our interpretations of the Biblical passages were adjusted.  Now we simply say, "The Bible is describing these phenomena, involving the earth and sun, as they appear to an observer on the surface of the earth."  This interpretation, motivated by strong scientific evidence that conflicted with a previous interpretation, is accepted by current inerrantists.  In doing this, there is no controversy, and no concern that our reinterpretation indicates a decrease in our respect for the Bible and its authority.  Almost everyone — with the exception of a few flat-earthers who claim that "God's word says the earth is flat, so that settles the issue" — agrees that we are merely comparing one human theory (about the intended meaning of God's word) with another human theory (about the best way to explain our observations of God's world) and we are deciding that it is more rational to adjust the first theory instead of the second theory.  Similarly, I think it is more rational to adopt an old-earth theological interpretation of the Bible that seems logically justified, rather than adopting a young-earth scientific interpretation of nature that does not seem logically justified.

  4. Why does it matter?

    Practical Results in Science and Education
    In the past four decades, since the revival of flood geology beginning in 1961, the most influential proponents of young-earth views have insisted on framing the origins question as "Christianity versus atheism" with Christianity represented by only young-earth creation, with old-earth creation and theistic evolution excluded from consideration.
    Of course, proponents of evolution are happy to accept this "two model" competition, since it makes evolution seem more plausible.  If there are only two alternatives, old-earth evolution and young-earth creation, scientific evidence for an old earth (and for basic "patterns of progression" in the fossil record) becomes evidence for evolution, which is given a higher status than it deserves.  In the two-model competition promoted by evolutionists and young-earth creationists, the elimination of old-earth creation allows a shift in focus that favors evolution.  Scientifically, old-earth evolution seems extremely plausible when compared with young-earth creation, due to the extremely strong scientific support for an old earth.  But when old-earth evolution is compared with old-earth creation, "age of the earth" questions become irrelevant so we can focus on "design in biology" questions, and the scientific weaknesses of neo-Darwinian evolution then become apparent.
    In education, science teachers have been wary of young-earth creationism because of its obvious connections with religion, and because it challenges the abundant evidence for an old universe in many areas of science — not just in biology, but also in physics and astronomy, and especially in geology.  Science teachers want to teach science that is well supported by evidence and logic, and they have not been enthusiastic about teaching their students that young-universe theories are scientifically credible, worthy of serious consideration in a science classroom.  In the past few decades, criticisms of evolution usually have been combined with young-universe theories (because anti-evolution and pro-evolution extremists have both insisted on a two-model approach), and a reluctance to teach the combined "package deal" has resulted in a reluctance to question evolution.  This reluctance has contributed to difficulties in getting teachers (and textbooks) to ask critical questions about evolution and to consider theories of intelligent design, even though modern design theories, developed in their current form mainly in the 1990s, are scientifically credible and educationally useful.
    In addition, the educational legislation supported by proponents of young-earth creation has led to unfortunate legal consequences, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that young-earth "creation science" is based on religion, not science.  Now there is a danger that theories of design — which are based on science, not religion, and would have been less likely to be viewed with suspicion if there had been no legal precedents involving young-earth creation — can be "painted with the same brush" and declared illegal.  Or, even though the actual legal situation for "teaching design" is far more favorable to "critical thinking about evolution" than is commonly realized, design can be excluded from the classroom in policy decisions (at the local, state, and national levels) due to concerns about a "package deal" that also — due to past experiences and associations, not the educational recommendations actually being made by proponents of design (*) — involves a young earth.  The concern is that if they allow criticisms of evolution into the classroom, young-earth flood geology and astronomy will soon follow.  { * Unfortunately, sometimes these ideas still do get mixed together into a single package.  This happened in 1999 in Kansas, where the state school board's criticisms of neo-Darwinian evolution were combined with criticisms of conventional old-earth geology and old-universe astronomy. }

    In the past four decades, what have been the practical results of young-earth creationism?  1) an increase in the perceived plausibility of evolution, which in a two-model scientific competition will "win points" simply because it proposes an old universe;  2) a decrease in the willingness of science teachers to criticize evolution, because they don't want to give credibility to the young-universe theories that usually have accompanied criticisms of evolution, and because they assume that the legal prohibitions against teaching young-earth creationism apply to any serious questioning of evolution.

    Should the gospel be linked with a young earth?
    Is a young earth essential for the gospel of Jesus?  According to prominent creationists, their young-earth interpretation of the Bible is necessary to provide a solid historical and theological foundation for Christianity.  They claim that "if the Bible is true, the earth is young" and even that "if the earth is old, the Gospel is false."  For example:  The whole message of the Gospel falls apart if one allows millions of years for the creation of the world.  /  Old-earth thinking is incompatible with the work of Christ." (Ken Ham, John Morris; sources and extended quotations)
    But it doesn't seem wise to link a young earth with the Gospel of Jesus by implying (or directly stating, as in the bold declarations above) that "either both are true, or both are false."  Why?

    First, this link doesn't seem justified.  There are valid reasons, based on careful linguistic and theological reasoning, for adopting old-earth interpretations of Genesis.  Although a belief that "God created everything" is essential, belief in a young earth is not.  A young-earth theory should never be elevated into a fundamental doctrine like the resurrection of Jesus.  In 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul correctly links The Resurrection with The Gospel: "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."  But I don't think he would make a similar claim for a young earth (*) because the full gospel of Jesus — including his deity, virgin birth and sinless human life, substitutionary atonement on the cross, death and resurrection, ascension into heaven, and second coming — is fully compatible with an old earth.  And for each person, a recognition of personal sin and the need for personal salvation depends on the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11) working in the human heart, reinforcing the conclusions of a healthy human conscience (Romans 2:14-16).
    * a clarification:  Some young-earth proponents do seem to claim, as in the quotes above, that "if the earth is not young, the gospel cannot be true."  For an individual, however, their claim is that young-earth beliefs are necessary as a foundation for correct Christian theology and doctrines, but are not necessary for salvation, so they wouldn't say that "if you don't believe in a young earth, your faith in Jesus is useless."

    Second, if a person who thinks the Bible requires a young earth examines the scientific evidence and concludes "the earth is old," another conclusion may be that "if the Bible is wrong about the earth's age, maybe it's also wrong about the rest," and faith is weakened or abandoned. (*)  Therefore, Christians should not encourage (and should not accept) any implication — whether it is made by fellow Christians whose intention is to strengthen the Gospel, or by non-Christians who want to discredit the Gospel — that "if the earth is not young, the Bible is not true and Jesus is not our lord and savior."
    * The process of reasoning can be summarized using if-if-then logic:  Due to the recent popularity of young-earth ideas, many Christians (and potential Christians) are faced with a difficult decision based on the logic that "IF a true Bible requires a young earth, and IF the earth is not young, THEN the Bible is not true."  Each person has three options:  1) accept both IFs and reject the Gospel;  2) reject the second IF (the old-earth evidence in nature) and retain belief in a young earth and the Bible;  3) reject the first IF (a link between the Bible and a young earth) and accept both the scientific evidence and the Bible.
    Each of these choices is made by many people:  Henry Morris has chosen #2;  for me #3 was easy, but for others it is possible only after intense personal struggle;  and sadly, sometimes the result is #1.  Ed, a former young-earth creationist, explains how to avoid the spiritual tragedy of #1: "If R [a friend who discarded his faith when faced with the if-if-then dilemma] had been offered an alternative [#3] from the beginning, he would never have experienced the turmoil he went through.  When R could no longer deny that the universe was billions of years old, the only option left for him [because he continued to believe, as he had been taught, that the Bible required a young earth] was to deny the Bible."  /  Hill Roberts, head of the "Lord, I Believe" outreach ministry, says: "Some of my well-meaning brethren wish we would just drop all aspects of time discussions from our presentations.  That would certainly be the easy way.  Todd [a former young-earth believer who, like "R", decided to stop believing in the Bible and Jesus when he was confronted with the if-if-then dilemma] is why we cannot go that way."  /  Joshua Zorn, a missionary involved in church planting, describes his experience as a former believer in the young-earth teaching that "creates a nearly insurmountable barrier between the educated world and the church," and that has a virtual monopoly in overseas missions.  He explains why, as an evangelist, he is worried because "we are sowing the seeds of a major crisis which will make the job of world evangelism even harder than it is already."  Therefore, "from the mission field, to pastors and leaders of the sending churches," he makes "An Urgent Appeal for Humility in Addressing the Question of the Age of the Earth."  (quotation-sources and details)  /  Another way that "we are sowing the seeds of a major crisis" is the virtual monopoly of young-earth teaching in home schools, which may result in a multitude of "if-if-then" dilemmas (like those faced by Ed, R, and Todd) in the near future.

    With an old-earth view, compatibility between science and scripture can occur in two ways.  First, old-earth views are compatible with a belief that the Bible is inerrant (is correct in everything, including faith and conduct, history and science), as explained earlier.  Second, old-earth interpretations are compatible with a belief that the Bible is infallible (is correct in everything it teaches about faith and conduct).  Those who believe the Bible is infallible don't accept a "slippery slope" argument which claims that if a person moves a little bit from a literalist extreme (of believing everything that a literal interpretation might seem to imply) there is no way to avoid sliding into disbelief (by not believing everything that is clearly taught about saving faith and saintly conduct) and ending up at the other extreme (of not believing any of the historical and spiritual claims made in the Bible).

    Truth and Theory, Humility and Respect
    In the area of origins, emotions can rise due to disagreements among people who feel strongly about important issues, who are trying to find the truth and share it with other people.  In the current climate of controversy, our personal interactions will be more enjoyable and productive if we recognize the rationality of other positions, adopt an attitude of respectful humility that honors the dignity of individuals holding those positions, remember that ideas and people are both important, and try to understand why others "may also have good reasons, both intellectual and ethical, for believing as they do." (quoted from Understanding and Respect)
    Treating others with respect will be easier if we develop an appropriate humility when estimating the certainty of our own theories about theology and science.  But appropriate humility is difficult to define and achieve.  It requires a balance between two desirable qualities — confident faith (which if overdeveloped can become obnoxiously rude arrogance) and cautious humility (which can become timidly bland relativism) — that are in tension.  When we're discussing origins, however, most of us tend to err in the direction of overconfidence in our own theories, so trying to develop the virtue of modest caution usually has a beneficial effect.
    Among proponents of young-earth theories, attitudes span a wide spectrum.  Some (such as Ham, Morris, and Morris, in the quotes above) are certain that their interpretation of the Bible is correct, and that anyone who disagrees with them is certainly wrong.  Others (such as Paul Nelson & John Mark Reynolds, in Three Views on Creation and Evolution) adopt a more humble approach.  Nelson & Reynolds acknowledge the difficulties in current young-earth science, but think there are enough questions (about old-earth theories) to make young-earth theories worthy of further scientific research and development.  Although they think a young-earth interpretation of the Bible is justified, and young-earth theology is preferable, they are not dogmatic about these views and are less critical of fellow Christians who think old-earth views are justified and preferable. While Ham and the Morrises treat old-earth creationists as "compromisers" who are enemies of authentic Christian doctrine and faith, Nelson & Reynolds treat them as valuable allies: "With both Christian and secular educational systems beset by naturalism, a truce is in order.  The old-earth creationist is an ally against both the theistic naturalism limiting the free flow of ideas inside the church and the secular naturalism cutting off new thinking in the universities."  In my opinion, the approach taken by Nelson & Reynolds is closer to an appropriate humility that is logically justified and will be spiritually edifying for the Christian community.  In addition, recently there have been other examples of edifying attitudes and productive actions in the Christian community, and this is encouraging.
    In all of our discussions, a principle from Section 3 is important and is worth re-emphasizing: "We should always remember that we are not comparing the Bible with science and deciding which is more important;  instead, we are comparing some fallible human interpretations (of the Bible) with other fallible human interpretations (of nature) while trying to search for the truth."  Paul Smith describes a useful principle of humility: "I wish that all Christians would admit the limits of our knowledge on the proper interpretation of both the scientific evidence and the statements of Scripture on this matter;  I have far more faith in the unity of truth and the authority of Scripture than I have in my interpretation of either being correct! " (details)
    More words of wisdom — useful in all areas of life, including our views of origins — come from St. Augustine: "In essentials, unity.  In nonessentials, diversity.  And in all things, charity."  To decide when unity is desirable and when diversity is acceptable, we must wisely distinguish between what is essential and what is not essential.  Behaving with charity requires a humility in estimating the certainty of our theological and scientific interpretations, and a love that transcends our differences, so "everyone will know that we are disciples of Jesus because we love one another." (John 13:35, paraphrased)

    back to the dilemma of if-if-then logic

    Theistic Action
    Two Types of Old-Earth Creation
    Bible first, then Science
    Does the gospel require a young earth?
    Understanding and Respect
    Edifying Attitudes and Productive Actions
    Personal Experiences (of former yeCs)


    Theistic Action: Foundational and Active
    In theology, an important question is: "If God exists, what does God do?"  According to the Bible, nature (the entire material universe) can be affected by the actions of supernatural entities, including God and also — with God's permission and under God's supervision — lesser entities such as loyal angels and fallen angels.  In this page the discussion is restricted to God's activity.

    I find it useful to think of God's theistic action as if there are two aspects: foundational and active.
    foundational theistic action:  God designed and created the universe using initial theistic action.  Since that time, God has been constantly "sustaining all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3)" with sustaining theistic action that produces the continuing operation of nature.
    active theistic action changes "what would have happened without the active theistic action" into "what actually happens."  With normal-appearing "guiding" theistic action everything appears normal and natural because the guidance by God blends smoothly with the usual workings of nature.  In miraculous-appearing theistic action an event differs from our expectations for how things usually happen;  in Biblical miracles, usually there was a modification of existing matter that also involved a creation of some new matter.

    The paragraphs above are from a page about Theistic Evolution that also describes the "Creation of New Matter" by God during history:
    "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" from nothing.  Later, in human history, most miracles begin with existing matter but also involve a creation of new matter.  For example, the multiplications of food (Matthew 14:13-21 & 15:32-38) and strengthening of a lame man's atrophied muscles (Acts 3:1-10) produced an increase in mass.  And when Jesus converted water into wine, in John 2:1-11, this required a creation of new atoms because pure water (HOH, with only atoms of H and O) does not contain the types of atoms (C, N, S,...) that are in the organic molecules of wine.

    back to Creation during Biblical History or Apparent Age

    Two Types of Old-Earth Creation
  According to old-earth creation (oeC), also called progressive creation, God's creative activity was spread over billions of years.  At various times during this period, God used miraculous-appearing theistic action to create new types of organisms.  There are two types of old-earth creation:  oeCindependent proposes independent creations "from scratch," similar to the independent creations in yeC;  oeCmacromutaion proposes creation by macromutation, with extensive modification (by changing, adding, or deleting) of the genetic material for some members (or all members) of an existing species.  Both old-earth theories, oeCindependent and oeCmacromutation, propose a natural history involving a combination of natural evolution and miraculous creation.

    This paragraph is from my Overview of Origins Questions, which has been condensed and split into other pages.

    back to Creation during Biblical History

    Bible first, then Science
  The "statements of faith" for young-earth organizations, such as the Institute for Creation Research (founded by Henry Morris), specify that young-earth creation should be "accepted by faith" because it is taught in the Bible.  It is clear, as in the statements below (which link a young earth with the truth of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus) that leaders in the young-earth movement answered the "age question" based on the Bible, before they began looking at any scientific evidence.  But they claim that, when the evidence is examined, it also indicates a young earth, so testimony from the Bible and from science both support the same conclusion:

    "Creationism can be studied and taught in any of three basic forms, as follows: (1) Scientific creationism (no reliance on Biblical revelation, utilizing only scientific data to support and expound the creation model).  (2) Biblical creationism (no reliance on scientific data, using only the Bible to expound and defend the creation model).  (3) Scientific Biblical creationism (full reliance on Biblical revelation but also using scientific data to support and develop the creation model). ...
  Even though the tenets of scientific creationism can be expounded quite independently of the tenets of Biblical creationism, the two systems are completely compatible.  All the genuine facts of science support Biblical creationism and all statements in the Bible are consistent with scientific creationism.  Either system can be taught independently of the other or the two can be taught concurrently, as the individual situation may warrant." (from The Tenets of Creationism by Henry Morris, 1980)

    back to Logical Adjustments

    Does the gospel require a young earth?
  The following quotations (which are extensions of three quotations in the main body) show that prominent young-earth creationists answer "Yes!" when we ask, "Should the gospel be linked with a young earth?"
    Ken Ham: "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. (source)"
    Henry Morris: { I decided to omit the quotation that I had been using for Henry;  I'll try to find a better one soon. }
    John Morris: "Any form of evolution and old-earth thinking is incompatible with the work of Christ. ... If a Christian can distort Scripture to teach such beliefs as evolution, progressive creation, an old earth, or a local flood, can that Christian be trusted with other doctrines? ... Creationism 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. (source)"

    These quotations are from leaders in the YEC community, but (as discussed earlier) there is a range of views about this question.

    back to Should the gospel be linked with a young earth?

    Understanding and Respect
    Monday and Tuesday:  In high school we learned valuable lessons about understanding and respect from my favorite teacher.  During a Monday debate, he convinced us that "his side of the issue" was correct, but on Tuesday he made the other side look just as good.  After awhile we learned that — in order to get an accurate understanding — we should not be content with the representation of a position that has been constructed by its opponents.  Instead, we should get the best information and arguments that all sides of an issue can claim as support.  We also learned respect, because we realized that even though we might have valid reasons for preferring one position, people on other sides of an issue may also have good reasons, both intellectual and ethical, for believing as they do.

    The short sections above and below are from the home-page for Views of Creation and my Introductory Overview of Origins Questions.

    1. Understanding and Attitudes 
    A TYPICAL APPROACH:  polarized debates between those who are sure they know the origins answers, with a mutually hostile us-versus-them "culture war" attitudes.
    A BETTER APPROACH:  improved communication about origins questions, based on
    accurate understanding (by getting the best information about all sides of an issue) and
    respectful attitudes (by recognizing that people with other views may have good reasons, both intellectual and ethical, for their views).
    Hopefully this overview will help improve our understanding and attitudes.

    back to Truth and Theory, Humility and Respect

    Edifying Attitudes and Productive Actions (hope for the future)
    an I.O.U. — Eventually, this section will provide brief summaries (and links) for pages describing "reasons for encouragement."

    back to A Wide Spectrum of Young-Earth Views

    Personal Experiences

    Ed, a former young-earth creationist, outlines a problem and a solution:
    Creation science had become a passion for me almost from the day that I was introduced to it. ... [but eventually, after more study]... I talked to my pastor (a young-earther) about my new discoveries [regarding the errors in young-earth science].  He warned me as so many other "creationists" have, that to continue on this path was dangerous and would only lead to me falling away from the faith.  At times, that notion seemed true!  He asked me, "do you want to end up like "R" (a college student) who now denies the faith after he tried to pursue scientific understanding?"  That question hit me hard and weighed heavy on my heart; however, I would soon discover that that line of reasoning was also imaginary.  Since then, I have corresponded with several Christians who have traveled the same path as I have.  One thing that is always agreed upon is the damage young-earth creationism can do to souls; how many believers they have seen fall away.  We have been taught that the Bible demands a young earth interpretation and when the facts of nature become inescapable — our faith becomes shattered!  My pastor was wrong, and the opposite was the case.  If "R" had been offered an alternative from the beginning, he would never have experienced the turmoil he went through.  When "R" could no longer deny that the universe was billions of years old, the only option left for him was to deny the Bible.  How many others have been disheartened in a like manner? [emphasis added by me] {source}

    Glenn Morton describes his experiences as an earnest seeker of truth:
    I became a Christian in my sophomore year of college.  The people who had led me to the Lord immediately began my discipleship.  They taught me to evangelize and they taught me what they felt a Christian should believe.  But most importantly they were a loving family of believers which was a welcome oasis for someone like me whose home life had been less than familial.  Thus, when I was told that Christians must believe in a young-earth and a global flood, I went along willingly.  I believed.
    Being a physics major in college I had not taken any geology courses.  I knew there were physics problems, but I thought I could solve them.  When I graduated from college, physicists were unemployable since NASA had just laid off many... [but] I found work as a geophysicist working for a seismic company.  Within a year, I was processing seismic data for a major oil company.  This was where I first became exposed to the problems [documented in his website] geology presented to the idea of a global flood. ...
    Over the next several years, I struggled to understand how the geologic data I worked with everyday could be fit into a biblical perspective.  I published more than twenty items in the Creation Research Society Quarterly toward that goal.  I would listen to the discussions that the Institution of Creation Research (ICR) had with people like Harold Slusher, Duane Gish, Steve Austin, and Tom Barnes, and with some of their graduates whom I had hired.  Nothing worked to explain what I saw. ... The data I was seeing at work was not agreeing with what I had been taught as a Christian.  Doubts about what I was writing and teaching began to grow.  No one could give me a model which allowed me to unite into one cloth what I believed on Sunday and what I was forced to believe by the data Monday through Friday.
    Unfortunately, my fellow young earth creationists were not willing to listen to the problems. ... But then I too was often unwilling to face the data or to read books... which argued against young-earth creationism.  I would have eagerly isolated myself from geologic data, but my job would not allow it.  I preferred darkness of self-deception to the light of truth.  Yet, day after day, my job forced me to confront that awful data.  And to make matters worse, I was viewed by my fellow young-earth creationists as less than pure for trying to discuss or solve the problems. ...
    It appeared that the more questions I raised, the more they questioned my Christianity.  When telling one friend of my difficulties with young-earth creationism and geology, he told me that I had obviously been brainwashed by my geology professors.  When I told him that I had never taken a geology course, he then said I must be saying this in order to hold my job.  Never would he consider that I might really believe the data.  This attitude that the messenger of bad news must be doubted amazed me.  And it convinced me that too many of my fellow Christians were not interested in truth but only that I should conform to their theological position. ...
    By 1986, the growing doubts about the ability of the widely accepted creationist viewpoints to explain the geologic data led to a nearly ten year withdrawal from publication. ... I was still a young-earth creationist but I did not know how to solve the problems. ... Eventually, by 1994 I was through with young-earth creationism.  Nothing that young-earth creationists had taught me about geology had turned out to be true.  I took a poll of all eight of the graduates from ICR's school who had gone into the oil industry and were working for various companies.  I asked them one question, "From your oil industry experience, did any fact that you were taught at ICR, which challenged current geological thinking, turn out in the long run to be true?"  That is a very simple question.  One man, who worked for a major oil company, grew very silent on the phone, sighed, and softly said, "No!"  A very close friend that I had hired, after hearing the question, exclaimed, "Wait a minute. There has to be one!"  But he could not name one.  No one else could either.
    Being through with creationism, I was almost through with Christianity.  I was thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that if the earth were not young and the flood not global, then the Bible was false.  I was on the very verge of becoming an atheist.  During that time, I re-read a book [by Alan Hayward, and]... his view had the power to unite the data with the Scripture.  That is what I have done with my views.  Without that I would now be an atheist. ... His book was very important in keeping me in the faith. ...
    It was my lack of knowledge that allowed me to go along willingly and become a young-earth creationist.  It was isolation from contradictory data, a fear of contradictory data and a strong belief in the young-earth interpretation that kept me there for a long time.  The biggest lesson I have learned in this journey is to read the works of those with whom you disagree.  God is not afraid of the data. 

    Paul Smith opens his Open Letter to a Young Earth Creationist,
    Basically, here's the deal:  I myself am a former young-earth creationist.  While I'm intellectually attracted to certain features of various old-earth systems, it would be inaccurate to say that I've adopted any one of them as my own.  It's probably best, then, to call me a libertarian on matters of dating the creation; i.e. my position is that the Christian is free to believe what he feels in good conscience — and as led by the Spirit — can create the best harmony between his understanding of Scripture and his understanding of natural history.  In some sense, I wish that all Christians would admit the limits of our knowledge on the proper interpretation of both the scientific evidence and the statements of Scripture on this matter;  I have far more faith in the unity of truth and the authority of Scripture than I have in my interpretation of either being correct!  So understand that I know that I could be dead wrong on this, and that right now I am simply following where I think the preponderance of both the Scriptural and scientific evidence lead.  I reserve the right to change my mind should I find the weight of the evidence tipping the other way at some time in the future.
    Later in the letter, Paul says,
    I would only appeal that we be very cautious about claiming that some theory does violence to scripture if we are not certain about the accuracy of the interpretive inferences we are bringing to the passage in question.
    And he concludes,
    At the end of the day, I am far more concerned with seeing the Kingdom increase than I am with seeing my curiosity satisfied on origins matters.  I believe that Scripture is God's creation, and I pray for His guidance and wisdom as I seek to come to true conclusions about the evidence I encounter inside of it — regardless of the opinions of men.  Similarly, I believe that the world around us is God's creation, and I pray for His guidance and wisdom as I seek to arrive at true conclusions about the evidence I encounter inside of it — again, regardless of the opinions of men (scientist or otherwise), many of which I happen to think are false.  I hope that at least we can agree that this is the way God would have us approach His Word and His world, despite our disagreements about what conclusions the evidence in each would lead us to. (source)

    Joshua Zorn, an evangelical missionary, makes an urgent appeal to "well-meaning Christians who share with me both a high regard for Scripture and evangelism," beginning with his personal experience:
    I became a Christian in 1973 at the age of thirteen when my Sunday school teacher took four lessons to explain the plan of salvation to us. ... This was the first time I had heard that the blood of Christ shed at the cross could wash away my sins.  I immediately accepted this good news that salvation was by grace through faith and not by works.  I began a new life in Christ which has now led me to work as a church planter in the former Soviet Union. ...
  A few years after my conversion,... I became an enthusiastic devotee of young earth creation science (YECS) as promoted by the Institute for Creation Research. ...  By the time I entered graduate school, I had discovered Christian geologist Davis Young's book, Christianity and the Age of the Earth. ... As I read this book, I saw that the scientific arguments for a young earth were completely untenable.  I found that all the other Christian graduate students had problems with YECS geological arguments.  And so, although it was painful, I asked myself if I wanted to continue to believe in something that is quite plainly wrong.  I decided I did not, and so rejected the young earth position.
  But rejection of the young earth was not only a matter of science.  It affected my faith and the core of my life. ... I went through a period of deep soul seeking, clinging to the Lord. ....  Twelve years have gone by since I abandoned the young earth viewpoint.  As I continued to study (toward a Ph.D. in mathematics with applications in population genetics), I unfortunately saw argument after argument of YECS crumble in the face of evidence, both new and old.  The list is in the hundreds and goes far beyond the issue of the age of the earth.
  I don't expect pastors or church leaders to be impressed by all the scientific evidence unless there are also good hermeneutical reasons for abandoning the YECS position and a literal reading of the opening chapters of Genesis.  As my prejudice wore off over the years, I began to discover a whole new world of evangelical interpretations as well as persuasive arguments against some aspects of the literalist reading of Genesis 1-3. ...
  Do not fall into the trap of thinking the age of the earth is just a matter of "trusting God's Word" versus "trusting science."  Christians need to, and every day do, trust both.  The common error of rejecting many well-established results of science in favor of a certain biblical interpretation is not a valid Christian position.  In the end, the truth will be a harmony which rejects neither the teachings of Scripture nor the well-established results of science.  The results of science (properly interpreted) should never challenge the authority of Scripture, but they may cause us to reexamine our interpretation of Scripture.  This is what I am pleading with young earthers to do.
  The Christian position must be that all truth is God's truth and that we have both general revelation (nature) and special revelation (the Bible) as sources of truth. ... Ultimately, our confidence in Scripture should not rest on having a complete harmony between science and the Bible because we simply do not know enough to complete the harmony. ...
  [Young-earth teaching] creates a nearly insurmountable barrier between the educated world and the church.  Certainly God in his sovereignty has allowed some to be persuaded to believe in Christ through the arguments of YECS.  But how many more have not accepted the Gospel because of the unnecessary demand that converts believe that the world is no more than 10,000 years old?  And how many have unnecessarily gone through a crisis of faith similar to that which I described above?  How many have chosen to give up their faith altogether rather than to accept scientific nonsense or a major reinterpretation of Scripture?  How much have we dishonored our Lord by slandering scientists and their reputation?  How much have we sinned against Christian brothers holding another opinion by naming them "dangerous" and "compromisers"?  How much responsibility do we bear for having taught others (James 3:1) things that probably are not even true?  Each must search his own heart. ...
  As I write this paper, I see YECS literature becoming more and more widely distributed in the growing churches in my corner of the former Soviet Union.  We are sowing the seeds of a major crisis which will make the job of world evangelism even harder than it is already.  Lord, give us wisdom!  (source)

    And from Hill Roberts, head of the "Lord, I Believe" ministry,
    Some of my well-meaning brethren wish we would just drop all aspects of time discussions from our presentations.  That would certainly be the easy way.  Todd [who discovered the many errors and distortions in young-earth science, and then rejected the Bible and Jesus] is why we cannot go that way.  If all brethren would keep all views concerning the age of creation between them and God, we wouldn't have to address the topic.  But that is not likely to happen any time soon.  We teach what we believe is the truth of the matter: that the Bible does not require one to believe the creation is ancient or recent (the Bible's silence on the matter permits one to believe whatever age wished).  We teach that Genesis is a true and simple account of the awesome primary miracle.  The creation is the result of the power of God's word, purpose and love for man. (source)


This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
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Here are other related pages:

Other authors write about young-earth creation in
Views of Creation (theological perspectives)
Origins Evidence (scientific perspectives)

Age-Questions: How old are the earth and universe?
Young-Earth Creation: Theology and Science

Origins Questions for Theology and Science
describes other pages by Craig Rusbult, about
Age of the Universe and many other topics.

Exploring Education: Learning, Thinking, Teaching
(this is a sitemap of my web-pages about education)

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