Young-Earth Creation:

How old is the earth?

Bible-Based Creation vs.
Young-Earth Creationism

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

a preview-summary:  Advocates of young-earth views should be admired for their sincere desire to believe what they think the Bible teaches.  But they should humbly consider the possibility that their biblical interpretations are unjustifiably rigid, and are wrong.  This page explains why young-earth creationism — which converts the Bible-based essential theology of creation (that allows an old earth) into nonessential assertions about creationism (that demands a young earth) — is not theologically justifiable or scientifically plausible.

a suggestion:  This page is a good introductory overview of young-earth science and theology, but if you want to explore these ideas in more depth I recommend my pages about Biblical Theology for young-earth Christians and Young-Earth Creation Science.

1. Young-Earth Theology — Genesis 1 and Death before Sin
2. Young-Earth Science — Abundant Evidence and Apparent Age
3. Logical Adjustments — Reasonable Theology & Unreasonable Science
4. Why does it matter? — Educational Results, Essential Theology, Humble Respect

Appendix:  Creation Process in the Bible, Learning from History & Nature, and
the Attitudes (wide spectrum), Views (of the gospel and old-earth creationists),
Infallible Interpretations, and Personal Experiences of Young-Earth Creationists



1. Young-Earth Theology

      Advocates of young-earth creation (yeC) claim theological support based mainly on their interpretation of Genesis.
      Interpreting Genesis 1
      Linguistically and theologically, old-earth interpretations of the Bible seem justified and satisfactory, so believing the Bible does not require believing a young earth.

      Here are three common interpretations of Genesis 1:
      In a young-earth view, the entire creation process occurs in six consecutive 24-hour days, in 144 hours.
      In a day-age view, each "yom" (usually translated into English as "day") has one of its other meanings, "a period of time with an unspecified length."
      In a framework view, the six days form a logical framework, a structure that is used to describe actual historical events.  In Genesis 1:2, which describes the earth as "formless and empty," there are two problems.  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 for day, moon for 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

This "form and fill" structure describes two related aspects of creation in Days 1 and 4 (for light), 2 and 5 (for sea and sky), 3 and 6 (for land), with topics arranged in a logical framework, not a chronological sequence.  I think this is the most plausible interpretation of Genesis 1.

      All interpretations should emphasize the important theology in Genesis 1:  all of nature is a creation of God, subordinate to God;  nature is "very good" but is not divine, and humans are special because God created us in His own image.
      Other Questions
      Other questions from Genesis, not discussed in this page, involve the historical context of Adam and Eve, whether Noah's Flood was global or local, and if the genealogies are complete.

      Is a long process of creation a waste of time?  Why use billions of years, instead of 144 hours?  Or is this an unnecessary worry?  God has plenty of resources, including time, and the evidence strongly indicates that God — like a master potter carefully molding clay — really did take a long time to shape the creation.  Instead of challenging God's wisdom by asking "Why did you waste billions of years?", it seems wise to adopt a humble attitude, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. (Job 42:3)"

      Animal Death before Human Sin
      Could animal death precede human sin?  In a process of old-earth creation, many animals would live and die.  Advocates of a young earth 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 in 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 sinless life and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:12-57), the Bible doesn't say much about the death of animals.  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 animals;  although a claim that "death is the result of sin" is correct, a claim 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" (which is only a young-earth view).  A theology of "human death being allowed by God due to human sin" is consistent with the history of salvation:  a supernaturally enabled life without death (symbolized by the tree of life) 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).

      Questions about sin and death are important, and are emphasized by advocates of young-earth views.  The ideas outlined above are examined more closely in a page about Sin and Death in Biblical Theology which also discusses the "decay" in Romans 8:18-25 (and restoration in Revelation 21:4), the "very good" in Genesis 1:31 (and Romans 8:28), Genesis 1:29-30 and tiger teeth, the three results of sin (one intrinsic and two judicial) in Genesis 3, the "natural, miracle, natural" pattern of creation in Acts 3 and in other events of Biblical history, plus the "apparent age" that (as explained below in Section 2) would be necessary in a time-efficient recent creation, and three views (not two) about the history of sin and death.

      a summary:
      Advocates of a young-earth position should be admired for their desire to determine what The Word of God teaches, and believe it.  But perhaps their interpretations are unjustifiably rigid.  After careful studies of Genesis and the Bible as a whole, linguistic scholars and theologians 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 their report they recommended using information from nature (interpreted by science) for interpreting the Bible, when they affirmed that "in some cases extrabiblical data have value for clarifying what Scripture teaches, and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations."  In my opinion, a young-earth interpretation is possible but — especially when all things are considered, including information from nature — other interpretations are preferable, so belief in the truth of what the Bible teaches does not require belief in a young earth.

and a personal invitation:  I hope you'll read another page I've written, which is similar to this page but with revisions (it's condensed in some ways, and expanded in other ways with new ideas) about Biblical Theology for young-earth Christians.


2. Young-Earth Science

      Abundant Evidence
      Young-earth "flood geology" theories, which propose that a global flood produced most of the earth's geology and fossil record, lead to incorrect theory-based explanations of geological formations, the arrangement of fossils in this geology, and the biogeographical distribution (now and in the fossil record) of animals and plants.  Although young-earth science makes some valid claims for the geological importance of catastrophic events, this does not contradict the old-earth theories of modern geology, which propose a combination of slow-acting uniformitarian processes and fast-acting catastrophic events such as volcanoes, earthquakes, and floods.
      Evidence from a wide range of fields — including the study of sedimentary rocks, coral reefs, the fossil record in geological context, biogeographical patterns, seafloor spreading and continental drift, magnetic reversals, genetic molecular clocks, radioactive dating, the development of stars, starlight from faraway galaxies, and more — indicates that the earth and universe are billions of years old.
      multiple independent confirmations:  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 include) are relatively independent, it is less likely that suspicions of circular reasoning are justified.  With this independence, the old-earth evidence is not like a "house of cards" where if one part falls it all falls.  It is more like a strong house with a ceiling supported in many ways:  by concrete walls reinforced by steel rods, plus granite pillars, wood beams,...  Each support would be sufficient by itself, but when combined the support is even stronger.  The young-earth task of pulling down the "old-earth house" would require discarding much of modern science.  This isn't likely to happen, nor is it a desirable goal.   /   What do you think is more credible, Young-Earth Creation Science or Old-Earth Evidence?
      What about future science?  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, since the abundant evidence for an old universe occurs in so many different areas.

      Evidence or Preference?
      Are the conclusions of science based on scientific evidence and logic, or philosophical preference?
      In an effort to weaken the authority of historical sciences, such as astronomy and geology, advocates of young-earth theories ask "were you there?" and claim that a "no" means "then you can't know what happened."  They claim — using arguments similar to those made by postmodern critics of scientific rationality — that in historical science the conventional old-earth conclusions are mainly due to culturally biased philosophical presuppositions and personal preferences, rather than evidence and logic.
      Can the methods of historical science produce reliable conclusions?  Yes, as explained in my defense of Historical Science against postmodern criticism, whether this comes from postmodern skeptics or creationist skeptics.

      Apparent Age?
      Light is reaching us from stars that are billions of light-years away.  But how can this occur if the universe is less than ten thousand years old?  To avoid this difficulty and others, many advocates of young-earth science claim that the universe was created with apparent age (AA) that makes some features appear to be very old even though the actual age is very young.  According to AA, God efficiently created a universe that would be immediately functional, with mature humans, complete ecosystems, and starlight that was created "in transit to us" instead of being released from a shining star.
      If the "antiquing" was done perfectly, it would be impossible to scientifically 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.  But even though AA cannot be tested, usually young-earth science combines AA (with a false observed age for everything created during the first 144 hours) and flood geology (with a true observed age for all features produced during the global flood).  A hybrid theory of "AA plus flood geology" can be tested, and many of its predictions do not agree with the scientific evidence.
      Observations also provide theological reasons to reject AA, especially when we distinguish between essential-AA (necessary for an immediately functional universe) and nonessential-AA (not necessary for functionality).  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 that never really happened?  Are we seeing "what would have happened" if there had been a Big Bang Beginning?  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.  And should a young-earth scientist challenge the credibility of Big Bang astronomy if, due to superb "antiquing" by God, this is what the scientific evidence indicates?  Or should we conclude that an honest God would probably create an old universe that can actually be the age it appears to be, instead of a young universe that looks old due to details (like supernovas which never happened) that serve no practical purpose except to mislead us?  { A common claim — that "God has declared the universe to be young in Genesis 1, so if it is not young then He is a liar" — is based on an interpretation that is only one of several good interpretations, as described in Section 1. }
      I think "apparent age" theories are worthy of careful, respectful consideration.  But when all things are considered, I don't think it is wise to use a theory that includes nonessential apparent age — especially when, as is usually the case, this is combined with scientifically inadequate flood geology — as an essential part of a foundation for science or faith.
      note: If this looks interesting, you can read an in-depth examination of Apparent Age.

      Two Questions
      There are two main questions about origins:  What is the age of the earth?  Was there a totally natural evolution of all life?
      Of course, natural evolution would be impossible with a young earth.  But even if the earth is old, there are many reasons to conclude that natural evolution is impossible, and old-earth creation (proposing that God used miracles in creation history, as in Biblical history) is not the same as old-earth evolution (proposing that everything evolved through natural process).  Therefore, it is wrong to imply that "old earth" means "evolution".
      { historical fact:  Decades before Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published in 1859, for scientific reasons (they were convinced that their observations of the earth's geology were not consistent with young-earth theories) most geologists had accepted old-earth theories because these ideas were needed in geological science, not because an old earth was needed for Darwinian evolution. }


3. Logical Adjustments

      In my opinion,
      young-earth creation (yeC) begins with a firm commitment to young-earth theology, which makes "logical adjustments" necessary in young-earth science, but 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.
      old-earth creation (oeC) begins with scientific support, which motivates an examination of theology.  Then, when we carefully study the Bible, we see the valid reasons (both linguistic and theological) for an old-earth interpretation, so the old-earth science has produced a "motivation to reconsider" rather than a logical adjustment.  Is miraculous old-earth creation theologically supported because it is analogous to God's usual "method for miracles" throughout the Bible?
      there is much less logical adjustment with oeC theology (which seems very satisfactory) than with yeC science (which seems very unsatisfactory).

      an essential principle:  When we try to harmonize the Bible and science, 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.

      In the full page, Section 3 ends with a question inspired by history:  In the 1600s, appeals to the Bible were used to support earth-centered science that was wrong.  Currently, are appeals to the Bible being used to support young-earth science that is wrong?  { the appendix contains Principles for Learning from History and Nature }


4. Why does it matter?

      Practical Results in Education
      In the past four decades, since the revival of flood geology in 1961 when theological creation became young-earth creationism, the most prominent advocates of young-earth views have framed the origins question as an either-or choice between only Two ModelsCreation versus Evolution, which is defined as Christianity versus Atheism.  In the two-model view of prominent young-earth creationists, atheistic evolution is defined as everything except young-earth creation, so Christianity is represented by only young-earth creation, and old-earth creation is excluded from consideration. {a young-earth view of old-earth creation}  In American education, the practical results of creationism have been:
      1) an increase in the perceived plausibility of evolution, because in a scientific competition that includes only two models (young-earth creation and old-earth evolution) the either-or logic of mutual exclusion — which is demanded by young-earth advocates, to the delight of evolutionists — guarantees that evolution will "win points" simply because it proposes an old universe because, using either-or logic, all evidence for an old earth becomes evidence for evolution *;
      2) a decrease in the willingness of science teachers to criticize evolution based on scientific evidence and logical evaluation, because teachers 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 also apply to any serious questioning of evolution.
      {* another page shows why this either-or logic is wrong, by examining the many meanings of evolution and creation, in Principles for a Logical Evaluation of Evolution}
      Is a young earth essential for the gospel of Jesus?
      Some prominent creationists defend their "two model" approach by claiming that their young-earth interpretation of Genesis is the only possible Christian interpretation, that it is necessary to provide a solid historical and theological foundation for Christianity.  They claim that "if the Bible is true, then certainly the earth is young" which is logically equivalent to stating that "if the earth is not young, the Bible is not true."  This is unfortunate because:
      A) The link isn't 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.  In the Bible a young-earth theory is not very important and is not taught with certainty, so it 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 there should be no link with 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.
      B) 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 who want 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."  {* In the appendix you can read about the personal experiences of people who have struggled with this dilemma. }

You can read an overview/summary describing some claims of young-earth creationism that seem unwise because they lack humility and respect, because they can be hazardous for faith and evangelism, in two sections — asking "Is it wise to link The Gospel with a Young Earth?" and examining Death and Sin — in Age of the Earth - Genesis & Theology.

      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 others.  In the current climate of controversy, our personal interactions will be more enjoyable and productive if we recognize the rationality of other positions (by recognizing that others may also have good reasons, both intellectual and ethical, for believing as they do), adopt an attitude of respectful humility that honors the dignity of individuals holding those positions, and remember that ideas and people are both important.
      Treating others with respect is easier if we develop an appropriate humility when estimating the certainty of our own theories about theology and science.  This requires a balance between confidence (which if overdeveloped can become rude arrogance) and humility (which can become timid relativism).  When we're discussing origins, most of us err in the direction of overconfidence in our own theories, so trying to develop the virtue of cautious humility usually has a beneficial effect.
      We should remember a useful principle from Section 3:  We are comparing some fallible human interpretations (of the Bible) with other fallible human interpretations (of nature) while trying to search for the truth.

      Some 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 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)

These ideas, about truth and respect, are examined in more depth in The Two Books of God — by asking "How can we wisely use what God has revealed in scripture and nature? and when we disagree, what should we do?"




      The Creation Process in 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 divine 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 genetic 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 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 the new nerve-coordination knowledge that let him 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 genetic modification" for the development of earth's biological life.
      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, then Biblical miracles provide theological support for "old-earth progressive creation by modification of existing resources" rather than "independent creation from nothing" as the most common type of miracle (but not necessarily the only type) used by God during the process of creation.
      But occasionally, as in providing manna during the Hebrews' exodus, God does create from nothing.  And in miracles like the increase in mass of the lame man's leg, or the "multiplication" of loaves and fishes by Jesus (in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6) there is some independent creation of matter, as there would be in adding genes to a genome.  So there is Biblical evidence that God can (and does occasionally) "create matter from nothing" during the history of nature, not just in His initial creation of nature.

      Learning from History and Nature
    We try to understand the two books of God, in scripture and nature, by careful examinations in theology and science.
      All of us can agree that in scripture the main purpose is to help us understand spiritual realities, but is this the only purpose?  Do any passages in the Bible contain scientific information that should be used in our scientific theories?  Or should we use information from science to help us interpret the passages?  When thinking about these questions, one useful principle is illustrated by changes in our theories about the solar system:
      In 1500, ..... [..... indicates omitted text]  In 1620, .....  In 1700, .....  {the full text of this section is in The Two Books of God}   What was the change in theology? .....  What caused this change?  Our interpretation of the Bible was influenced by information from science.  This influence was beneficial, since it helped us recognize that in these passages the Bible was not making a scientific statement teaching us "how the heavens go."
      In this reinterpretation of scripture, we are not comparing the Bible (which says "the sun rises") with science (which claims "the earth moves") and deciding which is more important.  Instead, we are comparing different interpretations (of the Bible, and of nature) and are wisely using all available information in our search for truth.  We are trying to find the correct answer when we ask, "Is science being taught in the Bible passage we're studying?"  For this question, information from nature — gathered and evaluated using the logical methods of science — can be very useful, as recommended by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.

Here is a lesson from history and a modern application:

An argument (with two claims and a conclusion) could be made in 1700:
    1. Christianity requires planetary motions to be earth-centered.
    2. Science shows the planetary motions are not earth-centered.

    3. Therefore, Christianity is false.
How did Christians respond to the two claims, in 1 and 2?
    A) reject a claim that Christianity requires earth-centered motions?
    B) reject a claim that science shows motions are not earth-centered?

    C) accept both claims and also the conclusion?
Almost all people, Christian and non-Christian, have chosen A.

An argument that is analogous, and logical, can be made in 2004:
    1. Christianity requires a young earth.
    2. Science shows the Earth is not young.

    3. Therefore, Christianity is false.
How should Christians respond to the two claims, in 1 and 2?
    A) reject a claim that Christianity requires a young earth?
    B) reject a claim that science shows the earth is not young?

    C) accept both claims and also the conclusion?
(old-earthers, young-earthers, and atheists choose A, B, and C)

Do you see the danger of linking the gospel of Jesus with a young earth?

The final two sections are about personal attitudes and personal experiences:

      Attitudes Span a Wide Spectrum
    Among proponents of young-earth creation, attitudes span a wide spectrum.  Some (such as Ham, Morris, and Morris, in the quotes below) 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.

      Does the gospel require a young earth?
    The following quotations (which are extensions of three quotations in the main body) show that, when we ask "Should the gospel be linked with a young earth?", prominent young-earth creationists answer "Yes!"
      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: "When one decides to reject the concept of real [young-earth] Creation, there is no scientific stopping-point short of what amounts to atheism. ...  It [any old-earth view] is essentially an affirmation of atheism, a denial of the possibility of a real Creation.  (The Genesis Flood, pages 237-238, by Whitcomb & Morris in 1961; similar views are on page 307 of What is Creation Science? by Morris & Parker in 1987)"
      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)"

      A Young-Earth View of Old-Earth Creation
    The pioneer of modern young-earth creationism, Henry Morris, set the tone in 1961 by saying that old-earth progressive creation "is less acceptable than theistic evolution [because it]... not only charges God with waste and cruelty (through its commitment to the geologic ages) but also with ignorance and incompetence.  God's postulated intermittent creative efforts show either that He didn't know what He wanted when He started the process or else that He couldn't provide it with enough energy to sustain it until it reached its goal.  A god who would have to create man by any such cut-and-try discontinuous, injurious method as this can hardly be the omniscient, omnipotent, loving God of the Bible."  (this quote is from 1973 but he said the same thing in 1961 in The Genesis Flood and throughout the rest of his life)

      Ken Ham — Are his interpretations infallible?
      Ken Ham rejects the old-earth conclusions of modern science by dismissing them as "man's fallible dating methods" and he asks, "Can fallible, sinful man be in authority over the Word of God?"  He seems to be claiming that an old-earth interpretation of nature is hindered by sin, but his own young-earth interpretation of scripture is not hindered by sin, so his interpretation of the Bible (not just the Bible itself) is infallible.  And his claim about "authority" ignores the fact that we cannot directly compare the Bible with science, we can only compare interpretations of the Bible (in theology) with interpretations of nature (in science) while trying to search for truth.
      In my Biblical Theology for young-earth Christians a section asking "Why does Ken Ham think the earth rotates and orbits?" explains how he accepts evidence from nature (logically interpreted in science) and then uses this as a motivation to examine scripture more carefully, and when he does this he finds valid reasons to accept a moving-earth interpretation of scripture.  In a similar way, many Christians find valid reasons to accept an old-earth interpretation of scripture.

      Quotations (from current and former advocates of young-earth views)

      Personal Experiences
      A rigid insistence on a young-earth interpretation can lead believers into a dilemma based on "if-and-if, then..." logic:  IF the Bible declares that the earth is young, and IF in reality the earth is not young (as indicated by a logical evaluation of abundant evidence), THEN the logical conclusion is that "the Bible is false."
      Ed, a former young-earth creationist and current Christian, explains how to avoid a spiritual tragedy: "If R [a friend who discarded his faith when faced with the if-if-then dilemma] had been offered an alternative [believing the Bible without believing in a young earth] 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 believing the Bible requires believing 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."
      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.

A longer version of Section 4 includes a fuller sharing of personal experiences.

In the original full-length version of "How old is the universe?", before it was condensed to make this page, Sections 1-4 are expanded and the appendix contains: Theistic Action (Foundational and Active), Two Types of Old-Earth Creation, Does the gospel require a young earth?, Understanding and Respect (what I learned from a high school teacher), and Personal Experiences (of some who previously believed in a young-earth).

All topics in this condensed page — but especially "Animal Death before Human Sin" and "Why does it matter? (illustrated by personal experiences)" — are explored more thoroughly in other pages.



This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
an ITALICIZED LINK keeps you inside a page, moving you to another part of it, and
 a NON-ITALICIZED LINK opens another page.  Both keep everything inside this window, 
so your browser's BACK-button will always take you back to where you were.

If you want to explore more widely,

many of the ideas in this page
have been condensed-and-expanded in
Sections 2-3-4 of my Overview-FAQ about
Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

and a longer earlier version of this page is
How old is the earth & universe? (Part 2)

and for related ideas,
click any page in the right sidebar

plus other authors who examine

This page is

Copyright 1998 by Craig Rusbult, all rights reserved