You are here A Look At Old Earth Creationism
A Look At Old Earth Creationism
The web-site “About.com” lists Old Earth Creationism (“OEC”) under the heading of Agnosticism/Atheism, reflecting the apparent judgment that site that OEC belongs to a branch of skepticism, which is unwilling to accept the Biblical account of creation. Indeed, no one ever became an Old Earth Creationist (“OEC”) from reading Genesis. The sole impetus of OEC is to reconcile the Bible to the theoretical claims of atheistic science by reinterpreting it in a way that is consistent with naturalistic and evolutionary models. Atheistic evolution posits that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, and that life developed slowly from simple to more complex forms over the last 100 million years. An old earth is therefore essential to naturalistic and evolutionary models. Although rejecting purely naturalistic theories of origin, OEC nevertheless accepts the claims of atheistic science regarding the age of the earth and cosmos. Confronted with the inconsistent claims
of atheistic, theoretical science and the Bible, OEC re-writes the Bible.
Traditional Interpretation of Genesis
OEC denies the creation account of Genesis as understood for four thousand years, first by the Jews, and then by the church. The Biblical account of creation is simple and straight-forward: The cosmos and all that is in it were created in the space of six days: In six days, the Lord God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is. (Ex. 20:11) Numerous chronologies have been done over the centuries by men of faith: Eusebius, Julius Africanus, Ussher, et alia, and all date the creation to within about seven thousand years of our time. Demetrius and Eupolemus place the creation at 5507 B.C. Julius Africanus places the birth of Christ 5499 years from creation. Hyppolytus of Rome places the birth of Christ 5502 from creation. Hyppolytus of Thebes place it at 5500 years from creation. Eusebius reckons from creation to Christ 5199 years. Archbishop Ussher places the birth of Christ 4000 years from creation. We know of no chronologies before the modern era that date Biblical creation into the millions or billions of years.
Jewish authors and the Church fathers uniformly interpreted the creation account literally, as consisting of six, twenty-four hour days.
Philo Judaeus – “And he said that the world was made in six days, not because the creator stood in need of a length of time (for it is natural that God should do everything at once, not merely by uttering a command, but by even thinking of it); but because the things created required arrangement…And he allotted each of the six days to one of the portions of the whole.”
Flavius Josephus – “Accordingly Moses says that in just six days the world and all that is therein was made; and that the seventh day was a rest, and a release from the labour of such operations; - whence it is that we celebrate a rest from our labours on that day, and call it the Sabbath; which word denotes rest in the Hebrew tongue.”
Epistle of Barnabas – “The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation: ‘And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.’”
Justin Martyr – “The first day which was created along with the heavens constituted the beginning of all time (for thus Moses wrote, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’"
Theophilus – “Of this six days' work no man can give a worthy explanation and description of all its parts, not though he had ten thousand tongues and ten thousand mouths; nay, though he were to live ten thousand years, sojourning in this life, not even so could he utter anything worthy of these things, on account of the exceeding greatness and riches of the wisdom of God which there is in the six days' work above narrated.”
Clement of Alexandria – “For the creation of the world was concluded in six days. For the motion of the sun from solstice to solstice is completed in six months--in the course of which, at one time the leaves fall, and at another plants bud and seeds come to maturity.”
Origen – “Such is the objection which they are accustomed to make to our statement that this world had its beginning at a certain time, and that, agreeably to our belief in Scripture, we can calculate the years of its past duration. To these propositions I consider that none of the heretics can easily return an answer that will be in conformity with the nature of their opinions.”
“After these statements, Celsus, from a secret desire to cast discredit upon the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that, while concealing his wish, intimates his agreement with those who hold that the world is uncreated. For, maintaining that there have been, from all eternity, many conflagrations and many deluges, and that the flood which lately took place in the time of Deucalion is comparatively modern, he clearly demonstrates to those who are able to understand him that, in his opinion, the world was uncreated.”
Julius Africanus – “For the Jews, deriving their origin from them as descendants of Abraham, having been taught a modest mind, and one such as becomes men, together with the truth by the spirit of Moses, have handed down to us, by their extant Hebrew histories, the number of 5500 years as the period up to the advent of the Word of salvation, that was announced to the world in the time of the sway of the Caesars.”
To this short list may be added many dozens of others, all testifying to the traditional (historical) teaching from the time of Moses until now, that the chronology of Genesis is to be read literally, and that the idea of an “old earth” is of purely modern origination. This does not prove the traditional interpretation is correct, but it does demonstrate circumstantially that the motive for reinterpreting Genesis stems from the claims of modern science, and not the scriptures themselves; for if the idea that billions of years had elapsed from the beginning was truly in the text, men would not have waited eighteen hundred years to discover it, but the idea would have been present with men from the start.
Adam – The Biological Parent of all Mankind - A Theological Essential of the Christian Faith
I Corinthians 15:45 states, "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." This verse plainly names Adam as the “first man.” Gen. 3:20 calls Eve “the mother of all living.” There is no room for postulating the creation of other men based upon the Biblical record. The obvious and irrefutable teaching of scripture is that all men derive their ancestry from the common parentage of Adam and Eve. This is the basis of Paul’s argument in Romans that the whole race of mankind is descended from Adam, and made heir of his fallen nature. “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” (Rom. 5:19) If all men do not trace their ancestry to the common parentage of Adam and Eve, there is no way to account for the inherent fallenness of the race, and Paul is guilty of teaching error, for he has said that through one man’s disobedience all men were brought to ruin, not by the transgression of unnamed others. Indeed, the notion that God created other men than Adam and that Adam was merely the first man with whom God entered a covenant of works would mean that other asserted men were exempt from the possibility of the fall; for the fall applied only where there was law, but if other men were not under law and covenant, then they could not be chargeable with transgression. This would seem to open the door to Universalism via antinomianism. However, these considerations aside, the historical position of the church has always taught that Adam and Eve were the common parents of all mankind.
Having become disobedient, [Eve] was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race....Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith. ...But this man [of whom I have been speaking] is Adam, if truth be told, the first-formed man....WE, however, are all FROM him.
Tertullian - "Because by a man came death, by a man also comes resurrection" [1 Cor 15:21]. Here, by the word MAN, who consists of a body, as we have often shown already, I understand that it is a fact that Christ had a body. And if we are all made to live in Christ as WE were made to DIE IN ADAM, then, as in the flesh we were made to DIE IN ADAM, so also in the flesh are we made to live in Christ. Otherwise, if the coming to life in Christ were not to take place in that same substance in which WE DIE IN ADAM, the parallel were imperfect.
Origen - EVERYONE in the world FALLS PROSTRATE under SIN. And it is the Lord who sets up those who are cast down and who sustains all who are falling [Psalm 145:14]. IN ADAM ALL DIE, and THUS the world FALLS PROSTRATE and requires to be SET UP AGAIN, so that in Christ all may be made to live [1 Cor 15:22].
St. Athanasius - Adam, the first man, altered his course, and through sin death came into the world....When Adam transgressed, SIN reached out TO ALL MEN.
Augustine - But why does St Matthew reckon in a descending, and Luke in an ascending order?...Matthew descends through his generations, to signify our Lord Jesus Christ descending to bear our sins, that in the seed of Abraham all nations might be blessed. Wherefore, he does not begin with Adam, for from him is the whole race of mankind. Nor with Noe, because from his family again, after the flood, descended the whole human race. Nor could the man Christ Jesus, as descended from Adam, from whom all men are descended, bear upon the fulfillment of prophecy; nor, again, as descended from Noe, from whom also all men are descended; but only as descended from Abraham, who at that time was chosen, that all nations should be blessed in his seed, when the earth was now full of nations.
These are but a few of the many citations that could be produced demonstrating that the church has historically upheld the common parentage of Adam and Eve to all men, and that this is an essential tenant of the Christian faith inasmuch Paul teaches it to be the source of mankind’s inherent fallenness.
The Gap Theory
OCE has two ways by which it seeks to avoid the simple language of Genesis: the “gap” theory and the “day-age” theory. For hundreds of years, science had operated on the premise of a six thousand year old earth, based upon the chronology of Genesis. However, beginning in the early nineteenth century, naturalistic theories about the origin and age of the earth began to grow in popularity. Theologians, pressured by the alleged “scientific” evidence of an old earth, re-interpreted the scriptures to accommodate scientific theory. Thus was born the “gap” theory. Originally formulated in the early 19th century by Scottish theologian, Thomas Chalmers, the theory was conceived as a way to reconcile the Bible to naturalistic theories about the geologic age of the earth. The gap or “ruin-reconstruction” theory asserts that there is a time-gap between the first two verses of Genesis. It is based on the supposition that earth was already here (but in a ruined state) before the creative process of the seven days began. According to the gap-theory, II Pet. 3:5-7 refers not to Noah’s flood, asserting instead that it refers to the world before the beginning of creation:
“If 2 Peter 3:5-7 is a cross-reference to Genesis 1:2, then the Holy Spirit is calling your attention to something very significant that millions of 'Young Earth' Creationists are blindly overlooking. Specifically, that a glorious ancient world that God created in the distant past (Genesis 1:1), had long since been utterly destroyed, plunged into deep darkness, and overflowed by a raging flood of great waters on a universal scale at the time of Genesis 1:2.”
By removing these verses from Noah’s flood (which they admit was universal) and applying them instead to an imaginary world of which the Bible is silent, they hope to extend indefinitely earth’s existence to conform with atheistic notions about its geologic age:
The geologic and fossil records are the surviving evidence that God preserved for us to testify to the truth that the Earth is very old and was inhabited for a long period before the seven days of Genesis chapter one. Those records, written in stone, also provide evidence of a long reign of Death upon the old Earth and the sudden end of the old world order by a universal destructive event.
Proponents of the gap theory admit that the Genesis creation occurred about six thousand years ago:
“The Earth is "without form and void" at Genesis 1:2 and in darkness. There is no indication of anything being alive on the surface of the Earth, at this time, and that time is roughly about 6,000 years ago...Clearly, if we believe the literal wording of the Bible, there was indeed a universal creative event during the seven days of Genesis, about 6,000 literal years ago.”
This admission notwithstanding, they argue there is a gap preceding the instant creation consisting in hundreds of millions of years:
The Bible gives no specific time when God first created the heaven and the Earth (Genesis 1:1), but it does give the time when the Earth is found in this desolate condition and for the start of the seven, literal, 24 hour days. That time was, indeed, geologically very recently [sic]. In this respect, only, is the Young Earth Creationist fully correct. This is the context for the "gap" on which Ruin-Reconstruction doctrine is based. Exactly how long that time gap represents nobody can say for sure, but it most certainly could accommodate hundreds of millions of years, or less, but a gap is most certainly there.
Advocates of this view attempt to strengthen their position by arguing that the Hebrew word “tohu” is mistranslated, and should read, not that the heavens and earth “were without form and void”, but “became” void. They also point to the use of the plural in Gen. 2:4, "These are the generations [plural] of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens," inferring from this evidence of two creations:
“The Creation account contains the story of two creative events. Only the latter event, the seven days, is outlined in great detail.”
According to gap-theorists, this pre-Adamic world was filled with “Mammoths, Mastodons, giant ground sloth, woolly rhinos, and even a “pre-Adamic race of hominoids” whose remains are found in the fossil record.
Most gap-theorists believe that the physical universe was committed to the charge of a cherub named Lucifer, who was the heavenly choir master:
“Lucifer was second only to the throne of God and was the choir leader of the universe in the day when the Lord God first made all things…The whole of the physical universe was under the direction of Lucifer: Physical matter and spirit were one under the stewardship of Lucifer, this anointed cherub. He was second only to the Lord God in power and authority over the realm of the whole Kingdom.”
Proponents of the gap-theory assert that, about 750 million years ago, Lucifer rebelled and transgressed against God, thus becoming the first created being to sin. Lucifer’s sin caused death to pass upon all things, bringing the “pre-Adamic” world to destruction:
“With his initial act of sin and rebellion, Death and corruption, like leaven, began to permeate the physical cosmos that was under Lucifer's stewardship to rule. It started in Eden, the Garden of God on the Earth, and spread like a cancer. Because Lucifer was the steward of the whole creation under heaven when he fell, all things under his rule were also subjected to corruption.”
One can only comment at this point how much gap-theorists presume upon the silence of the scripture, finding lost worlds, species of animals, and races of men all in the silent space between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2! If all this is possible from silence, then truly “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Gen. 11:6) The whole theory is loosely strung together upon fantastic and highly improbable interpretation of scripture. Suffice it to say, that no one ever found the gap in scripture before the false assertions of science required they find one. The assertion that II Pet. 3:5, 6 refer to a pre-Adamic world cannot be proved. Peter refers twice before to Noah’s flood specifically. (I Pet. 3:20; II Pet. 2:5) It is therefore natural that we understand him as speaking to this well known event, and not as alluding to a pre-Adamic flood about which the Bible is silent. Men could not be “willingly ignorant” about this flood, for it is nowhere so much as once described. Hence, the only Biblically defensible view is that it is Noah’s flood Peter’s has in mind.
The Day-Age Theory
As already seen, the Biblical account of creation indicates that God called the universe into existence and arranged it into orderly parts over the space of six days. Lest these be misconstrued as something other than twenty-four hour days, they are expressly defined as consisting of “an evening and a morning,” or one revolution of the earth upon its axis. “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Gen. 1:4, 5) According to Genesis, God rested the seventh day from his work of creation. In testimony of the creation week, God established the seventh day as a ceremonial rest for the Jewish nation in token of their redemption from slavery. They were to remember that they were once servants and looked for weekly rest from their labors, but were given none by the Egyptian masters. Therefore, they were to give their servants and handmaids rest one day each week throughout their generations. (Ex. 20:10, 11) The literalness of the creation week is affirmed by the writer of Hebrews, who saw in the weekly Sabbath the promise of heavenly rest: As God rested in heaven from his work of creation upon earth, so he has promised a heavenly rest to those that believe and obey him. (Heb. 4:3-9) The creation week thus became the basic standard of measure underlying the calendar year. Fifty-two cycles of seven fulfill one solar year.
Notwithstanding the obvious intention of Genesis to communicate the idea of six literal days, “day-age” advocates argue that the days of creation should be interpreted as long eons of geologic time, reaching into the millions of years. Arguments in favor of the day-age theory include:
1 – Use of the term “generations” in Gen. 2:4 implies long ages in earth’s history and creation. However, this is wrong. There are two Hebrew words rendered generations: Dowr (Strong’s 1755) and toldah (Strong’s #8435). Only the former carries the sense of time, the latter carries the sense of source. Dowr: A revolution of time, i.e., and age or generation. Toldah: Descent, i.e., family; (fig.) history: - birth. It is this latter word that occurs in Gen. 2:4. It is used to show the origins or sources of the heavens and earth, not the time in which they were made.
2 - The Hebrew word yowm (day) can mean long period of time.
The Hebrew word yowm (Strong’s #3517) is defined as derived from an unused root meaning “to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literal (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figurative (a space of time defined by an associated term).” As with all words, the meaning intended must be taken from the context. As we have already shown, the context of Genesis one clearly contemplates a literal day, and even defines it as consisting of a period of time marked by the presence of light between morning and evening.
3 – There are explicit statements of the Earth's antiquity found in scripture.
Habakkuk 3:6 (NIV) - "He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal."
However, this verse bears its own refutation, for the shaking of the earth, and the “everlasting mountains” (AV) are poetic expressions for God’s shaking of the world’s kingdoms and nations by his providential presence, as the context plainly shows. The passage says nothing about the age of the earth. It is God whose ways are everlasting, not the earth.
The exegetical hurdles one must clear in order to maintain the view that the days of creation are actually geologic ages are, perhaps, it own best repudiation. The word “day” occurs through Genesis chapter one. In Gen. 1:3-5, God called into existence the light of the sun to shine upon the face of the unformed earth. The light he called “day” and the darkness he called “night.” And the evening and an morning was “one day.” Here we have two occurrences of the word “day.” Are both figurative? If not, what is to distinguish them? In Gen. 1:14-18, God arranged the lights of the firmament so as to provide for the orderly arrangement of days, weeks, months, and years, saying, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” (v. 14) OEC’s like to argue that since God made the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day, the evenings and mornings of the first three days cannot be taken literally. However, this is mistaken. The fourth day did not bring these lights into existence, but merely established their relationship to the earth and each other so as to provide for the revolution of the seasons, and enable man to mark the regular passage of time, etc. But the point remains, if “day” means geologic age in other places, what does it mean here? What is there in the context here that signifies a literal day that is not present elsewhere, which allows us to make one literal and other figurative? The sort of exegetical gymnastics necessary to obviate these objections has caused many day-age advocates to abandon their theories and return to the simple Bible. Dr Davis Young a former day-ager commented to a science symposium at Wheaton College:
Genius as all these schemes may be, one is struck by the forced nature of them all. While the exegetical gymnastic maneuvers have displayed remarkable flexibility, I suspect that they have resulted in temporary damage to the theological musculature.
The exegetical difficulties facing OEC lead to another, more basic problem: OEC violates the most fundamental rule of hermeneutics, which requires that a writing be interpreted according to the intent of its author. No interpretation is valid merely because it is made to sound plausible; to be valid it must be the meaning the author intends. Imagine the horror of a last will and testament that was interpreted according to the court’s desires, rather than honoring the intent of the decedent. That is precisely the case with OEC; it completely disregards the obvious and intended meaning of the text in an attempt to accommodate the assertions of naturalistic science. This causes OEC not to be taken seriously by world class scholars. The April 23, 1984, letter of then Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University makes the point:
I have thought about your question, and would say that probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah's flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the `days' of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.
Professor Barr states that OEC is not taken seriously. Why? Because the writer of Genesis intended to convey to the reader the idea of six literal, twenty-four hour days. This is the more telling in that Professor Barr reportedly does not himself accept the Genesis account of creation, yet does not attempt to wrest the text to accommodate his belief in naturalistic models. OEC’s should follow his example in honoring the intent of the author and stop pretending that the gap or day-age theories are hermeneutically acceptable and sound. They should either openly reject the Bible in favor of an old earth, or accept the Bible as it was intended to be read.
The Unsubstantiated and Discredited Scientific Basis of an Old Earth
We now come to the scientific claims for an old earth. It is indeed unfortunate that OEC’s feel the need to reinterpret the Bible to accommodate science, for even naturalistic scientists affirm that the dating methods are unsound. There is an abundance of material available demonstrating the unscientific basis for claims of an old earth, but these few will make the point.
Evolutionist William Stansfield, Ph.D., California Polytech State, has stated:
It is obvious that radiometric techniques may not be the absolute dating methods that they are claimed to be. Age estimates on a given geological stratum by different radiometric methods are often quite different (sometimes by hundreds of millions of years). There is no absolutely reliable long-term radiological 'clock'.
Evolutionist Frederick B. Jueneman candidly summarizes the situation:
The age of our globe is presently thought to be some 4.5 billion years, based on radio-decay rates of uranium and thorium. Such 'confirmation' may be shortlived, as nature is not to be discovered quite so easily. There has been in recent years the horrible realization that radio-decay rates are not as constant as previously thought, nor are they immune to environmental influences. And this could mean that the atomic clocks are reset during some global disaster, and events which brought the Mesozoic to a close may not be 65 million years ago, but rather, within the age and memory of man.
With these sorts of statements coming out of the atheistic scientific community, one wonders what motivates Christians to jettison their Bibles in favor of and old earth. Geologist Andrew Snelling thus states:
"It is special pleading on the part of geochronologists and physicists to say that the radioactive decay rates have been carefully measured in laboratories for the past 80 or 90 years and that no significant variation of these rates has been measured. The 'bottom line' is really that 80 or 90 years of measurements are being extrapolated backwards in time to the origin of the earth, believed by evolutionists to be 4.5 billion years ago. That is an enormous extrapolation. In any other field of scientific research, if scientists or mathematicians were to extrapolate results over that many orders of magnitude, thereby assuming continuity of results over such enormous spans of unobserved time, they would be literally 'laughed out of court' by fellow scientists and mathematicians. Yet geochronologists are allowed to do this with impunity, primarily because it gives the desired millions and billions of years that evolutionists require, and because it makes these radioactive 'clocks' work!"
OEC is an unhappy attempt to reconcile the Bible to the discredited claims of naturalistic and evolutionary science. Let Christians stand courageously by their Bibles; all else is sinking sand.