How Old is the Earth? by Chris Sherrod

This article was taken from the Apologetics Study Bible for Students:

There are two main views among Christians.  Old earth creationists (OEC), also known as progressive creationists, believe God created the universe and all life forms in stages separated by long periods of time.  They believe the geologic record accurately portrays a very long earth history.  Young earth creationists (YEC) believe the universe and all life forms were created in six successive 24-hour days, meaning earth is only thousands of years old.  Major arguments for each view include the following:

  • Speed of light measurements and the distance of stars indicate an ancient universe.
  • The Hebrew word yom (day) does not always mean a literal day (e.g. Gn 2:4)
  • Genesis 1:2 says the land produced vegetation on Day Three, indicating growth from seed to maturity.  That takes longer than 24 hours.
  • There is too much activity on Day 6 to fit in 24 hours (see Gn 1:24-31; 2:15-25).
  • Many animals are specifically designed to prey upon other animals.  This indicates that by God's design, animal death preceded the fall of Adam and Eve.
  • The sun was created on Day 4; thus Days 1-3 could not have been 24-hour solar days.
  • The testimony of nature powerfully indicates an ancient creation.
  • The usual meaning of yom is a literal, 24-hour day.
  • "Evening came, and then morning," seems to indicate a literal day (Gn 1:15, etc.).
  • Sabbath rest (Ex 20:11) seems to imply six literal days of work during Creation week.
  • The sun was not created until Day 4, but here was life on Day 3 (Gn 1:11-13).  Life cannot exist for long periods without sunlight, and so the days were not long ages.
  • Plants were created on Day 3 and animals on Day 5.  The interdependence between plants and animals implies that their creation was not separated by long ages.
  • If death is an enemy (1Co 15:54), was God's original paradise free from killing, or was it filled with violence, decay, and death?  Man was not permitted to eat animals until after the Flood (Gen 9:2-3).
  • If decay and death were originally part of creation, why is creation looking forward to liberation from bondage to decay (Rm 8:20-22)?
Despite there differences, Christians in both groups are committed to God's supernatural creation of all things.  Similarly, both are committed to the inspiration and authority of the Bible.  Also, it is important to note that even if earth is many millions of years old, this still is not enough time for life to arise naturally and then evolve into the complex species we have today.

Though Christians sometimes passionately disagree about the age of the earth, we should not break fellowship about issues of peripheral importance (Rm 14:1).  Both parties can work together, support common ground (such as Intelligent Design), and work "side by side for the faith of the gospel" (Php 1:27).  We can have friendly "in-house" debates, graciously discussing our viewpoints in a spirit of love while standing united against the world's deceitful philosophies (Col. 2:8).

Courage and Godspeed,


Chris Falter said…
Hi Chad,

Though Christians sometimes passionately disagree about the age of the earth, we should not break fellowship about issues of peripheral importance (Rm 14:1). I agree wholeheartedly!

I do feel that Sherrod omitted some of the strongest arguments for a non-scientific exegesis of Genesis 1 - 3. These would include:

* We should expect God's word and God's works to be in agreement.

* The opening chapters of Genesis have a "flavor" that is consistent with the creation narratives of nearby cultures. The differences--there are many--focus on the uniqueness and supremacy of the God of Israel, who is quite unlike the gods of other nations. Long story short, the early chapters of Genesis come across as a diatribe against the foolishness of the nations and their gods.

* Genesis 1:1 depicts an opening scene where the Spirit hovers over chaotic waters. Over the "days" of creation we see God bring the chaos into order: darkness and light are separated, the earth brings forth plants, the uninhabited waters are filled with sea creatures, etc. The agenda seems theological as opposed to scientific.

* Why is light separated from darkness before the sun is created? Nearby cultures worshiped the sun as a god, and credited the sun-god with power over light and darkness. The first Genesis creation account, insofar as it depicts the sun as having no such power (it was created after light and dark), ascribes the glory and power to the God of Israel instead. Thus the first account of creation in Genesis reads like a repudiation of the polytheism of Israel's neighbors. In other words, the Genesis agenda is theological, not scientific.

(This does not mean Genesis was not inspired by God. We note the Jewish concerns of the Gospel of Matthew and the Greco-Roman concerns of Mark and put them to use in exegeting the texts. Yet we do not say that these cultural concerns rule out God's inspiration! In the same way, noting the cultural concerns of Genesis helps us interpret the text without ipso facto ruling out God's inspiration.)

* The modern agenda of putting science at the forefront of explanations is quite alien to the people to whom God revealed the Torah. Like the cultures around them, they were concerned foremost with issues of purpose and meaning. If we are to read the Torah with integrity, we must let the agenda of the people to whom God revealed the Torah be foremost, rather than imposing our alien concerns.

Moving to some scientific topics that Sherrod raised....

It should be noted that the geological and astronomical evidence is almost universally regarded by the scientific community as pointing to an earth that is 4.5 billion years. This is several orders of magnitude greater than the age suggested by Sherrod ("many millions"). Also, the vast majority of paleontologists and biologists, including literally tens of thousands of Christian scientists, disagree with Sherrod's assertion that the age of the earth does not allow enough time for life to have evolved.

For these reasons I think there is a strong theological, historical, and scientific case to be made for a "framework" exegesis of Genesis 1-3. Yet I recognize that it is not an issue that should cause us to break fellowship.

However, I wonder why Sherrod excludes evolutionary creationists from the "common ground" that Christians of every persuasion share? Sherrod seems to exclude evolutionary creationists by asserting that Intelligent Design must be the nexus of unity. I am used to being treated with suspicion by the majority of my evangelical brethren, but I was expecting better from an author who calls for unity on the essentials and grace with liberty on the non-essentials.

Thanks for listening,
Chris Falter

Bruce Cooper said…
Excellent post. I will repost this on my blog. Thank you, sincerely appreciated. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we can disagree but still be in harmony. Blessings.
JDL said…
Most OEC's don't think the sun was created on day four. It was already forming beginning Day one. These were long periods of time by a huge factor.
Anonymous said…
I just finished reading the book "Imagine Heaven" about folks who have had NDE [near death experiences]. Almost every person interviewed described a "LIGHT" in the place they found themselves. It was a light not from the sun and not a blinding light but a bright light all the same. God is light [1 John 1:5]. Could it be He separated His Light from the darkness before the sun was created?