The Age of the Earth and the Character of God

When taken at face value, without consideration of any extra-Biblical information, the account in Genesis 1-11 clearly describes the creation of the universe in six regular, 24-hour days, only a few thousand years ago.  Until recently, this is how it has been understood by the vast majority of Biblical scholars, and most critics of the young-earth position will concede this point.  Within the last couple of hundred years, however, an increasing number of scholars have reinterpreted these passages, in a variety of ways, to incorporate notions from other sources that would indicate that the universe is billions, not thousands, of years old.  This concept of a universe that is billions of years old does not come from the Bible itself, but rather from extra-Biblical philosophical, scientific, and historical sources.

How should Christians understand the question of the age of the earth?  Numerous books, articles, lectures, videos and websites have been created to debate the pros and cons of the various views.  Rather than rehashing the specifics of these views, I would like to focus on what the old-earth view held by many Christians today says about God’s character and nature.

If we presuppose the existence of God, and that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), there are some serious theological problems if the earth is actually billions of years old.  How can the Word of God describe a universe that is only a few thousand years old, if it is actually much, much older?

Some have suggested that that the Bible was never intended to be a book of science, but rather a book of spiritual truth.  They would claim that Genesis 1-11 was written so that primitive people could understand spiritual truth in the context of their unscientific culture, and that we, as advanced people, must reinterpret the text to fit science.  If this belief is true, it means that God was somehow unable to communicate spiritual truth to so-called primitive people while at the same time describing the creation of the physical world in a scientifically accurately way they could understand.  This means that God is neither all-knowing nor all-powerful.  He didn’t know how to accurately communicate both spiritual and scientific truth at the same time.  He couldn’t explain both, so He picked spiritual truth over scientific truth.  Such a god is not the omnipotent and omniscient God presented elsewhere in the Bible.  A god that can only explain spiritual truth at the expense of scientific accuracy would be a very limited god, and not a very good writer.  Such a god could not be the God Who parted the Red Sea, saved Daniel from the lion’s den, and raised Jesus from the dead.

Another option is that God knew how to communicate both the spiritual and the scientific truth accurately, but for whatever reason, He chose not to do so.  This would mean that God deliberately communicated scientific inaccuracies.  God is then a deceiver and a liar.  Again, such a god is not the God of the Bible.

If the universe is actually billions of years old, then Genesis 1-11 is wrong, and if it is wrong, then God is either a limited being with poor writing skills, or else He is a liar and deceiver.  Neither of these options is an acceptable description of the omnipotent, omniscient, and holy God of Christianity.  Yet, this is exactly what an attempt to cram billions of years into the Genesis text necessitates.

Understand, I am not saying that Christians who believe in an old-earth also believe that God is limited or a liar.  They believe in the same all-powerful, all-knowing, holy God as those who hold to the young-earth position.  However, when they do so, they are being inconsistent and foolish in their beliefs.  They must ignore the logical implications of their understanding.  They hold two mutually exclusive views to both be true, and since two mutually exclusive propositions cannot both be true at the same time, one of these beliefs must be wrong.  A belief in the character and nature of the God of the Bible, and a belief in a universe that is billions of years old, are incompatible and contradictory, and to hold both beliefs simultaneously is irrational.

An omnipotent, omniscient, and truthful God could not have inspired Genesis 1-11 to describe the universe being created in six literal days a few thousand years ago, unless it is historically and scientifically true.  God’s nature and character demand it.

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5 Responses

  1. Great post, well thought out and written, plus it makes a ton of sense.

    I recently had a long conversation with my brother about this same thing; I was on the “new-earth creation” story side. He was on the old.

    Eventually he lead me to the same exact conclusion. Still, it’s very helpful to see it written out so clearly.

    Thank you!

    — Rob

  2. Very good post.

    The Lord spoke the heavens and earth into existence in six 24-hour days (I believe in a young earth). Jesus spoke and turned water into wine. Jesus rose from the dead: same God, same powerful, undiluted faith (a belief in an old earth, dilutes the power of God, but makes the carnal mind feel good about itself–ridiculous religions like evolution come from the carnal mind).

    “Laughing at Evolution”
    http://tim-shey.blogspot.com/2011/05/last-supper.html

    Creation Evidence Museum
    http://184.154.224.5/~creatio1/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5&Itemid=7

    OOPARTS & Ancient High Technology
    http://www.s8int.com/

  3. I put the wrong link with the wrong title (above). Here is the correction:

    “Laughing at Evolution”
    http://tim-shey.blogspot.com/2010/04/lord-created-heavens-and-earth.html

  4. Good job Rich. I’m going to mention your blog on both my fb sites. Maybe you’ll pick up some more viewers.

  5. Amen. If the earth were millions of Years old then exodus 20:11 does not make any sense.

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