I always try to interpret the Bible as accurately and consistently as I can. Good exegesis and hermeneutics of the Scriptural texts is always my first goal. When history or science invariably disagrees with what the Bible says, I first off pause, and double check the Bible. Was I just always taught something that wasn’t really in the Bible? Or were there possibly mistakes in my interpretation because of faulty presuppositions or lack of historical research? Definitely possible. If science or archeology led me to questioning my beliefs and resulted in a better interpretation of Scripture then hooray, it did its job. God uses such things all the time to reveal truth about Himself. However, when Scripture states one thing, and scientists, historians, philosophers and the like say the opposite, I will always believe the Bible. But why?
1) Because the Bible has proven itself to be right all the time
2) People have proven themselves to be wrong all the time
We have such revisionist history. Newer science is proving older science wrong all the time. So why are present day scientists so sure that they won’t be proven wrong? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. Don’t get me wrong. I love science. It’s scientists I don’t particularly trust. They too often don’t admit their biases and presuppositions and thus are extremely susceptible to faulty science.
I’m going to just look at one journey I had in regards to this tension between science and the Bible. It has to do with the Granddaddy of debates: The origin of the universe. I was brought-up to believe that God created the earth a few thousand years ago. I went to church, youth group, and a Christian school for much of my education. I was essentially taught all the strengths of creationism and all the faults of evolution. But obviously there’s no shortage of information out there when it comes to the World Wide Web. Wikipedia and I had a showdown. I wanted to learn everything I could. Read, watch, and consume the best stuff that scientists had to offer. No doubt, I learned a lot. I learned that there were good, godly Christians that believed differently than me. I learned that evolution was not as “stupid” as I was taught. And I learned that there were some (but very few) Bible believing scientists doing some awesome work. I think I know what I believe now. I’m not saying I won’t change my stance. I would even say it might start with overwhelming scientific data, but it will be because of a better understanding of Scripture that I will change my mind. But what do I believe now, on this Sunday evening as I blog?
I believe in a Young Earth but an Old Universe. Let me unpack that a bit.
In Genesis 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void.” I believe this took place before the “first day of creation.” I think God created the Universe in all its beauty and he created a rocky planet with a ton of liquid water on the surface. And I think the planet sat there for 100 billion trillion gazillion (however many) years. And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. I personally believe it was God’s way of proving to evolutionary biologists that unless God creates life – it’s impossible. But I digress. Then God created light on the earth. He didn’t create the Sun yet so the light is emanating from himself. God does this at the end of time as well. When God creates a New Heaven and a New Earth He says in Revelation 22:5, “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them.” So the Bible kind of starts and ends the same way. And after God creates the light on the first day, he uses this familiar phrase that he uses throughout the rest of the days. “And there was morning and there was evening.” Now some object that because there was no Sun there could be no “Day” and thus “Day” must be used in the more generic sense. The word “Yom” could be used in a general sense like, “We are in the Modern Day.” So maybe “Day/Yom” didn’t mean a literal 24-hour day, but rather just a period of time. But then why would Moses take so much time to write, “morning and evening, morning and evening, morning and evening.” If the Bible just had “Day” without the constant mentioning of the morning and the evening, I might actually hold to such a belief. But I think it was a literal 24-hour thing. The earth would still be rotating, and thus making a complete turn. God has come as a pillar of fire before so, perhaps He emanated light from a single spot thus giving a point of reference for the earth to complete a full rotation. Or we could just say that if God is capable of creating the Universe using His words He is capable of knowing what 24-hours is with or without the Sun.
Following the first day, one reads how God separated the water from the air, then the land from the water. They don’t read as if He is creating these things in that moment but rather that He is preparing the earth for life after that dead planet sat there for billions of years as a cosmic paperweight. He prepares the world with light, air & water, and land in days 1-3, then the Sun/Moon (to handle the light), the birds (to soar in the sky) & the fish (to fill the water), and finally the plants and animals (to grow on the land) in days 4-6. When people object to the “stupidity” of a young earth, they point to all kinds of things that seem really old. Well my succinct answers to that are 4-fold. 1) God created everything on the earth with the appearance of age. He didn’t plant seeds, He made trees. He didn’t hatch eggs, He made chickens. 2) The flood really jacked the earth up. It covered animals up in mud, pressed organic matter into oil, and went all tectonic on the planet making mountains and valleys and the like. 3) I obviously believe that evolution on a micro-scale occurs. Wolves become dogs, bird beaks get bigger and smaller, and moths get darker and lighter. What I don’t believe is that animals change kinds. I don’t think the fossil record shows intermediate species. It definitely has animals that pop-up out of nowhere in the fossil record. And I see no present-day transitioning of species (mutations lead to destruction, not enhancement.) 4) And remember, I think the dirt portions of the earth could be pretty old while the life on the other hand is pretty young.
Now we have to zoom in specifically to Day 4 so I can jump through some hoops. It says in Genesis 1:16 (as literally as I can translate), God made two great lights. Greater light to rule day. Lesser light to rule night. Stars.” So most translations throw in a couple italic words to smooth it out. So they’ll interpret the passage for you and say something like “And He made the stars also.” But it doesn’t actually say that. It just says, “Stars.” Like the Stars were there. The moon was created on day four, that is scripturally clear (as well as scientifically. The “capturing” of the moon is actually really complicated and the moon is so amazingly important for the earth that life couldn’t survive without it.) What isn’t crystal clear is that God created the stars on that day. I think there’s strong potential that God created the stars in Genesis 1:1 when it says He created the heavens and the earth. Verse 16 is just the reminder that the stars get to hang out with the moon at night. This also helps to answer a particularly problematic scientific question. It takes starlight millions of years to reach earth. So in a scenario of a young universe God would have had to make the starlight already reaching the earth. God’s All-powerful. That wouldn’t be a problem. The complicated part is when we observe a supernova. We are watching several stars in the exploding process. But if those stars are millions of miles away and God just made the starlight instantly reach us a few thousand years ago, then in all actuality He didn’t create the star at all. The star never existed. He just made the starlight without the star on the other end. If the universe is just a few thousand years old, and we are observing a star 4 million light-years away explode, it would mean that it was a “fake” star. However, since I kind of think the universe is old, I run into no problem here. (In Nelson’s voice) He-He.
Finally, it comes to Day 6 and God creates human beings by forming them from the dust of the earth and literally breathing a soul into them. Humans are different from the rest of His creation. We are created in His image. I’m intellectually ok with Christians believing in evolution on a macro-scale (although I disagree with them), but I theologically cannot handle believing in the evolution of man from a non-sentient being without a soul, to what we are now. If Jesus is the Second Adam, there must be a First Adam. Jesus as our Savior is built on the idea that we humans are all sinners through our ancestor Adam. If there is not a single ancestor like Adam, than much of the purpose of the Cross of Jesus Christ is lost.
Well, this was just a snippet on my thoughts. I very much respect other Believers’ viewpoints, but am happy to defend and be challenged on my beliefs, so feel free to post any questions or statements in the Comment Section.
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3 thoughts on “Young Earth but Old Universe?”
Interesting theory. I don’t hate it. Of course I’ve always strongly believed in and taught a young Earth, but some of the verses you mentioned have always given me pause like the earth being formless and void. Also, it’s clear, even from a scientific standpoint that the moon is young and even the other planets in our solar system. But the stars? Not so much. Food for thought for sure.
This is one of my favorite subjects. As a terminal old universe creationist, you took a step in my direction so; Cheers! A little strained but with a high degree of thought and respect.
You might appreciate my margin notes in Gen so I’ll send those separately. Like you, I believe in the inerrant Word of God. That said, I have come to fully embrace the day-Yom period interpretation. Ultimately for one key reason, all days 1-6 began and ended while day 7 God rested and it does not end. In fact we are invited to enter God’s rest in Heb 4:1. So, I argue the Bible teaches we are living in the 7th period or seventh day of Genesis.
This interpretation does the following:
Is true to the linguistics according to people much more knowledgeable than myself. Though I respect your reasoning about morning and evening this could easily be a way of noting the beginning and ending of periods with a familiar frame work.
Eiminates disconnects with the ages of the fossils record.
Avoids the preposterous notion that God created petrified trees and dino fossiles to fool us.
Removes the age of the Earth question entirely as a barrier to faith in Jesus – A Christian who is conservative, holds a literal Biblical truth model and believes the Earth to be 3-4B yrs old in a 17B yr old universe gets to talk about their faith to a lost world for just a little longer before being dismissed.
Now for the fun part.
When I read Gen I get really excited because it so impossibly follows exactly what the fossils and galactic record indicates. Imagine the “luck” of a guy writing down an imaginary tale of the creation of the universe and getting it sequentially correct from what all our modern fancy tools and centuries of investigation has been able to tell us!!
Big Physics – Yom 1 vs 1-4 (0 to 13B yrs) All the matter in the universe is created from the energy of God (The Big Bang is the most amazing evidence of God man could hope to find in nature) and cools into galaxies, stars and planets. We see our sun igniting from giant gravitation fusion and the Earth forming into a stable rotation and orbit in our solar system.
Terra Forming – Yom 2-2.5 vs 6-10 God prepares the Earth for life. The evidence points to a deeply chaotic early earth and solar system that needed an intervention before enough stability, oxygen, clearing of poisons etc.. Could support life.
Life Creation – Yom 3 – 6 vs 11-25 Then the deep magic (CS Lewis term) where God began to create life using evolution and time as a Potter molds a clay pot. Plants were formed, then sea life, “birds” (which we all know from Jurassic Park are the dinosaurs), then mammals and finally man.
What is man? There is evidence of other hominids on earth but only one was chosen by God to be give the privilege of being made in his image and to be given dominion over the Earth
Thx for your thoughts. I like this subject as well. I would agree that God didn’t “fake” fossils and petrified trees. My guess at this juncture is that the flood created massive pressure and heat as well as destabaized the magnetosphere for a time throwing off our dating methods. My goal in the coming years is to read more first hand research from biologists (such as Michael Behe) and paleontologists (like Lee Duigon and the German guy I can’t think of, Gunter I think, or is that the name I think every German scientist has). Obviously as a ministry guy I read mostly 4th or 5th hand accounts of this stuff ;) So hopefully i can wade through those formulas and understand a 10th of it :)