15 Questions and Answers Relating to the Age of the Earth Controversy (Questions 1-5)

The primary purpose of this post is not to give all the arguments for the questions at hand but a simple overview of what I believe are the starting points and take aways. This section of the series will consist of three related parts which will answer five questions at a time, so here is a list of the questions that I will answer in case you want to skip ahead or wait for ones that you find interesting:

1. Does Genesis 1 Require a Literal Seven-Day Interpretation?

2. What are the Different Theories Regarding Genesis 1?

3. How does Genesis 1-2 Compare to Other Ancient Creation Accounts?

4. How Should we view Biblical Genealogies?

5. Is it Biblically Tenable to hold to a Local Flood Theory?

6. How Credible is the Science Behind Young Earth Creationism?

7. Is the Appearance of Age Argument Credible?

8. Are Young Earth Creationists Burying Their Heads in the Sand?

9. How do Old Earth Creationists and Evolutionary Creationists Understand Animal Death Prior to the Fall?

10. Doesn’t Romans 5:12 Explicitly State that Death Entered the World After Adam Sinned?

11. What are the Essentials that a Christian must hold to Relating to Creation?

12. Must Evolutionary Creationists Deny Biblical Inerrancy?

13. Intelligent Design what is it and is it Science?

14. How does Darwinism Function as an Ideology?

15. Is it Intellectual Suicide to Deny the Theory of Evolution?

(For reference remember the terms Young Earth Creationists (YEC), Old Earth Creationists (OEC) and Evolutionary Creationists (EC) and see my First, Second and Third post relating to this blog series on the Age of Earth, Creation and Evolution.)

1. Does Genesis 1 Require a Literal Seven-Day Interpretation?

If you are anything like me you might have grown up thinking that the only people who held to a nonliteral seven-day interpretation of Genesis were heathens, heretics and other hell bound folks. Yet as I showed in my previous blog that simply is not the case.

Much of the debate revolves around the Hebrew word Yom. It is clear that Yom does not have to refer to a 24 hour period but can in fact refer to shorter periods of time (Gen. 1:5, 14-16) or longer periods. (Gen. 2:7, Gen. 29:14, Judges 14:4)  However, the vast majority of scholars believe that the author of Genesis 1 was writing the word Yom in such a way that the word itself should be understood to be written as a literal single day. So when the writer (or God directly in Exodus 20:11) says one day, he is saying one day.1

So that ends the debate right? Nope. As Bruce Waltke said, “To be sure the six days in the Genesis creation account are our 24 hour days, but they are metaphorical representations of a reality beyond human comprehension and imitation.”2 Surely this statement is Biblical compromise, right? I would argue that it is not. In John 11 Jesus (the Eternal Word) literally says that Lazarus has fallen asleep. Only after the disciples mistakenly interpreted Him literally (John 11:13) did He explain that He was not to be taken literally but He meant actual death despite His choice of words. Now if the Son of God can use a word literally and yet have it mean something nonliteral, I see no problem with applying that to Genesis 1. A wise Biblical interpreter seeks to understand what should be taken literally and what need not be taken literally, for instance the body parts ascribed to God the Father through out Scripture or the physical description of Jesus in Revelation 1. Although a wise interpreter also understands that non-literal interpretations can easily become dangerous, the Apostle John does not mess around with those who do not believe that Jesus literally came in the flesh, he declares they are under the spirit of the antichrist. (I John 4:3) May God give us wisdom on when and where to be dogmatic on literal interpretations and where to allow for non-literal interpretations.

2. What are the Different Theories Regarding Genesis 1?

There are many different theories in relating to interpretation of Genesis 1. What follows is a very basic description of the basic thesis of each major theory.

The most common of these is the 24 Hour Theory which does not see any kind of mediating position within the literal days described in Genesis 1 and therefore believes that the universe and earth were created within seven literal 24 hour days.

Gap Theory sees a period of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. During this gap Satan rebelled and part of God’s judgment fell upon the earth which is described in the conditions of Genesis 1:2.

Another more common theory is Day-Age Theory. This theory, as taken by Reasons to Believe, unites the correlation of the scientific geological record with Genesis 1 and sees each day as describing a long period of time between God’s creative acts.

Framework Theory is typically held by those who view Genesis 1 as poetic and not chronological. This approach seeks to focus strictly on the theological message and takes a very metaphorical approach in interpreting. Tim Keller seems to hold a theory similar to this as he describes Genesis 1 as the “Song of Creation.”3 (His shout out to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia)

Historical Creationism Theory holds that Genesis 1:1 refers to a duration of time that essentially describes the “time before time” in which God created the universe. Then what follows from Genesis 1:2 is the account of God’s second great act of creation that now involves man.4   

A theory that uses parallels from other near eastern accounts is Temple Inauguration Theory. This theory sees Genesis 1 as describing God creating His cosmic temple which, holders of this theory believe, would have been understood by those in the ancient Near East.5

It should be noted that there are many theories within each of these theories  and some scholars (and my non-scholarly self) take mediating positions between more than one theory.

3. How Does Genesis Compare to Other Ancient Creation Accounts?

It sometimes comes as a surprise to Christians that there are other creation accounts found in the ancient Near East. The first of these came to light with the discovery of the Ashurbanipal library in ancient Nineveh in 1853.6 Since then accounts from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia have also been found.

While there are similarities between the accounts it is the distinctions that clearly stand out. In many of these accounts gods are seen as created or formed outside of themselves, there is chaos among gods and nature and there is a very low view of human dignity displayed in them.

As both secular researchers and Christians believe that humans originated from the Near East, it seems logical to assume that as man spread out after the fall that there would be myths formed relating to man’s beginnings. Thankfully God chose to reveal the true account to Moses that displays His glory and our dignity.

4. How Should We View Biblical Genealogies?

The more time that I’ve spent learning how to interpret the Bible, or any literature for that matter, the more I’ve learned that I cannot force my rules on to the original writer. I have especially learned this with Biblical genealogies. Before studying them I would always come to them with a rule that they must be strictly chronological, yet one thing that seems clear when analyzing the genealogies is that their primary purpose is not that.

In the Old Testament there are 25 different genealogies, which is unique to the nation of Israel when compared to other Near Eastern cultures who do not show nearly as much of an interest in genealogies. There are discontinuities and other features within the genealogies that serve literary purposes other than a chronological nature such as highlighting key figures, emphasizing the number seven, and linking different historical figures.

A couple examples are: Eber is given special treatment in Genesis 10 and is clearly mentioned out of chronological order, Joseph being placed seventh in Genesis 35:23-26 which is not chronological, and Exodus 6 gives a truncated genealogy compared to the similar genealogy found in I Chronicles 7.

The New Testament writers also wrote genealogies to highlight literary and theological points other than chronological order. In Matthew 1:18, Matthew omits three generations between Joram and Uzziah. It seems clear that while genealogies were used to trace ancestry, using them to clearly define the age of humanity seems unwarranted. B.B. Warfield is well known for having been against those who would use a genealogy to try to compile a complete history of the human race. One of his Princeton forerunners, Dr. William Henry Green, was also highly critical of such tactics used by theologians like James Ussher.7

Furthermore if one holds that there are no gaps within Genesis genealogies they must hold that Shem outlived Abraham! Though possible, the rest of the text gives no indication that this was the case. When dealing with Biblical genealogies it seems we should focus on the literary intent and less on trying to develop a complete chronological order of humanity.8

5. Is it Biblically Tenable to Hold to a Local Flood Theory?

One interesting fact that nearly every Christian can agree on regarding the flood is that God left an imprint of its memory on humanity as they spread throughout the earth. A surprising variety and number of cultures have ancient flood stories, in total there are 68 distinct ancient flood accounts.

The face value reading of the Biblical flood account would cause one to believe in a universal flood whereas a face value and scrutinizing look at the geological evidence would have one believe that there has not been a universal flood. The science behind defending a universal flood from the geological evidence, used by organizations like the Answers in Genesis, borders on being unethical. The geological evidence does not support a universal flood.9 

The best (and possibly the only honest) defense to a universal flood when looking at geological evidence is to claim an absolute miracle. This is not a problem for those who believe in miracles like all Christians must, but the geological evidence should not be used to defend a universal flood as is commonly done. Many of the early geologists who came across the evidence did not want to abandon the idea of a universal flood as they themselves were Christians who believed in a global flood, but they felt compelled to do so due to the the evidence at hand. YEC should not appeal to geological evidence but Scripture alone if they desire to hold to a global flood theory. YEC who do that should not be chided if they are unconvinced that the Bible allows for another interpretation. The Bible is the final authority for believers, respect those who respect that.

When we take Genesis 1:1, the incarnation and the resurrection seriously and don’t see natural evidence for a certain Biblical event it is not a big problem for those who have properly set their hope in Christ crucified. Remember, Jesus said it is “an evil and adulterous generation that seeks a sign” and no sign was given in His generation except the sign of Jonah. (Matthew 16:4, sign of Jonah referring to His death, burial and resurrection) The evidence for Jesus’s resurrection is overwhelming, that is where we set our hope, that is the only place God has ordained we set our hope. (I Corinthians 2:2) Setting our hope on faulty science is setting us up for disaster. Using faulty flood science as an apologetic is setting up any convert for future disaster. The Bible is historically reliable, God has given enough evidence to prove that. Yet within my Biblical worldview, I have no expectation that every bit of geological or archeological evidence will seem to perfectly line up with our interpretations of the events. If that were the case we would have an army of Christian converts from scientific arguments alone and not from Gospel proclamation. Rest your hope in the provable historicity of the death, burial and resurrection of our Savior and the fact that you are a sinner in need of God’s personal redemption. I love apologetics but ultimately it is the foolishness of the cross that is the central message of Christianity and it is on that message that we stand or fall. It is on that message that we place our faith. (I Cor. 1:18-31, I Cor. 15:1-20)

Yet that still leaves the question is it Biblically tenable to hold to a local flood theory as most OEC and EC do? (Local flood is a bit of a deceiving term as it still means a massive supernatural flood that wiped out all human life but was prior to humanity’s dispersion so it was confined to a globally local area.) Although it does not match the face value reading of the flood story, most defenders of global flood theory acknowledge the possibility of an alternate interpretation. In many other places in the Bible very comprehensive and seemingly universal language is used in more obviously qualified ways. (Gen. 41:56-57, Deut. 2:25, I Kings 4:43, 10:24, II Chron. 36:23, Dan. 2:38, 4:22, 5:19, Luke 2:1)10 Such examples leave the possibility that the flood account is also described in such a way. Another interesting point is made by local flood defenders in Genesis 8:7 and 8:14. There it is said that the earth was “completely dry” after the flood, but no one holds to a strictly literal interpretation that would require a universal post-diluvian desert.11

Although local flood theories are not as easily defended from a Biblical perspective they do seem to be tenable theories. Such positions are admittedly weaker than global flood theories when strictly comparing the Biblical evidence, but not impossible even from a Biblically inerrant position. For those looking into it, remember our lessons from the Copernicus Conflict. It should again be noted that both local flood and global flood defenders agree on the historicity of Noah’s flood and that it was a supernatural act of God’s literal judgment against the world for humanity’s rebellion and functioned as a foreshadowing of God’s judgment to come and is an example of His grace to those who believe and take refugee in His Son.12

Citations:

  1. 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution, Kenneth D. Keathley and Mark F. Rooker, (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, 2014), “Question 16: What is the Twenty-Four Hour Theory?,” 164
  2. Bruce K. Waltke, “The Literary Genre of Genesis, Chapter One,” Crux 27, no. 4 (December 1991): 8; Waltke and Fredericks, Genesis, 61; (Taken from Ibid.)
  3. https://gospelinlife.com/downloads/defeaters-4-evolution-and-science-4609/
  4. 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution, Keathley and Rooker,” 147-155
  5. Ibid.137-145
  6. Ibid. 57
  7. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/debatable-genesis-genealogies-and-the-age-of-the-earth/
  8. 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution, Keathley and Rooker, 169-176
  9. Ibid. 285-310
  10. Ibid. 291
  11. Mark Wharton and Hill Roberts, Understanding Creation: A Biblical and Scientific Discovery (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2008), 158-160 (Taken from Ibid, 292)
  12. 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution, Keathley and Rooker, 292, 310

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Photo by Kayvan Mazhar on Unsplash

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