This Old Earth

Part 2: Objections Handled

1.    God Created From Nothing

2.    The Age of the Earth

3.    The “Days” of Genesis 1

4.    In Six Days

5.    Appearance of Age

6.    Male and Female From the Beginning

 

Part 1: The Debate

Part 3: Death Before the Fall?

God Created from Nothing

 

Many Bible believers deny the possibility that God used evolution to bring about His creation because Genesis describes God creating animals and man ex nihilo, or from nothing.  Or so they think.  Let’s look at what Genesis says.

Genesis 1:

1  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4  And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5  And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. [see NASB]

The first thing it says is that God created heaven and earth in the beginning.  There are two ways this can be understood.  Some think this is a summary statement, with the rest of the chapter filling in the details.  Others think that it is simply God’s first act of creation.  To see which view is intended, we simply read it in context.  The fact that verses two and following all begin with “and” tells us that the whole chapter presents a continuous thought that starts with verse one “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the waters, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters…” And then God went on to develop His creation throughout the chapter.  This shows that God created the earth in the beginning but it was uninhabitable, and He then went on to make it habitable.

We used to ask why a perfect God would create an imperfect world.  But He spent time making it ready to be inhabited.  In Job 38:1-11, God mentions some of His preparations, and speaks of laying the foundation or the earth, and of clothing it in clouds and thick darkness (compare that to Genesis 1:2).  God could have created everything fully formed in an instant if He so chose, but then there would be no evidence that He created it.  But the evidence of His creation and lengthy preparation is seen throughout nature, and thus presents His handiwork.  All of creation tells of the glory of God (Job 12:7-11; Romans 1:18-20).  He created everything in the beginning, and then set about preparing it for man.

The Hebrew word for ‘created’ is bara, which often carries the meaning of “to bring into existence, out of nothing” (although it does not always have that meaning, nor is it the only word to have that meaning, as seen in The Three Parts of Man Fallacy).  Verse 3 doesn’t say that God created light at that point, only that He said, Let there be light.”  Whatever light is, it was created in the beginning (verse 1).

The same is true of the rest of God’s actions in chapter 1.  He doesn’t create the firmament, He says, Let there be a firmament…”  (It also says he made the firmament, which is a different Hebrew word, asah.)  He doesn’t create the seas, he says “Let the waters… be gathered together…” He doesn’t create plants, He says, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed…”  He doesn’t create the sun, moon, and stars, He says, Let there be lights in the firmament…” and makes them (asah), and sets them in the heavens for times and seasons. The sun, moon and stars were created in the beginning but covered with clouds and thick darkness (Job 38:9; Genesis 1:2). On the fourth day, God removed the clouds so that the lights could be seen, and used for times and seasons. (This eliminates the argument that there couldn’t have been evenings and mornings if there were no sun yet.) 

Then in verse 21, the word ‘created’ is used again, for the first time since verse one, when it says, “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and it was so.”  Notice it says that the waters brought them forth.  Then on the sixth day, God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind…” Again, it doesn’t say He created them from nothing.  It just says the earth brought them forth

Finally the word ‘create’ is used again in verse 27, three times.  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  This seems to contradict the idea that man developed from lower forms.  Even some Bible scholars who support evolution and an old earth still say they believe the Bible teaches that higher animals and man came about by “special creation.”  In other words the lower animals may have evolved to a point, but the use of the word ‘create’ in verses 21 and 27 shows that those animals and man were still created from nothing.  But is this what the Bible says?

We examined the Hebrew word bara or ‘create’ in another article.  It can mean to make out of nothing, but it is not limited to that meaning.  It is used in Isaiah 65:18 referring to a restored Jerusalem, and in Joshua 17:15 and 18 it is translated as "cut down" in the sense of clearing out and developing the land.  It is used in a number of other ways as well, including being used like yatsar or asah in a more general sense of to do or to make.  Furthermore, man is described not just as having been created, but having been formed, made, and created (Isaiah 43:7).

Some consider that the creation of spirit in man is what separated man from the other animals.  Some others claim that man was given an “immortal soul” which sets him apart, and therefore man must have come by “special creation.”  See the discussion of formed, made, and created in The Three Parts of Man FallacyIn Genesis 1:1, the phrase “the heavens and the earth” is a Hebraism (a Hebrew idiom) referring to the totality of God’s creation, which is described variously in the Bible as having been “formed,” “made,” and “created.”  This includes God creating all the raw materials in the beginning and fashioning everything – including higher animals and man – as described in the remainder of Genesis 1.  Thus the use of “create” (bara) in Genesis 1:27 does not demand that God created man out of nothing on the sixth day.  The same is true of the animals created on the fifth day in verses 20-23.

The above understanding of Genesis 1 is not to be confused with what is known as The Gap Theory, or The Ruin-Restoration Theory.  This was the theory I and many others from similar backgrounds held to for many years, although we didn’t call it by those names.  I thought it explained the evidence in a satisfactory way.  But it isn’t found in Scripture, and it actually brings up more question than it answers.

Briefly, the theory states that God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning (Genesis 1:1). Then in Genesis 1:2, the earth "became" without form and void. The remainder of chapter one, according to this theory, describes not God’s creation but His rebuilding of His creation that was destroyed.  That destruction was said to be caused by Satan’s rebellion and a great war in heaven. I deal with this theory in more detail in the Closer Look article on The Gap Theory.

In contrast, the view I am proposing is that God created the heavens and earth in the beginning, but rather than it being ruined by Satan and having to be rebuilt, it is simply in a state of formless wilderness at first, and then Genesis 1 describes God preparing the earth to be inhabited.  The Hebrew words tohu and bohu, in their other uses, refer to uninhabitable wilderness, not complete destruction as I was taught (See “Hebrew Words” in The Gap Theory).   

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The Age of the Earth

 

Creationism is the belief that God created the heavens and the earth, and there are basically two variations of it: Old Earth and Young Earth.  Young Earth Creationism (YEC) holds that the earth is actually only about 6,000 years old, despite the abundant evidence to the contrary.  (Some variations of it allow for the earth being as much as 10,000 years old, but still less than a million, let alone a billion.)  However, there is abundant evidence that the earth is billions of years old.  To simply ignore the evidence is unwise.  A recent well-publicized debate between Young Earth Creationist Ken Ham and scientist Bill Nye served to make Christians and Christianity look foolish.

The notion that the earth is only 6,000 years old is based, not on Scriptural evidence, but on the calculations of James Ussher, the archbishop of Ireland, in 1650.  He based his calculations on the genealogies in the Old Testament, and concluded that creation must have been in the year 4004 BC.  But one of the major problems with this is the assumption that the genealogies are complete.  The fact is that it is not uncommon for the Old Testament to give only the highlights in a genealogy, and not every single generation. 

For example, the genealogies of Moses are given in several places in the Old Testament, and all list Levi, Kohath, and then Amram, the father of Moses  (Exodus 6:16-20; Numbers 26:57-59; I Chronicles 6:1-3; 23:6, 12-13).  But the parallel genealogy of Joshua, given in I Chronicles 7:20-27 lists 12 generations between Joseph (Levi’s brother) and Joshua, who was contemporary with Moses (Numbers 13:8, 16).  Obviously not all the generations between Levi and Moses were listed. This is just one of many examples.

Words like ‘father,’ ‘son,’ and ‘begat,’ all have more than one meaning in Hebrew, and can refer to descendants several generations away.  So the genealogies given in the Old Testament are not intended to be a complete list of every generation, and therefore cannot be used to calculate chronology all the way back to Adam.  

The view of the age of the earth has changed over the years.  The following historical overview is from The Days of Creation: A Closer Look at Scripture by Jon W. Greene.

The prevailing view in the 17th century was the days of creation were 24-hour periods and the creation was approximately 6,000 years old. This 6,000 year time-frame was based on compilations of the Genesis genealogies done by Archbishop James Ussher and theologian John Lightfoot around A.D. 1650. Based on the ages of patriarchs in the genealogies, both Ussher and Lightfoot concluded the universe, earth, and life were created in 4004 B.C.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, new data from geology and paleontology established the earth was millions of years old, which conflicted greatly with Ussher and Lightfoot. In 1857, Philip Gosse (1810-1888), a British preacher and self-trained biologist, proposed a solution to this dilemma. Because Gosse felt obligated to uphold Ussher’s 4004 B.C. creation date, he proposed God had created the world with the “appearance of age” – although the creation appeared to be ancient, it was actually only 6,000 years old. For instance, Gosse argued trees were created with growth rings in place, coral reefs were created fully-developed, and rocks were created with fossils in them. Although Gosse’s theory was rejected during his lifetime, some young-earth creationists continue to promote the “appearance of age” view, most notably in the area of astronomy.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Professor William Henry Green (1825-1900) and distinguished theologian Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) noted gaps and omissions in the Genesis genealogies. This suggested the creation was substantially older than the 6,000-year timeframe Ussher and Lightfoot had proposed. Today, many Bible scholars hold this view and believe the early Hebrew genealogies provide highlights, but not a complete rendering of each and every actual generation. For example, in his expositional commentary on Genesis, James Montgomery Boice states:

It has been pointed out by biblical scholars, among them no less a scholar than Princeton’s B.B. Warfield, that the biblical genealogies are not necessarily all-inclusive when they list a series of descendants... they may (and in fact do) leave gaps, so that a person identified as a ‘son’ of a person coming before him in the list need not necessarily be a literal son but may be a grandson or great-grandson. Moreover, the gaps may sometimes be quite large...

In the mid-20th century, Young Earth Creationism was rekindled by publications promoting flood geology, creation science and scientific creationism. The chief architect of flood geology was George McCready Price (1870-1963), a Seventh Day Adventist who insisted the Flood was responsible for the Earth’s geological features. Self-taught and lacking a formal education in geology, Price based flood geology on the teachings of his mentor, Ellen G. White (1827-1915), prophetess and founder of the Seventh Day Adventist movement. In numerous trance-like visions, White claimed she was “carried back to the creation” and “Noah’s flood had sculpted the surface of the earth, burying the plants and animals found in the fossil record.” It is startling White’s “divine messages” became so influential in 21st century Christianity.

In the 1960s, “flood geology” was co-opted by John Whitcomb’s and Henry Morris’ book, The Genesis Flood, published in 1961. Like Price, neither Whitcomb nor Morris had degrees in geology. Although the book was extremely popular, many geologists were critical of the scholarship. The following statement by Christian geologist W.U. Ault is typical of the criticism the book received:

The writings of these non-geologists [Price, Whitcomb, Morris] exhibit a basic lack of understanding of even the fundamental principles of geology... a number of basic points completely invalidate flood geology... The serious Bible student will not seek to support the physical aspects of Bible history with pseudoscience.

Despite the scientific shortcomings of The Genesis Flood, Whitcomb and Morris aggressively promoted the book, crisscrossing the country, speaking most often at Baptist churches, but also conservative Presbyterian, Lutheran, Reformed, and Pentecostal churches. They also spoke at Biola University, Bob Jones University, Dallas Theological Seminary and other seminaries and Bible colleges, spreading the “gospel of flood geology.” Today, many Christians accept the Whitcomb/Morris model ignoring, or unaware of, its scientific problems. That is the reason many pastors today still fallaciously preach “flood geology” is the reason “seashells are found on mountaintops.”

 

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The ‘Days’ of Genesis 1

 

The main reason for denying the earth could be millions of years old is that Genesis 1 declares that God created everything in six days and then rested on the seventh.  There have been people who have suggested that the days are not meant to be taken literally, but must be symbolic, allegorical, figurative, etc.  Strict Bible believers do not accept this view but insist that the six days of creation be understood as six literal days of 24 hours.  But there is another alternative.

The Hebrew word for ‘day’ in Genesis 1 is yom.  But the definition of that word is not limited to only a period of 24 hours.  The word can have other meanings and still be “literal” rather than “figurative” or “allegorical.”  The following is from Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:

yom (Strong's H3117)

1.    day, time, year

a.    day (as opposed to night)

b.    day (24 hour period)

c.    days, lifetime (plural)

d.    time, period (general)

e.    year

f.     temporal references

1.    today

2.    yesterday

3.    tomorrow

The word is still literal when it refers to a time period other than 24 hours.  Nothing in the creation account in Genesis 1 demands that it refer to six days of 24 hours.  In fact it actually fits better to understand it as six ages (which is why it is sometimes called the “Day-Age” theory). 

Psalm 90:
4  For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
[see NASB]

The argument has been made that while yom can mean a long period of time, if it appears with the words ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ it has to refer to 24-hour days.  But the next verses in Psalm 90 use ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ to refer to more than 24-hour days.

Psalm 90:

5  Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

6  In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. [see NASB]

It takes more than 24 hours for grass to grow up or wither when cut down.  For further proof, let’s look at what happened on these days of creation.

Genesis 1:

11  And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12  And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. [see NASB]

Notice it says that at God’s command, “The earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind.“  It doesn’t say that God created the plants miraculously all at once, although He could have.  The earth brought forth grass, herbs, and trees.  They sprouted and grew, which takes time – more than 24 hours.  This is especially true of trees, which take years to grow and produce fruit.  Therefore the third day could not have been merely 24 hours.

Then on day five, we read:

Genesis 1:

20  And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21  And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22  And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

23  And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. [see NASB]

Notice again that it says the waters brought forth the moving creature and the fowl of the air.  Verse 21 is another example of “create” not being used as ex nihilo, or out of nothing.  “God created … every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly.”  This bringing forth emphasizes that they developed in the natural way, which would take more than 24 hours.

Then we come to day six, which has a lot happening.  All land animals are made, and finally man.

Genesis 1:

24  And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25  And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. [see NASB]

Again the earth brings forth living creatures, and God makes beasts, cattle, and creeping things.  (Remember that asah, the word for “made,” does not mean “out of nothing.”)   And then God makes man to have dominion over all of His creation.  And in chapter 2, we read even more about the sixth day, as it expands on what was written in chapter 1.

During day six, according to Genesis two, God planted a garden and caused it to sprout and grow, brought all the birds, cattle, and wild animals to Adam to name, and then put Adam to sleep and made Eve from his rib.  All these things take much more time than a 24-hour day would allow.

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In Six Days

 

Exodus 20:11 was a verse that I once thought capsulized the understanding of the creation days.  It states that “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.”  This wording makes it seem as though God created everything within six literal, 24-hour days.  But the word “in” is not in the Hebrew text.  It simply says “six yoms” God made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh yom He rested.  The point of the comparison is to show the pattern of six periods of labor followed by a seventh of rest.  This pattern is reflected in the entire Sabbath system – not only the weekly Sabbath but the land Sabbath and Jubilee years as well.  The following is from The Days of Creation: A Closer Look at Scripture by Jon W. Greene.

The reference to the Sabbath in Exodus 20 seems to refer to the pattern of “days,” not their duration. The emphasis is on the pattern of work and rest, a ratio of six to one, not on the length of the creation days. Exodus 20:9 addresses the work-week of humans (seven 24-hour days); Exodus 20:11 addresses the work-week of God (seven time periods). Thus, as Hebrew scholar Gleason Archer notes: “By no means does this [Exodus 20:9-11] demonstrate that 24-hour intervals were involved in the first six ‘days,’ any more than the eight-day celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles proves that the wilderness wanderings under Moses occupied only eight days.” In Leviticus 25:4 the pattern of one out of seven is duplicated with six years of planting the land and one year of “Sabbath rest for the land.” This further demonstrates the analogy of our Sabbath to God’s Sabbath does not demand that the creation “week” consisted of seven 24-hour days.

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Appearance of Age

 

Some Young Earth Creationists contend that God created the earth with the “appearance of age” rather than it actually taking billions of years.  But this view has a number of problems, not least of which is that there is simply nothing in Scripture about it.  In addition, this would actually make God a deceiver, and God cannot lie.  The following is from Appearance of Age - A Young Earth Problem by Rich Deem.

According to appearance of age advocates, God created Adam with the appearance of age, since he seems to have been created as an adult. The Bible says that Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Didn't this wine have the appearance of age? There are two major problems with these analogies. First, neither the body of Adam nor the wine of Cana is available for inspection. The creation is still here. Second, the analogies confuse appearance of age with appearance of history. The creation appears to have a long history, not just an appearance of age or maturity.

Did Adam have an appearance of history? Did he have a navel from a birth that never happened? Were his teeth worn at his creation, even though he had never eaten? Did Adam have calluses on his feet even though he had never walked? The Bible does not address these issues, and since Adam's body is not available, we have no idea of the answers to these questions. Does the Bible compare Adam's body to the creation? No! The analogy has no biblical basis and is based upon conjecture alone.

Does the wine of Cana have an appearance of history? According to the biblical account, Jesus ordered waterpots to be filled with water and, immediately, the water had become wine.  Did it have an appearance of history? If the wine had been in wineskins (like the original wine) then one might say that it appeared to have been aged in the wineskins. However, the wine was still in the waterpots. It had no appearance of history. Does the Bible compare the wine of Cana to the creation? No! Like Adam's body, the wine of Cana analogy has no biblical basis and is based upon conjecture alone.

Besides, if God had created everything in an instant, there would be nothing in nature to testify to His creation.  But the Scripture tells us that God’s nature and attributes can be seen in His creation (Romans 1:18-20), and that the heavens declare God’s glory (Psalms 19:1; 50:6; 97:6). If God is the author of Creation as well as the Bible, the two records cannot contradict.

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Male and Female From the Beginning

 

Another “proof” I used to offer was that Jesus said that God created man male and female “from the beginning of creation” (Mark 10:6).  This would not be true if there were billions of years between the “beginning” and the creation of man on the sixth day.  However, the Greek word translated “creation” is ktisis which, in addition to “creation,” can also mean “creature” (i.e., a created thing), as well as an institution or ordinance. 

The context of the verse is talking about the institution of marriage.  Jesus would not have been saying that from the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth God made them male and female, because even if you accept that the days of Genesis were 24-hour days, God did not make Adam and Eve (male and female) at the beginning of creation, but on the sixth day.  So Jesus must have meant the beginning of the institution of marriage, not the beginning of all creation.

 

For Further Reading:

         The Age of the Earth

         A Biblical Case for Old-Earth Creationism

         Appearance of Age: A Young Earth Problem

         Biblical Defense of Long Creation Days

         Biblical Evidence for Long Creation Days

         Does the Bible Say God Created the Universe in Six 24-Hour Days?

         Genesis 1:  The Literal Interpretation of the Creation Account

         Genesis Clearly Teaches that the Days Were NOT 24 Hours

         Genesis One and the Age of the Earth:  What Does the Bible say?

         The Genesis Genealogies: Are They Complete?

         The Days of Creation: A Closer Look at Scripture

 

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This page last updated January 19, 2018

 

Mark Clarke
E-mail: mclarke@godskingdomfirst.org