Question Tuesday: The Age of the Earth

Are Old-Earthers liberals? Are Young-Earthers out of touch?

Is the issue worth fighting about? Is it something worth pouring millions and millions of dollars into?

More importantly (and consequently more difficult to answer): Does either position on the age of the Earth weaken our concept of God or of Scripture?

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10 Responses to Question Tuesday: The Age of the Earth

  1. Probably the in-fighting that occurs over this issue does weaken our concept of God/Scripture and our witness. I do believe that the folks involved are generally good-willed and want to treat the Bible as their authority, and I applaud that intention. But the “line in the sand” business that goes with the issue doesn’t seem to be biblical to me. There are lots of strong, committed, smart believers who really don’t seem to be compromising any theological fundamentals by alinging themselves with an old-earth position (John Walton and several of the Physical Science faculty at Taylor and Wheaton at least, not to mention Francis Collins).

    When you get to the issue of Adam and Eve, though, there are some poignant theological topics that do get raised. I’m starting to get more of the picture of “What at Stake” with our “First Parents”. The Age of the Earth, though, is a related but definitely distinct topic.

    • reneamac says:

      “Probably the in-fighting… does weaken our concept of God/Scripture and our witness.”

      You’re absolutely right.

  2. Adam Jones says:

    Someone decided that the book of Genesis claims a young Earth. My Hebrew-reading friends tell me this is not stated in the creation account. I really don’t care how old the earth is when considering theology, any more than I want to know how heavy the moon is when I’m saying a prayer.

  3. Kate Watson says:

    While I don’t think that your perception of the Earth’s age has any bearing on your salvation, I do think that we all naturally pursue the mysteries of God and His creation as a way to understand Him more. We crave relationship with Him and just like any human-to-human relationship, the more you know about that person, his/her past and experiences, as well as opinions and character, the more intimate you can become. We have to, with some things, settle on our inability to know for certain because of our mortal state, limited abilities, and sinful flesh… but that doesn’t stop us from wondering. So, we ask questions and grasp at answers and theories until someday the fullness of the presence of God in Heaven can satisfy us.

    With that said, I do find it really interesting that if you look at the Earth’s age as claimed by secular science over the past 20 years, it has gotten older and older by millons of years in a matter of a very few years. It’s perplexing. Why is it okay to keep “upping the Earth’s age” and teaching it to children as concrete fact with such inconsistency? Can we not teach them that it is unknown, but DIFFERENT theories are A, B, and C? Kids are smart, they can look at the evidence for each point. They can ponder it all just as we can, and they deserve to hear all perspectives because none of them can be proven concretely. There’s also a definite flaw in most major theories and claims that doesn’t allow for disaster or inconsistency. When calculating something as old as the Earth based on the universal environment, or even carbon, isn’t it narrow to assume that the conditions we see now have always been moving, growing, developing, putting-out, etc. at the same rate since…. whenever? Change happens. Disaster happens. God-sized floods happen. And, our God is big enough to create in a mature state, as it would seem He did with Adam and Eve. I doubt that Adam raised himself from infancy and grew to adulthood just as much as I doubt that the Earth as we know it raised itself out of primordial ooze and lifelessness. BUT, none of us can prove any of it, and ALL truth is God’s truth even when it may be called “Science.” 🙂

  4. Jess says:

    It seems to me that Romans 5:12-21 and 6:23 are chock full of why we can’t believe there were millions of years of death producing fossil layers before Adam and Eve sinned and got kicked out of Eden: Death came about because of sin, and Paul hangs the core significance of Jesus’ work on that hook (and apparently on the literal choice of one literal man—the first—in Eden). If there was death before sin, everything he says there is moot, which punches a gaping hole in Christian reasoning and faith, as far as I can see. Or is there a solid basis for claiming that the “death” referred to in this chunk of passages is only the death of humans, but animals were dying all along for millions of years before that? Or that it only means spiritual death, not physical? I’ve read a fair bit from Answers in Genesis (AiG, Young Earth), now I’m going to have to look into the names mentioned by Rhett & Valerie above.

    One could contend that there were millions of years of death producing fossils *after* Eden, and we just haven’t found the evidence of the humans living during that time, but I won’t even go into all the problems I’d have to have addressed to believe that. I find much more believability and simplicity in notions such as what Kate Watson said above about the processes we see going on today having perhaps not always happened at the same rates. The Flood likely changed a *lot* about the Earth, we don’t even know everything about how all physical processes work today, and there is a difference between observational science (what can be objectively and repeatably measured now) and historical science (what can only be drawn from from unprovable assumptions about the unobservable past). Her comments about God being perfectly capable of creating a mature Earth are certainly on the dot as well, and tied in with how processes may have happened at different rates in the past.

    Just to throw a little low-key physical science into the theology and speculation (yes, not the point of this blog question, but I just have to because it deals with *reasoning*), it’s astounding how unreliable, inconsistent, and assumption-filled radiocarbon dating apparently is. For anyone interested in facts, numbers, documented tests and results by respected mainstream scientists, etc., all delivered intelligently and with a respectful stance toward educated and experienced scientists, check out a couple AiG articles:

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/does-radiometric-dating-prove

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cm/v20/n1/dating

    They’re a bit technical, particularly the latter, but are written for laymen (or I’d be all but lost…). And there are lots more.

    • reneamac says:

      Hi Jess! Thanks for your contributions to the conversation. Theistic evolutionists purport the former not the later, that passages which refer to death coinciding with sin refer exclusively to human death. Now I’m not the best person to defend this position, not being a theistic evolutionist, but I have several friends who are, and the explanations they posit are largely plausible and thought-provoking. They care deeply about the Scriptures and maintaining a biblical theology.

      I appreciate your comments and your thirst for knowledge and truth.

    • reneamac says:

      I should add, carbon dating is not heavily depended on. Scientists largely use the measurement of the expansion of the universe… the big bang. That’s where the number 13.7 billion—used by both Progressive Creationists and Evolutionary Creationists—comes from.

  5. Sam Dallas says:

    Personally, I am an old-earth creationist (after studying the issue extensively). That being said, I’m not a theistic evolutionist and I am conservative in Biblical interpretation. So these labels (although helpful) are not mutually exclusive in this regard. “Answers in Genesis” (dogmatically) tends to malign those who are not young-earthers, but I think they are misguided. The Bible simply does not teach us how old the earth is. If I thought it did, I would appeal to special revelation for my belief on this topic. Since it does not, I appeal to general revelation.

    A couple of helpful resources:
    “Primeval Chronology” by William Henry Green (this is a fairly short article on the genealogies in the Bible and was published in the late 19th century and is still considered an authoritative source on this topic; it can be easily found online)

    “The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation” by various authors

    • reneamac says:

      Thanks, Sam. Your comments are both gracious and helpful. Dogmatism and condescension—from either position are not.

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