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There seems to be no way to actually prove how old the universe really is, either from science or from the Bible, for there are known and possible gaps in the biblical genealogies (see below). In addition, there are unprovable presuppositions in most, if not all, the scientific arguments for an old earth (see below); that is, an earth of millions or billions of years is biblically possible but not absolutely provable.
Gaps in the Biblical Record
Bishop James Usher (1581–1656), whose chronology was used in the old Scofield Reference Bible, argued that Adam was created in 4,004 b.c. However, his calculations are based on the assumption that there are no gaps in the genealogical tables of Genesis 5 and 11, while we know this is false. For instance, the Bible says: “Arphaxad … became the father of Shelah” (Gen. 11:12), but in Jesus’ genealogy in Luke 3:35–36, “Cainan” is listed between Arphaxad and Shelah. If there is one gap, there may be more—indeed, we know there are more. For example, Matthew 1:8 says: “Jehoram the father of Uzziah,” but the parallel listing in 1 Chronicles 3:11–14 illustrates missing generations between Jehoram and Uzziah (Azariah), namely, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah. Just how many gaps there are in biblical genealogies and how much time they represent is not known. Even so, gaps there are and, hence, complete chronologies cannot be made; only accurate genealogies (lines of descent) are given.
Genesis 1:1 BDC: Is the earth only 6,000 to 10,000 years old? Are the creative days literally, only 24 hours long?
Presuppositions in the Scientific Arguments
There are many scientific arguments for an old universe, some of which one may find persuasive. However, none of these is foolproof, and all of them may be wrong. A few examples will illustrate the point of why we should not be dogmatic one way or the other.
The Speed of Light Is Not Guaranteed
In spite of the facts that Albert Einstein (1879–1955) considered it to be absolute and that modern science has held it to be unchanging, it has not been proven that the speed of light has never changed. The speed of light (about 186,000 miles per second) is an assumption for many arguments favoring an old earth. However, if the speed of light is constant, and if God did not also create the light rays when He created the stars, then it would appear that the universe is billions of years old, for it has apparently taken millions of years for that light to get to us. Nevertheless, these are big “ifs” that have not been proven, and they would actually appear to be unprovable. So while the arguments from the speed of light to an old universe may seem plausible, they fall short of being a demonstrable proof.
It is well known that the elements U235 and U238 give off lead isotopes at a known rate per year. By measuring the amount of their deposit, one can calculate when the decay began. Many early rocks in the earth’s crust have been dated in billions of years by this method. But, again, as plausible as this may be, it is not a proven fact, for one must assume at least two things that apparently cannot be proven in order to come to the conclusion that the world is billions of years old.
First, it must be assumed that there were no lead deposits at the beginning.
Second, it must be assumed that the rate of decay has been unchanged throughout its entire history. This has not been proven; hence, radioactive dating has not proved beyond all doubt that the world is billions of years old.
The Amount of Salt in the Sea
The same is apparently true of all arguments for an old earth. For example, the oceans have a known amount of salt and minerals in them, and these go into the ocean at a given rate every year. By simple mathematics, it can be determined how many years this has been going on. However, here also it must be assumed (1) that there were no salts and minerals in the ocean to begin with, and (2) that the rate has not changed over the years. A worldwide flood, such as the Bible describes, would certainly have changed the rate of deposits during that period.
All of this is not to say that the universe is not billions of years old—it may be. However, this has not been proven beyond question, and the arguments given in favor of it all possess presuppositions that have not been or cannot be proven. Nonetheless, given the basics of modern physics, it seems plausible that the universe is billions of years old. And, as shown above, there is nothing in Scripture that contradicts this. With that in view, the following conclusions are appropriate:
(1) There is no demonstrated conflict between Genesis 1–2 and scientific fact.
(2) The real conflict is not between God’s revelation in the Bible and scientific fact; it is between some Christians’ interpretation of the Bible and many scientists’ theories about the age of the world.
(3) Science has not proven that a six-successive-twenty-four-hour-day view is impossible.
(4) A literal interpretation of Genesis is consistent with a universe that is billions of years old.
(5) Since the Bible does not say exactly how old the universe is, the age of the earth should not be a test for orthodoxy. In fact, many orthodox scholars have held the universe to be millions of years old or more (such as Augustine, B. B. Warfield, C. I. Scofield, John Walvoord, Francis Schaeffer, Gleason Archer, Hugh Ross, and most of the leaders of the movement that produced the famous “Chicago Statement”  on the inerrancy of the Bible [see Systematic Theology, Volume 1, chapters 14 and 27]).
- Augustine. The City of God.
- Geisler, Norman. Knowing the Truth About Creation.
- Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 648–651.
- ———. “Genealogies, Open or Closed” in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.
- Gosse, Philip Henry. Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot.
- Morris, Henry. Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science.
- ———. The Genesis Record.
- Newman, Robert C., and Herman Eckelmann, Jr. Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth.
- Ramm, Bernard. The Christian View of Science and Scripture.
- Ridderbos, Herman. Is There a Conflict Between Genesis 1 and Natural Science?
- Ross, Hugh. Creation and Time.
- Stoner, Don. A New Look at an Old Earth.
- Waltke, Bruce. The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1–3; Part I: Introduction to Biblical Cosmogony in Bibliotheca Sacra.
- ———. The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1–3; Part II: The Restitution Theory.
- ———. The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1–3; Part III The Initial Chaos Theory and the Precreation Chaos Theory.
- ———. The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1–3; Part IV: The Theology of Genesis 1.
- ———. The Creation Account in Genesis 1:1–3; Part V: The Theology of Genesis 1 Continued.
- Wiseman, Donald. Creation Revealed in Six Days.
- Young, Davis. Christianity and the Age of the Earth.
- Young, Edward. Studies in Genesis One.