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Do You Believe in Evolution, Creation, or Creationism?
Uncover the Biblical perspective on the Age of the Earth Controversy. How does the Bible’s narrative align with modern scientific theories? Does Genesis lay down a timeline for Earth’s creation? Join us as we explore these thought-provoking questions and more.
The historical tension between science and religion is a tale as old as time. Until the 16th century, the prevailing religious belief was that the sun and all the planets revolved around the Earth. However, in 1543, Copernicus introduced a groundbreaking concept, proposing a solar system with the Earth and planets orbiting the sun. Initially, this idea sparked significant religious opposition. It took nearly a hundred years and the support of Galileo’s telescopic observations, along with Kepler’s mathematical dissection of planetary movements, for this theory to gain widespread acceptance.
Fast forward to the 18th century, Western religions universally believed that the Earth was a relatively young creation, merely 6,000 years old. James Hutton challenged this belief in 1785 when he proposed the theory of uniformitarianism, suggesting that geological changes demanded much longer periods. Once again, religious controversies ignited, continuing for about 50 years until Lyell’s fieldwork and systematic study of geological strata gradually convinced society of an older Earth.
Prior to the mid-19th century, the Biblical account of divine creation of humanity was widely accepted. The landscape of beliefs was again disrupted with the publication of Darwin’s theory of the origin of species by evolution in 1859, which triggered significant religious disputes. Over a century later, evolutionists might assume that their doctrine is universally accepted. While it’s true that many religious leaders have accepted evolution, staunch and persistent opposition remains. Darwin’s advocates are still waiting for their Galileo or Lyell—someone to cement their theory’s acceptance. In the meantime, a growing number of educated individuals are questioning whether evolution is destined to mirror the victories of past scientific revolutions.
We’re currently witnessing an organized effort to challenge the dominance of evolution in public school curricula, with proponents advocating for laws that require equal time for teaching creation. In a recent legal battle, a federal judge ruled that “creation science,” as defined in an Arkansas law, does not merit equal status with evolution. This decision was a disappointment to many who believe that evolution falls short of adequately explaining the origin of life. What went wrong?
Shortcomings of “Scientific Creationism”
From the evidence presented in the trial, it’s clear that the scientific case for creation didn’t effectively confront the theory of evolution. Instead, it was eclipsed by debates over peripheral issues, specifically two tenets of creationism embedded in the law:
- The assertion that creation occurred merely a few thousand years ago.
- The belief that all geological strata were formed by the biblical Flood.
Neither of these beliefs is essential to the central question of whether life forms were created or evolved. These are merely doctrines held by members of a few religious communities, most notably the Seventh-Day Adventists, who were the driving force behind the law. When these sectarian beliefs became mandated components of public school curriculums, the law was inevitably destined to be ruled unconstitutional.
Unbiblical Aspects of Creationist Doctrines
But does the legal defeat of “scientific creationism,” as this movement is called, cast a negative light on the Bible? Do the doctrines of recent creation and a flood-related origin of geological strata have biblical support?
A knowledgeable Bible student would disagree. Although the Bible unequivocally declares that God created the heavens, the Earth, and everything within, it doesn’t specify when this creation occurred. Most defense witnesses were hamstrung by the religious doctrine that constrains the six days of creation, as described in Genesis, to a 144-hour timeframe. This harks back to an obsolete fundamentalist teaching that went unchallenged by 17th-century science but is no longer defensible in light of current knowledge. The Bible itself doesn’t impose such a timeframe on the days of creation.
The first verse of Genesis simply states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If we interpret this as the creation of the star-studded sky, galaxies, and our solar system, including Earth, we’re discussing events that predate the first day of creation. The depiction of Earth’s state in verse 2 also predates the first day. It’s not until verses 3 to 5 that we delve into the activities of the first creation day.
Regardless of how long the days are interpreted to be, verses 1 and 2 describe pre-existing conditions and fall outside any timeframe encapsulating the creation days. If geologists assert that the Earth is 4 billion years old or if astronomers estimate the universe to be 20 billion years old, the Bible scholar has no contention with them. The Bible doesn’t denote the timing of these events.
It’s important to note that the term “day” is used variably in the Bible. It doesn’t always signify a 24-hour period. Sometimes it refers to daylight hours, roughly twelve. At times, it represents a year or even a generation. In some instances, a “day” equates to a thousand years, and in others, it denotes an even longer period. Undoubtedly, the “days” in Genesis 1 represent lengthy periods, but the Bible doesn’t specify their duration.
The debate at the Little Rock trial over the recentness of creation, and the media attention it received, were irrelevant to the question of whether humans were created or evolved. The timing of creation doesn’t equate to the fact of creation. These two concepts shouldn’t have been conflated.
With the understanding that the biblical text doesn’t contradict scientific theories about the universe’s age, we can also leave the question of the age and origin of geological strata open. The Bible is silent on the formation of sedimentary layers, be it during the Flood or earlier. The copious writings of creationists on this topic, which were scrutinized during the trial, stem from the desire to reconcile the existence of the geological column, complete with its fossils and dinosaurs, with their claim of a 6- to 10-thousand-year-old Earth. If this claim is invalid, the rest of the argument is moot.
Scientific Evidence Bolsters the Case for Creation
As regular readers of UASV Bible and Christian Publishing House Blogs, you are aware that there is a substantial amount of scientific evidence supporting creation. Such compelling evidence has prompted numerous esteemed scientists of the 20th/21st centuries to acknowledge the notion of creation and a Creator publicly. Among them are William T. Kelvin, a prominent physicist and engineer acclaimed for his pioneering research on heat and thermodynamics, whose legacy is immortalized in the Kelvin temperature scale. Dmitri Mendeleev, a renowned Russian chemist revered for his development of the Periodic Table, which significantly advanced our understanding of the elemental components of the universe. Robert A. Millikan is an accomplished American experimental physicist whose precision measurements of the electron’s charge earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics. Arthur H. Compton, an illustrious American physicist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the Compton Effect, proving the particle nature of light. Paul Dirac was a celebrated British theoretical physicist instrumental in the early development of quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics and a Nobel laureate. George Gamov a notable Russian-American theoretical physicist and cosmologist, was a pioneer in recognizing the importance of the cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang. Warren Weaver is a distinguished American scientist noted for his contributions to information theory and scientific communication. Wernher von Braun, a prominent German-American aerospace engineer and space architect, a leading figure in the development of rocket technology in Germany and the United States, and the principal developer of the Saturn V launch vehicle that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon.
Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and the current director of the National Institutes of Health; John Polkinghorne, a theoretical physicist, and Anglican priest; Allan Sandage, an astronomer who converted to Christianity later in life; Richard Smalley, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; John C. Sanford, a plant geneticist known for the ‘gene gun’; and James Tour, a synthetic organic chemist at Rice University. Other notable scientists include William Phillips, a Nobel Laureate in Physics; Gerald Schroeder, a physicist and author who attempts to reconcile science and religion; Andrew Briggs, a material scientist at the University of Oxford; and Michal Heller, a Polish physicist who won the Templeton Prize for his work connecting the fields of physics, philosophy, and theology.
In his book, “God and the Astronomers,” Robert Jastrow presents cosmological arguments in favor of creation. Regarding the big bang theory of the universe’s origin, many scientists have candidly used the term “creation.” Even those scientists who personally resist the idea of creation reluctantly admit that the compelling nature of the evidence has left them in contemplation.
As a Christian apologist who interprets the “days” in the Genesis account of creation as periods longer than literal 24-hour days, it’s important to note that there are both theological and scientific reasons to support this view. Let’s explore the scientific evidence which indicates that the earth and the universe are indeed billions of years old and why the creation “days” are likely to be epochs of time rather than 24-hour days.
Radiometric dating: This is a powerful scientific method used to determine the age of rocks and fossils. This process measures the ratio of parent isotopes to daughter isotopes within a sample. For instance, uranium-lead dating can be used to find the age of zircon crystals and has found some to be over 4.4 billion years old. Similarly, potassium-argon dating is commonly used to date volcanic rock and the fossils found within them, providing ages that are in the range of millions to billions of years.
The age of the universe: Measurements of cosmic microwave background radiation, the redshift of distant galaxies, and the distribution of galaxies in the universe all suggest that the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old. If the universe is this old, and the earth is part of the universe, it stands to reason that the earth itself is also billions of years old.
Starlight: We can observe stars and galaxies that are billions of light years away from us. A light-year is the distance that light travels in one year. If we can see a star that is a billion light-years away, that means the light left that star a billion years ago, implying the universe must be at least that old.
The rate of plate tectonics: The movements of continental and oceanic plates on Earth’s surface, along with the related process of seafloor spreading, suggest an old earth. For instance, the Atlantic Ocean continues to widen at about 2.5 cm per year, indicating a process that has been ongoing for many millions of years.
Ice core dating: Ice cores, often over a mile in depth, have been extracted from the polar regions. Each layer in these ice cores corresponds to a single year’s worth of snowfall, and by counting these layers, scientists can reconstruct a history of the earth’s climate going back hundreds of thousands of years.
Now, why should we interpret the “days” of creation as being longer than literal 24-hour days? There are several reasons:
Hebrew interpretation: The word for “day” in the Genesis creation account is “yom” in Hebrew, which can mean both a 24-hour day and a longer, unspecified period of time—much like the English word “age” or “era.” This interpretation does not compromise the infallibility of Scripture, but rather supports a theologically sound interpretation that aligns with our scientific understanding of the age of the universe and earth.
Order of creation events: The sequence of events as listed in Genesis doesn’t strictly align with a 24-hour day interpretation. For example, plants are created on the third “day”, but the sun—necessary for photosynthesis—doesn’t appear until the fourth “day”. If these “days” represent epochs or periods of time, this discrepancy resolves.
Seventh day interpretation: According to Genesis, God’s rest on the seventh “day” is still ongoing (Hebrews 4:1-11). This could imply that the “seventh day” is an epoch rather than a literal 24-hour day, and by extension, that the preceding “days” could also be epochs of time.
The Bible and science do not need to be at odds with each other. A balanced and thoughtful interpretation of Scripture, alongside rigorous scientific investigation, often leads to a greater understanding of God’s creation. The interpretation of the creation “days” as longer periods of time is an example of this harmonization between Scripture and science.
Comparing the Bible and Evolution
To clearly distinguish the debate between creation and evolution, we must shed the outdated religious dogma inherited from the 17th century. We should then compare, point by point, the teachings of the Bible with those of evolutionists to discern which is in alignment with established facts.
Firstly, the Bible attributes God as the origin of life (Psalm 36:9). Life did not and cannot spontaneously emerge from inanimate material. This idea aligns perfectly with scientific laws and experimental findings. The laws of statistics, entropy, and calculations from thermodynamics and kinetics all converge on the conclusion that spontaneous generation of life is unfeasible. Older claims of spontaneous generation have been discredited since Pasteur’s experiments. In controlled experiments, spontaneous generation doesn’t occur. Soil analysis from the moon and chemical testing on Mars corroborate that life hasn’t spontaneously originated on those planets.
Secondly, the Bible asserts that each living entity produces offspring of its own kind (Genesis 1:11, 21, 24). Neither paleontological evidence nor experiments involving breeding or mutation have been able to debunk this principle. Fossil remnants from ancient geological strata of still-extant species match their contemporary counterparts. A wide variety within a particular species may emerge in nature or through breeding experiments, but it never transcends the boundaries to produce a new kind.
Thirdly, regarding human beings, the Bible reveals the timeline of our inception, approximately 6,000 years ago (plants and animals predate us considerably). This estimate closely aligns with historical and archaeological findings. Evolutionists’ claims of older human fossils are contentious and do not invalidate the Biblical account.
Affirmation of Creation’s Veracity
In this discourse of creation versus evolution, where does the Bible-oriented stance lie?
The Biblical assertion of creation aligns seamlessly with empirical data gathered from diverse scientific fields like astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, and biology. The concept of creation finds validation in these scientific disciplines.
Conversely, the theory of evolution poses a stark contradiction to Biblical teachings. It struggles to satisfactorily elucidate the evidences presented by paleontology and biology, failing to offer a convincing explanation that aligns with these facts.
The Bible refrains from timestamping the creation of “the heavens and the earth.” Hence, creationists’ arguments related to this timeline aren’t grounded in Biblical teachings, and their postulations clash with observations made in the fields of astronomy, physics, and geology.
In the midst of the ongoing disputes at the intersection of religion and science, the Christian’s faith in the Genesis account of creation remains unshaken. This conviction stems from “the evidence of things not seen,” as put forth in Hebrews 11:1. Above all, the faith is reinforced by the testimony of Jesus Christ himself: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” Moreover, the revelation given by God underscores this: “You are worthy, Lord, our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”—Matthew 19:4, 5; Revelation 4:11; 1:1.
BIBLE DAYS—HOW LONG?
As a conservative Christian apologist who interprets the “days” of creation as being epochs rather than literal 24-hour days, I embrace a reading of the Bible that acknowledges its linguistic nuances and the richness of its metaphors and symbolism. This approach allows for the compatibility of biblical accounts and scientific evidence. Below, I will elaborate on your provided statements to illustrate how the term “day” has been used in various contexts within the Bible.
Hebrew yohm: The Hebrew term “yohm” can be translated as “day,” “a long time,” or “the time covering an extraordinary event.” This breadth of possible meanings suggests that it should be understood within its context, which may not always equate to a literal 24-hour day.
Daylight: Proverbs 4:18 uses the concept of a day to describe the process of moral or spiritual enlightenment, a process which may span more than just a 24-hour period.
24-hour day: While the term “day” can refer to a literal 24-hour period, as in Genesis 7:17’s account of the 40 days of the Deluge, this does not preclude it from also symbolizing longer spans of time in other contexts.
Day encompassing seasons: In Zechariah 14:8, “day” is used to refer to a period of time that includes multiple seasons, suggesting a duration of longer than a literal day.
Day as a symbol for many days: Phrases such as “the day of harvest” (Proverbs 25:13) and “the days of the wheat harvest” (Genesis 30:14) use “day” to signify an entire season or period of time, not just a single, 24-hour day.
Day as 1,000 years and a watch in the night: Both Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8-10 use “day” to represent a thousand years or even a brief watch in the night, emphasizing that the perception of time from God’s viewpoint is far different from ours.
Day of salvation, Judgment Day: Terms like “day of salvation” (Isaiah 49:8) and “Judgment Day” (Matthew 10:15, 11:22-24) refer to significant periods in spiritual history that are likely to span far more than 24 hours.
Man’s lifetime as a day: Luke 17:26, 28 refers to the entire lifetimes of Noah and Lot as “Noah’s day” and “Lot’s day,” suggesting that “day” can signify a person’s entire lifespan.
Creative days of Genesis chapter 1: The term “day” in the Genesis creation account (“a first day,” “a second day,” etc.) can be understood as epochs, each lasting several thousand years, rather than literal 24-hour days.
All six creative days referred to as one day: In Genesis 2:4, the entire six-day creation process is referred to collectively as “the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven.” This shows that “day” can represent an extended series of events or a complete era, underscoring the flexibility of the term within biblical text.
When considering these varied uses of “day” in the Bible, it is consistent with scriptural language to interpret the “days” of creation as lengthy periods of time. This interpretation allows the faithful to reconcile the biblical account of creation with modern scientific understanding of the age of the universe and the earth. It maintains the inerrancy of the Bible while also acknowledging the evidence we see in God’s creation.
My list comprehensively details the diverse interpretations of the word “day” within biblical text, but additional supportive evidence for a non-literal interpretation of creation days can be found when we consider aspects of nature, as well as specific points in biblical and early Christian history.
Nature’s Testimony: Geological and astronomical observations suggest an ancient universe and Earth. For example, light from distant galaxies has taken billions of years to reach us, implying the universe is significantly older than a few thousand years.
Biblical Genealogies: The genealogical accounts in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, are not necessarily complete. They often skip generations, focusing on significant figures. This could indicate that the human timeline presented in the Bible allows for a much older Earth.
The Seventh Day: Biblically, God’s rest on the seventh day of creation (Genesis 2:2) is not defined as a 24-hour period. The book of Hebrews (4:1-11) indicates that this day of rest continues to the present. This could suggest that the “days” of creation are long, undefined periods.
Early Church Fathers: Several early Church Fathers and scholars such as Origen, Augustine, and Aquinas did not insist on a literal interpretation of the six-day creation account. They considered these “days” to be metaphorical or symbolic, an approach that supports the idea of a longer creation period.
Job 38-41: In these chapters, God describes creation in a way that suggests a process rather than instantaneous acts. This can be interpreted to support the idea of creation periods extending over vast lengths of time.
The Meaning of “Evening” and “Morning”: In the Genesis account, each creation day ends with the phrase “And there was evening, and there was morning.” Given that the sun was not created until the fourth day, “evening” and “morning” could symbolize the beginning and end of a period, rather than a literal day.
These points provide further support for the interpretation of “day” in the Genesis creation account as a lengthy period of time, rather than a literal 24-hour day. Such an interpretation respects both the authority of the biblical text and the findings of modern science.