Millions of Years and the Bible, Part 1: A Scriptural Defense of a Young Earth
A subject even more controversial than evolution is the age of the earth. While it is easy to laugh at a theory that declares all humans came from fish, billions of years just sounds so much more scientific.
Belief in millions of years has led to great misinterpretations of Scripture, including the Framework Hypothesis, Progressive Creation, and the Gap Theory. They all place death before sin and force ‘local flood’ or ‘tranquil flood’ theories onto the Flood account, and they often allow for gaps in Genesis genealogies or are forced to interpret human fossils dated before Adam’s time as apes.
None of these theories are theologically sound, nor are they benign towards the gospel message. Not only this, but they are based on bad science.
In Part Two, scientific evidence used to support an old earth will be considered. But first, take a look at these verses in Scripture attesting to the young age of the earth and belief in a literal, six-day creation and global, catastrophic Flood:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” – Exodus 20:8-10a, 11
Here in the Ten Commandments, the Bible affirms that the days of creation were literal 24-hour days. Consider that days are based on the earth’s rotation, months on the moon’s revolution, and years on the earth’s revolution – where did the seven-day week come from? Other communities have failed in trying to establish a 5 or 10 day week. This is the way humans were made to work, because this is the way our God created.
“’Haven’t you read,’ he [Jesus] replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?”’” – Matthew 19:4-5
God didn’t create Adam and Eve billions of years after creation; He created them “at the beginning.” Incidentally, the Biblical definition of marriage is also founded on the creation account, quoted here authoritatively by Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus quoted extensively from the Old Testament, taking every historical account as literal. If that is His treatment of Scripture, what should be ours? He also said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:46-47)
“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.” – 2 Peter 3:3-6
This is an important verse. The underlying assumption behind millions of years is uniformitarianism, or the belief that the present is the key to the past. Assuming constant, slow-and-gradual rates, where radioactive isotopes decay and canyons form at their present, slow rates and have been going on this way since the earth began, is the fundamental belief behind the billion-year-earth theory. That sounds an awful lot like “everything goes on as it has since the beginning.” It also describes the rejection of the creation and Flood accounts in Scripture, which is another big issue today, with secularists and some Christians alike.
Why would we as Christians, who believe in the perfect inerrancy and God-breathed nature of the Bible, willingly embrace a theory that the Scripture describes as attributing the scoffers of the last days?
And yet, there are many Christian leaders who accept that the scientists have it right on this matter, and that the Bible must be reinterpreted to fit modern science. Among the theories such Christians have made are Progressive Creation, the Framework Hypothesis, and the Gap Theory.
The Gap Theory is the belief that there is a gap between Genesis 1 verses 1 and 2.
Genesis 1:1 is “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Genesis 1:2 is “And the earth was formless, and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
The gap becomes more apparent when proponents of this theory claim that the word ‘was’ in verse 2 should really be translated ‘became.’ Genesis 1:2 should read, ‘The earth became formless and void.’ After God created, they argue, there was millions of years’ worth of evolution and death, and that is where our fossil record came from. The fossil record, then, is a record of Satan being let loose until God restarted everything and declared that the earth became formless and void.
There are a lot of hermeneutical and grammatical problems surrounding this argument, but one need not get so involved in the detail to show that this doesn’t work out.
The Bible makes it clear that death occurs on this earth because of sin – man’s sin. God gave man dominion over the earth, meaning that if he obeyed God, creation would prosper, but if man turned from Him, creation would suffer. All creation groans under the curse of man’s sin (Rom. 8:22) and death, the enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), is a part of this. If death existed prior to man’s fall, then God must be the author of death. (Even Satan’s fall couldn’t create it; nowhere in Scripture are fallen angels given authority over earth in this way.)
Since death is an enemy that required Christ’s sacrifice to triumph over it, there is no way that a holy, loving God could be the author of it. Thus, the Gap Theory fails as a theologically sound idea.
The Framework Hypothesis is another attempt at compromise. This is the idea that the creation account in Genesis is actually an example of poetry. Now, Hebrew poetry is actually sharply defined in many ways. When comparing historical accounts and poetical accounts, it is very obvious – just by looking at them – which is history and which is poetical. Consider Exodus 14:13-31 and 15:1-21. The first passage is the historical account of the parting of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Israelites; the second is the poetical worship in song of the people praising God for it.
Hebrew poetry is also characterized by its use of parallelism. Parallelism can either use repetition, juxtaposition, or figurative speech.
“The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever.” (Psalms 29:10-11) This is an example of repetitive parallelism.
“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5) This is an example of juxtaposition, comparing opposite concepts together.
And the final form, comparison through figurative speech, is exemplified in Psalms 42:1, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”
Now, take out a Bible and read Genesis 1. Then read Genesis 2. Can you find any parallelism, or any other evidence of poetry? The only use of it is when Adam meets his wife, Eve. The rest is obviously historical account.
Not so, say proponents of the Framework Hypothesis. Take a closer look at the days of creation, because there is a pattern. Consider what God created each day.
Day One: Light
Day Two: Heavens, Water
Day Three: Land and Plants
Day Four: Sun, Moon and Stars
Day Five: Swimming and Flying Creatures
Day Six: Land Animals and Man
The parallelism is found in breaking the six days into sets of three. The first and fourth days correspond to each other, as do days two and five and days four and six. On the first day, light was created; on the fourth, the light-bearers. On the second day, water and sky were made, and on the fifth, flying and swimming creatures. On the third day, land was made; on the sixth, land animals and man. There must be something going on here, right?
Actually, no. First of all, Hebrew poetry is never this complicated or spread out. But there is not such neat and clean parallelism as is portrayed.
Genesis 1:2 refers to waters over the earth. The seas were created on Day One, with the earth, and with light. But swimming creatures were made on Day Five, not Day Four. Day Four’s light bearers were placed in the heavens, but that was created on Day Two.
There’s another problem. Framework Hypothesis proponents believe that as a result of this poetry, Days One and Four are actually the first era of God’s creation, Days Two and Five being the second era, and Days Three and Six being the third. But why would the Bible say that the sun, moon and stars were placed in the heavens, when that wouldn’t be created until the next era?
Simply dismissing the Genesis account as poetry is not allowed by the text. Everything in its context suggests a historical account. If the days of creation are not poetry, there is only one other way to squeeze millions of years into them: to claim that the days were really millions of years. And that is Progressive Creation, or the Day-Age Theory.
This is perhaps the most common of the compromising positions, and may seem the most innocuous. But again, the surest problem with this view is simply that you can’t have death before sin.
However, the Progressive Creationist is likely to point out that plants died before sin. And are we to believe that Adam and Eve never accidentally squashed a bug or two underfoot while in the Garden of Eden? Surely there had to be death before sin, for the lives of animals are not nearly as important as human life. There could have been death before the fall; it was only human death that was instituted before Adam and Eve’s sin.
God does care for His animals, of course. Jesus compares helping an animal in distress to good deeds towards fellow men on the Sabbath in Matthew 12:11-12. And in the Pentateuch, God promises to bless the families, livestock and land of those who follow and obey the LORD, while those who disobey Him will bring a curse upon themselves, their families, their livestock and land. God has given man a responsibility over the land and animals, and so when he fell, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (from Genesis 3:17). God does care about His creation, and would not curse it with death for no reason.
Furthermore, the original Hebrew describes two very types of life. The Hebrew word nephesh is used to describe animals and people – “soul-ish” life. The word nephesh is not used to describe plants; invertebrates were possibly not included as well. God punished sin with death for the nephesh creatures – animals and man – while the non-nephesh life were created as food. Death before the fall, then, was only of plants (and possibly invertebrates), and was not death in the Biblical sense.
Another major problem with Progressive Creation is the existence of human fossils. Since they accept the erroneous dating methods of secular scientists, they must accept that Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Denisovans, etc. are older than 6,000 years old (this date is obtained by the genealogies in Scripture leading from Adam to Abraham, and then on to Christ). As such, these humans were pre-Adamites; they lived, established their civilizations and ways of life, and died, all before Adam and Eve ever existed and long before the Fall. We know these alleged ‘ape-men’ fossils were in every sense, very human. They have been found with traces of flowers over them and in unlikely positions, suggesting some sort of ceremonial funeral surrounding their burials. Jewelry and tools were made and used by them. Even flutes with holes made just mathematically precise enough for the right musical notes have been found; some Neanderthal skulls show that someone had filed their teeth down, as from a dentist. They obviously had profound medical, technological and religious knowledge. There is also evidence that these ‘pre-humans’ or ‘soulless bipedal primates’ interbred with modern humans, Homo sapiens. Their genes are mixed in with Europeans and some Asians.
But those who accept Progressive Creation are forced to believe that these humans were soulless apes, in spite of any evidence, because they still can’t have human death before sin.
But what about the genealogies – couldn’t there be gaps in those? Is there any way that somehow, the phrases in them could mean something other than a father-son relationship. Could they have been skipping a few generations – grandfather to grandson, perhaps? Scholars, secular and Christian alike, agree that there are about two thousand years between Abraham and Christ, so the fact that he lived four thousand years ago is not up for debate. However, Abraham’s ancestral lines back to Adam are.
Now, there are known gaps in New Testament genealogies that can be shown, even biblically. However, in at all the genealogies in the Old Testament, there are never any grandfather-grandson gaps. Why is this? The simple answer is that the New Testament was written in Greek, and the Old Testament in Hebrew; the Greek word for ‘begat’ allows for ancestral jumps, whereas the Hebrew word does not.
Of course, saying that there was more time between Adam and Abraham than two thousand years would not fix the problem. According to long-age evolutionists, humans have been evolving for the past two million years. There is no way to expand the Biblical time frame into such a long period of time!
It is obvious, then, that the Bible does not allow for millions of years. But why are some Christians so intent on compromise? Why do they feel they must find some way to make the Bible ‘relevant’ to today’s modern scientific beliefs? As we will see in Part Two of this essay, there is little more than pseudoscience surrounding the claims of millions of years.