long did creation take?
universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there
is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind,
is so senseless. When I look at the solar system, I see the earth at the
right distance from the sun to receive the proper amounts of heat and
light. This did not happen by chance."
The three alternatives.
Now that we've seen
some of the scientific and biblical statements on the universe, hopefully
read about natural revelation,
how natural revelation pertains
to origins, and have reviewed different aspects of the Bible's portrayal
of how God works,
we can now begin to ask the controversial question:
long did creation take?
Recall the different
ways in which the Bible describes God's workings: suddenly and directly,
and slowly by process. In the context that most secular scholars interpret
current observations of the cosmos to be indicating that everything has
a great age, Bible believers must choose from one of the three alternatives
concerning the biblical interpretation of the length of creation:
Alternative 1.) SIX DAYS
We could believe that
the literal interpretation of the six-day creation is the intended
reading of Genesis. Indications of an old cosmos are then explainable
based upon the logical consequence of sudden creation. This consequence
is possibly the apparent yet false age with which everything could have
been created. Such a scenario would make it absolutely impossible to
measure any object's true age. This alternative also eliminates the reliability
of all physical evidences and nearly reduces every belief about the universe
to a question of unevidenced faith.
2.) THOUSANDS OF YEARS
We could believe that
the literal interpretation of the six creation days is still valid,
but, unlike the first alternative, also accept empirical evidence as
trustworthy. In this case, the correct interpretation of the available
data is not that the universe is billions of years old (the majority consensus
of secular scientists), but that the identical data indicates the universe
to be only many thousands of years old: a conclusion currently growing
in favor by a smaller though equally qualified consensus of both secular
and religious scientists.
3.) BILLIONS OF YEARS
We could believe God
was the cosmos' literal creator, but the six days of the creation period
are not literal, consecutive days. Those days would be interpreted as being
either symbolic of longer periods of time, or actual but not consecutive
landmark days which symbolically close or begin specific eras. In this scenario,
the interpretation by the majority of scientists indicating that the
universe is possibly billions of years old is essentially upheld as
correct. This figurative interpretation of the six day creation period is
referred to as the day-age theory.
Which of the above theories do the facts favor?
Although each alternative
can be supported by the Bible to different extents, the first alternative
might go too far in dismissing what could be the God-given evidences of
empirical observations and or natural revelation. The second alternative
has the advantage of finding support within those empirical observations,
but suffers the drawback that it is the newer and thus least familiar theory.
The third alternative is also supported by both Scripture and empirical
evidence, but its interpretation of the creation account is slightly more
figurative than is sometimes favored within certain Christian circles.
If we eliminate the
first alternative so as not to discard any possible evidence God has left
us, we are really left with one basic alternative of two possible timetables:
divine creation extending over a great period of time, or divine creation
extending over a shorter period of time.
In either scenario,
I believe the length of time for creation is secondary to the parallels
that abound between modern scientific observations of the universe and the
Bible. For it is these parallels which lend significant credence to
the believability of the Bible.
How old is the earth?
The Bible contains
both literal and figurative statements; on this all Christians agree. Where
Christians sometimes differ are on passages that may not clearly be one
or the other. The creation of the heavens and the earth in "six days"
is one of these areas. Those who favor the six literal day creation tend
to favor the geological argument of catastrophism over uniformitarianism.
They cite the following in support of their position:
-- EVIDENCE FOR THE YOUNG-EARTH
1. The text actually
uses the word day (yome); e.g. "And there was evening and there was
morning, a second day." Elsewhere within the Bible the same word is frequently
used to refer to literal days.
2. The scriptures elsewhere
record God's use of instantaneous creation to produce "aged" objects.
In this sense, the short-term creation of the earth, if not scientifically
explained by catastrophist geology, could be considered just another miracle.
3. Certain measurements
of the earth, including the slowing of its rotation, the half-life decay
of its magnetic field, helium retention within the atmosphere, and the salinity
of the oceans indicate the planet to have an upper age probably in the low
tens of thousands of years. 18
4. A curtain of stalactites
has grown to over five feet in length in the understructure of Washington
D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial built in 1923. 19
These carbonate speleothems, currently featured in tours of the Lincoln
Memorial, prove that their growth rate can no longer be restricted to the
old estimate of one inch per one thousand years.
Thus, formations such
as those within Mammoth Cave which were previously thought to have accrued
no faster than this may actually have taken only a fraction of the 350 million
years that uniformatarianist geology would suggest. 20
We must either recognize this possibility or conclude that the seated figure
of Abraham Lincoln was erected around 60,000 BC.
5. The small amount
of dust found on the Moon by Apollo astronauts disputes at least
one old-earth model. This model required the moon to be of similar age to
the earth and to have a very thick dust covering. This was one reason for
the oversized landing pads on the lunar landing module. Retired Apollo XVI
astronaut and tenth man to walk on the moon, Gen. Charles Duke, shared with
me this early NASA expectation several years ago. Since his flight, Duke
has since become a stalwart advocate of the young earth and moon theory
and openly attributes it to divine creation as presented in the Bible.
6. The 1980 eruption
of Mt. St. Helens quickly resulted in a production of sedimentation
of such a kind that was previously thought to take hundreds of thousands
of years. In one case, layers of sediment were laid down and deep canyons
were cut that revealed Grand Canyon-like stratification.
7. In another case,
layer upon layer of uprooted trees were found to be burying themselves
vertically in Spirit Lake at the foot of the mountain. 21
Until the eruption, conditions of this kind were only being interpreted
as the result of forests that had grown atop one another over millions of
8. Furthermore, the
huge amount of bark that are shaved off the floating log jams, before the
logs sink, decend to the bottom where they become a plausible origin
for relatively quick coal formation. International fuels consultant
Ken Carlson, having made first-hand examinations of coal mines around the
world, reveals that coal can begin to form in as little as nine months under
the proper conditions; conditions which can and do occur naturally. I have
also heard him list many other evidences for a young earth based on fossils
and geological layerings he has observed firsthand all over the world.
9. Most recently, studies
of mutation rates in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), a type of DNA peculiar
to women, conclude that the human race as we know it has only been reproducing
for as little as 6,000 years. These studies has been reproduced by numerous
scholars in multiple works such as the American Journal of Human Genetics,
Nature Genetics, and Science magazine. States Science
magazine writer Ann Gibbons from "Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock":
Regardless of the
cause, evolutionists are most concerned about the effect of a faster mutation
rate. For example, researchers have calculated the "mitochondrial
Eve" -- the woman whose DNA was ancestral to that in all living
people -- lived 100,000 to 200,000 years ago in Africa. Using the new
clock, she would be a mere 6,000 years old.
EVIDENCE FOR THE OLD-EARTH ARGUMENT:
Those who favor the
day-age theory rather than short-term creation tend to favor the argument
of uniformitarianism over catastrophism (more).
However, in the case of an old earth, either position could be argued, and
some day-age proponents still favor catastrophism. Most day-age proponents
cite the following in support of their position:
1. "Day" is sometimes
used in the Bible to signify lengthy periods of time. This is the
application used in Genesis 2:4 to describe the entire creation period:
"This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven" (NASB). While
in Hebrew the word form for "day" here is slightly different those
used in reference to the specific creation days, a phenomological interpretation
in either Hebrew or English still works to read this verse as broadly conveying
the sequence of creation and crediting its origin and glory to God.
Modern biblical scholarship refutes the first date popularly ascribed
to the creation of the world, calculated to be 4004 BC. This date was arrived
at by James Usher in the seventeenth century using the genealogical records
in the KJV. He assumed that every generation of man was listed by name in
the Bible and he simply added them up. However, archaeology has since provided
additional ancient copies of Scripture and more ancient ones than those
the KJV was based on. A study of the LXX as well as of 1 Chronicles seems
to indicate that the genealogical list in Genesis is partial, not complete
as Usher had assumed.
If Genesis provides
only a partial genealogy, this would be completely in line with the practice
of ancient Israel's neighboring cultures:
It is merely a matter
of record that Egyptian king-lists pass over centuries at a time without
formal indication or explanation of the fact. 22
also must consider that the word son in both the Old and New Testaments
is used in the general sense of descendant as well as of immediate offspring.
Thus the belief that a 4004 BC creation date is supported by the Bible's
genealogical listings as the start of creation, even if correct, is simply
not a well-founded belief based upon modern textual evidence.
3. There is an appreciable
amount of observable scientific evidence that leans towards an old
earth such as the size and apparent age of the universe. While this does
not suggest that God could not have created everything instantly, it just
suggests that it appears He did not.
Of course, as discussed
previously, scientific facts have more often turned out to be tentative
rather than firmly proven. But even if mature-state creation is grounds
to doubt the scientific evidences of an old earth, then it is equally grounds
to doubt the previously listed scientific evidences for a young earth. (See
also natural revelation.)
4. A great deal of
events took place on each of those six creation days. In particular,
Genesis 1:24-31 and 2:7-25 detail the events of day six:
- God created all livestock,
wild animals, and creatures that move along the ground;
- Adam was created;
- trees were grown
in the Garden of Eden;
- the Lord says, "It
is not good for the man to be alone" (how long had he been alone?);
- the Lord brings every
creature before Adam for him to name;
- Adam considers them
and names each kind;
- God causes Adam to
fall into a deep sleep;
- Eve is created; and
- God gives creation
over to Adam and Eve to rule.
Obviously an infinite
and omnipotent God could conceivably have done all of his work in any time
frame. But could mere Adam have accomplished his share within the remains
of that twenty-four hour day?
5. Day-age theorists
would further argue that an all-powerful creator could have created the
universe just as easily in six seconds as six days. But the Bible reflects
that God's character is one of patience saying, "with the Lord one day
is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8
This does not mean we
should rush into believing this statement is a literal guide for each figurative
creation day. The context of the latter quote is God's great but finite
patience with man's rebellion against him. But consider the following usage
of a thousand: "every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand
hills" (Psalm 50:10 NIV). The word thousand here is clearly figurative
of a much greater, all-inclusive number.
This reminds us that
the Bible contains both literal and figurative statements. The Bible is
never to be interpreted as all one or the other. Thus, each creation
day might legitimately be a long period of time, or be a literal and consecutive
24-hour period, or be a literal but not consecutive day commemorating specific,
-- THE CENTRAL ISSUE
As to whether or not
any of these preceding arguments cinch belief in either the figurative or
literal accounting, it cannot be decided with absolute certainty. What is
important is that the order of creation events recorded by Moses are in
harmony with modern science. Moses knew how the earth began and the order
in which the events happened. The interpretation of his time intervals
is not nearly as important as questioning "How could he have known what
If we can believe Moses'
account of the planet's origin, something he could not possibly have guessed
or figured out, yet it parallels the most recent discoveries, can we not
also believe his explanation that it was God who told him? Without committing
to either one of the presented time scenarios, I find the idea that the
earth is a work of God's is plausible no matter how long it took.
Where did the earth come from?
Natural revelation: what it reveals
did the universe come from?
Where did man come from?