NOTE: Joel is the author of the blog Evolution by Design.
My journey to old-earth creationism began sometime in early 2010.
A friend of mine became an old-earth creationist and shared with me
what he was learning, even though I was extremely skeptical and
thought he was too easily swayed by other people. The thought
of an old earth was unpleasant to me, and I couldn't imagine it
being consistent with the Scriptures. Frankly, early on, I
basically rejected old-earth creationism a priori as being foolish
and filled with huge hermeneutical questions.
Had it not been for hard-hitting questions concerning science and the fossil record from unbelievers at work, I probably would never have taken the idea of an old earth seriously. I had grown up in a home where young-earth creationism was reaffirmed almost monthly, so a young earth was a part of my fundamental, core beliefs. Initially, I regurgitated my simple answers to the questions I was posed about how the earth could look old but still be young. "It is an appearance of age, but not a reality." "The fossil record was caused by Noah's Flood, and the dating methods for the rock layers are based on numerous faulty assumptions," etc. However, I was challenged by an intelligent and knowledgeable person who did his research, and I was therefore forced to do my research as well. My primary area of research was the fossil record and the dating methods that were used. I resisted the idea of an old earth the whole time, since it wasn't the answer I wanted.
Unfortunately, as hard as I searched for answers, I was unable to find good satisfying answers to some fundamental questions about the age of the earth and universe. My faith was shaken, I am ashamed to say, though God was faithful to sustain me and keep me from turning from His Word.
Perhaps the most persistent and challenging question I had was how could Noah's chaotic Flood create rock strata that could be dated consistently by many radiometric dating methods? Or, put another way, how could a scientist take a rock formed in the Flood and obtain a consistent age for it using a number of different dating methods? The decay rates are different for different elements, and the ratios of parent and child isotopes would need to be different to show a consistent date when testing using the different elements. Basically, the ability for a chaotic Flood to result in different ratios for different element isotopes in such a way to produce consistent dates has -- to the best of my knowledge -- never been answered remotely by young earth creationists. The old earth creationists, however, answer it in the most natural and obvious way: the rocks really are old. The proponents of a young earth have only partially attempted to answer these questions by bringing up what-if's and maybe's. They also skirt around these questions by bringing up the assumptions that are used in dating methods, which really just ignores the questions. If the assumptions are completely wrong, then one would expect that the dating methods would be producing highly inconsistent results. The young earth creationists are quick to point out a minority of cases where inconsistent results have been produced by the dating methods, but they fail to address how the vast majority of cases result in consistent, cross-checked, and verified dates.
Starlight coming from stars millions and billions of light-years away is also problematic for young-earth creationists. The obvious conclusion drawn by scientists is that the universe must be billions of years old.
A child would likely come to the same conclusion. The young earth creationists propose two solutions: (1) the starlight was created instantly stretching from the stars to the earth so that it did not need to travel the distance, and (2) the Star Light in Time (by Russell
Humphry) proposal that time dilation caused an effect where the light far from earth traveled for many millions of years for each day on earth. The former idea makes God into a deceiver, in my opinion, since scientists draw the most reasonable conclusion that the universe is old from the evidence. The Bible suggests that the revelation of nature is truthful and can be trusted even in telling us about the nature of God.
The latter proposal is not scientifically received as a valid possibility by physicists who are intimately acquainted with Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. (Russell Humphry lacks the scientific and mathematical credentials to adequately support his theory.) Either way, it was disturbing for me to believe that God would make a universe and earth that appear in many ways to be old when they are really young.
The universe's appearance of age includes an appearance of a detailed history of time, which goes beyond a simple look of maturity and crosses into a fabricated history that never was, under the young earth proposal. It would be almost like saying that the rock layers were created with the appearance of fossils of animals that never really existed. It would seem to make God into a liar.
Many other questions hounded me, until I saw that the evidence for an old earth was overwhelming, in comparison to the flimsy evidence for a young earth. At the same time, I was studying Genesis 1 and other creation passages in detail and with rigor. Could the Bible support an old earth, or would that be stretching the Word? I studied the Bible for months, until I could practically quote Genesis 1 from memory from seeing it so much. I learned Hebrew words and compared Scripture with Scripture until the creation accounts were etched in my mind. The more I studied the Bible the more I saw that the Genesis 1 account was anything but obviously talking about 24-hour days. The other creation passages (which few people are aware of) also were instrumental in me seeing the truth concerning the age of the earth and how it was formed.
To my surprise, every biblical obstacle and every objection to an old earth melted away when I studied the Hebrew words and the grammar and the other Bible passages and how they fit together to form a fuller picture of the history of creation. With greater biblical knowledge came fewer objections to an old earth, rather than more objections as I would have expected. The Bible's complete picture presented was of a universe and earth that formed through processes rather than instantaneous creation from nothing -- processes that normally would take vast amounts of time.
After all my intensive research, I see that the Bible strongly supports the old earth position and fits the scientific evidence like a hand fits in a glove. The Bible, when properly interpreted, is validated overwhelmingly by science. I can now say like never before that science proves the inspiration of the Scriptures. Yes, I said proves it. Young earth creationists, sadly, look foolish to mainstream scientists, and they are unfortunately making a mockery of the Bible to them. Before modern scientists came along, the Bible had everything correct. Let me name a few creation events in the biblical order that are in accordance with mainstream science and the order obtained thereby: [1.] the expansion of the universe like a tent (Is. 40:22); [2.] the compaction and successive growth of the primitive Earth (Is. 44:24); [3.] the initial ocean-less state of the Earth (Prov. 8:24; Job 38:8); [4.] the formation of a global ocean via out-gassing (Ps. 104:6; Job 38:8); [5.] the following state of a land-less planet (Gen. 1:2); [6.] the dark clouds that covered the early earth causing darkness (Gen. 1:2-4; 2 Cor. 4:6; Job 38:9); [7.] the following formation of the night and day cycle (Gen. 1:3-5; Job 26:10); [8.] the formation of the atmosphere and the water cycle (Gen. 1:6-8; Prov. 8:28); [9.] the formation of a supercontinent through a process (Gen. 1:9-10; Ps. 104:8-9); [10.] the appearance of simple vegetation on land, followed by seed-bearing plants, and eventually fruitful trees, known as angiosperms (Gen. 1:11-12); [11.] the proliferation of modern marine animals (Gen. 1:20-22); [12.] the appearance of birds (Gen. 1:20-22); [13.] the appearance of modern terrestrial animals with souls (Gen. 1:24-25); and [14.] the existence of mankind (Gen. 1:26-30). The order of all these events is significant in the Bible and can be verified by cross-referencing passages. The surprising thing is that this order fits well with scientific knowledge today. The odds of the order just happening to be consistent with mainstream science is -- according to my calculations -- about 1 in 3000, conservatively. I highly doubt that this is coincidence, but only an old-earth position can conclude that it is not coincidence.
Finally, I want to say that if you are feeling as if science contradicts the Bible, and your faith is shaken, don't let the Devil deceive you!
Even though traditional interpretations of the Bible aren't compatible with mainstream science and even though modern translations of Genesis presuppose a young earth, a careful, unbiased analysis of the Bible and the scientific evidence reveals a striking parallel between the witness of creation and the witness of God's Word. The Bible is entirely correct and consistent with the natural revelation. The appearance of age really is old age. My journey was rough and unsettling to my soul, but I faced my fears of doubt, and by God's grace I believe I've come out on the other side as a stronger Christian with a greater ability to defend my faith. For me, the bottom line isn't that science is right, but that the Bible can be completely trusted, but we need to take the Word seriously and dig hard for the answers. When it's all said and done, the truth is well worth it. There are answers out there for the old-earth position, and I'd encourage you to look for them if you are on a similar path as I have taken.
To learn more
about old earth creationism, see
Old Earth Belief,
or check out the article
Can You Be A
Christian and Believe in an Old Earth?
Feel free to check out more of this website. Our goal is to provide rebuttals to the bad science behind young earth creationism, and honor God by properly presenting His creation.