My blogs for the last three weeks we’ve been dancing around the question, “How old is the earth.” You may not care, because you’re firm in your faith. But I’m confident you have people in your life for whom the idea of a young earth is a true obstacle to their faith journey. So whether you’re spiritually mentoring someone, or you have a grandchild resisting true faith, you should at least understand an alternative biblical worldview that faithfully attempts to understand science in light of the Bible.
Almost everything you’ll read the next few weeks is scientific theory. While it has its basis in both scripture and science, not every premise the author makes, is provable. And frankly, neither are all the claims of evolution. Both are theories. The next three blogs are long, so get a mug of coffee and let’s jump right into it. Almost all of the ideas stated in this teaching come directly from The Genesis Question, by Dr. Hugh Ross. Hugh is an astronomer, best-selling author, adjunct professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary and a scholar at Reasons to Believe Ministry. The page numbers after many paragraphs, correspond to the pages in that book, which is now out of print.
Preface: Serious followers of Jesus, who have a high view of scripture, have serious differences on how to interpret the creation story of the Bible. They generally fall into these two camps:
1. Young earth creationists. (God created the world in 7, 24-hour days, approximately 6,000 years ago.)
2. Old earth creationist. (God created the world over long periods of time, possibly billions of years.)
In general, the primary differences between the two groups boils down to this: 1. Young earth creationists believe the English words the translators chose for the original Hebrew words are accurate, even if they conflict with science. Any attempt to “change the Bible to fit science” is rejected as error.
2. Old earth creationists take the original Hebrew words and sentence structures, which often have multiple meanings and search to reconcile known science with the creation account. In their view, this is not making “the Bible fit science”, but rather believing that God gave us both so ultimately they cannot be incompatible.
The good news is that both believe: 1. The Bible is the infallible Word of God.
2. God is the creator and sustainer of this earth and everything good in it.
We’ll begin the discussion with three important questions regarding certain words or phrases:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Genesis 1:1, 2
1. Q. When did “in the beginning” begin?
A. According to Genesis 1:1, the entire universe came into existence out of nothing, brand new by the creative will of God.
B. The Bible does not say that the heavens and the earth (matter and the atmosphere) were created on the first “day”. Actually, on the first day of creation, light was separated from darkness. The Bible assumes that matter and an atmosphere around the earth already existed before Day One. Genesis 1:2 actually says, of the earth it was “formless and empty and darkness was over the surface,” before Day One.
C. Therefore, it is consistent with the Bible to believe that this planet (matter, air and water) may have existed for billions of years before God started shaping it into the world we recognize today. (p. 17, 18)
D. Scientific evidence for the “big bang theory” only supports the Bible’s claim that the earth and the universe was created in a moment in time, perhaps billions of years ago. Christians ought to believe in the big bang event and not resist it. “In the beginning” and the “big bang” are most likely the same event.
2. Q. What is the meaning of the word “day”? (p. 65, 66)
A. The ancient Hebrew language had less than 3,500 words; so many words had multiple meanings. On the other hand, English has more than 100,000 words.
B. In English, the word “day” also enjoys flexible usage. We refer to the day of the dinosaurs or in the day of Rome, but we recognize this usage as figurative. The word day in English means either 24 hours from midnight to midnight, or the daylight period of time as opposed to night. English offers us other words if we want to denote longer periods of time (i.e. epoch, era or age).
C. However, the Hebrew word for day is yom which can mean either 24 hours, the daylight period or any long period of time. There is no alternative, more accurate Hebrew word for epoch, era or age.
D. Unfortunately, in the Genesis creation account the interpreters working from Hebrew to English used the words “there was evening and morning on the 4th day” for example, so we have it in our head that this means a 24 hour day. However, the Hebrew words for “evening and morning” (ereb and boger) also can mean “the ending of the day”, and the “beginning of the day”. This phrasing can also mean “the beginning of an epoch or age” and “the ending of an epoch or age”.
E. It is true that by far the most common usage of the Hebrew word for day, means a 24 hour period of time just like in English. But, that’s simply because the Bible describes more 24 hour day events, than it does long periods of time.
F. Therefore, it is a faithful interpretation of the Hebrew to teach that the Genesis “day” can mean longer periods of time. 3. Q. What does it mean when the Bible says that “darkness was over the surface of the deep?”
A. Scientific observations now confirm that planets often start with opaque atmospheres. Thick layers of poisonous gases such as hydrogen, helium, methane and ammonia surround them. Giant, cold planets such as Jupiter and Saturn still retain their primordial, opaque atmospheres. This thick shroud of interplanetary dust and debris guarantees that no sunlight, moonlight or hardly any light could reach the surface of a primordial planet such as early earth. (p. 24, 25)
B. Without light, photosynthesis cannot occur, which explains why no life on earth existed four billion years ago. (p. 25)
C. Whether or not it was dark all the time on earth depends on where these observations were made – from the earth’s surface or from outer space. From the earth’s surface “darkness was over the surface”. From 100 miles up the sun and moon already created, lite the sky. But, you say, “The sun, moon and stars were not created until the fourth day!” (We’ll explain that on our discussion of the fourth day.)
On earth it was like a very, cloudy day with a very dense gas fog mixed with dust during the day and probably darker at night because of the rotation of the earth, but there were no sunsets or sunrises to clearly differentiate day from night, until day one, or “age one”.
The next three blogs will cover Day One of creation to Day Six.
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