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Feedback archive › Feedback 2006

The age of the earth: The Bible is reliable.

10 June 2006

Today’s feedback correspondent is nervous about taking a stand on the age of the earth, preferring instead a less dogmatic approach.

The letter is first reproduced in its entirety, and then Andrew Lamb replies point by point.


RE: Age of the Earth.

I'm a Christian and have been for some time. I enjoy both the Creation and TJ [now Journal of Creation— ed.] magazines.

However I cringe sometimes when I read or hear speakers dogmatically say the Biblical stance is that the Earth is seven or so thousand years old. I know it seems that way, but I can't help thinking that if it is categorically proved (or the evidence strongly suggests) that the Earth is much older, say millions of years old, that a lot of people will discard the more important things the Bible talks about.

My suggestion is why not take the safer less dogmatic stance and say something like "there is strong Biblical support that suggests the age of the Earth is seven or so thousand years, but this should not be taken as Biblical doctrine or dogma" or something like that.

I just worry that the whole thing is going to crumble into a heap with a lot of people with it when one places the credibility of Scripture on such shaky doctrine as the age of the Earth.

Yours Sincerely Martyn Mettam


RE: Age of the Earth.

I'm a Christian and have been for some time. I enjoy both the Creation and TJ magazines.

We’re glad to hear it.

However I cringe sometimes when I read or hear speakers dogmatically

 Quote: ' Jesus frequently referred to events and persons from Genesis, always treating them as historical '

‘Dogmatically’ can imply merely asserting something while neglecting to provide evidence. But in line with 1 Peter 3:15 we work hard at providing logical, rational reasons for our faith. See Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation and our Apologetics Q&A page.

Both recent creation and evolution over millions of years are faith-held beliefs (and many evolutionists have incredibly powerful faith). The difference is that ours is a rational faith, in accord with the multifarious scientific facts (see Young Age Evidence), whereas theirs is a credulous faith, severely inconsistent with much scientific data (see How old is the earth).

say the Biblical stance is that the Earth is seven or so thousand years old.

Most biblical creationists say the world is about 6,000 years old. Some say ‘the earth is no more than 10,000 years old, max’, but that is due to rounding off the number to an order of magnitude.

If we accept that the Bible is reliable, an age of about 6,000 years is unavoidable. See Biblical chronogenealogies. For nigh on two millennia, Christians have consistently calculated the age of the earth to be just a few thousand years—see the table in Old earth or young earth belief. But in the late 1700s / early 1800s anti-Christian deists such as Lyell and Hutton deliberately rejected reliable historical records such as the Bible in favour of the unprovable and highly unreasonable assumption of uniformitarianism. Only after this did theologians and scientists begin to believe in millions of years. See The origin of old-earth geology, Hutton’s a priori commitment to materialism and Darwin, Lyell and billions of years. Note nothing in the physical facts of geology necessitates or even suggests such ages. Their change in beliefs was driven by philosophical motivations.

I know it seems that way, but I can't help thinking that if it is categorically proved (or the evidence strongly suggests) that the Earth is much older, say millions of years old,

Image of a pudding.

Your comments here reveal some common misconceptions about science, proof and age. You also seem to be unsure about the reliability of the Bible.

Scientists will never be able to categorically prove the earth is millions of years old. Age cannot be measured, only calculated, and all such calculations rely on unprovable assumptions. See Immeasurable age. The only accurate way to determine age is from reliable historical records, and among ancient records the Bible stands alone for its supreme reliability.

The science that generates the many technologies we enjoy today is operational science, which involves repeated observation and testing. See Is it science? But historical events, such as the creation or evolution of man, lie within the realm of historical science, beyond the reach of the scientific method to either prove or disprove. We cannot directly observe or measure events that occurred in the past. Artifacts, fossils and rocks do not ‘speak for themselves’ but must be interpreted within a framework of beliefs about the past. See Creation, where’s the proof? and this article on the role of axioms which determine the framework in which data are interpreted.

Image of a fossil.

The fact is that the Bible is reliable, including in what it says about the age of the earth. Yes, we may state this dogmatically, but not without good reason. As noted above (see Young Age Evidence) there is a multitude of scientific data (observations, measurements) which are extraordinarily difficult to reconcile with a long-age view of history, and yet readily make sense from a young-earth creationist perspective.

It is the same with the Resurrection; scientists will never be able to categorically prove it did not happen, and there is much evidence that only makes sense if it did happen, for example the willing martyrdom of thousands of first century Christians. See Did Jesus Christ really rise from the dead? Almighty God, the very Creator of language, has informed us plainly in the Bible that Jesus rose from the dead, so we need not worry that one day, say, an archaeologist will discover the bones of Jesus. Even if an archaeologist were to make such a claim, we know that it couldn’t be correct. Christianity could have been cut off at its roots if the Pharisees or Romans had been able to produce the body or bones of Jesus, which would have distinctive marks due to crucifixion with nails (John 20:25). Of course they never did produce such evidence because the tomb was empty on the third day.

Image of a bible lying open at The Gospel of St. John ch 20

The Gospel of St. John,
chapter 20.

(Click image to enlarge or here to view text.)

We can be confident in what the Bible says about the Resurrection and other miraculous historical events, without needing to seek naturalistic explanations as some do (see Materialist ‘defence’ of Bible fails, The ten plagues of Egypt: Miracles or ‘Mother Nature’ and Did Jesus walk on ice?), and we can be confident in what the Bible says about the age of the earth too.

that a lot of people will discard the more important things the Bible talks about.

In fact we find the opposite. Most people can ‘see through’ the strained rationalizations of those who deny the plain meaning of Genesis and try to make it mean millions of years. Our own Managing Director and former atheist, Dr Carl Wieland, had no respect for Christians until he met some who unashamedly believed Genesis:

I had heard many feeble attempts by Christians to try to weave the millions of years into the Bible, but they had turned me away from Christianity. These notions seemed not only highly contrived and “slippery,” they glossed over huge, glaring inconsistencies with what the Bible so plainly taught. ... all my atheist/humanist acquaintances at the time thought the same. We held such seeming deviousness in contempt.
(Walking Through Shadows, page 36)

Throughout the West, many traditional churches have abandoned the authority of the Bible, and multitudes are consequently abandoning those churches. After all, as Jesus said, if we don’t believe what the Bible says about earthly things (like history) how can we expect anyone to believe what it says about heavenly things, like sin and salvation (John 3:12)? Jesus said if people didn’t believe Moses (i.e. Genesis etc.) then they wouldn’t believe Him either (Luke 16:31). In contrast, churches that hold to the authority of the Bible, including its straightforward history, are thriving.

In one sense being a Christian is a matter of allegiance—giving our allegiance to Jesus Christ and choosing to heed God’s Word as authoritative, rather than heeding the fallible theories of fallen man. See Even champions can be inconsistent.

My suggestion is why not take the safer less dogmatic stance and say something like "there is strong Biblical support that suggests the age of the Earth is seven or so thousand years, but this should not be taken as Biblical doctrine or dogma" or something like that.

For reasons explained above, it is not possible for science to disprove the biblical age of the earth. People tend to crave certainty, and many Christians long for a ‘magic bullet’ that would prove their position, but the world is not like that. We always have incomplete information so we have to choose whose words we are going to trust—the words of men, or the Word of God. The author of Hebrews wrote:

without faith [trusting God] it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
(Hebrews 11:6)

We are quite safe to stand on the biblical truth of a circa 6,000 year old world. In stark contrast, it has proven decidedly unsafe to trust in the ‘true’ evolutionary age of the earth, which in the last two centuries has bounced over a stupefying six orders of magnitude, each new ‘true’ age being dogmatically proclaimed with the same absolute certainty with which the old ‘true’ age is denounced! See Western culture and the age of the earth.

I just worry that the whole thing is going to crumble into a heap with a lot of people with it when one places the credibility of Scripture on such shaky doctrine as the age of the Earth.

Jesus frequently referred to events and persons from Genesis, always treating them as historical, and since Jesus is God, He should know. The credibility of Scripture is not threatened by fallible human theories about the age of the earth. However, the true age of the earth as indicated in the Bible is indeed a threat to rebellious mankind, who want to exclude God from human affairs.

The events of Genesis are foundational to the whole Christian worldview. Every major Christian doctrine has its origin and basis in Genesis—doctrines such as the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of marriage, the origin of sin, the cause of death and the need of a blood sacrifice. For example, how can the idea of billions of years of death and suffering before Adam’s Fall be reconciled with the idea of a caring God, who declared everything 'very good' (Genesis 1:31)? See The god of an old earth and The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe.

Anti-Christians are only too aware of the foundational importance of Genesis history to the Christian faith, as acknowledged by leading atheist Bozarth. This is why atheists regard indoctrinating children with millions of years and evolution to be so crucial (see ‘Summer in the enemy’s camp’).

It is when Christians start to compromise on what the Scripture clearly says about the age of the earth that the whole thing crumbles into a heap (see The slippery slide to unbelief for a tragic example), so we encourage Christians to put their trust in the reliable Word of God.

These themes are regularly expounded in Creation and Journal of Creation. Most of the hyperlinked articles above are from these publications. For a single book that thoroughly covers all this, I recommend Refuting Compromise.

Yours Sincerely,

Martyn Mettam

Yours sincerely

Andrew Lamb
Information Officer
CMI–Australia

 

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