Does an old universe better display God’s power?
Published: 19 June 2010 (GMT+10)
This week we have two short letters from Sunny O. from the U.S., suggesting that an old universe would glorify God better because it would more closely correspond to His eternal nature, while a young universe would be inadequate to display His power. His first letter:
God created the universe and the earth
if the universe is only 6000 years old, and He says the universe is a display of His power and Godhood, why does He present Himself (Eternal) with only 6000 years
it seems He would, in His Eternal Self, want to display the universe as much older.
CMI’s Lita Cosner responds:
Thank you for your question.
Because God is eternal, that is, there is no point where He began to exist and He will at no time cease to exist, and He is completely unbounded by time, billions of years of history would be just as insufficient as 6,000 years as a picture of God’s eternality; only a similarly eternal universe would do. Such a universe would have to be similarly unbounded by time, because if time itself were eternal, there would be an infinite amount of past moments which would have had to occur to come to this moment. And of course, the Bible makes it clear that the universe is not eternal, but began at a point in time.
I think that though God’s eternality is a very important essential doctrine, and His pre-existence is taught in Genesis 1:1; God’s power is what is stressed more in His creation—only God has the power to create out of nothing, and to give life. It’s not a matter of one being taught and the other being absent; I simply think that one is stressed more than the other in this particular place.
Furthermore, God’s eternal power is shown in the 6,000-year-old creation (Romans 1:20). And even if that were not so, we would still have the revelation He gave us in Scripture, which is far more reliable than trying to rely on the testimony of a fallen creation, which is often interpreted wrongly to come to conclusions completely counter to the Bible’s teaching. This doesn’t mean that the testimony of nature is useless, only that it must be interpreted in light of God’s revealed truth in Scripture. That revelation could not be clearer about the fact that we are dealing with a world around 6,000 or so years old, which is overwhelmingly the way the Bible was understood prior to the resurgence of old-world beliefs only in the last few hundred years.
Creation Ministries International
In his second letter, Sunny O. wrote curtly:
if you are really interested in the truth of God regarding the age of the earth, you will want to read "Reading Genesis One" by Rodney Whitefield, however, if your mind is already made up and closed, i don’t expect you will.
I frankly do not have the time to read a whole book to answer your email, so I am going from the publisher’s review on Amazon, which seemed to give a good summary of its argument. By the way, this is a self-published book, and it appears that Whitefield has written his own editorial review for his book, which is in bad taste. And the review is not even well-written, which doesn’t bode well for the quality of his book.
“Biblical Hebrew is limited in what it can express because of its small vocabulary.” This is a fallacy. First, words in a language with a smaller total vocabulary tend to have more flexible meanings; words generally have more functions. An average English dictionary may have 160,000 words, but the average English speaker has a functioning vocabulary of 25,000 or fewer words, and it is possible to ‘get along’ with about a 10,000 word vocabulary. There may be fewer than 9,000 distinct words in the Hebrew Old Testament, but it is reasonable to assume that there were some words that ancient Hebrews used that simply didn’t make it into the text, and if one was to count the various meanings of the words that come up in the Old Testament, he would probably find it to be as rich a language, and as capable of communicating ideas, as any other language. See this article for more information.
“The Hebrew verb does not have tense.” That does not mean the language is incapable of expressing past, present, and future. Did you know that English has no future tense? Rather, the non-past tense is augmented with auxiliary verbs to form a future construction like “will write.” I would imagine that Hebrew has similar constructions. These two arguments completely ruin the author’s credibility in my mind, because he shows no knowledge of how languages work.
Also, as an aside, this book seems to depend a lot on Strong’s, which is a sure sign that the author does not know Hebrew well enough to do his own work! I do not know Hebrew at all, so I don’t claim to be able to do Hebrew exegesis better, but I rely on those who can. (By the way, my previous arguments do not require any knowledge of the Hebrew language, because they deal with linguistics, how all languages work.)
“Genesis 1 does not say that the earth is ‘young’”. No thinking biblical creationist would argue that. Genesis 1 tells us that the earth was created in 6 ordinary days; if we had nothing else, we wouldn’t be able to tell whether those 6 days were thousands or trillions of years ago. Luckily, the Bible also includes chronogenealogies in Genesis as well as other important chronological markers throughout the Old Testament which allows us to date Creation at around 4000 BC (Give or take a few hundred years perhaps because of imprecision; for instance, Adam was 930 when he died, but if he was 930 and 9 months, those 9 months would be ‘lost’, and so on, and those could add up to a substantial amount, but adding even 500 years to the age of the earth because of that would be stretching it.)
You talk about having one’s mind made up and closed as if it were a bad thing. But my mind is made up on the issue of Jesus’ divinity, the Bible’s trustworthiness, etc, and those views would not be subject to change pending further evidence. My mind is made up because I’ve studied the evidence, and come to the conclusion that the evidence points toward the fact that Jesus is God, the Bible is a trustworthy record of God’s intervention throughout the history of the earth, and so on. It is this way with creation; my mind is made up that God created the earth supernaturally around 6,000 years ago in 6 ordinary days because that is where the evidence led me, quite unwillingly at first! As G.K. Chesterton long ago said, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” Certainty based on evidence is not an evil; unending vacillation and open-mindedness is not a virtue.
Creation Ministries International
During the years that I tried to marry my Christian belief with the “old earth” viewpoint, I, too, adopted the romantic view that an earth billions of years in the making pointed to a eternal God. I even visualized creation like a canvas upon which our highly creative God created over vast expanses of time. I have come to see that these fancies are purely romantic and when one reads the Bible with an open heart and mind, one cannot accept an old earth, “progressive creation”, etc viewpoint. To do so, would be to call Jesus, the Son of God, the Blessed Redeemer a liar. This, above all things, must be regarded and accepted with the utmost gravity. Blessings.