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Hybrid approaches to Creation

Is there a middle ground?


Published: 22 November 2018 (GMT+10)

After speaking at a church recently, a young man approached me. I thought he might have a question. Instead, he handed me a 6-page essay he had written. It was a defence of a form of Day-Age creationism, the belief that the days of Genesis were actually long periods of time. Normally, I would not spend too much time on such a thing, but the young man impressed me as humble and studious. He also reminded me of myself at that age, when I was trying to defend that very same position. But when I read his paper, I saw that he did not hold the normal view. Instead, he was trying to reject a universe that was either billions or thousands of years old. He had a hybrid model that tried to use naturalism to explain origins but also did not use the Bible. I suspect there are many others out there with similarly confused views.

Several options, which is right?

There are several different approaches to interpreting Genesis 1 and 2. Theistic evolutionists not only try and read billions of years into the text, they also allow for something that is indistinguishable from straight-up evolution and big bang ideas.

Progressive creationists believe that the universe is very old, that God is the creator, and that He created things in groups, occasionally, across vast periods of time. In general, they reject chemical evolution and Darwinian evolution, but totally accept cosmological and geological evolution.

Day-age theorists can be considered a subset of progressive creationists (e.g. Hugh Ross calls himself a ‘day-age creationist’ but is widely considered a ‘progressive creationist’). Most believe the universe is as old as secularists claim, but this young man did not. Instead, he thought the universe was maybe hundreds of thousands of years old.

A popular option in (respectability-craving) seminaries is the framework hypothesis, which regards the days of Genesis 1 as real days, but in a literary framework rather than real history. This theory is less than 100 years old, and the original proposers were open about trying to fit long ages (and evolution) into the Bible.

Lastly, there are the biblical creationists. This is our preferred label for CMI’s stated beliefs. For more information on the various views, see Creation Compromises.

Age is the question

NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center)Jupiter

How old is everything? That, it turns out is difficult to answer precisely, although a ball-park estimate is relatively straightforward. Under biblical creation, we debate the exact age, or even if an exact age can be calculated from the Bible. My co-author and I discussed this thoroughly in The Biblical Minimum and Maximum Age of the Earth. One cannot simply ‘add up’ the ages of the Patriarchs. However, this does not mean there is much flexibility in the numbers. In fact, the worst-case estimates are only a few hundred years apart. The main differences come between manuscript families (e.g., the Masoretic-Septuagint debate). Yet there is nothing in any of these texts that can extend the age of the universe even as far as 10,000 years, let alone hundreds of thousands, or the 13+ billion claimed by big bang believers.

But are there gaps in the biblical genealogies? Would not that allow for more time than the Bible indicates? In the gospel of Matthew, there are certainly gaps. Matthew presents a highly stylized scheme, telling the reader that he intentionally selected three groups of 14 individuals for his list of names. There may not be any gaps in Luke, however. But here is a major problem for those who want to stretch out the ages: the Genesis 5 and 11 lists are not genealogies, they are chronogenealogies. One must understand the difference. A genealogy is simply a list of names. A chronogenealogy, however, also contains numerical data that allows us to construct a real chronology of events. Genesis claims that Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born, for example. That puts a direct constraint on the age of the earth. If there were missing generations (note that I do not believe this), Seth was still born 130 years after Adam. Even if you struggle with the great ages of the Patriarchs, the chronology is clear.

Another possibly stylized genealogy is that of Moses. The genealogical list goes Jacob → Levi → Kohath → Amran → Moses. But if Jacob and Levi both went down to Egypt (Genesis 46:1–27), and if the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40–41), there is no way Moses came out of Egypt, even as an old man 80 years of age. With a short Sojourn of 215 years (a popular view among many scholars, including Ussher), it is not impossible. However, note that there are multiple genealogies that span the Sojourn. All of them have about the same number of generations. Either there is a lot of stylizing going on, or the Sojourn was only 215 years. However, I am fine with a stylized generation list and a long Sojourn, if required, for there are other biblical passages that span the relevant chronological points. Either way, the age of the universe is not dependent on the genealogy of Moses. The Genesis 5 and 11 chronogenealogies are much more important. If the genealogy in Genesis is complete, the timespan is constrained. Worse, if the genealogy is constrained by specific time statements, the timespan is locked down tight.

Scientific caveats

That was only an introduction to the biblical arguments. There are also scientific arguments. For instance, the Bible describes things that would take a very long time to happen if we were depending on naturalism (e.g., the gravitational collapse of gas clouds to form stars, the time it takes photons to travel through the star from the fusion core, etc.). If someone wants to reject the idea that the universe is millions of years old, like the young man I am discussing, there are things in the universe that would take more time to happen then the Bible allows, again, if we were depending on naturalism. You have to make the break somewhere, so why not at the biblical date of creation?

But think about this: naturalism cannot explain origins. It fails on multiple fronts. In fact, this failure was the subject of a major book and documentary project of CMI called Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. Evolution cannot explain the source of the big bang, the reason why the universe expanded so fast (during the “inflationary period” the size is claimed to have increased millions of times over in one quintillionth of a femtosecond–for no known physical reasons), the reason why the expansion slowed to the current rate, how stars form from clouds of gas, why Jupiter has half the rotational kinetic energy in the solar system, why Uranus is lying on its side, how life arose from random chemicals, how complex life arose from bacteria, how sexual reproduction came about, where the human mind came from, etc., etc. See also 15 Questions for Evolutionists.

Since we have to reject naturalism, we should not then turn around and use it as an excuse to reject the biblical timeframe. We also must discuss the difference between apparent age and functional maturity. Any non-naturalistic view requires functional maturity, but any view that departs from the strict big-bang-to-today timeline cannot be naturalistic.

Time is the key

Gerard Seghers, nationaltrustcollections.org.ukAugustine
Gerard Seghers (attr) - The Four Doctors of the Western Church, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430)

My young friend wondered if the biblical creationist can be intellectually satisfied with the belief that the universe was created in so short a time. My response was, “Um, yes. Easily.” Augustine wrestled with this. In fact, he thought it was beneath God to have taken so long! Turn the question around: what magnifies God more, Him allowing the universe to happen slowly, or Him acting by fiat and creating it quickly? Since naturalism cannot explain origins, clearly things must be supernaturally created. So why would we then reject the biblical timeline?

But is not “a day like a thousand years to the Lord”? This comes from Psalm 90:4 and is usually used out of context. See our explanation of 2 Peter 3:8–9. This is about how God perceives time, and about his patience. It has nothing to do with the passage of time to the inhabitants of earth or how God communicated to us the passage of time during the creation week. The “days” of Genesis 1 are clearly defined, in context. One evening plus one morning equals one day.

But how do you count days before there was a sun? It does not matter. The day in that context is still defined as one light/dark cycle. Each cycle could have taken thousands of years, or millions, if God wanted it that way. But clearly He did not, because when He wrote the 10 Commandments, He linked the Jewish calendar week to creation week (Exodus 20:8–11). There is no hint that, during that week, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday…were thousands of years long.

But why even go there? The main reason people want to stretch out the time is to allow for the evolutionary progression of events. There is no sense in trying to have evolution during a couple of millions-of-years-long day/night cycles. Plus, it makes no sense to then fit those long days to the order of events, for you can’t have plants (created on Day 3) surviving for millions of years in the dark before God creates the sun (Day 4), etc. If we reject the evolutionary progression, especially when we reject naturalism as a cause, there is no reason to then stretch out the time. Thus, there is no reason to stretch out a ‘day’ to make it more than 24 hours.

Size is a challenge, but there are answers

The Sun

Yet the universe is still very, very large. Too large, in fact, for starlight to have gotten here from the farthest point in just over 6,000 years—given uniformitarian assumptions about time and light speed. From parallax (written about here), we know that many stars are extremely far away. Once you go beyond the limits of trigonometry, however, everything is assumption. Not that the assumptions are necessarily wrong, but they are assumptions nonetheless. One cannot calculate the age of the universe without a long list of assumptions and axioms. For a recent summary of creationist models, see Supernovae and gamma-ray bursts in a biblical cosmology.

But one cannot reconcile a big-bang universe with any sort of a young-earth model. Not only are the time frames diametrically opposed, but so is the order of events. There are several competing models for spatial expansion among us biblical creationists, but these are not simple ‘sped up’ big bang models. Since one cannot simply compress big bang time, we must reject naturalism and therefore we cannot explain the universe in naturalistic terms. Can you see that anyone who holds to a non-billions of years universe is on the doorstep of young-earth creationism?

But what about evidence for the big bang? To answer that, we must first point out that most people don’t really understand the big bang model. Specifically, the entire universe was not the size of anything. The entire known universe, that is, everything within one Hubble volume (a sphere with a radius of 13.8 billion light years) started out quite small, but next to it was another small volume that expanded into something of equal size, and next to that another, ad infinitum. This means that the universe essentially goes on forever and anything greater than one Hubble radius away is moving away from us at faster than light speed. In the big bang model, anything outside the ‘known’ universe is causally disconnected from us. We cannot and will never know that anything is actually out there. But the fast expansion of space supposedly left an image of the early universe in the form of cosmic microwave background radiation. It is good to note that the CMB has major problems. Specifically, it is the wrong temperature and is much too smooth for the theoretical calculations. Oh, they re-worked the math to incorporate the measured CMB, but it was not what they were predicting, by a longshot. Note: the lack of ‘shadows’ argument that we used to use is no longer valid. Too bad. I liked that one. However, the ‘axis of evil’ argument is still going strong.

Conclusion: no need for hybrid ideas

In the end, there is no reason to adopt a hybrid approach. Putting two and two together, naturalism fails as an explanation of origins. On the other hand, the Bible gives us a clear picture. God is a sufficient outside cause. He has the power and the knowledge, and He told us when and how He did it. Once that universe is created, however, everything can work ‘naturalistically’ (except for an occasional miracle). Indeed, this very biblical view is the basis for modern, operational science. The reason the universe behaves the way it does is that God created it. God is not fickle, there is no “variation or shadow due to change” with him (James 1:17), and He is the ‘ultimate’ lawgiver. Since God never does anything against His own nature, when He created the universe He would have made it operate according to a set of rules and laws. This does not apply to how God formed the universe, only when.

Helpful Resources

Evolution's Achilles' Heels
by Nine Ph.D. scientists
US $17.00
Soft Cover
Refuting Compromise, updated & expanded
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover
The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $39.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Owen B.
I guess I don't see it necessary to see Genesis 2:1-2 as limiting the creation of the whole universe within the actual six days of creation. I see those verses encompassing the whole period of creation starting with Genesis 1:1- 2, which to me describes the preliminary pre-earth-history period of creation before the actual six days, as well as the final six days when the elements necessary to sustain life as well as life itself was created on the planet. Just my thoughts.
Robert Carter
Your system already does not work in Genesis 1, but you will run into additional problems when you get to Exodus 20:11 "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day." Dr. Sarfati recently pointed out to me that this contains a double merism (a merism uses two contrasting words to indicate completion or totality). Heaven, earth, and sea are three contrasting words and encompass everything contained in all three. When the phrase "all that is in them" is added on, we are left with zero wiggle room. There cannot be any pre-six-day history. Everything in the universe must have been created in those six days. This also includes heavenly beings like angels. See the box "Where do the angels fit in" at the end of the article From the beginning of the creation.
David G.
I should have added to my previous comment:
Nor should we be concerned about the passage of days before the sun, while the article presents a plausible view, one might also consider that the 'morning and evening' are not essentially lighting conditions, but names of times: they more importantly denote passing time in a metric that avoids having to choose a timing system. I have experienced 'night' in the Arctic circle in summer (it was 11pm): it was daylight! So much for the need to line up a name of a time and a specific lighting condition.
Robert Carter
Genesis specifically says there was but one day/night cycle per "day" prior to the creation of the sun. Exactly how long those "days" were is a bit irrelevant, but since plants could not survive a millions-of-years-long dark cycle, clearly the "day" was something akin to our 24-hour cycle.
David G.
I suspect that underpinning the pursuit of hybrid creation hypotheses is an acceptance of time as being a 'given' that it is an absolute base of all that is (ie, is ontologically basic); but it is not! It is part of the creation, I would suggest, so aside from God's power to speak into existance whatever he wants, the period of 24 hours is not a constraint as we don't know how it calibrates against 'god-time'...well, we do, to some extent I guess: Peter tells us that God is not constrained by time and its duration is not relevant to him. See 2 Peter 3:8.
Robert Carter
2 Peter 3:8 has been much abused and much understood. Please see 2 Peter 3:8—‘one day is like a thousand years’. "God time" may be ineffable to us, but when He speaks about the physical universe there is no reason for us not to think He is speaking "physical" time.
Nichola W.
One thing that I have never heard discussed about the day/age argument is the evening and morning statements in Genesis one. There was evening, there was morning, one day. If the days represent long ages, so must the ages be divided up into one long evening and one long morning. Another fail in my opinion.
David B.
Currently, one or two of the most popular models for the creation of the universe essentially say that most of the universe is actually billions of years old, although created, relative to time from the perspective of Earth, only a few thousand years ago. This would qualify as a hybrid (combining thousands of years with billions of years) account of the creation of "the heavens and the Earth" while maintaining the general sense, order, and active supernatural work of a "recent" creation, consistent with the traditional understanding of Genesis 1.
Robert Carter
I would not call this 'hybrid' in the same sense that the person was trying to bridge the gap between the creation and big bang models. Instead, the models of Hartnett and Humphreys are completely different approaches. As I stated in several responses already, the order of events in the big bang model cannot be aligned with these creation models. So, yes, we might be able to explain a very old universe and a young earth by appealing to Einsteinian relativity, but, no, this is really not a hybrid approach, per se.
Andrew M.
I have heard an interesting take on the Moses genealogy, and would be interested in your comments on it. It revolves around taking the length of life as the generation age, and the named son through which the genealogy is traced, is a descendent, starting their life around the time of the death of previous named ancestor – ie the life length is also a generation length. This is a unique genealogy in that we do have a definite timespan for the genealogy. Exodus 12: 40 says the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt 430 years. The genealogy gives us a time line from Levi to Kohath to Amram to Aaron & Moses. Exodus 6: 16 – 20 gives us the life length of each of these. So from the birth of Levi, until the children of Israel left Egypt (Exodus 7:7 Aaron was 83 years old), we have: Levi (137), Kohath (133), Amram (137), Total = 407. Add Aaron (83), Total = 490.

Now we don’t know the age of Levi when he moved to Egypt, but it is not unreasonable to believe he could have been 60, which would tie in with the 430 years the children of Israel spent in Egypt. The article talks about a stylized genealogy. But is it coincidence that in this genealogy the life spans were only given for one line, and the time equates to the time spent in Egypt?
Are there any records of life spans equating to generation lengths in Jewish culture? I would be interested in your thoughts
Robert Carter
Such a construction would be foreign to any concept of genealogy given to us in history or in the Bible. Also, how could it be that the person named just happened to be born the same year the distant ancestor died, for many generations in a row? While your idea is interesting from an 'armchair rumination' standpoint, I think the correlation between the ages at death and the length of the Sojourn is arbitrary.
Troy S.
I have no problem viewing the universe as both young and old. If, during the milliseconds following a Big Bang, everything was going at nearly the speed of light, time would be dilated almost to a standstill. So, while an apparent 6-8 thousands years passed for us on Earth, the billions of years for the universe to exist as we see it passed simultaneously. That is why we can have a young Earth in a very old universe., but still have the Earth and the universe have the same moment of creation. I am a Biblical literalist who believes in a 6 day creation but also see evidence of an old universe. I thought of my theory to reconcile those two seemingly contradictory ideas. I believe what we cal the Big Bang was the moment God spoke everything into existence.
Robert Carter
Fair enough, but be careful about using the term 'big bang'. One cannot equate the secular big bang model with the biblical creation model. First, the order of events is all wrong. Second, it adds confusion to use a term with a specific meaning and apply it to an entirely different model. For more information, start here and follow the many links to other articles by John Hartnett or Russell Humphreys.
i appreciate the intelligent and knowledgeable contrasting of creation theories; but, "Since naturalism cannot explain origins, clearly things must be supernaturally created." really?
scott becker
Robert Carter
Yes, really. That, in fact, was the entire point of the article. In response, you resorted to an 'argument from incredulity' (one of the classic logical fallacies). Instead, read through the many hyperlinked articles. I provided the necessary documentation to back up my claims.
Owen B.
While I am a six day creationist I have no problem with a universe that is millions or even billions of years old. The Bible says " In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." How long it sat there in that condition no one knows or is even able to know. Or whether God created the universe in one big event (big bang) or over a period of time no one knows or is even able to know. Whether He created it with the light fully extended across the expanse of the universe or if it gradually extended out no one knows or is able to know. I just can't believe that a God who is eternal in His existence sat around all that time until about six thousand years ago before He created anything. The one thing I can know for sure is sure is that about six thousand years ago God created life on this little planet within a period of six days and rested on the seventh.
Robert Carter
I also do not have a problem with a universe 'older' than the earth proper and have advocated for the models of Humpreys and Hartnett for years. However, those models do not support the big bang, and cannot because the big bang has a different order of events (e.g. stars a long time before earth vs. earth a few days before stars). Genesis 2:1-2 tells us clearly that God created the entire universe in six days ("Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done."). While it is true that we do not know how He did it, and while we might wonder about the nature of time in the outer regions of the universe, we can certainly know that He did not use the big bang.

And we need to be careful about putting our thoughts into the mind of God. Specifically, saying "I just can't believe God..." is a very risky statement. To one who is outside of time and space, time is irrelevant. "Waiting around" until six thousand years ago is the same to God as "waiting around" until 13.6 billion years ago, so your opinion on the matter is pretty much irrelevant (sorry to be so harsh). The question, then, is what did God say about it? Many, many people have wandered from the path of orthodoxy by projecting themselves onto God. You are not necessarily doing that, but a warning for our readers seemed appropriate here.
Jon A.
Thank you, Dr. Carter, for this concise and spirited defense of the Biblical creationist position. I cannot tell you what a joy it was to read this on the morning of our Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I am over 70 years old, and more and more I am convinced that the “high” view of understanding Scripture is the correct one. God says what he means, and means what He says. Hardly a week goes by without a paper written by secular scientists crossing my desk, and every one of these (unintentionally) provides confirmation of some aspect of Biblical creation. Without fraud, lies, obfuscation, clever wordsmithing, the courts, media, fake news, and our fraudulent education system evolution has nothing to offer. To God be the glory! And to CMI be much success.
Robert R.
Day 1: God created the heavens and the earth. He also invented a precurser of language because he "said" it was good. He had invented what would be concepts of vision and eyes, because he "saw" it. Day 1, 1st time "time" is mentioned. Time invented and God's rationing that would lead to a 24-hour day/light cycle when he made the sun, so he was thinking ahead. God would be in his creation [triune] hovering over water, later visiting earth in the Garden, and appearances to Moses. Plenty to think about, but no need to invent man-made things. Reading early long-age authors shows they based long ages on trying to get rid of God, not because there was any evidence of an older Earth.
Richard G.
You have done well again CMI and Dr Bro Carter. Even a little scientist like me could follow you well enough with a cursory reading of your excellent screed. My science is now a hobby because I've been serving the Lord in Japan since 1960 when I was 27. We are all scientists of course unless we have no knowledge whatever. And let's remember that thousands of believers in the Lord Jesus are happy with the plain statements of the Word of God despite our shortness of knowledge. I reckon that no one makes a decision having studied all the evidence for and against that decision. When we are satisfied with what evidence we have for a decision we act on it rightly or wrongly. Think of our decisions on whom to marry. If it's what we want to do we don't require much evidence that that person is the right one to marry. I think that it's what we want to be true that decides our decisions in most cases. Do you want the Bible taken simply and naturally to be true or do you want the long age and compromising theories to be true.? Whatever I say and whatever God says won't affect you if your mind is made up as to what the truth is and if you keep looking for evidence to back up your theory and neglect partially or wholly the view you don't really favour. Let's get on with pressing the Bible, sin and the Saviour as our main activity, as the Bible does, without neglecting anything God doesn't ignore, of course. Jesus summed us up as follows, "If (and only if) a man is willing to do God's will, he will know." John 7:17
Kevin B.
Progenitor cell information for all living things is prescriptive information for a physical composite outcome. If a woman's egg cleaves together around the first two cells of human life then she will give birth to 'identical twins' because the information in the first two cells is almost identical. The twins grow the same after birth and continue to look very much the same because the initial prescription information in the first cell is still out-working. By design in the first cell the composite human structure is dependent on non-organic elements such as water and oxygen for continual survival of the organism.There is also a codependency of the organism on other organic structures for survival ie. the food it must eat to continue to exist and grow into adulthood for procreation and then old age. If God Almighty did not make the universe and the world and all that is in it in seven days it would all fail. Progenitor cell information is all the proof that science needs to disregard Darwin's theory and social structures and accept a six day creation by an omnipotent and omniscient God, who has made all things by his Word and Power and is just and right in all he does.
Heather S.
Hi there - just a point of confusion in your article, at this point:

"Plus, it makes no sense to then fit those long days to the order of events, for you can’t have plants (created on Day 3) surviving for millions of years in the dark before God creates the sun (Day 4), etc."

God created light on Day 1, BEFORE He created the sun. That's how there could be evening and morning - the first day. I'm confused. Why has this light suddenly vanished?
Robert Carter
Sorry for the confusion. The point was that, if one day was actually millions of years long, one complete day/night cycle would involve millions of years of daylight + millions of years of darkness.
King T.
Thank you for putting most of the contentions into a one page synopsis!
I was playing around with the idea of "Slaying sacred cows" as a theme in Toastmasters so this might just provide the groundwork on which to build my talks.
Keep up the good work and may God richly bless the ministry.
Robert Carter
Thank you. Along those lines, you might also be interested in Slaying Yesterday's Dragons.

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