Jesus on the age of the earth
Jesus believed in a young world, but leading theistic evolutionists say He is wrong
The standard secular timeline, from an alleged ‘big bang’ some 15 billion years ago to now, is accepted by most people in the evangelical Christian world, even though many would deny evolution. Some would even say that to dispute billions of years is to place an unnecessary stumbling block in the way of any scientifically-minded potential converts.
This is in contrast to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator made flesh,1 as well as several of the biblical authors,2 which makes it plain that this is wrong—people were there from the beginning of creation. But in the evolutionary timeline, people have only been around for one or two million years—this puts them toward the end of the timeline. This means that He is most definitely claiming that the world cannot be billions of years old.
For example, dealing with the doctrine of marriage, Jesus says in Mark 10:6 (bold emphases added):
“But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.”3
In Luke 11:50–51, Jesus also says: “That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zacharias … ”. And in Romans 1:20, the Apostle Paul says of God: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”.
Paul is plainly saying that people have been able to perceive these attributes of God in His creation ever since the creation of the world. Not ever since people were created.
Comparing the appearance of people on the timelines below, which are both to scale, is instructive. Jesus, speaking around 4,000 years after creation,4 was correct to say that Day 6, when humans were created, was effectively ‘the beginning of creation’ as seen from thousands of years later. By contrast, a creation fifteen billion years ago on the secular timescale would put humans at the end of the time scale. It shows clearly how the acceptance of the secular timeline starkly contrasts with the statements of Jesus.
Today, the vast majority of Christians in not only secular academia, but also theological institutions, Bible colleges, etc. believe—and many teach—that the secular ‘billions of years’ is fact. When one tries to find out how they deal with these repeated references, responses vary. But the ‘explaining away’ that takes place (whenever the problem is not simply ignored) invariably makes it plain that the authority being deferred to is not the Word of God, but rather current secular opinion.
The most striking (and sad) example of this switch in authority source I know of comes from a personal experience. In Melbourne, Australia, many years ago, I had arranged to sit down over a hot drink with a distinguished university professor, a Christian who was well-known for his active opposition to a straightforward view of Genesis.5 At that time, he was actually the head of a grouping of Christian academics which had been openly set up to provide opposition to the inroads our ministry was making.6 Over the years, this group has unfortunately been very effective in persuading most Christian training institutions that compromising on biblical creation in favour of secular thinking (evolution, long ages) is the only ‘respectable’ position.
This professor himself, in addition to his secular science qualifications, was well regarded in the theological arena as well as being very biblically literate. He had at that time already been a frequent guest lecturer at several leading Australian evangelical training institutions.
During our courteous exchange, I asked him about the above comments by Jesus in relation to the age of the world. I asked, “Isn’t it clear that Jesus taught and believed that the world was young?”
A stunning response
I expected him to do as other Christian evolutionists have done—to try to find ways to torture the text to escape these obvious implications. Instead, he said that he totally agreed that Jesus believed in a recent creation of all things.
Somewhat taken by surprise, I said, “Well, how do you deal with that, then?” (He would of course have assumed, correctly, that I knew of the long-age position of this prominent organisation of theistic evolutionists.) His answer simply stunned me, to put it mildly. He said:
“Jesus didn’t know as much science as we do today.”
His words burned themselves indelibly on my memory, while the recollection of my response has faded somewhat. But I recall saying something about Jesus being the Creator, God made flesh; He was there at creation, He does not lie, that sort of thing. To which his reply was once again unforgettable:
“Ah, but that’s where it gets very complex—it has to do with the theology of the Incarnation, where Jesus deliberately laid aside many of the things that had to do with His pre-incarnate divinity.”
Our conversation was nearing the end of its allotted period in any case, but I recall being so stunned by this that it took me till well afterwards to fully process the implications.
What it all means
Firstly, and very importantly, the professor’s comments were a clear admission that the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as recorded in the Bible, confirm that He believed that things were recently created.
Remember that this professor was at the time the most prominent of all the professing evangelical academics that were being enthusiastically welcomed into Bible colleges and seminaries—to tell them why it was OK to believe in evolution and long ages. He obviously saw it as hopeless to try to claim other than what the Lord is clearly saying in this Bible text. And this is despite many attempts by others to ‘explain away’ this huge stumbling block for long-agers.
His way of being able to hold onto his theistic evolutionary view was to claim that Jesus was not lying, it was just that He was poorly informed. This was because when He as God the Son became flesh, laying aside aspects of His divinity included divesting Himself of all knowledge about what really happened when He had created all things.
If I had had the presence of mind, an appropriate response might have been to ask something like the following:
“OK, let’s assume for the sake of the argument that firstly, creation was by evolution, over millions of years of death and suffering—and that Jesus did perform some sort of lobotomy7 on Himself, so that He could no longer recall what really took place. So He just understood Genesis in the most natural straightforward way, not realizing what the real truth was. What you’re claiming in that case amounts to this: That God the Father, knowing the real truth, permitted not just the Apostles, but His beloved Son, while on Earth, to believe and teach things that were utter falsehoods. Furthermore, it means that the Father permitted these false teachings to appear—repeatedly—in His revealed Word. With the result that for some 2,000 years, the vast majority of Christians were seriously misled about such things as not just the time and manner of creation, but gospel-crucial matters such as the origin of sin, and of death and suffering.”
[Added by author Nov 2014: The Lord Jesus repeatedly made it clear that His words and actions were on the Father’s authority, in all respects. Some examples are firstly John 8:28: So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me”. And John 12:49–50: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”]
One thing is very clear from all this. Namely, that the erroneous belief that ‘science’ insists that evolution and long ages are ‘fact’ is the most serious challenge to biblical authority, and thus to the faith in general, that Christendom has ever faced. If even Jesus’ words in Scripture can’t be trusted on some issues, how are we supposed to trust anything in the Bible at all? See also the box about the ‘kenotic heresy’.
Other leading theistic evolutionists have similarly made plain their belief that Jesus was mistaken. For example, on the American theistic evolutionary site BioLogos, led by Francis Collins, there appeared the following:
“If Jesus as a finite human being erred from time to time, there is no reason at all to suppose that Moses, Paul, John wrote Scripture without error. Rather, we are wise to assume that the biblical authors expressed themselves as human beings writing from the perspectives of their own finite, broken horizons.”8
This is all the more serious because Jesus and the apostles used the history they taught to back up the theology that they taught. The Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15), marriage (Mark 10:1–12), atonement (Romans 5:12–21), and Heaven (Revelation 21–22:5) are only a few of the areas in which compromising Christians are theologically crippled, because they don’t have the same strong stand on Genesis that Jesus and the apostles did when they taught about these areas.
What a tragedy that so many Christian leaders have been bluffed and intimidated into assuming that secular interpretations of the evidence should dictate their understanding of God’s Word. And right at a point in history when there are more scientific reasons than ever to confirm the utter rationality of trusting the Bible, not evolutionary conclusions.
Theistic Evolution and the Kenotic Heresy
This error from many leading theistic evolutionists is not a new idea. It was rejected by the Church in general as the kenotic heresy in the 4th Century already, but has been revived in modern times, and for reasons as shown in the main text.
This asserts that in the Incarnation, Jesus emptied Himself of divine attributes, which is a misunderstanding of Philippians 2:6–7:
“[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped; rather, he emptied Himself by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
This does indeed talk about ‘emptying’ (kenosis1), but what does it actually say? “He emptied Himself by taking … ”. That is, He didn’t empty anything out of Himself, such as divine attributes; rather, His emptying of Himself was by taking. That is, it was a subtraction by means of adding—adding human nature to His divine nature, not taking away anything divine.2
This is what makes our salvation possible: he “shares our humanity” (Hebrews 2:14–17), and is our “kinsman–redeemer” (Isaiah 59:20); but He is also fully divine so He can be our Saviour (Isaiah 43:11) and can bear the infinite wrath of God for our sins (Isaiah 53:10), which no mere creature could withstand.
But on Earth, Jesus voluntarily surrendered the independent exercise of divine powers like omniscience without His Father’s authority. But Jesus never surrendered such absolute divine attributes as His perfect goodness, mercy, and (for our purposes), truth, so He would never teach something false. Furthermore, Jesus preached with the authority of God the Father (John 5:30, 8:28), who is always omniscient. So these theistic evolutionists really must charge God the Father with error as well.3
References and notes
- See Sarfati, J., The Incarnation: Why did God become Man?, December 2010; creation.com/incarnation. Return to text.
- See Sarfati, J., Why Bible history matters, Creation 33(4):18–21, 2011, as well as creation.com/nt and creation.com/gen-hist. Return to text.
- The extended passage cites Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as real history, and about the same man and woman. In the parallel passage in Matthew 19:4–5, Jesus attributes Genesis 2:24 to the One who created them, i.e. to God himself. Return to text.
- See Sarfati, J., Biblical chronogenealogies, J. Creation 17(3):14–18, December 2003; creation.com/chronogenealogy. Return to text.
- In Australia, as in most British systems, ‘professor’ means head of a department. In the US, professor simply means someone who teaches at tertiary level, which could apply to someone, for example, who would be called a ‘junior lecturer’ in a British system. Return to text.
- ISCAST (Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology); see Sarfati, J., The Skeptics and their ‘Churchian’ Allies, November 1998; creation.com/iscast. Return to text.
- From Greek λοβός lobos = lobe (of the brain), and τομή tomē = slice/cut. A serious and irreversible operation that cuts certain connections to the cerebral cortex, the ‘thinking’ part of the brain. Return to text.
- Sparks, K., “After Inerrancy, Evangelicals and the Bible in the Postmodern Age, part 4” Biologos Forum, 26 June 2010. See also Cosner, L., Evolutionary syncretism: a critique of Biologos, 7 September 2010; creation.com/biologos. Return to text.