Genesis and Creation
Is Genesis History?
Why is the account of creation in Genesis the focus of so much debate and contention? Is Genesis history or just an allegory?
These questions have long been debated among Christians who hold the Bible as the authoritative and inspired word of God. The age of the earth and the universe and the length of the days of creation as recorded in Genesis 1 are key elements of this debate.
There are broadly three different views among Christians: theistic evolution (which maintains God created all things through the process of evolution), old Earth creationism (God made the universe, living creatures and man as unique creations but over millions of years) and young Earth creationism (God created all things over six 24 hour days approximately 6000 years ago).
Is Genesis real history? Does it really matter? These are legitimate questions but for many the debate about how God created and how long He took is not important and a diversion from the real message of the Bible: salvation through Jesus Christ.
In one sense I would agree that it is possible to become so focused on one issue that we neglect the great truths of scripture, namely to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for such neglect (Matthew 23:23).
However this does not mean the issue of creation and the age of the universe and the earth are of no consequence. Jesus always quoted or referred to Scripture and to events in Genesis as factual. He warned that ignorance of what Scripture teaches will potentially lead us into error (Matthew 22:29).
A true understanding of Genesis as real history is foundational to all Scripture and a misunderstanding here be a cause for stumbling or even rejection of faith in God and Christ. This has become particularly evident with young people leaving the church and becoming agnostics or atheists. This video message ‘Where are all the children?’ by Dr Don Batten of Creation Ministries International reveals why children are leaving the church in droves.
There is also a serious misconception of how science works and its limits. As a consequence many believe science has proven the age of the earth to be billions of years. This has become a major stumbling block to believing in a literal six-day creation. In fact the age of the earth can neither be proved or disproved by science. This will be considered in more depth later.
The real issue at stake here is the authority of the Bible as God’s word and the ultimate reference for truth. So I write this as an appeal to seriously consider the Scriptural reasons and scientific evidence that God created the Earth and all living things about 6000 years ago in six normal days and why it matters.
I see three questions ought to be answered:
I am convinced that the Bible, being God’s word to mankind, was meant to be understood by all – not just students and those with specialist education. Providing of course that it is translated in the natural language of the reader, its meaning ought not be obscure. If we believe the Bible, the word of God, is true then the plain straightforward reading of scripture should be taken except where the context clearly indicates. In other words if a passage reads as a historical narrative then it ought to be accepted as such. It would be inconsistent with the character of God to say one thing and mean something totally different. For example when we read that Jesus rose on the third day few would debate its meaning.
However there are different understandings of the days of Genesis 1 and how long God took to create the heavens, the earth and all living things. In particular there are different understandings of the length of those days. This will be examined next.
The Days of Genesis 1
Are the days of Genesis 1 six consecutive 24 hour days, long, indefinite periods of time (or perhaps six 24 hour days separated by long periods of time) or simply an allegory to illustrate the truth that God is the author of creation?
What is a ‘day’ as it is used in the Bible?
In the Bible the Hebrew word for day, ‘yom‘, can mean a day of 24 hours (from sunset to sunset), the daylight portion or a long or indefinite period of time. It is the context which determines its meaning. Throughout the Bible, only in the context where there is no specified beginning and end, does ‘yom‘ mean an extended or indefinite period of time.
In Genesis 1, day, ‘yom‘, is defined by four terms: light and dark, day and night, evening and morning and the ordinals first day, second day etc. Nowhere in the Bible are these terms used in the context of ‘day’ to mean an indefinite or long period of time. They are only used with reference to a 24 hour day.
In Exodus 20:9-11 the working week of 6 days is directly related to God’s creation week of 6 days. Where day, ‘yom‘, or its plural ‘days’ is preceded by an ordinal ‘first’, ‘second’ etc, it always refers to a 24 hour day. There is nothing in the text itself which would lead us, in the absence of any other knowledge, to conclude the days were anything other than normal days as we know them now.
Some have argued that because the Sun did not appear until day four, days one to three cannot have been 24 hour days as determined by the Earth’s rotation relative to the Sun. They reason because the light on day one came from a source other than the Sun it infers the day was of different duration to days four to seven.
Yet such reasoning is not consistent with the text which qualifies each of the six days by the term “evening and morning” and also that they were consecutive (day one, two etc.). In Exodus 20:9-11 and 31:16-17 all of creation is made in six days and God relates man’s working week of six days and resting on the seventh to His creation week. The text simply reveals light energy was created and coming from a source other than the Sun for the first 3 days.
The simplest and plain meaning is surely that the six days were all of the same duration and as we know them now. Someone could believe they are different but there is nothing in the text itself which would lead us to such a conclusion.
Another argument is that, because day seven, the day of God’s rest from creation, is not qualified by ‘evening and morning‘ it has not ended and therefore we are still in the seventh day. Yet we should see that the terms ‘evening and morning‘ at the end of each of days one to six indicate a consecutive and continuing cycle. However since day seven was the finish of the cycle of days it would not be necessary to use ‘evening and morning‘. Since day seven consecutively followed days one to six there is no reason to believe it was any different in duration. Scripture also teaches us God’s rest on day seven is complete, finished and in the past (Genesis 2:3).
In 2 Peter 3:8 where we read : ‘with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day‘, taken in context, simply reveals time is of no consequence to God: His purpose will be fulfilled whether it be a long time or a short time. It does not say a day is a thousand years and therefore is not relevant to its use in Genesis 1.
Therefore I can find no compelling Scriptural reason to interpret the days in Genesis 1 as being long periods of time. If anywhere in the Bible a day means a normal 24 hour day, it is in Genesis 1. The only reason I can see that anyone would believe the days are not 24 hour days is because they believe popular science has proved beyond a shadow of doubt otherwise.
The Genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11
A straightforward reading of the biblical genealogies from the Hebrew Masoretic text shows that Adam was created about 4000 BC and that the Flood occurred around 2500 BC. Contextual, linguistic and historical analyses of the book of Genesis confirm that the chronogenealogies are a complete record with no gaps. Therefore it would be an injustice to reason and Scripture to stretch them out to 100’s of thousands or millions of years. They are there for a reason: to show a continuous history from creation. As Dr James Barr (former Regius Professor of Hebrew, at Oxford University) wrote in 1984:
“So far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience, (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story, (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the “days” of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.”
His comment is significant because he did not believe that the Genesis account was factual but he did understand what the Hebrew text plainly stated.
Another argument against a creation approximately 6000 years ago is that the man and woman created on day six were not Adam and Eve. According to this view there were humans (or humanoids) long before Adam and Eve. However Genesis 5:1-3 clearly shows God’s creation of man – male and female and Adam and Eve were synonymous – they were made in the likeness of God (the Hebrew word for Adam and man are the same). Jesus also reveals this while teaching about marriage:
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5 ESV).
Here Jesus quotes Genesis 1:1 (in the beginning – the creation week beginning with day one), 1:27 (male and female he created them – day 6) and 2:24 which describes Adam’s union with Eve. So the idea Adam and Eve were made in a separate creative act of God after day six is unfounded in Scripture.
Genesis 1 and 2 are by linguistic standards prose, not poetry or an allegory. The days of Genesis 1 are 24 hour days as we know them now and the chronogenealogies reveal creation occurred approximately 6000 years ago. While Genesis is not a scientific account, it is by established literary standards a historical account. This view is widely understood and upheld by many Christian leaders and theologians across the world. See: Christian leaders who uphold Genesis as history.
We often hear the phrase “Science tells us …”. This suggests that ‘science’ is an independent and infallible authority. The reality is science itself does not tell us anything.
Science is the means or method by which scientists investigate the natural world. It is scientists, who through the scientific method, endeavour to explain the working of the natural world. Secondly, scientists can only investigate directly by observation things in the present. If something is observable and testable we can be confident it is a scientific fact.
So we need to appreciate the limitations of science and not give undue confidence to the statements of scientists. They are not infallible and nor should consensus be taken to mean a fact has been established. A scientific statement is not necessarily the truth. This is particularly relevant where there is an underlying philosophy which bears on the interpretation of observed evidence. This will be looked at in more depth later.
In saying this I am not anti-science. I have a great respect for and an active interest in science since my youth. Having worked in science (in the area of analytical chemistry) for most of my working life (40 years) I have a good appreciation of how science works in the real world.
The observable and testable laws of physics, for example, give us the confidence to travel to the moon and back and explore other planets. Medical science, through investigation and testing, has produced many amazing health benefits. However, if something is not observable it is not testable and if it is not testable it is not strictly science. For that reason there are limitations of the scientific method. It cannot directly investigate the past but only through observations in the present and making certain assumptions it may make a proposition of what happened in the past.
When science endeavours to reconstruct the past it is at best like forensic and archaeological science where, on the basis of a number of independent lines of evidence, propose a probability of what happened, but never an absolute certainty.
Can science date pre-historical events and objects?
It is an established step in the scientific method that to determine or quantify the age (value) of something, the method to determine that age must first be validated with things of known age. This of course cannot be done for prehistorical things. So while scientists do make estimates for the age of prehistorical things they are all based on a number of assumptions which cannot be held conclusively (such as radiometric dating and sedimentary rates).
The major problem with the supposed ‘fact’ of an ancient earth are the many other independent scientific evidences which give ages orders of magnitude less than the prevailing geologic and evolutionary time scale. Furthermore when objects of known historical age have been dated by the most commonly used methods they have given erroneously high ages.
Therefore it is not a demonstrable scientific fact that the universe, the Earth and life came into being over billions or millions (or for that matter thousands) of years. It is not possible for science to prove or disprove the age of the universe, the earth and how life first arose simply because those events are no longer observable or testable.
Next we will consider the Galileo affair as this is often quoted to show the triumph of science over Biblical literalism.
Science is seen by many as the only source of truth, of fact over faith and reason over religious dogma. The trial of Galileo for his heliocentric views (that the Earth circles the Sun) is often cited as an example of the triumph of science over Biblical literal-ism and Church (the Roman church of that time) dogma. What is less known is the fact it was not a simple conflict between science and religion but rather it was a conflict between heliocentric Copernican science and the established geocentric (Earth centred) Aristotelian science which had become a part of Church tradition.
It was the scientific establishment who were the first to oppose Galileo (as it did Copernicus’ propositions). The theologians of that time accepted the Aristotelian view and interpreted certain passages of scripture to support that view such as Psalm 93:1 and 96:10 which state ‘the world is firmly established, it will not be moved‘. Another passage says ‘the sun rises and the sun sets and hastening to its place it rises there again‘ (Ecclesiastes 1:5).
Yet these scriptures are not an explicit statement of geocentricism, but simply that, like a house built on a firm foundation, so God made the earth. These phrases do not form part of a historical narrative such as Genesis but within the poetic and metaphorical language of the Psalms and so should not be taken necessarily as literal statements. When scripture speaks of ‘the rising‘ or ‘going down‘ of the sun these are simply terms which are true relative to the observer. Today the same terms ‘sunrise’ and ‘sunset’ are used and no one would take these as meaning the sun circled about the earth.
The lesson to be learned from Galileo is not that the Church held too tightly to a literal reading of the Bible, but rather that it had accepted the established Aristotelian geocentricism and then interpreted certain scriptures which appeared to support it. The Roman Church theologians of that time made the mistake of interpreting the Bible to accommodate current scientific opinion rather than evaluating science against the clear statements of Scripture. Many Christians today have made the same error.
Galileo’s observations were made in the present and confirmed by many others and are an example of good science. However this is not the case for determining the age of the earth and universe, as we shall see.
Next we will see two illustrations of how preconceived ideas and bias in science can lead to wrong conclusions.
Charles Lyell (along with James Hutton) has been called the father of modern geology. At the beginning of the 19th century there were two main schools of geology. The catastrophists who believed that the geological and fossil record could only be explained by imagining that there had been several or many global or regional floods in earth history. The other geological view became known as uniformitarianism. Proponents, such as Hutton and his influential associate Charles Lyell argued that everything in the geological record could and should be interpreted only by reference to physical processes now operating on earth and at the same rate of intensity observed today.
He argued against catastrophic events in the history of the earth in his ‘Principles of Geology‘ (1830) maintaining that the present (processes) was the key to the past – as the subtitle ‘Being an Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth’s Surface by Reference to Causes Now in Operation‘ implied.
What is not so generally known is that Lyell was not totally objective for he wanted to “free the science from Moses” and “set down” (i.e. repudiate) Mosaic geology (that of the scriptural geologists who believed most sedimentary and fossil bearing strata were formed during the Noahaic flood). Despite the abundant evidence of sudden and catastrophic events in the geologic record Lyell was not swayed from his adherence to uniformitarianism. He simply ignored the evidence which did not accord with his theory. This was not the mark of good science but rather that of a man pursuing his own agenda and philosophy.
Lyell’s estimate of the rate of erosion of the Niagara Falls gorge demonstrated how his preconceived ideas led to a wrong age.
In 1841, Lyell visited Niagara Falls. He talked to a local inhabitant and was told that the seven miles long Niagara Falls gorge eroded about three feet a year which would equate to an age of about 12,000 years. This ‘age’ was much too short for Lyell’s anti-Mosaic world view. So he assumed that this was an exaggerated claim and concluded that one foot a year would be a more likely figure. On the basis of this guess, it was then a simple matter to equate 35,000 feet, or seven miles, as 35,000 years. More recent measurements have shown the rate of erosion is in fact greater than that observed by the local inhabitant, being 4 to 5 feet per year.
Lyell’s assumed rate was a denial of his own principle of uniformitarianism that should have required him to apply the then present observed rate of three feet a year to the past, not to reject it. This illustrates how his preconceived idea of uniformitarianism (and that of modern geologists), is actually based on assumptions about the past and not on real observations. It does not explain many geological features of our earth which clearly show catastrophic and rapid formation (such as the numerous fossil deposits). Therefore uniformitarianism cannot be relied upon to determine geological age – particularly in regard to the age of the earth.
Age estimates of prehistorical events are more in keeping with forensic science, which on the basis of a number of independent evidences, make a proposition of what happened in the past. A conviction based on forensic evidence is rarely based on one or two pieces of evidence. If there were several which did not support the proposition it would be declared invalid or at least suspect. This is the case for the age of the earth where many independent evidences indicating a relatively ‘young’ earth have been disregarded in favour of those indicating an old earth. Science which filters or rejects observable evidence is not good science.
The Chamberlain Case
Another illustration of how preconceived ideas and bad science can get things totally wrong is the Azaria Chamberlain case of the 1980’s.
Lindy Chamberlain’s baby daughter Azaria disappeared from a tent at Ayers Rock (Urulu) one night in August 1980. Despite her own witness and that of other people including an Aboriginal tracker who were there that a dingo took her baby she was charged and found guilty of her baby’s murder through a combination of prejudice, an aggressive media and bad science. Evidence that would have cast doubt on the prosecution’s case was withheld or ignored. Lindy Chamberlain and her husband were eventually exonerated of any wrong doing, but only after a long series of appeals, 4 inquests and a Royal Commission. The ill-equipped jury at her trial had believed the opinions of science ‘experts’ who weren’t there over the witness of those who were.
The lesson from Lyell’s Niagara Falls study and the Chamberlain case is that science guided by preconceptions and filtering or rejecting evidence can get things totally wrong. Good science does not reject or try to explain away evidence which does not agree with the established theory but must take it into account unless there are valid reasons (not just speculation) for doing so.
Attempts to reconcile Genesis and science
I am aware that many Christians sincerely believe that an ancient universe and earth is an indisputable fact of science while holding to the inspiration and authority of the Bible. They have interpreted the creation account of Genesis to accommodate the scientific consensus.
One way the Bible and science are supposedly reconciled is ‘the two books‘ concept: the Bible and the ‘book of nature’ which both reveal God’s truth. Yet the obvious problem with this concept is that the Bible is a revelation from God, who was there at the beginning, while ‘the book of nature’ is not a ‘book’ at all but has to be interpreted through the wisdom of fallible man who wasn’t there.
Another common idea to introduce long ages into the Genesis account is by what is known as ‘The Gap Theory‘ which believes there was an initial creation (Genesis 1:1) in the distant past followed by catastrophic events which produced the geological record. This was followed by a ‘reconstruction’ in the six days of creation as revealed in Genesis1:2 onward, approximately 6000 years ago.
This was originally popularised in 1814 by Thomas Chalmers, founder of the Free Church of Scotland. He was a contemporary of Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin. He felt deeply what he regarded as the attacks of science on Christianity and deemed it necessary to try to harmonise the Bible with science in order, so he thought, “to protect Christianity from the onslaughts of atheism”.
Yet the ‘Gap Theory’, while a honest attempt to harmonise scripture with the supposed fact of an ancient earth had two major problems. First it was not supported by the old earth geologists and secondly it created many scriptural problems.
For more on the Gap Theory see Chapter 3 of the Creation Answers Book which can be read online here.
The supposed ‘fact’ of an ancient earth is contradicted by the many independent scientific evidences which are consistent with an age in the order of 10000 years since creation. Such evidences cannot objectively be ignored. Some of these are presented next.
Evidences which are consistent with a ‘young’ Earth
1. Written history begins suddenly about 5000 years ago. Two Russian scientists writing in Scientific American (March 1990) concluded from a computer study of the evolution of language, that the original Indo-European language began somewhere in Eastern Turkey (ancient Ararat) about 6000 years ago.
2. Human population growth suggests the present population could have arisen in 6000 years or less. To maintain human history is 500,000 to 1,000,000 years old does not accord with known population growth studies.
3. Measurements of the Earth’s magnetic field show it has been decaying at a rate of about 5% per century. This indicates the earth could not be older than about 10,000 years.
4. The decay rate of short-period comets (orbits of less than 200 years). Every time a comet passes near the sun, it loses some of its icy material by evaporation and so can only survive a certain number of orbits before it runs out of material completely. If the solar system were billions of years old, there should be no comets left. Astronomers have proposed new short-period comets are captured from what is called the Kuiper Belt. However there would need to be about a billion of icy cores to replenish the solar system’s supply of comets yet only a few hundred have been observed. The number of observed short-period comets is consistent with an age of the solar system of less than 10,000 years. More on this subject here.
6. The amount carbon 14 found in coal and diamonds is far too great for an evolutionary time-scale. There should be no detectable C14 in diamonds if their age were in the order of 1 billion years or coal of 100 million years. The C14 ages of 20 to 50 thousand years are more consistent with a ‘young’ Earth.
7. The decay in the human genome due to multiple slightly harmful mutations added each generation is consistent with an origin several thousand years ago.
8. The present day existence of dinosaur blood cells, blood vessels, proteins (haemoglobin, osteocalcin, collagen, histones) and DNA are not consistent with their supposed age of more than 65-million-years, but make more sense if the remains are thousands of years old (at most). According to the known laws of chemistry, DNA, even under ideal conditions, would be not be measurable after a few million years.
9. Polystrate fossils—for example, broken vertical tree trunks in northern and southern hemisphere coal that traverse many strata indicate rapid burial and accumulation of the organic material that became coal, eliminating many millions of years.
10. The amount of salt in the world’s oldest lake contradicts its supposed age and suggests an age consistent with its formation after Noah’s Flood (about 4500 years ago).
11. Measured rates of stalactite and stalagmite growth in limestone caves are consistent with an age of several thousand years.
12. The amount of helium, a product of decay of radioactive elements, retained in zircons in granite is consistent with an age of 6,000±2000 years, not the supposed billions of years.
13. Presence of magnetic fields on Uranus and Neptune, which should be “dead” according to evolutionary long-age beliefs. Assuming a solar system age of thousands of years, physicist Russell Humphreys accurately predicted the strengths of the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune.
14. Methane on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon—it should all be gone in just 10,000 years because of UV-induced breakdown to ethane. And the large quantities of ethane are not there either.
15. Speedy stars are consistent with a young age for the universe. For example, many stars in the dwarf galaxies in the Local Group are moving away from each other at speeds of 10–12 km/s. At these speeds, the stars should have dispersed in 100 million years, which, compared with the supposed 14 billion-year age of the universe, is a short time.
16. Spiral structure in galaxies should be lost in much less than 200 million years. This is inconsistent with their claimed age of many billions of years. The discovery of ‘young’ spiral galaxies highlights the problem of the assumed evolutionary ages.
There are many other evidences which are inconsistent with long evolutionary ages but consistent (not proof) with an age since creation in the order of 10,000 years.
See: Age of the Earth – which gives more detail on these and many more.
This video on YouTube by Jim Mason, a physicist, shows radiometric dating doesn’t prove an old earth.
The order of creation events
The order of creation events as recorded in Genesis contradicts that of evolutionary science and therefore cannot be harmonised.
In Genesis 1:
The Earth was in existence before the stars and sun but according to popular science the stars and sun existed long before life appeared on earth. Some Christians, to accommodate science, say the stars merely became visible on day four, yet elsewhere in Scripture it is stated the earth and the stars were all made during the six days of creation (Exodus 20:11; 31:17).
Vegetation was created on land before aquatic life. Evolutionary science claims life arose in the oceans first.
Sea creatures – reptiles and mammals were created before land animals. Evolutionary science says sea mammals arose on land first.
The necessity of insects and animals for plant fertilisation indicates their creation could not be separated by long periods of time.
Because science (the work of scientists) has made many significant discoveries and accomplished great things for the benefit of mankind we can fall into the error of believing science is infallible. Where it is testable and repeatable we have much reason to trust the findings of science. Having worked in science most of my working life I have seen many positive accomplishments.
However, as mentioned earlier, when science endeavours to reconstruct the past it is at best like forensic and archaeological science where, on the basis of a number of independent lines of evidence, propose a probability of what happened but never an absolute certainty. This is for the simple reason it is no longer observable or repeatable.
Therefore it is not a demonstrable scientific fact that the age of the earth is billions, millions (or for that matter thousands) of years old. Yet there is scientific evidence which is consistent (not proof) with a creation in the order of 10,000 years ago (and a literal reading of Genesis as indicated previously) but this is ignored by most scientists.
Never the less there are a number of supposed scientific facts which many Christians believe to prove that creation occurred over millions or billions of years. The two commonly proposed are discussed next.
Scientific Objections To a Young Earth
1. The Problem of Distant Starlight
I will briefly discuss here the issue of distant starlight which is often posed as an insurmountable problem for a Biblical timescale of 6000 years. We know that the most distant optically visible objects in our universe are approximately 14 billion light years away and therefore it is reasoned it would take that many years for their light to reach earth. Yet again such reasoning is based on assumptions, not direct evidence. The propagation of light depends on the properties of space and time. Why should we assume these properties were the same in an expanding, newly created universe when God ‘stretched out the heavens’?
There have been new cosmological models proposed by physicists such as John Hartnett, Russ Humphreys and Moshe Carmeli which explain how light from the most distant objects can appear to an earth observer within a 6000 year time frame through time dilation. These models are known as the cosmological relativity theories (Cosmological Special Relativity – CSR and Cosmological General Relativity – CGR).
There are currently two competing estimates for the age of the universe: one utilises the cosmic microwave background and the other through observations of nearby galaxies to measure the rate of expansion of the universe. Yet both depend on assumptions of the past and so no model can claim an indisputable proof of the age of the universe for the simple reason it is no longer observable and therefore not testable. Therefore the claimed age of the universe of 14 billion years is not a scientific fact.
Just because we may not fully understand exactly how God created the universe so that we can see distant stars does not mean we cannot trust the Genesis account at face value. When there is an apparent conflict between science and clear teaching of Scripture we should humbly acknowledge that it is more likely our understanding of the nature and history of the universe that is deficient.
See this YouTube video by John Hartnett.
Radiometric dating has become the standard method of dating pre-historical objects. It is often quoted as giving an ‘absolute age’. This is because the radioactive decay rate (the half-life) of certain elements have been measured accurately over several decades and shown to be constant. By measuring the relative amounts of parent and daughter elements this technique appears to offer a means of dating objects. It typically gives ages that are orders of magnitude greater than 6000 years.
However the method is based on a number of assumptions: the rate of decay has been constant over the period in question, the initial concentrations of the parent and daughter elements and that there has been no loss or gain of those elements to the external environment. It is of course not possible to determine the actual history of the samples in question and therefore any wrong assumption of that history will lead to a wrong age estimate. As discussed earlier, age determinations are an analytical method which should be validated with objects of known age. This is standard scientific practice.
When rocks (from lava flows of known age) have been tested by the potassium-argon method they have given ages that are considerably greater than their actual age. For example basalt from an eruption on Mt Etna in 122 BC gave a K-Ar age of approximately 250,000 years. Dacite from a lava flow on Mt St Helens in 1986 gave a K-Ar age of approximately 340,000 years. Such ages are clearly in error and demonstrate the underlying assumptions are not valid. For more evidence of erroneous dating methods see these two articles:
2. K-Ar dating method questioned.
A piece of fossilised wood was found embedded in Hawkesbury sandstone (Sydney, Australia) with a geological age of approximately 230 million years. The fossilised wood was tested for C14 analysis and gave an age of approximately 34,000 years. Clearly there was a serious discrepancy between the two dating methods.
Therefore radiometric methods which cannot give correct results for rocks of known age or give vastly different ages by different methods should not be relied upon.
Science, Sin and Naturalism
Scientists, like all of fallen mankind, are subject to sin, prejudices, pride, self-interest and foremost a resistance to acknowledge their Creator to whom they are accountable. Unregenerate man is said to ‘walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart‘ (Ephesians 4:17-18).
Therefore we would expect scientists, like all mankind in general, to resist the Bible’s revelation of creation and cast doubt on its historical truth. So when it comes to examining the origin of life and the universe we should expect prejudice and bias. It has become almost axiomatic that the findings of contemporary science must preclude the role of a supernatural creator (this idea, in reality, is a philosophy known as naturalism) even if there is evidence which points to that. Naturalism has become the dominant scientific philosophy of this time and strongly resists attempts to question it.
Professor Richard Lewontin (1929 – 2021), a geneticist (and self-proclaimed Marxist), was one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology. He wrote this very revealing comment (the italics were in the original).
‘Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door’ (Ref. 1).
This illustrates the philosophical bias of many scientists against the Genesis account of creation—regardless of whether or not the facts support it.
If we allow ‘science’ to re-interpret Genesis where do we draw the line? Science has ‘proved’ dead people can’t be resurrected, that water can’t be turned into wine and that over 5000 people cannot be fed from five loaves and two fish. The virgin birth of Christ and His miracles all stand in contradiction to the consensus of scientific opinion. There is clearly no way science, as it is popularly taught, and Scripture can be harmonised in a consistent manner.
Many Christians, lacking the specific knowledge required, are understandably reticent to challenge the prevailing views of the scientific establishment. While rightfully opposing science’s naturalistic philosophy and observing the plain evidence of design in God’s creation, the idea of a 6000 year old earth is seen to contradict established scientific fact and therefore untenable.
However we must discern between what is conclusive and what is just conjecture in science. We should not just accept the consensus of scientific opinion without question since consensus in science does not necessarily determine the truth of a matter. The fact is there are many Christian PhD qualified scientists who have and are able to evaluate and critique the claims of the scientific establishment with regard to our origins and therefore ought to be heard.
Creationists are not anti-science, as many say, but against bad or false science. This is why I believe God has raised up many Christian ministries (see links below) which, beginning with the Bible as our ultimate authority, to do precisely that: examine what is fact and what is conjecture. There will never be conflict between what are truly facts and Scripture.
Our beliefs about the days of creation are not essential for salvation and nor should they be a cause for division and a barrier to fellowship in the Lord. Salvation is through faith in Christ and not on a prerequisite belief of how and when God created the heavens and the earth. However I believe any untruth revealed in the name of science which contradicts what God has plainly stated has the potential to cast doubt on God’s word and weaken or even cause us to lose our faith.
Genesis is the foundational book of Scripture from which all other doctrines have their root. For this reason Genesis is the book of the Bible targeted by atheists and secularists more than any other. If doubt can be cast on Genesis then doubt can be cast on the rest of Scripture. This can be of serious consequence, not only for our own faith in Scripture but also for those we teach and disciple and in particular young Christians who are in the process of growing in the Faith.
This link shows many reasons why Genesis matters.
There are many accounts of how and why Christians have departed the faith. I will relate two here to illustrate how the supposed facts of science – the age of the earth and the universe – contributed to their abandoning Christianity.
Charles Templeton and Billy Graham
Charles Templeton was a popular evangelist working with Billy Graham in the 1940’s. In 1946, he was listed among those best used of God by the National Association of Evangelicals in bringing thousands to faith in Christ. However, despite his popularity and seeming success as an evangelist, all was not well with Charles Templeton. The more he read of the claimed scientific fact of evolution, the more he questioned the essentials of the Christian faith. Science had, for Charles Templeton, disproved God’s Word.
In a conversation with Billy Graham concerning Templeton’s desire to attend Princeton Theological Seminary, Templeton stated:
‘But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world wasn’t created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s demonstrable fact.’ (Ref 2)
Templeton warned Graham that it was ‘intellectual suicide’ to not question the Bible and to go on preaching God’s Word as authoritative. (Ref 3)
He left the ministry in 1957. In addition to his doubts about Genesis, Templeton wrestled with the problem of evil in the world and could not reconcile this with his concept of a loving God. Eventually he rejected faith in Christ altogether and wrote ‘Farewell To God’ (published in 1996). He died in 2001.
It should be seen Charles Templeton’s departure from the faith began once he began to question and doubt the truth of the Bible. Now it is not wrong to question but the tragedy is no one within his circle, it seems, had adequate answers to his questions and doubts. If he had heard reasoned answers from those who upheld the truth of Genesis it may have been a different story.
The Problem of Sin and Death
There is another serious problem if we accept the long ages of contemporary science. According to the evolutionary scenario, death, decay and illness are normal and necessary processes. However the Bible clearly teaches us death, decay and illness were not a part of God’s original creation but came as a penalty for the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12). As a result of Adam’s sin animals and plant life were also subject to the curse (Genesis 3:14-19). Death and corruption came not only on Adam and all mankind but also to the whole of creation as Paul reveals:
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21).
This passage tells us that God’s creation was subjected to futility (not ‘was created in futility’) and became in bondage to corruption (or decay). But when did God subject creation to futility and corruption? This could not have happened at the beginning of God’s creation but at some time after or it would mean God’s seeing at the end of day six that His creation ‘was very good’ a contradiction. Therefore just as creation’s freedom from corruption will occur when God’s children are glorified (when Christ returns) so it should be seen this corruption on all creation must have begun when Adam sinned, not before.
Through Christ’s victory on the Cross death and decay will be finally eliminated (Romans 8:21; 1 Cor 15:54-57; Col 1:16-20; Rev 21:4). So the problem with accepting that creation occurred over millions of years is when did death enter creation? If death was a normal part of creation before Adam’s sin then why was death a penalty? Why did Jesus suffer the penalty of death (Gal 3:13; 1 Pet 3:18)?
Some have argued Adam’s penalty of death was spiritual not physical. Yet Adam’s penalty of death was clearly physical: “By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 2:19). In fact Scripture does not speak of spiritual death but of our spiritual bondage ( Acts 26:18; Gal 4:3; Col 1:13). Christ’s resurrection was the resurrection of His body not His spirit. Through salvation in Christ we too will be freed from that bondage and receive the same promise of the resurrection of our body when death and decay are finally overcome (1 Corinthians 15:42).
The straight forward reading of Scripture teaches us God created the heavens, the earth, all that is in them and man in six literal 24 hour days and rested on the seventh. Scripture also reveals that creation occurred about 6000 years ago and the global flood about 4500 years ago.
There is no compelling scientific evidence which proves the age of the earth. What ‘evidence’ is presented is based on a number of assumptions. The major proponents of ‘deep time’ inevitably are those who are evolutionists and atheists and therefore have an underlying bias to contradict the Biblical narrative.
The idea of ‘deep time’ did not arise from the Bible itself but from men who first questioned the credibility of the Bible as an authentic record of history. Based on assumptions they interpreted the geologic evidence to reveal the Earth was millions of years old and then claimed it as scientific fact. As a consequence many Christians have reinterpreted the Genesis account to accommodate the ‘deep time’ idea.
However this interpretation creates a serious and unnecessary conflict with the plain reading of Genesis and sound exegesis. Those who hold this view I believe have accepted the consensus of scientific opinion and not been sufficiently critical of the naturalistic underpinnings of scientific methods to determine the age of the earth and the universe. The evidence shows such belief carries potential dangers not only for our own faith in Scripture but also for those we teach and disciple and in particular young Christians who are in the process of growing in the Faith.
As stated earlier I have great confidence in science where it can be observed and tested, yet I believe many Christians have too great a faith in science (especially in regard to Earth’s history) and not sufficiently appreciated its limitations.
The Ultimate Issue
The issue ultimately at stake is the trustworthiness of Scripture’s record of history as it plainly reads. The teachings of the Scriptures are not disconnected doctrines but form an interwoven fabric. Therefore once we allow man, on the authority of ‘science’, to question and re-interpret one part of Scripture’s record every other doctrine we hold as sacred is also in danger of being challenged and rejected.
There is considerable evidence (both within and outside Scripture) that upholds Genesis as a literal narrative of history. If the clear teaching of scripture is for a 6000 year old earth and creation as an event (not a prolonged process), then science, true science, will ultimately be found in harmony with the Scriptures. In that I have every confidence.
1. Richard Lewontin, ‘Billions and billions of demons’, in a review of ‘The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark’ by Carl Sagan, 1997), The New York Review, p. 31, 9 January 1997.
2. Farewell To God, Charles Templeton p7-8
3. Billy Graham: His Life and Influence, David Aikman, p62
Why Does the Universe Look So Old? by Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This talk reveals why the age of the earth and the universe is not a peripheral issue but crucial to our faith in the Bible as the authoritative word of God.
The Creation Answers Book. Provides biblical answers to over 60 commonly asked questions in 20 categories.
In Six Days: Why 50 Scientists Choose To Believe In Creation. Edited by John Ashton.
The Modern Creation Trilogy: Scripture and Creation; Science and Creation; Society and Creation. Henry Morris and John Morris
Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels: 9 Ph.D. scientists explain evolution’s fatal flaws. Edited by Robert Carter.
Old-Earth Creationism On Trial. A biblical, theological and scientific critique of old-earth creationism. Tim Chaffey and Jason Lisle.
Contested Bones. Christopher Rupe and Dr. John Sanford FMS Publications 2017
In Contested Bones, Rupe and Sanford have thoroughly investigated, from the primary sources, the fossil evidences for human evolution.
Contested Bones is the result of four years of intense research into the primary scientific literature concerning those bones that are thought to represent transitional forms between ape and man. This book’s title reflects the surprising reality that all the famous “hominin” bones continue to be fiercely contested today-even within the field of paleoanthropology.
This work is unique in that it is the most comprehensive, systematic, and up-to-date book available that critically examines the major claims about the various hominin fossils.
This book addresses a wide variety of important topics… “Which, if any, of the species gave rise to man?” “Did ‘Lucy’s’ kind walk upright like modern humans or did they live among the trees like ordinary apes?” “Was ‘Ardi’ the earliest human ancestor?” “Were ‘Erectus’ and the newly discovered ‘Naledi’ sub-human or were they fully human?” “What are the implications of the growing evidence that shows man coexisted with the australopithecine apes?” “Are the dating method consistently reliable?” “What does the latest genetic evidence reveal?” “Can we be certain that man evolved from an australopith ape?”
The authors conclude that the evidence, rightly interpreted, shows there were apes and men but not ape-men.