Can I Be A Christian And Believe In An Old Earth?
Yes, you can! There is no verse in the Bible which causes you to accept a young earth as the only answer. The Bible does not say, "Thou shalt believe in a young earth." The fact is, no verse in the Bible makes any claims as to the age of the earth. All the so-called verses that young earth proponents point to can be interpreted by the reader to mean old or young. Also, the key doctrines of the Bible are not affected by either interpretation.
Many young earth believers will claim that you cannot believe in an old earth and be a Christian. The reasons for this belief vary, but there are several overlying principles underneath this argument.
Death, Disease Before Sin
The Bible teaches that death is the penalty for sin. The young earth proponent carries it one step further than the Bible teaches by adding their own belief that there was no physical death before sin. However, when Adam and Eve sinned, spiritual death was introduced, not physical death. This mistaken belief is due to a misinterpretation of the Bible.
Why do they misinterpret this key fact? Let's look at the key verses.
"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, where-in there is life, I have given every green herb for meat; and it was so. 31And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.?
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
Yes, Adam introduced death. However, he did not introduce physical death?only spiritual death. Consider these key points:
1. God said creation was "very good" (Gen 1:31). Young earth proponents claim it can't be "very good" if it contained disease and death. They fail to realize that God created a thriving, renewing ecosystem. Death and regeneration are crucial to the working of God's creation. If it were not self-renewing, it would not last very long, and then God's creation would indeed not be "very good."
2. The Bible says that God gave the green plants to all animals to eat. Young earth proponents claim that since the animals ate grass, there was no death due to carnivorous activity. Two points. First, the Bible does not say that animals "cannot" eat meat...it only says they were given grass to eat. Second, this was the condition of the Garden of Eden, which was different from the world outside the garden. Inside the Garden there was perfection and peace, but outside it was different.
3. Spiders are wondrous creatures. They spin their silk webs in order to ensnare their victims before consuming them. How would they have survived in a pre-death world? Would their webs have been used to catch falling leaves? No, they could just simply go into a tree, or to the ground, to feast on the leaves. Spiders were created with only one diet in mind...a dead insect.
Also, why were some spiders created with poison? What is the purpose of this poison? They didn't need to poison the leaves, or whatever else they were supposed to eat in the Garden. And, it could not have been for self-defense, since there were no predators in the Garden? In fact, the same thing goes for poisonous snakes. Poison only has one purpose...to kill. Even poisons that incapacitate are for the same thing in the end, for once the creature is incapacitated, it is consumed.
The only logical conclusion is that God created poison to kill. Poison serves no purpose in a calm, friendly Garden with no death. If God did create poison, according to the young earth model, then His creation was not perfect, as the poison served no purpose.
4. It is obvious that these passages mean spiritual death, not physical. Here's a simple logical answer...when Adam ate the forbidden fruit, he entered into spiritual death...he did not physically die when he bit the fruit. We know this because he had children with Eve after he ate the fruit. Adam did not introduce physical death, but spiritual death (see the blue text box above). In fact, if you read Satan's dialogue with Eve, then you will see the answer plain as day. He told Eve she would not die, but would become knowledgeable. Satan knew that he would be introducing spiritual death to the world. How else was Satan to prevent people from following God...killing them physically did not end their spiritual relationship with God. By introducing spiritual death, Satan knew he could prevent people from worshiping God.
5. Young earth proponents claim that sin and suffering entered the world after the Fall of Man. They claim that disease is a result of sin. However, what is disease? It is sickness caused by viruses, bacteria, etc. Did these microorganisms exist before the fall of man? If you listen to young earth proponents, they could not have existed before the fall. However, they had to. To imply that they came about as a result of the fall of man, is to imply that God created them after Adam sinned. But, since God is in His seventh day of rest, and the creation is already 100% complete, he could not have created them after the fall. They had to be created sometime during the six days of creation.
Here is conclusive proof that bacteria existed before the fall. How do we know this? Because Adam and Eve were normal human beings, and as human beings, they required the aid of bacteria for the breakdown of foods in the human digestive tract. Right now, as you read this, millions of bacteria cells are in your colon, breaking down your foods into waste products. (Perhaps the young-earth proponents will argue that the bacteria and viruses we have today mutated from this original bacteria source. There response would be interesting).
6. The rock record, through its fossils, indicates that death existed for millions of years. By young earth models, all fossil-bearing rock layers must be laid down after the fall of man. The mechanism they point to is the Flood of Noah. However, the flood has been shown to be scientifically impossible. Bottom line...if the Flood can't do it, then there must have been physical death before sin.
There is absolutely no sound reason for not believing there was death before the Fall of Man.
What is Time?
The other major stumbling block for young earth objections is time. Here we will examine two concepts; first is God and time, and second, a weak God.
Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that the earth is young. The Bible does not say "the earth is 6,000 years old." Nor does it say "the earth is 4.5 billion years old." The fact is, the Bible makes no claims as to the age of the earth. We must interpret the age of the earth from science and the Bible.
Young earther's will make a defense of the "days" of creation being literal 24-hour days. The truth is, there is no claim in the Bible that states the length of these days. The "day" as we know it didn't even begin until the fourth day of creation, when the sun and the moon were created (according to young-earth interpretations). The saying I like to use is, ?If you are God, and you are in outer space, a million miles away from any stars or planets, then how do you mark the passage of time? As God, you do not sleep, you do not need rest, therefore time has no meaning.? When we get to heaven, we will spend eternity there. Are we going to have clocks in heaven? Wow, there goes another million years! It won?t matter to us, just like it doesn?t matter to God.
Should finite man limit infinite God to a twenty-four hour day? It is finite man that has imposed his interpretation of the word "day" onto an infinite God. Well, our rules of time don't apply to an infinite, everlasting being. Just look at the creation. God rested on the seventh day. In fact, he is still resting, and we are still in the seventh day! If this day has lasted for over 6,000 years, then who are we to impose time limits on the other days of creation? The use of the word day is just so that man can have some type of framework to understand creation, and does not imply 24-hour days.
The Bible says in II Peter 3:8, ??that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.? God does not see time the same way we do! To him, one second could be a million years. Therefore, no matter what the interpretation is of the original Hebrew for the word ?day,? it does not apply to an infinite God. The early church fathers, including Justin Martyr, believed the days of creation were a thousand years long. Literal days were not even considered until the fourth century, and it did not become a major theologic issue until the 19th century.
One more point to ponder. Old-earth creationists say the earth is 4.5 billion years old. Was God here 4.5 billion years ago? Obviously, the answer has to be yes. Think about it.
Our second major concept concerning time is a weak God. One of the claims by young-earth creationists is that the old-earth theory waters down, or weakens, Gods powers, by in effect saying that if God could not create the earth in six days, then he must not be as powerful as the Omnipotent God of the young earth believer.
Here again, simple logic will prevail. It doesn't matter how long the period of creation is, God's power is beyond comprehension, beyond anyone else's capabilities, and He remains omnipotent no matter how long creation lasted. I could say ?An all powerful God could have created the world in six seconds. Why did it take him six days?he must be weak.? This obviously is not true.
To prove this, here is the simple argument. I challenge any young-earth creationist to do this...starting right now, I challenge you to create a brand new world, complete with new plant and animal species, complete with a thriving ecosystem, complete with coal beds, fossils, oceans, etc. And, I'll even be generous and give you 10 billion years to do it. Can you do it? Of course not. But the all-powerful, omnipotent God that we worship can, and did do it.
Could He have done it in six days? Sure, if He wanted to. If He wanted to, He could have done it in 6 seconds. Is the God of the six-day creation weaker because He didn't do it in 6 seconds? Of course not.
What then are we to conclude? Spiritual death, with the eternal possibilities of heaven and hell, began with Adam and Eve. They were the first humans to have this option. But physical death has been here long before Adam ever walked the earth.
Concerning age, the creation itself testifies to its age. Job 12:8 says "Speak to the earth, and it will teach you." Fortunately, none of the objections of young earth proponents carries any weight. You can be 100% confident that you can be a Christian, and believe in an old earth.
This article comes from the Answers In Creation website (http://www.answersincreation.org). The source article is located at http://www.answersincreation.org/question.htm.
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Greg Neyman is the founder of the website ministry Answers In Creation. The original location of this article is at www.answersincreation.org/question.htm.