Young Earth vs. Old Earth—Where Do They Agree?
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2004|
|There are actually a number of areas of agreement between those who disagree on the age of the earth. But there are other areas where they ought to agree—but that are still a problem. Dr. Ankerberg explains.|
(Excerpted from Dr. Ankerberg’s, “Does Scientific Evidence Today Show that God Created the Heavens and the Earth? And What Does the Bible Say About When He Created?” The entire article is available at www.johnankerberg.org)
- 1 Introduction
- 1.1 What are the issues presented in the current creation/evolution debate?
- 1.2 What is the primary difference between “young-earth” and “old-earth” creationists?
- 1.3 What are the areas of agreement between young- and old-earth creationists?
- 1.4 What are the areas of difference between young- and old-earth creationists?
- 1.5 What are three areas both sides ought to agree on?
- 1.6 What conclusions can we reach concerning the doctrine of creation?
- 2 Notes
I would like to share with you some thoughts on what the Bible teaches about creation and science. In doing so, I would like to cite Dr. Norman Geisler’s new Systematic Theology, Volume 2 entitled, “God and Creation.” His words express what I believe, although I do not believe I could say as well as he.
What are the issues presented in the current creation/evolution debate?
Since the time of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), debate has raged within Christianity on whether or not total evolution is compatible with the historic biblical and theological teaching on origins. Two basic camps have emerged: theistic evolution and creationism. Within the second faction (creationists), there are two major groups: old-earth creationists and young-earth creationists. (The former are often called progressive creationists, and the latter, fiat creationists.) Currently, in America, the young-earth creationists are led by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), based on the work of Henry Morris. Progressive (old-earth) creationism is championed by Hugh Ross and his “Reasons to Believe” organization; another proponent of this view is Robert Newman at Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.
What is the primary difference between “young-earth” and “old-earth” creationists?
The primary difference between young- and old-earth creationists is the speculated amount of time between God’s creative acts. Young-earthers insist that it was all accomplished in 144 hours—six successive 24-hour days—while old-earth (progressive) creationists allow for millions (or even billions) of years. This is usually done by:
- placing long periods of time before Genesis 1:1 (making it a recent and local Creation);
- placing the long periods of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 (called “gap” views);
- making the “days” of Genesis 1 long periods of time;
- allowing long periods of time between literal 24-hour days in Genesis 1 (called “alternate day-age views); or
- making the days of Genesis to be days of revelation of God to the writer, not days of Creation (called “revelatory day” views).
There are several variations within these perspectives, making a total of more than a dozen different views held by evangelical theologians on the matter.
Old-earth (progressive) creationists are not to be confused with theistic evolutionists. Old‑earth creationists do not accept macroevolution as a method by which God produced the originally created kinds of Genesis 1. Old-earth creationism was strong among nineteenth-century creationists, though the view dates from at least the fourth century (in Augustine). Again, prominent contemporary defenders include Hugh Ross and Robert Newman.
What are the areas of agreement between young- and old-earth creationists?
Young- and old-earth creationists have much in common, at least among those who are evangelical. This includes several basic things:
Direct Supernatural Creation of All Forms of Life
Both young- and old-earthers believe that God supernaturally, directly and immediately produced every kind of animal and human as separate and genetically distinct forms of life. Both hold that every kind produced by God was directly created de nova (brand-new) and did not come about by God’s using natural processes over a long period of time or tinkering with previous types of life in order to make higher forms (evolution).
Opposition to Naturalism
Both groups are also agreed in their opposition to naturalism, which they see as the philosophical presupposition of evolution. They correctly observe that without a naturalistic bias, evolution loses its credibility. Ruling out the possibility of supernatural intervention in the world begs the whole question in favor of evolution even before one begins.
Opposition to Macroevolution
Likewise, both are united in their opposition to macroevolution, either theistic or nontheistic; that is, they reject the theory of common ancestry. They both deny that all forms of life descended by completely natural processes without supernatural intervention from the outside. They deny that all living things are like a tree connected to a common trunk and root; rather, they affirm the separate ancestry of all the basic forms of life, a picture more like a forest of different trees. Microevolution, where small changes occur within the basic kinds of created things, is acknowledged, but no macro (large-scale) evolution occurs between different kinds. For example, both old- and young-earth creationists agree that all dogs are related to an original canine pair–part of the same tree. However, they deny that dogs, cats, cows, and other created kinds are related like branches from one original tree.
The Historicity of the Genesis Account
Further, both young- and old-earthers who are evangelical hold to the historicity of the Genesis account: They believe that Adam and Eve were literal people, the progenitors of the entire human race. While some may allow for poetic form and figure of speech in the narrative, all agree that it conveys historical and literal truth about origins. This is made clear by the New Testament references to Adam and Eve, their creation and fall, as literal (cf. Luke 3:38; Rom. 5:12; 1 Tim. 2:13-14).
What are the areas of difference between young- and old-earth creationists?
Of course, there are some differences between the two basic evangelical views on Creation. The primary ones include the following.
The Age of the Earth
A crucial variance between the two views, naturally, is the age of the earth. Young-earthers insist that both the Bible and science support a universe that is only thousands of years old, while old-earthers allow for billions of years. Young-earthers connect their view to a literal inter‑
pretation of Genesis (and Ex. 20:11), but old-earthers claim the same basic hermeneutic, which they believe can include millions, if not billions, of years since Creation. They too cite scientific evidence in their favor.
What are three areas both sides ought to agree on?
At a minimum, it would be wise if both sides could agree on the following:
- The age of the earth is not a test for orthodoxy.
- Neither view is proven with scientific finality, since there are unproven (if not unprovable) presuppositions associated with each.
- The fact of Creation (vs. evolution) is more important than the time of Creation. Their common enemy (naturalistic evolution) is a more significant focus than their intramural differences.
What conclusions can we reach concerning the doctrine of creation?
The doctrine of Creation is a cornerstone of the Christian faith. The essentials of this teaching have universal consent among orthodox theologians. They include the following:
- There is a theistic God.
- Creation of the universe was ex nihilo (out of nothing).
- Every living thing was created by God.
- Adam and Eve were a direct and special creation of God.
- The Genesis account of creation is historical, not mythological.
While there is lively debate about the time of Creation, all evangelicals agree on the fact of Creation. There is also agreement on the source of Creation (a theistic God) and the purpose of Creation (to glorify God). The exact method of Creation is still a moot question; however, increasingly, the scientific evidence supports a supernatural Creation of the universe, the direct creation of first life, and the special creation of every basic life form. Hence, macroevolution, whether theistic or naturalistic, is unfounded both biblically and scientifically.
- Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2003), p. 468-73. Headings and some emphases added.