Is the Earth Millions of Years Old?

I don’t know and I’m not sure anyone but God does. I also don’t know what is gained from defending a young earth position in the face of evidence that the earth at least “appears” old. I know there are arguments to explain the apparent age of the earth but they are not limpidly convincing. I also know that even questioning this may appear unseemly but I take that risk.


This issue came to mind again as I was listening to seminary lectures. Since I’ve stated how annoyed I get when people listen to presentations they didn’t attend in order to find something to criticize, that wasn’t my intent, not this time anyway. The lectures took place at a seminary I respect and with which I have much in common. I was hoping to hear biblical evidence to support the lecturer’s position. Now I realize that the main audience may’ve been seminary students, those already persuaded and needing ammunition to face the onslaught of unbelief. However, I don’t know if there was much that would persuade anyone of a contrary opinion, believer or unbeliever.


I can’t claim that I listened carefully to all the lectures. You can listen for yourself and there are visual aids with lots of good graphics. It seems that the lecturer begins his case with the deplorable state of our nation – abortion, violence, racism, pornography, etc.- and sprinkles his lecture with Scripture references like I Chronicles 12:32 about those who had “understanding of the times;”  Psalm 11:3, “if the foundations are destroyed;” and 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 concerning the “weapons of our warfare.” Although these above-mentioned sins and consequences find their roots in the sin of our first parents, in rebellion against God, and in rejection of moral absolutes and I see how this is connected to a denial of divine creation, I don't see the young earth position as the only alternative to counter unbelief. In fairness I'm not saying that all young earth creationists hold that their position is take it or leave it. I do not want to read too much into the presentation and do not want to misrepresent anyone and I am speaking more generally here. Yes, I see how evolutionary theory is opposed to divine revelation, destructive to moral values, and undermines biblical foundations and as such I oppose the theory. No, I don’t see that arguing for a young earth is a battle in which I could be engaged with any level of conviction.


I agree with much the lecturer says about the state of our nation and about the lack of belief in moral absolutes. I also hold to creation by divine fiat and a historical first couple since I can’t get around the New Testament confirmations that place these events in real history. However I’m not certain what the defense of a young earth and its concomitants provide or gain in the battle for truth but am still listening. Here’s where the gospel does a convicting and convincing work in hearts to bring others to knowledge of the truth.  Of course the gospel and conversion may not bring people to the same conclusions on this issue.


I have no argument with my young earth friends although I am not yet ready to embrace the theory. I know I said theory and although it may be true I have not yet seen biblical evidence of that or that as a biblical concern. There are battles to fight, the faith to defend, and the truth to proclaim. But I have my doubts that this battle needs to be fought or can be won.

2 Responses to “Is the Earth Millions of Years Old?”

  1. A few somewhat related thoughts:
    1) Why argue about the age of the earth? In one sense, the Bible doesn't talk explicitly about the age of the earth, but it does give several pieces of information that are hard to reconcile with an old earth. For example, the genealogies of Gen 5, 11, and Lk 3 all appear to be mostly straightforward histories of humanity from Adam on (all the way to Christ). So, we can at least get pretty close to when Adam was formed by God (by matching up when we know people lived and moving back. Even allowing significant gaps in the record, you're still going to get aroun 10,000 yrs ago). Tied with the fact that Jesus appears to link Adam to the beginning (of creation) in Mt 19:4 and Mk 10:6, the Bible does seem to give at least a ballpark range for the age of humanity. If you take the traditional 6-day creation view, then the universe can't be but a few days older than humanity. Thus, the young earth discussion is often tied to 6-day creation.
    There are obviously modifications of the 6-day view that allow for an older universe (gap theory, Sailhamer's view that Gen 1 is describing the habitat for man not the universe, etc.). Those views don't seem to match up as well with the grammar/syntax of Gen 1, but even if they did there is a theological issue that comes into play–the relationship of death and the fall.
    If death entered the world through Adam's sin (Rom 5:12), and creation is cursed as a result of Adam's sin (Gen 3:14, 17-18; Rom 8:19-21), then you can't have a fallen creation and death before humanity. So, theologically you run into some major issues if you argue for a recent creation of humanity (i.e., a historical Adam/Eve) but millions of years of death, disaster, thorns, etc. before Adam's sin. (For more on this, see Mohler's "Why Does the Universe Look So Old?" adapted here: )
    2) Is young earth indefensible? It depends on what you mean. Can you convince skeptics through reason and evidence? I don't think so. After all, they already reject the knowledge of God they have from creation (Rom 1). Is it more indefensible than a historical Adam/Eve or creation by direct act from God? Maybe, but not much more defensible. The same scientific reasoning for an old earth is also used for evolution and pre-hominids. So the evidence is no more compelling. You may be able to make a slightly stronger biblical case, but you run into the theological problem mentioned above.
    3) The lectures: I think you misunderstood the purpose of the lectures, and that you maybe only listened to the first of the three on the age of the earth (at least, everything you mentioned came from the first). Mortenson was not attempting to provide a biblical defense of a young earth. Rather, he was dealing with the rise of the old earth, both in science and in theology. The first session was largely introductory, explaining why this issue matters. In the second, he walked through the insertion of millions of years into geology (early 19th century), and discussed a group of theologians and geologists calles the Scriptural geologists from the early 19th century (the group he did his Ph.D. dissertation on). What he demonstrated was that the rise of millions of years was largely founded on a uniformitarian approach to geology (the present processes happen in the same way and rate over time, so we simply extrapolate from those to figure out the past). This position was originally critiqued by two positions: a catastrophic view of geological history, and a Scriptural view (similar to YEC today). He also demonstrated that the uniformitarian approach was in part intentionally designed to undermine the historicity of the Bible. Many theologians adopted this uniformitarian understanding of geology, without ever dealing with its implications for Genesis and theology. But b/c of their influence, the church at large moved to this position, and both catastrophic and scriptural geology views died out.
    The third session (I think I'm remembering this correctly) moved into the present, which included excerpts from the work of more modern scientists who both admit that "science" is really not as dependent on the evidence as it is on its own presuppositions (or prior beliefs), so it a priori excludes evidence to the contrary; and who are now arguing that the uniformitarian position was wrongly accepted as dogma and are actually promoting a neo-catastrophic approach to geology. This neo-catastrophic approach to geology fits in fairly closely to the YEC position that sees the flood as the significant geological event.
    So, the purpose was not present a biblical defense of YEC, but to consider where the idea of millions of years came from in the first place, what the underlying assumptions of that view were, and whether or not it actually was "scientific" and matched up with the evidence. After all, the supposed science is why most people argue for a young earth anyway (the young earth position was even more dominant in church history than the 6-day view).
    4) Would a presentation like this be convincing to skeptics/unbelievers? Dr. Mortenson did two lectures for us at Wayne State University (not these exact lectures but dealing with similar issues: the underlying assumptions of science and the geological evidence of a global flood). We had several international Ph.D. students in various fields of science/technology (molecular biology, computer science, early childhood development, etc.). So far, their response has been very positive. They are mostly unbelievers who were fed evolution as dogma in their country, but are beginning to see many problems with it.  FWIW.
    Sorry to leave such a long comment, but wanted to try to deal substantively with this issue.

  2. Thanks for your comments Ben. They are helpful in the discussion. I did listen to the first lecture and went through the slides on the others.  I think I understand the logic of a youngish earth and spoke more generally on the issue since I didn't listen to everything. And it's not that I would disagree with much or most of what was presented. I suppose lectures might be helpful on campuses and be a starting point among others for gosepl encounters. I don't hold to a young earth as a matter of conviction but have no reason to oppose those who do.  

Leave a Reply