I can hear many asking the question: What difference does it make? After all, isn’t the nature of this subject more academic than salvific? I used to think so. At a young age, I was intrigued by “prehistoric” dinosaurs. Their existence, I was taught, predated man by millions of years. So, when I became a Christian and read the Genesis account of how the world began, there was an immediate tension between “science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6: 20)and the Word of God.
Many, like myself, have struggled to reconcile science with the Biblical view. After listening to many Christian scientists attempt to explain the age of the earth using geologic evidence, I realized that they, like their evolutionary counterparts, relied heavily upon the empirical evidence found in rocks, fossils, etc., only to arrive at vastly different conclusions.
In time I simply resigned my questions to the “won’t know until Jesus comes” category and dismissed it as academic. It wasn’t until I began hearing of other theories being advanced within Christian circles such as theistic evolution, the gap theory, and the day-age theory that interest in the age of our planet rekindled. It seemed to me that these divergent views were simply an attempt by some within Christian academia to harmonize the Word with science. Where was their evidence? What formed the basis for these theories?
Theistic evolution acknowledges God as Creator to the extent that God orchestrated the Big Bang and intervened in the evolutionary process. It rejects the creationist doctrine of exceptional creation (the literal six-day-long creation week) that aligns itself closely with the scientific estimation of an old earth, namely, 4.5 billion years old.
Advocates for the gap theory see a “gap” in time between Genesis 1: 1 and Genesis 1: 2. They maintain that the earth preexisted creation week, making the Earth billions of years old. They do, however, embrace the literal six-days creation week, but begin with the creation of light, thereby maintaining the integrity of the Genesis narrative while at the same time allowing for an old earth.
Finally, there is the day-agetheory wherein each day of creation is interpreted symbolically rather than literally. In other words, each “day” of formation is not to be takenliterally as a 24-hour period but as the millions or even billions of years necessary for evolutionary change will take place.
It is not within the scope of this study to examine these divergent views in some depth, but to clearly draw your attention to the extent by which many Christians have soughtto harmonize scripture with science. But can’t the Word of God stand alone? Does it need to be validated by science? In my opinion all the above theories undermine the authority of God’s Word. I am a literalist who believes words and phrases have meaning. Belief in these speculative theories requires us to distort the language used throughout the Genesis narrative and results in confusion; but“God is not the Author of confusion” (1 Cor. 14: 33). A “day” must mean a day, and “the evening and the morning” must be 24 hours if language is to have any meaning.
The underlying problem, of course, is our lack of faith in the power of God to simply speak into existence something from nothing.But notice what the Bible teaches in Psalm 33: 6, 9:
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth… For he spake, and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast.
Can the question as to the age of the earth be answered within the Genesis narrative alone? I believe so; hence, the reason for this study. I have endeavored tobreak down each verse, word forword, when necessary, to draw from within the text itself the essential meaning and message. This approach is known as eisegesis. This leaves no room for speculation. The only presupposition we may bring into the reading of Genesis is the preexistence of God, for in verse one we read:“In the beginning God.”
The study of our origin is foundational, not incidental. The veracity of the entire Word of God depends on a proper understanding of the Book of Genesis. Within its first three chapters God is introduced, creation is described, man is formed, the Sabbath is instituted, marriage is instituted, sin is introduced, and redemption is provided. Indeed, a true understanding of the creation account is vital to our salvation. Only a literal interpretation can establish us in the faith. Jesus Himself spoke of Genesis as a literalist in Matthew 19: 4: “Have ye not read, that He who made them from the beginning made them male and female?”The Apostle Paul, too, referred to Adam and Eve as literal individuals in 1 Timothy 2: 14: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”It is from a literal perspective, therefore, that I present the study at hand. May God grant the reader wisdom and understanding as we seektogether for the truth contained within God’sWord is my sincere prayer.