The age of the Earth, what does it matter for Bible-believing Christians? This is an issue which has many Christians confused. Some Christians feel that a "battle line has been drawn over a peripheral point… a trivial doctrinal point."
Thousands of years old or billions, what does it matter? This is not a trivial point for the Christian faith. Although many Christians miss the connection at first glance, this issue is inseparably linked to the Gospel and the inerrancy of Scripture. Many Christians have thus been misled into believing that the young-Earth debate is a side issue and not relevant to everyday Christian life or the salvation message.
The wonderful Good News to mankind about Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, is foundationally rooted in the Book of Genesis. The origin of death is described in Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6 (cf. Romans 5:12; I Corinthians 15:21-22). Death was the promised result of sin. It was also the means by which man would be restored to God. In contrast, old-Earth creationism (Progressive Creationism and theistic evolutionism) teaches that death and bloodshed existed long before man's existence, contrary to the very message of the Gospel.
Physical Death Came Through Sin
See: Genesis 3:19
All people die because of Adam's original sin. Old-Earth creationism denies this, saying that animals died for millions of years before Adam—and implying that Adam too was doomed to physically die, regardless of sin. Old-Earth creationists view death and struggle as a part of life that has existed since the beginning.
According to the Progressive Creationist's old-Earth timeline, Adam was, in effect, created on top of a graveyard of decaying or fossilized animals. Almost anywhere he walked, the remains of millions of dead animals were somewhere below his feet—evidence of death and frequent misery on a massive scale.
Biblically, physical death is a clear penalty of sin—first demonstrated by the death of the sacrificial animals (beginning with those killed by God to clothe Adam and Eve). This penalty was also verified by the physical deaths of Adam and later, Christ, the perfect sacrifice and atonement.
Adam's Potential Lifespan. Apparently Adam would never have died if he had not disobeyed (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:22). God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden and guarded the tree of life so they would not use it to thwart death (Genesis 3:22-23).
Paul's Understanding. The apostle Paul understood the Genesis link, as can be seen in I Corinthians 15, referred to by some as “the definition passage” of the Gospel message. Here, Paul discusses the physical resurrection of Christ and believers.
"For since by a man [the first Adam] came death, by a man [the Second Adam - Christ] also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:21-22, NASV).
"Therefore, just as through one man [the first Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- …death reigned from Adam… by the transgression of the one the many died…" (Romans 5:12,14-15, NASV).
God's Old Testament requirement for the forgiveness of sins was the physical death of sacrificial animals: "…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22, NASV).
Leviticus 17:11 states "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life" (NIV).
ORIGINAL PARADISE—or did the perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful God of love create an imperfect Creation?
The Bible certainly suggests that God's Creation was fully developed, fully equipped, fully functional, free from disease and suffering. God judged it all as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). In contrast, old-Earth creationism asks us to believe that God created a world filled with frequent death, catastrophes, extinctions, physical and emotional sufferings, cruelties, and so on—for millions of years.
According to old-Earth creationism, when wolves eat lambs and when bears kill baby sea lions, this is exactly the way things were meant to be by God. Is this what we should be teaching our children?
If so, why has God never revealed this? And why does God refer to a blessed time in the future when the wolf will lie down with the lamb?
Genesis provides a brief but tantalizing description of the wondrous paradise our Creator lovingly designed. It was far unlike the pain-filled, sin-worn world of degeneration that we experience. There is no biblical reason to believe that the pre-Fall world suffered catastrophes, diseases, parasites, plagues, degenerative mutations, damage of skin and eyes due to the sun's ultraviolet radiation, animals preying on man or animals, etc. Earth began as a paradise, not a world of travail.
CORRUPTION AND DECAY OF PARADISE began with man's sin and God's judgment
See: Genesis 3:14-19
Degenerated Universe. Nothing in our fallen world is really perfect today. One day the Creator will burn it all and create a fresh new universe (II Peter 3:10-13, Isaiah 65:17, 66:22). In the original world, all was “very good.” It is therefore evident that animals and all creation have degenerated. The Fall and God's curse are the ultimate reasons why our world today is so imperfect—filled with futile problems and suffering. The Flood further caused radical changes in our environment. We are fallen people living in a fallen world.
Thorns and Thistles. In the old-Earth scenario, we would have to believe that thorns and thistles (and all other weeds) did not begin with the Fall, for they are found deep in the fossil record ("millions of years before Adam," according to their theory—but buried by the global Flood or later, according to young-Earth creationism).
The Effects of Sin. Progressive Creationism contradicts the Bible by limiting the effects to the spiritual death of Adam, exclusion from a non-paradise garden, and a decrease in pain tolerance during childbirth. Essentially, Progressive Creationism teaches that the natural world under Adam's rule remained exactly the same before and after Adam's sin. The world was a rough, tough, grizzly place before Adam sinned. There was death all around, catastrophes, disease, genetic defects, freezing cold, burning heat, etc.
Restoration Of Paradise
There is wonderful hope for the future, an essential part of the ultimate promise of the gospel. One day the Creator is going "to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets" (Acts 3:21, NIV).
All things will be restored to the wondrous excellence that He originally created. The world will once again be a paradise.
Peaceful Vegetarians. The animals will again be vegetarian and at peace with one another (Isaiah 11:6-7, 9).
Restoration to What? If old-Earth creationism is true, what kind of world can we look forward to in the restoration? A world of continuing animal death, mutations, extinctions, volcanoes, earthquakes, asteroid impacts, disease, and struggle? The Bible teaches the contrary. We look forward to paradise.
The Purpose of Death
Why did God send physical death to the world He gave Adam to rule? Many people are frightened of death. Most non-Christians look at the suffering and death in our world and conclude that God must not really be good or loving or even all-powerful. Why would God create a world filled with suffering and death? They fail to see that God created a perfect world, a world free from death. Death is the result of sin, man's rebellion against God. However, in love Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) died in our place and was victorious over death. This is the message of the Gospel!
Death, a Door to God. The final effect of Adam's rebellion might have been eternal separation from God for all humanity. Because of His love, however, God set into motion a plan to one day reunite Himself with man forever. He judged with death, the just penalty for sin, and God used the death of His Son to reconcile the world.
Jesus' Death and Victory. He then sent His only Son, to become a man like us and to bring us back to Himself. Jesus suffered the Father's penalty of death in His own body. As the only acceptable sacrifice, He shed His spotless, sinless blood to cover the sins of all who would trust in Him. He tasted death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9). He then rose from the dead, demonstrating His power and righteousness. One day he will "put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (I Corinthians 15:25-26, NIV)
God originally created a paradise for Adam, free of death and suffering. God placed the curse of death upon the world that Adam ruled, thus animals also die. The animals became subject to suffering and death along with their master.
Paul Understood. Since the Fall, Paul said, "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now" (Romans 8:22, NASV). Romans 8:19-21 confirms that God's judgment on Adam's sin affected all nature: "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 of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (NASV). All creation will rejoice when paradise is returned by its Creator.
Vegetarian “Carnivores,” Originally and in the End. Genesis 1:30 clearly indicates that animals having "the breath of life" did not originally eat other animals. Such behavior was not part of God's original plan for paradise. God told them to eat only plants. The land-dwelling animals and birds were created as vegetarians (Genesis 1:29-30). Predation among these animals did not develop until sometime later in history. It is evident that eventually it will be abolished again (Isaiah 11, 35, 65). Wolves and lions will once again eat plants exclusively.
Man also Harmless to Animals. Man was also created to be vegetarian and thus was not meant to kill animals (Genesis 1:29). We were not given permission to eat meat until after the Flood (Genesis 9:2-3), almost two thousand years later.
Later Fear of Man. It was not until after the Flood that animals became wary and even terrified of humans. At the unveiling of the rainbow, God put the fear and dread of man into the programmed instincts of animals (Genesis 9:2-3). The reasonable assumption is that they were originally created friendly and trusting of man.
Graveyard Came After Sin and the Flood.
In considering the whole of Scripture, it is clear that Adam and Eve were created in a paradise, not a graveyard of dead animals. Because animals did not die until after Adam's sin, the fossils are evidence of death after Adam's sin, not before. Because fossilization requires highly unusual circumstances and because most are buried in flood-laid sediments, it seems reasonable to believe that most of these animals were killed and buried by God's global flood judgment? in the time of Noah. There are volumes of evidence in support of this.
The Joyful Hope of Christians. All creatures must now cope with a world that is no longer a paradise. They now struggle to survive in a harsh, fallen, Flood-devastated environment. Will not all Creation rejoice when paradise is restored? One day Christ will restore the animals to being vegetarian again. Peace will once again reign.
Christ, Totally Good and Loving? Or Sadistic?
If Christ, the Creator (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16, I Corinthians 8:6, Hebrews 1:2), used millions of years of suffering and death to make the animals, how can He be all-loving and all-good?
Under the Progressive Creation scenario, Christ designed the animals to devour each other, ripping with claws and teeth. He then further allowed these innocent creatures (with no connection whatsoever to man or sin) to die by the trillions for millions of years due to every catastrophe conceivable. God allowed (or possibly even sent) a multitude of afflictions down on these animals, including diseases of all sorts, plagues, volcanoes, earthquakes, bombardments from outer space, floods, etc. As a result, animals of many types were killed to extinction.
Thus, the Progressive Creation scenario involves a process of elimination, death by fang and claw—cold and unmerciful to the weak. Could even a sadist think of a more cruel and ugly way to produce the animals over which Adam was to rule?
What a horrible thing to accuse Jesus Christ of doing! It is shocking that Progressive Creationism defends this as the process that Jesus set up and ruled till the creation of man.
Our Creator's true nature is incompatible with this plan. God is love! He sees even the sparrow fall. Animal death came because of man. He said, “Blessed are the meek”—not blessed are the strongest and most aggressive.
CHRIST—All-powerful, All-knowing, Absolute Perfection
If Christ is all of these things, He is certainly capable of creating the world in one blinding instant. Why would such a Creator use a slow process rife with dead ends (repeated animal extinctions) and new starts? Why stretch the process over the lifetimes of millions of generations of animals—all this before ever getting to the point, the creation of man?!
The Creator doesn't need time; He doesn't need to experiment. Progressive Creationism stains God's true glory, majesty and power—the very characteristics that define him.
Genesis Is Foundational
More Bible writers quoted (or referred to) Genesis than any other book. Both Jesus and Paul quoted from it.
Christianity was built upon the foundation of Genesis. Ultimately, all biblical doctrines of theology are based directly or indirectly on the book of Genesis.
If the foundation (Genesis) is damaged, the structure (Christianity) is in peril.
Sadly, Progressive Creationism is chiseling away at its own Christian foundations.
Trust in God’s Word
If the Bible is God's Word (as it repeatedly claims), and if Progressive Creationism is true, then God's Word is deceptive. For thousands of years, a literal, straightforward, common-sense reading of Genesis and the rest of Scripture has led millions of intelligent Christians and Jews to believe that:
the universe was created in six literal days
the Earth is only thousands of years old
animals were not originally carnivores
the Earth was created before the stars
the plants were created before the sun
man was created in the beginning (not as the last tiny link in an enormous timeline of Earth history)
the Flood was global, not merely local
Wrong All Along? Progressive Creationism contradicts all of these beliefs, and claims it has finally discovered how to correctly interpret Genesis—after thousands of years of misunderstanding. That claim should immediately sound suspicious. If this is true, then one wonders what else Christians have seriously misunderstood.
Genesis is Trustworthy. If you can't trust Genesis to be literally true and understandable, how can you trust the rest of the Bible? This is why Genesis is the focus of Satan's attack, more than any other book.
Jesus Trusted Genesis. Christians should believe Genesis is literally true because Jesus did (i.e. Matthew 19:4-6; 24:37-39; Mark 10:6). God is not a God of deception.
Health of the Church
Rejection of the literal biblical account is adversely affecting the Church. Young-Earth creationists are rightly concerned for the long-term health of the Church.
Path of Confusion. Many Christians can testify that once they accepted the billions-of-years of secular rationalism they found themselves on a path of increasing confusion and uncertainty about how to interpret Scripture.
Damage in the Church. When uniformitarianism and Darwinism captivated the minds of many in the 1800s, various influential churches and Christian schools began down a road that ended in almost total abandonment of the Christian faith. Their demise began with one small step, which was inevitably followed by another and then another. Eventually, the rest of Genesis was questioned. Soon Abraham was doubted as a historical character, then the Exodus story, the miracles, and then Christ's virgin birth and resurrection.
Schools and Seminaries. Because many in church authority have accepted the millions-of-years-of-death-before-Adam scenario, most Christian schools and seminaries have failed to teach the overwhelming evidence for fiat creation and opposing evolutionism. Unfortunately, Christian schools commonly teach theistic evolutionism ("evolution is true, but God made it happen"). Sadly, various teachers who want to stand by the historic belief of the church, recent creation, have been chastised.
Many faithful parents have scrimped and saved to send their children to Christian colleges, trusting that they will be properly educated in historic, biblical truths. Tragically, many church-sponsored colleges and seminaries are sowing doubt about God's Word starting on this very issue. As a result, it is all too common to see enthusiastic Christian young people enter seminary or a leading Christian college and then lose their fervor and faith.
[see our list of schools still teaching a literal account of Creation]
Next Generation Leaders. An alarming percentage of the next generation of pastors, Sunday school teachers, lay leaders, and missionaries has been taught that most of the evolutionary theory is acceptable and compatible with Christianity.
Increasing Liberalism. History has repeatedly shown that Christian colleges and seminaries that accept the millions-of-years-of-death-before-Adam scenario have moved closer and closer to full liberalism over the years, unless strong counteraction is taken.
Not only are people losing faith in the Bible's accuracy, but the truth of the gospel message is being lost.
Hugh Ross, Creation and Time: A Biblical and Scientific Perspective on the Creation-Date Controversy (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1994), pp. 8,9. [UP]
For further reading
The authors of this ChristianAnswers.Net answer have written a detailed and eye-opening book on this subject. We highly recommend it. This book answers many additional, related questions. Because it is difficult to find in bookstores, we are making it available here.
You can also order by mail at: Films for Christ, PO Box 1167, Marysville WA 98270-1167, USA.
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Authors: Paul S. Taylor, Films for Christ and Mark Van Bebber. Adapted from Creation and Time: A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross
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