How Old is the Earth?
Old Earth or Young Earth?
There are two main views among Christians, Old earth creationists (OEC), also known as progressive creationists, believe God created the universe and all life forms in stages separated by long periods of time. They believe the geological record accurately portrays a very long earth history. Young earth creationists (YEC) believe the universe and all life forms were created in six successive 24-hour days, meaning earth is only thousands of years old. Major arguments for each view include the following:
* Speed of light measurements and the distance of stars indicate an ancient universe.
* The Hebrew word yom (day) does not always mean a literal day. (e.g., Gn 2:4)
* Genesis 1:12 says the land produced vegetation on Day Three, indicating growth from seed to maturity. That takes longer than 24 hours.
* There is too much activity on Day 6 to fit in 24 hours (see Gn 1:24-31; 2:15-25).
* Many animals are specifically designed to prey upon other animals. This indicated that by God's design, animal death preceded the fall of Adam and Eve.
* The sun was created on Day ; thus Days 1-3 could not have been 24-hour solar days.
* The testimony of nature powerfully indicates an ancient creation.
* The usual meaning of yom is a literal, 24-hour day.
* "Evening came, and then morning," seems to indicate a literal day (Gn 1:5, etc.)
* Sabbath rest (Ex 20:11) seems to imply six literal days of work during Creation week.
* The sun was not created until Day 4, but there was life on Day 3 (Gn 1:11-13). Life cannot exist for long periods without sunlight, and so the days were not long ages.
* Plants were created on Day 3 and the animals on Day 5. The interdependence between plants and animals implies that their creation was not separated by long ages.
* If death is an enemy (1Co 15:54), was God's original paradise free from killing, or was it filled with violence, decay, and death? Man was not permitted to eat animals until after the Flood (Gn 9:2-3).
* If decay and death were originally part of creation, why is creation looking forward to liberation from bondage to decay (Rm 8:20-22)?
Despite these differences, Christians in both groups are committed to God's supernatural creation of all things. Similarly, both are committed to the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Also, it is important to note that even if earth is many millions of years old, that is still not enough time for life to arise naturally and then evolve into the complex species we have today.
Though Christians sometimes passionately disagree about the age of earth, we should not break fellowship about issues of peripheral importance (Rm 14:1). Both parties can work together, support common ground (such as Intelligent Design), and work "side by side for the faith of the Gospel" (Php 1:27). We can have friendly "in-house" debates, graciously discussing our viewpoints in a spirit of love while standing united against the world's deceitful philosophies (Col 2:8).
This article can be found in "Apologetics Study Bible for Students", page 5.
Please also see our comprehensive study for the book of Genesis that includes commentary from www.enduringword.com.