The Age of the Earth
There seems to be a great deal of discussion among Christians on social media about the age of the earth, but should I say that I do not like positions on the age of the earth? There simply is just not enough information available in Scripture to tell us how old the earth is.
“Archbishop James Ussher arrived at a date of 4004 BC for creation,” based on biblical genealogies. His conclusion was excepted until the development of geological science in the 19th century.1 Since then there has been much debate; some hold to Usher’s genealogies and others developed theories to reconcile the biblical narrative and the apparent age of the earth.2
Millard J. Erickson put forth six of these theories in his book "Christian Theology:" the gap theory, the flood theory, the ideal-time theory, the age-day theory, the pictorial-day theory, and the revelatory-day theory.3 I am not going to go in to what these theories say, but of the six I think that the age-day theory is most correct because it is exegetically based; it finds its bases on interpreting the Hebrew word יוֹם yom.4
In my hermeneutics class I was taught a five-step process for interpreting scripture. The first-step is to ask, “What did the text mean to the biblical audience?”5 We need to first look at the creation account in Genesis 1 from the point of view of the original audience:
When we ask the question, “How does the cosmos work?” we seek an answer that discusses physical laws and structures. In our worldview, function is a consequence of structure, and a discussion of creation therefore must, of course, direct itself to the making of things. In contrast, when Israelites asked, “How does the cosmos work?” they were on a totally different wavelength, because in the ancient worldview function was a consequence of purpose.6
I really am not purposefully avoiding a position on the age of the earth, but I do not think that a question of age was intended by the author. What we should be asking is “What does the creation account say about God and what does it say about us?”
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:1 & 1:27-28)
My position on the age of the earth is that it doesn’t really matter how old the earth is, what matters is that God created the earth and He made us in His image to take care of His creation. We are all created beings; therefore, let us abide in the great commandment to love God and love our neighbors. (cf. Mat. 22:36-40)
1 Millard H. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 350.
4 Ibid, 351.
5 J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 42.
6 J. H. Walton, “Creation,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch, eds. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 164.