This article expounds a biblical perspective on creation intended to serve as a good introduction to the topic for a new Christian.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:19-22 (ESV), emphasis added
Two things are important for the believer to consider when thinking about cosmology and origins:
Is it biblically viable?
- Does my idea fit comfortably with the Bible or is it a stretch?
- Is it consistent with the whole scripture?
Is it scientifically viable?
- Does my idea fit well with what we observe of the world around us?
- Is it consistent with the idea that God is “clearly perceived … in the things that have been made”?
There is no question that God could have done it any way he wanted. He could have used any mechanism he saw fit, and could have made things look like they occurred any way we could imagine.
Asking the questions, “What did God do?” and “How did he do it?” presumes two things:
- Scripture talks about creation for the reason of communicating truth to us.
- God revealed himself in creation for the reason of communicating truth to us.
Your answer to these questions will subtly, but profoundly affect they way you view creation, God and the heavenly kingdom.
- Worldviews and Interpretive Bias
- What About Evolution?
- Biblical Creation
- Contrasting the Young and Old Positions
Worldviews and Interpretive Bias
Worldviews are presuppositional, and introduce bias into our thinking. That is, we tend to interpret everything we learn through the lens of our pre-conceived ideas. This is why evidence can seem so compelling to one conclusion for one person, and equally compelling to a completely difference conclusion for another.
As well, because our time is so limited, we experience selection bias in what we choose to research. That is, we unconsciously tend to seek out people and opinions that already agree with what we believe. This often leads us to wrongly suppose that our arguments are much more convincing and the conclusions we draw from them much more compelling than they actually are.
For the record, I have biases and a priori conclusions just like everyone else.
There are, broadly speaking, four primary worldviews held when it comes to modern beliefs about origins of the universe and the life it contains. Covering the spectrum from natural to super-natural causation these would be as follows:
- Naturalistic Evolution.
- Theistic/Deistic Evolution.
- Old-Earth Creation.
- Young-Earth Creation.
A detailed description of these can be found in Ideologies of Origins.
Naturalistic Evolution (NE) is the belief that there is no God. The universe, and everything in it arose spontaneously without an extrinsic causative agent. Furthermore, life arose spontaneously through random chemical reactions and over time through further random interaction gained ever increasing complexity to arrive at the level of complexity we observe today. This view demands that all of the universe in which we live can be explained by purely naturalistic processes and that none of it requires an explanation which is ultimately untestable, though testing certain parts of a given model may be beyond our current technology.
Theistic Evolution (TE) essentially holds that some extrinsic being, whom we refer to as God, was the cause of the big-bang. However, he created in a way that preloaded the system with everything it needed to arrive at the point that it is at today without requiring any further involvement on his part. Some forms of Theistic Evolution hold that God intervened one more or more times, particularly to initiate life, perhaps to create mankind, but that life, for the most part, evolved in the manner described by Naturalistic Evolution to the level of complexity we see today. Note that Theistic evolution has a personal God actively involved in creation; a slight variation wherein God is impersonal and uninvolved is known as Deistic evolution. This position is sometimes called Evolutionary Creationism in an effort to emphasize the involvement of God and distance the view from that of NE in the minds of Christians.
Old-Earth Creation (OEC) accepts the scientific data for the age of the universe as being generally accurate. It holds that God created the universe as described in the various creation accounts found in the Bible, provided those Biblical accounts are interpreted in a manner such that they are non-contradictory with each other and with empirical, well-established scientific data. This view would hold that the correct interpretation of the days of Genesis is that they are ages, and that the Genesis accounts accurately describes the actual events of the creation of the universe. Since these ages are indefinite periods of time OEC is unaffected by changing scientific estimates of the age of the universe, since the specific amount of time is immaterial to the view’s interpretation of scripture.
OEC holds that since God created everything and the Bible is the inerrant word of God, we must expect that what God has revealed in creation and what he has revealed in his word are consistent. This is imperative because “God is not man, that he should lie”. Furthermore, since the scripture explicitly states that one purpose of creation is to testify to God and his attributes, it follows, therefore, that to the extent that scripture disagrees with science, one or the other, or both are being misinterpreted.
Young-Earth Creation (YEC) holds that the creation of the universe happened over the course of six 24 hour days, as measured by earth-time. It holds, too, that God created the universe as described in the various creation accounts found in the Bible, but tends to focus on the Genesis account.
YEC holds that scripture is the only authority. Observational science can confirm but cannot alter our interpretation of scripture; any conflict or contradiction is a failing on the part of science, not theology. It rejects the scientific data for an old universe, holding that the science for it is either gravely flawed, that the individual scientists are either hopelessly biased or deliberately deceitful (the former failing on the part of scientists being considered perhaps more a philosophical failing, more so than necessarily born of malicious intent).
What does the Bible unequivocally require that we believe about this creation?
- That God did it. (All of scripture)
- That there was a beginning of all space-time, energy and matter. (Genesis 1, John 1)
- That God was personally involved at all the major steps; “And God said…”. (Genesis 1)
- That there was a first man and women, created in God’s image, who are the progenitors of all mankind and from whom we inherit a fallen nature. (Genesis 1-3)
- That what can be known about God is plain, for his invisible attributes have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. (Romans 1)
First I have to stress that the Old and Young positions on creation are both biblical interpretations, both hold the Genesis creation account to be literal and historical and both positions hold the scripture to be the authoritative and infallible word of God. The difference between the positions are interpretive, and in this respect both positions are fallible. We must not conflate the fallible interpretations of men with the infallible revelation from God which was given in the original autographs of scripture.
While the topic of how God created is hotly debated we must always bear in mind that it is of secondary importance; belief about the mechanics of creation is not a test of orthodoxy. You should be skeptical of anyone who insists that a particular position on the subject is heretical. It is salient, I think, that none of the Christian creeds sought to define anything more than that God created the heavens and the earth.
I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ his only son, our Lord…
Apostolic and Nicene Creeds
There is ultimately insufficient data in the scripture to ascertain with certainty whether God created over a long period or over six calendar days; and I will not attempt to convince you of one view or the other – rather it is my intent to demonstrate that both views are scriptural valid and examine what it is that scripture really says about creation.
It’s critically important to remember that both young and old positions encounter difficulties; passages of scripture which seem to be difficult to fit with the position – it is up to you to decide which seems to have the least numerous and least severe.
There are perhaps about 27 passages in scripture that touch upon creation in a significant fashion. Of these we will touch on the following four:
- Genesis 1.
- Genesis 2.
- Psalm 104.
- Job 38.
In order to properly understand what the creation accounts mean, we will have to delve into the meanings of the biblical Hebrew words which are used. It is insufficient to simply read the English translations, for reasons which should become apparent.
Hebrew is a language which is very “pictorial” in nature; Hebrew words express broad concepts often by using related visual phenomena. Of particular importance to understanding the creation narratives is the fact that ancient Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament scripture, is significantly more limited than English in the number of words available. Thus one word often has multiple meanings and the intended meaning in a given context must be derived from the context and from other information.
While English has some 150,000+ words in common usage and some 4,000,000 words in total, the Hebrew language is limited to less than 10,000 words derived from about 2,500 unique roots. Although it is not immediately obvious to an English reader of scripture allowance must be made for the comparative dearth of words available in the language in which the Old Testament scripture was recorded. Thus, when the English speaking reader talks of scripture meaning “what it plainly says”, it must be remembered that things written in Hebrew are not nearly so “plain” as we might like them to be. In fact, perhaps God deliberately chose such a language as Hebrew, with all it’s ambiguity and breadth of meaning, precisely so that the words of scripture could impart truth to all generations from the time it was written to now, and on into the future.
In short, where English often has many words for one concept, Hebrew, in stark contrast, often has many concepts attached to one word.
A great example is the Hebrew word eretz, often translated earth, but for modern readers a better translation might perhaps be land. This word broadly refers to the geographical extent of a people group, including concepts such as territory, district, region, country. It can therefore refer to the territory of a family, a settlement, a tribe, a nation, an empire or the entire planet. It is a concept that is closely tied to the extent and reach of human civilization or a particular subgroup thereof. In particular, notice that the word is not capitalized in English translations, because it is not a specific noun for the planet but generically refers to the land.
Genesis 8 provides an excellent example where the modern understanding of the word “earth” leads to an apparent contradiction in scripture; one which is eliminated by realizing that eretz does not imply or necessitate the entire globe:
5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.
6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth.
Genesis 1 & 2
Genesis 1 and 2 are not conflicting creation accounts, but complementary ones. Genesis 1 to 2:3 describes the big picture creation of the cosmos, from beginning to Adam and Eve. Then Genesis 2:5 onwards provides a detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve at the end of Day 6.
The chapter break for Genesis 2 in modern Bibles is widely regarded as hugely unfortunate due to the artificial break in the flow of the narrative it creates.
Frame of Reference
Genesis 1:1 describes, in sweeping form, the creation of all space, time, energy and matter from nothing. Genesis 1:2 marks a transition to the development of planet Earth becoming the focus of the narrative. Biblical scholars are in almost unanimous agreement that between verse 1 and verse 2 there is a clear break in the narrative and, furthermore, that the break allows an indeterminate and undisclosed amount of time to have elapsed. In one short sentence, the Bible describes the creation of the entire universe and then shifts gear to bring us to the important part of the story, the formation of mankind’s home, Earth.
Further, it establishes that the planet was in a primitive, primordial state, covered in water and swaddled in darkness – “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep”. Job chapter 38, indisputably talking about the creation of the Earth, states, “where were you when I … made the clouds [Earth’s] garment and thick darkness its swaddling band” – this perfectly describes the type of atmosphere we often see on other planets, such as that of Venus; so thick and dark that no light can reach the surface. Psalm 104 describes the initial Earth as covered “with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.” (vs 6). The Hebrew phrase translated “formless and void” describes the Earth as a “useless space”, a place of desolation, wastedness, and chaos. The planet was fully formed, but it was shrouded in darkness, covered in water, empty of life and unfit for life.
Lastly, it establishes a frame of reference for the following narrative as being at or near the surface of the planet – “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Understanding this point is critical in properly understanding what follows.
Genesis also establishes that all three persons of the Trinity were involved in creation, The Father, “God created”, the Word, “and God said”, and the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of God was hovering”.
Length of Day 7
The seventh day is exceptional in that it is not terminated by the evening and morning refrain. Most scholars conclude that this evinces that the seventh day has not yet ended.
Jesus seems to say this also:
16 … this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
John 5:16-18 ESV
Since Jesus was justifying his working on the Sabbath because his father continues to work until “now”, the argument can only make sense if he meant that the Father continues to work on his Sabbath – the only Sabbath for the Father revealed in scripture is that of the seventh day of creation.
Hebrews chapter 4, as well, is widely understood to indicate that the seventh day of rest continues on to the end of this world.
These passages make logical sense only if the work from which God rests is that of actively creating this world, and he is therefore continuing to “work” on his Sabbath in sustaining creation and in the redemption of mankind.
Key Words in the Text
There are four verbs used to describe the creative acts of God in Genesis 1-2
|bara||created||This is used exclusively in scripture to describe acts performed by God, this word describes things coming into existence for the first time, not formed from any pre-existing materials. Used for the creation of the “heavens and the earth” in 1:1, the sea creatures, swarming creatures and flying creatures in 1:21, mankind in 1:27 and for the whole creative process in 2:4.|
|asah||made||This is a generic verb meaning “to do” or “to make”. Used for actions by both God and humans. Implies a reforming of existing materials into a new form, with the connotations of mixing and combining. In particular, this verb refers to an action that could have taken place at any time up to the point in the narrative where it’s used. Used for the making of the celestial bodies in 1:16, the “beasts of the field” in 1:25 and mankind in 1:26.|
|hayah||let there be||This connotes allowing a process to run its course. It can involve the supernatural direction of natural processes. Used of light in 1:3, the “expanse” in 1:6 and the celestial bodies in 1:14-15. I find it fascinating that in each case what is being described are possibly changes to Earth’s atmospheric makeup.|
|yasar||formed||This is used twice in Genesis 2. It has the sense of molding a substance into the desired shape. The concept is very much that of a potter working clay (a particularly apt comparison given the context). Used of mankind in 2:7-8 and of the beasts of the field and birds in 2:19.|
There are four literal meanings to the Hebrew word yom, translated as day:
- A portion of the daylight period.
- A twelve hour period, generally from sunrise to sunset.
- A twenty four hour period, for the Hebrew, importantly, from sunset to sunset.
- An unspecified long period of time. For example, “The Day of the Lord”.
Scripture repeatedly reminds us that God does not experience or reckon time in the same way as humans – “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8).
Bear in mind that when one has a vast amount of a resource, what might seem to others like large amounts may be trivial to expend; for God time is infinite so any amount of time is trivial to him.
Evening & Morning
How should we understand the refrain, “and there was evening and there was morning”? Immediately unexpected is that it seems only to cover the night time, evening until morning. Again, the answer seems to lie in the broad meaning of the Hebrew words for evening and morning.
Hebrew scholar and physicist Gerald Schroeder in his Book Genesis and the Big Bang makes a compelling case that the Hebrew phrase has a deeper meaning than modern English speakers appreciate.
The Hebrew word for “evening” is erev. This is the literal meaning of the word, although the root of erev carries with it implications far beyond that of a setting Sun. What is the visual sensation for evening? Darkness begins. Objects become obscure, blurred. The root of erev means just that, “mixed up, stirred together, disorderly”.
The Hebrew for “morning” is boker. Its meaning is quite the opposite of erev. Morning brings first light. Objects, visually mingled by the dark of night, become distinct entities and this is the root meaning of boker, “discernable, able to be distinguished, orderly”.
Had the text said, “and there was morning and there was evening,” our concept of a day might have been better satisfied. The sequence would have at least included the light of the day. But had the text followed this human logic, it would have forfeited its cosmic message. […] We are being told, that within this parcel of space where mankind was to stake his first roots, there was a systematic flow from disorder – chaos or “evening” – to order or “morning”.
Genesis and the Big Bang (Chapter 6)
Looking elsewhere in the Bible Daniel 8:14 and 8:26 applies the phrase “evening and morning” to a period spanning several years when it speaks of “The vision of the evenings and the mornings” – although English translators usually pluralize the phrase in Daniel 8:26, the Hebrew uses the singular perfect form, and is literally “the evening and the morning” as given by interlinear renderings. The phrase is identical to that used in Genesis 1.
The phrase “There was evening and there was morning” therefore seems to describe a progression of time with a sense of increasing order and revelation. There is something hauntingly poetic in this turn of phrase, understood in this way, as God creates a dwelling place for mankind – the sense is as if creation is being portrayed as a cosmic play, starting with a darkened stage over which the lights are slowly brought up to reveal mankind as the pivotal player.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Pivotal to the entire story of redemption, is this idea that mankind was created in God’s image (and notice that it’s male and female together which bear God’s image). Whatever else you believe about yourself, believe that you bear the image of the almighty God and that all human beings are endowed with innate dignity and value which no-one can take away.
It’s important to understand that this image, though greatly marred in the fall, remains with all mankind. The image was damaged, but not destroyed, as Genesis 9 testifies, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
What About Evolution?
First, let’s define the term “evolution”; in it’s broadest sense it simply means that something changes over time. So, for example, the software I write evolves; that is, as I work on it over time it changes (hopefully for the better, though sometimes I introduce bugs that weren’t there before). In this example, the driving force of the evolution is me, an intelligent agent.
When we talk about evolution in the context of origins, we are referring to the process by which most biologists believe that all life grows in complexity from very simple single-celled organisms to highly complex multicellular plans and multi-organ animals. But, importantly, evolution does not attempt to explain how life arose, specifically how the self-replicating organic complex we know as DNA first came to be. Naturalism still must meet this challenge, but evolution is not the theory which explains it.
One has to be very careful to discern what specific kind of change is being referred to. When evolutionists claim that evolution is an “observed fact” they are referring to bacterial evolution experiments where bacteria acquire immunity, animal adaptations where certain features change prominently, or animal breeding/hybridization. These phenomena are indeed observed today. However, I would argue the counterpoint that the end-result of these things is still, to all intents and purposes, the same thing – the bacteria are still bacteria, the birds are still birds, and the dogs are still dogs; in all cases these are better understood as arguments for adaptability, which favors a designer. In the case of hybridization, the interbred animals are arguably of the same kind and the end result is the same kind. This assumes a biblical definition of “kind”, which does not exactly correspond to the taxonomic us or “species” or “genus”, but may be somewhere in between, perhaps even “family”, and so comfortably fits within a biblical worldview.
Therefore, beware of changing definitions for evolution; this is the logical fallacy of equivocation. Bacterial evolution is not compelling evidence for macro-evolution; neither is adaptation or speciation.
Importantly, one has to understand that natural selection, which is the mechanism for evolution operates on groups, not individuals. So from an evolutionary point of view, human beings cannot have arisen from a primordial pair, but must evolve within a group of lower animals. Adam and Eve, therefore, must be viewed as representative of a group, not literal progenitors.
Scriptural Difficulties with Evolution
As we shall see, God did indeed use processes in creation, the material consideration is to what extent. From a biblical perspective, the evolutionary position introduces fairly severe difficulties with several key doctrines, for example:
- The doctrine of biblical inerrancy is undermined. For example, any attempt to reduce Paul’s concept of Adam to a culturally assumed explanation of a primordial man brings into question the veracity of scripture since Paul clearly teaches that Adam was a historical individual. Jesus does also, but Paul’s understanding is central to the validity of his entire thesis on sin.
- The doctrine of the origin of the sin nature is undermined. The fall is mythologized, especially if Adam and Eve are considered to be in any way a representative pair in a group. A representative pair cannot beget their nature to the entire group since they are not the direct progenitors of the entire group; therefore it’s difficult to see how in “one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man” (Romans 5:12-21). This is an important consideration for anyone who embraces TE.
- It undermines the relationship of Jesus as the last Adam to the Adam of Genesis Paul presents in 1 Corinthians 15:45, damaging the foundation of Paul’s argument that we will one day “bear the image of the man of heaven”.
- The doctrine of the Incarnation is undermined since Jesus was “born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), which is difficult to fathom if we are merely highly evolved apes.
- Humanity is no longer uniquely created in the image of God, which means we no longer have innate dignity and value as distinct from the rest of creation.
- Humanity is no longer created to reign over the rest of creation.
- Genesis must be considered mythological or semi-mythological rather than being regarded as a historical narrative; however, this does not match the style of the writing, which is very matter of fact, with a new-report style.
- Theistic evolution generally limits or eliminates God’s providential intervention in the creation that he “set in motion”.
- Genesis 2:7 in describing the creation of Adam seems to require an intellectual stretch to understand as describing simpler species evolving into humans.
- Evolutionary thought tends towards thinking of man as a mere accident of creation, not the ultimate goal of it.
Conclusion on Evolution
In my opinion, the scientific support for evolution is compelling only if one has an pre-existing commitment to naturalism; viewed from the creationist standpoint the data is either ambiguous or contradicts evolution.
I suspect that many Christians accept evolution because the find the evidence of an old universe to be compelling and have not realized that the Old-Earth Creation position offers a much more viable alternative.
In the end, I find no compelling reason to believe the evolutionary paradigm, and many reasons to be highly skeptical of it. If the evidence changed significantly, intellectual integrity might demand reconsideration.
Contrasting the Young and Old Positions
Having now established the guiding principles by which we can understand the biblical creation accounts, let us now contrast the young and old views on some key points.
To reiterate, the Old and Young positions both hold the Genesis creation account to be literal and historical and both positions hold the scripture to be the authoritative and infallible word of God. The debate occurs because of differences in interpretation. This is not an issue to argue about and cause division; rather let it be one of those things where “iron sharpens iron”, always remembering that this is not a primary Christian doctrine.
Lastly, before we get into these points, please keep in mind that thinking on this subject is a spectrum; there is considerable variation in this spectrum and I will be presenting the most common, typical stance of the young and old viewpoints. Not everyone from either persuasion will completely agree with me on all points – and that’s OK.
YEC: The days are earth calendar days. The cosmos and all that is in it, up to the creation of Adam and Eve occurred in 144 hours, 6 revolutions of the Earth on its axis. Man was created about 6,000 years ago (with some allowance up to perhaps 10,000 at the most).
OEC: The days are long periods of time. The cosmos was created over a vast span of time, with the current best estimates being around 13.87 billion years; the exact time spans are not crucial and the scientific ages are generally accepted. Man was created between about 50,000 and 200,000 years ago, with current best estimates being less than 100,000 years.
The Celestial Lights
YEC: The celestial bodies did not exist until day 4; the light spoken of in verse 1:3 is God’s supernatural radiance. The plants of Day 3 were supernaturally preserved in what would otherwise be an absolute zero temperature conditions between day 3 and day 4 (there was no Sun to heat the planet).
OEC: The celestial bodies formed, by God’s express design, over billions of years through natural stellar processes. The light spoken of in verse 1:3 reflects an atmospheric change from opaque to translucent. Day 4 describes the celestial objects which God had already created as becoming visible when the atmosphere was transformed in an unspecified way from translucent to transparent ( hayah – “let there be”).
Length of Day 6
The events of Day 6 detailed in Genesis 2 are interesting in the sense of time they imply:
- God makes Adam.
- God plants a garden in Eden and places Adam in it to tend it.
- God brings to Adam all of the nephesh creatures and Adam has sufficient time to interact with them to (a) meaningfully name them, and (b) bond with them sufficiently to realize that none of them were a suitable “helper”.
- God puts Adam into a state of deep sleep and makes Eve “from his side”.
- God presents Eve to Adam – and Adam’s response is “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”. Note that this is translated variously, “This at last…”, “This one finally…” or “This one now…”.
YEC: God created the garden fully formed, instantaneously, or had already made it. Adam names the nephesh creatures, a few hundred birds and a few hundred “beasts of the field” in a few hours at most, knowing immediately by virtue of an unfallen intellect what the name for it should be. Eve was created from Adam a little later. Discovering that there was no suitable helper and the phrase translated “This at last” do not imply or require a significant passage of time.
OEC: Considers the events of Day 6 strongly imply a period of time from months to possibly as much as a year or more. Naming living things is, in the ancient Hebrew culture, a thing of immense importance and the name must capture and reflect the character and nature of the thing named. As well, Adam needed sufficient time to bond with the animals and realize none is suitable to him for an intimate partner – his exclamation upon seeing Eve for the first time is evidence of that.
Death Before the Fall
YEC: Any kind of death is unthinkable, except that of plants (which all the animals ate directly). Decay and corruption of any kind did not occur before Adam and Eve sinned. Adam and Eve had no experience of death and a good creation is one in which no death, suffering or harm of any kind occurs to any creature. The original state of creation was “very good” in the sense of absolute perfection. All of creation was supernaturally protected from harm, even harm from the effects of fundamental physical laws such as gravity. The physical laws governing creation were changed when the ground was cursed to include the pervasive law of decay we see today. Carnivores evolved or were transformed after the fall from creatures which were originally herbivorous (since God was already in his rest and scripture gives no indication that he created subsequently). The eternal dwelling of mankind is a restoration to the conditions of Eden that Adam and Eve first experienced.
OEC: Death of living tissue and the decay of all systems are an inherent part of God’s good creation, which is “very good” because it is perfectly suited to God’s eternal purpose. The scripture makes no claim that nothing died before the fall; all scripture speaking of the death resulting from the fall explicitly specifies mankind as the creature affected. The sin of Adam and Eve introduced death for mankind, and only for mankind. This universe, by the very foundational laws governing its operation includes death and pervasive laws of decay (which we call thermodynamics), and was created as a temporary place which was never able, nor intended, to support life for eternity. The eternal dwelling of mankind is an altogether new and different creation of God.
Diet Before the Fall
29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”
YEC: All animal life was herbivorous until after the fall.
OEC: Genesis 1:29 poses a difficulty for the old creation view. Generally this is explained by virtue of plant life being the base of the entire food chain. Therefore plants are food for all animals, since if a herbivore eats plants, and a carnivore eats the herbivore, then in this sense the plant life has provided food for the carnivore. While this works, to me it is not a completely satisfying argument.
Extent of Eden
YEC: All creation was an Edenic paradise, free of all pain or harm of any kind until after mankind fell.
OEC: Eden was specifically limited in geographical extent, beyond which was a wild, dangerous and untamed creation that Adam was commanded to subdue.
Appearance of Age
There is little argument that there are many things about creation that appear old. Distant stellar objects are visible though their light should require billions of years to reach us; bio-mass deposits appear to most often form slowly and yet they are abundant; the geographic layers reveal evidence of both rapid deposition and deposits which are known to take incredibly long times; radiometric dating, tree ring dating, ice cores, coral reef formations, varve formations and other means of dating things in the distant past overlap timescales with each other and are remarkably consistent in those overlaps.
YEC: One way to explain the apparent age of the universe in the context of a young creation is the idea that God created with the appearance of age. After all, it seems reasonable to suppose he may have created mountain ranges fully formed, though the processes which maintain them operate much more slowly. He could have created starlight in transit. It is unequivocal from scripture that he created Adam and Eve as mature, adult human beings.
While this works, and it certainly is possible that God may have created with the appearance of age, in my opinion it is not an altogether satisfying argument.
My caution would be to consider the difference between age and maturity. A fully grown body is mature, but it seems less clear whether God might have created the first humans with age spots, scars, reduced telemeres in their DNA, perhaps a little organ wear and tear, and other biological markers of age. Likewise, consider that the light from distant objects carries information and bears witness to a history of actual events.
Then too there is consideration of the implications for the character of God if artifacts of creation are deliberately misleading, especially in light of Romans 1, which we looked at earlier.
OEC: The creation appears old because it is old.
YEC: The scientific enterprise in inherently the flawed work of fallible men and the scientific data has no bearing on the creation account unless it’s to support it. Scientific observations can never correct our interpretation of scripture.
OEC: The scientific enterprise produces valuable data which can inform our interpretation of scripture and allow us to discern between various possible interpretations allowed by the Hebrew text.
YEC: Hominids are corrupted descendants of Adam and Eve, possibly the offspring of bestial interbreeding, possibly the offspring of demonic activity, or possibly simply the result of corruption by sin.
OEC: Hominids are a separate creation of God, bipedal primates similar to the great apes of today and utterly unrelated to humanity. Though superficially similar in anatomy they were qualitatively different in all ways that matter – intellect, culture, capability and devoid of spirituality.
While precisely how God created this realm is a subject of debate, the fact that he created it is pivotal to our faith. The evidence for God is abundant in his creation, for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4 (ESV)
Note that the articles referenced here can be easily found at http://think.dolhub.com.
A Biblical Defense of Old Earth Creation
Responding to Objections to Old Earth Creation
Scripture and Science