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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Old Earth Creation

As mentioned previously, to believe in theistic evolution - that God used evolution to create man - requires a previous commitment to an age of the earth that is old enough to allow this evolution to occur. If the earth is this old, it is essentially impossible to believe that the creation account is a literal six-day event, because a six-day creation has man in existence only five days after the creation of the heavens.

Old-earth theory was essentially unknown until the advent of evolutionary theory. As evolution became culturally popular, theologians tried to find ways to make the reading of Genesis 1 fit evolutionary theory. One attempt was the "gap" theory, which proposed that there is a very long time gap between Genesis 1:1-2 and the rest of Genesis 1 - between the creation of the earth itself and the creation of life forms. There often is an expansion that explains that there was a completely formed heaven and earth, but something catastrophic, such as the fall of Satan from heaven, led to the destruction of the earth, leaving it without form and void. My Scofield reference Bible has this explanation.

Another effort is the literary framework method, explained by Jeremy in the link in the last post. This essentially says that the framework of the text is poetic, indicating a section that is not intended to be read literally, and thus its point is not intended to be historically accurate, but instead to demonstrate that there was a logical order to the pictures of creation given to Moses by God.

A third effort is age-day theory. This explanation posits that the Hebrew word transliterated "yom" that we translate to "day" does not always mean a 24-hour day, but can mean simply an unspecified period of time. As that is completely true, it has some exegetical value behind it that the other two do not. Yet what has been a struggle for me in accepting this theory is an exegetical reason in that passage that would lead us to beleive that the intent of the author was to read anything other than a 24-hour day for "yom".

However, recently I was presented with such a proximate exegetical reason...the seventh day. The Scriptures read that "So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Gen 2:3)"

What did He rest from? He rested from creating. So, if on the seventh day God rested from creating, when did he stop resting from creating? Has he begun creating again? I don't think so. If God's rest from creating the heavens and the earth ended on the seventh day, and he has not begun creating the heavens and the earth again, could it not be the seventh day still? And, if we are not aware of when this end of creation began, may it be that the "days" are very long periods of time to us?

What do you think?


  • Does God ever need physical rest?

    Did it take God six times as much time to create as he is going to allow humans to live?

    An unspecified and unequal period of time for each day seems to be the best explanation.

    However, how could we possibly know if God is completely through creating?

    Couldn’t God have created an old earth in seven literal days just as he could have created a young earth in seven literal days?

    Your attempt at clarity is raising more questions than giving answers! : - )

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 7/11/2007 01:09:00 PM  

  • Yes, this is one other good argument for questioning whether the seven days refer to 24-hour days. I do think the biblical reasons to consider us still in the seventh day are pretty compelling.

    I thought this had come up in my post, but maybe it wasn't in that post. I know I've discussed it before somewhere.

    By Blogger Jeremy Pierce, at 7/13/2007 03:36:00 AM  

  • Hmmm. Sorry, David. I answered you r comment, but it seems to have not taken when I did it.

    Does God need rest? No, but he apparently decided he wanted to.

    Under this understanding, we need not assign a specific period of time to the "days". They could simply mean "age" or even "revelations" - not because the Hebrew word means "revelations", but because they are descriptors of the period during which Moses was shown creation.

    You final question bears some merit, and is the subject of my final post on the subject, due soon!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 7/15/2007 08:15:00 PM  

  • Hi Hammer,

    I wasn’t challenging anything you wrote; I was just thinking out loud. I’m sorry if it read like a challenge.

    As I think about it now, “rest” must mean “stop” or “pause”, not “rejuvenate”.

    Wouldn’t “stop” preclude miracles?

    Wouldn’t “stop” be a watchmaker view of God?

    Wouldn’t “pause” allow for a more Christian view of an active and involved God?

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 7/16/2007 02:15:00 PM  

  • David,
    Good thoughts. I would consider "stop" to mean "stop creating ex nihilo", or "something from nothing". That would permit miracles and avoid the clockmaker analogy.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 7/16/2007 02:53:00 PM  

  • Hi,

    I don't think the following statement is historically accurate:

    Old-earth theory was essentially unknown until the advent of evolutionary theory. As evolution became culturally popular, theologians tried to find ways to make the reading of Genesis 1 fit evolutionary theory.

    In the late 18th / early 19th century (prior to Darwin) most scientifically trained Evangelicals believed the earth was very old (maybe not billions but much, much older than 10,000 years). The return to a young earth view did not really occur in any substantial way until the fundamentalist / modernist controversy in the early 20th - and never gained much steam until the 1960s ("The Genesis Flood" by Morris & Whitcomb). I touch on this briefly in my post at:


    Ron Numbers "The Creationists" is a particularly good historical study on the topic.

    By Blogger Steve Martin, at 7/20/2007 11:36:00 AM  

  • Steve,
    Thanks for your comment.

    I'm not sure how you define "most scientifically trained evangelicals". For example, prior to Darwinism, "scientifically trained" people believed that life could spring from non-life on a regular basis. Plenty of "theologically trained evangelicals" denied many scriptural teachings. Liberalism was alive and well in the church before Darwin gave them a gift.

    I am not impressed with Mr. Numbers. It is nice of many to declare him a "creationist expert", though. Oddly enough, I don't see many creationist signing on to that moniker for him...

    All that aside, I will concede for the purpose of the post that there were some, even many, who questioned young-earth creationism before Darwin. Since I honestly believe that one can be orthodox and believe either, I don't think that weakens the argument from a scientific standpoint - but I am not arguing for a scientific standpoint. I am arguing for a theological standpoint that can accommodate the claims of science, for or against. I think both propositions I present do. How about you?

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 7/21/2007 11:59:00 PM  

  • Hi Hammertime,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    My main point is that ideas of an old-earth were not put in place by theologians to defend evolutionary theory. As you say, an old-earth is essential for evolution, BUT the theory of evolution had nothing to do with the formulation of old-earth theory. By the time Darwin came around, an old-earth was pretty much the accepted model by scientists & a majority of theologians (including Evangelical theologians).

    I do hear this line quite frequently from those in the Young Earth camp (putting the “historical evolution cart” before the “historical old-earth horse”) – and using this misconception to lump in OEC’ers like Hugh Ross with “the evolutionists”. This is completely unfair as most of these OEC’ers really do not accept evolution.

    As to Numbers, I believe he has been identified as a first-rate historian, and has received kudo’s from many Evangelical academics. Though he has certainly lost his faith, that doesn’t mean he can’t do good history. Even Henry Morris lauded his book “The Creationists”.

    I think in your last line you mean that both YEC and OEC can be defended theologically. (Is this what you mean’t – sorry I’m not sure). I would also add that I think that Evolutionary Creation can also be defended theologically while holding to the divine inspiration of scripture.

    By Blogger Steve Martin, at 7/22/2007 07:27:00 PM  

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