We started our academic discussion series by defining terms. One of my favorite sayings is “Don’t make the Bible say something it doesn’t say.” I enjoy a hearty discussion and even a little bit of friendly debate as much as the next guy, but we must be careful to build up not tear down other believers. There are many things that we simply cannot know. There are mysteries that will only be revealed to us when we come into God’s Kingdom. The ancient Greeks were occupied with continuous discussion and debate, but Paul encourages us to keep our eyes on the prize so to speak, focusing on what is of most importance.
In the 17th century an Irish bishop named James Ussher worked out a chronology of biblical events, based on male lines of lineage presented in scripture. His work is the basis of many young earth creationists, which it might be noted, was his particular bias when he started the started task. Ussher, like many other Bible historians, worked out a timeline of approximately 4,000 years of history before the birth of Christ and 2,000 since. I have no problem with those numbers. We have about 6,000 years of recorded human history, and religious and secular scholars agree that civilization arose in the Fertile Crescent. But at the end of the day I still end here – the Bible does not say the earth is 6,000 years old. Consider the first verses of Genesis:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.(Genesis 1:1-2, ESV)
The seven day creation week begins in verse 3. Whether you believe in a literal seven week, or that those days are merely symbolic of geologic time, we must give pause at the end of verse 2. God created the heavens and the earth. Creationism is clearly presented in God’s Word. But my question is this: How much time pass between verses 2 and 3? The earth was without form and void, and there was water, before the seven described days of creation begin. How long did God hover over the face of those waters? When he called for dry land to appear it rose from the water, but there is no one of the seven days that he called for water to appear.
Don’t make the Bible say something it doesn’t say. By the same token, don’t put words in my mouth either. I will undoubtedly be labeled as liberal by the most die hard conservatives, but I’m not arguing the earth is 4.5 billion years old. How old is the earth? My answer (with a lot of qualifiers) is “I don’t know… and don’t care.” The Bible does not go out of it’s way to offer proof the earth is very young, so in my estimate it must not be very important.
Science vs Faith – I have never found religion and science to be mutually exclusive. Geologists tell us that the age of our planet, based on the research and discoveries they have made, is about 4.5 billion years old. The function of science is to seek answers in a logical, reasonable manner. Science may in fact determine that creation is unreasonable, and I agree. God does what is physically impossible to do. God spoke worlds into existence and created life. That’s not reasonable to believe according to the physical laws of our universe. But the world operates according to rules and laws defined by God that he himself exists outside of. Science cannot prove nor disprove the existence of God. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain, in scientific principles that are logical and reasonable, why there is such genetic diversity on the earth. Faith is not good science, but that does not mean the two are opposed to each other. It does not harm my faith if I cannot redefine the terms of science and prove the earth is too young for evolution to occur. Explaining that light speed has slowed over time and that the Grand Canyon was formed quickly (by waters receding from the Great Flood) doesn’t help me reach the conclusion that the earth is young therefore God is real.
Sola Scriptura was the motto of the Protestant Reformation. It’s a statement that we look to the scriptures only for affirmation. The Bible describes the creation of heaven, earth, and all that exists. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.(Hebrews 11:3, ESV) When children from Christian homes have questions that arise from history or science class, we can have an academic discussion about the age of the earth. On the other hand, you will never see me standing a podium yelling Bible verses across the stage at an evolutionary biologist.