TCQ Week 4: Scripture and the Age of the Earth

Jul 8, 2024 | Creation, Manuscripts/Outlines

There are many ways people understand the Bible. Should we take it literally? If so, does that mean all of it? Which parts? If not, can we trust the Bible at all?

When it comes to science and the Bible, the disagreement gets even bigger. Some think the Bible and science match exactly. Others think they are completely different. Some believe the Bible has important things to say about science, but it doesn’t actually teach science.

So, where should a faithful Christian stand with all this confusion? That’s what we will talk about in this lesson.

Here’s what we will cover:

First, what does the Bible say about the creation event? Did creation happen in six ordinary days as the text seems to say? Or is the creation story just an allegory to teach a spiritual lesson?

Second, we’ll discuss how “scientific” the Bible is. We’ll look at examples of what some people call “scientific foreknowledge” and see if the Bible mentions dinosaurs.

Finally, we’ll look at the Bible and time. I’ve already shared that I believe in a young earth. Why do I think that? Does the Bible allow for other views? Is someone who believes differently harming the gospel?

These are tough but important questions. Let’s begin.

The Six Days of Creation

When you read the first chapter of Genesis, what comes to mind? For many people, it’s the idea of creation in six days. The text is very clear. God creates something, calls it good, then moves on to the next day. Each day ends with the statement, “and the evening and the morning were the nth day.”

If you gave the Bible to a child or a new believer who had never read it before and asked them how long it took God to create everything, they would probably say six days.

Christians believed this straightforward view for a long time, until around the late 18th century, when James Hutton came along. He was a scientist and is often called the father of modern geology. Hutton studied rocks and the Earth’s layers. He noticed that the Earth seemed much older than a few thousand years. Hutton’s ideas led people to think that the Earth was shaped over a long time by processes like erosion and sedimentation. This view, known as uniformitarianism, suggested that the Earth was millions of years old, which was different from the traditional biblical view of creation in six days.

Uniformitarianism says “the present is the key to the past.” This means that the current rates and processes in the earth today have always been happening. If you were to wind back earth’s clock with these rates and processes in mind, you’d find the earth to be millions of years old.

Later, in the 19th century, Charles Lyell built on Hutton’s ideas. Lyell wrote a famous book called “Principles of Geology,” which explained these ideas in more detail. He argued that the same natural processes we see today, like erosion and volcanic activity, have been shaping the Earth for a very long time. Lyell wanted to “free the science from Moses,” meaning he wanted to separate scientific explanations from biblical ones. Lyell’s work helped to popularize the idea that the Earth is very old and influenced many scientists, including Charles Darwin.

It’s easy to see why many people think there is a conflict between science and the Bible, right? If science says one thing and the Bible says another, which should we believe? So, we need to answer two questions: Are we understanding the Bible correctly? If so, what might scientists be getting wrong?

Six Days, Really?

Aside from Genesis 1, Exodus 20:10-11 states clearly how God thinks about the original creation week:

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Did you know that the idea of a “week” is the only cycle of time we use not based on astronomy? The 7-day week all humans live by is a command of God. That’s how he has chosen to structure reality.

He pointed to His own creative activity, then told the Israelites to work the same way. While some thinkers had different opinions over the past 2,000 years, no one seriously questioned this idea until scientists began to see the world as very old.

It might surprise you, but with the invention of the Internet and a resurgence of Christian apologetics over the last 20-30 years, the idea that Genesis does not teach creation in six days is becoming very popular.

I think about it in three ways:

  1. “Young Age” creationists — those who think the earth is 6-7,000 years old.
  2. “Old Age” creationists — those who think the earth is 4.5 billion years old.
  3. “No Age” creationists — those who don’t have an opinion.This will come up again later when we talk more about the age of things, but for now, each of these views maps to a belief about the days of creation, too.

Young-age creationists believe that creation happened in six regular days. Old-age creationists usually believe the “days” stand for long periods of time. And No-age creationists usually think the biblical writers meant six regular days, but it was not meant to be taken literally (it’s more of an analogy or allegory).

Young-age creationists’ have biblical clarity and most of Jewish/Christian history on their side. Old-age creationists face more difficulty with the Bible, but have mainstream science on their side. No-age creationists claim to be able to coexist with both.

So: Are the days regular days? Long periods of time? Or non-literal?

I believe they are regular days, because:

  1. There is no reason within the text to question the length of the days.
  2. The time periods are defined within the text.
  3. The Israelites week was based on God’s creation week.

What are the best arguments for the other views?

Those who say the days were long periods of time believe:

  1. There is more than one “literal” meaning of day in Hebrew, and one of those meanings is “a long, undefined period of time.”
    1. Response: No Hebrew scholar I’m aware of would agree with this. There are better word choices if that is the intended meaning. Plus, it is the periods of light and dark that define the day; these light and dark periods cannot extend over millions of years.
  2. The seventh day appears not to have a closing period, leaving the door open to these days being long periods of time.
    1. Response: It is just as possible that the seventh day does not mention a closing period because it was the end of creative activity. The day was of a different nature and quality altogether. The work stopped.
  3. Since the sun wasn’t created until day 4, the first three days could not have been regular days.
    1. Response: This is a misunderstanding. The sun does not determine the length of a day; the rotation of the earth’s axis does. If you have a directional light source (v. 3) and a spinning earth, you have regular days.

Those who don’t really have an opinion believe:

  1. The biblical writers may have meant regular days, but they weren’t “teaching” regular days.
    1. Response: There are times (you’ll see soon) where I agree with this approach. But in this case, there isn’t a good argument from the Bible to make that it isn’t teaching regular days. That argument comes from science.
  2. Genesis 1 is not about science, it’s about theology.
    1. Response: Again, on this, I agree. But I would go a step further to say it’s about history. It seems to record what actually happened and gives no hint that it is only a story for theological purposes.
  3. Since the days don’t relate to science at all, any mainstream view of earth history will do.
    1. Response: While the text may not be teaching science, if it teaches true history, it might have real effects on science. Since evolutionary history would disagree with biblical history, it would not be an option.

Since Christians have believed for a long time that the days of creation are regular days, anyone who thinks differently needs to show strong evidence from the Bible to support their new idea. But usually, their evidence either comes from or is motivated by science.

This means, by firmly believing the Bible, we can be sure our conclusions are right. This leads to our second question:

Are Scientists Wrong?

From past lessons, we know that “the science” isn’t really a single thing. Scientists all have beliefs. Everyone brings those beliefs with them to their work. This helps us see that scientists can be wrong, even when they hold their beliefs sincerely and even seem to have good evidence for them.

As we continue through this series, we will see specific areas of science where there is disagreement between the biblical picture and the mainstream picture. When it comes to the areas of science that disagree with creation in six days, it can be boiled down to just a few ideas:

  1. The dating of rocks and fossils on Earth
  2. The dating of the stars and planets
  3. The belief in “molecules-to-man” evolution

Rocks and fossils on earth

Moments ago, I mentioned “uniformitarianism,” the idea that “the present is the key to the past.” It’s important to remember this is not a conclusion about the evidence, but an assumption about it. When that assumption is used to interpret the evidence, it affects the outcome.

When scientists perform “radiometric dating” tests on rocks and fossils, they determine the age of the specimen based on the “half-life” of radioactive elements within it. For example, the uranium-lead (U-Pb) dating method is used to estimate the age of the Earth, which is about 4.5 billion years old. The half-life is the period of time it takes for half of the radioactive material to decay.

But this explanation faces three problems. First, if uniformitarianism is not true, the method is not reliable. If the earth underwent dramatic periods of catastrophic activity (like a global flood), there are more factors to consider than the year-over-year decay.

Second, there is evidence in the methods themselves to suggest they are not reliable. These dating methods require three additional assumptions:

  1. Zero contamination: The sample must not have been contaminated with any other materials since it was formed.
  2. Original makeup: The sample must have started with only the original radioactive material and none of the end product.
  3. A consistent rate of decay: The rate at which the radioactive material decays must have remained constant over time.

These are difficult (if not impossible) to prove. It is shaky ground to change how we see biblical history based on these methods.

Third, the physical evidence suggests a different explanation. For example, we have tested rocks that have formed during our lifetimes that show large radiometric ages. Also, many rocks have formed “polonium halos,” which are tiny spheres of radiation damage that suggest rapid formation. (It looks like a LOT of decay has happened in a SHORT amount of time.)

Stars and planets

Uniformitarianism also plays into the dating of the stars and planets. Sometimes astronomers say, “When we look into a telescope, we see the past.” They’re technically right about that, but it is a bit misleading. It doesn’t automatically tell you how far into the past they are looking.

Because distant stars and planets are a long way away, scientists believe their great distance from us is an indicator of how long ago they were formed. They can measure the “red shift” in stars, which shows how fast they are moving away from us. This shift is used to estimate their age and the age of the universe by “winding back the clock.”

So when we look at images from the James Webb telescope and see the distant reaches of the universe, astronomers tell us we are seeing the universe in its earliest stages, roughly 13.8 billion years ago.

But suppose creation happened as the Bible says—in six days, roughly 6-7,000 years ago. How could we see light from stars that far away? Many answers have been considered, but the simplest one is that their creation was rapid—like a growth spurt—just as it seems the creation of life on Earth was.

Sparing you the boring details (for now), that scenario would result in a young universe that, under uniformitarian assumptions, could seem old.


The dating of rocks and fossils is not the only thing scientists pay attention to. They also consider the order of the fossils found and look for relationships between them, such as whether animals could interbreed, how similar they are in body structure, and any DNA relationships they share.

When it comes to evolution, there are two parts: the observations scientists make and the explanations they offer for them. Right now, scientists are questioning some of their explanations, especially some of the ideas that Charles Darwin suggested and those related to them. But most scientists don’t question the observations of evolution: that organisms change over time and that all life can be traced back to a single common ancestor.

That second part has three big problems. First, if the current processes scientists believe about evolution are not true, it casts doubt on whether their observations are correct. For example, the evidence shows that Darwin’s processes cannot move an organism beyond the classification level of “Family” in most cases. This casts doubt on the idea that all life can be connected past that point.

Second, current observations about evolution only consider how organisms are similar, not how they are different. But there are many differences between organisms, and current methods of science in biology don’t take these differences into account. Once we consider how organisms are different, we see a picture of life’s history on Earth that is more like the one described in the Bible. (More about that in a couple weeks.)

Finally, you should always have a way to prove something wrong. The saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it usually is” applies here. When evidence against evolution appears (such as common “design” features in very distantly-related groups of organisms), evolutionists often call this “convergence” and say it is evidence for evolution. Really, it’s just evidence against evolution that has been turned into a story.

Putting it altogether, we have clear evidence from Scripture that creation took place in six days, and little evidence from science that truly threatens that belief.

The Bible Isn’t a Science Textbook, but History Matters

Those who are opposed to the “regular” interpretation of the creation account often say that the Bible isn’t a science textbook. They are upset because they think we are viewing the Bible too simplistically.

Their thinking goes like this: the Bible was written by ancient people who did not have knowledge of modern science. They didn’t know or care about the shape of the earth, how life was formed, how long creation took, the nature of the sky, etc. So when we talk about the Bible in relation to science, we’re simply misunderstanding what the Bible is.

I used to be quite offended by this. I eventually came to realize that, although I still disagree, they are more right than wrong. Let’s talk first about why I disagree.

It’s not hard to understand. I disagree because I read the Bible. The Bible actually has something to say about the shape of the earth, how life was formed, how long creation took, and even the nature of the sky. Now—many will disagree over the details. But you can’t say those things weren’t important to the biblical writers; they wrote about them!

What these critics usually mean is that the biblical writers seem to assume a view of science that disagrees with our modern interpretations. Knowing that will cause accusations like “you believe the Bible has errors,” they are careful to say that the Bible is not teaching science (biology, astronomy, geology, etc) but that these “errors” were due to pre-scientific authorship.

What I eventually came to realize is that both views are wrong. On the one hand, it’s true that the Bible is not a science textbook. On the other, sometimes the Bible’s explanations are strangely accurate.

When I said they were “more right than wrong,” what I realized is that often my fellow young-age creationists were looking for science in the Bible but being selective about what counted. For instance, the Bible mentions “springs of the sea” in Job 38:16, which was not known to ancient people but is something we understand today. This seems to show that the Bible contains insights about the natural world that were ahead of their time.

On the other hand, when you read about “the heart” in the Old Testament, the word being referred to usually means “bowels” or “kidneys.” In ancient times, the kidneys were seen as the seat of your emotions—one’s innermost being. But today, we know that it is one’s “mind”—or the interaction between the non-physical “you” and your physical brain.

So, which is it? Is the Bible right about springs in the sea but wrong about your kidneys? This is the problem with thinking too simplistically about the Bible and science. It breaks down in the details.

Here’s what’s cool, though: Concerning those kidneys, think about it—even today we say we have a “gut feeling.” We often experience how we feel in our guts. Scientifically, we now know there is direct wiring between our gut and our brain, and we even know that our metabolism (what we eat) dramatically affects our brain (how we think).

It doesn’t mean the ancients were right. But it also doesn’t mean the Bible is wrong! Springs in the sea—is Job referring to what we think of when we think about the springs in the sea we didn’t discover until the 1970s? Only God truly knows. My point is: Springs in the sea are not enough to prove the Bible is true, and thoughtful bowels aren’t enough to prove that it isn’t.

Ultimately, the biblical writers used the language of experience called phenomenological language. They wrote what they saw, felt, heard, and believed. They weren’t thinking about science at all.

History—That’s What Matters

So it’s not a science textbook. However, the Bible is a book of reality—of history—and sometimes that history will be contrary to mainstream science. We’ve already discussed some of those ways.

Let’s take a few specific examples, tying together some of the threads we’ve started discussing.

The Creation Days and the Fall of Man

If the creation is old, prior to the fall, millions of years’ worth of death, suffering, and disease occurred. But the Bible claims those things result from man’s sin, not that they come before it.

Suppose the Big Bang happened only one hour ago. On that scale, Adam was created about 5 minutes ago. But in Mark 10:6, Jesus says, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.”

So the Bible isn’t giving a scientific breakdown of why the earth is young—but the theology it teaches has clear implications for science.

Fossils and the flood

We have in the fossil record billions of dead things. An entire history of life on Earth. But each layer you peel back causes problems. First, we learn about the death, disease, and suffering discussed before from the fossil record.

That record of life can’t both result from millions of years of slow processes and a year-long global flood. So you must choose either a local flood (which puts you at odds with the Bible) or a global flood (which puts you at odds with the mainstream view of earth history).

Further, if the mainstream account is true, 99% of life on Earth is absent from the fossil record, which suggests the Bible is wrong when it says two of every kind of animal was on the ark. (More on that in a few weeks.) Again, the Bible gives no scientific breakdown of the flood, but it has dramatic implications for earth history.


Some think Behemoth and Leviathan in Job are dinosaurs. I used to think that strongly. It’s still my default belief, but I think there is good evidence these were word pictures for ancient Near Eastern chaos monsters. (Remember I said we shouldn’t look too hard for science in the Bible? This is a great example.)

Let’s assume the Bible says nothing directly about dinosaurs. If biblical history is true, it says at least two things indirectly: They were created on Day 6 of creation and died during the flood (because all land animals died).

Do you get it? This means dinosaurs and man lived at the same time, and they were not destroyed by a meteor 65 million years ago, but by a flood just about 4,500 years ago. Again—the Bible is not making a scientific claim. It is teaching history, and history sometimes matters for science.

The Bible and Time: Is Creation Young or Old?

To round out this lesson, we’re going to directly tackle the subject we’ve danced around the whole time: is creation young (roughly 6,000 years) or old (roughly 13.8 billion years)?

A mentor of mine, creation biologist Dr. Todd Wood, has a simple way of putting this. There are three reasons to be a young-age creationist: text, tradition, and theology.


We have seen much evidence throughout this lesson that the text of Scripture is clear witness to a six-day-long supernatural creation event that took place on a young time-scale. But where does the 6-7,000 year number I keep mentioning come from?

Let’s work backwards. We know that if we rewind from right now until the time of Christ, that covers about 2,000 years. We also know from history that from Christ back to the time of Abraham was about 2,000 years. This information comes from the Bible and sources outside the Bible, too.

That leaves only the time from Abraham to the beginning of creation to figure out. Fortunately, in Genesis 5 and 11, we have two detailed genealogies. In fact, they are unique in all ancient history, because they give us one very important detail: The age of the father when his first son was born, and how long he lived after that until he died. They are sometimes referred to as “chronogenealogies,” because they communicate time. When you add those dates up and add additional factors such as the age of Noah when the flood started (600), you come out to around another 2,000 years of earth history.

Some creationists err on the side of caution and say 6-10,000 years to allow for the possibility of using the Septuagint (the greek Old Testament) dates, which differ slightly from the original Hebrew, and some believe are more accurate.

But the case is pretty open and shut. Some think these genealogies are non-literal (because of the ages mentioned) and can be added to (because sometimes genealogies have gaps).

  1. Non-literal? No. The only ancient comparison even close is the Sumerian king lists, which boast ages of 30,000+. It is not even the same type of literature.
  2. Can they be added to? No. Some genealogies are “open,” but these are closed, because the people mentioned seem to be direct descendants.

These genealogies trace all the way back to Adam. All you must now do is remember Jesus’ statement from Mark 10:6 that male and female were created in the beginning, which removes the possibility of billions of years of time prior to Adam.

When you put all the evidence together, it’s virtually undeniable: the Bible teaches a young creation.


If you grew up in church, you probably were a “young-earth creationist” by default. Although the point seems simple, there’s a reason for it: You were very possibly part of the last generation to grow up thinking this view of biblical history is “assumed.”

Many Christians today will grow up without this belief. They will grow up thinking there is room in the Bible for the Big Bang and possibly even evolution, because their pastors told them not to make a big deal out of Genesis. “Keep Jesus the focus,” they might say. I agree; except that I truly believe old-age creationism undermines the gospel (will explain more in a second).

My point here is very simple: The reason you likely grew up with this default position is because it’s been the church’s default position for 2,000 years. There were outliers, sure. There are many now. But especially prior to Hutton and Lyell (mentioned earlier), it’s hard to find scholars who don’t take the biblical account literally.

Todd Wood puts it like this:

In every age of church history, Christian authors were concerned to affirm the historical details of Genesis 1-11. Not every author paid attention to the historicity of Genesis, but enough of them did so that we may assume that this was the default understanding of Genesis. Indeed, the crises that would come about after the Scientific Revolution further confirm that people understood Genesis 1-11 as a history of the origin of the world. No one would fuss about the age of the earth, the creation of species, or the person of Adam if they didn’t think that Genesis was telling us something historical.


Let’s bring it all together by discussing the most important thing of all: the gospel.

Biblical history shows that Adam’s sin is responsible for the death, suffering, and disease in the world. Some explain this away by claiming Adam and Eve were not historical at all, but archetypal—they “represented” us but were not literal human beings created 6,000 years ago.

There is one glaring problem with this, which I’ll let the Apostle Paul explain (Romans 5:12-19):

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

It’s clear: The physical sin committed by a physical human being required a physical Savior. The first man, Adam, needed to be replaced by the second man, Jesus, to restore our broken relationship with God.

Wood writes:

Theology also supports the historicity of Genesis 1-11. I once again point to the doctrine of Adam’s fall, the curse on creation, and their connection to Christ’s redemption as important and ancient features of Christian theology and identity. Looking to Christian tradition again, we find the full weight of the church fathers behind this understanding of a perfect creation, followed by a fall into sin and a cosmic curse, and finally the resurrection of Jesus as the firstfruits of the redemption of all creation. This is a central feature of Christian theology made possible by reading Genesis 3 as history.

If the creation is young, this gospel story is intact. But if the creation is old, Jesus’ literal physical death and resurrection were unnecessary. Death did not precede Adam; it was a consequence of his actions. Jesus came to fix that problem.

Can you believe in Jesus and an old creation? Yes. Many do, and many are my friends. But you must sacrifice the biblical text, 2,000 years of Christian history, and the foundation of the gospel to do it. That price is simply too high for me to pay.

Meet Steve

Meet Steve

Hi, I’m Steve, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher with a heart for exploring God’s Word and God’s world.

I’m interested in the surprising connection between creation, theology, business, and storytelling. We explore those themes and more on this blog.

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