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Young Earth Creationism

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Young Earth Creationism

One of the challenges which confront the Christian church today is the issue of how to interpret the biblical creation account in light of what science says about origins and the age of the universe. Some believe that since the reigning scientific theories postulate a universe that is around 14 billion years old and an earth that is 4.5 billion years old, Christians need to have an understanding of Genesis that accommodates these figures.

On the other hand, many Christians hold to a view of creation that estimates the age of the world to be somewhere around 6 - 10,000 years old. They base this off of the straight forward reading of Genesis that presents us with a creation that took place in 6 days. Further, the text of Genesis indicates that this 6 day creation did not take place a long time ago or billions of years ago. Rather, it points to a recent creation by including several genealogical tables, complete with life spans connecting the figure of Abraham to the first man Adam. [See Genesis Ch. 5, 11]

The 'young earth' view was by far the most common understanding of Genesis in the church up until the 19th century when the theory of evolution began to take hold and theories about a much older universe arose. As scientists today point to different chronometers in astronomy and geology as indicating a very old universe, many Christians have felt compelled to adopt a position on origins that suits the 'old earth' view. The result is that the church is quite divided over the issue of origins and sadly does not speak with one voice to the creation event.

The Catholic Church, in fear of repeating the mistakes it made with Galileo, has made allowances for the millions of years asserted in various scientific text books, and has issued an official position on creation that accommodates the 'old earth' paradigm. Further, many evangelicals have developed several creation scenarios to fit the Genesis account into an 'old earth' framework. One is called the 'gap theory' which inserts millions of years in between the first and second verses of Genesis 1. More popular is the 'day-age theory'. This view states that the days of the creation week are not to be taken as literal days but rather each day represents a longer age or period of time. The third option that is held by some evangelicals is the 'literary framework hypothesis', which suggests that the days were never intended to be taken literally but that the language is obviously metaphorical and poetic. We are told that the writer was waxing poetic when he described the creation account in 6 days but never intended us to believe that he was talking of 6 literal days. These alternative theories in regard to the creation account not only accommodate the old age of the universe suggested by science but also are used by some to accommodate their own views of 'theistic evolution', where evolution is accepted as the mechanism by which God created the world and all in it.

To make matters worse, some evangelicals in adopting one of the alternative interpretations of the creation account, in turn, have chosen to heap scorn upon anyone trying to hold to a literal reading of the Genesis text. Hugh Ross says that the young earth view, 'makes a mockery of all the sciences and infuriates scientists.' [The Genesis Question, p. 66] Historian Mark Noll refers to these 'young earth creationists' and dismisses them with the assessment of author, Ronald Numbers. Noll writes: 'Ronald Numbers's book 'The Creationists' [Knopf 1992] explains how a popular belief known as creationism - a theory that the earth is ten thousand or less years old - has spread like wildfire in our century from its humble beginnings in the writings of Ellen White, the founder of Seventh Day Adventism, to its current status as a gospel truth embraced by tens of millions of Bible believing evangelicals and fundamentalists around the world.' [The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, p. 13]. i.e. Numbers dismisses the 'young earth' view as a recent heresy and implies that orthodox Christianity never held such views on the origins of the earth. We will show why this assessment is not correct. In fact, it's presence in a book purporting to critique evangelicalism for its lack of scholarship is an incredible irony in its own right.

Why do people like me still find the young earth view to be defensible in spite of the many capitulations made by other Christian groups? Why do organizations like 'Answers in Genesis' and the 'Institute for Creation Research' still believe that science properly done asserts nothing contradictory to a young earth view? Some of the points made by those holding to the 'young earth' view follow:

Contrary to Numbers and Noll, the young earth view did not originate with Ellen White and the Seventh Day Adventists but has in fact been the historic view of the Christian church. The young earth view flows from an acceptance of the creation account as given in the book of Genesis [6 literal days] and the biblical chronologies that follow. It was the view of John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley and numerous others whose writings clearly document this. Thane Ury does a great service to the church by assembling some of this information in an important book titled, 'Coming to Grips with Genesis' - ed. Ury, Mortenson.

John Calvin wrote these words in the Institutes: 'the duration of the world, now declining to its ultimate end, has not yet attained six thousand years.' [Inst, p. 160] i.e. Calvin was a 'young earther'.

Martin Luther on the Genesis creation account: 'We assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e. that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit.' [Works - Vol. 1, p. 5]

The young earth - six day creation view was the commonly held view in the church around the time of the Reformation forward to the 18th century. In fact, Arch Bishop Ussher's dating of the creation event to 4004 B.C. was believed to be fairly reliable by many.

Puritan Thomas Boston [1676-1732] wrote: 'Our next business is to shew in what space of time the world was created. It was not done in a moment, but in the space of six days, as is clear from the narrative of Moses.' [Quoted in Coming to Grips with Genesis, p. 71]

Others listed as holding a literal 6 day view include John

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