Learn about Four Powerful Words that if understood correctly will help you to navigate the debate that rages around Genesis, our origins, and the Flood.
How Old is the Earth?
So just how old is the earth? The question of the Earth’s age has been a subject of profound interest and debate for centuries. From a creationist perspective, the age of the Earth is determined by the historical accounts in the book of Genesis, primarily relying on genealogies and historical accounts in the Old Testament. According to this viewpoint, the Earth is believed to be around 6,000 years old. This perspective, known as Young Earth Creationism, asserts that the Earth was created in six literal days. However, it’s important to acknowledge that this perspective stands in contrast to a widely held consensus of the scientific community. And this consensus estimates the Earth’s age to be approximately 4.5 billion years old.
So just how do we calculate the age of the earth? Which way is best?
Young Earth Creationism
Young Earth Creationism holds that the Earth’s age can be calculated by tracing the lineage of biblical figures and events described in the Old Testament. According to this perspective, the Earth’s history can be divided into distinct epochs, beginning with the creation of Adam and Eve. By adding up the ages of individuals mentioned in the Bible, from Adam to historical events like the Great Flood, proponents of Young Earth Creationism arrive at an estimated age of 6,000 years.
The six-day creation process described in the book of Genesis is the cornerstone of this perspective, with each day being a 24-hour period. And the genealogies provided in the Bible serve as chronological markers. Consequently, this interpretation leads to a relatively young age for the Earth.
Challenges to Young Earth Creationism
Critics of Young Earth Creationism argue that a literal interpretation of the Bible is not acceptable, that the only possible answer to the age of the earth must include very long ages. And they believe that this belief rests in science.
So here are some of the ideas that secular scientists believe refute creationism.
One of the most significant challenges to Young Earth Creationism is the extensive fossil record and geological evidence that secular scientists say suggests a much older Earth. Radiometric dating of rocks, for instance, is believed to provide compelling evidence for an Earth that is billions of years old. This dating method relies on the decay of radioactive elements within rocks, allowing scientists to estimate their age.
But there is a big difference between radiometric decay and radiometric dating. Radiometric decay can be seen in testing. Radiometric dating extrapolates those decay rates to apply to the past, which can’t be seen. In fact, radiometric dating seeks to take what we see today and present it as an explanation for past events. But it is not scientifically honest to suggest that today’s events are adequate to prove past behavior. In this case, radiometric dating does not take into account a catastrophic flood that could have altered the radiometric clocks. In addition, when dating rocks using this method, multiple dates with different ages is the rule, not the exception. And then scientists pick the date that best lines up with their idea of the age of the earth.
The Mt. St. Helens eruption of 1980 is a good example of this. Dates for the newly created rock ranged from 035 to 2.8 million years. In fact, the rocks were only 10 years old. You can read more about that here.
Many secular scientists point to the vast distances between stars and galaxies as a challenge to the notion of a young Earth. Light from distant stars takes immense amounts of time to reach us. And they believe that this phenomenon, known as the starlight travel time problem, implies an ancient universe. What it does not take into account is that when the Lord created the world, He spoke, and it was done. He placed the stars and galaxies (Genesis 1:17). They were created fully functioning. The amount of time that it takes for light to travel is not an issue if they were created.
Diversity of Lifeforms
Many secular scientists believe that the diversity of life on Earth as seen in the fossil record suggests a gradual process of evolution over millions of years. But the truth is that the fossil record holds no such record of evolution. Rather, it shows layers of sediment that hold fossil remains consistent with the law of superposition. This law states basically, that the oldest layers of sediment are on the bottom. But this law does not imply great ages. It is a relative positioning of the layers that is in view. This could have been produced by the flood.
Try this: take a jar and fill it with various materials, including sediments and water. Seal it with a lid, and then give it a good shake. Finally, set it on a level surface to settle. You will in all probability see layers form. And it did not require long periods of time or successive events. One event. And this is what the Flood of the Bible proposes. One event. Billions of things buried around the world in layers of sediment.
Sedimentary Layers and Grand Canyon Formation
One of the most popular arguments for an old earth is the interpretation of the layers of sedimentary rock in the Grand Canyon. These layers supposedly provide a record of gradual processes over immense spans of time. But a better explanation would be the Flood. When the flood waters rushed off of the earth, they cut a tremendous gash in the sediments of the area, leaving us with a remnant of those waters in the Colorado River that is at the bottom of the canyon.
The question of the Earth’s age is a deeply significant topic. Many believe that it encompasses religious and scientific perspectives. But the age of the earth is mostly a matter of history. And the Bible is our recorded history of the formation of the earth. The Bible is the historical document that gives us the reliable information about what happened that created our world as it appears today. An authentic history is the only thing that helps us to put the pieces together. Otherwise, we must just guess at what happened. A little science supported by guesswork is not tenable for determining the age of the earth.
If you want to go deeper in your understanding of the age of the earth from a Biblical perspective, I would recommend the following books:
The Geologic Column, Perspectives Within Diluvial Geology, edited by John Reed and Michael Oard
The Great Turning Point by Terry Mortenson
The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods by John Woodmorappe