This question has come up time and time again to me over the years since starting "The Jesus Movement". One that asks questions along the lines of, "How old is the earth? How old is the earth Biblically? What does science say?" I will explore this here in a new, multi-part article.
In this first part, I will address several key doctrines and how particular beliefs would contradict the Word. You might also wonder, does the age of the earth even matter Biblically for everything to be true? Perhaps the answer is somewhere in the Word, and letting science be science, and the Bible be the Bible. Let's get into it!
For starters, it helps to understand what is meant when we discuss the "age" of anything. No matter what we are talking about, we ultimately imply that whatever "it" is, has a specific history attached to it.
For example, let's say you own a 2001 Ford vehicle with over 200,000 miles on it, and your spouse owns a 2019 Ford vehicle with just under 20,000 miles on it - and the year is 2021. Obviously, the older vehicle has been through a series of events quite more often than the newer vehicle.
The same principle could apply to humans and animals, and life in general. Older humans and animals obviously have been through a series of different events than newborn or young humans and animals.
With this, we learn our first very simple idea - age indicates history. So, when we talk about the age of the earth, or anything for that matter, we are talking about the history of said thing.
According to the Word, and Genesis specifically, this history in particular begins with specific events that eventually lead to Jesus.
So, where do we begin in explaining this history? Let's jump forward to the Book of Isaiah.
Overall, this book is filled with prophecy and wonder. Some of the things Isaiah has described in his visions of the Lord and the Heavens sometimes sound like a truly a magnificent sight to behold.
For now, let's focus on one thing that Isaiah was very clear on: God controls every moment of history in order to glorify Himself by redeeming people through His Son, Jesus.
Isaiah 46:9-11 (KJV): Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
By this we learn something very important - God ensures all of history will serve His desire. Every event in history has consequences of events that take place and are very important because He is accomplishing His purpose.
Think about it this way- the Bible is essentially a book of history, and it is through these events that He brings salvation to us and glorifies Himself through it. This is why our view of the age of the earth matters to the gospel, and also by consequence we must understand to let the Bible be the Bible, and Science be Science. The Bible was not written to be a science book. There are several doctrines related to the age of the earth in the Bible that we can examine for a better understanding.
One of the most glaring is the timeline of earth and it's age. If we swap the Biblical timeline of thousands of years with the more conventional timeline of billions of years, then we must also accept all the events that go with that timeline — events which can displace Biblical events as written.
This directly affects the doctrines that rely on those events in the Bible, and we come to a problem.
For example, God has revealed the history of the universe and mankind's role. To allegorize any of those events means we question the ability of divine revelation to speak clearly about history.
God created the universe - fully functional and all - in six days. Some look to the Hebrew text and argue that it is possible the word used for "day" could refer to longer periods of time, but when we modify this understanding of time as it is written and alter these events, we then transform the doctrine of creation into a slow, indirect, and likely death-filled process and this, in turn, transforms our view of God and His nature.
Now, we know God created Adam and Eve in His image in the beginning, and this was purposely done so that His image would be reflected somewhere in the universe at every point in history. If we place long ages of time before man’s creation, it means God’s image would have been missing from creation for almost all of it's history. Does that sound like something that would be accurate?
Remember Adam's sin of eating the apple as well? What did God do? God cursed creation, bringing death and corruption into a very good world. Here we run into a contradictory in doctrines- if we are to say that billions of years of corruption and death passed before Adam’s sin would mean that God created a universe filled with death from the beginning. This completely changes our understanding of the fall and the meaning of our redemption.
God controls every moment of history, starting with the first creation and the fall, guiding us to redemption in Christ. If the timeline of the universe is not the timeline of the Bible, then God is emptied of His loving action and purpose, and it directs responsibility for billions of years of emptiness, silence, death and unknown on the Word.
I started here with a few simple examples because maybe Christians do not realize how the age of the earth affects key doctrines in the Word. This, however, was not always the case.
For most of history, there was an understanding that we cannot change the timeline recorded in the Bible without changing the core doctrines in the Bible. Yet still, there are some Christians today who say the Bible does not speak to the age of the earth. This view, however, would surprise the vast majority of interpreters throughout the history of the church.
In my next article, we will go deeper here, and answer the question, does the Bible Speak to the age of the earth?