This is the fourth post in my series on creation and evolution basics, and the first to cover a single view in depth. Posts to date have included 3 Big Reasons You Need to Be Up to Speed on Current Views, The Six Key Views You Need to Understand and How Jesus Loving, Bible-Believing Christians Can Have Different Views on Origins.
Today starts the part of my creation and evolution series where I’ll be featuring detailed information on each of the views discussed here. As a disclaimer, I’m not a scientist, Bible scholar or theologian. I’m simply a Christian parent who has decided to dig deeply into the debate on origins because I’ve come to believe that an understanding of the issues is no longer optional when raising Christian kids in today’s world. I believe we owe it to our kids to be educated on major views and the cases for and against them.
I’ve read 16 books and countless articles representing the varied views. These blog posts will feature the points I feel are most critical for understanding each position. I personally am taking no side in writing these; it is my goal to present each view as objectively as possible.
Before reading this, you may want to refer to my earlier chart for orientation. Today’s post is on Young Earth Creationism, and we’ll work up the chart from there. I’ll refer to Young Earth Creationism by the acronym YEC and those who hold the view as YECs (Young Earth Creationists). Here we go!
1. YEC is the belief that God created the universe and everything in it during six 24-hour periods that happened 6,000-10,000 years ago.
A 2012 Gallup survey found that 46% of Americans believe in “young earth creationism.” The position is labeled “young earth” to contrast it with the mainstream scientific consensus that the earth and universe are billions of years old.
2. People often refer to the YEC position as “creationism” despite the fact that there are multiple other views believing in God as Creator.
This can be extremely confusing when you start reading the literature, because there is no standard definition for creationism. Technically, “creationism” should refer to any position that believes in God as Creator of all things. In that sense, there are multiple views that Christians hold outside of YEC that would be considered creationist. However, it is more often used as a derogatory term lobbed specifically at YECs because of the belief in a young earth. When the media refers to “creationism” in the context of faith and science debates, you can be quite sure they are talking about YEC as the representative position.
3. This is the only view – Christian or non-Christian – that believes in a recently created universe (versus one that is billions of years old).
All other views on origins use ages of the universe, earth and life from scientific consensus. It should be noted that there are Christian scientists and organizations who do research on evidence for a young earth. Though these scientists typically state that there is overwhelming young earth evidence, this claim is vehemently denied by all secular and even most Christian scientists.
4. YECs date the origin of the universe based on a somewhat complex analysis of dates and genealogies in the Bible.
Nothing in the Bible explicitly gives a year when God created the universe. YECs arrive at an estimated age of the earth using an extensive combination of scriptural and historical points, and different scholars have come up with different estimates. Here’s an extremely simplified overview of the process (for the full details of one approach, see pp. 7-8 in this PDF from Apologetics Press).
- Dating to the Exodus: Archeologists have uncovered an Assyrian sculpture called the “Black Obelisk” which provides the information needed to date the death of Israel’s King Ahab to about 852 B.C. King Solomon’s reign can be backed into from this date based on 1 Kings 11:42, and according to 1 Kings 6:1, it was 480 years before Solomon’s fourth year of reign that Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt. This places the Exodus about 1446 B.C.
- Dating from the Exodus back to Abraham: Using biblical information on the years the Israelites were in Egypt, and the ages of each of the patriarchs when their children were born (given throughout Genesis), a birth date of 1951 B.C. can be calculated for Abraham.
- Dating from Abraham back to Adam: Genesis 5 provides a detailed genealogy and list of ages from Adam to Noah. Genesis 11 provides similar information from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham’s father Terah. The total years between Adam and Abraham estimated from this analysis are 2130. Adding 2130 years to Abraham’s estimated birth date of 1951 B.C. provides a creation date of about 4081 B.C.
This is a very simplified version, just to give you a general understanding of how YECs arrive at an age of 6,000 years for the earth (4081 B.C. plus 2013 years A.D.). A number of assumptions were not listed here that could stretch the period somewhat longer. The varying estimates typically result in a range of 6,000-10,000 years. There is no amount of stretching biblical genealogies, however, that would produce a world billions of years old. Anyone who believes in an “old earth” is basing that belief on scientific findings.
5. YECs do not start from any kind of geological evidence in determining the age of the earth.
The age of the earth is estimated only by the analysis I just described. To my knowledge, there are no scientists today who believe, based on scientific evidence alone, that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. YECs determine the age of the universe from the biblical data and then do research to find how science could support that age. In fact, YECs frequently state that there is no question the universe “looks” extremely old from the perspective of cosmology, paleontology, and geology.
6. YECs respond to scientists’ claim that a young earth is impossible by saying that the old-looking earth (including the entire fossil record) is a result of Noah’s global flood.
Many people don’t realize this (I certainly didn’t), but it is not a tenable position to believe in six literal creation days 6,000 years ago without believing in a global flood. Many Christians today believe that Noah’s flood was local in nature because almost all scientists say there is no evidence of a worldwide flood. However, in order to have a young earth that geologically looks as old as it does (e.g., mountains and canyons) and has the fossils that it does, something other than the processes we see today had to have happened in the last 6,000 years to explain it. YECs say that this something was the catastrophe of Noah’s flood, and that this single event is responsible for shaping the earth’s ancient-looking geology. This theory of “catastrophism” is contrasted with the prevailing scientific theory of “uniformitarianism,” which says that the earth is the way it is today due to gradual changes over billions of years (albeit with occasional catastrophes thrown in).
The bottom line is that if you believe Noah’s flood was local, you have to believe in an old earth. Otherwise, you have no “event” that could have shaped everything. (Scientists respond that even if there was a global flood, there is no way a single flood event could have resulted in everything we see.)
7. YECs believe the only faithful way to interpret Genesis is that God created everything in six literal 24-hour periods.
Everyone from every position agrees that the most obvious reading of Genesis would say that God created everything in six literal days (the YEC position). This means that Christians who believe in an old earth have to address the question, “How should you read Genesis if not as six literal creation days?” (They all have their own answers, which I’ll discuss in future posts.) Most YECs say there are no biblically reasonable answers to this question. Here are the major arguments used. (For each of these points, an Old Earth Creationist would give an opposing point. I’m just outlining what a YEC would say for now. I’ll provide the Old Earth side in the post focusing on that position.)
- There is no obvious indication that the author is using anything but a literal sense; he meant to convey history.
- The word for day in Hebrew is “yom.” There are seven primary meanings for yom, with many other sub-meanings (just as in English, we could use the word day to mean daytime, a 24-hour period, a general era, etc.). Yom is used 1704 times in the Old Testament and overwhelmingly refers to a 24-hour period. Additionally, every time yom is preceded by an ordinal number (i.e., first, second, etc.) in Old Testament non-prophetical literature, it refers to a regular 24-hour day. Lastly, when Exodus 20:11 refers to the six days of creation, it uses a plural version of yom (yamim) that never means “ages” in any of its 608 instances in the Old Testament.
- There are several Hebrew words that could have been used by the author to communicate longer periods of time if desired.
- After the description of each of the six days in the creation week, the Bible states there was “evening and morning,” the (first/second/etc.) day. One evening and one morning implies a single day had passed.
- Genesis 1:5 says: “And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” The “first day” is therefore explicitly defined as a period of both day and night – i.e., a normal day.
- There would be a scientific problem with botany if the days were stretched to millions of years. Plant life was created on the third day, but the sun was created on the fourth day. If each day represents millions of years, plants (which require sunlight to live) would have lived in total darkness for millions of years. Additionally, many plants require insects for pollination, but other living things weren’t created until days 5 and 6.
- Other scriptures refer to six days of creation in a literal way. Exodus 20:11 says, “For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is within them.” (Similarly, see Exodus 31:17.)
- God explicitly instituted a Sabbath day for Israel because He had rested on the seventh day (Exodus 20:8-11).
- 2 Peter 3:8 (“…one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day…”) is not applicable to creation days. This verse, in appropriate context, is making the point that the passing of time does not in any way affect God’s promises.
- In Mark 10:6, Jesus said (regarding divorce), “But from the beginning of the creation, male and female he made them.” This implies that humans existed from the very beginning of the universe (“creation”), and not just billions of years later.
- In Luke 11:45-52, Jesus rebuked the rebellious Jews of His day, saying that upon them would come “the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah…” Jesus effectively placed the murder of Abel near the foundation of the entire world.
8. YECs hold that the fall (Genesis 3:14-19) included all of creation, not just man.
This is an important component of the YEC position because a belief in millions of years before man would mean countless animal deaths. The fossil record shows death, disease, suffering, carnivorous eating and thorns (note that thorns were part of the curse after Adam’s sin). If human and animal death came to the world through Adam, there would be no way for all of this death (and thorns) to have happened beforehand. (Whether animal death was included in the curse is debated by non-YEC Christians; if the curse did not bring about animal death, millions of years of animal deaths before human creation are not an issue. YECs reference Genesis 1:29-30, Genesis 9:3 and Romans 8:22 as evidence for their position.)
9. All YECs believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but not all Christians who believe in a literal Adam and Eve are YECs.
Most Old Earth Creationists believe in a literal Adam and Eve, as do some Evolutionary Creationists (though it would be a minority belief amongst Evolutionary Creationists). Since the question of a literal Adam and Eve does not distinguish the major competing views of origins, I’m not treating the issue in this post. I will devote an individual post to the topic in the future.
10. Answers in Genesis, founded by Ken Ham, is considered the leading organization advancing the YEC view.
Answers in Genesis offers extensive resources in support of the YEC view: a huge article archive addressing biblical and scientific issues related to the origins discussion, an “Answers Magazine,” homeschooling resources, published books, an “Answers Research Journal,” and much more.
That said, the best single resource I found for making a case for a young earth age (the key distinguishing feature of the YEC position) is this free PDF from Apologetics Press.
Also be sure to check out the Institute for Creation Research.
Was this helpful to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions. Please share on Facebook if you found it a valuable resource, and/or pin on Pinterest for future reference!