Young Earth Creationism 101: What Every Christian Parent Needs to Know

Young Earth Creationism 101 - What Every Christian Parent Needs to KnowThis 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!

19 Comments

  1. Jennifer on July 15, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    Cool. Thanks for all your hard work. You have really been gifted by God in terms of your research abilities. I could never find the time to do the research you’ve done. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be following along as you go.



    • Natasha Crain on July 15, 2013 at 7:47 PM

      That’s really sweet of you to say, thank you!! 🙂 I hope it will be helpful!



  2. Christina on July 15, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    Very nicely explained and well-written! You have put a lot of thought and effort into this. I would encourage you to continue reading and digging! There IS scientific evidence for the theory of a young earth, including discoveries about human DNA from the Human Genome Project (Dr. John Sanford has written at least one book on this). You may also be interested in works by Jason Lisle (astro-physicist) which explain how findings in astronomy actually better support the theory of a young earth over the theory of an old earth. If you have not yet checked out Mt. Saint Helens, you will find it extremely intriguing and exciting! Another amazing resource is Creation Ministries International (CMI) at http://www.creation.com . ICR coupled with CMI are strong resource tools!! The magazine, Creation, through CMI, is expensive but extremely beautiful and informative (for audiences of all ages and interests), as is Journal of Creation (extremely technical articles for the detail-oriented researcher!). Blessings to you in your endeavors!



    • Natasha Crain on July 29, 2013 at 5:15 PM

      Hi Christina, Thanks so much for the recommendations! I’m familiar with Dr. Sanford and Jason Lisle, though I haven’t read their works specifically. I will say that from my reading thus far, the scientific evidence for a young earth is very weak, but I’m still researching. 🙂 I will definitely check out your links – thanks for sharing!



      • Cayce Maxwell on March 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        Hi Natasha,
        My sister told me about your blog. We both have teenagers who are close to college, and we want them prepared for the onslaught of attacks on the Bible and God, so I really appreciate what you are doing. Could you tell me why you say that the scientific evidence for a young earth is very weak? I just wondered what the main points of contention are as you see them. I apologize if you have named these in another post. Thanks so much.



      • Dean on July 1, 2014 at 10:43 PM

        Good job on the article. It’s obvious you put some work into it. I too would encourage you to check out Dr. Sanford from Cornell. He is one of my favorites. If I remember correctly he was an atheist before he became a Christian. After becoming a Christian, he considered himself a theistic evolutionist. It wasn’t until later that he became a young earth creationist. Being a respected scientist ( search his name on Amazon and you’ll find his work referenced in books that have nothing to do with origins) plus having walked the path from atheism to young earth creationism he seems to be able to bring people together. As evidence of this, on the back of his book you find endorsements from Michael Behe, John Baumgardner, Henry Morris and Phillip Johnson. Also released last year is a book call “Biological Information New Perspectives” with technical papers from a wide variety of authors for a symposium he organized at Cornell. – http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/8818#t=toc . Learn more about his convictions here – http://www.logosresearchassociates.org/#!convictions/cdvz

        In your article you state “In fact, YECs frequently state that there is no question the universe “looks” extremely old from the perspective of cosmology, paleontology, and geology.” – I follow the debate pretty close and I personally haven’t found this statement to be true. The book “Persuaded by the Evidence” by Sharp and Bergman is a good place to start if you want to learn more about various YEC scientists and how they arrived at this position. If you want to do your own research, dinosaurs are a fun place to start – http://kgov.com/dinosaur-soft-tissue. The different lines of evidence pointing to the fact that man and dinosaurs lived together out number the lines of evidence used to prove the historical Jesus ( and as a Christian I obviously believe that Jesus walked this earth). Carl Sagon saw the evidence for dinosaurs and man living together and suggested our mammalian ancestors must of seen dinosaurs and these memories were some how passed on to us. Others have suggested that the ancients must have been expert paleontologist and that is how they were able to accurately portray them. I’d encourage you to do your own research as that is something you are obviously good at.



      • Don on January 22, 2016 at 10:37 AM

        Hi Natasha,

        You did a fair, and well balanced description of YEC’s. I was once a OEC and was slowly converted over time. I want to respond to what you said “from my reading thus far, the scientific evidence for a young earth is very weak.”

        The problem with your statement is we all have the same evidence. Secular scientists, creation scientists, and lay people. The evidence doesn’t change. Only the interpretation of that evidence. All evidence is interpreted through an axiomatic framework of understanding.

        Secular science interprets the evidence through uniformitarianism and naturalism. YEC interprets the evidence using the Bible’s framework. And OEC’s try and mix both. The problem is, as you know from Nancy Percy’s writings that philosophical naturalism is ultimately self refuting, so the whole foundation ultimately falls as the Lord call this “the wisdom of this world” or “foolishness”. YEC is the only framework which avoids this “foolishness”. So when you talk about the evidence, remember it never changes, only the interpretation of the evidence changes.



  3. Charles Austerberry on July 20, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    I appreciate your thoughtful approach!
    About a year ago, Christianity Today’s Tim Stafford wrote a nice cover story titled “A Tale of Two Scientists: What Really Happened ‘In the Beginning'”.
    The article is at:
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/july-august/a-tale-of-two-scientists.html
    It’s an easy read, as long as you keep track of which one of the two scientists you’re reading about (the article goes back and forth between the two, Dr. Darrel Falk and Dr. Todd Wood). Though each takes a different position, I appreciate the respectful approach both biologists take towards those with views other than their own. I sense you will be doing the same with this series. God bless!



    • Natasha Crain on July 29, 2013 at 5:17 PM

      Hi Charles, Thanks for your comment! I actually had read this article and had trouble keeping the two scientists straight, which made your comment quite funny. 🙂 Glad I wasn’t the only one!

      I appreciate the link and comment! Thank you.



  4. Wayne MacKirdy on December 14, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Here is an excellent on-line resource. Dr Jonathan Sarfati is probably the finest creation scientist in the field today, by the way.

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/oect



  5. Karen on January 25, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    Thanks for the post, I was doing research on creation science beliefs and needed a list of YEC-specific beliefs. I do have one question. How does YEC theory explain the problem with inbreeding starting with just Adam and Eve? Royal lineages like the European Hapsburgs and Egyptian Ptolemys had problems with sterility, sickness, and mental illness due to inbreeding. What prevented descendants of Adam and Eve from experiencing the same genetic decline when their children formed brother-sister and double-cousin marriages?



    • Lindsay Harold on July 9, 2014 at 8:08 AM

      Modern inbreeding is a problem because closely related individuals usually share similar genetic defects and mutations. Thus children whose parents are closely related are more likely to receive 2 copies of defective genes (one from each parent) and exhibit the defective trait.

      In the beginning, human genes would not have had the build up of harmful mutation in their genome that we all have today. Adam and Eve were created perfect, without mutations and genetic noise in their genetic makeup. There had been no time for mutations to happen and build up. Thus, marriages between closely related people back then did not have the detrimental effects in their children that they have today.

      It was quite common, initially, for people to marry close relatives. Abraham married his half-sister. Isaac married his cousin. Jacob married two of his double-cousins. In those cases, it was actually considered better to marry one’s close relatives because there were few who worshipped the true God and they were mostly in one family. Thus, Abraham wanted Isaac to marry one of his own relatives rather than an unrelated heathen, and Isaac and Rebekah were horrified when their son Esau married local women rather than women in the family who shared their faith.

      Later, when the law was given through Moses, there was a prohibition given on marrying close relatives. By this time, more genetic defects had built up, making inbreeding more dangerous, and there were enough followers of God to make it possible to marry an unrelated person who shared the same faith.



    • Jen on August 21, 2018 at 8:42 AM

      I believe God’s instructions about inbreeding did not occur until Moses. The genetic pool was large enough until then that inbreeding was not a problem. Answers in genesis has lots of articles to explain this very important question!



  6. Danny Wright on October 18, 2014 at 1:04 AM

    Thank you for this article. We are teaching our children YEC. Your article does a good job of describing why we are doing this by pointing to specific Bible verses. The fact is that the Bible takes a serious hit in credibility if the earth is millions of years old, not only because of the Genius texts, which might be easier to skirt if not for the New Testament texts which you noted, and that confirm a young earth.

    Before I go on let me recommend a resource called “Jonathan Park”. As homeschoolers this has been an invaluable tool in helping, not only us as parents, but our children understand the issues. Your post stays true to what they teach. This is a radio theater series chronicling the Park family’s adventures as the “Creation Response Team” and the start of their own creation museum in New Mexico. The father is Dr Kendall Park, a paleontologist who has several children. The episodes concern the adventures of these children as they encounter challenges from evil doers, the elements, and, of course, evolutionists. The thing I l like the most is that the children asks their dad questions and he gives these thirty second lectures on creationism vs. evolution. From listening to these very entertaining episodes on road trips I’ve learned about convergent evolution, punctuated equilibrium, the cambrian explosion and much more. They can be found at “Landmark Events”. I won’t include the link due to protocol, but if interested just google , “Jonathan Park”. They are also available on Amazon and it is a great way to start your children while they are still young and impressionable on creationism vs. evolution.

    Back to your article. I see you use the word “science”, or “scientific consensus”. These words ought not frighten us. The truth is that scientific consensus not only is not science, but it does not have a good track record when when it comes to science. If scientists were unbiased this might not be so, but may we assume that they would at least agree that their explanations for our origins, assuming the Bible is folklore, are at best a guess? Or at worst, at least for them, faith? As Christians we believe, on the other hand, that we start with the Word of God and work out from there. We don’t assume that it is true, we have faith that it is true. But scripture does not sell faith short. In fact, for Abraham and Sara, it was credited to them as righteousness. (Rom 4:3) There they were, old and scientifically unable to have children, yet God promised them children. What were they to do?

    No man is unbiased, therefore, no scientist is unbiased. I agree, as you have pointed out, that I first assume a young earth and then look for the evidence to prove it, although I think that it is better put in these words, I have faith that God is real, that he has revealed Himself in His Word, and that is my starting place for understanding my environment. But can we really say that scientist are any different? Do they not have faith that they live in a naturalistic, materialistic world and then go find the evidence to prove that? Ultimately, the bottom line is a question of faith regardless, and we all ought to realize that, especially scientist. I start with God’s word, and I cling to it with all faith. The scientist starts with a naturalistic materialistic assumption then uses that assumption to comfort himself with his faith that life is ultimately meaningless, and that he is a sack of chemicals that has reactions within itself which makes that same meaningless sack ponder how it came to be and for what absurd purpose? All the while that sack is extremely conscious that eternity looms on the horizon and it must make peace, through faith, for what lies beyond the vale of death.

    My dear sister, you are allusive in this post. You give the facts as much as they are available in the year 2014, but you don’t point anyone to a faithful conclusion. I see no appeal to scripture as authoritative. How will we stand in this dark age if we do not start with God and work our way to man? It is folly to start with man and then work our way to God. Our children will sense that. How long will we teeter between two positions? If the Bible is untrustworthy let us call it untrustworthy and be done with it. Why must we cling to an ancient religion in this day of much scientific discovery? If we are to worship the men of science with their ever changing standards let us worship them. But if we are to worship God let us have faith that He is able to reveal himself to us in His Word, and that those who oppose Him and His Word will ultimately be put to shame, and stand on that.



    • Danny Wright on October 18, 2014 at 8:22 AM

      Sorry, “allusive” should be “elusive”.



    • Ben Davis on February 3, 2015 at 8:43 PM

      Danny,
      Well said brother, but as for as I could tell (not that see needs me to sick up for her) Natasha intended to present facts as unbiased as possible without injecting her personal opinion on this issue and will do so from both sides as she continues this series. I agree the authority of the Bible is the most important (or should be) stating point for any Christian. However there are Christians in both camps who undoubtedly hold to the importance of Biblical authority to support there position. Biblical authority wasn’t the point of this article, it was to give the YEC perspective as clearly and accurately as possible.



  7. Ben Davis on February 3, 2015 at 8:02 PM

    Natasha,
    I love your blog! Your insightful, articulate, and its obvious you do your research. I didn’t see it mentioned so im not sure your aware of another possibility. God created Adam and Eve as fully mature beings (also maybe I overstepping a little but I see no indication that the animals weren’t created fully mature as this is best suited for procreation.) So if its possible for God to created fully matured organisms why not a fully mature earth at the beginning as it would have been beneficial to aready have an established eco- system in place for his creation. Just another thought worth pondering.

    With love
    Your brother in Christ Ben



  8. […] 38. What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)? […]



  9. Joseph Martinetti on November 4, 2018 at 6:14 AM

    As a born again Christian, I didn’t have a specific opinion on the age of the Earth as it wasn’t an issue for me. About 16 years later, I was attending college and began majoring in geology. I kept my faith in one hand and science in the other, so to speak. While attending college, Dr. Morris from ICR cane to my town and gave a Back to Genesis seminar. Although I didn’t get to attend, I went to the auditorium where the event was held and meet up with Dr. Morris as he was prong away his materials (the auditorium was empty). We talked for a short time and he signed me up to receive ICR’s monthly publication, Acts and Facts. It allowed me to keep my literal interpretation of Scripture while studying geology. Eventually, I became dismayed with ICR as the articles constantly attacked the science I was learning. Unable to see the relevant science in the articles, I became dismayed with the YEC view (as you have pointed out, the “science” behind YEC it’s very weak). Eventually, I found RTB and it finally clicked – the harmony between science and faith was strong and I didn’t have to throw away my belief in an inerrant Bible.