Is Young Earth creationism a new Idea?

Dr Wile, a young earth creationist, says Young Earth creationism isn’t a new Idea. He listed examples going back centuries of people who accepted YEC.

Here is the post:

The idea that the earth is young isn’t in and of itself new. What is new is (a) the attempt to provide a scientific basis for it, and (b) the idea that it’s doctrinally important.


I was about to write the same thing a jammycakes, and might add that the “ism” is what is new. In the past, it was assumed that the earth was young, but it was not a foundational part of their theology. Now, some YEC groups make the young earth foundational to their belief system, and thus the added “creationism” to the idea of a young earth. It is one thing to believe the earth is young, another to believe God is the creator, but yet another thing to believe that when combined, it is the foundation to faith in Christ.

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And it is worth noting that these two features came from the Seventh Day Adventists. They put more of a focus on a literal Genesis, and sought to find scientific support for that doctrine. For those interested, you can search of material on George McCready Price. What followed were more mainstream protestant leaders (e.g. Henry Morris) who pretty much copied the same arguments that the SDAs developed decades before.

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It depends on how one defines “Young Earth Creationism”. If one insists that anybody in history who even implicitly (just by default) would have answered “yes” to the question “Is the world a few thousand years old” (or similarly been flabbergasted at the suggestion that it was actually billions) then yes, that means the idea (or unstated assumption, rather) does indeed stretch back through the ages. But if one defines YEC as a movement (which most of us here recognize it as), then it is not much more than a couple centuries old. As such, it is not only reactionary against the first emerging evidences of deep time and multiple cataclysms (and therefore must be subsequent to that), but more importantly and more fundamentally is a certain posture toward both Scriptures and science. And that is the hill that it seems most YECs are willing to defend at great effort, and also the one in which is most apparently of modern contrivance. That Scriptures must be understood preferentially as modern minds desire (i.e. scientifically/historically —more specifically: science divorced from any hint of evolutionary principle and deep time) –that is a modern convention even though YECs use every last breath trying to deny it.


I read Dr. Wile’s article, as well as the article by Karl Giberson, which is adapted from Giberson’s Saving Darwin—a book I found very helpful several years ago. Wile quotes Giberson as follows:

“Young-earth creationism is relatively new and as recently as a century ago even fundamentalist Christians saw little reason to reject evolution.”

I’ll respond to Wile’s contention that this is “utterly false” by echoing and perhaps amplifying what James and Mervin have already stated well, as well by discussing something I have not seen pointed out before.

First, though the observation that since the early Church many, perhaps most, Christians would have understood the earth to be several thousand years old is true, the mere assent to this notion is hardly what is implied by the term “Young-earth creationism.” James has noted here—and greatly expounded on elsewhere—the flawed and deceptive “scientific” arguments proposed in support of young-earth ideas. As Giberson’s article describes, this is a development of the past two centuries or so, greatly popularized within evangelicalism only in the past fifty years. Similarly, the idea that the reliability of the Bible, the need for a Savior, and ultimately the integrity of all Christian theology vanish without an interpretation of early Genesis as a play-by-play description of natural history is of recent invention.

Beyond these observations, I think what characterizes Young-earth creationism in the minds of the general public are the fatuous notions of humans saddling up dinosaurs, herbivorous hyenas and vegan vultures, and Dino-Nephilim gladiatorial encounters. This silliness, which brings justifiable ridicule on evangelicalism (a movement I’ve considered myself part of for decades and really want to maintain a place in), is clearly of very recent development. Can anyone really envision the great leaders of the Church through history approving us this? Inasmuch as the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter have become the public face of Young-earth creationism, I think what is “utterly false” is to say that it has any connection to historic Christian faith and practice.

My other observation is that the very name “Young-earth creationism” belies its recent appearance. Is the earth young or old? Well, obviously these are both relative descriptors, so the answer could be either one, depending on one’s reference point. According to the overwhelming consensus of those who have studied the relevant disciplines, the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. But if we accept this figure as accurate, it doesn’t tell us that the earth is old; it is just a statement of fact based on the assessment of evidence. Compared to the age of the universe, the earth is about as young as my son is compared to me. Compared to Surtsey, the earth is extraordinarily old, as it would be even if the earth were formed only 6,000 years ago.

If someone had asked Bishop Ussher after he announced the world was created on 23 October 4004 BC, “So, you believe in a young Earth, yes?”, I suspect he would have been incredulous. “Young? No, not at all! It’s 5772 years old. There’s nothing older!”

I don’t know if it was the detractors or the promoters of Young-earth creationism who coined the term, but it is clear that the name reflects an awareness of the scientific conclusions about Earth’s age and a rejection of those conclusions. Obviously this could not have happened until the scientific evidence that Earth is millions of years old began accumulating in the 1700s.

I’m sure that Dr. Wile is a smart guy. Perhaps he wanted to convey the idea not that Young-earth creationism as it is currently understood has persisted throughout Christian history, but that belief in a few-thousand year old Earth has. But as it is, his article appears to me as fodder for those who want to be assured in their young-earth beliefs without thinking critically about them.


I would like to add some perspective to @jammycakes and @jpm comments.
Upto even a 100 years ago, the consensus was that the age of the earth was a 100 million years. And this was based on estimates by geologists/ Lord Kelvin…
It was in 1926 that the radiometric timescale was officially accepted and an age of 4.5 billion years was fixed.
YEC is a reaction to this finding and an attempt to correct the science by those who hold that the Bible clearly teaches a recent creation event.
It would be unfair to expect the scientific part of the movement to be older than a few decades.
I am sure Dr Wile is referring to the belief that the earth is young. And the theological world view associated with it. I think its fair to say that there is a rich history of people interpreting the Bible and concluding that the creation event happened a 6000 years ago.
Of course, this does not mean that said interpretation is correct.
Even a YEC will accept that the bible does not give an explicit statement regarding the age of the earth.

The recent YEC movement started as a reaction against evolution. Since evolution requires long periods of time if you remove them then evolution didn’t happen.

See the thread at YEC's Roots in 7th Day Adventism

A quote from that thread.

From what I have read the acceptance of the age of the earth wasn’t a problem until Ellen White entered the picture.


James Kidder (aka Jimpithecus), who has written for BioLogos, has a new article on the arrogance of Young Earth Creationists:
Todd Friel: The Holy Spirit Taught Them That the Earth Was Young

What chutzpah!

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True. YECs of today are following the teachings and visions of a Seventh Day Adventist prophetess. I think that one of her visions was of God creating everything.

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Yes its also a reaction to evolution.

That’s not really true.This is not a solely American phenomenon… A young age for the earth as a theological belief has existed for a long time… including before the NT times. Ellen G white might or might not have influenced key people who started the movement, however she definitely did not invent the hermeneutics behind a young earth interpretation.

Yes, YEC as a scientific movement is more recent.

Let me clarify. When geologists in the 18th century started to question the age of the earth and ended up with millions of years it wasn’t a problem to the general public. It appeared to enjoy wide support and no opposition.

Have you read the thread and the supporting links? She was the influence behind the movement that ended up with Henry Morris and his Genesis Flood.


I think what the YEC movement is pointing out is that the Bible can be accepted at face value easier by people who have not been exposed to modern scientific knowledge. Until recent centuries, no one had any evidence that he world was older than a literal reading of Genesis might suggest, or that forces such as we see acting today, might have over millions of years produced the world we now inhabit.

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The idea that the Earth is older than 6000 years is older than Evolution! So, your facts are wrong. And thus your analysis is too. The “Young Earth” component of the YEC stance is older than the Creation-vs-Evolution part.

How could you make a mistake of this magnitude?

The recent emergence of YEC science is more an act of urgency than anything else… it is an attempt to shore up a disappearing shoreline in a ceaselessly rising ocean tide.

The notion of an Old Earth did not immediately threaten the more superstitious side of Christianity. However, as an Old Earth became an increasingly accepted reality, it made it possible for other spheres of science to support Evolutionary interpretations - - which became the immediate threat to superstitious ideas.

It took a while for Creationism to emerge as a quasi-science for the simple reason that it took a few generations to craft the counter-scientific rhetoric to the degree that non-scientists could employ it!

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How is this different from anything i said?
All i pointed out was that a theological interpretation of a “young earth” existed far before YEC. There are people from the OT times who hold to the view. Let me also add that the theological viewpoint of an Old earth has also existed for centuries.
So when a YEC proponent claims a more ancient root to his movement, its a reference to the antiquity of the theological position he/she is taking… and we should grant it to them.

Its a simple matter of grace… and the basics of any fair discussion between Christians.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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