As a pastor at a YEC church, I have come to the same conclusion.
I think you need to stay within the Bible. The YEC you’re talking to sees the Bible as authoritative above scientific thought (and I agree with them, the Bible is above all), so if you showed him a fossil in person that contradicted the Bible, he’d believe the Bible and disbelieve his lying eyes. I don’t think that’s bad, I think that’s fantastic.
But even better is to say, “OK, the Bible is not wrong, but my interpretation of it may be wrong. Let me go back to the scripture and compare it with other scripture to give my interpretation closer scrutiny.”
In the case of the 6,000 year genealogy, he is getting that from the clear and concrete timetables found in the OT. In a nutshell, it seems on the surface that you can calculate, using the birth and death years in the genealogies, exactly when Adam was created. When you do the math, it comes out to 6,000 years. If you want to dig into the math, look at Ussher’s Chronology.
The main problem I would show him would be the Biblical timelines themselves. Scripture with scripture. If you examine them closely, you will see some weird anomalies.
The clearest is in Jesus’ genealogy in Matt. 1. Mt. 1:8 skips three kings, and says Joram begat Ozias, when literally Joram begat Ahaziah, who begat Joash, who begat Amaziah, who THEN BEGAT Ozias.
Further, when v. 17 tallies the number of generations between David and the carrying away into Babylon, it leaves these three kings out of the tally as well.
SO, we find a rule about Biblical genealogies:
- If the child was in the line, he can legally be said to have been “begat” by someone who was actually his great great grandfather. So the word “begat” doesn’t have to mean “gave birth to” but rather “gave birth to someone who would eventually give birth to.”
There are other uniques rules we learn by studying this and the other biblical genealogies closely. But let’s just take this one for now.
Digression: BioLogos would approach that problem by quoting Hebrew culture at the time of the genealogy, or they’d inspect the Sumerian King List, and read those discoveries into the text. I think that’s dangerous, and NOT NECESSARY. I believe God gave us all we need to interpret the text right there within the text itself. And I’d be willing to bet your YEC friend believes that too, which is why I’d use my approach to that over BioLogos’ approach.
Armed with the Biblical rules on genealogies, you can look at the genealogy in Genesis 5 with new possibilities. Here’s a sampling from it:
Gen. 5:6 And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: 7 And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: 8 And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.
Looks very straightforward, right? How old was Seth when Enos was born? 105, right? That’s how Ussher has it, right there on the chart in the link above. So YES, that is ONE POSSIBILITY. But wait, there’s more!
Let’s apply Matthew 1’s rule for genealogies, and see if there are OTHER POSSIBILITIES:
- “Begat” can mean “gave birth to someone who eventually brought forth Enos.” So Seth was 105 when he gave birth to some person, possibly not named in the genealogy, who, an undetermined number of generations down the line, eventually gave birth to Enos. After Seth begat this possibly unknown person, he lived 807 years and begat many other sons and daughters.
How many generations could be skipped in that “begat?” There is no biblical limit. In that one genealogy on Genesis, it’s completely possibly that there are NO generations skipped, and Adam lived 6,000 years ago. BUT, if we’re going to be scriptural, we have to allow that it’s JUST AS POSSIBLE that there are many, many generations skipped, and Adam actually lived 200,000 years ago, maybe much more, maybe much less.
The point is that, Biblically, it is flexible and cannot be determined like Ussher thought. The only way to nail it down is by bringing in OTHER biblical genealogies or narratives to compare it to.
Here’s an example of doing that: Moses is said to be the third generation from one of the 12 sons of Jacob. But then we read that Joshua is said to be 9 or possibly 10 generations removed from the sons of Jacob. Since we know from the Bible that Moses and Joshua were contemporaries, we can safely say that there were probably some skipped generations in Moses’ genealogical record.
That’s comparing scripture with scripture, and that is how I’d talk to your YEC friend.
PS - Thank God for giving us his Holy Bible! He has given us all we need right within its pages. 2 Tim. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.