What biblical reasons are there to accept the scientific view of the earth as billions of years old?

It seems like you may be conflating the idea that you (and others) find the presentation of the history of creation in a week misleading with the idea that the history is unreliable. Is that really fair?

I could write a poem about my grandfather’s life, and use a calendar year to structure it. I could talk about his spring on the farm, and his summer fighting poverty and the Nazis, his peaceful autumn as a sign-maker, and his long, lonely winter as a widower. The words ‘spring,’ ‘summer,’ ‘autumn,’ and ‘winter’ wouldn’t be used in some secondary sense. No definition of winter will tell you a secondary meaning is “old age.” But this “seasons of life” idea is a common and accessible literary trope in English, so it is easily calculated by most native speakers.

No one is going to argue that because the meaning of the word for each season clearly denotes one quarter of a calendar year, therefore, I must be claiming my grandfather lived out his whole life in 365 days. I could tell a true history about my grandfather in a poem structured around a calendar year, and if you were to tell me my poem was “unreliable” or “untrue” because my grandfather lived 83 years not 1 year, I would think you were being ridiculous.

So, personally, I don’t have a problem allowing for the possibility that a calendar week could have been a familiar literary trope to the original audience. Perhaps it was one they associated with completion or perfection or memorializing something important. I don’t have a problem allowing that even though the word “day” there clearly refers to the normal kind of day and not some secondary sense of “eon” or “age,” that doesn’t necessarily imply the “history” of creation fit into 168 hours any more than the “history” of my grandfather’s life fit into 365 days.

Nice, @Christy !

And this, @Mike_Gantt , is the kind of cognitive adjustment millions of Christians have already made (some more, some less) in order to pray to their Savior with conviction, despite being convinced long ago that the Earth is billions of years old!

There you go again, portraying science as mere hearsay.

Moreover, Jonathan doesn’t seem like the kind of guy you are accusing him of seeming to be. He’s very big on evidence.

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I am a bit confused about this focus on genealogies, as if this tells us anything about the age of the earth. Let us say we grant that the genealogies allow at most 7K years between us and Adam. What does this tell us about the age of the earth? Nothing really.

  1. There could still be a gap between vs. 1 and 2. Yes @Mike_Gantt I read your interpretation, but the passage is ambiguous. How do you know for sure you are right?

  2. There could still be a substantial gap between the ch. 1 and 2 accounts. The first account talks about Elohim’s creation of mankind with words, but then the second account talks about Jehovah’s creation of a single man by molding him from dust. Maybe your interpretation is right, but the account is ambiguous. How do you know for sure that there was not a gap in time between 1 and 2?

  3. Given Adam was not born in the story, we do not know from when to count his age. Perhaps it was from when he was kicked out of the garden. Passage is ambiguous. How do you know for sure it was from his birth and that they were in the garden for a short time?

  4. Of course we have not even touched on how long the days are. Yes @Mike_Gantt I read your interpretation, but the passage is ambiguous. Morning and night exist before the sun and moon, which should be a clue. How do you know for sure you are right?

There is just so much ambiguity about the time between when the earth is created and when the genealogies start, it really makes no difference how long the genealogies are.

You asked for a Biblical reason to accept the scientific view that the earth is a billion years, but we have gotten side tracked into a separate question. It seems like we are arguing if the bible teaches the earth is a billion years. Let’s be clear that I do not think this is the case. Rather, I think the Bible is ambiguous about the age of the earth.

Still, there is Biblical reason to accept it.

  1. I think we both agree that the age of the earth is not consequential to our faith, and that it could be consistent with Scripture.

  2. We also agree that it is consequential to those in our scientific world.

That guides us to the best reason to accept the earth as a billion years old. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22. Rather than focusing on adjudicating an inconsequential fact that is extraneous to our faith, why not turn our eyes to more important components of the faith-science conversation?

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Hello Mike,

Thanks for the compliment!

I’m going to have to flat out disagree with you on this. There is a big difference in saying someone, “ceased” working on a project and someone rested the day after they finsihed it.

This is not what refreshed is. We already know that God received pleasure in what accomplished from Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

Because it’s obvious, at least to me, that the creation narratives are not to be taken literally or historically. One, the ANE people weren’t looking for modern historicity and accuracy in their creation traditions. The ancient Israelites knew that Yahweh didn’t rest and refresh Himself. The whole point of the story is to show that God formed the world as a temple and he would reside in it on the 7th Day. Just like in Genesis 1 where God created light on the 4th day, the fact that it doesn’t make scientific sense is irrelevant, to us and the ancient Hebrews, to the point of the narrative. Similarly, the fact that God stated that He rested and was refreshed on the 7th day was understood that God would reside in His work - again, that fact that it didn’t make literal sense is irrelevant. This is all in addition to the fact that there simply no way for the 6-day narrative to be historical. [quote=“Mike_Gantt, post:111, topic:36256”]

Rather, I think He’s telling us about as much as we were told when it was written that Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush, be still.’ And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm”
[/quote]

You’re comparing apples to oranges. Jesus performed a miracle, of course it’s beyond us as to how that worked. The creation narratives relate a 6-day creation where the creator rests after He’s done and is refreshed. Either those things are literally true or it’s a tradition, like other peoples of the time had.

I never stated that I thought that, “refreshed” can only be understood in a spiritual sense.

A huge issue for us (and probably with others here also, judging by the posts) is that you and I see the bible much differently. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems you to hold to a Chicago Statement-type biblical inerrancy, that Moses wrote the whole Pentateuch, that there can be no real contradictions in scripture or its unreliable, etc. I don’t hold to any of those things. I hold to biblical authority and infallibility, but not to a strong inerrancy (my view of scripture could be a sort of inerrancy - there are many definitions as to what inerrancy is). I see the bible as a collection of books, consisting of poems, wise sayings, prayers, songs, genealogies and doxologies, historical narratives, letters, traditions, etc., written over 1,500 years in 3 continents in (at least) 3 languages that God is some way inspired and uses to, ultimately, save us. To expect all the incidentals to line up is modernistic and unreasonable, IMO. But I can guarantee you that I take the teachings of the bible quite seriously and continue to make major life decisions based on them.

To answer what you said to another poster, I can see that you are sincere in your efforts to make sense of all of this, and you’re not an acolyte of AIG or the DI. In a way my heart goes out to you, since it would be hard to suddenly accept that scripture uses traditions and legend-building, like the contemporary cultures did, to promote, in the case of the bible, true theology. [quote=“Mike_Gantt, post:111, topic:36256”]
I hope you will continue to labor with me.
[/quote]

I’m here as long as you need me. :grinning:

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Actually, I take “God said” to be a central point of Gen 1. When people say that their only important takeaway from Gen 1 is “God did it,” I scratch my head. I wonder how they divorce the saying from the doing, given how the text repeatedly emphasizes this connection - and all the more so when you consider everything else the Bible says about God speaking. I would expect the minimum meaning any reader would glean from Gen 1 - if he were looking for a minimum - would be “God did it by speaking.”

As to your point about “nobody with ears were around to hear,” I don’t consider human beings to be the only beings. Therefore, just because there were no human beings around to hear God’s words does not mean that no beings heard them. What the equivalent of “verbalized literal audible words” is in the spiritual realm, I do not know; but it’s clear from the Scriptures that angels hear God speak.

I don’t see how the application of the original pattern of seven to longer periods of time disallows the possibility that the original pattern was in days. Does the application to weeks of years disallow the application to years?

For readers who take Gen 1 as a seven-day week, the answer is obvious.

See here.

I am in search of just such an interpretation which I can in good conscience accept. Hence I wrote the OP that launched this thread.

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If I could become convinced that the Scriptures were ambiguous on the creation having taken a week, I, too, could be comfortable with multiple acceptable interpretations. However, as I state in the OP and this subsequent related post, I currently see no ambiguity.

By the way, I keep stressing that my conviction about a young earth turns on the combined witness of Gen 1:1-2:3; Ex 20:8-11; and Ex 31:12-17 - not on a traditional YEC reading of Gen 1. I have never heard AiG, CMI, or anyone else articulate this position the way I am doing. I do not say my position is unique; I’m just saying I didn’t get it from anyone else. If you truly understand what I am saying, I think it puts you in a better position to find my error, if indeed I am making one.

@Richard_Wright1, perhaps the best quote in the whole thread! Nice!!!

You simultaneously pull together distinctly different themes:

A. The Temple Theme
B. The 7th Day Theme
C. The Rest vs. Refresh Theme
D. The Science vs Lyric Narrative Theme
(which is a redux of Literal Sense vs Poetic Sense )

@Mike_Gantt, ignoring the unified sense of Richard’s synthesis will get you nowhere.

@BradKramer, another great posting!

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@Mike_Gantt,

For goodness sake…

Is it speaking if you don’t have a mouth?
If my mouth is closed and I make a loud noise in my throat, am I speaking?
If I don’t have a throat is it speaking?
If I speak in outerspace, do I make a sound?
If I don’t make sound in a vacuum, is it speaking?
If I think loudly in my head is it speaking?

Why would you conclude that one of the take aways is that God literally spoke… in the vacuum of space… without a mouth… and without sound?

With each new posting, Mike, you push the eccentricities of your interpretation to newer extremes.

I take Genesis 1 as a seven day week. However, I know that this doesn’t necessarily result in a young universe or a universe which is only a few thousand years old. I also know that there’s no evidence that anyone from Genesis 12 to the end of 2 Kings knew anything about the sabbath being a memorial of creation; instead they know it as a memorial of the Exodus.

I’m one of a few people who has pointed out that the days in Genesis 1 can be read as literal days without requiring the entire universe to have been created in seven days, or without requiring the universe to be only a few thousand years old.

Well actually you’ve made the point that the only passage on which you rely for dating the earth is the genealogies of Genesis 4-5, because they’re the only passages in which you can find anything like date information. And as I’ve demonstrated, the way you are reading those genealogies is not the way the Bible reads them.

You have the interpretive tools to do this. I understand that your concern is that if the Bible isn’t speaking literally or honestly in the way you require it to, then it can’t be said to be speaking literally or honestly. But your fear is unfounded for these reasons.

  1. You read the Bible as saying that the heart is the seat of thought and the liver is the organ of emotion, but you don’t actually believe this is so. You read those passages figuratively and you have no problem with this.

  2. You read the Bible as saying that the earth has pillars, but you don’t actually believe this is so. You read those passages figuratively and you have no problem with this.

  3. You read the Bible as saying that the earth doesn’t move, but you don’t actually believe this is so. You read those passages figuratively and you have no problem with this.

  4. You read the Bible as saying that the sun moves around the earth, but you don’t actually believe this is so. You read those passages figuratively and you have no problem with this.

Examples could be multiplied. So you have no problem reading these passages as non-literal despite the fact that there’s no indication to do so. In the case of Genesis 1 and the genealogies, there are good reasons inside the Bible itself for not reading them the way you do. So let’s start there.

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The Millennials and Their Children

George, I want to elaborate on the importance of your point about the millennials.

Let me re-post here from its original thread the essence of the post to which you are referring.

I am 65. I can probably live the rest of my life in peace without resolving this issue. Same for my children, who have all been grown for many years and have made their own decisions about these things. It is my grandchildren who are my primary focus when I think about this issue. There are two things I don’t want for them:

  • I don’t want them thinking Grandpa believes in a young earth if God made an old one.
  • I don’t want them thinking Grandpa believes in an old earth if God made a young one.

Yes, my conscience is driving my participation here - but not for my own sake. Rather, it’s for their sake. If they believe in a young earth when God made an old one, they will struggle and be persecuted for no good reason. I would be pained but honored if my grandchildren suffered for the truth, but I would be pained without the comfort of honor if they suffered for a falsehood.

So, yes, I have deep emotion about the matter. And I am mindful of 2 Samuel 23:13-17. I asked you if the YEC’s gave any of you any pause. They do give me pause, and I cannot dismiss them as categorically as you do. Here’s why: If the YEC’s are wrong, I believe God will regard them as David regarded the three mighty men in this episode. I also believe if the OEC’s are wrong, that the same sentiment will apply. But in both cases, God’s sentiment will be to the degree that the position taken by an individual was taken truly in the fear of God and not the fear of man.

Let me now add to these comments for clarity and emphasis.

My motive is not to try to get my grandchildren to think well of their grandfather. Rather, I know that what I think has some influence on them. How much or how little really doesn’t matter. What matters is that whatever influence I have on them, I want to be for their good and the Lord’s glory. On this issue, they will either think Grandpa stood up for the truth, that he stood up for an error, or that he didn’t stand up for anything. As much as I am able, I want to influence them the right way on this issue. I’ve tried to be relatively silent about it for a long time, but I no longer feel comfortable with that. Therefore, I want to reach a conclusion and conviction…for their sake, not for my own.

All of us on this board - whether we are OEC, YEC, or just confused - need to be engaging on the basis of seeking each other’s good, and the good of the rising generation: the millennials…and their children. I agreed with you 100% when you challenged me to think of the younger generation. On this subject, I seldom think of anyone else.

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Maybe shift the emphasis from making sure “Grandpa got it right” to a focus that simply states that there are multiple ways to interpret Genesis 1-11 and still be a sincere, Bible-believing, follower of Christ. Although I admit that I believe that my interpretation is correct, I can see (and be inspired by) your devotion to God’s word. And I rejoice that one day we will both know clearly!

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The Upside of Ambiguity

It’s natural to prefer clarity to ambiguity, but sometimes we’re not granted our preference. Some of you have referred to the Bible as ambiguous on one or more of the central issues of this thread. The upside of ambiguity is that the Lord does not hold this against us, for it is only when we know the right thing to do and do not it that He calls it sin (Jas 4:17). (If your theology does not allow you to say “Amen” to this, please give me a pass.) Therefore, when a biblical matter is ambiguous to you, taking comfort in multiple interpretative options can be comforting.

For some of you, perhaps most of you, the scientific evidence for an old earth is so clear and so emphatic, that, when weighed against ambiguity in the Bible, you feel no diminution at all in your allegiance to the Bible in adopting the scientific view. I understand that, and have no argument with it.

Even for me, should I come to the point that I cannot find a biblical interpretation from any of you or from anyone else that releases me to accept an old earth, but can be loosed from my current view (see the OP) because I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bible is ambiguous on the subject, I, too, will have found a refuge.

I said all this to point out that 1) I do not think that ambiguity is always avoidable, and 2) I am seeking answers to my question not from a place of ambiguity, but rather from a place of conviction that has been shaken by the force of scientific conviction. May the truth win. Ambiguity is not always the worst place in the world. Being there in good conscience is better than being in error in good conscience.

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The latter focus is one I brought to this discussion and will leave with no matter whether my position on the issue at hand changes or gets reinforced. No one has a monopoly on sincerity.

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As for Ussher, I can’t say much except that I consider him a recognized expert in this field - a status I assuredly cannot claim. My assumption is that he knows how to read a Bible genealogy way better than I do.

As for me, I read biblical genealogies the way I see them read in the Bible. Thus your criticism of me for doing otherwise is incomprehensible. For example, the author of Chronicles begins with a review of the genealogy from Adam to Abraham, and then from Abraham to David. Likewise, Luke traces the genealogy from Adam all the way to Jesus. One does not even need actual lifespans for each person to estimate a total time line. And we know that Jesus was born in the 1st century while we live in the 21st. What is so esoteric about coming up with an age for the human race from this - especially when we’re not striving for the precision that Ussher sought? Even if the Bible only gave us half the people who were in the line from Adam to Jesus, you’re still going to have a total in the thousands - not billions - when you’re finished. In fact, if you assume that the Bible left out 90% of the people who lived in the line from Adam to Jesus, you’d still have a total that didn’t reach 50,000.

As I’ve been saying, you need to explain to me how adopting your view of genealogical analysis is going to get us from Ussher to billions of years for me to think it’s worth spending more time on it.

I think you frame the issue prejudicially. It’s not scientific evidence versus biblical interpretation; it’s scientific evidence versus biblical evidence.

If someone thinks the scientific evidence is strong and the biblical evidence is ambiguous, I have no objection if they go with the scientific evidence. On the other hand, if someone says science can produce evidence and the Bible cannot, then I object.

@Mike_Gantt,

Your attempt to clarify is the definition of what modern generations are frequently repulsed by:

I can be the first to confirm Science cannot define heaven, so the Bible can trump science on heaven.

But to hear someone say the Bible trumps Science on the topic of Earth’s creation … that’s like a redux to the Middle Ages and foolish talk about creatures spontaneously coming to life out of spoiling meat.

In comparison, it makes the BioLogos story sound like Shakespeare.

@Mike_Gantt

But your agreement is not on what I actually discussed.

Your brittle approach to Biblical interpretation is, I think, more likely to turn off 50 youths for every 1 it saves.

You may think this is unlikely … but think of the error the Vatican made when it wouldn’t listen to the voice of Martin Luther?

And think of the Christian tragedy created by the ridiculously foolish “Monophysite Controversy” and to what it led to in the Byzantine territories!:

When the Islamic armies came, because of the raw wounds left over imperial theology, ultimately Egypt and Anatolia (vigorous heartlands of Christianity) were lost to another Faith.

This is what extremism frequently leads to …

[Edit: Ironically, the Gantt Reading of Genesis is nowhere nearly as compelling as the monophysite controversy…]

For others of us, such as me, there is no ambiguity; the Bible simply does not speak on the subject at all. Not in any way, shape, or form. There is no way to calculate the age of the earth from the Bible, and absolutely no indication that we are supposed to use anything in the Bible to do so. In light of that complete lack of ambiguity, I question the wisdom of attempting to use the Bible for something it is not intended to do.

Ussher is not a recognized expert in any field relevant to the interpretation of the genealogies. An expert in the fields relevant to the genealogies needs academic knowledge of and qualifications in the Ancient Near East. He did not have that. Even Hebrew was a barely nascent field in his day, in comparison with what we know about Hebrew today. No modern scholar would recognize him as an expert in the Ancient Near East. The very texts which relate to the Bible passages under discussion, hadn’t even been discovered (let alone translated), when he was alive.

If you are willing to take notice of those who know how to read a Bible genealogy better than you do, then you should take notice of modern scholars who actually do have knowledge and or qualifications in the relevant fields. Take Wilfred Lambert for example, the world’s leading expert in cuneiform inscriptions, and one of the twentieth century’s greatest scholars of the Ancient Near East. Or take Alan Millard for example, another well known leading scholar in the Ancient Near East. Or Kenneth Kitchen, or Anson Rainey, or James Hoffmeier. Why privilege Ussher over these scholars, who know so much more than he did, and who really are recognized as experts in their field?

No you don’t. You read the genealogies of Genesis 4-5 the way they are not read in the Bible. Literally no one else in the entire Bible reads the genealogies the way you read them. No one. They don’t try to calculate the age of the earth from them, and they don’t speak of the people in the genealogies as having lived for centuries, even when they are actually recounting the genealogies (which happens at least twice).

Correct. But that is not what you do. You take two steps the Bible never does; you interpret the ages as literal, and you calculate the age of the earth from the ages. The Bible does not do this. You did not get this from the Bible.

What’s so esoteric about it is that it’s not how the Bible shows us how to read them. You’re coming up with an idea which is completely absent from the Bible, using a method which is also completely absent from the Bible. Why not read the genealogies the way the Bible does, treating the individuals as real, literal, historical people who really lived and died, but without drawing conclusions about the age of the earth based on the ages you assume the people had?

And as I have been saying, I don’t need to do that at all because I do not believe the genealogies are showing us billions of years. That’s a completely false reading. Why would I try to make the genealogies span billions of years? That’s even worse than trying to make them span thousands of years. The whole point is that the genealogies are not intended to tell us anything about the age of the earth or anything precise about the age of the people described.

So here is the Bible’s guidance for reading the genealogies.

  1. The people mentioned are real, literal, historical people.
  2. Their actual ages are not important; what is important is that they all died.
  3. We are not given any indication that we are supposed to treat the genealogies as a means of calculating the age of the earth. No passage of the Bible does this or even hints at it.
  4. We are not given any indication that we are supposed to treat all the ages as strictly literal. No passage of the Bible does this or even hints at it; even when the genealogies are cited at length, the ages are deliberately omitted.

Why not follow the Bible’s example? That’s my simple question; why not treat the genealogies the way the Bible does? What’s wrong with what the Bible is doing?

I have started a new topic on this, giving additional detail, here.

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The genealogies get you back to Adam. Why do you think that gets you back to the creation of the earth? You keep saying you have no problem with taking the six days as being a long period of time.

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“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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