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

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.


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.


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.


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.


It is easier to come to the conclusion that the week in question was a literary trope if you read Gen 1-2 in isolation rather than in its biblical context. On your view, Ex 20:8-11 and Ex 31:12-17 would have ancient Israel bearing witness to all surrounding nations not that the Creator of heaven and earth completed His work in six days but that He completed it according to a literary trope.

Similarly, the four-season framing of your grandfather’s life was poignant, but would break down if used to instruct the grandchildren how to spend the four seasons of each year.

The purpose of the fourth commandment as given in Ex 20 may have been Israel’s well-being and the world’s instruction, but it’s justification was imitation of the one in whose image man was made.

I re-read my sentence to see what I said that you had taken as offensive. I think I can see how you thought I was being pejorative by saying “because scientists say so” - but I wasn’t. I don’t know him as well as you do and I was trying to verify that I was understanding him. In writing forum like this, you sometimes have to tell someone what you think he’s saying so he has a chance to confirm or correct it.

As for my broader view on the subject, I do not consider scientific conclusions to be hearsay, but neither do I consider them the word of God.

And exactly how do we imitate God. Did it take him 10 to 12 hours to create? Are we supposed to be working for the same length of time each day? You say God creates by speaking which should not take very long.

The Age of the Earth Is Shorthand

In the context of the question that leads this thread, the expression “age of the earth” is merely shorthand for a set of important issues. As for “the age of the earth” per se, I have no significant interest in it. When I use the term, therefore, I am referring to the issues it represents. Let me quote from something I wrote above.

The old-or-young earth argument is about whether creation took six days and was completed or has taken 4.543 billion years and is still not complete. It’s an argument about whether God created the universe by supernatural processes or is creating it by natural processes. It’s an argument about whether the Bible - and, specifically the books of Moses, and, more specifically, the book of Genesis - provide reliable ancient history, including information about origins, or whether we should rely instead on scientists to inform us, to the degree they can, about these things. It’s an argument about whether scientists have taken over for the prophets in drawing for us the background arc of human existence and destiny. And this is just the beginning of the sketch.

I do not think that the genealogies can give us the age of the earth. They can, however, give us the age of the human race. Add that to the six days during which heaven and earth were created, with Adam, having been created on the sixth day, as the linchpin that links the two, and you have an age of the earth.

If someone wants to say that the earth had some pre-creation existence, I’m fine with that…as long as we agree that the clock starts with “In the beginning” - that same Gen 1:1 demarcation that John spoke of in John 1:1 and Jesus Himself spoke of in Matt 19:8 and Mark 10:6.

I came to BioLogos asking “Who best reconciles the Bible and Evolution?” I was advised in my engagement here by more than one person to focus on the age of the earth first. I took that advice in launching this particular thread. I agree with @Swamidass that we may be losing focus on what’s important here. Thus my attempt in this post to clarify the reason for even using the phrase “age of the earth.” Ultimately, it’s not a question about the age of the earth. It’s a question about how we are to live in a world with both biblical revelation and scientific findings. And, again, it’s not reconciling the Bible and science I’m after; it’s reconciling the history given us by the Bible with the history being given us by science.

I see no conflict between science and the Bible. I do see conflict between the Bible’s history and science’s history…and I’m trying hard to reconcile it. And if you’ll notice the framing of the question, I’m putting all the pressure on myself to find the reconciliation. That is, I’m putting my interpretation of the Bible on the table and offering to divest it in light of a superior interpretation - not asking scientists to defend themselves to me. I thinking that’s walking the extra mile and I don’t think I deserve praise for it; I think it’s what the Lord expects us to do in such situations.

I guess that is why it is important what you decide the biblical context of Gen 1 is. I think the biblical context is establishing God’s reign. So, I think the focus of creation week is the domains encompassed and ordered by God’s rule, not the method or chronology of material creation. (More thoughts on “speaking” and creation to follow.) Even setting aside the Walton functional/material distinction, the idea of the creation week setting up domains of God’s rule which are then filled with inhabitants is found in the framework interpretation that sees Genesis as a historical (although poetically figurative) account of material creation.

As I understand the Sabbath, it was a sign of the covenant. (“the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”) The covenant was given so that God could establish the glory of his name among all the peoples of the earth. So the observance of the Sabbath seems to me to be primarily about glorifying God among the nations.

The Sabbath, although it benefits people to rest from labor, is primarily an act of worship that is supposed to point the watching world to the Lord of heaven and earth. People order their own lives and provide for their own well-being through work for six days, but on the seventh, they acknowledge that there is only one king on the throne of the world, and that king is the Creator God who has been ruling since he took up his rest on the throne of his temple on the seventh day of creation. All ordering of chaos starts with him, all provision for creation depends on him. All our work is done in our role of stewards and representatives, not as autonomous rulers who can make a name for ourselves through our labors (like they tried to do at Babel). It seems pretty clear to me that the institution of the Sabbath and the honoring of it by his covenant people is more about living humbly under God’s rule and reign than it is about imitating God by taking a break every seven days.

I think this idea of recognizing God’s lordship in the Sabbath fits well with the idea of Jubilee too. Jubilee was also a Sabbath designed to point to God’s ultimate lordship over his people. No one could build up a kingdom for themselves if every 50th year property was redistributed and God’s ordering of the land and society was reinstated with the freeing of slaves and cancelling of debts. A year of living off of God’s provision, not human effort sounds a lot more to me like an exercise in obedience and submission than just a vacation for people. It was a chance for Israel to do something no surrounding nation would imagine doing in order to give God glory for his provision of their needs and sovereignty over their people. (Lev 25:10-12)

Agreed…except for your penultimate word. See “The Age of the Earth” Is Shorthand.

My view on “the age of the earth” as described in the OP does not hinge on the view I take of Gen 1:1-2 to which you are referring.

I agree that there are issues to be worked out between Gen 1 and 2, but I can’t imagine they would work out to the first man and woman created by God in Gen 1 being different from the first man and woman described in Gen 2. As long as it’s the same couple being created on day 6, the timer on the human race was started with them…and that brings the genealogies into the equation.

I don’t see any reason to start counting Adam’s 930 years at some point other than the point from which it’s counted for all his progeny - that is, from the point of appearance on earth.

I take my view not from how I interpret Gen 1-2 but rather from the collective witness of Gen 1-2, Ex 20:8-11, and Ex 31:12-17. Per 2 Cor 13:1, whenever I see two or three scriptures lining up to say the same thing, I don’t feel a liberty to ignore.

Please help me understand your second point here. I really want to understand, but do remember I am a layman. Assume - only for discussion’s sake - that the universe was supernaturally created in six days, that adding the genealogies give us an age of the earth in thousands of years. Other than remembering that projections of earth’s history beyond thousands of years produces unreliable results, how would anything a doctor or scientist does need to change? If - and I acknowledge that you think it’s an insurmountable “if,” so this is just, as I say, for discussion’s sake - the Bible truly is circumscribing an age of the earth (i.e. the earth is young), why can’t scientists look at findings beyond those limits in the same way a driver is warned against assuming the proximity of vehicles from the image of them he sees in the exterior passenger-side convex mirror?

I have been mulling over the idea of God speaking creation into being and what that means. I think you are right when you say that the focus is not on a specific process. But I also don’t think the focus is on a historical event so much as the focus is on God’s authority and power.

All throughout Scripture, God’s word does not merely describe reality it creates reality. God’s words are often “performatives,” which in linguistics refers to utterances in which someone with the proper authority effects a new reality by a speech act (I pronounce you man and wife, I christen this boat the Roosevelt, I sentence you to life in prison). God orders creation by the power of his word, which is testimony to his authority and lordship over the material universe which is his. How do we know that Yahweh is the one true God? Because he is the Creator God whose words all of reality obeys and is subject to. It is my impression that the authority over material reality aspect is much more in focus in the OT than the mere fact that God is the source of material reality, which was often taken as a given.

God’s supreme authority via his word is the apologetic found throughout the OT and reflected in the NT in Jesus. How does Jesus establish his divine authority? He changes reality with his words. You are healed. You are forgiven. Be still. Come out of that man. Little girl, get up. Lazarus come out. It is finished. Exerting authority over the chaos of nature, sickness and death, sin, and powers of darkness was clearly understood as Jesus claiming divine lordship over creation, lordship that was only rightfully exercised by the Creator God himself.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, those are my jumbled thoughts that maybe have something to do with this conversation and maybe (now that I have typed it out) are somewhat tangential. :grimacing:


We have avoided science by intention. I do not want to press science in a way that causes others to sin. However to answer this, we have to dip into it.

Let us talk about seekers and science students. For them, at least for a long time, the rearview mirror story will not work. The problem is not the logic of the story, but that seekers and science students will get into the details of the science. The details here would alter your view. You would see (1) the intricate mathematical coherence of the evidence for an ancient earth, which seem designed to fool us if the earth is young, (2) for your analogy to hold that God would create this coherent false evidence (other than deceit) to make sense of #1, and that purpose is not given for God, but it is for the auto manufacturer, and (3) there are a whole ton of YEC voices making untrustable arguments in science, and knowing science that are not even remotely convincing.

First, that there is piles and piles of evidence that seem to show a history in the Earth. Moreover, we cannot even mathematically conceive how it is possible to see stars in the sky if the whole universe was created just 6,000 years ago. If you care to understand, this blog is very helpful for someone from your background ( https://thenaturalhistorian.com/ ). This book too is excellent, full of pictures where you can see for yourself the complex stories told in the grand canyon ( https://www.amazon.com/Grand-Canyon-Monument-Ancient-Earth/dp/0825444217 ). The sum effect of this is that we see with our eyes something everywhere in science, that YEC asks us to ignore and stand against everyone else who sees it too. All this confidence is based on ambiguous passages in Scripture. Perhaps some can do that, but it comes off like this version of God is not coherent with the world itself (not just science).

You have the luxury of ignoring studying that evidence. I respect that you trust us that it exists. However, I make my living building mathematical models of that evidence. I do not have the luxury of ignoring it, nor does anyone in science. Even if we find a place in science that does not bring us into contact with the age of the earth, we are surrounded with people immersed in that evidence. It is really what we see. Perhaps we see things wrong, but it will take a great deal of trust to move away from something so obvious, and it takes time to build that trust.

Second, in the mirror story, the auto maker has a purpose in the distortion of the mirror, to increase the field of view of the mirror. This is a logical possibility for the age of the earth too, but we do not really see in Scripture a reason why God would create a false history in the earth. Perhaps He has a reason and purpose, and he certainly does not owe it to us to tell us. This is why I resist jumping to the “deceitful” accusation. However, it would help to at least develop some theology to make sense of this, to speculate why. Failing this, it is very hard to understand why God even hypothetically do this. Without that reasoning, we are left with a gaping hole in the account. Perhaps the earth is young, but looks ancient, but why would God do that?

Third, with #2 in view, there is a lot of “noise” on the internet of YECs promoting really absurd scientific arguments. Most cannot rest in the mystery of #2, so they advance the scientific arguments. If you are in science, you quickly find out that these arguments are very weak. They are nothing like the rigorous studies you are trained to do in science. This becomes a massive stumbling block to faith. While you @Mike_Gantt are not responsible for this, it is a reality in this world.

With those three things, it will not be viable for most seekers and science students to just ignore that evidence, insist it is wrong, based on an ambiguous passage of Scripture. That makes it consequential. For this reason, outside the Church, YEC is seen as a marker of evidence-deny madness, that proves their “god” is not trustworthy. Even if that characterization is unfair, for some YECs it has some grains of truth.

That makes this question consequential for people in the world, including most important science students and seekers.

Remember, this is not consequential to our faith. So remember 1 Corinthians 9:20-22. That is the Biblical reason to accept the scientific view.

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Meditating on this a bit, perhaps some versions of God do admit a reason. In many versions of Buddhism, we reach enlightenment, escape from suffering, by recognizing that what we think is reality is really an illusion. In this theology, we might expect God to create the world discordant with His word in order to help us detach from it. This God, also, is not concerned about revealing his identity, so we might even guess lovingly He created the the Bible to guide people into YEC, and then into the contradictory evidence of nature. The purpose here is to remind us that reality is just an illusion.

Now I am not a Buddhist, nor are you, and I mean no disrespect to Buddhist that might read along. I would imagine, many versions of Buddhism would reject that possibility, but at least it gives us a way to conceive of a honest God that could make a world that looked so assuredly different from how he described it, without being deceitful either.

I wonder if you can construct a theology that make sense with the God we know from Scripture.

@Mike_Gantt , you wrote this in response to @Christy’ s comments:

“On your view, Ex 20:8-11 and Ex 31:12-17 would have ancient Israel bearing witness to all surrounding nations - - [a] not that the Creator of heaven and earth completed His work in six days … but [b] that He completed it according to a literary trope.”

If you weren’t so grimly white-knuckling your opposition to “continued creation” this would almost be amusing.

Can you imagine if I rejected all the natural sciences because they rejected the plain statement that God stores snow and hail in orbit around the Earth? No matter what you or @Swamidass might say about It, I have an iron-clad text where God explicitly states to Job that he stores Snow and Hail. Its there in unmistakable terminology.

And yet we know the scribe got it wrong.

That’s not how God makes snow and Hail. So if you want to say the scribe wasn’t wrong… …but that he was just using literary license… then your very subtle problem with continued creation immediately disappears!!

I think you owe the millions of future Christians the humility of being able to admit that it is far more likely that you are mistaken about the impossibility of continued creation … than that the scribe was correct about the storehouses of Snow and Hail.

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Checkpoint on the Question (Proposed)

I have some questions for you about your suggestion, but first I think it would help for me to check our current overall progress with respect to the question that launched this thread. That is, we are over 200 posts into the discussion and I think we have indeed made some progress so I want to check and see if you share that view, lest I assume things I shouldn’t.

To repeat the question that launched the discussion: “What biblical reasons are there to accept the scientific view of the earth as billions of years old?”

When I say “we have made some progress” I am referring to some key points of agreement I think we have found between each other. By “points of agreement” I do not mean that either of us has necessarily changed his position in any material way, but rather that we have come to have a common view of how the question can be best thought through. When I say “we” I am referring myself and generally to “the BioLogos regulars” (BLR’s) but specifically to you, @Swamidass. I know that there is variation in views about this question among BLR’s, but it’s difficult to nail down points of agreement where there’s variation, so I’m going to single you out and hope you and other BLR’s don’t mind my using you as a representative for the whole. Therefore, hereafter in this post “you” refers to @Swamidass, and “we” or “us” refers to you and me. Individual BLR’s who don’t hold your view can make necessary adjustments in their own minds. (As for those BLR’s who shy away from the expression of “high view of Scripture” that I use below, I have never thought that they could help me with this question; maybe other questions, but not this one :wink:)

At the end, I’m going to ask you to correct or confirm the following:

A person’s biblical reasons to accept the scientific view of the earth as billions of years old can fall into one of four categories. For this analysis, we are talking about persons who have a high regard for the findings of science and who have a high view of Scripture (specifically, that it is God’s revelation to humanity through His apostles and prophets). We also assume that into whatever category a person falls, he falls there in sincerity of heart and with a clear conscience before God. Falling into any of the first three categories would allow such a person to accept the scientific view; only if he fell into the fourth would he be right in the sight of God to withhold assent. When I say “the scientific view” I mean strictly the scientific view of an earth that is billions of years old - not science in general. When I say “age of the earth” or “old earth” or “young earth” it is shorthand language - not a myopic focus on a number of years. With respect to the question at hand, these four categories are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive.

  1. He believes the Bible is silent about the age of the earth (e.g. Walton)
  2. He believes the Bible speaks clearly that the earth is old (e.g. gap theory or day-age theory)
  3. He believes the Bible speaks ambiguously about the age of the earth
  4. He believes the Bible speaks clearly that the earth is young

That’s it. Do you think this is an accurate framing of how we jointly see this issue? If not, please suggest edits that can make it so.

P.S. I could not have parsed the categories this finely when I launched the thread, so it is definitely progress for me. Perhaps you already saw things this clearly; I’m not suggesting you didn’t.

P.P.S. See “Checkpoint on the Question (Confirmed)” below.


Doesn’t the fact that you speak of a spiritual realm equivalent to hearing verbalized, literal, audible words make clear that you realize that it is not necessary to assume that God uttered “literal audible words” involving actual speech as we know it and that sound waves weren’t necessarily involved?

Also, you say “it’s clear from the Scriptures that angels hear God speak” but:

(1) Does the Bible make clear that all angels have ears for detecting sound waves which God modulated in order to communicate his will in Genesis 1? Or do you simply mean that God during “creation week” used some physical means by which to communicate his will by means of the vibration of molecules?

(2) Did angels already existed in the context of Genesis 1?

Obviously Genesis 1 describes God as exercising his will over his creation. But I’m saying that the language used (e.g., “And God said…”) is in itself a concession to human limitations. We don’t know exactly how (or even generally how) God’s creative will is exerted but surely we can agree that likening it to a powerful authority speaking aloud and all/everything “obeying” those spoken orders makes a lot of sense in every and any culture. People cultures unfamiliar with the God of the Bible would probably assume that the God in Genesis 1 issued his commands using his vocal cords. But is that an interpretation required by the Genesis 1 text? Why or why not?

I’m not trying to demand a particular interpretation. I’m mostly just trying to understand your position, Mike. I see the central purpose of Genesis 1 as describing God as the sole creator of everything. I understand you to be saying that God speaking everything into existence is the central purpose—and that the speaking in Genesis 1 is not just an anthropomorphic literary technique. Am I understanding you properly?

Are you saying that God spoke the universe and all that is in it into existence is a significant purpose for Genesis 1 that has implications well beyond God created the universe? If yes, what are those important implications which are missed by those who assume “God created the universe” is the central theme of Genesis 1?

[quote=“Mike_Gantt, post:213, topic:36256”]
I re-read my sentence to see what I said that you had taken as offensive. I think I can see how you thought I was being pejorative by saying “because scientists say so” - but I wasn’t.[/quote]

You were, at a bare minimum, being inaccurate. I assure you that Jonathan doesn’t accept things on mere hearsay, as he had to point out to you not once, but twice!

No, you don’t. In fact, there’s an explicit request that you avoid doing so in the FAQ:

Focus on discussing other people’s ideas, not on evaluating their character, faith, communication style, or perceived “tone.” Please avoid attributing beliefs, motivations, or attitudes to others.

[quote]As for my broader view on the subject, I do not consider scientific conclusions to be hearsay, but neither do I consider them the word of God.
[/quote]I don’t either.

I wasn’t asking for your view, just pointing out that your idea that Jonathan “seems to believe” in something scientific because of mere hearsay is wrong. I have no idea what would cause you to propose something like that.

I don’t see why you repeatedly, whether consciously or not, present science as mere hearsay. Perhaps it might offer a clue as to why you resist treating evolution the same way as you treat heliocentricity.

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