This is a subject that I have wanted to write about for some time – I just couldn’t figure out how to write about it without causing controversy or misunderstanding. Well… the time to write about it is now, and I hope that readers will consider my thoughts on the subject without labeling me a heretic.
There is a debate that has lasted for ages, especially since the rise of scientific thought, evidence-based reasoning and the discovery of dating methods. The debate is over the age of the earth and the universe at large. The debate primarily hinges around Genesis chapters 1 and 2, and how to interpret those passages of scripture. On one side of the argument are the Young Earth Creationists. They take Genesis 1 & 2 to be a literal description of the creation of earth and mankind; and believe the earth to be about 6,000 years old. When challenged by the scientific evidence supporting a much older earth, they suggest that dating methodologies are flawed and are interpreted by Darwinian-biased scientists. On the other side of the argument are those that believe the earth and the universe at large to be billions of years old. Christians that hold to the old earth theory (Old Earth Creationists) will then claim that Genesis 1 & 2 are not to be taken literally – that the account of creation and the origins of mankind in the Bible are mostly symbolic, or in the least, are to be interpreted loosely. Typically, Christians that hold to the earth being very old, still believe that God created everything – but that the six days of creation are not literal 24-hour days, and that the genealogies recorded later in Genesis are not complete – possibly containing gaps.
When reading the Bible, we must remember that the Bible does not tell every true thing, but everything that it does say is true. The Bible is not primarily a play-by-play account of history, but where it does deal with historical content, the content is true. With that understanding, I believe, if we take a close look at Genesis 1:1-2, we will discover that there is room in the creation account for an old earth without having to stretch the scriptures.
I believe Genesis 1:1 to be the account of creation. In the beginning of all things, God was already there. He is eternal, meaning that He has no beginning nor end. He has always existed and He always will. The heavens and the earth, however, had a beginning – and according to the Bible, will have an end. The beginning of the universe was initiated by God. He created the heavens (the universe); and within the universe, He created the earth. This statement in Genesis 1:1 is true, but it does not say every true thing. It doesn’t say how God created, nor does it describe everything that He created. The important truth here is that in the beginning of all things, God was already there, and He created all things. Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” By faith, I believe this to be true. God is the God of all creation.
The description of the earth here is pretty bleak. The Hebrew words in the passage describe a dark, chaotic and confusing wasteland. To dig into the Hebrew a little: the earth was tohu (empty, chaotic, and confusing), bohu (a waste, in ruin), and choshek (utter darkness, misery and destruction) covered the surface. Based on what I know of God, that description of earth sounds very uncharacteristic of something He would create. God is not darkness – He is light. God does not bring confusion – He brings clarity. Everything that God does is good, so why would He create such a horrible place? I personally do not believe that God created the earth as a dark, chaotic wasteland. Let me explain… The text says, “The earth was formless…” The Hebrew word translated here as ‘was’ is the Hebrew word hayah. That word actually means to become or to come to pass. With that in mind, it is very reasonable to interpret Genesis 1:2 to say, “Now the earth became formless and empty…” That one word actually suggests that there is a history of the earth that precedes Genesis 1:3. It would seem that there is an unknown period of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. God created the heavens and the earth, and at some point, something happened to the earth that caused it to become an empty, chaotic and confusing wasteland full of darkness and ruin. Without having to force scientific evidence into the Genesis 1:3-31 6-day timeline, there is room in the scriptures for a very old earth and for creatures (like dinosaurs) that once roamed prehistoric earth.
That then begs the question, “what could have happened to the earth to cause it to become such a dark and empty place?” My thoughts on that question are for another time. Stay tuned.