This is a big problem for Christians, today. Not because of what appears to be a conflict between science and religion, with respect to the age of the Earth; rather it is the many shades of interpretations offered by Christians, themselves! One group says the Earth is as old as 4.5 billion years (old Earth believers) while another group says the Earth is roughly 6 thousand years-give or take a little (young Earth believers). Also, there are different interpretations of Genesis that is usually on the part of the old Earth believers. For example, there is the Gap Theory. This belief basically says there is a millions-of-years gap between Genesis, chapters 1 verses 1 and 2. The waters that the spirit of God is hovering over is due to a flood before Noah’s flood due to Lucifer’s rebellion. Another view tells of each day described in the Genesis account as being long periods of time. There is a term (new to me) called progressive creation. This belief lies somewhere between secular evolution and theological evolution.
People like Ken Ham believe the world was created in 6 solar days about 6 thousand years ago. He gets his world view upon reading the Bible. Luke gives the genealogy of Jesus Christ to Adam and the generations when added together is not more than several thousands of years. James Ussher, Archbishop of the Church of England (Armagh) studying the Old Testament in light of other historical accounts chronicled the Earth’s creation around 4004 BC. He, too, must have read Luke. The problem is not that Richard Dawkins or Bill Nyeopposed Young Earth beliefs but when men like William Lane Craig who is anamazing Christian apologist, do. This is because men like Ken Ham are merely being consistent with the Bible-so at least we know where and how to deal with it. He is not dodging any bullets, he is “true” to his worldview, whether we can sympathize or not.
As far back as the 4th century Augustine of Hippo (St Augustine) says not to take the Genesis account too literally. He says God created everything instantly, as opposed to 6 solar days. He warns us not to misinterpret scripture which can disagree with science, thus making believers look foolish. This can make good sense, especially when I consider another group of people –Christians and non-Christians who believe the Earth to be flat. There is a Flat Earth Society started by Samuel Shenton in 1956! Their model of the world consists of a disc covered by a celestial dome.
So, here it is. The young Earth creationists look sort of like Samuel Shenton’s troop in the eyes of the old Earth creationists. But I think we miss the point: in the eyes of secular evolutionists we who subscribe to an invisible intelligence who gave us the Bible appear foolish since we cannot even agree what the Bible is saying. We need to ask why we believe whether the Earth is 4.5 billion years old or six thousand years old. And we need to decide if this is relevant to Gospel. Then, we need to hold our ground, no matter what. Wishy-washy beliefs is what I think is the give-away, not secularism vs Christianity. The latter issue will not go away, simply because we are not as a race ever going to subscribe to a purely material universe with us as mere matter, without a soul.
PS Happy Valentine’s Day……!