“How old is the earth?”So, does the Bible even address the question of the age of the earth?
Does it intend to?
In my opinion, the answer is no.
Reader: “Graham, am I hearing you right? I thought you had a high view of Scripture!”
Graham: “I do. I believe in divine authorship, full inspiration, inerrancy too.”
Reader: “But, but… how can you say that if you don’t believe the Bible tells us when the earth was created?”
Graham: “For the simple reason that . . . it doesn’t tell us. It’s not rocket science. I mean, if God doesn’t want to tell us, to tell me, I’m ok with that. Are you ok with that?
Reader: “Well, it makes me kind of uneasy, as if I’m walking away from some essential tenet of the Faith.”
Graham: “I know exactly what you’re saying. I’ve wrestled with that same sense. I’ve also had to wrestle with the reality that sometimes my desire for certitude tempts me to squeeze Scripture into something of a pre-defined mold. But when I do that, I’m not conforming to God’s Word; I’m actually conforming it to me.”
Reader: “OK, OK, let’s cut to the chase. Are you saying that the earth is billions of years old?”
Graham: “No I’m not. But, I’m also not saying it’s definitely young. I don’t know for sure. But here's the point: I don’t believe the Bible speaks to that question or even intends to. And if God doesn’t want to address himself to that, I can live with the tension. In fact, I have to. I’d rather live with that tension than force the Bible to say something it doesn’t say.”
Reader: “So, what does the Bible say?”
Graham: “It says, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’”
Reader: “Ok, so when was that?”
Graham: “Not sure… Ok, I lie. It was ‘in the beginning.’”
Reader: “And when was ‘the beginning’?”
Graham: “Ah, now that’s the question, isn’t it. The Bible doesn’t tell us. Might have been 10,000 years ago. Might have been 10 billion years ago. You pick.”
Reader: “So you’re open to both options?”
Graham: “Sure. Even the great conservative apologist, Norman Geisler, put it: ‘I’m a young earther three days a week, and an old earther four days a week.’”
Reader: “That sounds like a cop out.”
Graham: “Not really. It’s saying that you can marshal some evidence for either position. It’s also saying that Scripture doesn’t definitively decide the issue one way or the other, regardless of what some folks will say. The implications of this is that two people can have a high view of Scripture and still end up with different opinions on the age of the earth. One view is not more or less Christian than the other, despite some people’s attempt to make this a (or even the) litmus test of orthodoxy.”
Reader: “So if Scripture doesn’t solve it for me, how do I get an answer?”
Graham: “I think the great Christian scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, has it right when he says that God has written two books: the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. They are not in conflict, but are complementary. If the Bible doesn’t provide a definitive answer, it’s not a bad idea to read His other book, the Book of Nature.
Reader: “So what does the Book of Nature tell us?”
Graham: “That’s a great question.”
Reader: “So give me a great answer!”Graham: “Now you’re just being lazy. Go find out for yourself.” :)