Science today makes it possible to estimate the age of the universe to be 13,77 billion years old and the age of the earth 4,53-4,58 billion years old. Science can also demonstrate through verifiable methods that all natural life evolved ever since the dawn of organic matter. Reaching this understanding has been a gradual process since the dawn of the Scientific Revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries. Science has no holy answer book, but makes hypothesis validated by emperical evidence.
In 1862 Lord Kelvin used the science of his day to calculate the earth’s age to 98 million years and this was accepted by many conservative Christians. With the mysterious beginning of Genesis 1 speaking of an empty and void earth (gap theory) and understanding that ‘day’ in the Bible does not have to be 24 hours literally, a very old earth is reconciable with the creation text and does not bring into question commonly accepted core doctrines like evolution theory later did according to the opinion of many. Man could still be created 6,000 years ago and dinosaurs millions of years ago, all directly by God’s hand. Many Christians accepting the old earth, also believed in the local flood theory or a purely figurative flood as science showed that a global flood could not have happened. There is no geological evidence, despite the claims of pseudoscience and flood myths found all over the World (just as dragon myths etc.). But this was not known before sciencitific geology. To the ancient church fathers the global flood had a powerful theological message; all the other gods people worshipped all over the earth were powerless against it. They had no other origins account but the biblical perceived through their “glasses”. But due to geology science, the creation record was reinterpreted and Bible faith found to be reconciable with the new science.
To the point that the flood could be local according to the Bible. It’s an indirect support I see, and I think the flood account in itself is open to both a global flood and a local flood.
When we read about “the earth” in the Bible today, we tend to think of the planet earth. This is because of our modern science. But the ancient Biblical “cosmic geography” was more restricted and sometimes this is seen clearly. Granted when we read that God created the earth, we have no reason to put any limits on it. There are much fewer Words in biblical Hebrew than in modern languages, and we must therefore consider the context. Examples where the earth – or another cosmic term – clearly isn’t the Whole planet / earth in modern sense:
Deuteronomy 2:24 “‘Rise, take your journey, and cross over the River Arnon. Look, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it, and engage him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’
Habakkuk 1:6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs.
Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
To the point that ‘day’ in the Bible does not have to be 24 hours literally, consider some examples:
God’s rest day is very long:
Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Hebrews 4:3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ”although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.”
Israel’s 40 years in the desert “day”:
Hebrews 3:8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness,
The day of salvation is very long:
2 Corinthians 6:2 2 For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Luke 23:43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— 7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
Why? Because the Bible uses a lot of figurative language. The anti-symbolism claim of the fundamentalists that the Bible “Means what it says” (in their warped literal definition) is ignorant and since it creates false understanding and slavery, we should not be silent.
One of the first Christian writings accepting the early science revolution came from the influencial reformer John Calvin. In 1554, John Calvin had his huge Genesis Commentaries published. Among his comments to Genesis chapter 1, we find:
Moses describes the special use of this expanse, “to divide the waters from the waters,” from which words arises a great difficulty. For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels ; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the World. He who would learn astronomy,” and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach all men without exception ; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned.’The things, therefore, which he relates, serve as the garniture of that theatre which he places before our eyes. Whence I conclude, that the waters here meant are such as the rude and unlearned may perceive. The assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read concerning the waters above the heavens, notwithstanding their ignorance respecting them, is not in accordance with the design of Moses”.
By the rude and the unlearned, he refers to those not knowing the latest science of his day. So Calvin is being very progressive and visionary concerning issues that would later become very talked of and important. But such a knowledge was not and is not required to understand the creation record. Men ignorant of science ever since Moses can understand and apppriciate this record. As Calvin knows, it is not scientifically true that there is a sea above the earth. But ancient man could relate to it. God kept Water up there to let it rain and so God could also flood the earth later. The theological point is that:
Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
In 1855, the famous preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon expressed Classic Old Earth Creationism in his sermon “The power of the Holy Ghost”:
“But if you will look in the first chapter of Genesis, you will see there more particularly set forth that peculiar operation of power upon the universe which was put forth by the Holy Spirit; you will then discover what was his special work. In Ge 1:2, we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” We do not know how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be—certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God”.
In part 2 we will look at the implications of evolution science on creation and the Christian faith.