How Old Is Our Planet?
by Henry M. Morris III, D.Min. *
The age of the earth is hotly debated among Christians today. This issue is not really whether God created Adam but whether our planet is as old as most secular scientists insist. The conflict is that the text of Scripture does not appear to allow for anything like millions or billions of years—and if the scientific dating techniques are as accurate as portrayed, then it is difficult to take the book of Genesis at face value.
ICR teams have conducted thorough technical research on the dating processes, and there is plenty of scientific evidence indicating our planet is much younger than the supposed 4.6 billion years secular naturalism suggests.1,2
The focus of this article is to challenge Christians to trust the integrity and accuracy of God’s revealed Word over the interpretative suggestions of secular scholars and scientists.
Dating the Events in Scripture
There are many events recorded in the Old Testament that help us date the sequence and timing of its history.3 Whether it is a notation of a father’s age at the birth of an heir or the time of an earthquake, there is no difference in the language in over 150 usages. The various lineage tables in Genesis 5, 10, and 11 all use the same terms. The corresponding lineage tables in 1 Chronicles 1:1-4 and Luke 3:36-38 repeat the same names. There is no difference in the type of prose from Genesis to Chronicles. It appears God went out of His way to help us date the oldest portions of history, and all of these dating aids help us identify the historical accuracy of Scripture.
Why do some Christians consider everything from Genesis 12 onward as events from which we can deduce historical timing and then ignore those same event calculations in the first 11 chapters? If we add up the events described in Genesis 1–11, the time involved is a little less than 1,700 years. The subsequent events described in the remaining Old Testament add up to some 2,500 years. Most Christians generally accept the 2,500 years, but many do not accept the preceding 1,700 despite there being no difference in the language, text, or prose. The only reason to reject the pre-Flood events appears to be the desire to allow for the supposed billions of years that secular science demands to fit an evolutionary scenario.
Attempts to Accommodate Ages
Several generations ago, dispensational scholars promoted the gap theory to house the supposed ages Darwinism demands. The scientific community of the 1920s castigated the famous Scopes Trial because William Jennings Bryan used the day-age theory (a common version of theistic evolution) to support creation and was justifiably scorned. These early theories were an outgrowth of a trend begun in the late 1800s that suggested God somehow “employed” evolution to create. This led to a sequence of hybrid teachings that interpreted the Genesis text to accommodate evolutionary philosophy.
All hybrid theories that attempt to adapt the supposed long ages of the formation of the universe and our planet—which is all of them by definition—support countless ages of death and natural selection. There are no exceptions. Those who insist they are not evolutionists may be attempting to side with a creationist perspective, but every one of the hybrid theories also holds to a natural development of life from simple to complex over eons of time. This “natural selection” requires eons of physical death to develop new species and new kinds of creatures prior to Adam’s creation and subsequent rebellion in Genesis 3. Thus, those who adhere to the hybrid theories have painted themselves into a corner and must claim physical death was a natural God-ordained operational process from the beginning.
Furthermore, all these accommodating theories include some form of non-catastrophic, non-global flood—because if the Flood of Noah’s day covered the entire planet for one year as is described in detail in Genesis 6–8, then the existing geological record (fossils, rock layers, canyons, volcanoes, ocean basins, etc.) would have been caused by the Flood and is not the result of eons of slow and gradual processes.
Many of the hybrid theories suggest that the “days” of Genesis 1 should be considered “ages” because God rested on the seventh day and that rest continues today since God is no longer creating anything. Hebrews 4:1-10 is often used to justify this view, particularly verse 4: “God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” The textual problem is that Hebrews 4 is comparing Israel’s 40-year wandering and its rest after entering the land of Canaan with the eternal rest of salvation. Psalm 95:10-11 clearly identifies this rest as the end of the 40-year wandering (also cited in Hebrews 3:11).
Exodus 20:11 specifies that God created in six days and rested on the seventh.4 This verse is the reason for the fourth commandment and the explanation for the need of the “Sabbath” rest day. In the context, this could only mean straightforward 24-hour days, and the seventh day can only be understood to be the same length as the other six. Even if we allow for the other six days of Genesis 1 to be ages, no scholar takes them to be eternal or ongoing.
Creation Ex Nihilo
Some adherents of the hybrid systems make the qualification that they believe God created Adam and Eve sometime in the last 10,000 years. On the surface that sounds accommodating, but their focus is on the creation of Adam and Eve ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) while all the rest of the planet and the universe developed over eons through death and natural selection—meaning evolution. In most cases, these proponents insist the rest of creation has been around for millions of years, developing by natural processes (including hominid creatures without souls), and sometime in the recent past God created Adam and Eve as the Bible defines them—fully human with an eternal soul—and placed them on the waiting earth.
The question then largely boils down to: What does the Bible mean by creation? What did God “create”?
[Jesus Christ,] whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:21)
Peter is speaking of the restoration of all things—a clear reference to all of creation, not just people. The Old Testament prophets spoke of “all things” as including animals (Isaiah 11:6-10; 35:1-10; 65:24- 25; Ezekiel 34:23-32), which will be restored to the perfect primeval condition, making them no longer carnivorous or dangerous to man.
We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them. (Acts 14:15)
The Greek phrase “made the heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things” is precisely the same as the Greek translation of Exodus 20:11. There can be little doubt that Paul is identifying the creation as everything on and in our planet.
God, who made the world and everything in it....He gives to all life, breath, and all things. (Acts 17:24-25)
In the classic passage Romans 1:18-25, Paul insists that God made everything in the world and that all people realize it even if their knowledge is suppressed. Mankind and the earth are the same age. Anyone who denies this truth has “exchanged the truth of God for the lie” (v. 25).
Several other New Testament passages use similar language that connects the creation of the initial foundation of the earth (Day One) to the entire spectrum of living things (Hebrews 9:25- 26; 2 Peter 3:5-8; Revelation 14:6-7; 21:1-5; 22:2-3). All these verses deal with the initial creation or the restoration of the creation to a pristine condition. Psalm 33:6 and 148:5 and the seven great miracles in John’s gospel all speak to “instant” fiat creation.
Death Before Sin
Of all the conflicting issues between the hybrid theories and the biblical text, death before sin is the most critical. If physical death is the result of Adam’s sin, as Romans 5:12 and other passages insist, then all death clearly came after Adam was created and was a judgment by God because of that sin. If physical death existed long before Adam sinned, then the death spoken of in Romans 5 must be some other kind of death—something else besides physical death.
Oddly enough, to the evolutionist death is a good thing. Death allows for the inferior species to be weeded out over time and permits natural selection to facilitate the survival of the fittest. But in the Bible, death is clearly a bad thing. It is the “last enemy” that will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26) and is the great weapon of Satan. These two views are incompatible.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14)
Verse 12 is precisely worded. Death came by sin and then spread to all mankind. Verses 13-14 insist that sin existed before “the law,” but “death reigned from Adam to Moses” (from creation to the giving of the law). Death began at Adam’s sin and continues to reign today. If this were the only passage that speaks to this event, then one might justifiably conclude that this is only a human phenomenon. However, Romans 8:19-23 specifically identifies the “whole creation” as being under the judgment of death:
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
Paul identifies three aspects in this very precise passage: the past curse, the present suffering, and the future restoration. All of creation groans because of the bondage of corruption.5 The unsaved will not be “delivered from the bondage.” Neither are the saved being identified since Paul is comparing and contrasting the creation with the believers. The only conclusion warranted by the language is that the creation (Greek ktisis) Paul is speaking of is the sub-human creation. The death of all the physical elements in the entire universe is in view here.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics (entropy) tells us everything is winding down, degrading, and dying. The Romans text insists that “the creation [ktisis] was subjected to futility, not willingly....” This groaning of the creation came about only when man sinned. There is no room here for a spiritual application. The passage is specifically talking about the judgment of death that came on the creation because of Adam’s sin.
All of these key biblical elements are foundational to the inerrancy and authority of the text. To reject or interpret them to fit something that the Bible does not describe is essentially a rejection of the inspired Word of God. If one allows science, philosophy, archaeology, or theology to overrule Scripture, the effect is to place the understanding and expectation of man over the revealed Word of God and subjugate God to man’s scholarship.
Although Scripture is never intended to be a textbook on the processes of science or technology, the omniscient Creator records His work accurately whenever He speaks of the processes of creation. To suggest that the corrupt intellect of man should override or overrule the inerrant Word of God is more than this writer or any Christian should presume to do.
The Bible is clear. Our planet is young. God spoke everything into being during the creation week. “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9).
- Vardiman, L., A. Snelling, and E. Chaffin, eds. 2005. Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, Vol. 2: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative. El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research and Chino Valley, AZ: Creation Research Society.
- Snelling, A. A. 2009. Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation & the Flood. Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation Research.
- For example, see Johnson, J. J. S. 2008. How Young Is the Earth? Applying Simple Math to Data in Genesis. Acts & Facts. 37 (10): 4.
- God is creating today. Every new believer is a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:24). Although God is not creating any new matter/energy—except in the miracles of Jesus Christ as recorded in the gospels, e.g., turning the water into wine— He is creating the new man every time someone is twice-born. Jesus explained, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17).
- This creation does not involve the angelic creation since the fallen angels cannot be redeemed as can this creation.
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Henry M. Morris III, D.Min. 2014. How Old Is Our Planet?. Acts & Facts. 43 (3).