Belief in an old earth creates enormous theological problems for Christians. There is an obvious tension with a straightforward reading of Genesis, as well as the problem of animal death and suffering before Adam’s sin. Nevertheless, Christians who advocate an old earth might argue that these difficulties, though serious, are tolerable as long as one affirms that human death, at least, began with Adam (Romans 5:12-21). This is because logically Christ’s death on the cross can only pay for our sins if human death really is the penalty for sin. And since a just God would not impose the penalty for sin before a sin had actually been committed, human death could not have occurred before Adam’s fall. This may seem obvious since one would naturally conclude this from Genesis, but it is a logical necessity for the Christian faith to be true.
Thus, human death as the penalty for sin is a nonnegotiable Christian doctrine. If human death did not originate with Adam, then the gospel itself is logically undermined because the doctrine of blood atonement for sin makes no sense apart from death as a consequence of Adam’s fall (Genesis 2:15-17). This is such an obvious point that even old-earth Christian organizations sometimes take great pains to affirm that Adam was indeed the first true man.1
Old-earth Christians who acknowledge Adam as a real person may think their compromise position leaves the doctrine of atonement unaffected since they affirm that human death began with Adam. But in reality they have, theologically and logically, already “given away the store.” This is because in order to affirm Adam as the first man, they must deny the humanity of any “hominids” assumed to predate Adam and Eve, such as Neandertals.
However, the evidence for the true humanity of these ancient people is very strong. Even evolutionists have conceded that Neandertals could speak, deliberately buried their dead, used tools, and even interbred with so-called “modern” humans.2,3 Of course, if they interbred with humans, then by definition they too must have been human.4 Likewise, Neandertals lived in cold climates that would have necessitated the wearing of clothing, which was given to man to cover his nakedness after the Fall (Genesis 3:21). Therefore, it is implausible to claim that Neandertals, which even some evolutionists classify as a “subspecies” of Homo sapiens, were not genuine members of the human family.
But since old-earth Christians have already accepted the premise that Neandertals existed before Adam, this would imply that human death did not begin with Adam, even if he were a real person. Thus, the only thing preventing old-earth Christians from reaching this disastrous theological conclusion is their untenable denial of Neandertals’ humanity. And untenable positions cannot be maintained for very long. In this light, it is not surprising that some professing old-earth Christians have begun to openly claim that Adam never existed.5
But if Neandertals were actually post-Babel descendants of Noah, then this theological conundrum is instantly resolved. And it is only secular old-earth interpretations imposed on the data that lead to the conclusions that Earth is old and Neandertals predated Adam. Despite the claims of secular scientists, the evidence strongly favors a young world, a young human race, and the reality of the global Flood of Noah. Therefore, taking Scripture at face value provides an intellectually satisfying way of interpreting both the theological and scientific data.
- Rana, F. Were They Real? The Scientific Case for Adam and Eve. Reasons to Believe. Posted on reasons.org October 1, 2010, accessed May 29, 2015.
- Oard, M. 2003. Neandertal Man—the changing picture. Creation. 25 (4): 10-14.
- Thomas, B. Neanderthal Men Were Modern Men. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org December 18, 2008, accessed May 29, 2015.
- One of the features of the standard definition of a species is that its members are able to interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
- Chaffey, T. and R. Patterson. Was Jesus Wrong? Peter Enns Says, “Yes.” Answers in Genesis. Posted on answersingenesis.org January 30, 2012, accessed May 29, 2015
Image Credit: Copyright © 2012 T. Evanson. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.
* Dr. Hebert is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.