Why are Christians so reluctant to accept Genesis as written? Even many otherwise fine Bible scholars, such as Dr. Norman Geisler, are hesitant to fully believe the words of Genesis. On many other issues, Geisler reasons cogently and interprets Scripture with Scripture. But when it comes to Genesis, the rules of hermeneutics and logical thinking are thrown away to make room for deep time (millions of years). Why? This brings to mind the words of Christ as He lamented over the reluctance of the disciples to believe in the resurrection: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25).
Dr. Geisler recently wrote an article entitled “Does Believing in Inerrancy Require One to Believe in Young Earth Creationism?” Since the Bible explicitly teaches that God created in six days (Exodus 20:11) with Adam and Eve made on day 6 (Genesis 1:26-31), and since the genealogies only add up to a few thousand years (e.g. Genesis 5), the Bible does teach a “young” Earth (in the sense of thousands of years as opposed to billions). Therefore, if Scripture is inerrant, it follows logically that the Earth is young. But this is not Dr. Geisler’s conclusion. It is clear from his article that Geisler doesn’t want to accept the biblical timescale of creation. He works very hard to persuade the reader that there are multiple positions on Genesis that are compatible with inerrancy. Let’s examine his reasoning.
First, we note that the title of Dr. Geisler’s article has a subtle evolutionary bias “…to Believe in Young Earth Creationism.” The term “Creationism” means the belief in creation, or the doctrine that God created. So the title is somewhat redundant: “to believe in the belief of creation.” Evolutionists often set creationism (the belief in creation) against evolution (without the “ism”) in order to imply that creation is a belief whereas evolution isn’t. It’s a rhetorical trick. But why did Dr. Geisler use this term? It was probably unintentional. But it does suggest that Geisler has been influenced by secular lines of thought.
The age of the earth is a hotly debated issue among evangelicals. Old Earthers believe, like most scientists, that the universe is billions of years old.
There seems to be a subtle appeal to authority in this statement: “like most scientists.” It’s probably a true claim, but is it relevant to the issue of biblical interpretation? When considering whether Christ literally rose from the dead, do we consult with scientists and include their majority opinion on the topic as an important factor in our interpretation of the biblical text? It could well be that many Christians are reluctant to accept the literal words of Genesis because they are intimidated by secular scientists. “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Proverbs 29:25).
Young Earthers, measure the age of the universe in terms of thousands of years. The debate is not new, but the insistence by some Young Earthers that belief in the inerrancy of the Bible demands a Young Earth position is relatively new.
Inerrancy means that the Bible, in its original autographs, is entirely without error. That necessarily includes the timescale of Genesis, as well as everything else the Bible teaches. That the Bible teaches that “God created in six days” is certainly not a relatively new position. And if indeed the Bible teaches that, then inerrancy demands that we accept it as true.
The Biblical Status of the Young Earth View
In order to establish the Young Earth view one must demonstrated [sic] that there are (1) no time gaps in the biblical record and that (2) the “days” of Genesis are six successive 24 hour days of creation.
First, neither of these claims is essential to establish a young Earth from Scripture. There are other ways to demonstrate the biblical timescale that bypass these conditions entirely. For example, we could point out that Jesus stated that God created the man and woman from the beginning of creation (Mark 10:6). This statement would make no sense if human beings were first created billions of years after the beginning of creation. But it makes perfect sense if they were created in the first week. Christ’s statement only makes sense in a young Earth, regardless of any alleged gaps in the genealogies, or regardless of whether the days are truly days – so long as they are short and not millions of years.
Second, the issue of gaps in the genealogies is utterly irrelevant to the age of the Earth. The reason is that the Bible gives the age of person A at the time person B is born – regardless of whether person B is a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild. The timescale is unaffected. For example, “Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and begot Enoch.” (Genesis 5:18). Geisler’s point is that Enoch may actually be a grandson, or great grandson of Jared, rather than a son. But this has absolutely no effect on the age of the Earth. The timespan between Jared’s birth and Enoch’s birth is 162 years, regardless of how many people may have been in between. In like fashion, we can add up the ages between Adam and Abraham, and it comes out to around 2000 years. And both biblical and secular scholars agree that Abraham lived around 2000 B.C. So this puts the age of the Earth at around 6000 years – regardless of whether or not the genealogies have gaps.
Third, it is very easy to establish that the days of creation are just that: days. There are other Hebrew words and phrases God could have used if He had intended to convey that creation took vast ages. And it is clear that the days are successive, as we’ll see below.
Possible Gaps in Genesis
Unfortunately for Young Earthers, these two premises are difficult to establish for many reasons. (1) There could have been a gap of long periods of time before Genesis 1:1 (called Recent Creationism).
Is there scriptural support for this? Geisler provides none. Even if there were, this would not affect the age of the Earth. We know from Scripture that the heaven and Earth and everything within them were made in six days (Exodus 20:11). The existence of a hypothetical period of time before creation has no bearing on the age of the Earth.
Second, Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” If long periods of time happened before the beginning, then it really wouldn’t be the beginning. We might say “before the beginning” as a metaphorical way to describe the eternal realm of God. But, clearly nothing that God created could have existed before the beginning of creation – by definition.
(2) There could be a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 (called the Gap Theory with or without and intervening fall of Satan, as C. I. Scofield had it).
Is there scriptural support for this? Geisler provides none. In fact, a gap of time between the first two verses of Genesis is disallowed by the Hebrew grammar. Verse two begins with a grammatical construction called a “waw-disjunctive.” This is when a sentence starts with “and” followed by (i.e., prefixed to) a non-verb, such as a noun with or without a definite article prefix (in the Hebrew word order which is not always the same in English). “And the earth” (in this instance it is the same order as in Hebrew) indicates a waw-disjunctive. Such a construction is routinely used to comment on the text that preceded it. It is much the way we use parentheses in English. A gap of time cannot be inserted between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 because verse 2 does not follow in time; rather it is comment on verse 1.
Even more devastating, however, to Gap Theory advocates, is the Hebrew verb that God employed in Genesis 1:2, which the English Bible literally translates as “was”, not “became”.
Gap theorists believe that the phrase “in the beginning” used in Genesis 1:1 refers to the “original” creation, which occurred sometime in the very distant past, billions of years ago. The next verse becomes the key to their theory: And the earth was without form, and void. (Genesis 1:2) Gap theorists would prefer to translate this as “And the earth became without form and void,” and suggest that a “formless” creation means some kind of ruin, some change from “very good” to “wasted.” But should 1:2 say “became” (which denotes a change of condition) instead of “was” (which denotes a condition that continues the same as before)? In fact, there is no philological need to replace the English translation verb “was” with “became.” The Hebrew word hayah used here is the normal Hebrew verb that means “to be.” This same verb is the etymological root of God’s special name YHWH (Yahweh = “He is” or “He who is,” emphasizing God’s unchanging being), as is confirmed by Exodus 3:14 (“I AM THAT I AM” twice uses the verb hayah). God never changed; God can’t change. So why would He pick a form of hayah to be His own name if hayah must mean “change”?! The Hebrew verb hayah likewise appears in Genesis 2:18, when God stated that it was “not good that man [Adam] should be alone.” The English phrase “should be” translates the verb (specifically, a simple active infinitive construct form of hayah), yet Genesis reports nothing to suggest that Adam’s singleness at the time was a “changed” condition, as if he was then alone after a previous marriage!
Quoting James J. S. Johnson, “Gap Theory: A Formless and Void Error”, in Creation Basics & Beyond (ICR, 2013), page 38. Verse 2 describes the conditions of the Earth when God first made it. The gap theory has been thoroughly refuted and it is disappointing to see Geisler regurgitate it here.
Second, Exodus 20:11 disallows a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, or really any gaps of time during the creation week. Exodus 20:11 is the explanation of the Fourth Commandment given in verses 8-10: God’s instructions to set aside one day per week to rest and reflect on Him. Verse 11 explains “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them…” “In six days” carries the meaning of “in the timespan of six days” or “within six days.” Notice that everything is made within that six day period. God is explicit. The phrase “heaven and earth” is often used in Hebrew as a merism (a figure of speech involving two extremes to represent everything in between) for the universe. This alone would leave us to believe that the entire universe was created in the span of six days. But God goes to linguistic extremes to make sure we don’t miss the point. He adds “the sea” just in case someone should think that “Earth” here means only the land. God further adds “and all that is in them” just to preclude any possible exception. The text is explicit that everything God created in the entire universe, He created in the span of six days.
Third, Geisler seems to allow for the fall of Satan during the creation week. But the Bible states that when God finished His work on the six day, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31a). Now if all that God made was very good, wouldn’t that mean that Lucifer was still very good and therefore had not yet fallen? Isn’t Lucifer a created being, and hence part of the “all” of God’s creation? If everything God made was still very good by the sixth day, then the fall of Satan must have occurred after the sixth day, and probably after the seventh day since God blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it (Genesis 1:3, Exodus 20:11).
(3) There could be long gaps between the six literal 24-hour days (Alternating Day-Age Theory).
Is there scriptural support for this? Again, Geisler provides none. Exodus 20:11 carries the meaning of “in the span of six days” God created everything in the universe. This is clear since the creation week is given as the explanation for our work week, listed in Exodus 20:8-10. We are to work for six (consecutive) days and rest for one because that’s what God did. Just imagine a hired hand in ancient Israel who didn’t report to work because he claimed to be in his million year gap between Tuesday and Wednesday!
The language of Genesis 1 also precludes any possibility of gaps between the days. The sixth and seventh days use the definite article in the Hebrew text (the sixth day, the seventh day). The definite article eliminates any possible doubt that these were the sixth day and the seventh day respectively from the beginning, disallowing any notion of millions of intervening days.
The point here is not to defend any one of these views, but it is to note that belief in an Old Earth is not incompatible in principle with belief in inerrancy and a literal interpretation of Genesis.
The problem is that none of these positions are exegetically defensible or compatible with the text. Geisler is within his intellectual rights to present competing interpretations of the text without necessarily holding to any one of them. But at least one of these views must be exegetically possible in order for his argument to stand. Yet none of them are. If Geisler wants to argue that there is an exegetical alternative to the literal days of creation, then he is logically obligated to produce at least one that will stand up to scrutiny. A series of bad arguments does not add up to one good argument.
(4) There are known gaps after Genesis. For example, Mathew 1:8 affirms that “Joram begat Uzziah.” But in 1 Chronicles 3:11-14 it mentions three missing generations between Joram and Uzziah.
We have already seen that supposed gaps in the genealogies have no effect on the age of the Earth. Even so, there really is no evidence of any gaps in the Old Testament genealogies – the ones that are relevant to the age of the earth. Geisler refers to some gaps in the New Testament genealogies; but these are not used in any age-of-the-earth computation, nor could they be since no ages are provided. So why does Geisler mention them? Perhaps he thinks that since there are known gaps in New Testament genealogies this at least suggests that it is possible that there are gaps in Old Testament genealogies as well. But this doesn’t necessarily follow since the Old Testament is written in a different language than the New Testament, and parallel words in different languages are not always used in exactly the same way.
The Greek word translated as “begat” in the King James Bible is “gennao” and means “to cause to be born” or “to bring forth.” It is the word used when a father has a son. However, the Greek word can also refer to a grandchild, or a more distant descendent. Matthew uses the term in this way in a handful of instances so that he can arrange the ancestors of Christ into 3 groups of 14 (Matthew 1:17). But does this prove that the Hebrew word equivalent to “begat” is also used this way?
The Hebrew word translated “begat” in the KJV is “yalad.” A Hebrew lexicon will show that it has a similar range of meanings to the Greek “gennao.” So we might conclude that, in principle, “yalad” might indicate a relationship more distant than parent-child. However, the word is never used this way in the Old Testament. There are no examples of “yalad” ever being used for anything other than a parent and his or her child. The fact that the Greek word for “begat” is used this way is not relevant to how the Hebrew word is used. That being the case, there is no exegetical reason to believe in any gaps in the Old Testament Genealogies, and these would not affect the age of the Earth anyway.
Likewise, Luke 3:35-36 lists one missing generation (Cainan) not mentioned in Genesis 11:20-24.
Luke 3:37 lists Cainan as the son of Enosh, which agrees with Genesis 5:9. And Luke lists another Cainan in verse 36 in between Arphaxad and Shelah. However, the earliest manuscripts of Luke’s Gospel do not have the extra Cainan in verse 36. This suggests that it was not in Luke’s Gospel as he wrote it. The extra Cainan appears to be an early copying mistake; it would be very easy for a scribe to read from the wrong line, and thereby include a name twice. That the extra Cainan was not in the original Gospel is further supported by the fact that it is not found in any Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament. Nor is it found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac, the Targum, or in the writings of Josephus. Some versions of the Septuagint do include the extra Cainan, but the oldest versions do not. So the weight of the evidence is that this is an early scribal error; Shelah was the son of Arphaxad with no one in between, as confirmed by Genesis 10:24, 11:12, 1 Chronicles 1:18, 1:24, and the earliest copies of Luke 3:36.
So, with demonstrable gaps in the genealogies, the “Closed-Chronology” view needed to support the strict Young Earth view is not there. This would mean that a Young Earth view of creation around 4000 B.C. would not be feasible. And once more gaps are admitted, then when does it cease to be a Young Earth views?
In summary, (1) there are no demonstrable gaps in the Old Testament genealogies. (2) The issues of closed genealogies has no bearing on the age of the Earth anyway since the age of each person is given at the time of the birth of his descendent, regardless of how many generations came between. (3) By adding the ages of each person at the time of the birth of his descendent, we find about 2000 years span between Creation and Abraham. If Geisler wants to add extra generations that have no exegetical basis, it is just a question of how many he can cram into the 2000 years between creation and Abraham. It will have no bearing on the age of the Earth.
Evidence that the “Days” of Genesis May Involve more than Six 24 hour days of Creation
Not only is it possible that there are time gaps in Genesis 1, but there is also evidence that the “days” of Genesis are not 6 successive 24 hour days, called the Day-Age View (see Hugh Ross, Creation and Time and Don Stoner, A New Look at an Old Earth).
Before we examine the details of Geisler’s claims, we should note Geisler’s sources: he lists two books, one by Hugh Ross, and the other by Don Stoner. Ross’s book “Creation and Time” has abundant logical and hermeneutical errors throughout, and has been thoroughly refuted by Van Bebber and Taylor in their book “Creation and Time: A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross.” The book by Don Stoner (an evolutionist) uses the same type of arguments as Ross – and has a Foreword by Ross. Stoner is openly non-exegetical; in this very book he openly criticizes creationists for interpreting Scripture by “examining the Biblical part of the evidence and paying insufficient attention to God’s creation.” Does Geisler really endorse Stoner’s method of putting science on the same authoritative level as Scripture?
Neither Ross nor Stoner is a Bible scholar; their training is in science. They have been trained to look at data as the secularists do. They have largely embraced secular notions of origins, and are attempting to read the Bible in such a way as to accommodate these notions. The fact that these books were referenced may indicate the Geisler, like so many others, is hesitant to take Genesis as written because he is intimidated by scientists.
Consider the following:
(1) First, the word “day” (Hb. yom) is not limited to a 24 hour day in the creation record. For instance, it is used of 12 hours of light or daytime (in Gen.1:4-5a).
This doesn’t help Geisler’s case because either meaning of “day” implies that creation lasted one week – six 24-hour days, or six ~12-hour days with six ~12-hour nights in between. The timescale remains unchanged. The crucial point, and one that Geisler has not carefully considered, is not what the range of possible meanings the word “day” (yom) has, but rather which meaning is used in a given context. The context of Genesis 1 indicates ordinary days because each one is composed of one evening and one morning (e.g. Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31).
(2) It is also used of a whole 24 hour day in Genesis 1:5b where it speaks [of] day and night together as a “day.”
Yes. Dr. Geisler is exactly right. Genesis 1:5 shows that a day consists of one evening and one morning – a 24-hour day. “And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” However, this is also true for all the other days of creation!
Genesis 1:8b “And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.”
Genesis 1:13 “And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.”
Genesis 1:19 “And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.”
Genesis 1:23 “And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.”
Genesis 1:31b “And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
If Genesis 1:5b means an ordinary day as Geisler rightly concludes, then it follows that all the days of the creation week were ordinary days by the same reasoning.
(3) Further, in Genesis 2:4 the word “day” is used of all six days of creation when it affirms: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day [yom] that the LORD God made them” (Gen. 2:4).
This is (potentially) correct, but it doesn’t help Geisler’s argument. Even if, as some theologians allege, “yom” can mean a period of time longer than 24-hours when used as part of a prepositional phrase, like “the day of the Lord,” this has no bearing on how the word “yom” should be interpreted in other contexts. The days of creation are not part of a prepositional phrase, even if those theologians are correct about a “prepositional phrase exception” to the literally use of word “day” (yom) in Old Testament Hebrew. The context of Genesis 1 is quite different and only makes sense if the literal, ordinary meaning of “day” is used. For example, when “day” is part of an ordered list (the second day, the third day, etc.) in historical narrative it always refers to an ordinary day. When used with evening and morning, “yom” always indicates an ordinary day. An evening plus a morning would be an ordinary day even if the word “yom” were not present.
All of these contextual indicators are present in the account of creation, and so there is no doubt that “yom” refers to ordinary days when used as part of the creation week. That “yom” might mean something else in a different context is utterly irrelevant. The error of taking the meaning of a word in one context and arguing for that meaning in a different context is called the “unwarranted expansion of an expanded semantic field.” This is Geisler’s error in attempting to persuade the reader that the days of creation can be longer than 24-hours on the basis of the meaning of yom taken from an entirely different context.
(4) What is more, on the “seventh day” God “rested” from His work of creation. But according to Hebrews 4:4-11, God is still resting and we can enter into His Sabbath rest (v. 10). So, the seventh day of creation rest is still going on some 6000 plus years later (even by a Young Earth chronology).
This is very poor reasoning. Consider this argument: “Last week I worked every day, Monday through Saturday. On Sunday I rested. And today I’m still resting. Therefore, today must be Sunday!” Is such reasoning cogent? Of course not. My rest can continue after the day ends. God has been resting from His work of creation since He finished precisely because He was finished (Genesis 2:2-3).
(5) Further, there are biblical alternatives to the strongest argument for a 24 hour day. (a) For example, numbered series with the word “day” (as in Genesis 1) do not always refer to 24 hour days, as Hosea 6:1-2 shows.
No, Hosea does not “show” what Geisler assumes that it “shows.” First, the argument is a straw-man fallacy because the rule is that “yom” with a number is a literal/ordinary day whenever used in historical narrative. However, the only alleged counter-example Geisler can provide is not from historical narrative. Hosea is prophetic literature which is often written in Hebrew poetic form. Any word can take on practically any non-standard meaning when used poetically – that’s what makes poetry non-literal. This has no bearing on what the word means when used in the literal historical accounts in Scripture, such as Genesis.
For example, did David literally become a worm when he says in Psalm 22:6, “But I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people.” Does this poetic use of “worm” give us license to reinterpret “worm” in historical texts like Exodus 16:24 and Deuteronomy 28:39 to mean “a person?” Of course not. This Messianic Psalm refers to the anguish that Christ felt on the cross (e.g. Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46).
Prophetic literature also makes abundant use of poetic forms and figures of speech. Is the Kingdom of God literally a stone that becomes a literal mountain (Daniel 2:34-44)? Does this passage give us warrant to reinterpret “stone” or “mountain” in the historical sections of literature? Clearly not. It is an exegetical fallacy to claim that a word must literally mean “X” because it is used that way in poetic or prophetic literature.
Hosea is a book of prophecy. Consequently, it uses poetic imagery. In particular, Hosea 6:2 uses a common Hebrew form of poetry called graded numerical parallelism. “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.” The number is incremented by one; in this example, two days goes to three. Graded numerical parallelism is a clear marker of poetic usage and is found throughout the poetic and prophetic books of the Old Testament: Job 5:19, Proverbs 6:16, 30:15,18,21,29, Amos 1:3,6,9,11,13, 2:1,4,6, Micah 5:5, Ecclesiastes 4:6,12, 11:2, Jeremiah 3:14, Isaiah 17:6. This poetic structure informs us that Hosea is not necessarily speaking literally, but figuratively.
It is therefore fallacious for Geisler to use non-literal figures of speech to determine how a word should be used in literal, historical contexts. To suggest that a word can literally mean “_____” because it is used poetically that way is not exegetical, nor logical. In the literal, historical narrative text of the Old Testament, when “yom” is used with a number as in an ordered list, it always denotes an ordinary day.
Second, despite the poetic form, it is not obvious that a non-literal usage of day is in play even in Hosea 6:2. Indeed, it is hard to read this passage and not see Christ in it: Christ’s burial and resurrection was an historic occurrence that happened within a 3-day timespan – 3 literal days, not 3 indefinite “ages”. Although Old Testament prophets often used symbolic imagery and metaphors within contexts that are clearly recognizable as such, that does not mean that Old Testament prophets (like Hosea) were prohibited from ever using words in their literal sense.
Furthermore, the plural form of the word “days” (“yamim” in Hebrew) always has the meaning of ordinary days in the historical narrative of the Old Testament. It is the plural form that is used when describing the creation week in Exodus 20:11. This reinforces what we already knew from Genesis 1, that God really did create the universe in six (sequential, ordinary) days.
(b) Also, “evening and morning” sometimes refers to longer periods of time rather than 24 hours, as they do in the prophetic days of Daniel 8:14.
What is Geisler’s evidence that these are not 24-hour days? He presents none. John Gill states of Daniel 8:14 that these 2300 evenings and mornings are “natural days, consisting of twenty four hours, and which make six years, three months, and eighteen days.” Of course, Daniel is a prophetic book. So even if we allow for a non-literal interpretation of the time indicators provided, this does not for a moment give us license to do the same with the literal, historical narrative sections of the Bible.
(c) And the comparison with the work week in Exodus 20:11 need not be a minute-for-minute but a unit-for-unit comparison.
Exodus 20:11 is the explanation for why God instructs us to work for six days, but to take the seventh as a day of rest. God explains that this is because He created the universe in six days and then rested one. God uses the same word for “days” (yamim) for the creation week as He does for our work week. So if God really created over 6 long ages of millions of years each and then rested, then logically we too should work for 6 long ages of millions of years each, and then rest for a million years or so. But the Hebrews didn’t understand the text that way. They understood that they were to work for six literal days and rest for one because that’s what God did.
Presumably, Geisler wants us to think that the important thing is not the days themselves, but that there are seven of them. In other words, the important thing is that God worked for six time units and rested one, thus we should work for six time units and rest for one – even if the units themselves are very different lengths for God than for man. If this is indeed Geisler’s point, then it suffers from at least two fatal problems.
First, it is not what the text states. Exodus 20:8-11 does not state that God created in six units of time; the text states six “days.” There are Hebrew words that God could have used to indicate a generic unspecified amount of time, like “‘eth”or “mo‘ed” (time, season, occurrence, occasion), or “pa‘am”(stroke, step, occurrence, time). Or He could have left off the word “day” entirely, such that God created in six and rested one.
Second, the plural “days” (“yamim”) always denotes ordinary days in historic narrative literature. But for the sake of argument, if “yamim” could just mean “time” in a generic sense, then this would mean that the Hebrews were to work for six periods of time and rest for one period of time – regardless of what period of time they choose. They might choose to work for six weeks continually and then take one week of rest. But this is not the case; there were strict punishments for anyone found working on the Sabbath day. That would not be possible if the Hebrews were allowed to choose another unit of time for their 6-and-1 pattern. While it is true that there are other Sabbath patterns in Scripture, such as a Sabbath year for crops, these are not connected to the creation week (Leviticus 25:4). It is our seven day week that is.
The only other possibility for Geisler is to insist that “yamim” means “days” for people and “times” for God. But this is linguistic relativism and would make communication impossible. Communication requires that words mean the same thing to the sender as to the recipient. If this is not the case then communication fails. Consider the absurdity of the position that words mean something different to God than they do to man. If that were so, then when God says, “You shall not murder” it might really mean (to Him) “Put turnips in your ears.” All communication is predicated on the presupposition that words mean the same thing to different people.
Further, the seventh day is known to be longer than 24 hours (Heb. 4:4-11). So, why cannot the other days be longer too?
It is? Where does the text of Scripture indicate that the seventh day is longer than 24 hours? Geisler sites Hebrews 4:4-11 which indicates that God’s rest continues. But it does not say that the seventh day continues. Again, if I rested all day Sunday, and then continued to rest on Monday and Tuesday, this would not imply that Sunday never ended or that Sunday includes Monday and Tuesday. If we are still in the Sabbath day, then we should not work – for such is forbidden on the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8-11). Yet, we are supposed to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The seventh day has a number associated with it, and since it is part of the historical narrative portion of Scripture it must be an ordinary day.
(d) As for death before Adam, the Bible does not say that death of all life was a result of Adam’s sin. It only asserts that “death passed upon all men” because of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12, emphasis added),…
If Romans 5:12 were the only verse in the Bible, then Geisler would be correct: we could not conclude that death came upon animals from just that verse. But Romans 5:12 isn’t the only verse in the Bible. And Romans 8:21 indicates that the curse was applied not just to man but to the entire creation – that includes animals. Geisler mentions Romans 8:21 but does not connect the dots. 1 Corinthians 15 indicates that death is an enemy – one that entered the world as a result of Adam’s sin (1 Corinthians 15:26, 21). So how could death – the enemy –
even if it only applied to animals, be in the world for millions of years before Adam sinned and before the curse?
How could the world be called “very good” (Genesis 1:31) if it had death in it since death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26)? Even if human death had not yet occurred, is animal death considered “very good” in God’s eyes? We find fossils of animals with evidence of disease such as cancer – fossils that evolutionists believe to be hundreds of millions of years old and thus before people. If things like animal death and suffering were already in the world when God made man, would it make sense for God to look at all this suffering, death, and disease and call it all “very good?” Does God enjoy tormenting animals, or does He care for them? (Luke 12:6)
If we read the Bible exegetically, we would have to conclude that animal death was not a part of God’s original “very good” universe. Animal death was instituted by God when Adam sinned; God killed an animal(s) to provide skins of clothing for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). Perhaps this animal was a lamb – a foreshadow of the Messiah who would be the propitiation for man’s sin. The text doesn’t say. In any case, since Adam was given dominion over the animals of the Earth, they now suffer death as a result of his sin, and therefore did not suffer or die before his sin. Animal death is not God’s fault; it’s our fault.
…not on all plants and animals, though the whole creation was subject to “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21).
Here Geisler lumps animals and plants together, but the Bible does not. Plants cannot literally die in the biblical sense of the word, because they are not literally alive in the biblical sense. The Bible uses the phrase “nephesh chayah” to refer to living creatures. The term is applied to humans (Genesis 2:7), and animals (Genesis 1:21,24), but never to plants. Biologists today use a somewhat different definition of life than the Bible does. But biblically, plants are not truly alive and hence they do not literally die. Plants are self-replicating food that God made for the living creatures (Genesis 1:29-30).
(6) Others like Hermon Ridderbos (Is There a Conflict Between Genesis 1 and Natural Science?) took the “days” of Genesis as a Literary Framework for the great creative events of the past.
This position is not compatible with inerrancy. Genesis is written in the historical narrative form – as a history book. It claims in many places to be a history book recording historical events (Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1,32, 11:10,27, 25:12,19, 36:1,9, 37:2). The framework hypothesis requires that what Genesis states about itself is wrong, in which case the Scriptures would not be inerrant.
Still others (Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture) considered the “days” of Genesis to be six 24 hour days of revelation (wherein God revealed what he had done in the ancient past to the writer of Genesis) but not literal days of creation.
The text states that God made heaven and earth and all that is in them in six days (Exodus 20:11); it does not say that God “revealed” the details of creation to Moses in six days. Ramm’s view is not compatible with the text, and must therefore be rejected by those who hold to inerrancy.
Again, the point here is not to defend these views but to point out that there are alternatives to a Young Earth View, most of which are not incompatible in principle with a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture.
The problem is that all the views Geisler has so far presented are not compatible with the Scriptural text. Therefore, if any one of them were true, then the Scriptures cannot be fully inerrant. It appears that Geisler’s strategy is to show that young earth creation is not a requirement for inerrancy by listing alternative positions, without necessarily affirming any one of them. But alternative positions that are contrary to the text violate inerrancy, and thus do not support his claim. In order for Geisler’s argument to be successful, he is logically obligated to produce at least one alternative to a young earth that is compatible with the text of Scripture. So far, he hasn’t done so.
People who hold one of the aforementioned views may profess to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture of course. And they might genuinely believe in inerrancy to some extent without realizing the contradictory nature of their position. The point is this: if any of the aforementioned alternative positions were true, then Scripture could not really be inerrant, regardless of the profession of those who advocate the position.
(7) The Relative Time View claims the Earth is both young and old, depending on how it is measured. Gerard Schroeder, a Jewish physicists (in Genesis and the Big Bang), argued that measured by God’s time when He created the universe it was only six literal days of creation. But measured by our time, the creation of the universe is billions of years old.
One fatal problem with this view is that Genesis gives the timescale from the perspective of Earth – not from distant galaxies. Each of the days is defined in terms of one morning and one evening; in other words, the days of creation are based on the rotation of Earth. And the ages of the patriarchs are Earth-years. So, biblically, the timescale of about 6000 years is from our perspective.
Schroeder’s view is also problematic for other reasons. In attempting to read the Bible in such a way as to accommodate the big bang, many things besides the timescale of creation are lost. The order of events is different too. According to the Bible, the Earth is there at the beginning (day 1), but stars are made on day 4 (Genesis 1:14-19). But in the big bang view the stars were around billions of years before the Earth. In the secular timescale, fish existed long before fruit trees, but the Bible has fruit trees being made on day 3, whereas fish are made on day 5. Claiming that the days were long from one perspective, or that there are gaps in between will not resolve these problems.
(8) The Apparent Age View proposes that the universe just looks old, even though it is young.
If the earth “looks” old but is actually young, then it is young. This is not an alternative view to a young earth, and therefore does nothing to support Geisler’s position. It’s also a reification fallacy because age is a concept of history and cannot have a literal appearance. Strictly speaking, nothing “looks old” (or young for that matter). We use such terminology loosely when we speak of a person “looking” a certain age. But we are not really seeing age; rather, we are seeing physical characteristics that are often found on people of a given age – wrinkles, receding hairline, grey hair, etc. Since we have a large number of people of known age, we can get away with such non-literal usage. But there is only the one universe. And to be fully literal, it looks neither young nor old. It looks the way it looks.
The book by Philip Henry Gosse was titled Omphalos (1857), meaning navel, proposing that Adam had a navel, even though he was created as an adult. Likewise, on this view the first tree would have had rings in them the day they were created.
Perhaps the first trees did have rings. But this is not “appearance of age.” Today trees may grow a ring (or sometimes several) per year. But there is no reason to assume that supernaturally created trees would take years to form rings. If someone falsely assumed that no trees were supernaturally created, and that rings have always formed as they do today, she might erroneously conclude that the first trees were much older than their true age. Is this God’s fault for being deceptive? Of course not. It is the person’s fault for ignoring God’s revelation and thereby deceiving herself. Likewise, there is no reason to think that a supernaturally created universe would need time to have any of the features God wanted it to have. If people think the universe “looks old,” then they have deceived themselves.
If there is evidence for Gaps in Genesis and longer period of time involved in the six day of Genesis, then the Young Earth view fails to convincingly support its two pillars. At a minimum it leaves room for reasonable doubt.
Geisler has failed to provide any evidence that would challenge his “pillars” of a young earth, one of which isn’t even relevant to the issue. And so his claim that there are alternatives to young earth creation that are compatible with inerrancy remains unsubstantiated.
It is interesting that Geisler uses the term “reasonable doubt” as if the Bible were charged with a crime (young earth creation) such that we should assume innocent unless proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Of course, Geisler has failed to provide any such doubt; none of the alternatives he listed is compatible with the biblical text. Genesis is not a poetic book like the Psalms, or a book of difficult prophetic symbolism, like Revelation. Genesis is straightforward historical narrative. And it explicitly teaches that God created in six days. There isn’t any hint of deep time anywhere in Scripture.
In view of this, one can ask why is it that many still cling to the Young Earth view with such tenacity.
In view of the failure of any alternative of 6-day creation to be compatible with the biblical text, one can ask why some Christians so desperately want to deny this biblical teaching. Shouldn’t Christians who hold to inerrancy defend every word of Scripture – even those that are not popular in modern secular thinking? Where Scripture is as clear as Genesis, shouldn’t we stand on its authority and defend it tenaciously? (Matthew 4:4, 7:24-29, Jude 7). Jesus taught that even the smallest part of His Word will not fail (Matthew 5:18). If we are Christians indeed, how can we believe any less?
A Theological Assumption
For some the belief in a Young Earth seems to be based on a kind of intuition or faith in God’s omnipotence. It reasons that if God is all powerful, then certainly He would not have taken millions of years to make the earth.
No, this is not why biblical creationists hold to six days of creation. We hold to six days of creation because this is what the text teaches (Exodus 20:11). If the text indicated that God created over billions of years, then that is what we would believe (despite the compelling scientific evidence of a young earth). God can create in any amount of time He wants, or no time at all. He chose to create in six days and rest for one as a pattern for us (Exodus 20:8-11).
However, by reductio ad absurdum, one could ask why God did not create it in six minutes or six second rather than six days? If He is all-powerful and can make something from nothing, then why did He not create the whole thing lock-stock-and barrel instantaneously!
The Bible answers Geisler’s question: God created in six days and rested for one as a pattern for us (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Evolutionary Fear
Many Young Earthers seemed to be afraid to grant long periods of time for fear that it may help support an evolutionary conclusion.
I challenge Dr. Geisler to defend that claim; show me a “young earth” creationist who believes that evolution would be possible if billions of years were available. I know of none. Deep time is necessary but not sufficient for evolution.
However, this is unnecessary for two reasons. First, time as such does not help evolution. Dropping red, white, and blue confetti from an airplane a thousand feet above the ground will not produce an American flag in one’s yard. And going up to ten thousand feet (and giving it more time to fall) will not help. Time as such does not organize things into complex designs; it further randomizes the material. It takes an intelligent cause to form it into an American flag. Further, separating God’s supernatural acts of revelation to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets by many hundreds of years does not make them less supernatural. It just makes his revelation progressive over a period of time.
That’s a fine argument against a position that no one holds. Biblical creationists do not reject deep time on the basis that it would give support for evolution. We reject deep time because it is contrary to Scripture.
The same could be true of God’s acts of creation, if they were separated by long periods of time.
The text states that God created in six days, not six long periods of time (Exodus 20:11).
Second, there are plenty of other problems with macro-evolution for it does not explain (without an intervening intelligent cause) how (a) something can come from nothing; b) how non life cannot come from life [sic?]; c) how non-consciousness can produce consciousness, and d) how non-rational beings can produce rational beings. Longer periods of time as such do not overcome any of these problems; it takes intelligent intervention to do it.
This continues Dr. Geisler’s straw-man fallacy. These may be fine reasons to reject evolution; but they are not reasons to embrace deep time.
As we have seen, both premise [sic] of the Young Earth View are open to serous objections. There is no air-tight case for a Young Earth from a biblical point of view. So, while it may be compatible with inerrancy, nonetheless, inerrancy does not necessitate a belief in a Young Earth.
As we have seen, the biblical text is clear and air-tight. The alternatives that Geisler has presented are all incompatible with the Scriptural text, and hence violate inerrancy. If Geisler wants to argue that six-days of creation is not required for inerrancy, then he necessarily must produce at least one alternative that does not contradict Scripture. But he hasn’t been able to do so. Nor has anyone else. This should give us renewed confidence in the perspicuity of the Word of God – it really does mean what it says! God knows how to communicate.
The Historical Status of the Young Earth Theory
Historically, the Young Earth View has never garnered an important, let alone a crucial role in the history of the Church.
In this section, Geisler’s entire line of argumentation is based on two logical fallacies: the faulty appeal to authority, and the fallacy of irrelevant thesis. First, he tries to downplay the importance of a literal six-day creation by arguing that historically, most Christians didn’t consider the issue of age all that important. Even if that were true, is the majority opinion of professing Christians really the standard for truth? The majority can be wrong, and in many cases has been wrong. God’s Word is the standard for truth – not the fallible opinions of those who profess to believe in Him. If, hypothetically, the majority of professing Christians today decided that the Gospel wasn’t so important, would that make it so?
The issue is whether the text is compatible with deep time, not whether most people in the past believe that a particular doctrine is important. There is nothing wrong with considering the opinions of Christians of the past. But we must test these opinions against the standard of Scripture.
Second, what does the relative importance of a doctrine have to do with inerrancy? Inerrancy means that the Bible is entirely without error – even in matters that some might consider less “important.” Geisler is supposed to be persuading us that X is not a requirement for inerrancy by showing how not-X is compatible with Scripture. Now he shifts to arguing that X is not an important doctrine, and expects us to conclude “therefore it isn’t a requirement for inerrancy.” But this doesn’t follow. The essentialness of a doctrine is utterly irrelevant to inerrancy. For example:
The Bible states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1). The location of Christ’s birth is a detail that most Christians would probably not have on their top ten list of most important Christian doctrines. Suppose that someone disbelieved this doctrine, and argued that Jesus was actually born in Nazareth. On all other issues, the person believes what the Bible teaches, and holds to all the fundamentals of the faith. But he believes that Matthew 2:1 is simply wrong about the location. Does such a person genuinely believe in inerrancy? Of course not. He might profess to believe in inerrancy. But he cannot genuinely believe in inerrancy if he disbelieves the text of Scripture – even at a very minor point.
If the Bible teaches X, but in fact not-X is true, then the Bible is not inerrant, regardless of how important doctrine X is! So this section of Geisler’s article is completely irrelevant to the main thesis of his article.
It was known to the early Church Fathers (see St. Augustine, City of God 11.6), but it was never made an essential doctrine, let alone given a special status.
First, men do not make doctrines essential or otherwise. Christian doctrines come from God and are revealed to men in Scripture. We recognize that some passages of Scripture are more central to our salvation than others, but if the Bible is truly inerrant then it will not have an error on even those doctrines that man considers non-essential. Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). He did not add, “except for those doctrines that are non-essential – feel free to ignore those.”
Second, who said a “young earth” was an essential doctrine? It isn’t – in the sense of being a requirement for salvation. We are saved by God’s grace received through faith in Christ. The Bible doesn’t add “and you must believe in six days to be saved” and therefore neither should we add this. But that doesn’t mean that we are free to reject those portions of Scripture that we deem to be “non-essential.” Indeed, all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16). If the Bible is inerrant (which is what Geisler is supposed to be arguing), then even its least essential doctrines are true.
First of all, Young Earth creationism was never given a creedal status in the early Church. It does not appear in any early creeds or in any other widely accepted creed in the history of Christendom.
First, it’s hardly surprising that early Christians felt the need to defend something as obvious and clear as “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth” at a time when very few people doubted it. It’s the same reason why we don’t find a lot of creeds that defend against the Flying Spaghetti Monster; that just wasn’t an issue at the time. With an exception here or there, it wasn’t until the 1700s that belief in deep-time become popular, and began to infiltrate the church in a serious way. Creeds were designed to cover mainly contemporary controversies. The “young” age of the earth was simply not a widely disputed doctrine in the early church.
Second, Geisler is mistaken; for some creeds and confessions do indeed defend the biblical timescale. The Irish Articles of 1615 explicitly state in article 18 that God created all things “in the space of six days.” The Dordrecht Confession of 1632 similarly states in article 1, “Of this same one God, who worketh all in all, we believe and confess that He is the Creator of all things visible and invisible; that He, in six days, created, made, and prepared, heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.” The Westminster confession also defends the biblical timescale in chapter 4, stating that God created all things “in the space of six days; and all very good.”
Third, the only way this could be remotely relevant to the topic of the article (the connection between young earth and inerrancy) is if Geisler’s has the unstated assumption that “inerrancy only requires that doctrines with creedal status be without error.” But this just isn’t true to the definition of inerrancy. Inerrancy means that the Bible is entirely without error – even those parts that are never incorporated into a creed or confession of faith.
Second, it was not granted an important doctrinal status by the historic Fundamentalist (c. 1900). That is, it was not accepted or embraced by the Old Princetonians B. B.Warfield, Charles Hodge, or J. Gresham Machen.
Again, men cannot grant importance to Christian doctrine. If something is found in the Bible then it is important, and if we are faithful to God we must accept it. And again, inerrancy means that every jot and tittle of God’s Word is without error, even on those issues that some Christians deem to be less important. The fact that some professing Christians don’t interpret Scripture exegetically does not change the text.
Third, Young Earth creationism is notably absent in the famous four volume series (1910-1915) The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth edited by R. A. Torrey and C. C. Dixon. In fact, not a single article in this landmark set defends the Young Earth Creationism view.
Geisler’s reasoning here is simply not cogent. His argument, stated as an enthymeme, seems to be that “Christian doctrine X is not found in a theologically-oriented book series written by men. Therefore, X is not required for inerrancy.” But how is the premise even remotely relevant to the conclusion? I myself have written theological articles that do not explicitly mention the Gospel. Can we conclude therefore that believing in the Gospel is not important or not required for inerrancy? If a professing Christian wrote a theological treatise against the Gospel, arguing that salvation is actually based on merit, would that make it so? Geisler gives far too much respect to fallible people, and not nearly enough to God’s Word. Some theological works may not endorse the 6 days of creation. But there is a much more important theological text that does endorse the 6-day timescale of creation – it’s called the Bible.
Indeed, all the articles on science and Scripture were written by scholars favorable to an Old Earth view.
This is the appeal to authority fallacy. What is more important: what scholars claim the Bible teaches, or what the Bible actually teaches? Besides, there are many fine Bible scholars that do realize that the timescale of creation is important precisely because it is what the Bible teaches. Since many Bible scholars do defend the literal timescale of Genesis, Geisler’s reasoning is self-refuting. The fact that some Bible scholars do not recognize the importance of a literal Genesis doesn’t make the doctrine unimportant. It just shows that Christians are not always consistent in their thinking, and do sometimes err when interpreting Scripture.
Furthermore, I know of not one Bible scholar that believes in an old-earth on the basis of Scripture. Those who believe in an old earth do so, not for Scriptural reasons, but because they believe the word of secular scientists. They then attempt to read the Bible in such a way as to allow for deep time. But let’s be honest; if we read the Bible exegetically, we can come to no other conclusion than that God created the universe in six ordinary days, roughly four thousand years before Christ’s earthly ministry.
Fourth, the founders and framers of the contemporary inerrancy movement (ICBI) of the 1970 and 80s explicitly rejected the Young Earth view as being essential to belief in inerrancy. They discussed it and voted against making it a part of what they believed inerrancy entailed, even though they believed in the “literal” historical-grammatical view of interpreting the Bible, a literal Adam, and the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis.
Here, Geisler continues his error of the faulty appeal to authority, apparently arguing that X must be so simply because some people believe X. The notion that we human beings can vote on which doctrines are important or necessary is rather absurd. It is reminiscent of the infamous “Indiana Pi Bill” in which legislators essentially attempted to redefine pi (the ratio of a circle’s circumference to diameter) by passing a civil law, as if they could legislate mathematical truths. Furthermore, the notion that only doctrines that certain theologians deem essential are necessarily true for inerrancy is absurd on the face of it. Inerrancy means – by definition – without error. It does not mean “without error in the essentials, but containing many errors in the sections that scholars believe are non-essential – like timescales or order of events.”
Given this history of the Young Earth view, one is surprised at the zeal by which some Young Earthers are making their position a virtual test for evangelical orthodoxy.
That God created in six days has always been the orthodox Christian position, and is the clear teaching of Scripture. When someone claims that the details in Genesis are wrong, effectively calling God a liar, how can a consistent Christian not defend the Word with zeal? How can a Christ-follower effectively say, “Sure, God got it wrong there in Genesis. But don’t worry – it’s not an important doctrine. Just trust in Jesus!” If God got the details wrong in Genesis, how can we trust that He got the details right in the Gospels?
Yes, the old earth supporters will say that they do believe Genesis; they just don’t interpret it the way it naturally reads because the text doesn’t necessarily mean what it says. But the same reasoning applies; if God was unable to communicate clearly in Genesis, how can we trust that He meant what He said in the Gospels? Inerrancy demands that we are ready to defend even the smallest detail of God’s Word when it comes under attack.
If the Young Earth view is true, then so be it. Let the biblical and scientific evidence be mustered to demonstrate it.
That has been done – abundantly and repeatedly. Some people still refuse to believe. If people are unwilling to believe what God has written in His Word, then even the most spectacular evidence will not change their mind (Luke 16:27-31, Matthew 28:17). Unbelief is a spiritual problem, not just an academic one.
Dr. Geisler again references scientific evidence, but how is that relevant to Scriptural interpretation? Would Geisler apply this same standard to other portions of Scripture? If we were disputing whether or not Jesus literally experienced a resurrection, would Geisler insist that scientific evidence be mustered to show how a resurrection could happen in a human being? Or would he argue from the text alone? If the latter, then why does he switch hermeneutics when he goes to Genesis?
Meanwhile, to make it a tacit test for orthodoxy…
There is no doubt that young-earth has always been the orthodox position of the church, with only few detractors until recent times. Geisler is welcome to argue that the text does not support the orthodox position (though he has not as yet produced a cogent argument). But the orthodox position has always been 6-days.
Perhaps Geisler means “to take 6-day creation as an essential doctrine – one necessary for salvation – is unwarranted.” But in my years of full-time creation ministry, I have honestly never met a single person who claimed that belief in six-days is essential to salvation. I’ll state again for the record, it isn’t.
At the same time, that doesn’t mean the doctrine is unimportant. Death as the penalty for sin is necessary in order to understand the Gospel. And deep time puts death before Adam sinned, and not as a consequence of Adam’s sin. It does undermine the Gospel. Some people can live with the inconsistency, perhaps oblivious to it. But the inconsistency is there nonetheless.
And belief in deep time is not compatible with inerrancy. If the Bible is wrong about the timescale and order of events of creation, then it is not inerrant.
…will serve to undermine the faith of many who so closely tie it to orthodoxy that they will have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, should they ever become convinced the earth is Old.
This is the appeal to consequences fallacy. The basic form of fallacy is: (1) if X then Y. (2) Y is undesirable. (3) Therefore X is false. The argument is fallacious because the truth of X is irrelevant to the desirability of Y. In this case, X is the proposition that six-days of creation is the orthodox biblical teaching; Y is the proposition that some people in rejecting 6-days will be inclined to reject the rest of Scripture too. And that is undesirable. But the undesirability of people rejecting the Gospel is irrelevant to the truth of the timescale of creation.
The fallacious nature of Geisler’s argument is revealed when we apply it to any other doctrine. Consider the claim, “We should not insist on the Trinity. If we tie that to orthodoxy, then people might reject all of Christianity should they ever become convinced that God is not Triune.” Or consider the claim, “We shouldn’t make creation a test for orthodoxy. If people ever become convinced of evolution, then they might throw out the baby with the bathwater.” The consistent Christian must be ready to destroy any argument that is exalted against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).
One should never tie his faith to how old the earth is.
One should tie his faith to God’s Word (Matthew 7:24-27, 4:4). And God’s Word teaches a 6-day creation (Exodus 20:11).
Even if the Young Earth view were true, it would not thereby earn it a position in the Christian Creed or the equivalent. That is another matter altogether reserved for truth that are [sic] essential to the Gospel (see Geisler and Rhodes, Conviction without Compromise). There are many minor Christian doctrines that have not earned creedal status along with The Apostles’ Creed which declares of creation only that “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth” (emphasis added) and nothing about how long ago it happened.
No one is suggesting that the timescale of creation is essential to the Gospel in the sense that a person must believe in 6-days to be saved. But does this mean that we are free to ignore or distort Scriptural passages that we deem non-essential to the Gospel? Perhaps Dr. Geisler would kindly provide us with a list of all those Scriptures he thinks that people don’t really need to believe. But that would be contrary to Christ’s instruction that we are to live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
Again, this entire section has been irrelevant to the issue of inerrancy because inerrancy has nothing to do with the essentialness of a doctrine to the Gospel. Inerrancy means that the Bible is entirely without error, even in its seemingly insignificant details. If the Bible is inerrant, then God created the universe in six days, a few thousand years ago.
Some Concluding Comments
After seriously pondering these questions for over a half century, my conclusions are: (1) The Young Earth view is not one of the Fundamentals of the Faith.
No one is suggesting otherwise. But does this mean that we are free to distort or ignore those sections of Scripture that are not Fundamentals of the Faith? Did Jesus say, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by those Words of God that are Fundamentals of the Faith, and feel free to ignore the rest?” No. He said that we are to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Are only the Fundamentals of the Faith inspired by God, and profitable for doctrine? No, all Scripture is (2 Timothy 3:16). I’m very disappointed at the cavalier attitude Geisler seems to have toward those doctrines that are not considered the Fundamentals of the Faith.
(2) It is not a test for orthodoxy.
No one is suggesting that believing in the biblical timescale is a requirement for salvation, or a test if one is really a Christian. However, it is a great test to reveal if there are some areas of a person’s thought life that are not surrendered to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
(3) It is not a condition of salvation.
No one is suggesting otherwise. Is Geisler arguing that we should be prepared to defend only those doctrines that are necessary for salvation? Are we free to abandon the rest of God’s Word? Is he arguing that only those parts of God’s Word that are necessary for salvation are inerrant?
(4) It is not a test of Christian fellowship.
No one is suggesting otherwise.
(5) It is not an issue over which the body of Christ should divide.
No, it is an issue where the body of Christ should be unified and should embrace what the Bible teaches.
(6) It is not a hill on which we should die.
Jesus’s response is very different from Geisler’s. When the Pharisees and scribes transgressed even the non-essential-to-salvation commandments, how did Christ respond? Did He say, “Well, it’s not a salvation issue. So let’s not die on that hill. Let’s just all get along.”? Not at all. He sharply rebuked them: Matthew 15:3-7 “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’… But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,”… And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites!…”
The same pattern could be applied to creation: “For God said, ‘in six days.’ But you say ‘over billions of years.’ You hypocrites! Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Jesus would rather die on a hill – which He literally did – than disobey His Father. How can we as Christians do any less?
(7) The fact of creation is more important than the time of creation.
This is a common rhetorical technique of dismissing those parts of God’s Word that a person does not want to accept. “Sure the Bible says, X, Y, and Z. But the important thing is X. Don’t worry about Y and Z.” Anything that the Bible teaches is important. That necessarily includes the timescale of creation. If God didn’t think the order of events of creation or timescale of creation were important, then why did He write anything beyond the first verse of Genesis? Is the rest of Genesis just filler so that God could get the word-count up? Did God give Dr. Geisler the right to tell us which portions of the Bible are important, and which portions we are free to reject? As Christians, we are to live by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
(8) There are more important doctrines on which we should focus (like the inerrancy of the Bible, …
This is ironic because defending inerrancy necessarily entails defending the timescale of creation! Inerrancy means that the Bible is entirely without error. If God did not create in 6-days a few thousand years ago, then the Bible is not inerrant. Geisler’s entire article is really (unintentionally) an attack on inerrancy.
…the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the death and resurrection of Christ, and His literal Second Coming.
These are important issues that Christians should be able to defend. But if God didn’t get the details right in Genesis, how can we trust that He got the details right on any of these other issues? On these issues, should we accept the majority view of scientists who deny that these things are literally possible, and reinterpret the biblical text to match? If not, then why use that approach in Genesis?
As Repertus Meldenius (d. 1651) put it: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty, and in all things charity.” And by all counts, the age of the earth is not one of the essentials of the Christian Faith.
No one is arguing that it is an essential issue in the sense that belief in a young earth is somehow a requirement for salvation. But (1) that doesn’t mean the issue is unimportant or not worth defending. (2) It is completely irrelevant to the title-theme of Geisler’s article – whether belief in a young earth is necessary for inerrancy. If we are going to defend inerrancy, then we must be prepared to defend God’s Word whenever and wherever it is attacked.
In order to conclude that inerrancy does not require a young-earth, Geisler must show at least one exegetical reading of the text that allows for deep time. But instead he provides several non-exegetical readings of the text that do not stand up to scrutiny. The second part of the article seems to be to convince the reader that the timescale is not important or essential. Geisler argues using faulty appeals to authority, which do not establish the claim. Also, even if it did, the relative importance of the timescale of creation to other Christian doctrines has no bearing on inerrancy.
Inerrancy requires that even non-essential (for salvation) biblical doctrines are true. Since the Bible does teach that God created in 6-days, and that there are roughly 4000 years between Adam and Christ, and since none of Geisler’s alternatives stand up to rational scrutiny, we must conclude that if the Bible is indeed inerrant then the Earth is young. It’s not popular today to believe in a “young” earth. But it is what the Bible teaches. And it’s not that the biblical timescale is somehow much more important than other biblical doctrines. But it is one of the most attacked, and therefore one that Christians must be ready and willing to defend.