Being a young earth creationist can be difficult. If you are a young earth creationist, the vast majority of scientifically-minded people in the world think you are an ignorant buffoon (or worse). Naturalistic evolutionists believe in an old earth. Theistic evolutionists believe in an old earth. Old earth creationists believe in an old earth. Progressive creationists believe in an old earth. A lot of the scientific data seems to point to an old earth. So, why do young earth creationists still believe in a young earth?
I can’t speak for all young earth creationists, but for me, there are several reasons. First, young earth creationism seems to be what the Bible teaches. Genesis 1 seems to be referring to literal, 24-hour days. The passage does not seem poetic, symbolic, or metaphorical to me. A normal reading of the text is that God created the universe, the earth, and everything in it in six 24-hour days.
Then, Genesis 5 and 11 give us a timeline we can use to trace history back to the beginning. One can roughly estimate the time Abraham lived, and from there, calculate the numbers all the way back to the creation of Adam. While I do not deny the possibility of gaps, even significant gaps, in the genealogies recorded in Genesis chapters 5 and/or 11, why would those passages give the ages of the individuals if it was not intended to provide some sort of a timeframe? Why not just say, “And Seth lived a really long time…”?
Further, a literal and specially created Adam and Eve are crucial to Christian theology (see Romans 5). If you deny a literal understanding of Genesis 1—3, it causes all kinds of problems in other areas of biblical interpretation.
With all of that in mind, the ultimate answer for why I am a young earth creationist is that the Bible seems to teach that the earth was created thousands, not billions, of years ago.
How does that square with the claimed overwhelming evidence for a universe that is approximately 14.6 billion years old? I don’t know. Did God instantly create a fully formed universe and stable, life-supporting earth, resulting in them having an appearance of age? Perhaps. Is the current scientific consensus on the age of the universe wrong? Maybe. Could there be another possible explanation for the apparent multi-billion-year discrepancy that no one has thought of? Yep.
But, again, I am a young earth creationist because that is what the Bible appears to teach. And I am not willing to abandon what the Bible appears to teach unless there is absolutely no possible explanation that would harmonize with the biblical account.
I have several friends whom I admire and respect who are old earth creationists. Each of them has repeatedly told me that I should abandon young earth creationism because it is driving scientifically-minded people away from the Christian faith. While they don’t explicitly say it, the implication of their argument is that if all Christians agreed with the scientific consensus on the age of the earth, scientists would begin flocking to the Christian faith. I don’t buy it.
People reject belief in God because their hearts are hard and their eyes are blinded to the truth. Ultimately, their problem is not with creationism. Their problem is with God.
Romans 1:18-22 declares, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”
People are without excuse. Even if it turns out that the universe is indeed billions of years old, a scientifically-minded person who stands before God and says, “I would have accepted Christ as my Savior, but some of your followers believed the earth was young…” is not going to receive a positive response. It is not a valid excuse. There is no valid excuse.
As can be easily seen in the scientific community’s rejection of the intelligent design theory (which entirely accepts an exceedingly old earth), agreeing with them on an old earth does not get us anywhere. Atheists and the scientific community intelligentsia are ardently opposed to intelligent design, and all the various forms of old earth and progressive creationism. They are not satisfied with anything other than pure, atheistic, naturalistic evolution—and they never will be.
We must have billions of years or else evolution is not true, and if evolution is not true, then creationism is true, and if creationism is true, God exists, and if God exists, I am accountable to Him for my actions—therefore the earth must be billions of years old! Ultimately, the issue is their hatred of God, not the age of the earth.
I understand why some old earth creationists believe the way they do. Again, there is scientific data which seems to point to an exceedingly old universe. I do not believe, as some young earth creationists do, that old earth creationists are rejecting the Bible. I do not doubt the validity of their faith. I do not doubt their motives. I do not question their love of and commitment to God’s Word.
Perhaps the earth really is billions of years old. Should God one day correct me on this, I will gladly and humbly accept His enlightenment and ask for His forgiveness for teaching falsehood. But, until that day, I am going to believe what the Bible seems to teach even if that makes me look like a fool to the scientific intelligentsia.
S. Michael Houdmann