Is It Possible to Know?
Reflections on the young earth/old earth debate.
EFCA Now invited leaders to offer their insights into this question, in preparation for the 2017 EFCA Theology Conference and its preconference session: “Genesis and the Age of the Earth: Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?” To access more Theology Conference resources, visit efca.org/theologyconference after the conference concludes. To read Trinity International University's recap of the session, visit their website or watch a recording of the debate.
Genesis Wasn’t Written to Answer Our Scientific Questions
By Tim Etherington
In Exodus 32, God sent Moses off the mountain to address the people’s sin. When Moses arrived, he saw their theological confusion: They thought their God was like the Egyptians’ gods and that they were slaves.
Moses wrote Genesis to correct these errors—telling them what God did from Creation to Babel, covering thousands, perhaps millions of years. Then of God making covenant, focusing on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Finally, how they came to Egypt as Joseph’s celebrated guests, not conquered slaves. Genesis tells us that Yahweh is God over all and that He keeps covenant.
Genesis’ truths are vitally important for us today. A loving, personal, rational God created everything on purpose; it wasn’t chance plus time. Therefore, the universe is comprehensible and it has purpose. All of humanity is God’s special creation, not just the powerful. God keeps covenant even when we’re oppressed. Jesus has set us free so we are free indeed, not slaves.
These truths establish human rights and dignity because they come from God.
Creation’s age may be inferred from Genesis. (In fact, I believe the Bible does not address the age of creation; it is to be discovered by exploring cosmology, geography and biology.) But we mustn’t conflate our inference with Scripture’s authority. Overconfidence in our inferences may catch up with us, as it did when Copernicus challenged geocentricity in the 16th century. Scripture wasn’t wrong; the church’s interpretation of it was.
Moses wrote to Israel and to us (1 Corinthians 10:11). He was addressing our great need, not answering our scientific questions. We must speak with clarity and authority where the Scriptures speak and take care where they are silent.
If we put our inference on equal footing with the important truths of Genesis and our inference about the age of the universe is wrong, we risk having them all dismissed as antiques.
Tim Etherington is pastor of Trinity Community Church (EFCA) in Lancaster, California. He has an M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has been a member exclusively of EFCA churches since 1992.
An Eternal God, an Old Earth, a Young Biosphere
By Christopher Bozung
“Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” the age-old question asks. Most creationists agree that God created the chicken fully-formed.
Set that question aside for a moment and picture both a chicken and an egg. Actually, a mother hen sitting on an egg. A mother hen sits on her eggs for 21 days before they hatch. That’s patience.
Albatross parents are even more patient. They take turns—female and male— brooding over their eggs for 70 to 80 days. Impressive indeed.
I’m most impressed with Emperor Penguins. They brood over their egg/chick for a total of 110-115 days. Now that is staying power.
We live in a fast food, microwave age. The idea of waiting 21 or 80 or 115 days for anything is agonizing.
I am an old-earth, young-creation theologian: known as a young biosphere creationist. The primary premise of Young Biosphere Creation is that God waited. And waited. And waited. Patiently. For a very, very, very long time. An eternal God was in no hurry to create life on earth.
In the beginning, He created the universe (Genesis 1:1). And He waited. And the laws of physics and science that He created worked according to His plan. And He waited some more. From the stellar nurseries of the Milky Way, our sun and its planets were born. And God waited some more.
Just as a bird sits on her egg, the Spirit of God brooded [Hebrew: מְרַחֶפֶת, to hover or brood] over the earth (Genesis 1:2).
Then sometime in the recent past, like a chess player making his move, God prepared an empty earth for life. And filled it with life. This last act of Creation took six days—the Young Biosphere Creation.
Christopher Bozung is the author of Uncommon Questions from an Extraordinary Savior and writes from Marion, Iowa, where he pastored Cornerstone Church (EFCA) for seven years. You can visit his Facebook group to learn more about Young Biosphere Creation and join the conversation.