Fundamentalists of the “young earth” variety will often claim that the earth is just 6,000 years old.
Their reasoning? The Bible says so.
In fact, I’ve been following Ken Ham lately, and some of the stuff being put out by Answers in Genesis (Ken has blocked me on Facebook, FWIW) to see if they’ve had any new arguments. I’m continually amazed at how the young earth view of the universe is considered a foundational bedrock of their Christian faith. In a house of cards built by their own hands, they will frequently claim that believing in a universe that is anything more than a few thousand years old is a threat to the entire faith system.
I suppose it goes like this: The Bible dates the earth = if you can’t trust the Bible on that one point, you can’t trust any of it = all Christian faith hinges on a young earth.
There’s only one, massive, glaring problem with that: The Bible doesn’t date the creation of the Universe.
Dating the age of the universe isn’t a question the Bible deals with. It wasn’t even on the radar of the people who wrote it.
Here’s the round about way young-earth fundamentalists arrive at their young earth position:
The Bible does give detailed genealogies of the ancestors of Jesus, which include how long an individual was reported to have lived. When you add up the life spans of all those listed in the biblical genealogies, add 2,000 years since Christ, you get somewhere around 6,000 or so. And that is the entire argument of young-earth creationism.
While young-earth creationism is tragically flawed on multiple counts, its ultimate flaw is that it fails to take the Bible seriously, all while claiming a higher view of Scripture than anyone else.
You see, ancient genealogies such as those listed in Genesis are not absolute, never-skip-anyone, genealogies– because that’s not how ancient Hebrew genealogies even work. In fact, it is quite common to skip over folks who, for one reason or another, were not considered noteworthy in the specific genealogical context. Instead, those writing these family histories would often use the term “begat” to refer to anyone who is in your direct bloodline. Thus, if Joe was the dad of Frank, and Frank had a son named Larry, in an ancient genealogy it would be entirely normal to say, “Joe begat Larry” even though Joe is technically the grandfather of Larry.
We even see this in the New Testament where Jesus is called the “son of David.” Obviously Jesus was not the son of David, but in ancient language it was completely permissible to say so since Jesus did in fact come from the line of David.
That’s just how these things work.
But even if these genealogies were absolute, that still doesn’t date the earth– but we can get into those issues another time.
Unfortunately, those like Ken Ham and other young-earth creationists, not only fail to take science seriously– they truly fail to take the Bible seriously. Instead, they try to read and interpret the Bible through Western eyes, with modern questions, giving no thought to ancient language, context, ancient cultures, genre, or a host of other issues that biblical scholars deal with on a daily basis.
To quote Donald Trump, it’s “sad!” to see fellow Christians building their entire worldview on such a shaky premise, all while claiming theirs is the “sure foundation.” It gives people a false impression of Christianity, the Bible, and quite honestly, it makes us look silly.
In the end, the idea that the Bible teaches the earth is 6,000 years old is total nonsense– and those who take the Bible seriously would know that.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.