GOD CREATE MAN?
A needless conflict that has been generated between
science and religion is a conflict over the antiquity of man. Like
all conflicts of this nature there has been some bad science and
some bad theology which combined have caused a great deal of
As in many disputes, there are some vested interests in the question
of time. Some atheists and some religionists believe that if you
allow enough time, anything is possible. The problem with this idea
is that the amount of time actually required for some of the things
that have happened in the earth's history is far greater than any
possible age of the earth. Calculations based on various theories of
the origin of life suggest ages such as ten to the 200th or more
power*. The second problem is that there are natural events that
will stop any natural process. Asteroid collisions, comet
collisions, major solar changes, magnetic reversals, and any number
of other catastrophic events are recorded in the rock record of the
earth. Any and all of these events would put a stop to any
naturalistic, gradual process of massive change.
There are also vested
religious interests in the question of time. Over 50 percent of
American protestant denominations teach some form of dispensational
millennialism. This denominational teaching claims that God is using
seven 1,000-year periods to conduct human history. The current
period is said to end with something called the rapture in which all
the Christians will be swept off the earth and a seven-year
tribulation will occur with war between the forces of Israel and the
anti-Zion forces. This will end, according to this belief, with
Jesus returning to David’s throne and reestablishing Jewish worship
complete with animal sacrifice and a final 1,000-year reign. This
interpretation ignores the fact that Jesus said His kingdom was not
of this world (John 18:36). It proposes a physical kingdom concept
that is inconsistent with the entire New Testament. It is not our
purpose to discuss this denominational teaching here, but simply to
say this teaching forces a very limited age to the Earth--something
less than 10,000 years.
The major scientific problem has been the underlying assumptions of
all dating processes. Dating methods are based on the assumption of
uniformitarianism. This assumption, in simple terms, states that the
present is the key to the past. In this belief system, nothing has
ever happened to affect the earth that is not going on right now.
Since processes like erosion, glaciers, volcanism, earthquakes, and
the like, are occurring today, it is assumed that they have always
been the forces shaping the earth. Massive asteroid collisions,
man-made influences, global floods, and nuclear war would be
examples of events that would not be uniformitarian.
An example of how such a principle is
used can be seen in estimating how long it would take to produce a
foot of limestone. The process that produces limestone today is
called chemical precipitation, and it is a very slow process.
Measurements indicate that it takes thousands of years to make a
foot of limestone in quiet areas of today’s seas. In the Permian
Basin of Texas, there is a deposit of at least 22,000 feet of
limestone. How long did it take to produce this formation? If
limestone forms at the rate of one foot in 2,000 years, the time
x 22,000 feet or 44 million years
What assumption has been made in this calculation? Obviously the
assumption is that the limestone was made as limestone is made
today. Is there a fast way of making limestone? There are such
things as super-saturated solutions, but these are difficult to
sustain and do not occur in natural situations. It may be, however,
that there is a fast way of making limestone. If such a method were
discovered it would cast considerable doubt on the veracity of this
With over 600 different methods of dating available, it seems
difficult to believe all of them could be wrong in the same way, and
to the same degree, making them all totally unusable. These methods
are useful in locating oil and other natural resources, but this
kind of predictive use is more dependent upon the sequences of
events than on the absolute correctness of the time involved.
How old does the Bible say man or the earth is? The answer is
similar to our discussion of dating methods. Only by making certain
assumptions can a biblical date be determined.
These assumptions are:
Unfortunately for biblical chronologists all of these assumptions
are incorrect. There are numerous undated and un-timed events in the
biblical narrative. An example is verse 1 of Genesis 1. "In the
beginning God created the heaven and the earth" is an undated and
un-timed event. Since the Dark Ages, men have assumed that this
verse was a summary verse. The idea was that verse one stated the
fact and the rest of Genesis explained how it was done. Verse one is
not a summary. It is written as a historical narrative and is
followed in verse two by other historical events. This means that
verse one is outside or before the creation week and is an undated
and un-timed event. It could have taken no time at all, or God could
have chosen to use trillions of years. God created time, so He
cannot be limited by time. There are other verses which also are
undated and un-timed throughout the biblical narratives, but this is
perhaps the most relevant example.
It is also important to realize that biblical genealogies are not
complete, order dependent, or written for chronological purposes.
Matthew 1:1 says, for example, "Jesus, the son of David, the Son of
Abraham." It is obvious by reading the rest of the chapter that the
author did not intend to convey that Jesus was Abraham's grandson.
The purpose is to show descendancy, not chronology.
In the following chart, two genealogies are given for the same
family lineage. One is 16 generations long, and one is 22
generations long. Obviously, the genealogies cannot be used to
Even when numbers are used you cannot use the numbers as clocks or
calendars. In Matthew 1:17 (NIV) we read, "... there were fourteen
generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the
exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ."
14 + 14 + 14 = 42, does it not?
But if you read the genealogies carefully you will see numerous
omissions. Joash and Jehoikim, for example, are omitted in Matthew
(1:2-16). Luke’s account (3:23-38) gives 55 generations for the same
lineage through Mary. Thirteen missing generations can hardly be the
product of a hardier genetic makeup. The purpose of the genealogy is
clearly not to establish age.
It is important in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke to look at
who wrote the passages, to whom, and why. Matthew was a Jewish
writer writing to a Jewish audience. He uses numerical symbols (14
which is twice seven) which would have special significance to a
Jewish reader. Luke is a Greek writer sending his message to a
Gentile audience. Naturally he will use different methods of stating
genetic relationships than would a Jewish writer. It is important to
understand that the Bible is not written for twenty-first century
Americans with scientific backgrounds. It is written for all people
of all ages and is rooted in the cultures of the authors.
The Bible does not address itself to the age of the earth. Any
attempt to determine the age of man biblically is doomed to failure
because of the assumptions that must be made. This does not mean
that man is necessarily of great age; it just means that the
question is not a relevant biblical question. God has the patience
to accomplish the earth’s creation and all that is in it over a
period of billions of years. God also has the power to create the
earth two seconds ago--with you reading this document, the memory in
your head, all of man’s history and artifacts in place and
functioning. The evidence is that you have been here more than two
seconds. The evidence is that the earth and man have been here more
than 6,000 years. The question is not the patience of God nor is it
the power of God. To say God created the earth with the appearance
of age is certainly within the power of God. However, doing so would
make God deceptive in creating something that would mislead man.
This is inconsistent with God’s nature and provides man with a way
of abrogating his responsibilities.
The solution to the question of man's antiquity is to speak where
the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. Pitting
assumptions and speculations against one another generates confusion
and appears to make science and the Bible contradictory. If the
Bible is silent on the subject, there can be no contradiction. Let
us allow the Bible to be silent where God intended for it to be
*Bibliographical listings of recent articles on this subject are
available upon request.
Lesson 8 Questions
© 2009, John N. Clayton
Lesson 8 cover picture: iStockphoto.com/ImagineGolf
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