A needless conflict that has been generated between science and religion has been 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 confusion.
The major scientific problem has been the underlying assumptions of all dating processes. Dating methods are based upon 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 effect 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 uniformi- tarian since they are not operational in modem times as shapers of this planet.
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 Permean Basin of Texas, there is at least 22,000 feet of limestone. How long did it take to produce this formation? If it takes 2,000 years per foot to make it, the time would be:
Perhaps a more definitive answer can be found in the theological implications of the question. 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:
1. That there are no undated verses in the historical biblical narratives.
2. That the biblical genealogies are always complete with no individuals omitted.
3. That the geologies are always given in the correct order.
4. That no historical period is omitted from the Bible.
5. That the purpose of biblical narratives is to establish chronology, not descendency.
Unfortunately for biblical chronologists all of these assumptions are incorrect. There are numerous undated and untimed events in the biblical narrative. Verse 1 of Genesis 1 is one of these. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth is an undated and untimed 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 untimed 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 untimed 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 descendency, 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 calculate age.
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.
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, but makes 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. There can be no contradiction with silence. Let us allow the Bible to be silent where God intended for it to be silent.
Lesson 8 Questions
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