On September 25, 2019, Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? show posted a video where Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham and I discussed our different views on the age of the earth. While the show appears to be a debate, Brierley arranged it to give us the opportunity to articulate how we arrived at our positions, our assessments of the central issues surrounding our positions, and our responses to some challenges from the “opposing” view.
In preparing for the show, I attempted to accomplish two things. First, I wanted to establish that the length of the creation days described in Genesis 1 is an issue of interpretation, not inerrancy or the authority of Scripture. Christians (like Augustine, Calvin, and Warfield) committed to the authority of Scripture have disagreed about the nature of the creation days. Second, I wanted to point out that positing a young earth (a few thousand years old) where animal death enters the world after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden does not absolve God’s responsibility for death and disease—at least not without impinging on his sovereignty. God still created this world knowing that humanity would fall.
Biblical Evidence for Long Creation Days
One thing I did not accomplish in the show was to outline some biblical reasons for believing the creation days are much longer periods of time. So, I will do that briefly here.
1. Just looking at what the text says in Genesis 1, there are at least three different kinds of days. The first three days are of unknown duration because the Sun and Moon don’t appear until day 4. The next three are governed by the “two great lights.” Day 7 is different because it has no “evening and morning.” Given this disparity in how the Bible characterizes the various days of creation, I agree with St. Augustine that “What kind of days these are is difficult or even impossible for us to imagine, to say nothing of describing them.”1
2. Given that the seventh day is not closed out in Genesis 1 or 2, it continues today. Consider God’s words to the nation of Israel in Psalm 95:11, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” Hebrews 4:1–11 connects this declaration back to creation day 7, and then says that we can enter God’s rest today. If the seventh day encompasses far longer than 24 hours, it seems likely that the first six do also.
3. In Genesis 1, the biblical author uses the word for day (yom) with multiple different meanings. Genesis 1:3–5 uses yom for the daylight portion of the day. Genesis 1:14–19 uses yom to mean a “24-hour” day. Genesis 2:4 uses the word yom to refer to the entire creation week. So the big question remains: when the author uses yom for the first day, the second day, etc, what is the proper meaning?
4. The activities of day 6 described in Genesis 2 argue for a much longer period of time than 24 hours. God created Adam, placed him in the garden to tend it, commanded him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had Adam name the animals in order to show Adam that he was alone, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, performed some form of biopsy, fashioned Eve, and presented her to Adam. Genesis 1:24–31 indicates that this all happened in the later portion of the day. In reading multiple translations of Genesis 2:23, at least part of Adam’s response includes “At last, someone suitable for me.” This statement implies a lengthy passage of time.
Charity and Unity
As Bible readers and seekers of truth, we would do well to remember that devout Christians through the ages have disagreed about the nature of the creation days (and the specific creation miracles). Given this well-established fact, we should extend charity and seek unity as we continue to contend for our preferred interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. And as we extend this charity, we should also pursue the best understanding of God’s revelation to us—both in Scripture and in creation.
- To dig deeper into the evidence for an old-earth view, check out Reasons to Believe’s 101 page as well as the specific pages for the Days of Creation, biblical and scientific evidence for an old Earth, and day 7.
- St. Augustine, City of God (New York: Penguin, 1984), 436.