Francis Schaeffer on the age of the Earth

genesis_in_space_and_time1Francis Schaeffer on the age of the Earth:

What does day mean in the days of creation?

The answer must be held with some openness. In Genesis 5:2 we read: “Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” As it is clear that Adam and Eve were not created simultaneously, day in Genesis 5:2 does not mean a period of twenty-four hours.

In other places in the Old Testament the Hebrew word day refers to an era, just as it often does in English. See, for example, Isaiah 2:11,12 and 17 for such a usage.

The simple fact is that day in Hebrew (just as in English) is used in three separate senses: to mean (1) twenty-four hours, (2) the period of light during the twenty-four hours, and (3) an indeterminate period of time. Therefore, we must leave open the exact length of time indicated by day in Genesis.

from Genesis in Space and Time, p. 59

Francis Schaeffer was a firm believer in the truthfulness of the Scriptures, and was open to understanding the opening chapters of Genesis as allowing an old age for the Earth. This wasn’t because he was some sort of compromiser, but because he saw it as a valid Biblical interpretation.

See Reasons to Believe: Notable Christians Open to an Old-universe, Old-earth Perspective

Grace and Peace

5 thoughts on “Francis Schaeffer on the age of the Earth

  1. Dan

    What extraordinary logic failure by such a great man!

    “As it is clear that Adam and Eve were not created simultaneously, day in Genesis 5:2 does not mean a period of twenty-four hours.”

    As though Genesis doesn’t say plainly that God made both on Day Six, albeit a few hours apart!

    Hebrew ‘Yom’ has different meanings here and there, “Therefore, we must leave open the exact length of time indicated by day in Genesis.”

    So why not leave it open WHEREVER that Hebrew word occurs??? Imagine what that would do to OT history!

    Schaeffer gives no reason for singling out Genesis 1 like this. Just another example of what I noted on Sirius Knott’s webpage, about the special pleading to which all old-earthers are forced to resort again and again.

    Having said all this, in this very same book Schaeffer says that he thinks the Flood was global. Are Kevin and others here “open” to that view? One more for the “Spurgeon and Geisler Club” then. (Not that I’m aware that Norman Geisler believes in a global Flood – he probably doesn’t – but he is on record as affirming the curse-free state of the natural world before Adam’s fall.)

    (Interestingly he adds that he doesn’t think a global Flood should be made a test of orthodoxy. Well, he might have paused to consider that a doctrine can be a test of orthodoxy without being a test of salvation….)


  2. WebMonk

    “So why not leave it open WHEREVER that Hebrew word occurs??? Imagine what that would do to OT history!”

    That’s exactly what EVERYONG does for the entire OT – we look at the context and literary type to determine whether the word yom is meaning an indefinite period of time, a 24-hour day, or just the daytime portion of a day.

    It’s not special pleading to say that Gen 1 days could be longer based on context because that’s EXACTLY what everyone does for the rest of the Bible. Even Ken Ham does this. You do it. Everyone does it.

    Why should Gen 1 be a special case where we ignore context and literary type to insist that it is a 24 hour day? It is the YEC interpretation that uses special pleading for Gen 1.


  3. Pingback: Three Young-Earth Students – The GeoChristian

  4. I realize this is an old post, but I thought I would comment as there is some ambiguity in Schaeffer’s view that should be considered by those who read the contents.
    Generally, Schaeffer in Genesis in Space and Time is trying to help us ascertain what room we have, and what possible views we may hold, in these areas with respect to staying true to Scripture in light of the Creation and modern scientific debates. So In some places, one can read him and he can be taken almost emphatically to say that he accepts the day-age position, but in others he sounds more, six literal days. Here’s an example of a more “six literal days” sounding quote:
    “The second reason for taking the entire book of Genesis as historic is the external argument. The case may be put simply and concisely: Absolutely every place where the New Testament refers to the first half of Genesis, the New Testament assumes (and many times affirms)
    that Genesis is history and that it is to be read in normal fashion, with the common use of the words and syntax.” ~ Genesis in Space and Time, p 127.
    However, to the author’s point, Schaeffer’s loyalty is to Scripture and he is willing to let Scripture speak authoritatively on the matter. Yet, later in the book, he actually states his own view:
    “Remember we are only speaking of possibilities regarding the length of day. But if one did accept the concept of a long day, this would not imply that he would automatically subscribe to the modern scientific concept of an extremely old earth. If anyone wonders what my own position is, I really am not sure whether the days in Genesis 1 should be taken as twenty-four hours or as periods. It seems to me that from a study of the Bible itself, one could hold either position.” ~ Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, p 135 (online version)
    From this statement, Schaeffer, seems to convey that he believes BOTH views are orthodox, as do some denominations. Yet, he appears to not be fully decided himself. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that, in the least, Schaeffer, allows for the position, as most of us would, if we were undecided.
    Hope this is helpful,


    1. Thanks for your comment on an old post. I try to be careful to not portray Francis Schaeffer as an old-Earth creationist, but as one who recognizes that Genesis allows for a broader interpretation of Genesis 1 than just the six-calendar-day interpretation of young-Earth creationism. This is basically my position as well: Genesis does not teach that Earth is millions of years old, but it does not require a young Earth either. Both YEC and OEC are within Christian orthodoxy.


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