The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Day-age time chart

One of the most prominent old-Earth creation organizations is Reasons to Believe, headed by astronomer Hugh Ross. Ross is an advocate of what is known as the day-age interpretation of Genesis 1-2. In the day-age theory, the days of Genesis 1 are not literal 24-hour days, but represent vastly longer periods of time. Ross advocates (and I wholeheartedly agree) that there is no conflict between belief in the trustworthiness of Scriptures and acceptance of an old age for the Earth.

One criticism of the day-age theory is that, according to some, the events of Earth history don’t match the days as recorded in Genesis. For example, vegetation appears on day three, but the sun isn’t created until day four. How could plants survive for millions of years without sunshine? Ross addresses issues like this, and presents the day-age viewpoint as one that closely matches the 4.5 billion year history of Earth.

A key to this understanding of the relationship between Genesis 1 and science is the idea of point of view. The frame of reference of Genesis 1 is the surface of the Earth, not observing the Earth from somewhere out in space. This is based on Genesis 1:2, which says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (ESV)”  We should read the text, according to Ross’s version of the day-age interpretation, from this perspective. The rest of the chapter then unfolds in a logical way. The sun was created sometime in the period covered by verse 1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (ESV). Days one through three describe the early differentiation of Earth, with the sun obscured by a translucent atmosphere in the beginning. Light was able to get through the atmosphere, but the sun itself was not visible. The appearance of primitive “vegetation,” i.e. the beginnings of photosynthesis, occurred in this time period. On day four, the sun, moon, and stars appear. They aren’t necessarily created then, but from the vantage point of the Earth’s surface, it seems as though they are. Days five and six describe the appearance of advanced forms of life: creatures of the sea, air, and land.

Reasons to Believe has a nice chart that portrays this sequence:

rtb-dayage1

rtb-dayage21

To many, this illustrates an amazing correlation between Earth history and Scripture, unparalleled in the sacred texts of other religions.

The day-age interpretation is just one of several models that attempts to show that there is no inherent conflict between science and Scriptures. The overall outline presented on this time chart is not affected by whether on not Ross’s understanding of events such as the Cambrian explosion are correct (Ross views the Cambrian explosion as a new creation event).

Some other ways of understanding the opening chapters of Genesis, such the analogical day and framework hypotheses, aren’t as concerned with correlating the days of Genesis 1 with the history of the universe.

I am not committed to any one interpretation of Genesis 1. My main objective here is to point out that there are Biblically-valid alternatives to young-Earth creationism.

Old-Earth creationists, such as advocates of these various positions, accept all of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith: The Bible is God’s true revelation of himself, God is the creator of the universe and life, a real Adam, a real fall into sin, real consequences of that sin, and in the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only answer to our sin problem. They may differ on the details, but acceptance of an old age for the universe is compatible with the Scriptures, and doesn’t lead to error in any core doctrines of the faith.

To any non-Christians reading this, note that there is no necessary conflict between science and the Bible. If you reject Christianity, it has to be for some reason other than Genesis 1.

Grace and Peace

January 17, 2009 - Posted by | Apologetics, Astronomy, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | , ,

19 Comments »

  1. See article #2 at http://IceAgeCivilizations.com to learn how the ancients measured the earth by the wobble rate of the its axis, and checkout http://DancingFromGenesis.com to learn what caused the Ice Age, and when it really ended.

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    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | March 16, 2009

  2. dancingfromgenesis:

    Thanks for taking the time to visit The GeoChristian and for your comment. I didn’t take a look at your Ice Age Civilizations, but I did take a look at your e-book Old Earth? Why Not! Despite our differences—you being a young-Earth creationist, and I accepting an old Earth—we have areas of significant agreement. For example, we both agree that Jesus was much more than just a good man; that he was (and is) the messiah predicted by Old Testament prophecies and God incarnate.

    I do, however, disagree with just about everything you say about geology and the history of the Earth. It is not because I don’t believe the Bible (re-read what I said in this post on a valid understanding of Genesis 1) but because I don’t believe that the Bible requires a young Earth, and that requiring all sedimentary rocks to be formed by Noah’s flood goes way beyond what the Bible says.

    I’ll make a few comments on your chapters on sedimentary rocks and mountain uplift:

    –You seem to think that the only way sediments form in the modern world are in deltas. Observation of the world reveals a number of sedimentary environments: deltas, alluvial fans, braided streams, meandering streams, glaciers, lakes, beaches, barrier islands, deep sea floor, coral reefs, tidal flats, and carbonate shelves are important examples. Each of these has characteristic sediment types, distribution of organisms, and overall size and shape. These sedimentary environments can be documented in the modern world, and the equivalents are well-represented in the rock record.

    –Polystrate trees can be found in the rock record, and indicate brief episodes of rapid sedimentation, which geologists have no problem with. The fact that they can be found in Spirit Lake at Mt. St. Helens indicates that this is a good modern environment for the formation of these features. So when I see similar features in a place like the NW corner of Yellowstone National Park, I start thinking that these rocks formed in a similar volcanic environment to Mt. St. Helens. The presence of polystrate trees is an indicator of a specific sedimentary environment, not evidence that the entire rock record formed in this way.

    –“Fossil graveyards” are no problem for modern geologists. One of the more famous dinosaur graveyards is just a couple miles from my home. The enclosing sediments (Jurassic Morrison Formation) show many signs of having been laid down by streams, with the bones being deposited in specific locations in the steams. The flesh was probably completely removed by scavangers and decomposers, but the bones were then covered by sand when the stream changed course.

    –There was significant mountain-building at the end of the Cretaceous (65 million years ago) but it was by no means worldwide, and mountain-building has occurred in various places throughout Earth history, and continues today.

    In my view, just about nothing in Flood geology works, and we should not use it as apologetics. If you want a good introduction to geology and its relationship to the Bible, I would recommend The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Young and Stearley. These are two geologists who believe in all of the core beliefs of Christianity and in the inerrancy of Scripture. I’ve written a review of the book ( https://geochristian.wordpress.com/2008/08/25/the-bible-rocks/ ).

    Thanks again,
    Kevin

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    Comment by geochristian | March 16, 2009

  3. Then where and how extensive was Noah’s Flood?

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    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | May 13, 2009

  4. Dancingfromgenesis:

    Thanks again for commenting.

    My basic answer to your question is “I don’t know.” Here are a few of my thoughts:

    1. Biblically, I see no problem with the idea of a local flood. It was certainly universal in terms of Noah’s perspective. He saw water from horizon to horizon. It also was universal in terms of the descendants of Adam.

    2. Genesis 7:19 says “They [the waters] rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered” (NIV). This is often used as a “clincher” verse by young-Earth creationists, but I don’t think it is. Consider the following passages where “all the Earth” doesn’t mean all the Earth:
    –Gen 41:57 — All nations came to Egypt to buy grain. Did the Chinese come? Were there caravans from Peru?
    –Deut 2:25 — All nations will fear Israel. Were the civilizations of India aware of the conquest?
    –1 Kings 18:10 — Ahab looked for Elijah in every nation. Did he send people to Greece and Italy to look for Elijah?
    –Col 1:23 — The gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. There was a lot of evangelism going on, praise God, but had Christ been proclaimed to the Inuits, Maori, or Zulus?

    3. Was the flood in the Black Sea basin? In the Mesopotamian plain? In the Persian Gulf? I don’t know.

    What I do know is that the Flood geology model of AiG/ICR does not work and shouldn’t be used for evangelism and apologetics.

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    Comment by geochristian | May 13, 2009

  5. Of course, you can’t explain how billions of creatures (99% marine) ended up within vast, mostly-flat-lying, sedimentary layers up on the continents, nor the dearth of radial tension cracks in the folded layers of mountains, proving that the mountains rose at the close of the flood.

    Also, Mount Ararat (and others) of pillow basalts, therefore, rose through water, of the global flood, when the continents rose as they thickened (by sedimentation and mantle flow), as the new hot ocean floor cooled, to become more dense, to sink down onto the mantle, as the ocean basins received the water which slid of the continents at the close of the Deluge.

    You can’t pinpoint the location of Noah’s flood, according to your old earth position, precisely because it was a global flood, corroborated by over 600 ancient flood legends, so the pre Flood world was destroyed, as clearly stated in the Genesis account, and by Jesus himself.

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    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | May 13, 2009

  6. Dancingfromgenesis:

    1. You cannot say that 99% of fossils are marine. There are vast areas of fossiliferous rocks that contain exclusively non-marine organisms.

    2. I’ve addressed the existence of marine fossils on the continents (e.g. Grand Canyon, Mt. Everest) in a recent post: Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (part 1).

    3. Regarding the deformation of rocks in mountain areas, there would only be “radial tension cracks” (as you put it) if the mountains were forced up from beneath, like a fist pushing up through layers of clay. At least I think that is what you are implying. If this were the case, mountain ranges would have no roots and would now be in the process of sinking back down. In reality, mountain ranges are formed primarily by compressional or extensional lateral forces (i.e. plate tectonics). The stress applied to the rock layers appears as strain in the rocks: folding and faulting. The direction of stress can be elucidated from the deformation of the rocks, and it is clearly lateral, not radial or vertical. In the case of mountain ranges formed by extensional forces, there is an upward component as well, but this is spread over large regions, as in the Basin and Range of the Western United States.

    4. Pillow basalts can form either underwater or under ice. Have you seen how much ice is on Mount Ararat?

    5. The Bible does not say that the sedimentary rock record was formed by the Flood. Look at the text. It simply does not say it. The rest of what you say in the second paragraph is highly speculative and not supported by field evidence.

    6. I’m willing to say “I don’t know” on the location of Noah’s flood. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe it happened, or that I don’t believe that the memory of this event lives on in many of the flood legends that are told in cultures around the world.

    7. I adhere to the doctrine of inerrancy as defined by the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy. The authors of this document affirm creation and the flood, but purposefully declined to state the age of the Earth, and they did not specify the extent of the flood either. One can hold to inerrancy and believe in an old Earth and local flood.

    With respect,
    Kevin N

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    Comment by geochristian | May 13, 2009

  7. The radial tension cracks, from regional tectonic horizontal compression, should be there, if the layers were hard when they folded (as you propose).

    Are you kidding about Mt. Ararat (and what about all the other pillow basalts)?

    You say Noah’s flood “extended from horizon to horizon,” but was local, so where in the world could that have possibly been? It’s certainly not the Black Sea, but what of Mesopotamia, how extensive and deep would that flood need have been to satisfy you specious notion that it was the flood of Genesis?

    Like

    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | May 13, 2009

  8. dancingfromgenesis:

    1. What do you mean by “radial tension cracks?” Have you ever taken a class or read a book on structural geology? Do you know how rocks behave under stress?

    2. Of course I’m not kidding about there being sufficient ice on Mt. Ararat to sufficiently quench lava flows to form pillow basalt. Pillow basalts form when basalt flows into water. This could be the ocean, lakes, streams, or ice. For example, the Columbia River Basalts in the Pacific Northwest contain some pillow basalts where the lava flowed into lakes or streams. But most of the basalt in the Columbia River Basalts is not pillow basalt, but flow basalt with well-developed vertical columns. These flows solidified one by one under the atmosphere.

    3. It is not at all difficult to imagine a local flood that extended from horizon to horizon, and then some. When one is only ten miles from a low-lying shoreline, the shore is below the horizon.

    4. I wouldn’t rule out the Black Sea. It is close to the mountains of Ararat, so it is in the right geographic location. Nor would I rule out Mesopotamia or the Persian Gulf. In Neolithic times (Gen 4-8 by just about anyone’s standards) the Mesopotamian plain was a vast braided stream complex rather than being dominated by two major rivers as today. A sheet flood could have covered a very wide area. I’m not saying this is what happened, as I recognize there are problems. But not as many problems as there are with flood geology as proposed by young-Earth creationists.

    With respect,
    Kevin N

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    Comment by geochristian | May 13, 2009

  9. Because “radial tension cracks” aren’t there is why there is no term in the mainstream jargon for this, what should be there, if the rock layers were hard when they folded.

    When do you think Noah’s Flood occurred?

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    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | May 13, 2009

  10. Dancingingenesis:

    Rock mechanics is a well-developed science. I think your “radial tension cracks” is a made-up concept rather than being developed from extensive laboratory and field data.

    When did the Flood occur? Considerably earlier than the standard AiG answer, which is about 2300 BC (the only way it could have been around 2300 BC is if it were a local flood that didn’t destroy all mankind). We have historical records that go back further than 2300 BC, and archeological records that go back considerably further. I would place it somewhere before 7,000 BC. I don’t know how this fits with Biblical genealogies. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe the Bible, it is just another “I don’t know.” I think “I don’t know” is better than coming up with a answer that just doesn’t work (e.g. Flood geology).

    I’m trying to answer your questions, but you are skipping some of mine.

    With respect,
    Kevin N

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | May 13, 2009

  11. How do you explain the submerged bronze age megalithic ruins found in many locations? Is that what you think was Noah’s Flood?

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    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | May 13, 2009

  12. Dansingingenesis:

    Regarding submerged bronze age ruins:

    1. These ruins are a more of a problem for a young-Earth creationists, who must squeeze all of history into the past 4300 years or so. In this scenario, civilization would have had to spread very rapidly along coastlines after the flood and then sea level would have had to rise to submerge these sites. Too many events, too little time (which is one of the main problems with just about any young-Earth creationist explanation).

    2. The explanation of these ruins would vary from site to site.

    a. In tectonically active areas, the land itself can rise and fall. The classic example are the Roman temple ruins at Pozzuoli, near Naples. This temple was built on land, became submerged up to 3-5 meters deep as the land subsided, and has re-emerged up to 2 m above sea level since.

    b. In areas like the Black Sea, there was a catastrophic rise in sea level as rising water in the Mediterranean spilled over the the high point of the Bosporus. This submerged many sites, as you know. Some have suggested that this was Noah’s Flood. I don’t know.

    c. Post-glacial sea level rise is only about 2 m in the past 7000 years, so this is unlikely to be a significant cause of burial of bronze age sites except in areas of low relief. Post-glacial sea level rise is likely to be a significant cause of burial of earlier sites.

    —————————-

    Now some questions for you:
    1. Do you retract your statement that 99% of fossils are marine?
    2. Have you ever read a book on rock mechanics or structural geology? Your “radial tension cracks” argument seems more like an “it seems to me” argument devised by someone playing with mud or clay. It does not come from laboratory or field evidence.
    3. Do you deny that pillow basalts can form under ice?
    4. Does the Bible say that sedimentary rocks formed during the Flood?
    5. I gave a list of passages where “all the Earth” clearly doesn’t mean “all the Earth.” Do you think I’m wrong?

    With respect,
    Kevin N

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    Comment by geochristian | May 13, 2009

  13. Dartmouth College B.Sc. Geology (’76), been studying young earth creationism since ’85.

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    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | May 13, 2009

  14. You either don’t grasp the concepts, or act like you don’t, so I don’t see much to be accomplished here.

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    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | May 13, 2009

  15. Dansingingenesis:

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation. I’ve been reading YEC literature since the late 70s, so I understand the Biblical and scientific arguments, and find neither convincing. I do agree that we are unlikely change our minds here.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Kevin N

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    Comment by geochristian | May 13, 2009

  16. Dansingingenesis:

    With a B.Sc. in geology, you really ought to read The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Young and Stearley. They are both PhD geologists, and hold to the inerrancy of Scriptures.

    We old-Earth creationists hold to a real creation by a real God; a real Adam, a real fall into sin, real death because of that sin (at least for humans, which is all the Bible explicitly says), and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for our sin problem.

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    Comment by geochristian | May 13, 2009

  17. “All of creation groans because of the Fall.”

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    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | May 14, 2009

  18. Do you suppose the orthodox rabbis, for centuries, have agreed with Ussher’s date (creation about 6,000 years ago) for no good reason?

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    Comment by dancingfromgenesis | May 18, 2009

  19. That’s something of a mixed bag, Dancing. Most rabbinical commentators haven’t taken Genesis 1:1 literally, but most do consider the counting of generations as complete, which, if counted up and plugged into some history, comes out to somewhere around 4000 BC, give or take a few dozen years on either side.

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    Comment by WebMonk | May 20, 2009


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