Reflections and Blog

Assumptions and the Age of the Earth

Life is full of data, whether historical facts, personal experiences, or scientific measurements. Data by itself, though, does not say anything; all data must be interpreted to have meaning or helpful application to life. As we all know, people frequently have differing interpretations of data. And why? Because people use differing starting points for their interpretations, that is, they approach the data with different sets of assumptions. Thus, the strength of the interpretation of any particular piece of data depends on the strength and validity of undergirding assumptions.

If you have been part of our Answers Bible Curriculum Sunday school classes in the past, then you probably appreciate how the above is relevant for many spiritual-scientific issues Christians face today, including the origin and age of the earth. The prevailing opinion today is that the universe came from a cosmic explosion; that the earth is millions of years old; and that the terrain, rock layers, and fossils of the earth are the product of age-long processes. Pastor Babij mentioned in his sermon on Sunday the main assumption that undergirds this view: uniformitarianism. In geology, uniformitarianism is the belief that “the present is the key to the past” or, more specifically, that the earth’s features must be explained by the same slow, gradual processes of change still observable (such as erosion). Operating on this assumption, many scientists claim that they have found abundant evidence of an “old earth” today and thus scoff at the Bible’s account of a six-day creation (Gen 1) or worldwide flood (Gen 7-9). Some Christians, too, adjust their interpretation of these Genesis passages based on the evidence presented by old earth advocates.

But is uniformitarianism, the main assumption anchoring the old earth interpretation, truly justified? I am amazed by how flatly God contradicts uniformitarianism in 2 Peter 3:4b-6,

“For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.

The earth is not merely the product of slow, natural processes! According to Peter, there was a time when the earth didn’t exist at all and then came into being by God’s mere word, and there was another time when the earth was radically transformed by a catastrophic, worldwide flood event. Any interpretation of the past that does not account for these spectacular events as the Bible describes them is, of course, going to reach faulty conclusions!

There may be much about the past that we will never uncover (Eccl 7:24), but whatever data we do discover must be interpreted according to proper, biblically founded assumptions. To say this another way using Answers in Genesis’ phrasing, we need to look at the past and really the entire world with “biblical glasses” if we want to see clearly.

For more on the creation and flood accounts, please see our recorded Sunday school lessons:

Questions to Consider:
1. Why do young earth creationists and old earth advocates both claim abundant evidence for their views? Which evidence ought to be more persuasive?
2. In what other areas of life today are unbiblical assumptions supporting popular scientific, governmental, and societal ideas?
3. Considering how wrong scoffers are about the earth’s past, why should Christians be even more assured about the future return of Christ?