There’s something that has been weighing on me, as I’m sure it has weighed on some of you. If it hasn’t, please bear with me and try to see where I’m coming from.
Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism.
There. I’ve said the terms in the same sentence and already many of you are probably getting nervous, or upset, or disappointed, or whatever. But like I said, please bear with me. Up front I’d like to say that I’m not advocating for either position in this article, per say, but rather advocating for respectful, honest dialogue, and grace. Naturally, I have an opinion, but that’s not the point of this article, and it’s not something that we want to take a hard line on at Youth Apologetics Network. We see great value in non-inflammatory conversations that avoid using straw man and ad hominem and all of the other unreasonable tactics that are too often used during these age of the earth conversations (so much so that we made a book for families).
This isn’t an article about who is right and who is wrong; it’s about how we interact with each other. It’s about how we raise up the next generation of children to interact with each other.
What’s the beef between YEC and OEC?
Over time, the rhetoric betweenYoung Earth Creationism (YEC) and Old Earth Creationism (OEC) has gotten personal and fiery (Lord help the “friendly debate” Facebook groups).OEC and YEC are often presented as 2 opposing views. One important thing to remember is that that is an oversimplified presentation.
Just for starters, some OEC believers think that evolution was the vehicle God used to create life (theistic evolution), and others absolutely do not believe that. Some OEC believers may disagree with the authority and inerrancy of scripture, and others absolutely believe in the authority and inerrancy of scripture. That’s a huge difference! Yet for some reason, Old Earth is often referred to in the same breath as “evolution” or “unbiblical”, though Old Earth is not married to theistic evolution or rejecting the Bible. Just as many YEC believe that intelligent design brought forth life, so do many OEC adherents. When I refer to OEC in this article, I am not talking about the theistic evolution or Bible neglecting varieties. I’m talking about Christians who believe in the authority and truths of the Bible, and also believe in an old earth.
It’s important for YEC adherents to not conflate the issues and assume that all OEC believers have “sold out” to secular beliefs. That’s not honest engagement with the variations present in the OEC view. I also think it’s important for OEC adherents to remember that YEC research has uncovered good arguments for intelligent design, and that adopting a blanket, “anti-science” strawman of them is also dishonest to the YEC varieties.
So What’s the Difference?
There has been much written from both OEC and YEC perspectives, so I won’t dwell too long, but it might be good to lay out the primary differences in the barebones views here.
- Age of the Earth: YOUNG (obviously!): The earth and universe are somewhere in the ball park of 6,000 years old.
- Creation timeline: God created everything as described in the Bible in a literal 6 days. That’s 144 hours of creation.
- Age of the Earth: OLD (surprise!): The earth and universe could be up to 4 and 14 billion years old (respectively).
- Creation Timeline: God created everything, and the process may not have taken place during 6 literal days.
Did you think there would be more? It can start to seem that way as the details of how we arrive out our conclusions are discussed, but at the heart of the discussion, these are the differences. The similarities are even more important to see! Here are things OEC and YEC agree on, pulled from the Institute for Creation Research and Reasons to Believe’s sites (organizations which are generally representative of the two views we’re talking about):
YEC & OEC Agreements
- The physical universe of space, time, matter, and energy has not always existed, but was supernaturally created by a transcendent personal Creator who alone has existed from eternity.*
- The phenomenon of biological life did not develop by natural processes from inanimate systems but was specially and supernaturally created by the Creator.*
- We believe that the physical universe, the realm of nature, is the visible creation of God. It declares God’s existence and gives a trustworthy revelation of God’s character and purpose. In Scripture, God declares that through His creation all humanity recognizes His existence, power, glory, and wisdom. An honest study of nature – its physical, biological, and social aspects – can prove useful in a person’s search for truth. Properly understood, God’s Word (Scripture) and God’s world (nature), as two revelations (one verbal, one physical) from the same God, will never contradict each other.**
- Each of the major kinds of plants and animals was created functionally complete from the beginning and did not evolve from some other kind of organism. Changes in basic kinds since their first creation are limited to “horizontal” changes (variations) within the kinds, or “downward” changes (e.g., harmful mutations, extinctions).*
- We believe the Bible (the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments) is the Word of God, written. As a “God-breathed” revelation, it is thus verbally inspired and completely without error (historically, scientifically, morally, and spiritually) in its original writings. While God the Holy Spirit supernaturally superintended the writing of the Bible, that writing nevertheless reflects the words and literary styles of its individual human authors. Scripture reveals the being, nature, and character of God, the nature of God’s creation, and especially His will for the salvation of human beings through Jesus Christ. The Bible is therefore our supreme and final authority in all matters that it addresses.**
- Although people are finite and scientific data concerning origins are always circumstantial and incomplete, the human mind (if open to possibility of creation) is able to explore the manifestations of that Creator rationally, scientifically, and teleologically.*
- We believe in one infinitely perfect, eternal and personal God, the transcendent Creator and sovereign Sustainer of the universe. This one God is Triune, existing eternally and simultaneously as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons in the Godhead share equally and completely the one divine nature, and are therefore the same God, coequal in power, nature, and glory.**
- The eventual accomplishment of God’s eternal purposes in creation, with the removal of His curse and the restoration of all things to divine perfection, will take place at the personal bodily return to earth of Jesus Christ to judge and purge sin and to establish His eternal kingdom.*
That is a LOT to agree on.
And aren’t those important things? GOD created everything. God’s word is reliable and trustworthy. God gave us minds to explore these things. And one day Jesus will return. But, when Jesus returns, will we be able to say we’ve been working together to bring people into His kingdom, or will we be guilty of quarreling and tearing each other down to the detriment of unbelievers watching from the outside? I’m concerned that some have equated their belief about the age of the earth with salvation, and that still more have turned off nonbelievers through their rhetoric.
This evening “Is Genesis History?” will be showing for one night only. Its tagline says “Two Competing Views… One Compelling Truth.” I really do hope that the two competing views focused on aren’t old earth and young earth. I hope that the focus is on whether God did or did not create everything. I hope the compelling truth is that the evidence for intelligent design is sufficient to point unbelievers to a Designer. We’ll see.
So Now What?
To close, I’ll quote Ken Ham:
Twenty-somethings once faithfully attended church. What made them stop? While most said they still believe that the Bible is God’s Word, they also said that the idea that the earth is millions of years old was one thing that caused them to doubt the Bible… The crumbling foundation of the church takes a devastating toll on future generations. Therefore, churches must reclaim the historical truth found in Genesis and apply the Bible’s authority to every area of life.
-Ken Ham (emphasis mine)
Did those 20-somethings leave because they first heard about the age of the earth in a YEC only church? Did they leave because they were told their OEC view was incompatible with Christianity? Were they shouted down for thinking the evidence pointed toward an older or younger earth? Did they leave because they weren’t prepared by the Church to have their views challenged? Isn’t it possible that the age of the earth wasn’t the problem, but the response from the church regarding it?
Can we just stop hanging the hat of salvation on the age of the earth?
Acts 16:31, ““Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”