I had a reservoir engineering professor in college who used to say that “the only thing we know for certain about a model is that it is wrong.” His point being: when we attempt to develop a model for natural phenomena, the best we can hope for is to be “as least wrong as possible” – we simply just don’t know all the variables. Let’s visualize this at an extremely high level. Say I see a napkin with “2…2 = 4” scribbled on it. I could fill in the gap with a “+” sign and reach a perfectly viable solution: 2+2=4. But I could have just as easily plugged in a multiplication sign, declaring 2 x 2 = 4 or even 2^2 = 4 and still hold a defensible position. Obviously, the natural world is infinitely more complex than this, but the idea here is that there are many ways to connect dots of evidence to reach a desired outcome.
Anyway, I say all that to set up the following question: how old is the earth?
Tracing the chronologies back to Adam and Eve and taking the biblical account of creation as a literal week, the calculated age of the earth is approximately 6,000 years. I think that makes some Christians uneasy because it doesn’t fit the predominantly championed view of the universe. Hey, I get it – I was uncomfortable too.
What really opened my eyes, however, were the issues within many of the contemporary scientific points of view – such as the presence of Carbon 14 isotopes in organic matter that is supposedly “millions of years old” (despite the fact that its 5,730 year half-life decay rate should render it completely undetectable).
Well…what about the stars and stuff? Aren’t those like…billions of years old? How the heck would we see them if the earth was only 6,000 years old?
Let me point you back towards another model – Einstein’s theory of relativity. A fundamental component of the theory is time dilation as matter of various masses and velocities causes curvature in a space-time continuum. To make 6,000 years on Earth correspond to millions of years elsewhere in the universe, it becomes a matter of tweaking the equation.
Of course, there are many apologists on the other side of the fence that take an old earth stance in compliance with traditional science and there is a whole lot of arguing back and forth wading around in the minutia of incredibly complex details. But back to the point at the beginning – all models are wrong because we are limited to our own understanding. If you pick deep enough, you’re going to find an issue – until our understanding is increased and it can be explained.
The biblical account of creation does not go to a subatomic particle level of detail. I suspect it would be very hard and pointless to cram that sort of information into a text which is already perfectly sufficient to make us aware of our sinful nature and need of Jesus’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross to bring us back into a personal relationship with God.
Ultimately, my greatest evidence of God is the transformational work of the Holy Spirit in my life - not the scribbling on a napkin to satisfy a theoretical mathematical model. That being said, I am forever grateful for the relentless work of apologists, tireless defending the truth to illustrate that you CAN draw a reasonable, rational model that fits the biblical account of creation – and that is enough for me.
- Nicolas C. Day
Note: Whatever stance you take on the age of the earth, I see no reason to argue – as long as it doesn’t compromise your faith in Christ. If you are struggling with God from a scientific point of view (as I once was), I encourage you to check out the apologetic resources I have listed in the recommendations page.