Hello, my question is regarding the age of the universe. According to the Bible, how should I interpret how old the universe is? My personal belief is in the “Gap Theory”, for those who may not know that term, it means that I believe there is a giant gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. I want my views to align with a biblical perspective on creation, but this is one I find myself pondering often. Maybe this is something I will find out in the next life. Any answers/responses would be appreciated. God bless!
Why is the creation vs. evolution argument such a deterrent to the Christian faith?
@CamKufner That is a great question. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I agree with you that this issue is not one that can be settled definitively. How the Bible addresses this topic depends largely on your view of Genesis 1. I have provided a chart below of various ways to interpret Genesis 1, which includes that gap theory you mentioned, and some threads discussing the interpretation of that chapter.
I have also linked a debate between Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, who holds to the age of the universe as suggested by science, and Jason Lisle, a young earth creationist who holds to a universe miraculously brought into existence at the beginning of the creation week of literal 7 days. It is helpful in terms of seeing a few of the perspectives engage one another.
Some of the views of Genesis 1 - like the creation poem view or temple view - are not represented by Ross or Lisle. To supplement, I would recommend reading John Lennox’s book “Seven Days that Divide the World” and perhaps John Walton’s book on Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology.
The Lord Jesus grant you wisdom as you study
Various ways of Interpreting Genesis 1
Debate Between Hugh Ross and Jason Lisle
Some Helpful Connect Threads
Why are there so many Bible translations?
Does Genesis Really Mention Two Seperate Versions Of Creation?
Adam and the tree
Why is the creation vs. evolution argument such a deterrent to the Christian faith?
Wow, thank you for that detailed reply. Some of those other interpretations of creation are fascinating, especially the “Appearance of Age” interpretation. Thanks again! God bless.
@CamKufner Indeed - very fun to study. Feel free to share further thoughts for discussion or questions as you process. The following image is from John Walton. It explains the view of the cosmos in the ancient near eastern mind based upon his studies. Pretty neat stuff. I think it’s amazing that God has given us both the book of nature and the Book of Scripture - understanding how our knowledge of the two relates is both important and interesting.
In my opinion, God is the ultimate missionary. So when God came to ancient Israel He moved their culture in the direction of truth - He spoke truth into their culture. God did not try to replace their culture, but rather spoke into it - He redeemed it. So God worked within their limited understanding - they did not understand science as we do - so God spoke in a language they would understand.
Thank you for posting the " Various ways of Interpreting Genesis 1" chart. It is thought-provoking and helpful.
@demarco4109 Glad you found it helpful. The first time I saw that chart I was impressed by how clearly laid out it was… That was the first time I had ever heard of the words ‘concordist’ and ‘non-concordist’ - very helpful distinction as well. The Lord Jesus be with you as you study.
@demarco4109 Here is an interesting summary of an Old Earth interpretation of Genesis 1. I don’t know how representative of Old Earth Creationism, since Perry Marshall does not consider himself an Old Earth Creationist though he is a Christian. He distinguishes his point of view from Intelligent Design in a way I’ve never quite understood. It is also hard to tell whether he agrees or disagrees with the Theistic Evolution point of view represented by Biologos.
@jvaughn This fellow seems to be taking the view that Genesis 1 is a poem and that God engineered evolution. Personally, I do not agree with evolution, but it has nothing to do with Genesis 1. I have simply never seen convincing evidence for macro-evolution - fish turning into land mammals and such. The evidence presented does not convince me at least. I think some who hold to evolution and the Bible say that Adam and Eve were a ‘singularity’ - that God intervened and did something special only in the case of the first man and woman. I think you at least have to admit that much based on Genesis at a minimum. Also, the fact that God created each animal after ‘its own kind’, while it could be interpreted as the result of evolution, seems to suggest that opposite - that animals only ever reproduce after their own kind. The evidence we actually have from the fossil record also seems to point in this direction, which is why they have had to come up with expedited theories of evolution - the fossil record simply does not support the kind of slow alterations in kind they expected.
I think David Berlinski is a good example of someone who does not ascribe to Christianity but still rejects darwinism.
Strange as it may sound, Perry Marshall is a Christian who believes in the supernatural power of God to intervene in human affairs. In terms of his stated beliefs about God’s role in the emergence, I’ve found it difficult to pin him down on evidence for God’s intervention. He thinks that the days of creation account does not rule out a completely natural process any more than Psalm 139:13 rules out natural morphogenesis. In terms of his understanding of the poetry of the Genesis account, I don’t know that it’s much different from the “non-concordist” description above–other than believing that it is about as accurate as can be given that it is being communicated in terms that people of the time could receive. That’s neither to defend or attack Marshall’s view–he believes that Genesis 1 can be correlated with scientific understandings but that it isn’t written for scientists. I suspect he would agree with your “missionary” analogy and possibly object to a "non-concordist" appellation.
I don’t have a strong view about how correctly Marshall correlates Genesis 1 with a conventional scientific timeline; I do disagree with how dismissive he seems to be of “Young Earth” creationism. Having been sort of immersed in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement for a while, I think that some of Marshall’s criticisms of ID are poorly thought out–especially with regard to his "Swiss Army Knife" concept of macroevolution. It has provoked me to think a bit deeper though on how to refute Darwinism from a computer science perspective. I can’t help but wonder how Marshall would place himself in Ross’s “Taxonomy of Teleology.” To me, his point of view seems at least as muddled as that of theistic evolution.
That said about Marshall… I do believe there is plenty reason not only to doubt the efficacy of natural selection for macroevolution, but to also doubt the efficacy for any crypto-Darwinian combination of natural processes. The question of whether Adam and Eve arose in a community of hominids is a bit more specific. On a Biblical perspective of hominid evolution I’d love to see a polite but spirited discussion between Perry Marshall, Fazale Rana, and Casey Luskin.
I suppose that the question of whether there is a huge gap of time somewhere between Genesis 1:1 and 1:3 could be settled partly by trying to falsify the typical Gap Theory interpretation of the Hebrew word translated ‘waste’ or ‘void’ in v. 2. For an example, if I recall correctly, in nearly every instance in the Bible of that Hebrew word, the usage is unmistakably for such things as constructive potential, not for a state of destruction or anything like that.
I’ve looked at every instance of this Hebrew word all the way to the end of the Psalms, and I find that virtually every instance is used for various kinds of constructive things, not for any state of destruction.
This pro-constructive usage of that Hebrew word would make sense for the Creation Week account. This is because, in the natural physical and biological world, it is the abiding maximal abundance of liquid water on a planet orbiting our Sun at the distance of Earth that would be key to that planet’s ever being able to support life-as-we-know-it.
Such water ever can be potentially destructive of that potential, or of life, only if the providential system of such support already is established, or if a global ecosystem including global life already is present.
But, the Genesis 1 account of Creation Week seems plainly to be about bringing that system into existence in the first place, and of creating and establishing life as part of that system. Indeed, in 2nd Peter 3:5, the Apostle seems to be referencing the water in Genesis 1:2, and this as the natural agent that God used to create and establish that system.
I have a seemingly strange question to ask, particularly if you hold the view that the days of Genesis 1 are strictly 24 hour periods… is the word used for “waters” in verse 2 simply H2O? Is that how it’s used throughout the OT and if so should you hold that waters must literally be a collection of 2 hydrogen atoms connected to an oxygen atom, the same way that a day must be 24 hours?
One thing that struck me in the video debate between Dr Lisle and Dr Ross is that they seemed to arguing across each other about “old universe” vs “young earth” and then I note that in the Genesis 1 account earth is already there in verse 2 before God speaks His creative process over 6 days. Though I’m dubious about any theory that uses the word “gap” it does seem to this simple engineer to be the most logical from a plain reading of scripture. I guess that makes me an “old universe, young earth creationist”? Oh dear.