The Old Earth/Young Earth ControversyThe question of whether or not the Earth is greater than 6000 years old has been a very controversial question that has divided many christian groups and has often segregated the fundamental religious community from the scientific community. In this article, we will explain why a controversy exists and when this splitting issue surfaced.
Finally Coming to a Conclusion
Prior to the 20th century, most scientists held the belief that the universe was infinitely old, hence without having a beginning. However, Einstein's publication of the General Theory of Relativity in 1915 completely turned the scientific community upside down when it was found that Einstein's new theory implied that the universe did have a beginning (via the Big Bang), therefore having a finite lifetime. However, this was no big news to most christians and jews at the time because the Bible had always taught that God had created the universe at some time in the past. So, Einstein's great findings had only reenforced the christian faith and the trustworthiness of the Bible.
So if the scientific evidence supported biblical views of creation, then why is the big bang theory rejected by the religious community? The fact is that even though general relativity implied a beginning to the cosmos, it also conveyed that the cosmos was billions of years old. The idea of an extremely old universe did not settle well with fundamentalist christians. This was mainly because most christians had adopted James Usher's biblical lineage dating as a marker of how old the universe really was, which implies that the "first day" in Genesis chapter one was in 4004 BC. Of course, we see now that the major issue here is not how the universe was created, but rather the interpretation of the word "day".
The word "day," which is yom in Hebrew, has three specific meanings: from sunrise to sunset, from sunset to sunrise, or a segment of time without any reference to solar days (anywhere from weeks to a year to several years to an age or epoch). So, the entire Old Earth/Young Earth issue completely hinges on how we are to interpret yom. The Reasons to Believe organization has an excellent article that gives a thorough explanation on how we should approach this issue. To check it out, just go to Biblical Basis for Long Creation Days.
One this issue, I will agree with Reasons to Believe on the issue that the age of the universe is in the order of billions of years, not thousands. Thus, I believe that the word "day" in the first chapter of Genesis refers to a long period of time in which God worked, not a 24-hour Earth day. This conclusion is completely justified by both scientific and biblical reasoning.
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