But where in the Bible do you find any mention of the Earth being millions of years old? Nowhere. The Bible does not say this.
Most often, an Old Earther will object that we cannot know what a day means before the sun came into existence on Day 4, or that “yom” [the Hebrew word for a day] is once used figuratively in the Creation account, or that the Bible says that a day is as a thousand years with God. But these objections fail for the excellent reason that they are wrong! The fact that we can identify that the word for day is being used in a figurative sense in one passage underscores the fact that we can certainly observe that the intent of the word “yom” in the rest of the Creation account is to convey a literal day. The fact that the pattern of language [“evening and morning were the first day”, etc.] does not change for the accounts of any of the Creation days before or after the creation of the sun, and that use of the word “yom” elsewhere in Genesis as used in the Creation account always indicates a normal day, makes the objection of a different day length before the sun a fallacy of special pleading. The phrase “a day is as a thousand years with the Lord,” while used in the Psalms in connection with creation passages, refers to God’s eternality when we examine the specific context of those passages – not the length of a day. Yet if the claims of Old Earthers were true regarding this phrase’s meaning, we should ask them whether Joshua marched round Jericho for 7000 years or whether Jonah was in the belly of the whale for 3 long ages? While we are at it, since this phrase is repeated in the New Testament with the qualifier “and a thousand years is as a day,” we might also feel compelled to ask Old Earthers whether they suppose the prophesied Millenium will last but a day and Eternity Future but a matter of months? Where should we draw the line with such arbitrary mathematics?
On the other hand, if we read the Genesis account plainly and add up the genealogies of Genesis [which are given relative to one another, so that it is irrelevant whether any specific persons were skipped], we come to no other conclusion than a young Earth approximately 6 thousand years old. The problem is, of course, that the Old Earthers have accepted the extraBiblical idea of millions of years [which in turn is derived from the presupposition of pure naturalism, that purely natural processes can account for everything we observe so that God’s agency is never warranted], and they need to be able to fit this foreign idea into the Bible somehow.
So they’ve come up with objections, such as those listed above, to try to give the Bible a little wiggle room, so to speak. Dr. Jonathan Sarfati has summed up their dilemma quite nicely:
“If an old earth were really the teaching of Scripture, then one claim is glaringly conspicuous by its absence, that is, any claim in commentaries that the Bible unambiguously teaches long ages. Rather, the usual claim is that the biblical text appears on the surface to teach a young earth but may allow for an old earth.”
Likewise a host of Old Earthers have admitted that their position is derived from extraBiblical sources rather than the Text itself:
“It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of Genesis, without regard to the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created the heavens and the earth in six solar days, that man was created on the sixth day, and that death and chaos entered the world after the fall of Adam and Eve, and that all fossils were the result of the catastrophic deluge that spared only Noah’s family and the animals therewith.” —Pattle Pun
“From a superficial reading, the impression received is that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four hour days. If this was the true intent of the Hebrew author (a questionable deduction, as will be presently shown), this seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago.” —Gleason Archer
“It is of course admitted that, taking this account [Genesis] by itself, it would be most natural to understand the word [day] in its ordinary sense; but if that sense brings the Mosaic account into conflict with facts, [millions of years] and another sense avoids such conflict, then it is obligatory on us to adopt that other.” —Charles Hodge
“We have to admit here that the exegetical basis of the creationists is strong. … In spite of the careful biblical and scientific research that has accumulated in support of the creationists’ view, there are problems that make the theory wrong to most (including many evangelical) scientists. … Data from various disciplines point to a very old earth and even older universe.” —James Montgomery Boice
Even Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a man I admittedly admire, admitted that his views on the age of the earth were derived from geology rather than Scripture:
“Death is the child of our direst foe, for, “sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” “Sin entered into the world and death by sin.” Now, that which is distinctly the fruit of transgression cannot be other than an enemy of man. Death was introduced into the world on that gloomy day which saw our fall and he that had the power of it is our arch enemy and betrayer, the devil—from both of which facts we must regard death as the manifest enemy of man.
Death is an alien in this world. It did not enter into the original design of the unfallen creation, but its intrusion mars and spoils the whole. It is no part of the Great Shepherd’s flock, but it is a wolf which comes to kill and to destroy. Geology tells us that there was death among the various forms of life from the first ages of the globe’s history, even when as yet the world was not fitted up as the dwelling of man. This I can believe and still regard death as the result of sin. If it can be proved that there is such an organic unity between man and the lower animals that they would not have died if Adam had not sinned, then I see in those deaths before Adam the antecedent consequences of a sin which was then uncommitted.
If by the merits of Jesus there was salvation before He had offered His atoning Sacrifice, I do not find it hard to conceive that the foreseen demerits of sin may have cast the shadow of death over the long ages which came before man’s transgression.” From Christ, the Destroyer of Death. Preached on December 17, 1876), The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol XXII (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim, 1981), pp. 698–699.
Note that Spurgeon admits that he owes his views on the age of the Earth to geology, yet admitted that all death, including animal death, was necessarily the result of Adam’s fall. Despite his claim that “we have found geology to be a great blessing, for it has shed a new light on the first chapter of Genesis, and made us understand a great deal better what it meant” [The Royal Pair in Their Glorious Chariot. Delivered on Sunday Morning, November 30th, 1862, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington], an examination of his views on the subject reveal that the imposition of geology had done anything but make him understand the first chapter of Genesis a great deal better. In order to accommodate the claims of anti-supernatural uniformitarian geology, Spurgeon is forced to opine that some of the effects of man’s sin were in operation long before Adam sinned in anticipation of that inevitable sin. Elsewhere, he considers the idea that pre-fall non-human death might be the effects of Satan’s sin and voiced sentiments consistent with the Gap Theory aka Ruin/Reconstructionism:
“Death made his prey on earth long ere Adam was here. Those mighty creatures that made the deep hoary with their strength, and stirred the earth with their tramplings—those elder born of natures sons, the mighty creatures that lived here long ere Adam walked in Eden—death made them his prey: like a mighty hunter he speared the mighty lizard and laid it low, and now we dig it from the stony tomb, and wonder at it. He is our ancient monarch; but ancient as he is, his whole monarchy is in the records of God, and until death itself is dead, and swallowed up in victory, death shall be open before the Lord. How old, too, is death—old as the first sin. In that day when Satan tempted the angels, and led astray the third part of the stars of heaven, then hell was digger; then was that bottomless pit first struck out of solid rocks of vengeance, that it might stand a marvelous record of what God’s wrath can do. The fires of hell are not the kindlings of yesterday: they are ancient flames that burned long ere Vesuvius cast forth its lurid flame. Long ere the first charred ashes tell upon the plain from earth’s red volcanoes, hell’s flames we’re burning” God, The All-Seeing One. Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 14, 1858, at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
This is the sort of contradiction a man who imposes millions of years onto the Bible must resign himself to. Over the past few hundred years, men have proposed the Day-Age theory, the “Observations of Moses” [in which each epoch of creation was given to Moses in a vision in six sequential days], progressive creationism, Framework Hypothesis, the aforementioned Gap theory, theistic evolution and so on to attempt to impose millions of years and/or microbes-to-man evolution onto Scripture because they erroneously suppose that the conclusions of science are theologically neutral and, since all truth is God’s truth, the Bible and the naturalistic claims of science must be made to complement one another somehow. Unfortunately, this always results in well-intentioned re-interpreting of Scripture to mean things that were never intended. And even the likes of Charles Spurgeon cannot unravel the riddle it makes of Scripture!
Some will make much ado about this article and accuse me of speaking evil of dignities, but I do not argue with the dead, nor yet rebuke them. I still honor Spurgeon as a man wholly dedicated to God and unwavering in his defense and preaching of the Gospel. Yet only the God-man Jesus was infallible among humanity, and while we glean wisdom from and testify to the power of Spurgeon’s sermons and writings, we likewise recall that only the Bible is infallible and God-breathed – no sermon, commentary or notes in your Bible can claim this privilege! The views of another hero of the faith are cogent to this discussion. Martin Luther said the following:
“The “Days” of Creation were ordinary days in length. We must understand that these days were actual days (veros dies), contrary to the opinion of the holy fathers. Whenever we observe that the opinions of the fathers disagree with Scripture, we reverently bear with them and acknowledge them to be our elders. Nevertheless, we do not depart from the authority of Scripture for their sake.”
Amen and amen.
God bless you,
Rev Tony Breeden
Note: Emphasis in Spurgeon quotes are not in the originals and are simply meant to highlight portions of the quote relevant to this discussion.