Why I Reject A Young Earth View: A Biblical Defense of an Old Earth

by Jonathan McLatchie

The question of the meaning and proper interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis is one of the most heated subjects in Christendom today. Few other topics have evoked such polarised opinion and division. The diversity of views on Genesis, even among the most learned of exegetes and scholars, is staggering. While one extreme insists that the days of Genesis must strictly be interpreted as seven consecutive 24-hour periods (thus rendering the earth very young indeed — in the order of thousands, and not millions or billions, of years old), at the other extreme lies the notion that the early chapters of Genesis are devoid of any historical content at all. On the latter view, Genesis 1 comprises a mythological allegory; Adam and Eve are reduced to mere literary devices; and the historicity of Noah’s Flood is typically abandoned altogether. There is a plethora of competing views which reside in the middle of those polar extremes: Examples include the Day-Age Theory; the Gap Theory; and various forms of progressive creationism. In this article, I attempt to show that, while it is possible to interpret the book of Genesis in light of a young earth, there is no Biblical mandate for this conclusion: That is to say, Genesis could be interpreted in that manner, but it does not have to be.

I am trained as a scientist (I’m a postgraduate student in evolutionary biology). And, as a scientist, the arguments for an ancient earth seem to be very compelling (needless to say, when it comes to Darwinian evolution, it is a very different story). In this article, however, I simply want to read and understand the text on its own terms, not missing what the text is saying; but, at the same time, not adding to it what simply isn’t there. Having shown that Genesis does not require that one read it as conveying a young earth, I hope that readers will be convinced that we can thus read and understand the science on its own terms as well. It seems to me that there are three major subtopics which an article of this nature must address. These are:

  1. The proper interpretation of Genesis One.
  2. The question of the fall of man, human sin and its consequences.
  3. The scale and scope of the Flood of Noah.

The proper interpretation of Genesis One

In approaching the text of Genesis 1, we notice that there are certain features which are suggestive that the text need not be read as necessitating that we take a young-earth view. Let’s take a look at each in turn…

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