There are almost no disputes among Christians and non-Christians that Jesus Christ was a real person and lived about 2,000 years ago. Even though the last book of the Bible was written over 1,900 years ago, historical record-keeping since that time is sufficient enough for us to believe this date. To my knowledge, there are no active debates claiming that Jesus lived 500 years ago, or 6,000, or 10 million, etc. etc. It is a historical truth that Jesus lived about 2,000 years ago, and the written and physical evidence testifies to the veracity of this claim.
God thought it was important to keep genealogical records leading up to Christ’s birth, and He inspired men to record these in Scripture. Chapters 1-11 of Genesis record the genealogies from Adam to Abraham, and Chapter 1 of Matthew summarizes the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus. Adding up these dates, plus the time since Jesus lived, we can estimate that God created the Earth and everything else about 6,000 years ago.
What I find interesting is that some of the same people who believe Jesus Christ lived 2,000 years ago, have a huge problem believing the Earth is around 6,000 years old, even though both ages are based on written and physical evidence. Why is there so much confusion, especially among Christians, about the age of the earth? One of the main reasons is that we confuse natural history with science. Real science has to do with observing God’s creation, asking questions and developing hypotheses, then performing experiments and analyzing and discussing the results. But wait, there’s more! Real science must verify the results, and this is IMPOSSIBLE to do when studying past events. Whether you believe the Earth is younger or older (although 6,000 years sounds really old to me!) you can theorize all day long, but unless you have a time machine, you can never verify your ideas. Natural history is not real science because it cannot follow the scientific method.
Just as virtually all Christians (and even non-Christians) believe that Jesus Christ lived about 2,000 years ago, there is no reason not to believe the Bible’s historical account of the +/- 4,000 years leading up to Christ. In order to reclaim the authority of God’s word regarding Earth age, one thing that must change is that we have to stop equating natural history with science. This is an error that, according to PhD geologist John K. Reed, crept in around the 19th century with the help of Georges Cuvier (“prehistory” with no written record) and Charles Lyell (uniformitarianism). Click here to access Reed’s excellent article.
Many people, such as geologists, biologists and paleontologists are called “scientists”, but in many cases, they are really just “researchers”. If a historian wants to study Theodore Roosevelt, he will “research” the man, and draw conclusions from his research. Others will disagree with his conclusions, and the disagreements come because the researcher did not know about or even deliberately excluded important historical evidences, both written and physical. These disagreements can be overcome by including the previously omitted written and physical evidence. Still other disgreements will come because the researcher makes claims that are impossible to verify. Those claims will always be disputable.
The same types of disagreements arise when “scientists”, who are really acting as natural historians, make claims about the age of the earth, or other past events. Some of the claims will fit the evidence better than others, but ultimately, the claims are unverifiable conclusions about Earth history, not Earth science.
Most of the justification by Christians for an old Earth comes because they treat the study of Earth history as a scientific, not historic endeavor. For example, in a recent article in Modern Reformation, 8 geologists discussed how “science” points to an old Earth. As is always the case (whether an old or young-Earth argument), they support their case with a few examples. However, they fail to distinguish between science and natural history. The same is true of a critique in BioLogos of Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a speech he gave titled “Why does the Universe look so old?” The BioLogos article begins by stating their purpose is to help “the Church, especially the Evangelical Church, come to peace with the scientific [emphasis mine] data which shows unequivocally that the universe is very old and that all of life, including humankind, has been created through a gradual process that has been taking place over the past few billion years.”
Because groups like BioLogos and the 8 geologists in the Modern Reformation article fail to distinguish between science and natural history, they make one-sided, dogmatic “scientific” claims about the age of the Earth. They don’t realize that they are really making historical claims that are impossible to verify. The truth is, we all have the same set of evidence, the differences come in the interpretation of that evidence. As an example, see Reed’s rebuttal of the 8 geologists’ Modern Reformation article.
In Genesis 1, we read that God created in 6 days. Some say these days were “periods of time” and possibly each longer than 1 day. Because the verses also mention morning and evening, I believe God was talking about 6, 24-hour days. This is verified in Exodus 20:11. If I practice “Sola Scriptura”, letting Scripture interpret Scripture, it seems obvious enough that God created in 6, 24-hour “periods of time”. Treating Earth history as just that, history, I can find physical and written testimony that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. And just as most of us have no problem believing Jesus Christ was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago, we should have no problem believing there were about 4,000 years from the Beginning to Christ’s birth. Studying natural history can be an interesting, fun, and adventure-filled pursuit, but it is not real science, and shouldn’t be treated like it is. Be wary of the opinions of those who insist otherwise.