Don’t forget, folks, what happened to Italian scientist and devout Roman Catholic Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) when he, too, challenged mainstream biblical interpretation in that age-old debate about what stood at the center of the universe: Earth or the sun.
Galileo’s telescopes and research gave nearly irrefutable evidence in his day that it was not Earth standing still in the middle while other space objects rotated around it (the geocentric model), but that the planets, including Earth, were rotating around the sun, located in the center (the heliocentric model). Despite the fact that countless astronomers had adhered to the heliocentric model since at least the time of Copernicus (1473–1543), geocentrism was the leading Christian belief at that time. Many wise, talented, and learned men in Christendom (including Martin Luther and John Calvin) railed against Galileo, firmly asserting that heliocentrism went against what the Bible says. (In the coming pages, you’re going to notice a pattern. The Bible doesn’t say, “Earth is in the center and the sun rotates around it,” or anything of the sort, but to the closed minds of yesterday, that was “what the Bible says.” To almost all Young Earthers, “The Bible, itself, says Earth is a young planet,” even though that direct statement cannot be found anywhere in Scripture.)
Some verses, such as Psalm 93:1b, when interpreted literally, do appear to suggest that Earth is not in motion: “the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.” Galileo, for his “heresy” against the integrity of the Word of God in such places, was brought to Rome to stand trial before the Catholic Church hierarchy in April of 1633. The judgment banned him from ever teaching his astronomic discoveries again, prohibited distribution of all his written work on the subject up to that point, and landed him under a lifelong house arrest following a forced recantation of his work regarding space objects. (Actually, had this trial gone down the way it did for some of our Christian heroes of the Middle Ages, Galileo could have easily been another martyr of the Inquisition, so the house arrest, as harsh a punishment as it sounds for merely attempting to bring scientific knowledge to the world, is mild for this era.)
Today, the majority of Christians aren’t in the least bit bothered by believing that Earth rotates around the sun (not the other way around) and that verses like Psalm 93:1 are a metaphor of God’s provisionary protection over His people. In part, this is because refusing to allow this interpretation causes at least one major contradiction: Revelation also prophesies about the complete destruction of our planet (and its subsequent replacement with the New Earth). So, if we interpret both Revelation and Psalms literally, we’re met with the challenge of explaining how a planet that “cannot be moved” (Psalm 93:1) also completely “passes away” (Revelation 6:14; 20:11; 21:1; Matthew 24:35). (There are many more biblical contradictions than what are listed here that would result from forcing geocentrism.)
Three hundred years passed before Galileo’s discoveries would be well accepted in Church circles and allowed to be considered alongside theological pursuits. Yet, when they finally were, far from harming the integrity of Word of God, the opposite happened: Allowing heliocentrism to challenge our then-current models of literal interpretation actually led to a more cohesive, noncontradictory reading of Scripture!
As an important note, something else also happened: Science and Scripture merged, each allowing for the other to be true. Don’t miss this: Neither was threatened by the other; this appealed to people who wanted to believe in God but couldn’t at the time because “the Bible says Earth is at the center of the universe.” In the end, God was glorified—not for being the One who created an unmovable planet as Luther, Calvin, and others thought, but for being the Author of the Word that does not defy what is confirmed through science, math, and the observation of God’s own universe.
So…let’s visit a hypothetical situation. If Genesis allows for an Old Earth, will it take another three hundred years for the Church to accept that reality and apply it to their mainstream interpretations? Or will we, like in Galileo’s time, label as heretics anyone who doesn’t agree with mainstream interpretations because their conclusions make us uncomfortable?
Perhaps we should answer this question with another: What is our ultimate goal in every interpretational quest into the Word of God? Comfort in keeping traditions? Or truth? If we hold tradition above God and His absolute truth, then our motive is wrong, and we aren’t really serving Him as we should (Mark 7:7–9, 13). If truth is the goal, then whatever we discover to be true will point to the God of Truth anyway, so where is the threat?
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO:
LUCIFER AND SATAN ARE DIFFERENT ENTITIES CONNECTED TO A PRE-ADAMIC BATTLE?
Though we must always, as Bible-believing saints, put what the Bible says ahead of what science says, we should never, as Bible-believing saints, put what we think the Bible says ahead of what it actually does say. When human understanding blocks or hides what could be the real meaning of Scripture, we’ve alienated those who may have come to know God and Christ through the genuine meaning of that passage…and we’ve committed a grave sin by “adding to” or “taking away from” what the Bible says, which is, in no uncertain terms, prohibited by the Author of Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Revelation 22:18–19; Proverbs 30:6). But when we forego the traditions of men and allow the God of science to relate to the humanity He created through the revelation of what He said in the original Hebrew and Greek—no more and no less—we see people come to God.
For many, the “come to God” moment begins—and sometimes, sadly, ends—with the age-of-Earth debate.
That Day at Lucky’s
I’ll never forget this moment—and many others like it—as long as I live. Experiences like these have been common throughout my entire life, and it is conversations like these that raise a wall between Christians and the rest of the world.
About three years ago, I was shopping at Lucky’s Natural Foods supermarket in Springfield, Missouri, for probably the hundredth time since it had opened the year prior. We had just made the wise yet complicated shift from harmful, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and vitamins to natural supplements for treating most of our family’s health needs.
Daniel Belt, a head manager of that branch’s supplements department, was sharing his insight regarding my daughter’s “mystery cough.” (This is what we termed the spasmodic coughing episodes she has suffered since birth. Doctors have never found a cause behind—or a cure for—this cough. When risky correctional surgeries were beginning to surface as the only answer offered by Western medicine, my husband and I knew we had to go another route, and Daniel was proving more knowledgeable about the topic than any practitioner we had seen yet.)
We were not discussing spiritual beliefs; though, as a child of God and a follower of Christ, I try to remain open to that topic any time the opportunity presents itself organically. In this case, it did.
“I’d love to treat the unknown cause with plants from God’s earth,” I said, “as opposed to continuing with these meds that don’t work anyway.”
“Funny thing about God’s earth,” Daniel responded with a smile, “it’s been the answer since the beginning of time for many maladies. Pharmaceuticals have their place and time in the world of healthcare, but they shouldn’t be the first go-to for everything like they have been when God clearly provided what we need, directly from the soil, to sustain optimal health in most cases.”
I was touched to learn that this vitamin and supplement expert I barely knew at the time was—if I understood him correctly—willing to acknowledge the Creator of the universe as the Great Provider of human health. I couldn’t help but comment.
“I guess God knew what He was doing, eh?”
“Oh, for sure!” Daniel said, showing an excitement to the shift in conversation. “In fact, it was my journey to optimal health that restored my faith in God. Deep studies into the earth and all it offers to humankind points to a Great Intelligence behind the formation of natural medicine, which doesn’t have harmful side effects like many lab-created medicines that are marketed to treat the same conditions or sicknesses.”
A metallic rattle clinked in the air between us as I tossed six or seven bottles of Daniel’s recommendation into the empty cart while I considered how to respond. I was dying to take the discussion further, but I was aware that he was on the clock and I was merely a customer. He had other responsibilities and people to tend to, yet I couldn’t help but wonder if his beliefs stemmed from Christian conviction, specifically, or if he perhaps belonged to another religion that allowed for an alternative position on Intelligent Design. Was the Holy Bible his personal spiritual authority? Or something/someone else? Either way, I would always show him respect, but I also reserve the right to do my own inner happy dance when I meet a fellow believer.
I decided to break the ice in this area.
“I agree completely,” I said. “I’m working toward a master’s degree in theology, and I’ve studied apologetics and science. Once you see how science and God mesh together, you can’t ‘unsee’ it!”
Had I just touched a nerve?
Daniel broke eye contact and glanced to the floor, clearly contemplating something I perceived from his countenance to be potentially awkward. Yet he and I had already had many conversations that, for some folks, could have become awkward (all related to my own transition to the holistic lifestyle we appreciate now), yet never did. Daniel always held a gentle peace and a trainload of respect in his dealings with others that gave me confidence to open the Pandora’s box of the subject of religion without fear of offending him. Needless to say, however, religion and natural supplements are different animals, and it was clear by his hesitation that he was forming a response that, in turn, would not offend me.
“Sorry,” I said quickly to fill the dead space. “I didn’t mean to bring up a touchy subject.”
“Not at all.” His eyebrows raised in earnest as he shook his head in reassurance.
“I mean, we were talking about my daughter’s cough and suddenly I threw religion into it. That was kind of a dumb move.”
“No, not at all. Uh…” Daniel proceeded cautiously. “The thing is…” Again, he hesitated.
Daniel had always been one of the most articulate people I’d ever had the pleasure of listening to. His input or answers to health questions were without deviation, quick, confident, and well thought out. Every time. Now, suddenly, I had walloped him with a doozy (or at least that’s the fear I had at the moment) and he appeared to be calculating how to structure his reply carefully. Inside, I was praying God would forgive me if I had spoken out of turn, that He would help me find the words to say to avoid further injury in the exchange so my talks with Daniel about vitamins (or God?) wouldn’t be hampered in the future. After all, Daniel was rapidly becoming a close family friend and we looked forward to seeing him every Sunday after church during our weekly grocery trips. On this particular stop, my husband and kids were shopping in another aisle. If ever I needed my husband’s typical, soft rescue from the “word vomit” I’ve been known to spew at the wrong times, this was it…but alas, he was unavailable, so I had to try to fix this mess on my own—if, in fact, it was a mess I had created.
“The thing is,” Daniel tried again, “Planet Earth is very, very old,” he offered.
Ahhh…so that was it. Whew. Crisis averted. This wasn’t going to be a problem after all.
Some readers may wonder where Daniel’s comment came from. There we were, dipping into the pool of religious thought, about to launch into whether he believes in God and if Jesus fits into that scenario, then, seemingly out of the wild blue, Daniel says the world is old.
Why? What did that have to do with anything?
The answer to that question—at least as postulated by the modern world and Western culture—is: everything. It has everything to do with it. Read on…
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEOS:
THE EARTH IS OLD… AND YOUNG… WITH A PRE-GENESIS BATTLE? WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF TOHU, BOHU, AND THE CHAOS DRAGON?
DID A GALACTIC BATTLE BEFORE THE CREATION OF ADAM & EVE RENDER EARTH “DARK AND VOID”?
My furrowed brow relaxed and I smiled with a nod to set Daniel’s mind at rest. Not only was I not at all offended by his statement, I wasn’t in the least bit shocked. I had been there many times. I breathed a sigh of relief. For all he knew, I had been getting ready to balk at his “bold assertion” that the world wasn’t, as many conservative Evangelicals believe, a mere thousands of years old. I don’t typically interrupt people, but I knew I should this time. If he only knew what I was thinking, his respectful apprehension could die on the vine and spare both of us from further concern. Daniel was about to learn we had something in common besides a passion for natural supplements.
“Oh, absolutely,” I said with heavy emphasis. “I believe this world is very old, and it’s a known point of contention between many Christians and non-Christians who spend a great deal of energy defending their positions when, tragically, they don’t need to allow the conversation to be the faith deal-breaker it often is.”
Daniel was visibly relieved, and we continued a few minutes of casual banter as we wrapped up our conversation about religion.
I’m endlessly grateful that this supermarket moment ended in the peaceful way it did, but, if we’re being honest, that’s not the typical happy ending, is it? Much to the contrary, these age-of-Earth debates often end in dramatic divisions. As it stands in many Christian groups, we must either choose science or God; it’s never an option to choose science and God. Did He not create the entire universe and the starting points for all the scientific pursuits within it?
There is an understandable reason someone like Daniel would tread carefully in a conversation like that: A majority of Evangelicals adopt the Young Earth interpretation of Scripture and appear to hold as tight a grip upon it as they do their fundamental doctrines of Christ’s humanity! Anyone who challenges the Young Earth theory is, as I’ve heard several times, “going against what the Bible says.” The foundation of their faith appears to hang perpetually on what they understand to be the only explanation of Creationism. For, if we accept any scientific explanation regarding the great, cosmological question about the origins of the universe, then we must reject God as Creator in the process…because, of course, every Old Earth theory automatically means mankind came from monkeys, which goes against the Creation epic outlined in Genesis 1, right?
And though I chose that day at Lucky’s as my testimony in this case (mostly because it did have a happy ending), I’ve had this same encounter many times; it’s a frequent déjà vu experience for me anymore. Usually, it plays out something like this (though this scenario is grossly oversimplified):
“Do you believe in God?”
“No. Are you kidding? Who can believe in God as the Creator of the universe when the Bible itself says that planet Earth is only several thousands of years old?”
“Well, it could be that young, and there is evidence that is pretty convincing, but the Bible doesn’t actually say that, for the record.”
“How do you figure? Every Christian I’ve ever met has claimed this is the very teaching of Scripture.”
For those who are open-minded enough to hear my research and theories, a door to speak about Christ is thrown ajar, making the cosmological debate the very tool we can use to help people come to know the Savior: If they can believe God had a hand in the formation of the universe and trust the science on the matter, a major point of contention between science and faith is resolved—sometimes in only one conversation (as has been the case for me before)!
Follow this logic: a) If Creationism is true, then God is real, but b) if Creationism forces the belief in a Young Earth, then our current science is largely false—a conclusion that appears absurd to many and that makes God, also, appear absurd. The age of Earth, for these millions of people, becomes the very litmus test of whether a person can believe anything else the Bible says. And, if true science and faith can merge—getting cosmology and science out of the way for the skeptic listener who would doubt God on that basis, alone—only faith remains in the conversation as the focus.
Suddenly, Jesus gets important, fast, as He is the answer to every faith-related question from the first human forward to today.
So, you see? For many, the age of planet Earth has everything to do with whether they would or would not come to belief in God…and the ability and willingness one has to engage in this conversation with an open mind and knowledge of different sides of the argument is actually a direct tool for evangelism!
Herein lies the crux of this series and the book Before Genesis. Whereas I hope not to offend the seemingly countless numbers of Jesus followers who believe in a Young Earth, I have no choice but to be bold—as Daniel was—and say, “The thing is…Earth is very, very old,” while following up that claim with an alternative explanation. This is something I must do, despite knowing some will oppose it, because I believe many folks who are currently on the fence about their faith can and will be strengthened by knowing that they don’t have to disregard the laboratory’s current and future explanations about our planet in order to accept God. By doing this, I am attempting to “gain the more” for Christ, as Paul did in his day (1 Corinthians 9:19).
The other thing is that the evidence does not—nor will it ever—refute Intelligent Design and the Creator we’ve grown to love for the world He’s made. He is the Master Scientist of the universe. Nothing can strip Him of that title, so approaching the subject of God with science in mind is not a surprise to Him, and it certainly is not an affront to Him or to faith in general, as it only gives Him proper credit to begin with. God does not need Christians to “help His case” by silencing the scientific community’s proud discoveries and developments.
Keep in mind, with all the beautiful and glorious truths the Bible does share, it happens to be completely silent about Earth’s age.
Then why do so many Church teachings claim the world is young or that the Bible, itself, says so?
In scholarly circles, it’s called “Ussher Chronology,” and it’s only one way to interpret the Good Book.
Earlier in this series (specifically titled for two views), I maintained that Naturalistic Evolution and Creationism are the only two “parent” categories of approaching the topic of cosmology and the age of Earth. I hold that most, if not all, other views fall under these, and it’s my goal within this series to merge the two views into one.
However, one important caveat must be addressed first that affects every one of the following worldviews.
UP NEXT: Blurring the Line between Science and Philosophy—A Critical Error