In my last post I shared the opinion of Wayne Grudem, the writer of the book that my family and I are reading in our after-breakfast Bible reading time, his Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), that God hasn’t given us enough information to make a clear decision whether Genesis 1’s days of creation were periods of twenty-four hours or long periods of time and considered one theory that they were long periods of time. In this post I’ll consider two theories that they were periods of twenty-four hours, “appearance of age” and “flood geology,” and present and comment on Grudem’s final conclusions on the age of the earth. I’ll conclude by noting some applications of the doctrine of creation.
Creation with an Appearance of Age
According to this theory, the original creation must have had an appearance of age from the start. An obvious example is Adam and Eve’s appearance as full-grown adults. Another example suggested by Grudem is Adam and Eve’s likely seeing stars their first night although light from most stars would take thousands or millions of years to reach earth. The theory is also called “mature creationism.”
The theory has many supporters, their often combining it with objections to current scientific dating processes. They question whether the rate of decay of elements has been constant since their creation and suggest that God’s curse on nature after Adam and Eve’s fall (Genesis 3:17) and the flood in the time of Noah (Genesis 7-8) may have caused differences in the amount of radioactive material in living things.
A common objection to the theory is that it seems to make God a deceiver. However Grudem argues, and I agree with him, that God’s creating Adam and Eve as mature adults and allowing them to see the stars their first night point to His wisdom and power rather than showing Him as a deceiver. On the other hand Grudem concedes, and again I agree with him, that God’s creating of fossils and scattering them throughout the world to give an added appearance of age does seem deceptive. Apparently the only reasonable explanations for the fossil record that Christians can hold are that current dating methods are incorrect for the reasons given in the preceding paragraph or that the earth is extremely old.
According to this theory, during the flood in the time of Noah (Genesis 8-9) the high pressure exerted by water on the earth changed the face of the earth and the flood deposited fossils in layers of sediment all over the earth. Although thinking that the flood was worldwide and that it had a significant effect of the face of the earth, Grudem confesses that he’s not persuaded that all of the earth’s geological formations were caused by the flood instead of by millions of years of sedimentation, etc. Although I agree with him that if the present geological formations could be explained as the result of a universal flood this should be evident to non-Christian geologists as well as to Christian geologists, which according to him it isn’t, I’m not familiar enough with the writings of either to express an opinion.
The Age of the Earth
Observing that the scientific evidence favours the “old earth” position but that its interpretations of Genesis 1 don’t seem as natural to the text as the “young earth” position, Grudem concludes that both views are possible and that neither is certain. He suggests that God may not allow us to find a clear solution to the problem before the return of Jesus Christ and thus that proponents of both positions should try to work together “with much less arrogance, much more humility, and a much greater sense of cooperation in a common purpose” (Grudem, page 308). I haven’t read enough by proponents of either position to comment on Grudem’s suggestion, but I certainly agree with him that we should recognize that both views are possible and that neither is certain.
Application of the Doctrine of Creation
Grudem concludes his consideration of the doctrine of creation by suggesting some applications of it. It should remind us that God created the material universe good and thus should cause us to realize that it is good in itself and that we should enjoy it and use it in ways that are pleasing to Him. It should also remind us that God is sovereign over the universe that He created and that He will ultimately defeat His enemies and reign as King. And the size and complexity of what God has created should encourage us to worship and praise Him.
My family and I also discussed two of the seven questions for personal application of the doctrine of creation which Grudem poses at the end of Chapter 15, “Creation,” of Systematic Theology and noted the Bible memory passage and hymn which Grudem suggested for the chapter. No new ideas came out in our discussion, the Bible memory verse is Nehemiah 9:6, and the hymn is Psalm 148 set to music. Nehemiah 9:6 is below, and Psalm 148 is at the beginning of my November 12 “The Purpose and Quality of Creation” post.
You are the LORD, you alone. You made the heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you” (Nehemiah 9:6, ESV).