The Fatal Error of Young Earth Creationism
Young Earth creationists are fond of saying that when you read Genesis 1 the text clearly teaches that the world is only 6000 years old. Now their interpretation is clearly pretty silly in and of itself and it also contradicts a lot of scientific evidence. Critics have said that Genesis 1 came from a bunch of ignorant shepherds in the Middle East. Young Earth creationism has been a boon to atheism and a plague upon Christianity. Christians would expect God to get the creation story right. Why then does Genesis 1 come out looking so bad?
There is an easy answer as to why Genesis 1 comes out so bad: when you read the text you bring along with you a hidden assumption about the world that simply isn't true. If, instead, you came to the text with the right assumption about the world, you'd read the text and you'd interpret it correctly and all would be well.
So what is this hidden wrong assumption and what is the right assumption? Well, the wrong one is something that people acquired from the vast majority of scientists while the right assumption is what you get from understanding God in the Bible. As it happens, modern physics ran into the correct perspective over a hundred years ago but even so most scientists still mostly ignore it, only a few specialists take it seriously.
The fatal assumption is what philosophers call presentism. It is the belief that the way the world works is that there are all these particles moving around according to the laws of physics. They have all been moving forward in time, only the present exists, the past is gone and the future isn't "out there" yet. Of course it is really easy to get this idea because all WE ever see is what we call "now".
So if you believe in presentism, when you read the text, it looks like God takes one day to do this, one day to do the next thing and so on for six days. After each item is created it automatically starts moving forward in time and space according to the laws of physics. At the end of six days everything is simply moving around according to the laws of physics except once in a while God steps in to do a miracle. God rests on the seventh day and apparently He is still resting. (That's a rather long day of rest isn't it?) Oh, and if He's still resting, how could He step in and do a miracle? That would not be resting, would it? It would be work!
But God has a God's eye view of the world. He sees the past, present and future and the past and the future are just as real to Him as the present is to us. In physics, this block of everything across all of space and time is called the blockworld or sometimes the block universe. Philosophers call this idea that everything exists across all of space AND TIME, eternalism. Here are some quotes from the Bible that make the point that everything is already fixed. First, one of the neatest quotes comes from psalm 139:16 where we have David saying:
16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
This makes it quite clear that all of David's life was set in stone before he was born. Of course, it wasn't just David's life that was set before he was born, everyone's life was fixed before everyone was born. Then in Jeremiah 1:4-5 it says:
4 The Lord gave me this message: 5 "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations."
In Isaiah 22, Isaiah is given a message from God for the people of Israel about an invasion that will be happening in the future, how terrible it will be and how the Israelites will respond:
11 ... But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago.
Here in Psalm 148:5-6 it mentions how everything that came into being will last forever:
5 Let every created thing give praise to the Lord, for he issued his command, and they came into being. 6 He set them in place forever and ever. His decree will never be revoked.
Here in Revelation 13:8 in Young's literal translation (and many other translations) there is this phrase where it speaks of Christ as:
... the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Or in other words, when the world was made, Christ's crucifixion was already present.
The presentist view of creation just isn't possible according to modern physics. You can't create a universe where things are created and then start moving through time and then "just evolve" according to the laws of physics. If you're going to create a universe, the past, the present and the future must all show up "at once".
So now, if you came to the text with the blockworld perspective, then where it says God created the Heavens and the Earth you'd just naturally think that He created everything from the beginning of time (probably the Big Bang) out into the distant future however long a time that may be. And the Earth was there too. Translations typically say the Earth is something like "formless and void" but what the heck does that mean? In Rodney Whitefield's book, Reading Genesis One, he argues that instead of "formless and void" the words should be translated as "uninhabited and uninhabitable". So now the text is saying that the Earth was uninhabited and uninhabitable across all of time, across the entire history of Earth, however long that may be.
Then, in the following six "days", God goes and makes modifications to the Earth across all of time. So, for example, on "day" 3, God makes plants. All the plants that will ever exist on planet Earth. He made all the plants that did exist, all the plants that exist right now and all the plants that will ever exist in the future. Ditto for animals. He made all the animals that will ever exist on planet Earth across ALL of time. Ditto for humans. He made ALL the people who would ever exist on planet Earth. So for instance, He made Adam and Eve and all their children and grandchildren and all their descendants including such notable people as Noah, Abraham, David, Jesus, and then us and our children and grandchildren all the way out in time for as long as the Earth exists.
Then on "day" 7 God rests and watches us as we move through the blockworld to encounter whatever it is He has planned for us. And He can REALLY rest too because all those miracles that happen have already been done.
So the young Earth creationist interpretation of Genesis 1 comes out badly because of a hidden viewpoint people bring to the text. It's a viewpoint that comes from atheistic scientists (that young Earth creationists despise), rather than the viewpoint you get from God in the Bible.
Of course, old Earth creationists are making the same fatal error. They, too, have failed to realize that God made it clear in the Bible that He created everything across all of space and TIME.
Of course, atheists have made the same fatal error. They are, however, less guilty than the Christians who should have picked up God's viewpoint in the first place by studying the Bible.