Detail of ‘God creating the Sun, the Moon and the Stars’ by Jan Brueghel the Younger.

Is the Universe Only 6,000 years old? Young Earth Creationists Say Yes!

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Although most mainstream scientists and most of the developed world now accept the theory of evolution and the scientifically established age of Earth and the universe, there is still a group of people that resist the status quo and insist, based on a particular literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 in the Hebrew Bible, that the universe is only 6,000 years old and was created in six literal days.  As of 2014, 42% of Americans believe that the universe was created about 10,000 years ago and that all life was created more or less in its present form at that time. This has, of course, been a common belief in Christian circles for most of the history of the faith, but the modern Young Earth Creationist movement has relatively recent origins in the Seventh Day Adventist movement. The prevalence of Young Earth Creationism in the United States is also related to the history of Christianity in the United States, from the founding of the Republic to the culture wars which have raged for the past few decades.

‘The Creation of Adam’ (c. 1511) by Michelangelo.

‘The Creation of Adam’ (c. 1511) by Michelangelo. ( Public Domain )

Guessing and Dating the Age of the Universe

For the first 1700 years of Christian history, belief in a literal six-day creation and a world that was a few thousand years old was widespread within Christendom. This is because, until the early Modern Period, there was no reason to think otherwise. The early Church Fathers and Medieval theologians did not know about radiometric dating or how rock layers formed, so a few thousand years was a reasonable guess for the age of the universe.

In 1650, the Anglican archbishop James Ussher calculated that the world was created around 4004 BC based on the genealogies recorded in the book of Genesis. In terms of what was known about human history and the history of the universe at the time, this was a perfectly reasonable date. It was compatible with the science of the day.

Portrait of James Ussher by Peter Lely.

Portrait of James Ussher by Peter Lely. ( Public Domain )

Problems with this interpretation began to arise in the 18th century, when scientists began to study geological formations and found that they had been laid down slowly over long periods of time rather than rapidly in a great flood as described in the book of Genesis. This concept is today referred to as deep time. Deep time was further popularized by Charles Lyell. By the early 19th century, almost all geologists had embraced deep time, including geologists who were professing Christians. These Christian geologists did not originally see belief in long ages as conflicting with the Bible.

Geological time spiral.

Geological time spiral. ( Public Domain )

Denial of Deep Time Emerges

Between 1910 and 1915, a group of conservative Evangelical Christians published The Fundamentals which laid out what they believed to be the fundamentals of the Protestant Christian faith. This launched the Fundamentalist movement. One thing that might surprise many people considering the modern connotations of the term “fundamentalist” is that the leaders of the Fundamentalist movement did not have a problem with evolution or deep time. One of the original Fundamentalists, Benjamin B. Warfield, a prominent conservative theologian of the day, even talked about how evolution could be the process used by God to create life.

As evolution became widely accepted in the 1870s, caricatures of Charles Darwin with an ape or monkey body symbolized evolution.

As evolution became widely accepted in the 1870s, caricatures of Charles Darwin with an ape or monkey body symbolized evolution. ( Public Domain )

It was not until the 1960s that denial of deep time and evolution became prevalent in Evangelical circles in the United States. If this is the case, then where did the Young Earth Creationist movement come from? Why did the position of many American Evangelicals shift so dramatically?

Modern Young Earth Creationists

Although most conservative Christians did not reject evolution or deep time in the early 20th century, there was one group that did, the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA). The Seventh Day Adventists are an unusual but nonetheless theologically orthodox sect of Christianity which was founded by the prophetess Ellen White in 1863. One of their more visible beliefs is that church services should be held on Saturday instead of Sunday. Ellen White had a series of visions which her followers took to be divinely inspired. Among these visions were visions of how the world was created. From her visions, she concluded that the universe was created only 6,000 years ago in six literal days and that all the rock layers and fossils within them were laid down in a global deluge based on the flood account recorded in Genesis 6-9.

Comments

In my opinion the universe is millions of years old. History was reconstructed by Europeans so you have to take into account that western knowledge tells history from the European perspective. Did Christopher Columbus discover America??? No, that is a fact most people agree upon now. But from the European perspective he did discover it; for Europeans. Never mind that there were already natives living and thriving there. So from my observation, When Europeans say the earth is 6,000 year old that is true, only from their perspective. Is it a coincidence that the white skinned European that we know of today developed around 8,000 years ago??? So at the birth of Christ the world was 6,000 years old or at least that is how long white people have been around. Interested in other peoples opinions...is this just a coincidence?

God's time is the best time, as a Bach cantata, one of the best, says. There are among us theoretical physicists who hold the Buddhist beliefs that ultimately Maya, or illusion, not only governs all of our own actions, but that its activities extend to both historical time and physical time and distance, but nobody sane has ever suggested they are certain about the age of anything at all, beyond that which can be measured in our own historically documented period, attested to by film and by photographs, that are in fact the only visual evidence that we have that events occurred at all.

Once the humans extant during the Nazi epoch are all dead, we shall only have film and photography as proof that either the Holocaust or World War II itself ever happened, and that is why the camera is the single most important human invention, as it provides evidence words and unreliable dating systems cannot.

However there is in fact in the Mind of God itself an exact record of the totality of everything that has ever occurred within our Deity's jurisdiction, but it is very seldom revealed to anyone at all.

There have been visionaries who have experienced life in Christ's time, and in other periods, But as have yet to see the Creators home movies ourselves, we have no idea, and cannot, and should not even begin to guess the age of anything older than we are, as we have each of us in fact only our parent's word for it that we are the age claimed for us now, and in many societies even this first record of our own beginnings is a mystery, because nobody filmed it or wrote anything down, or kept hospital records. If you were not born in a hospital, or if you were and its records are lost or destroyed, only oral tradition records your birth, and those who experienced it, once dead take even that tiny fact (which is completely irrelevant to you as a person anyway, with them.

Any form of speculation about the age of the earth or the cosmos is as irrelevant. It does not matter, won't make you happier, and cannot solve mankind's and the environments problems.

Its not even an arcane form of theology: but it is burying your heads in the sand(s of Time!)

Sheeple will be sheeple. Man created god, not the other way around.

So a single celled organism, over the course of billions of years, evolved into a poop eating ape that humped everything, into man as his is today? Your family, maybe, not mine!

Who / what were the Nephilim?

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