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

The people who believe the Earth was created in 6 literal days ignore the etymology of the word day. Day comes from the PIE word *agh- meaning a span of time (think of phrases like 'back in my day'), and meant as much at the time of the Septuagint. Because of the nature of etymology, people did not realize this when they pinpointed the origin of the universe in the middle ages. Rita Louise in her book ET Chronicles correctly points out if you think of the 'in the beginning' part as 6 eras instead of 24 hour periods it matches closer to the modern origin theories starting with the Big Bang Theory through the time of the dinosaurs etc. all the way until when Adam and Eve show up.

Hi Bruce: thanks for that information - my intuition tells me you are spot on, in the supposition. I learned more from your brief comment than i did in reading this entire article.

I was about to question, with a rant and rave, the need for A-O dot net to even post an article like this. so thank you for helping me avoid that drama :)

Your comment reminded me that only through discussion and 'knowledge sharing' can a truth emerge which can validate a 'theory' - more than ranting and raving does anyways.

so, thanks Bruce - good comment

Rita's book did more to open my eyes about the likely truth about the origin of the universe and life on Earth than my entire high school and college tenure combined. She's really worth reading

The Hebrew word for "day" always refers to a 24-hour period in Genesis. No need to conclude otherwise for the Creation account.

As for "science" determining that the Earth is billions of years old, that is only wishful thinking on the part of the Darwinist; all sorts of assumptions are made in order to support the time spans that give Darwin's creation myth a chance at seeming possible.

No scientist was present to observe the Earth's formation or to verify the accuracy of radiometric dating. The Darwinist hides behind a curtain of argumentum ad verecundiam.

The Hebrew word for day is yom and can have a number of meanings, including a 24 hour period (just like the PIE words for day). If you realize the word Yom to mean age in the context of the first 6 days in Genesis, they correspond to the first 6 eras of the universe and ancient Earth according to modern theories. they also correspond to the mythology of most of the ancient cultures through out the world.

You really ought to read the book by Rita that I mentioned in another post. If you are open minded, she puts things in perspective.

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