For the last couple of weeks, we have been answering questions that were anonymously submitted by the teens at IRBC. This week, we looked at several questions that focus on aspects of the early events of Scripture and history of the earth.
The first question was, “How was God just there before anything?” This question is nearly impossible to answer because our minds don’t really comprehend things outside of time. Scripture is clear that God existed before all things (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1–3), but how is not a question we can answer far beyond “He just was.” Really, if we think about this philosophically, something has to have always existed—either the God of the Bible, another supernatural being, or random matter. The Cosmological argument of “First Cause” essentially argues that we cannot have an infinite regression of causes (meaning, something was caused by something else, which was caused by something else, for all of infinity). That is not logically or physically possible, so there must be an uncaused first cause that has always existed. Again, this logic cannot prove specifically that the God of the Bible is that first cause, but when looking at all the different options, our God is the option that makes most sense to me, and I have to trust in faith that Scripture is true.
The next couple questions had to do with dinosaurs. First, “Did dinosaurs get to go on the ark?” Second, “Is the Flood what possibly killed all of the dinosaurs?” Before answering these questions though, we spent some time discussing the fourth (and much bigger) question: “When God created the world, did he create it already old.” My understanding of what this student was asking is along the lines of, “If God created the earth around 6–10,000 years ago [what the debate terms ‘Young Earth’], did he create it to look as old as scientists believe it is?”
This has been a hotly debated topic for the last century or two within the Church as a whole. At IRBC, we believe the answer is yes. God created the earth fairly recently, but certain elements of it were likely created to appear old. For instance, Adam and Eve were not created as infants. Plants were likely not created merely as seeds that then had to grow and mature. Even in Jesus’ ministry, he miraculously turns water into wine that is praised as a delicious (presumably aged) wine (John 2). We also believe that the rest of Scripture theologically supports a young earth in accordance with the way Genesis tells the story. We know for a fact that Adam and Eve’s sin brought death to humanity (Genesis 2–3; Romans 5), and it seems that death for animals also began at this point when God cursed the ground and the Serpent (Genesis 3).
However, there are also faithful followers of Jesus on the other side of the argument, who believe that our earth is an “Old Earth” that scientific dating accurately represents. (Helpful arguments for both sides of the debate can be found here, although I think both men have some holes in their arguments.) In this view, the Genesis account of creation is thought to be figurative rather than literal, seeking to prove a point within a specific context that God created all that we see, even if the timeline was different. After all, 2 Peter 3:8 states that “…with the Lord one day is a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day.” If God experiences time differently than we people do, perhaps the same goes for the description of creation. Just as the parables of Jesus tell stories that probably didn’t actually happen, yet proved a theological point to the audience, so it goes with the Creation accounts of Genesis. I do think that the way Genesis tells this story allows for this type of interpretation; however, I think that the rest of Scripture generally supports a literal understanding of Genesis.
Personally, I believe that our earth is young, and that God created it to appear aged. Not only this, but if we believe that the Flood happened globally at the scale Genesis describes it, it is entirely possible that physical features of the earth changed far more rapidly than scientific methods can account for. Both positions have issues. Both positions are valid within orthodox Christianity. However, I understand the broader Scriptural context as pointing to a more literal reading of Genesis.
In light of that, with a Young Earth view, it is entirely possible that dinosaurs were on the Ark. If so, the Flood would have killed the majority of dinosaurs, but we cannot know what happened to the rest. Perhaps conditions after the flood were not as kind toward dinosaurs so they did not reproduce as abundantly as other animals. We can’t really know. With an Old Earth view, dinosaurs would likely have died off long before the Flood.
Regardless of which view you decide to take, we need to be understanding and gracious of those with whom we disagree. This is not an issue of salvation. I believe that you can be a genuine Christian, and still believe in the authority and inerrancy (without error) of the Bible on either side of the argument. Science in many ways is a tremendous gift of God, so it is understandable to want to explore different options of how to reconcile the Bible and Science. Whatever you conclude, make sure it is out of a heart that worships our God as Creator, and that has studied the Scriptures and is acting faithfully in accordance with them.