In an age of exploration and fascinating scientific discoveries, Anabaptist Christians are asking questions of current importance that require honest and satisfying biblical answers. “How old is the earth?”[i] “Could the Universe be billions of years old?” “Is our society’s view of origins compatible with Genesis 1?” I myself have wondered whether the Bible really treats this subject with enough clarity as to preclude an “old earth” view of origins. I would like to invite you to look at three lines of evidence I found in God’s Word that convinced me that our Universe was directly created by God in only six days in its entirety, and without any time gaps at the Foundation of the earth
But first, I would like to provide some quick facts on a view that has only become popular among mainstream Christianity since the beginning of the 19th Century[ii]: Old Earth Creationism. It is a view I believe is beginning to be considered and adopted by some conservative Anabaptists as we speak. What is Old Earth creationism?
· Old Earth creationism[iii] is a general term that covers gap creationism[iv], progressive creationism[v], and evolutionary creationism[vi].
· Christians[vii] who are Old Earth creationists (OECs), as well as their humanist counterparts, generally believe Planet Earth is as old as 4.5 billion years, and the Universe, 14 billion years.
· Belief in Old Earth creationism leads to the acceptance of death before the Fall of man, which in turn leads to the idea that the Flood of Noah’s time likely wasn’t global.
· Not all OECs believe in the Big Bang or in evolutionary creationism.
· Not all OECs disbelieve the literal six 24-hour-day Creation.
I. Was the “raw” Universe created outside the Creation week?
Gap creationists believe that the foundation or framework of the universe was created at a point in a very distant past. The creation of this cosmic framework is separated from Day One of the Creation week by a gap of billions of years. Some also believe that the original world eventually was destroyed by a cataclysm called Lucifer’s Flood, and out of the resulting chaos (cosmic wasteland) God made the world we know today.
But in light of what the Bible says, could the earth, sun, moon and stars have been created millions of years before Day One of the Creation week? To my knowledge, there are only three passages in the Bible that speak to this. The first one, of course, is found in Genesis 1:1:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Perhaps, we could say this verse does not specify whether heaven and earth were completely finished at the time of creation. But it does tell us that there was a beginning, and that heaven and earth did not exist before this Beginning. This would seem unnecessary to mention, but do keep it in mind for later.
The next passage is found in Exodus 31:17:
It [the Sabbath] is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
This passage provides an important detail: “in six days”. What happened within six days? The LORD made heaven and earth. By this we know without a doubt that the whole Universe was made within the six days of Creation.
The last clue is found earlier, in Exodus Chapter 20, verse 11:
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
This verse is more explicit than the previous one. It provides additional details regarding what was made within the six days of Creation. Heaven and earth, including all it contains, were made by the LORD at the very beginning, within the six days of Creation, and not before. Some have suggested a distinction between the verb “create” and “make”. They claim that God created the Universe and Planet Earth at a point in time in the distant past, and billions of years later, He made “all that in them is”. But this passage breaks down the argument, because it says that God not only made the contents of the universe within six days, He also made heaven and earth during the same period. It seems abundantly clear that the Beginning and the six-day Creation week are one and the same.
II. Was the Creation of the Universe complete at the Beginning?
I suppose something most conservative Anabaptists take for granted is that the creation of the Universe was initiated and completed between Day One and Day Six of the creation week. However, it’s interesting to note that the logic of Old Earth creationism, especially gap creationism, requires the initiation of Creation to occur before the Beginning. How so? When one believes there was a gap between the initiation of the Universe and the making of “all that in them is”, one is forced to believe that divine creative activities were occurring long before the Beginning, since, as we saw above, the Beginning and the six-day creation week are synonymous. In order to be certain of the possibility of a cosmic gap, I suppose one would need to look for a biblical warrant for a first Beginning and a second Beginning, which I have not been able to find.
Another view among gap creationists involves the idea of day-ages. Each day of the creation week may represent a period of millions or billions of years.
When we search the Bible, we find two passages that speak to this:
From the beginning of creation God made them male and female. Mark 10:6
He which made them at the beginning made them male and female. Matthew 19:4
It couldn’t have been said clearer: Humankind was made at the Beginning of creation, not billions of years later. The biblical fact that humans were made on the last day of creation leads us to believe that the last day of Creation must also be considered as the Beginning. If Jesus called Day Six “the Beginning”, would it be reasonable to say that the Bible allows room for millions of years between Day One and Day Six, while placing both days equally at the Beginning? And how reasonable is it to believe that the Beginning took millions or billions of years to begin?
III. Was the Beginning at the Foundation of the earth?
Let’s look at the subject from another angle. Could there have been a gap of billions of years between the Foundation of the earth and the Beginning? Did God’s creative work continue billions of years after He laid the foundations of Planet Earth?
I have found four passages in Scripture that speak about the foundation of the earth or the world. The first one is Isaiah 40:21:
Hath it not been told you from the beginning? Have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
Not a strong argument, but it does seem to imply that humans, able to hear and understand, existed from the Beginning as well as from the Foundations of the earth. Could this possibly mean they are both the exact same events?
The second verse tells us about Abel, the first martyred prophet:
That the blood of the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias. Luke 11:50, 51
This passage explains that the blood of the prophets was shed from the foundation of the world[viii]. Abel, Adam’s second son, lived only several years after the creation of his parents. Apparently, he lived and died so close to the Beginning that even he was said to have lived at the Foundation of the world. Would it be reasonable to think that there was a gap of millions of years between the Foundation and the completion of Creation at the Beginning?
The third verse is more specific:
The works were finished from the foundation of the world…and God did rest the seventh day from all his works. Hebrews 4:3, 4
God rested on the seventh day from all His creative works, because his creative activities were indeed completed at the very foundation of the world.
And finally, a passage that seems to be a direct answer to our question, “Was the Beginning at the Foundation of the earth?”
Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth. Hebrews 1:10
After seeing all this biblical evidence for myself, I had to wonder whether the controversy between traditional creationism and Old Earth creationism is a matter of opinion or a matter of belief. Does it really matter whether God created the world within six 24-hour days or across billions of years?
The three lines of arguments I have found in Scripture have given me abundant and satisfying evidence that the Bible does teach that our Universe was directly created by God in only six days in its entirety, and without any time gaps at the Foundation of the earth. If God had not recorded any of this, then I would be willing to accept that none of it is important to our understanding of God. But since He did, and He did it in a very careful and detailed fashion, I find that recent Creation is a truth worthy of universal acceptance and belief among Christians everywhere. To me, the controversy between Young Earth and Old Earth creationism seems to be more a matter of belief in the veracity and authority of God’s Word than of personal opinion or lack of biblical clarity.
[i] I have not taken the time to explain how the Bible teaches a 6,000 year-old Earth, but check out the following link for an explanation: http://creation.com/6000-years.
[ii] Stephen Lawell, The Gap Theory (Echoes of Eden, 2008), p. 13.
[iv] “Simply stated, the gap theory is the idea that a long period of time transpired between God’s initial creation in Genesis 1:1 when He ‘created the heaven and the earth’ and Genesis 1:2 when the earth was ‘without form and void’” (The Gap Theory, p. 7).
[v] “Progressive creationism…is the belief that God created new forms of life gradually over a period of hundreds of millions of years” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_creationism).
[vi] “Theistic evolution, theistic evolutionism, or evolutionary creationism are views that regard religious teachings about God as compatible with modern scientific understanding about biological evolution….Supporters of theistic evolution generally harmonize evolutionary thought with belief in God, rejecting the conflict thesis regarding the relationship between religion and science – they hold that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not contradict each other.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theistic_evolution).
[vii] To clarify, this essay employs the term “Christian” in a general way for nominal and faithful believers indistinctively.
[viii] The term “world” (Gr. cosmos) in the New Testament refers to several things including the universe, the inhabitants of the earth, and Planet Earth itself. While the term “world” is broader than “earth”, it certainly includes Planet Earth.