With regard to the age of the earth, most Christians just shrug off the issue by saying, It doesn't matter to me whether the earth is young or old. It doesn't make any difference.
But this response misses the real issue: It's not about us! It's about them!
Bible credibility is the issue. If the Bible is wrong about the age of the earth, doubters and unbelievers can reasonably conclude that it is probably wrong about other matters, too, and that the Bible cannot be trusted as a book of truth.
Similarly, personal testimony is greatly diminished if others think Christians are uneducated, naive, or brain-washed.
It is important to get it right about the age of the earth to establish respect and influence.
Maybe the subject will never come up in open conversation, but every Christian should be ready if it does. Even if doubters don't raise the issue, they think about it! In some situations, a Christian should raise the issue just to flush out hidden misunderstandings and establish better rapport.
Until the 1960s, scientists held to the steady-state theory that the universe had no beginning or end in time and that the earth has always existed in one form or another. They scoffed at the Bible for saying the earth had a beginning.
The first use of the term 'big bang' was by astronomer Fred Hoyle in a BBC broadcast in 1949 when he said that a new theory was being proposed by some radical astronomers 'based on the hypothesis that all matter in the universe was created in one big bang at a particular time in the remote past.' He argued against the theory and said it was 'irrational and outside science.'
However, as a result of better telescopes and computers, by the 1980s the 'Big Bang' had become the dominant explanation by astronomers and astrophysicists.
Today, the Big Bang is generally regarded as settled science.
The universe started with a 'singularity' (Christians say 'God'), then exploded, expanded and cooled over the next 13.8 billion years into the cosmos we know today – and it is still expanding!
NASA has calculated that In the first second after the universe began the surrounding temperature was more than10 billion degrees Fahrenheit.
The Bible says that 'In the beginning' the earth was 'formless and empty.' Heat was so intense that everything was vaporized, just gasses.
There was 'darkness over the face of the deep.' Light cannot penetrate intense heat.
The 'spirit of God was hovering over the waters' (condensing steam and cooling crust): God was giving special attention to planet earth because He planned to do something very unique and special here, to create life.
The Big Bang is what scientists have been saying for less than 80 years but what the Bible has been saying for more than 3,500 years!
This gives us great confidence in the Bible because the writer of Genesis could not have known about the Big Bang that long ago except by special revelation from the Creator.
One would think that churches would be enthusiastically telling parishioners about this very significant change in scientific understanding, which greatly strengthens the credibility of the Bible.
Instead, churches have been silent about it. Most Christians are completely unaware that science has changed its basic thinking and now agrees with the Bible regarding the instant creation of the universe.
This is a sad commentary on the underlying hostility between church and science, so strong that most pastors don't even want to bring science into the conversation.
There can be no difference between true science and true Christianity because both seek truth – and there is only ONE TRUTH!
Science inquires into the physical, and Christianity inquires into the spiritual. They make different inquiries in different ways, but both are part of the same quest for truth.
Conflicts between science and the Bible have resulted from a lack of knowledge at particular times in history but are eventually resolved. For example:
➤ World was flat. Christians fought the theory advanced by Pythagoras that the earth is round, not flat. They argued from Bible verses that refer to 'the four corners of the earth.' The earth can't be round, they said, because the Bible says it has corners. They quibbled over 'corners' the way we quibble over 'days.'
➤ World was stationary. Christians fought the theory advanced by Copernicus that the earth revolves around the sun. They believed that God made the earth the center of everything and argued from Psalm 104:5 ('He established the earth upon its foundations ...') and Psalm 93.2 ('... the earth is firmly established, it will not be moved'). They quibbled over 'established' and 'foundations' the way we quibble over 'days.'
➤ Universe had no beginning. Similarly, on the other side, scientists fought the Bible's teaching that the universe had a beginning. They claimed for centuries that the universe has always existed (steady-state theory), and they scoffed at Christians for believing that God spoke it into existence.
Eventually, Christians accepted the fact that the world is not flat and stationary ... and scientists have now accepted the fact that the universe had a beginning.
Conflicts in wording and understanding are usually resolved over time as we get more facts. Still, in the meantime, there have been many unnecessary battles that have undermined confidence in the Bible.
Today, a good study of both the Bible and science will reconcile God's word with God's world. Properly understood, science is just our growing understanding of God's marvelous creation.
Science and the Bible are not enemies.
In fact, science is making a case for belief in a single almighty Designer/Creator God – ONE GOD, not many Gods.
For most of human history, people believed in a pantheon of gods.
People believed that hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and diseases were the wrath of the angry gods who had to be appeased with offerings and rituals. Many early Christians were persecuted and even put to death because they did not honor the local gods and thus were blamed for bringing punishments upon the community.
Science has been a great help to Christianity by revealing a single master design plan, leaving no doubt that a pantheon of gods does NOT run the world and that natural disasters and illnesses are NOT caused by wrath of the gods but by natural laws emanating from an intelligent and predictable master plan for the universe.
For most people in the United States today, the choice is not which spiritual deity to worship, but whether or not to acknowledge and obey the ONE Designer/Creator God.
See Bible study here on one God only for this foundational Christian belief.
There are no natural explanations for either the existence or the purpose of the universe.
If the Big Bang is the beginning of nature, then some intelligence and power outside of nature and greater than nature had to trigger the Big Bang, to start everything out of nothing, and to establish the predetermined laws of nuclear energy, physics, and chemistry that enabled it to develop with orderly precision.
Christians believe that divine intelligence and power is the only reasonable explanation for an instant universe of such magnitude, majesty, and precision.
Scientists call this source the 'singularity;' Christians know it as 'God.'
The Big Bang does not push God out of creation. It just explains God's method and timing. Like everything else scientific, God lets us learn more and more over time about His creation and how it works.
Genesis 1:1-2 says that, at first, the earth was formless, empty, and dark. Now it has form, content, and light. Therefore we know from the Bible that the earth was NOT created instantly in its present form. Enormous changes have occurred over time in the earth's structure and content.
The only question is: How much time?
The Bible does not specifically tell in years when the Big Bang occurred, but scientists are now in agreement that it was approximately 13.8 billion years ago.
The earth (solid) is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Apparently, it took about 9.3 billion years – the time between Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 1:6 – for the gasses to cool and form a liquid core with solid crust covered mostly by water. Then God began shaping the earth and putting life on it.
The compiler/writer of Genesis could not have had this amazing scientific insight more than three thousand years ago without special revelation from the Designer/Creator.
The earth is still cooling, a whirling glob of molten minerals, 8,000 miles in diameter, with a thin crust (typically 5-25 miles) that supports life. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the known universe.
The Bible and the scientific community are now in essential agreement about the beginning of our physical world.
But there's another part of our world that came later – the non-physical part, even more complex than any physical BODY – the human SOUL (mind, will, and emotion) and human SPIRIT (connection to God).
Topic 2.4 (coming soon) will investigate from scripture how humans are made in the image of God: A human trinity (body, soul, and spirit) which mirrors God's trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).