For 45 years, Gallup Polls have been tracking what American's believe about age of the earth.
The most recent Gallup Poll shows that 68% of weekly church attenders believe that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago.
The typical traditional Christian belief – at least the stated belief – is that the universe was created about 6,000 years ago (per biblical genealogies), all in six 24-hour days.
Confirmed now by many different kinds of modern measurement, it is considered settled science that the universe is 13.8 billion years old, and the earth (solid) is 4.5 billion. Virtually all well-educated doubters believe these dates.
Non-believers think most traditional Christians are uninformed at best, or stupid at worst (see doubters), to deny that the earth is billions of years old. It's like saying the earth is flat.
They say that the Bible is flat-out wrong in saying that the universe and everything in it was created only about 6,000 years ago.
[Actually, the Bible doesn't say that, as examined in Bible Study 1.2.1.]
Astronomers, biologists, archaeologists and virtually every other kind of scientist have proven within their own fields that the earth is billions of years old.
So, if the Bible is wrong about age of the earth, doubters and unbelievers conclude that it is probably wrong about other things too.
[An erroneous interpretation of the ancient Hebrew word 'yom', examined in Bible Study 1.2.1, is a huge barrier for believing that the Bible is true and trustworthy.]
Millions of unbelievers say they could never believe a book that is so wrong and out-of-date. Many think they would have to become young earth and unscientific to become a Bible-believing Christian.
With regard to 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's not important.
But this response misses the real issue: It's not about me. It's about them!
Bible credibility is the issue. If the Bible is wrong about 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 age of the earth in order 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, that the earth has always existed in one form or another. Scientists scoffed at the Bible for saying that the earth had a beginning.
The first use of the term 'big bang' was by astronomer Fred Hoyle on a BBC broadcast in 1949 when he said that a new theory was being proposed by some young 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, instrumentation and computers, by the 1980s the 'Big Bang' had become the dominant theory (explanation) used by astronomers and astrophysicists.
Today, the Big Bang is generally regarded as settled science. Scientists now say that the universe started with a 'singularity' (Christians say 'God'), then exploded, expanding and cooling over the next 13.8 billion years into the cosmos we know today – and it's 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 s (quotation above) says that:
'In the beginning' the earth was 'formless and empty:' Heat was so intense that everything was vaporized, just gasses, no form, empy.
There was 'darkness over the face of the deep:' Light cannot penetrate intense heat, so it was dark. As gasses gradually cooled, the earth began to take shape, a deep (thick) core, a visible face.
The 'spirit of God was hovering over the waters': Steam vapor condensed so most of earth's surface was water. God was giving special attention to planet earth because he planned to do something special here, TO CREATE LIFE!
The Big Bang is what science has been saying for 60 years ... and what the Bible has been saying for 3,000 years!
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 lack of knowledge at particular times in history but are eventually resolved. For example:
Eventually Christians accepted the facts of science and realized that scientific issues have little to do with spiritual issues. Conflicts in wording and understanding are usually resolved by objective study.
Today, good study of both the Bible and modern science will reconcile God's word with God's world.
Science and the Bible are not enemies.
In fact, science is making the case for belief in a single almighty creator God – ONLY ONE GOD!
In ancient times, people believed in many gods. Even at time of Jesus, the prevailing understanding of deity was a pantheon of gods.
People believed that hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and diseases were the wrath of angry gods. The gods had to be placated 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 brining punishments upon the community.
Science has been a great help to Christianity by revealing a single master design plan, leaving no doubt that the world is NOT run by a pantheon of gods 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 to acknowledge and obey the ONE CREATOR/DESIGNER GOD. (See 1.7.1 for the important Christian concept of one God only.)
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 let's us learn more and more over time about his creation and how it works.
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 crust. Then God began shaping the earth and putting life on it.
See 1.2 for summary of the stages of transformation.
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.
See 1.2.1 for reasons from the Bible itself why 'day' in the creation account means more than a 24-hour period.
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 which 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).
See 2.5 (soon) for discussion of how humans are made in the image of God: A human trinity (body, soul and spirit) that mirrors God's trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).