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 us! 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. They 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 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 theory (explanation) of 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'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 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 3,000 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.
Until recently – about 60 years ago – 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 (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 that 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:
➤ 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, beause 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 Copernicius that the earth revolves around he 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, scientists fought the Bible's teaching that the universe had a beginning. They claimed for centuries that the universe has always existed (solid state theory), and they scoffed at Christians and the Bible for being wrong.
Eventually Christians accepted the fact that the world is not flat and stationary ... and scientists now (since the 1980's) accept the fact that the universe had a beginning.
Conflicts in wording and understanding are usually resolved over time as we get more facts, but in the meantime there have been many unnecessary battles that have undermined confidence in the Bible.
Today, good study of both the Bible and modern 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 the 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. 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 bringing 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 or not to acknowledge and obey the ONE designer-creator 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 Bible 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).
Topic 2.5 (coming soon) will investigate from scripture 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).