The typical traditional Christian belief – at least the publicly stated belief – is that the entire universe was created in six 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago. A recent Gallup Poll shows that 68% of weekly church attenders still believe this short timeline.
The basis for this belief is Genesis 1 – the first chapter in the Bible – which says that God created everything in six 'days,' presumed to be 24-hour calendar days.
Traditional Christians believe that humans have been on earth since the beginning of time (first week).
For centuries, without questioning, this is what children have been taught in Sunday School and adults have been taught from the pulpit.
The universe began with the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. Life on earth first appeared about four billion years ago and has been evolving ever since. Some think it all happened by 'natural selection' without God, and others think it happened at God's direction, but all doubters agree that the formation process was longer than six days.
Doubters – like nearly everyone except traditional Christians – believe that humans have come on the scene only relatively recently in the long history of life on earth.
'Stupid' is a harsh word but used often by doubters and unbelievers to express what they think of hard-line Christians with respect to knowledge of science and history.
They can't understand why any educated person today could still believe that humans were already on earth just five days after the Big Bang and lived in same time and place as dinosaurs. They think these kind of Christians must be 'brainwashed' by their church and are probably indoctrinated beyond reason regarding other matters, too.
The primary reason why getting it right about geological time is important is because it reflects on credibility of the Bible in the minds of educated people.
People will think that if the Bible is wrong about when life began, the Bible is probably wrong about other matters, too. If the Bible isn't trustworthy regarding our origin, it isn't trustworthy regarding our destiny either. If Christians don't have it right about physical matters, they probably don't have it right about spiritual matters either.
There are two ways that God reveals truth to us: Nature (general revelation) and the Bible (special revelation). What God reveals in nature cannot contradict what he reveals in Scripture, and vice versa, because God does not contradict himself.
Now we encounter the word 'day' (of creation) which seems to cause a major contradiction between what science has proven and what the Bible says. Either (a) science is wrong or (b) the Bible is wrong or (c) our interpretation of the Bible is wrong. Which is it? Finding the answer is the purpose of this Bible study.
The Bible is it's own best interpreter. The deep study on this topic shows, right from the Bible itself, direct from the Genesis 1 creation account, that the word 'yom' should be understood to mean a long indefinite period of time.
Centuries ago, the young earth concept became a part of church creeds. For example, the Westminister Confession (written 1647 but still extensively used) states that the earth was created 'in the space of six days.' Whenever a concept becomes imbedded in formal doctrine in church denominations and seminaries, it becomes almost like heresy within the group to even question it, even in light of new information.
In earlier times – especially hundreds of years ago – it was necessary to travel to specialized libraries in various cities of the world to thoroughly research a subject like this because ordinary libraries did not have the needed books and documents. But now almost all universal knowledge is available to everyone on the Internet, and today we know much more than in years past.
An erroneous interpretation of the ancient Hebrew word 'yom' makes Christians seem uninformed at best, stupid at worst, and this is a handicap in presenting the gospel.
This single Hebrew word 'yom' – investigated in Micro Topic 1.2.1 on this site – has created a huge barrier to Christian faith.
Micro Topic 1.2.1 is a study of the text in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, the biblical account of creation. The study shows that 'day' in this creation context means a long indefinite period of time.
Click to see TEN REASONS for believing that creation 'day' is longer than 24 hours:
The Bible gives the order of first appearance of various life forms but does not give actual times or time spans.
The essential order summarized in the table above, from the Bible, is confirmed by cosmologists, geologists, biologists and archaeologists.
It is unlikely that the ancient writer of Genesis could have known this method and sequence without special knowledge from God.
Now modern science is filling in the time blanks, and a re-reading of Genesis 1 opens our eyes to new understanding of God's unfolding master plan.
In the English translation of Genesis 1, each stage of creation is called a 'day'. In the original Hebrew language in which the biblical account was written, the word is 'yom' (pronounced like home).
Just as in English, Hebrew 'yom' usually means a 24-hour period but can also mean a long indefinite period, depending upon context (as we say, this is day of the jet plane, this is the day of social media, etc.).
In 2 Peter 3:8, the Apostle shows how day can be used as a time variable: 'But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.'
Some traditional Christians say that the earth is not actually old but just looks old, that it was created about 6,000 years ago with built-in apparent age. See Micro Topic 1.2.3 for the fatal flaw in the apparent age theory.
'Evolution' is an emotionally charged word for some Christians. It frequently implies a universe that happened by itself without God.
Actually, biological 'evolution' just means the process of gradual change that takes place over many generations, during which species of plants, animals and other life forms slowly arise, change physical characteristics and eventually die out.
More than 99% of all species that have ever lived on earth are estimated to have died out. We know this from archaeological finds, and we observe hundreds of species dying out every year.
Basically, there are two principal ways people think about evolution:
And, viewed from another perspective, there are two ways people think about theistic evolution:
More than 99% of all species that have ever lived on earth are estimated to have died out. This is clearly evident from archaeological finds, and we now observe hundreds of species dying out every year.
Evolution is a fact of life. Even staunchest traditional Christians believe that there is at least some degree of evolution at work in nature around us. They regard it as 'micro evolution' that operates within small sub-classifications of plants and animals. Some degree of evolution is indisputable, but how much?
Genesis 1 tells where the evolution lines are drawn, corresponding to the 'days,' and it names the categories, as diagrammed above.
Each category is more complex than the one that precedes it ... no life, then life ... reproduction from seeds, then eggs, then live birth ... ultimately humans. Each category is necessary in the food chain for support of the next category.
Common observation confirms that a stone never turns into a bush ... a bush never turns into a fish ... a fish never turns into a bird ... a bird never turns into an animal ... an animal never turns into a human.
The categories are walled. There is evolution within categories, but not between categories.
Humans are becoming larger, stronger and smarter, but the Bible says that humans are not evolving into a higher form of life on earth. The six 'days' (stages) of new creation have ended. Humans are God's crowing creation.
The only thing higher for us is eternal life in a new and better realm of existence, offered through Jesus, as explained throughout this site.
The qualities that most separate humans from animals are NOT evolutionary, such as laughter, music, art, mathematics, language and worship. These qualities are unique to humans, created into us, not evolved into us, and not found in any other creatures.
Man (generic) is not an improved animal. Genesis 1:26 says that God made man in his own image, and we have God-like qualities.
Like God, man is a trinity: body (physical), soul (mind, will and emotion) and spirit (connection to God), to be studied later in Topic 2.5.
Evolutionary theory is limited to body and has no way of coping with soul and spirit, no way of dealing with the total person.
The biblical account of the six 'days' of creation is short and simple, all in the first chapter of Genesis. It was written for and by ancient people who had no understanding of modern science.
The story speaks only about things that were known and observed by them at that time. For example, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams were teeming with plankton then as now, a primary essential ingredient in the marine food chain. But because plankton can be seen only under a microscope, ancients had no idea of their existence, and therefore we would not expect the Bible to mention unseen plankton any more than to mention extinct dinosaurs.
The Bible story tells just enough to show principle features. It is not a detailed story because people then could not understand what we know now.
Even with access to today's vast scientific knowledge, most weekly church attenders still believe that the universe was created less than 10,000 years ago in six 24-hour days. (Gallup Poll has been tracking this for 36 years.)
People who try to squeeze God's majestic creation into six calendar days create unnecessary contradictions. Those same people usually have no trouble believing that continents were formed by shifting tectonic plates (extremely long time!) and that much of the earth's surface was carved by glaciers (extremely long time!). In the beginning were was just one continent (Pangea), and there have been at least five ice ages (with ice more than a mile thick). How then can this person say, if thinking, that all this happened in a week, or at least within the last 10,000 years?
Plate tectonics. Some things are so large that we don't think of them as evolving. The surface of the earth, for example, is slowly and constantly being reshaped by tectonic plates of crust 5-20 miles thick, floating on molten rock. The sheets collide, cause earthquakes, reshape continents and form mountains. The plates move over vast distances, but at a speed of only and inch or two per year.
Just as evolution works on huge things like tectonic plates and glaciers, so it works on small things like bacteria and coronavirus.
There are now about 10 million species of life on earth that can be seen with the naked eye, but when microorganisms are taken into account, researchers say that the earth might be home to a staggering one trillion species.
Bacteria. Bacteria are the smallest – and perhaps the oldest – creatures on earth. They are single cell, too small to see without a microscope. Bacteria are everywhere, including soil and air. There about 10 trillion bacteria in the human body, and they evolve (mutate) rapidly. Most bacteria are good for the body and essential for human survival, but some (we call them germs) are bad.
Viruses. Even more amazing are viruses, smaller than bacteria; some good, some bad. Unlike bacteria, they do not reproduce by themselves, but they quickly evolve into new forms so that, upon entering a host cell (as a human body), a bad virus can cause the cell to reproduce the intruder's DNA or RNA, resulting in serious infection and disease or even death for the host.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging widely in severity. MERS-CoV, SARS-Cov and COVID-19 are coronaviruses. Because they evolve rapidly – sometimes in hours or days – they can appear suddenly as new deadly species that medical science does not know how to attack.
For most people, the most disastrous world-changing event in our lifetime thus far is COVID-19 ... the rapid evolution of a single microscopic virus and the day in late 2019 when it first entered a human cell. Pandemic is an example of evolution.