The Bible teaches that in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them (Exodus 20:11). Until recently, nearly all Protestants regarded these as literal twenty-four hour days. Today, however, many Christian leaders deny a brief, recent creation. By means of exotic interpretations of Genesis 1-2, they seek to harmonize the Bible with the supposed “facts” of science, thereby making Scripture teach (or allow) what it does not: theistic evolution or progressive creation.1 In this article I argue that such accommodation is neither wise nor necessary, since recent creation is both important and reasonable to believe.
Why It’s Important
Theologically and pastorally, the doctrine of recent creation turns out to be surprisingly important.
First, recent creation preserves the perspicuity of Scripture. Whether friend or foe, all agree that the Bible plainly teaches a recent good creation later marred by Adam’s sin. Therefore, accommodationist views do not really help anyone. Understanding full well that Christians are merely twisting the Scriptures to align them with prevailing scientific opinion, unbelievers are inclined to dismiss Genesis as mere myth. Meanwhile, accommodation also troubles believers: if God cannot speak clearly about creation, about what else has He spoken in indecipherable myths and poems? Only if recent creation is true does the Bible speak clearly, and therefore authoritatively, to all.
Secondly, recent creation preserves the glory of God. How powerful is God if He evolved the cosmos, or created it piecemeal, rather than simply speaking it into existence (Psalm 33:8-9)? How wise, if He designed the cosmos as a home for man, but waited 15 billion years to situate him in it (Isaiah 45:18)? And how good, if for aeons He riddled it with natural evil—decay, biological trial and error, violence, bloodshed, sickness, suffering, death and extinction—and then told us that He did not (Genesis 1:31; Psalm 145:9)? Intuitively, we expect a wise, powerful, and good creator. Only recent creation gives us one.
Thirdly, recent creation preserves the infrastructure of the entire biblical worldview. There is no overstating the importance of this point, for here the Gospel itself is at stake. Fundamentally, the Bible is the story of two men and two worlds. Through the sin of the first man a great host of spiritual and physical enemies enter a good universe that is henceforth laid under a curse (Genesis 1:31, 3:1ff; Romans 5:12, 8:20). Through the righteousness of the last man, that same host is driven out, leaving (for all who are in Him by faith) a universe that is henceforth (and forever) filled with the glory of God (Romans 5, 8:21; Revelation 21).
Accommodationist views shatter this simple, highly supernatural picture, raising many troubling questions. If God created natural evil before Adam, will He do so again after Christ returns? If He used evolutionary processes to create, might He also use evolutionary processes to redeem? Perhaps the Bible really is an archaic religious poem, hinting darkly at a mystery revealed only in modern times by (secular) science: salvation by theistic or pantheistic evolution. Against all such heresy recent creation stands impassable, a mighty bulwark for the true biblical worldview.
We see, then, that recent creation is important. But is it really reasonable for modern man to believe it?
Why It’s Reasonable
A recent six-day creation is by far the most natural reading of Genesis 1-2. Though some ancient interpreters, following Augustine, viewed creation as instantaneous, many did not. Returning to the Scriptures themselves, the Reformers and their successors all embraced the literal six-day view, as is clear from the Westminster Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession. Pressured by the widespread acceptance of cosmic evolution, later interpreters have balked at following in their father’s footsteps. But the chapters themselves, together with the book in which they appear, block the way.
Manifestly, Genesis is a history book. Here God gives us an inspired history of the “generations” (i.e., the beginnings) of the universe, life, man, sin, the flood-stricken face of the earth, the nations and their languages, and God’s plan of redemption, soon to be administered through the family of Abraham. Chapters 1-2, just like the rest of the book, read as history and are meant as history. Yes, it is beautifully structured history, but it is not simply a beautiful (or polemical) poem.
In these chapters the evidence for a recent creation abounds. Here the writer defines a creation-day in terms of “evening and morning.” Whenever the OT does so (61 times), the day is literal. Also, through the use of the descriptor “evening and morning,” the writer affirms that the length of the days prior to the creation of the sun was identical with that of the days after it. Moreover, we notice that the author repeatedly uses the word “day” with a number. Whenever the OT does so (410 times), again the days are literal. And if there were any remaining doubt about the matter, God himself supplies the decisive testimony, for in Exodus 20:11 He explicitly identifies the days of the human work week with those of the divine. Thus, both text and OT context support the traditional view of a recent six-day creation.2 Exegetically, is it reasonable to look for another?
Importantly, Christ and the apostles all presupposed the historicity of the Genesis cosmogony (Genesis 1-11), referred to it often (68 times), and explicitly or implicitly affirmed recent creation.3 We saw above that recent creation is essential for Paul’s entire worldview (i.e., his cosmogony, anthropology, hamartology, soteriology, and eschatology). But he is only following his Master, who also affirmed it (see John 8:44). Especially impressive on this score are the Lord’s words concerning marriage: “From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). In Jesus’ mind, Adam and Eve were no cosmic latecomers. Since he is the Alpha and the Omega, we should take him at his word.
Because recent creation is the teaching of the whole Bible, it is further confirmed by all the evidences for the Bible’s divine inspiration. These are many and weighty: the Bible’s Christ-centered unity, its hundreds of fulfilled types and prophecies, its historical accuracy, the testimony (and sacrifices) of its several authors, its life-changing power, its civilizing influence, the teaching of the risen Christ, and the witness of the Spirit of truth. With so much evidence for an inspired Bible, it would be quite unreasonable not to believe its inspired testimony concerning recent creation.
Scientific Confirmation of Recent Creation
Finally, recent creation is confirmed, though not proven, by miscellaneous scientific evidences. This distinction is important. The origin of the universe, life, and man are unique historical events, hidden in the unobservable past. Therefore, being shut up to the human present, natural science cannot see, reveal, or prove them.4 But God can, since He was there. He can tell us (something of) what He saw, help us to understand it, and assure us (prove to us, bear witness to us) that our understanding is correct. Always remember: Certain knowledge about the beginning comes only by revelation and illumination from God.
In a perfect world, all men would receive God’s revelation and interpret present phenomena accordingly (e.g., starlight, fossilized sedimentary layers, similarities between man and apes, etc.). In the real world, however, sinful men often spurn it, using uncertain presuppositions and equivocal phenomena to develop their ever-changing cosmological opinions, opinions they want the rest of us to receive as revealed truth (Romans 1:18, 8:7)!
This situation demands great caution. Yes, Christians may reasonably expect present phenomena to confirm biblical cosmology. And as a matter of fact they do, frequently and reassuringly. But even if they did not, believers must never subordinate divine truth to mere human observation, interpretation, and speculation. This was the epistemological disaster of the Enlightenment. We dare not repeat it. Our conscience, and our cosmology, must be captive to the Word of God.
Happily, it is easy to show that the vast majority of “cosmic chronometers” (i.e., natural phenomena indicating the age of things) confirm recent creation. Unhappily, here I can only mention a few out of dozens. If the universe is old (and the standard evolutionary scenario is true), nearby spiral galaxies such as Andromeda should have wound themselves up into amorphous clusters of stars long ago. Solar wind and the Poynting-Robertson effect should have eliminated the cloud of dust particles near the sun. Meteorites in the earth’s crust should be far more abundant. The earth’s molten core should be cool, and its decaying magnetic field long gone. Atmospheric helium should be 2,000 times more abundant. Ocean mineral deposits (e.g., salt) and river sediments should be vastly more abundant. Preserved red blood cells and hemoglobin, recently found in unfossilized dinosaur bones, should be dust. People (and people’s bones) should be piled to the mountaintops! In these and many other such cases, physical reality speaks up for recent creation.
But what of the chronometers that seem to give an old age for things? Observe in the following discussion how these phenomena are either equivocal or actually turn out to support the creation model.
Geology: Sedimentary, fossil-bearing strata indicate old age only if the strata were laid down slowly by uniform processes. There is, however, much evidence to indicate that they were laid down suddenly, apparently by a global flood (Genesis 6-9). This includes soft-tissue fossils, polystrate fossils, delicate imprints on top of strata, the absence of embedded life and chemical erosion on top of strata, warped and folded strata, etc. Further evidence for a global flood includes vast animal graveyards (even in the arctic regions), marine fossils and pillow lava on mountaintops (pillow lava only forms under water), the Grand Canyon (both layers and cut), and over 200 flood legends found all over the world.
Radiometric Dating: Accurate dating of igneous rocks by the measurement of isotopic decay is possible only if we know the exact amount of the parent isotope originally present in the rock, that its rate of decay was constant, and that the system remained closed (i.e., unaffected by water, heat, pressure, etc.). With so many unknowns and variables (e.g. God’s creation rest, the Curse, the Flood, etc.), it is hardly surprising that radioactive dating gives an uncertain sound. For example, in one study the potassium/argon method dated Grand Canyon rocks at ten thousand to 117 million years. The rubidium/strontium method put them at 1.27 to 1.39 billion years, and the lead/lead-isochron method at 2.6 billion years! Also, recent creationist research confirms that decay rates of at least some isotopes have indeed slowed drastically, thereby supplying at least a partial explanation of why very young rocks can appear to be very old.5
Starlight and Time: Starlight from (supposedly) distant galaxies indicates a vast age for the universe only if the stars really are very far away, the light we now see actually emanated from them, space does not significantly affect its speed or trajectory, and “c” (the speed of light) has always been constant. By and large, naturalists make all these assumptions. Biblical theists, however, with an eye to the Scriptures, mull other exciting possibilities. For example, perhaps God, on Day Four, created not only the stars, but also cords of light connecting them with the newborn earth (and each other): Man and the animals were created with an appearance of age, so why not the stars? Perhaps c was very high during the fourth, fifth, and sixth day of creation, but slowed on the seventh, or after Adam’s fall, or gradually over time. Perhaps the physics of space make near objects in a small universe appear far away in a large universe. Since the Bible does not explicitly endorse any of these hypotheses, it is unlikely we will ever be sure about which one, or ones, is true. Nevertheless, we can be sure that with God all things are possible—even the creation of a luminous star-laden universe in six literal days.
Summing up, we find that recent creation is both important and reasonable. Let us therefore believe and proclaim what God has said. This is will strengthen the faith of the Church, energize her Gospel witness, strike an effectual blow at the dominant intellectual idol of our age (cosmic evolution), and give real hope to earnest seekers of cosmological truth. It will also bless our wise heavenly Father, who is pleased to use the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and the things that have no standing at all to nullify the things that do.6, 7
- For a critique of heterodox views of creation see Henry and John Morris, The Modern Creation Trilogy (Master Books), Vol. 1, pp. 35-63.
- For further discussion on the OT doctrine of creation see Don Batten, ed., The Revised Answers Book (Master Books), pp. 33-56. Other OT texts implying recent creation: Psalm 33:6-9, Isaiah 45:18.
- See Matthew 23:35, 24:21, 37-39; Mark 2:27, 10:6-8; Luke 3:23-38; John 8:44; Romans 1:20, 5:12-21, 8:19-22; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 15:20-22, 45-49; 1 Timothy. 2:13-14; Hebrews 11:1-7; 1 Peter 3:18ff; 2 Peter 3:5-6; 1 John 3:12; Revelation 2:7, 22:2, 14.
- For this reason, so-called “origins science” is not really science at all. Scientists can hypothesize about the past, but they cannot observe it or experiment upon it. Happily, present physical evidence of past events decisively contradicts evolution, even as it abundantly confirms creation, and creation of the recent kind. But again, there can be no question of proving either view from science. Only divine revelation and illumination can do that.
- Carl Wieland, “Radiometric Dating Breakthroughs,” Creation Magazine, March-May, 2004. Also, see chapters 7 and 9 in The New Answers Book, which deal with carbon and radiometric dating.
- For further study on this profoundly important topic, see Walt Brown, In the Beginning (Center for Scientific Creation, 7th Edition); John Byl, God and Cosmos (Banner of Truth); Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise (Master Books); Jonathan Sarfati, The Genesis Account (Creation Book Publishers), and Dean Davis, In Search of the Beginning (Redemption Press)
- Theologians—and especially those of Reformed persuasion—will receive much help on this subject by visiting the blog of Dr. John Byl. Also, the websites of Answers in Genesis, Creation Ministries International, and the Institute for Creation Research supply excellent materials on the doctrine of creation, and on general apologetics as well.