How Old Is the Universe? From a Christian Perspective

March 23, 2020 4 Comments

How Old Is the Universe? From a Christian Perspective

We will be discussing the question, "How old is the universe?"

Cosmology is the study of the origin and development of the universe.

We will also be discussing the age of the earth, in addition to the age of the universe, all from a Christian perspective.

The observable universe is vast.  Well that is an understatement.

As a Christian, there are two schools of thought on this topic, one is called Young Earth Creation (YEC) and the other is called Old Earth Creation (OEC).

We will be covering BOTH in this blog post.

Here is a Table of Contents to help you navigate.

  • Young Earth
  • Old Earth
  • YOM
  • OECs believe in Jesus like anyone else
  • Augustine
  • Bishop Ussher
  • Theistic Evolution
  • Cosmology, Geology and Carbon Dating
  • The Appearance of Age
  • In Conclusion
  • Young Earth

    Young Earth Creationists (YECs) are those who believe in a Genesis account of creation that refers to 6 24-hour days. 

    Days of creation - How Old is the Universe?

    When Moses, who is generally seen as the one who wrote the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament in the Bible) is recording these "creation" events, he records it using the language of "Day 1, Day, Day 3," etc. 

    YECs believe that each of these days is a 24-hour day.

    Old Earth

    OECs believe that each one of these days is referring to a period of time (in most cases, NOT 24 hours).

    Here's where they get this idea (and this is super important).

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    YOM

    The word that is used in the book of Genesis, to refer to 'day', is the Hebrew word 'yom'. 

    Yom - How Old Is the Universe?

    The definition of this word is 'a collection of' or a time period.

    So literally, the Genesis account reads, "On collection 1, on collection 2," and so on.

    Now in almost all cases in the Bible, when there is a number next to the word ‘yom’ it is referring to a 24-hour day, but not in ALL cases in the bible.

    So OECs would say that Moses (who again was recording these events), who lived in around 1450 BC, was NOT recording events (whether you are YEC or OEC) that he was seeing firsthand take place.

    Moses - How Old Is the Universe?

    God was showing him a series of past events that he was recording for historical reference.

    So whether you are YEC (believing the universe is 6,000 to 10,000 years old), or OEC (believing the universe is much older, possibly even billions of years old), Moses is still there seeing past events that he did NOT live in.

    So God is showing Moses a collection of events.

    The universe - How Old Is the Universe?

    He tells him, “On collection 1 (day 1),” these things happened, “on collection 2” (day 2 or ‘yom’ 2), these things happened.

    OECs believe in Jesus like anyone else

    Now for YECs, it is important to understand that these OECs are STILL Christians, they are people who believe in Jesus, believe that He died for them on the cross, and are, in most cases, living their lives to make His name great.

    I would like to make one thing clear here at the outset as we are beginning to lay down the ground work.

    Many YECs would say that the only reason OECs began thinking this way is because those Christians are trying to adjust and fit their worldview in with the finds of modern science.

    Evolution - How Old Is the Universe?

    BUT, it is noteworthy to point out that long before Charles Darwin came out with The Origin of Species (Darwinian Evolution – 1859), theologians had already been proposing this idea that the days of the creation account could be referring to longer periods of time versus 6 literal 24-hour days.

    What am I referring to?

    Saint Augustine.

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    Augustine

    In the 4th century AD, Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the most famous early Christian fathers in church history, made this same claim.

    His writings, at the very least, convey that he struggled with this question.

    For more on Augustine, check out this blog post by Christianity Today:

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/theologians/augustine-of-hippo.html

    St. Augustine of Hippo - How Old Is the Universe?

    So where did we get the idea that the universe was 6,000 to 10,000 years old?

    Bishop Ussher

    Well, Bishop Ussher (1581-1656 - pictured below) basically went through all the ages mentioned in the Bible, added them up, and came up with a creation date of October 27, 4004 BC.

    Bishop Ussher - How Old Is the Universe?

    But I think it is important to keep in mind that this was not something that was a DECIDED fact of church history dating all the way back to the time of Christ, as we again see with the example of Augustine.

    Again, the idea of an older universe was not something that was just birthed after 1859 to try to keep up with the breakthroughs of science.

    OEC Christians still love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

    I say that because I remember when I first started hearing Christians bring up the possibility of an old earth (before I understood what the word literally means, and the history behind this belief), I used to scream, “HERESY, HERESY!”

    Heretics - How Old Is the Universe?

    Now, of course, I am much more open to hearing both sides of the argument (as both sides have good cases to consider).

    But again, I didn’t understand that the word for day (the Hebrew word ‘yom’) literally means ‘a collection of’.

    So again, YECs believe that the Genesis creation account is referring to 6 literal 24-hour days, and that the universe is around 6,000 to 10,000 years old.

    If you want to learn more about the YEC position, I suggest you check out Ken Ham's website:

    https://answersingenesis.org/

    OECs believe that the universe could be much older (multiple thousands, or millions, or even billions of years old (as the cosmological data seem to point to)).

    OECs believe that each day represented a period of time that God was showing him that he was recording.

    Now, of course, God could have created the world in 6 days, he could have done it in 6 seconds (GOD IS GOD), so it is not a question of how long He could have created it in, but a question of what actually happened.

    God holding the universe together - How Old Is the Universe?

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    Theistic Evolution

    Now it’s important to note that OECs are not necessarily Darwinian Evolutionists either.

    Darwinian evolutionists generally believe in common descent, meaning all of life evolved from a common ancestor, a single-celled amoeba.

    These type of Theists are called Theistic Evolutionists. 

    I won’t get in to this too much, but if you want a DOOR STOP (1,000-plus pages) of a book to read on the subject, I recommend the book, Theistic Evolution by J.P. Moreland, Stephen Meyer, and others, which refutes this idea that we still evolved from or had common ancestors with chimpanzees.

    Theistic Evolution - How Old Is the Universe?

    The problem with believing in Darwinian Evolution, as a Christian (Theistic Evolution) is that the Bible says that God created us in His image, but that starts to lose its meaning if you believe we ‘evolved from monkeys’ or other lower life forms.

    OECs do NOT necessarily believe in Darwinian evolution (that all of life basically evolved from bacterial slime) but that God created at different times.

    So again, OECs believe that God created each group of life in different eras of time, but that He still created them separately. 

    Some OECs, like Dr. John Lennox, the author of Seven Days that Divide the World, believe that between Genesis 1:1 (In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth), and Genesis 1:2 (Now the earth was formless and void…) a long period of time passed (possibly billions of years).

    Genesis 1:2 - How Old Is the Universe?

    I am just trying to familiarize you with some of the different beliefs of Christians and what they mean.

    Cosmology, Geology and Carbon Dating

    Now one could say that all of Cosmology (again, the science of the origin and development of the universe) as well as Geology (the study of rock formation) seem to point to an old earth, that the universe is MUCH older than 6 to 10,000 years old.

    However, YECs will say that is because God created the universe with the appearance of age.

    They would also point to issues of carbon dating that have happened or issues of radiometric dating, to show that they are not always accurate and could be wrong.

    Carbon Dating - How Old Is the Universe?

    There are trees that have been planted that are only decades old, which go through a tumultuous event (like a hurricane) and show to be much, much older, with carbon dating.

    Here is a video of Kent Hovind, someone who has been involved in the Young Earth movement for decades, as he explains why he believes Carbon dating is flawed:

    If you would like more content from Dr. Hovind, go to:

    https://drdino.com/

    And here is one from Dr. Ken Ham on radiometric dating for a fuller YEC understanding:

    And so YECs would of course point to the FLOOD, and say that this is the reason that things appear so old.

    Noah's Ark - How Old Is the Universe?

    But OECs would say that this same carbon dating that you are wanting to discount is the same carbon dating used to date all the biblical archaeological discoveries which prove the New Testament to be so fantastic.

    The Appearance of Age

    Again, YECs would also say that God created the universe with the appearance of age.

    Just as God didn’t create Adam and Eve as little babies (but with the appearance of age), God also created the universe with the appearance of age.

    Adam and Eve - How Old Is the Universe?

    So where do we (Welcome to Truth) stand on this issue? 

    Honestly, we are still figuring it out.

    It is an important thing to look into, BUT even the top proponents for YEC (people like Ken Ham) will say that it is NOT a salvific issue (does not send you to heaven or hell).

    Again, I do think that it is very important, but I think it is not a CRIME to say that the jury is still out on it.

    I used to believe much more YEC growing up in the church because that’s what I thought was the only option, but after learning what the word for day (yom) literally means, and that some early church fathers (like St. Augustine of Hippo) were considering this back in the 4th century, I realized it is not as black and white as some paint it out to be.

    Angry man - How Old Is the Universe?

    Now I know some are going to be very angry with this answer, but I believe there are good reasons on both sides to consider, and I think it is up to each one of us to look at the evidence.

    Could it be that God created the entire universe in 6 24-hour days? I certainly think He is capable.  He could have created it in 6 seconds.

    Could He have just created the universe with the appearance of age?  It is possible.

    But is that what happened?

    We don’t really know.  We weren’t there (none of us (including Moses)).

    We don’t know when exactly it was created, but we do KNOW WHO created it, and we know that God created US in His image.

    Jesus Christ - How Old Is the Universe?

    And THAT is what I think is most important (although I do think the rest is an important issue to study as well).

    In Conclusion

    I think it is important for you to know that you CAN still be a bible-believing Christian and believe that the universe is older than 6,000 to 10,000 years old (as Augustine believed), and vice versa.

    And if we could get passed this point, knowing that none of us were there (including the writer (probably Moses)), and knowing that the word for day is 'yom', which could refer to a 24-hour day, or it could refer to a longer collection of time, then we could really start to see, together (OECs and YECs) how much evidence there is that points to God and points to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

    Maybe both sides are wrong; maybe its 30,000 years, or a bit less, or much more.

    Now we want to turn it over to you!

    What did you learn in this blog post? Was it that Old Earth Creationists (OECs) even existed, or that the direct translation of the word for day (in Hebrew (YOM)) actually means 'a collection of'?

    Let us know in the comments section below.

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    4 Responses

    Jonathan
    Jonathan

    April 13, 2020

    Thank you, Gregory. I will be glad to take a look at that site when I get a chance. I am also always on the look-out for other GREAT YEC resources and books if you have any suggestions. Thanks!

    Gregory Houghtaling
    Gregory Houghtaling

    April 13, 2020

    Stochastic Electrodynamics or SED is based on 1911 and 2nd paper of Maxwell Planck Vs his 1901 paper. Including 2013 plasma physics discovery we have a plausible YEC model. Barry Setterfield’s GSR (genesis science research) site is a great place to find this information. Please consider adding this information as it is a better explanation that God created the universe to look old…

    Jonathan
    Jonathan

    April 04, 2020

    Thanks Christopher, I will check it out!

    Christopher Bozung
    Christopher Bozung

    April 03, 2020

    You should check out Young Biosphere Creationism:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1864258817183394/

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