It's Just Not Their Day.
Creation-Evolution: Is the age of the earth necessary for the gospel? How Young Earth theology does not prevent death before sin.
Before you read this entry, I encourage you to read The Origins War series—Science v. Scripture: Part 1, Young Earth Creationism: Part 2, and Evolutionary Creationism: Part 3—for proper context of my theological and scientific position on this in-house conflict.
Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia, “The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise” (c.1445). Tempera and gold on wood.
The war between Creation and Evolution is one for the ages. In my first article entitled The Origins War, I mentioned in passing that while I am not an Evolutionist and lean toward young earth views, I am also not a Young Earther per se because the age of the earth is not at the heart of the Creation-Evolution debate. But for many, it is the debate. The age of the earth is the typically seen as the main battlefield, so much so that Young Earthers identify themselves by 24-hour creation days. For Young Earthers, the belief in the age of the earth is a barometer to measure the maturity of one’s faith, yet for Old Earthers and Evolutionary Creationists the rejection of old earth flies in the face of general revelation endowed by the Creator. Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is adamant that the word translated in English as “day” (Hebrew: yôm) in Genesis 1 is necessarily a 24-hour period—no exceptions—and cannot refer to a longer day, many days, weeks, months, or years, especially not a thousand years let alone a billion. It is a literal, ordinary, generic day. I need not hash out the counterarguments here, that the same word for day in Scripture can also refer to year, season, age, moment, or an indefinite length of time; the literal meaning of yôm is entirely context dependent (i.e., genre, literary style, author intent, grammar, cf. 1 Kings 11:42; Isaiah 30:8; Deuteronomy 5:29, 6:24, 14:23, 18:5, 28:29; Genesis 43:9, 44:32). Be that as it may, many Christians are so polarized over this conflict that to believe the word yôm in Genesis 1 refers to anything but seven consecutive 24-hour days means you must affirm Evolution, billions of years, liberal theology, and death before sin. This is a false dichotomy. Simply put; even if Young Earth theology is correct, an old earth doesn’t make a lick of a difference to the gospel or Paul’s death before sin theology, not practically anyway, and if Young Earth theology is incorrect, it does not compel a belief in death before sin or Evolution. Let me explain.
YEC is properly adamant that death of any kind never existed prior to the Fall because sin was not in the world and God did not create sin, often quoting Romans as their basis, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Old earth necessarily implies death before sin, so the argument goes, because evolutionary tenets such as progress thesis and common ancestry require, by observation of the immediate natural world, that creatures die to genetically adapt through reproduction. Long story short, creatures must die to evolve. That’s the sticking point. Bear in mind, Evolutionary Creationism (EVC) contends Paul’s theology is strictly referring to human death because Christ’s sacrificial atonement was for human sin—animals were the objects of sacrifices for atonement and did not sin themselves but were nevertheless subjected to the effects of sin, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him [God] who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20-21); death, then, was restricted to animal kinds only before the Fall. Therefore, humans made in the image of God did not die before sin entered the world, according to EVCs. The quarrel is specifically over whether animal death existed before the Fall. By contrast, YECs contend that the whole world and all its creatures were not just “very good” in the beginning but “physically perfect” before the Fall. No possibility of material decay or entropy whatsoever. There was no death of any kind—death was impossible—and old earth means death.
Now—from what I’ve gathered so far from Young Earthers is that there are two ways to process this, either (a) all creatures were immortal by nature in the beginning or (b) the creation days were ordinary 24-hour days so that death would come after sin when Adam and Eve fell. The first view is not theologically desirable or scripturally sound but is the dominant view among YECs. The second view, though requiring some major fine-tuning, has some redeemable aspects.
Immortality and Physical Perfection
One of the main reasons why EVCs hold that death was restricted to animal kinds before the Fall is not because of “mainstream/secular science” or “Evolution”, though it factors in of course, but because eternal life was given to Adam and Eve alone, restricted to the fruit produced from the Tree of Life which was only in the Garden of Eden—Adam and Eve’s eternal life was sustained or given solely by the fruit of the Tree of Life. We know this to be the case because God very vividly affirms this by charging a guardian angel to protect the Tree from Adam and Eve after they sinned, presumably for their own good so they and their children would not live forever in their sin condition:
“Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
– Genesis 3:22-24
The text is clear: All creatures, whether human or animal, are not immortal by nature. Meaning all creatures are not physically perfect before the Fall. Adam and Eve’s immortality, and subsequent physical perfection, was contingent upon the Tree of Life. To teach otherwise, I believe, is clearly against the teachings of Genesis 1-3. For this reason, there could have been material decay, entropy, and animal death outside of the Garden, considering that God designed earthly creatures with the potential for death in mind. Granted, while this is technically possible given the limitations in the text, it does not mean it is true necessarily.
Now consider the implications; if creatures are immortal and physically perfect by nature, why would God create the Tree of Life? It’s pointless to do so. To add to that, if creatures are immortal, then the age of the world doesn’t matter. What is a million years to eternal creatures? If animal death did not exist for, say, 120-million-years before the Fall, and all living creatures were in perpetual perfect harmony until the Fall, what difference does it make if “everything that has the breath of life” lived for millions of years or a single day? Creatures are living forever regardless. Nothing is decaying. No one is dying. It is no longer a big concern. Heck, it is no longer a real-world concern, it’s completely hypothetical. If YEC theology were to be true, then the duration of the creation days is strictly a grammatical concern—it begs the question: Why all the pointless squabbling?! Why divide over this issue? (cf. Titus 3:9-11; 2 Timothy 2:23-26). Just call it a day. Which brings us to the second, albeit less esteemed, view.
Coming of Age with One Foot in the Grave
The problem with the second view, I think, is more of a concern for staunch Young Earthers than it is for anyone else. That the days of creation were seven consecutive ordinary 24-hour days to ensure death would come after sin, so that nothing would die before Adam and Eve sinned, necessarily means that death is not the direct result of sin but just so happened to occur after sin happened. Sin did not cause death to exist, rather death would have happened naturally irrespective of sin entering the world, given enough time. Consider the implications; if animals and humans lived long enough and did not eat from the Tree of Life, they would just die naturally even if they had not sinned. Sin is independent of death. Therefore, animals could still potentially die in a world without sin, if they, say, lived long enough or stumbled off a cliff or stepped on a mouse. Therefore, the days of creation must be ordinary 24-hour periods, so that Adam and Eve sin right away and no death happens.
Seems rather strange, no? It sounds like a race against the clock to sow the Tree of Life’s seeds across the entire world lest animals perish faster than it germinates. Then again, in Young Earth theology all creatures before the Flood had longer lifespans (i.e., humans lived near to the ripe old age of a thousand post-Fall) and were vegetarian by nature according to Genesis 1:28-30, so it is a rather slow race you could say. Even so, this view still has its complications for animal death, depending how literal and narrow you interpret the breadth of application of God’s mandate in Genesis 1:28-30. God specifically says that humans are given fruit from the plants to eat, “I have given you [humanity] every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit,” (v.29) but animals were only given the plant itself for food (v.30). If you take the text too literally, animals were not privileged with eating the fruit from the Tree of Life.
Animal Decay/Death Before Sin Regardless of Duration
The second view of potential death affects YEC’s dominant theology in the sense that decay/death is no longer impossible, it is very much possible, and that creatures are no longer physically perfect or immortal by nature but solely depend on the Tree of Life for eternal sustenance, given the physical perfection and potential health condition of animal life is never mentioned. In that respect, it’s more consistent with Scripture. Yet, I don’t think you could even say, given the mechanistic parameters of YEC specifically, that God created a world that had the potential for death through sin because the only eternal lifegiving substance was the fruit of the Tree of Life, without that fruit decay and death was a natural process independent of sin. If you don’t eat the fruit, you eventually die. The fruit was necessary to sustain earthly creatures for eternal life. What you are left with, then, is that God ‘created’ death but not sin. For that reason, you can tell why the second view is less favourable among YECs, because Paul says death came “through” sin (Romans 5:12). Granted, God did create the world with death in mind (He is all-knowing, after all). It is no news to anyone that God created earthly creatures with the capacity to kill and to eat, to decay and to die, and permitted a world of decay/death to take place when humanity fell, even so far as to design the conditions of the fallen world with natural responsive mechanisms, say, predatorial hunting (i.e., canine teeth, sharp claws), defense mechanisms (i.e., camouflage, scented spray), genetic adaptation for survival and ecological advantage (i.e., decent with modification, natural selection), et cetera, which then could include death as part of the process (cf. Job 38:39-41, 39:29-30; Psalm 104:21). And whether God intended it or predicted it is neither here nor there because He, as an eternal Being, still designed the natural mechanisms to propagate. The dilemma of natural decay and potential death before sin, outside of the Garden, persists regardless of the creation day’s duration.
Anyway, returning to what I said before, there is no textual evidence whatsoever that another Tree of Life existed outside of the Garden or that physical perfection and immortality was normal let alone natural to all creatures. There is no internal evidence or indication in the text that the Fall influenced the natural state of animal lifespan, either. It is completely silent on the issue of material decay and animal death outside of the Garden. But the text is clear that human sin caused human death, that much everyone is certain of (Romans 5:12, 6:23; James 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:21; cf. Genesis 2:17). That is all a roundabout way to say that Young Earth theology demands all creatures live forever in lieu of a Fall, a privilege not even image bearers were granted. Despite the claimed relationship, the age of the earth is just not integral to Paul’s death before sin theology or the gospel, not that I’m aware of anyway. So, debating about the length of the days is fruitless. It’s strictly a hypothetical (scientific) dispute with little to no practical value for spiritual edification. Granted, a sudden voluntary fall has far more contextual weight than a prolonged voluntary fall because it shifts the implications of the Fall from deceived to premeditative, from relatively innocent to consciously complicit; say, if the historical fall happened a thousand years after creation, Adam would certainly be held to a higher standard of culpability for having not deflected Satan’s deception with his ripe old wit, “I wasn’t born yesterday, you know”. Instead, the teaching that he very much was born yesterday-ish helps us understand why God gave humanity a temporal consequence as opposed to Satan’s eternal consequence. But no one is arguing, from what I’ve read, that Adam and Eve lived for a several years let alone a thousand years before the Fall.
Why Am I Doing This?
There is a world of a difference between believing the earth is young and Young Earth theology, the latter of which imposes mechanistic dogmatics and materialistic restraints onto the text that need not be required. And because of that, the tension is so tight right now that for some folk if Genesis 1 is not speaking of verbatim 24-hour days, then the whole Bible is a lie, and their faith with it, so that it all comes tumbling down like Babel. That’s a big weight to put on someone’s shoulders if they’re, say, young or new in the faith, one that has no practical value for living out your Christian life. By making this belief essential, even important, we’re appealing to matters that go far beyond what Scripture teaches ought to be essential, significant, and valuable for Christian witness. It only hurts. How tedious do we want to get, here? Do each of the days have to be 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.0916 seconds to the exact minutia? Sure, God could do it. But if God could make the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12-14) and rotate the earth’s orbit backward (2 Kings 20:8-11; Isaiah 38:7-8), thereby extending an ordinary day beyond its usual 24-hours timeframe and still call it a day, why is this, of all things, a top concern? So—if we continue to push to the envelope when it is not a real-world concern, we violate Paul’s advocation to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” (Titus 3:9-11; 2 Timothy 2:23-26) Genesis is the first book of the Law, lest we forget.
In this day and age, let us not conflate or sensationalize issues; there’s too much of that going on as it is. Death before sin is a vital in-house discussion that needs to be had without false dichotomies and doctrinal peer pressure from the pulpit. Death before sin completely affects the gospel, but the age of the earth has nothing to do with it.
For this reason, I am not a Young Earther.
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Matlock Bobechko | February 9, 2023 – 9:00 AM EST. Revised on February 10, 2023 – 10:22 AM EST.
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 Consider the Distant Starlight Problem for Young Earth astronomers. Simply put; since we can measure the speed of light and the distance of stars lightyears away with observable and testable accuracy, and the speed of light is what determines when we can see an object, then when we look at a star in the night, we are not actually seeing that star in the immediate moment like we would a friend nearby, we are, in fact, looking at a star from a different point in time in the history of the universe (say, billions of years ago) because that’s how long it takes for that starlight to reach our eyes. In other words, when we look at our sun in the sky, it is not our sun from now but 8 minutes ago. The explanatory scope and power of this argument is extremely compelling. This is even corroborated by astronomer and physicist Danny Faulkner, a Young Earth Creationist. Faulkner agrees that it is a problem for YEC models and admits that YEC explanations do not necessarily suffice to explain the observable data in astronomy, appealing to supernatural agency for the appearance of an old Earth. In other words, it looks old but that does not mean it is old. And at that point, this debate goes beyond the scope of science.
 Jonathan D Sarfati, Was God’s finished creation perfect? Creation Ministries International. Published on April 16, 2013. https://creation.com/creation-perfect
 Longer lifespans of humans are accounted for by a number of scientific factors, such as higher carbon dioxide and oxygen levels of the pre-Flood earth, harmful genetic mutations and genetic entropy, among other factors.
Carl Wieland, Living for 900 years. Creation International Ministries. Published in Creation 20(4):10–13, September 1998. https://creation.com/living-for-900-years
I have 4 substacks at https://substack.com/profile/98340589-len-kinder. Cataclysmic Earth History explores the major cataclysms that humanity and the biosphere have suffered through in the last 6,000 years or more. Acts 15 Church discusses progressive, optimistic religion. The former shows evidence that the Great Flood occurred about 5,300 years ago, according to the Septuagint (contrary to the Masoretic, which latter was apparently designed to deny Jesus as messiah, so they misstated some of the key dates in the Bible).
I found that the sedimentary rock record proves the Great Flood. It appears that conventional geologists have overlooked a key fact in geology since its inception. That is that sedimentary rocks are of 3 main types -- shale, limestone and sandstone -- and that they could not have been deposited gradually at separate times, since it's implausible that just one rock type would have been deposited for thousands or millions of years. The lack of erosion channels and lack of bioturbation (animal burrows) additionally show that there were no long periods of time between sediment deposits. Besides the Great Flood, there was also major flooding during the Younger Dryas impact/s, though it didn't flood the entire world, because there were higher elevations of land by then. The supercontinent during the Great Flood was all lowland, so it was easy for a flood to inundate the entire supercontinent at that time. It's likely that the Earth's surface is young, but the inner Earth is likely older, but there's no way to determine yet how old, although a friend calculated the solar system is likely under 400 million years old.
I believe "God" means universal consciousness & universal love/caring, but in the Bible it also means angels of God, i.e. angels who carried out the wishes of what they believed were "God's". This is indicated in at least two places in the Bible: 1. in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where the angel visitors were referred to as men, angels and Lord, or Lord God; 2. in the Book of Acts where Stephen tells the story of Moses and the burning bush, but instead of saying God spoke to Moses through the bush, he said an angel spoke to Moses thereby. In Acts 15 I have various posts on such topics as: All Are Saved; Jesus is our Example; There is no Permanent Hell; Acts 15 is about Unity via Unanimous Decision-making; etc.