Unbeknowest to many, but beknowest to Creationists, within Creationism there are very clearly two parties: Young Earth Creationism (YEC) and Old Earth Creationism (OEC). Now, personally, I'm really neither. I'm more of an I Don't Really Care How Old The Earth Is Creationist (IDRCHOTEIC). I don't use the acronym much.
The primary reason why I am so strongly against Darwinism is that I believe that it undermines the gospel. According to the Word, Jesus Christ came down in the form of a man, died for the propitiation of humanities sin, resurrected on the Third Day, and one day is coming back to judge the quick and the dead. He did this because God wanted to save us from the effects of sin: death. However, because in Darwinism humanity came about through thousands of years of survival, death preexisted humanity, and sin. So death cannot be a result of sin, and Christ died in vain.
Thus, my issue is a theological one, not so much a Scriptural one, though I take Scripture very seriously, believing it to be the infallible revelation of God to humanity, and the highest standard for our understanding of God, ourselves, and existence. I will believe whatever I see Scripture as truly teaching. However, I will be passionate based on the issue's theological significance. I just cannot be passionate about about David using a sling to kill Goliath instead of a sword. When it comes to the age of the earth, though it be an interesting inquiry, it is theologically irrelevant. God is still God no matter how long He took to do what He did. What I am sure of is that God did not bring us into existence through evolution, but that evolution and natural selection are a result of the Fall.
But my environment disallows me from being indifferent. I must look into it. For YEC, the age of the Earth is strictly a Scriptural issue. Science is used to validate what the Scriptures say. I respect this. If what they say about Scripture is true, then I must side with them. However, I don't find the Scripture to be as clear about the issue as I would like. A lack of clarity does not mean that I must reject YEC. I must determine whether the Scripture says that the Earth is young, or whether it does not specify the age of the Earth at all.
Error or Myth
If we consider that Science says that the Earth is old, and Scripture says that the Earth is young, and then conclude that therefore Scripture is incorrect, I must disagree. I accept Scripture as always correct as an a priori.
"Well," one may ask, "what if Genesis one just isn't written in scientific language? After all, what Scripture says is meant to have spiritual meaning, and doesn't really comment on science." I disagree. The dialectic between the physical and the spiritual is a false one. Though, I admit, there is a spiritual side to things and a physical side, these do not, and cannot, oppose each other. They are both aspects of reality, and to say that one can contradict the other is to say that either the spiritual is false (Materialism) or the physical side is false (Gnosticism). Both of these go against the Christian worldview. Scripture talks about reality, and, though it doesn't use the same level of precision that we may demand today, it is far more accurate than any other text today. If Scripture says something about science, and means it as an description as to the way things physically are, we must take that as authoritative as anything else Scripture says.
Let us consider Genesis. The book is a historical book; it is describing what happened. Well shall we consider the first chapter to merely be a poetic introduction into the book? Not really, if we look at the construction of the book. It is structured as a genealogy. That's right, it does not simply contain genealogical sections, but it is a genealogy by structure. At different moments in the genealogy, the author (who I believe to be Moses) tells the life story of one of the members of this line, since this story is to have lasting consequence. One thing that is extraordinarily relevant is that God is part of this genealogy:
If we recognize that God is part of this genealogy, then we must see chapter one as God's story: the story of the first (and most important) member of the genealogy. Now, to some degree, the entire Bible is God's story, as is the entire book of Genesis. But what I mean by that here, is it is the little story focusing on God, as an aspect of the book's structure. Therefore, we must consider Genesis one to be a history, for the book understands itself to be history.
When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them "man." -Genesis 5:1b
Well, then there is the opposite approach. If we consider that Science says that the Earth is old, and Scripture says that the Earth is young, and then conclude that Science must be incorrect, then we deny the human ability to understand and postulate. This then brings into question the entire right of humanity to say anything about anything. Science is the pursuit of knowledge, scientia being the Latin word for knowledge. I believe that God intends for us to pursue knowledge and understanding, and we cannot use our theological position to impede honest scientific inquiry. (Nor should Darwinists)
Traditionally, Christianity has always believed there to be two revelations: Specific Revelation (i.e. Scripture) and General Revelation (i.e. Nature). The names mean that the Scriptures are specifically given to the Church, but Nature is given to all. But both are given to humanity to understand God. Thus, I see science as the hermeneutic of General revelation.
Where Science and Theology differ I see as a misinterpretation of either nature or the Scriptures. Where the misinterpretation is must be sought out, and never assumed to be on one side or the other.
The Day/Age Theory is very popular within OEC, so I decided to comment on it, though I won't comment on all OEC interpretations. The Day/Age Theory comes in two forms. One is the idea the the Hebrew word yom or day, can also mean age in some cases. Quite frankly, this is untrue. Yom means day. There do exist certain Hebrew colloquialisms which use the word day to refer to a time period, such as "in the day of" or "in the days of", but that's different than saying that yom can actually mean age.
The form, which I would call as the reasonable form, states that yom is used metaphorically to mean age, much like in the colloquialisms above. Though this is certainly more palatable than the above form, and more Hebraicly aware, I would still say that it is false. First of all, none of the common colloquialisms are used, which doesn't negate the possibility of metaphor, but disallows it to be insisted upon. Secondly, there is the whole issue of "and it was evening and it was morning," which is used before the naming of each day, designating that it is talking about a 24 hour period. Still, one may say, it is metaphor, with the movement from chaos to order. Still, with the consideration of day one though, with the creation of the day and the night, the text is clearly tying yom to the literal concept of day. This doesn't disprove the metaphoric version of the theory, but it leaves it stretched enough to feel forced.
POSITIONS I'M CONSIDERING
The order that I list these is not grounded importance, or personal leanings, but merely the ease of presenting the material.
When I look at the Hebrew there are two main questions that pop up. One is what is a raqia, often translated as firmament. There are only two ancient sources that use this word, Genesis one and Ezekiel 1:22. However, in both instances, there is little to give us the meaning of the word, it being used as a description, rather than the thing described. There exists nothing outside of the Bible. "Firmament" comes from the LXX. However, you will find that neither of Age of the Earth positions really deals with this question, so let's just lay it aside.
The other one involves two words that are very prominent is Scripture: erets and shamayim. Erets means land, also possessing a large breath of meaning, similar to the English word. It can mean the ground, or dirt; it can mean a stretch of land, it can the territory belonging to a nation; it can refer to the nation itself using metonymy; it can refer to the concept of land, as opposed to water or sky; and it can refer to the whole Earth. Shamayim means the heavens, and can also mean sky, much in the same way we use the world heavens.
The problem comes in the expectation that within a small passage of work, a word usually means the same thing through out, unless specified. To do otherwise either derives from some kind of rhetorical significance, such as a pun, or simply confuses the reader.
Now, Genesis 1:1 reads, in the Hebrew:
Bareshith bara elohim eth ha-shamayim veth ha-aretsor:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The problem lies in the words erets and shamayim being used elsewhere in the text. In verses 8, 14-15, and 20, shamayim clearly means sky, not the Heaven. Additionally in verses 9-10 and 24, erets clearly means land. If we assume that they always mean the same thing through the text, Genesis 1:1 should read, in the beginning God created the sky and the land.
There is another important factor in the text, namely verse two. It reads
Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness
was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
It seems to me, that verse 1:1 could be a prologue, defining what is about to be described, and that the actual planet existed beforehand. If this is the case, then, Genesis one is not describing creation ex nihilo (though I would definitely say that God created everything out of nothing which is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture), but is instead describing the forming of the earth which before hand was covered in water. Also, that this reforming took 6 literal days.
There is one big problem to this theory, and that is day four. In day four, God creates the sun, the moon, and the stars. I don't think that one could argue that the earth existed before the rest of the cosmos in an OEC way of understanding that. I heard one OEC claim that the day four is describing the clearing away of clouds, but I'm not really buying that. I don't see how that is supported by the language in the textYoung Earth
Unlike OEC, which consists of many different interpretations of Genesis one, YEC is much more monolithic. Though there exists a few different creation models, their similarities are much stronger than their differences. It assumes that Genesis one is creation ex nihilio, though I have yet to see a YEC defend that assumption. Each day is considered a literal day, and Genesis 1:1 is considered God's initial act of creation which occurs before day 1, and more specifically moments before day one.
This takes ample use of the English translations, being the most natural reading of them. I possess two main issues with it. One, I don't believe it is the most natural reading of the Hebrew. It feels overly dependant on the English translations, and since I consider the original language to possess the actual inspiration, I find this questionable. A second thing is that I have not been satisfied with most understandings of what the firmament is. Personally, I believe it to refer to the atmosphere, but even that is a difficult reading of it.
I'm not really saying that one is better than the other. I'm just saying that I'm currently debating the issue within myself. However, I also believe it to be a silly controversy, since the matter is theologically irrelevant. YEC's that are passionate about it are so because they are defending Scripture's integrity. Personally, I see Scripture's integrity as a matter of faith, and it is up to us to abide by it, but up to God to ultimately defend it. OEC's are passionate because they believe admitting to an old Earth is rhetorically necessary to defeat Darwinism. Though I agree with them that it is rhetorically beneficial and that ultimately it is not that important to the Christian perspective, I'm not willing to compromise on something just because it isn't important to me. Where is stand must be based on whether or not it is true, not whether or not it is useful.