Recently Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Ken Ham at the Creation Museum on evolution. This debate has brought up some very awkward issues for me. As a Christian who believes that the earth is billions of years old, I am surrounded by people who were raised in the church who believe that the Bible teaches that our planet is 5000 years old. Since my friends know that I am scientifically educated, they expect me to reassure them that Ken Ham is correct in his assertion that the evidence indicates the earth is 5000 years old. It hurts to disappoint them, but I must because the evidence for the age of the earth is overwhelmingly in favor of Bill Nye and not at all in favor of Ken Ham.
How do I know this? Most Christians assume that the only way to know the age of the Earth is through radiometric dating and other arcane methods, but there are several very obvious evidences for the age of creation.
When you go outside and look at the night sky, the first thing you will notice is the moon. The many large craters that scar its surface are the most obvious and ubiquitous features of all of creation. They have been seen by human beings all over the earth for thousands of years. Where did they come from?
If God created the Solar System out of interstellar dust, then the impact craters on Mars, the moon and the moons of Jupiter make enormous sense. Many different bodies were formed during the early stages of planet formation and the smaller bodies collided with the larger ones. The only explanation Ken Ham and other young earth creationists have for lunar craters is that God was so angry during the flood or the fall that he caused impacts on the earth, on the moon and all over the solar system with the explosive power of billions of tons of dynamite and didn’t even bother to mention that fact in the Bible.
There are other obvious evidences for the age of creation as well. We can see stars which are millions of light years away. We can drill ice cores that show hundreds of thousands of melting and freezing cycles. We can use tree ring evidence from dead trees to go back thousands of years before Ken Ham says the Earth even existed. But none of this overwhelming evidence makes any difference to Ken Ham. What should make a difference to him is that he is wrong on theological grounds.
Why do I believe that Ken Ham is wrong on theological grounds? Firstly because his simplistic interpretation of the Bible is blasphemous and secondly because it contradicts what one would expect if one reads the Bible with understanding. While I have outlined my case as to why other Christians have blasphemed God with their interpretation of the Old Testament in previous essays (see The Greatest Sins in Human History, Bad Theology Part 1: Adam in the Garden), I haven’t yet discussed why I think it is foolish to interpret the Genesis creation week as 168 hours. Let us do so now:
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (Matthew 11:25).
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
In the context of these verses, let us imagine that I am going to formulate a scientific experiment to determine if God created human beings and establish the truth of the Bible with certainty. If Christianity were true, what would we expect the results of such an experiment to be? According to Ken Ham, we should expect to see a straightforward verification of the Genesis creation account and a 6000 year old earth. But does this really make any sense?
As the Bible makes clear, God is truthful and his nature would prevent him from deceiving us. At the same time his purpose for humanity requires that we must believe in him by faith. How could one reconcile these two conflicting priorities? Is it crazy to think that God may have created us in such a way as those who are looking for reasons not to believe will find them while those who want to believe must have faith?
As a scientist, I believe that the evidence for God’s hand in creation is overwhelming. From the evidence for an absolute beginning to time and space that we find in the Big Bang, to the evidence of fine-tuning we find when we look at the constants that are found in the laws of physics, to the evidence of divine guidance we find when studying DNA sequences, there is plenty of evidence of divine providence. As Hugh Ross makes clear in the book that started me on my Christian journey, God’s fingerprints are all over creation. At the same time, the enormous age of the universe gives atheists a basis for their faith and requires faith of those of us who choose to believe in Jesus Christ.