The Bible And Time
by Jesse L. Smith
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“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” – 2 Peter 3:5-6
When Charles Darwin traveled to America it is not surprising that he would be captivated by the majestic beauty of the Grand Canyon. Looking down those craggy stratified walls at a stream faintly meandering along the bottom inspired the question – how old must this be? Assuming the stream cuts through the rock at a rate of several centimeters per year, an immediate mental calculation would place the time required to form the Grand Canyon at countless millions of years. Like any other age estimate however, the validity of a result is only as good as the assumptions that go into it. For example, do we really know that the Grand Canyon was formed only by water cutting through the rock over countless eons? And if this were the case, how can we be sure that the rate at which the water cut through the rock has always been constant? Unfortunately most of our age estimates depend on the great assumption that everything has always been the way things are now.
This type of thinking, otherwise known as ‘uniformitarianism’ is exactly what the Apostle Peter said would characterize the thinking of people in the last days. The reason for this thinking is not so much that people are interested in natural history, but rather that people are interested in justifying personal lifestyles without having to retain God in their thoughts. From my experience there are two types of people when it comes to discussions of God and Science. There are those who are genuinely interested in truth, and who are willing to tackle tough questions in an objective manner; and there are those who want to hold on to tough questions – and would rather that they not be answered at all! Those in the second class are what the Apostle Peter called ‘willingly ignorant’ that the world has not always been the way it is now.
For those in the first class, the Bible makes no direct claims about the age of the Universe – but it does make claims of events that would drastically alter age estimates under uniformitarian thinking. For example when fossils of ocean life are found high in the mountains, under uniformitarian thinking we would have to assume that they got there through the slow shifting of earth’s plates bringing what was once submerged to the tops of mountains ages later. Or if there was a worldwide flood that covered all of the mountains leaving them submerged for several months - that would provide a much different age estimate. If the Mississippi River can obliterate entire islands in a matter of moments, what would a worldwide flood do? Strata all across the earth would be layered literally within minutes according to density, and vast amounts of organic material would be buried instantly. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, it carved within minutes a gorge nearly 1/3 the depth of the Grand Canyon. Of course mainstream science refuses for the most part to consider the potential effects of a worldwide flood coupled with eruptions on geology and the fossil record.
What about the age of the stars? Since we can’t go back in time to see how the Universe was created, once again our estimates will only be as good as our assumptions. The book of Isaiah claims that when God created the heavens that he ‘stretched’ them out like a curtain. What if the Universe were like a deflated balloon at the beginning of time that God ‘inflated’ after creation? If all the stars and galaxies began from some central point of origin and were then drawn away at the speed of light, how would that affect our perceived age of them? First of all the light from those stars would not have had to take millions of years to ‘reach’ us, but their light would have been present from the first day. Also according to basic principles of relativity, the stars having been drawn away from us would affect our ‘perceived’ age of them by millions of years! In addition our current observations of the Universe would indicate that the Universe is expanding from the light of that past event.
This same type of analysis can be carried out for nearly all of the different techniques that we use to determine the age of things. For us as followers of Christ however the important point is not the actual age of the universe, but rather that things have not always been the same – nor will they be the same in the future. Scripture tells us of a day when all of the elements will ‘melt with a fervent heat’ and the world will be transformed. (2 Peter 3:12) Even though sometimes it seems that things will never change, they most certainly will – let’s be prepared for the return of the King.
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Thank you for sharing this article. I know nothing about science, except what I read and listen to. You have put across your points very convincingly so that being a believer I am inclined to share your views. I have listened to pastors who have painstakingly shown that scientists who have found no evidence for their theories still prefer to hold on to their views. Your article bears this out.