Sometimes being an apologist isn’t just about defending the faith to unbelievers; sometimes it also includes explaining our doctrinal positions to other Christians. When I was homeschooling our children, church friends would often express concern over our family’s belief that the earth was billions—not thousands—of years old. Many had heard some fairly alarming assertions about Hugh Ross, my employer, advocating fallacious views of the Bible. I want to help people differentiate between rumors and facts about old-earth creationists’ beliefs. So, instead of avoiding conversations that might spark an old-earth versus young-earth debate, I’ve learned how to offer quick but gracious answers to the questions raised by our Christian friends.
1. Do old-earth creationists teach theistic evolution (supernaturally directed Darwinism)?
Believers frequently conflate old-earth creationism with Darwinian evolution; this is especially evident in the creation-science curricula used by many homeschoolers. I like to make the point that the RTB scholar team has been on the frontiers of making the biblical and scientific case against Darwinism for three decades.
2. Does acceptance of the big bang deny God’s miraculous creation of the universe and its celestial bodies?
There is a widespread misconception among Christians that big bang cosmology is some kind of “kissing cousin” to naturalism and Darwinian evolution. The reality is: teaching that the universe has a beginning—which is precisely what big bang cosmology does—is not only consistent with Scripture, it greatly limits the time window allowed for natural process evolution to operate. Again, RTB’s scholars have, for 30 years, actively communicated the most compelling evidences for God’s miraculous intervention throughout the history of the universe.
3. Do old-earth creationists believe that God made Adam by breathing “spirit” into a preexisting hominid?
In spite of my colleagues’ pioneering work to discredit this idea, it remains a common misconception that old-earth creationists do not believe Adam and Eve were unique creations. In reality, while the RTB scholar team does believe that the fossil record is a reasonably accurate history of life on Earth (including the existence of bipedal primates before modern humans), we also firmly believe that God supernaturally and miraculously created Adam from the “dust of the earth,” not from a preexisting being—just as described in Genesis 1 and 2. Adam and Eve were the first humans and from them came the entire human race.
4. Doesn’t a belief that Earth is billions of years old exalt science over the Bible?
Old-earth creationists believe that God has revealed Himself to humanity in two ways: (1) through special revelation (God’s word) and (2) through general revelation (God’s world). RTB works vigorously to integrate all of God’s revelations into one harmonious picture revealing the identity and character of the Creator. I like to clarify for people that RTB scholars and staff uphold the Bible as God’s holy and truthful Word, while also taking seriously the findings of the scientific community that studies God’s creation.
5. Doesn’t acceptance of a billions-of-years-old universe contradict a literal interpretation of the Bible?
In a word, no. The Hebrew word for “day” (yôm) has three literal definitions: 12 hours, 24 hours, or a long time period. RTB affirms the accuracy of the biblical writings and frequently engages in scholarly discussions concerning the best, and most faithful, way to interpret Genesis 1.
6. Does plant and animal death before the fall of Adam contradict Romans 5:12?
A careful examination of Romans 5:12 shows that Adam’s sin introduced death to all humans, not to all life-forms on Earth. Passages like Psalm 104 and Job 38–41 also make clear that plant and animal death in no way attributes evil or cruelty to the Creator.
7. Don’t old-earth creationists promote the use of unreliable, secular dating methods?
It is a false dichotomy to believe that a dating method is either secular (therefore unreliable) or biblical (therefore reliable). A dating technique can be discovered and utilized by unbelieving scientists, and still yield reliable results. Multiple dating methods have been repeatedly and rigorously tested and proven reliable when properly applied. Confidence in these methods is rooted in the belief that God has created the universe in such a manner as to reveal His existence. He intended the natural realm to be studied, measured, and understood, thereby offering a glimpse of His power and love.
When I’m sharing with friends on these issues, I always have a list of resources in mind to recommend so that we can continue the conversation. Here are a few to consider:
- A Matter of Days by Hugh Ross
- Life and Death in Eden (CD) with Hugh Ross, Fazale Rana, and Kenneth Samples
- The Creator and the Cosmos by Hugh Ross
- Who Was Adam? by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross
By Krista Bontrager
Krista Bontrager is the dean of online learning at Reasons to Believe. She is a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching the Bible to all ages. She has an MA in theology and another in Bible exposition from Talbot School of Theology.