(I wrote this article in April 2011 for a Christian Writers’ Workshop in Amarillo, Texas, before I learned about Reasons To Believe’s testable creation model.)
Two years ago I finally started to write the science fiction novel that had been spiraling aimlessly in my mind for over twenty years. The story is a philosophical adventure and not an attempt at serious scientific speculation, but I wanted to tell it in a plausible future world. To create such a world, I investigated both secular and Christian resources, depending primarily on the many reputable scientists who openly acknowledge God as Creator, Christ as Savior, and the Bible as the Word of God. However, even within those strict boundaries I discovered two astronomically different models for the timing of creation. I also discovered some of the same animosity among believers that I encountered in the 80s when the prediction of the Lord’s imminent return sparked my interest in eschatology.
Sadly, the division among believers who hold differing views of the chronology of Genesis is sometimes just as acrimonious as it is among those who hold differing views of the chronology of Revelation. I believe now, as I did thirty years ago, that even if our perspectives diverge on the beginning and end of time, we can experience genuine unity of the Spirit, without compromise, if we stand together on a single foundation where we acknowledge that Christ is the Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Restorer of our world, and that His Word is entirely true.
During the past months, I have studied two models for creation: Young Earth, represented by Answers in Genesis and supported by Bishop Ussher’s chronology, and Old Earth, represented by Reasons to Believe and supported by the speed of light. As I see the conflict, it is not really about the age of the earth. It is about our understanding of the Bible. Since both models affirm that Scripture is the divinely inspired Word of God, the issue is not Bible authority but rather Bible interpretation.
Early in my study of end-time events, I was told that an emphasis on literal interpretation makes the dispensational position stronger than the amillennial position, which “spiritualizes” the text by attaching spiritual meanings to people and events that should be understood literally. Even after reading dozens of books and listening to hours of tapes on eschatology, the only thing I know absolutely is that Christ will return to make all things new. However, my study was still highly profitable since it helped me to realize that there is no dichotomy between literal and spiritual.
Linguistically, ‘figurative’ or ‘symbolic’ is the appropriate antonym of literal, and ‘material’ or ‘carnal’ is the appropriate antonym for spiritual. Scripture abounds with truth that is simultaneously literal and spiritual: “I have been crucified with Christ;” “I will be with you always;” “we are one body in Christ;” “He has broken down the wall of separation.” The synonyms for literal (accurate, factual, or exact) correctly describe each statement, but each statement is a spiritual truth and not a material one.
I don’t understand how the literal principle is applied within the symbolism of Revelation. I still wonder why the two witnesses in chapter eleven must be real people while the harlot in chapter 17 is not. However, I do know that even the most ardent literalist believes that from Genesis to Revelation, God is revealing spiritual truth to us through His Spirit. Scripture is a record of real people and real events in Earth’s history, but large portions of the text are intended to allow us to look into a realm that is not material. It is a realm that is real and eternal, and we are encouraged to investigate it.
When I first started considering the composition of the universe for background in my novel, I leaned strongly toward a belief in a young earth. Then as I looked deeper into the old earth creation model, I repeated my learning experience of decades earlier when I had been confronted with conflicting beliefs concerning the second coming of Christ. After watching hours of DVDs and accessing dozens of websites, the only thing I know absolutely is that God created the universe from nothing by the power of His Word. However, once again my study has been highly profitable.
The men and women of Answers in Genesis hold that a straightforward reading of scripture demands six twenty-four hour days for creation, because time is divided by periods of evening and morning and marked with consecutive numbering. I won’t dispute that conclusion, but even before my recent discovery of the Reasons To Believe website, I began to see how an old earth model could also be supported by a straightforward reading of Genesis. God immediately tells us that at a point in eternity He created both a spiritual and a material realm. He gives us no further information about the spiritual realm, but He continues by telling us factually, accurately, and exactly that matter and energy had no form or volume, and that they were dark and fluid before He spoke into existence the light that reveals the boundaries of our space-time dimension. God also tells us factually, accurately, and exactly that half of His time in creation was over before He placed our star and our moon in conjunction with our planet, establishing the rotations and orbits we now use to mark our days. It seems reasonable to conclude, directly from the text, that in the beginning God measured time in His creation work without the restriction imposed by our solar system.
Once I could see that scripture reasonably allows God more than 144 hours for His work in creation, I considered the 6000-year age for the earth that is computed with the ages of the men listed in the Genesis genealogies. A limit of six millennia assumes that there are no gaps in the generations, and that each man listed from Adam to Abraham proceeds directly from father to son. However, a straightforward reading of scripture allows for the exclusion of descendants. Matthew records that “Joram begot Uzziah. Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah,” but in 1 Chronicles we read “Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son, Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son.” Since Matthew states that Uzziah begot Jotham when we know from Chronicles that he was literally his great-great grandfather, it is not unreasonable to consider the possibility that Jared was 162 when he begot an ancestor of Enoch. By using the method Matthew employs in his divinely inspired Gospel, the generations and years between Adam and Noah and between Noah and Abraham can be legitimately extended.
Discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics have forced people without faith in God to marvel at His glory displayed in the heavens. The incredible dimensions of the universe speak to the world of a God without limit. The speed of light, which makes those incredible dimensions somewhat discernible is one measurement that is accepted in every scientific model of origin. That single fact has forced me to wonder why our God, who uses spiritual light to reveal truth, would allow material light to paint a distorted image of creation. I am forced to acknowledge that an incredible age for the universe speaks to the world of the Ancient of Days.
After months of study and meditation, I am still in no position to advocate a belief in an ancient universe. I understand far too little of science to defend or dispute any model. However, I do understand enough of God’s Word to know that He expects us to keep the unity of our faith even as we disagree. I understand that it is not necessarily the Lord’s will to see His children following either Answers in Genesis or Reasons to Believe. I understand from His high priestly prayer in John 17 that His literal, factual, accurate, and exact will is that we might be one as He and His Father are one, because the unity of His church can display the glory of our Savior to a lost and dying world in a way that His magnificent universe can never accomplish.
Now when I pray with the Lord that all who are His will be made perfect in one, I pray especially for those with a passion for science. I pray that God’s children can unite to work within a scientific paradigm that dares to acknowledge the possible existence of a spiritual dimension within the universe. As with Elijah and the prophets of Baal, I believe God would make a distinction between the scientists who genuinely seek truth and those who, according to the prevailing bias in the scientific community, presuppose materialism. If theology were once again enthroned as the queen of all science, I believe that in His time the King of kings would reveal the factual, accurate, and exact timing for His one literal model of creation.
 Ussher, James. The Annals of the World, 1650.
 Galatians 2:20
 Matthew 28:20
 Romans 12:5
 Ephesians 2:14
 Genesis 28:12-15; 2 Kings 6:17; Isaiah 6:1-8; Ezekiel 1, 2; Revelation.
 Deuteronomy 4:29; 1 Chronicles 16:11; 2 Chronicles 26:5; Ezra 8:22; Proverbs 2:3-5; Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 6:33; Colossians 3:2.
 The following description comes from my own study and meditation. It is not the old earth creation model advocated by Reasons to Believe.
 Genesis 1:1
 Genesis 1:2
 Genesis 1:3
 Genesis 1:16-18
 Genesis 5 and 11
 Matthew 1: 8,9
 Called Uzziah in Isaiah 6:1 and Matthew 1:8, 9
 I Chronicles 3:
 Romans 14:5-10
 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
 John 17:21-23
 John 17:21
 John 17:23
 1 Kings 18:19-39