The age of planet earth is perhaps one of the most well-known disagreements between science and theology and one that traces its roots back to the 1700s. It has been the catalyst for many heated debates where science asserts the earth to be billions of years old, while theology maintains it to be only thousands of years old. Why is knowing the age of the planet so important? One obvious answer is that if science is correct, it puts the concept of creationism and God into question, or does it? What if both claims by science and theology are correct?
Scientists use a radiometric dating technique or process to determine an object’s age by its radioactive isotopes’ decay rate. According to nationalgeographic.org, Scientists have dated rock formations from Canada and minerals from Australia to be between 4.03 and 4.3 billion years old. Even more compelling are the rocks from the moon and meteors that have fallen to the earth that date to be about 4.5 billion years old. Now we could claim that radiometric dating is flawed, but let us assume that science is correct that the earth is 4.54 billion years old.1
Some Bible scholars and chronologists have used the Masoretic text to walk back the generations from Abraham to Adam. Based on their critical research of the Bible, they ascertained the earth to be about 6,000 years old, according to answersingenesis.org. They calculated that the number of years between Adam’s lifetime and Abraham’s lifetime to be 2,000 years, and the time between Abraham and the birth of Christ to be another 2,000 years. When we add the 2,020 years since the birth of Christ, we arrive at the age of 6,020 years for the earth.2
The difference between the two claims is quite vast, and because of this, we can see how it has sparked systemic contemptuous debates from one generation to the next with neither side often giving any ground to the other. Is there any other possibility? Is it possible that both science and theology have it correct? In my opinion, the answer to that question is yes; both sides could be right in their conclusions. Allow me to explain. To do so, we must turn back the pages of Scripture to the book of Genesis.
Scripture records that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image” and “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Gen. 1:26; 2:7). The Bible states that God created a man, not a child, a teenager, or even a young adult; He created a man in His image and likeness. For the sake of argument, let us say that Adam’s physical appearance was that of a 30-year-old man.
If scientists were able to date Adam when he became a living bring, they would conclude that he was at or around age 30. In other words, Adam would have all the physical characteristics of a man who has lived for 30-years, even though in actuality, he was less than 1-day old. Therefore, this same line of reasoning can apply to the earth’s age, whereby even though the earth was less than 1-day old at the time of its creation, God gave it all the physical attributes of a planet that has lived for billions of years.
Still, no matter how plausible that line of reasoning may seem, science will come to a dead stop because it requires people to subscribe to the understanding that God created the heavens and the earth. It requires one to have faith in God and His word. Why? Because God desires that people come to know Him by their faith, not by their fear, not by subversion, but by a genuine desire to know and love Him. Faith is the key to our salvation and spiritual growth, and since science cannot apply faith to its methods, many scientists are dismissive of faith and the answers given in Scripture.
For those who place their faith in God’s word and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to take away the sins of the world, and rose again on the third day, Scripture states: “From [their] innermost being will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Believers understand and know this all too well, but the world considers such people as weak-minded and foolish. Well, I would rather be a fool for Jesus, as apostle Paul pointed out to the Corinthian church than part of the world’s foolishness.
Author’s Note: Based on commentator feedback, paragraph seven was revised on October 2, 2020 to state “since science cannot apply faith to its methods, many scientists are dismissive of faith and the answers given in Scripture,” as opposed to the original text, “science struggles with the concept of spiritual faith; therefore, it often, if not always, dismisses it as viable.”
1 National Geographic. (n.d.). Age of the Earth. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/topics/resource-library-age-earth/?q=&page=1&per_page=25
2 Hodge, B. (2007, May 30). How Old Is the Earth?. Retrieved from https://answersingenesis .org/age-of-the-earth/how-old-is-the-earth/