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8.3 Old Earth Creationism

Old Earth creationism holds that the physical universe was created by God, but that the creation event of Genesis is not to be taken strictly literally. This group generally believes that the age of the Universe and the age of the Earth are as described by astronomers and geologists, but that details of the evolutionary theory are questionable.

Old Earth creationism (OEC) is an umbrella term for a number of types of creationism, including Gap creationism and Progressive creationism. As hypotheses of origins they are typically more compatible with mainstream scientific thought on the issues of geology, cosmology and the age of the Earth; however, they still generally take the accounts of creation in Genesis more literally than theistic evolution.

8.3.1 Approaches to Genesis 1

Old Earth creationists may approach the creation accounts of Genesis in a number of different ways.

a- The Framework interpretation

Summary of the Genesis 6-day creation account, showing the pattern according to the framework hypothesis.
Days of creationDays of creation
Day 1: Light; day and nightDay 4: Sun, moon and stars
Day 2: Sea and HeavensDay 5: Sea creatures; birds
Day 3: Land and vegetationDay 6: Land creatures; man

The framework interpretation (or framework hypothesis) notes that there is a pattern or “framework” present in the Genesis account and that, because of this, the account may not have been intended as a strict chronological record of creation. Instead, the creative events may be presented in a topical order.

b- Cosmic Time

Gerald Schroeder’s view of cosmic time tries to reconcile 24-hour creation days with an age of billions of years for the universe. Schroeder calculates that a period of six days under the conditions of quark confinement, when the universe was approximately a trillion times smaller and hotter than it is today is equal to fifteen billion years of earth time today. This is all due to space expansion after quark confinement. Thus Genesis and modern physics are reconciled. Schroeder states in an earlier book, “Genesis and the Big Bang”, that the Earth and solar system is some “4.5 to 5 billion years” old and also states in a later book, “The Science of God”, that the Sun is 4.6 billion years old.

8.3.2 The Biblical Flood according to Old Earth Creationism

Old Earth Creationists reject flood geology, a position which leaves them open to accusations that they reject the infallibility of scripture. In response, Old Earth Creationists cite verses in the Bible where the words “whole” and “all” clearly require a contextual interpretation. Old Earth creationists generally believe that the human race was localised around the Middle East at the time of the Genesis flood, a position which is in conflict with modern knowledge of human origins.

8.3.3 Criticisms

YECs reject Old Earth creationism and Day-Age Creationism on textual and theological grounds. In addition, they claim the scientific data in geology and astronomy point to a young Earth, against the consensus of the general scientific community.

YECs generally hold that when Genesis describes the creation of the Earth occurring over a period of days, this indicates normal-length 24 hour days. In the specific context of Genesis 1, since the days are both numbered and are referred to as “evening and morning”, this can mean only normal-length days. Further, they argue that the 24-hour day is the only interpretation that makes sense of the Sabbath command in Exodus 20:8–11.

Further, YECs argue that their position is the only way to explain the Fall, which introduced death and suffering into the world. They argue that all long-age views entail death before sin, which they regard as a severe theological error, violating Genesis 3, and for Christians, Romans 5:12–19, 8:17–22 and 1 Corinthians 15:21–22.