Does the Age of the Earth Matter to the Gospel?

Courtesy of the “Is Genesis History?“ Internet site.

This is the first of five posts dealing with the question of ‘The Age of the Earth and the Bible.’ It is taken from the Is Genesis History? Bible Study available in our store.

“I have no gospel unless Genesis is history.”
– D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

When we talk about the ‘age’ of something, we imply it has a specific history. For instance, if a man is 95 years old, he has lived through a series of events quite different from those of a 10-year-old boy.

Age indicates history.

This means when we talk about the age of the earth, we’re really talking about the history of the earth. According to Genesis, it is a history that begins with specific events that lead eventually to Jesus Christ.

In explaining this redemptive history, the prophet Isaiah is very clear: God controls every moment of time in order to glorify Himself by redeeming a people through the work of His Son. He says:

“I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’… I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11)

God’s providence ensures all of time and history serve His particular ends. Every moment is consequential and important because He is ‘accomplishing all His purpose.’ The Bible is ultimately a book of history: it is through the events of real history that He brings salvation to us and glorifies Himself through it.

This is why one’s view of the age of the earth matters to the gospel.

Six Essential Doctrines Connected to the History of the Earth

If one replaces the Biblical timeline of thousands of years with the conventional timeline of billions of years, one must accept all the new events that go with that new timeline — events which necessarily displace Biblical events. This displacement inevitably affects the doctrines that rely on those events.

For example,

  1. God has accurately revealed the history of the universe and man’s role in it. To allegorize or de-historicize any of those historical events is to question the ability of special revelation to speak clearly about history.
  2. God created the entire universe fully-functional in six normal days. To greatly extend the length of time and significantly alter events transforms the doctrine of creation into a slow, indirect, and death-filled process; this, in turn, transforms one’s view of God and His nature.
  3. God formed Adam and Eve in His image at the beginning, thereby ensuring His image would be reflected somewhere in the universe at every point in its history. If one places long ages before man’s creation, it means God’s image has been missing from creation for almost all of its history.
  4. God cursed the creation as a result of Adam’s sin, bringing death and corruption into a very good world. To say that there were billions of years of corruption and death before Adam’s sin means God created a universe filled with death. This not only changes ones view of the fall, but of the nature of our redemption in time.
  5. God judged the entire world with a global flood, killing all land creatures, birds, and people. The idea of a local flood not only violates the history revealed in special revelation, but it denies the past reality of global judgment in space and time, thereby casting doubt on the universality of the judgment to come.
  6. God providentially controls every moment of time and history, starting with the first creation and the fall, guiding it to redemption in Christ, and ushering everything toward the new creation. If the timeline of the universe is not the timeline of the Bible, then God’s providence is emptied of its meaning and purpose: it takes responsibility for billions of years of emptiness, silence, and death.

It is possible that many Christians do not realize how the age of the earth affects key doctrines related to the gospel. This has not always been the case.  For most of the history of the church there was an understanding that one cannot change the history recorded in the Bible without changing the doctrines taught in the Bible.

Nevertheless, there are some Christians today who say the Bible does not even speak to the age of the earth. This view, however, would surprise the vast majority of interpreters throughout the history of the church.

Again, This was the first of five posts dealing with the question of ‘The Age of the Earth and the Bible.’ It is taken from the Is Genesis History? Bible Study available in our store.

Does the Bible Speak to the Age of the Earth? – Part 2

Where Do Fossils Fit Into the Bible? – Part 3

What Does Evolution Mean for the Bible? – Part 4

The Age of the Earth and Christian Doctrine – Part 5

What is Man? – Yaroslav Viazovski,

We constantly speak about man in theology. But is it legitimate in the first place? Theology, as you know perfectly well, consists of two Greek words that mean “God” and “word.” It is the word about God. This is the shortest and the truest definition of theology. Only R.C. Sproul’s definition can compete with it in sharpness: “Theology is the study of God.”

Theology is about God and emphatically not about man. Theology is not even about any abstract God but about the concrete God revealed in the history of Israel and in the person of Jesus Christ. The focus and intention of the Bible and, consequently, of theology is very narrow and highly specific. So “how dare you” speak about man? Do we have an explanation and justification for the intrusion of anthropology into theology, for the intrusion of the word about man into the word about God?

We can legitimately speak about man in theology for two reasons: first, God created man in His image; second, God Himself became man.

These two facts immediately bring man into the circle of our thinking and talking about God. It turns out that, in fact, we can’t speak about “God revealed in the history of redemption” without speaking about man in the same breath. So, formally, theological anthropology is justified by the very nature of theology itself.

But the reverse is true too. Man cannot be understood apart from his relation to God, or better, God’s relation to him. The very first definition of a human being is that it is a being in a special relationship to God. This is what defines man in his most basic core. Counterintuitively and paradoxically, it is neither outer form (a particular physical body) nor inner experience (thoughts and feelings) but an external link to God—an external attitude of God—that makes this being a human being. 

The center of gravity of the human person is, as David Kelsey put it, eccentric—that is, it is situated outside the person. And this center is God in His creative and redemptive acts directed toward man. As the author of Hebrews formulated it so well, “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16). Human beings are higher than angels (and, it follows, higher than any other being in the world) because God saves human beings and does not save angels. God does for man what He does not do for angels, cats, trees, and stars.

What is man? Man is that being which God created in His image. What is man? Man is that being whose nature God chose from the whole universe to take upon Himself at the proper time.Man cannot be understood apart from his relation to God, or better, God’s relation to him.

It is true even for atheists. Existence of man without God is an illusion. No such man actually exists. We cannot define a human being and then, perhaps, add to the definition relation to God or leave the definition unmarred by God and still have a human being. God is not an expensive but unessential extra for man in the way that a climate control system is an add-on for a car. Even entirely secular people are created in God’s image, and it is true even for them that God became one of them. That is what defines atheists and makes them human. All people are in relation to God—positive or negative. As the saying goes: If there is no God, in whom, then, do atheists not believe?

Intrusion of the word about man into the word about God is not only possible and legitimate but, as it turned out, also fruitful. We at once learn that to be human is to be in relation to God—even if this relation is frantically denied from the human side.

I am pretty sure that imago Dei and incarnation are where we should start in current debates about human nature. How many genders are there? Is it OK to be gay? Are men and women fully mutually replaceable? For me as a theologian, such questions are secondary. I do not care about trying to find a place for God in the life of the modern or postmodern man. It is clear to me that the ball is on the human side: How can man find his place in God’s history?

It has been said that the Enlightenment was not so much about reason as about will. And reason was a cover for desire and was used as an instrument to free the will from any external authority and boundaries. By now this Enlightenment project has fully succeeded: man freed himself so much that he lost himself. There are no contours to his being. He is shapeless like amoebae. He lost humanizing boundaries both in his body and in his mind (and will).

What theological anthropology does is bring the boundaries back: to be human is to be in relation to God. The special attitude of God—realized in imago Dei and incarnation—makes humans human. To be human is to be limited by God. Humanity is what God, revealed in redemptive history, thinks and makes humanity to be. Man is not shapeless anymore. He is limited, defined, and outlined by God and God’s attitude toward him.

This starting point—if it is not ruined by moralistic and religious propaganda—potentially is able to undermine the worldview of human absoluteness, shapelessness, and deliberate self-destruction.

Dr. Yaroslav Viazovski is pastor of Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church in Minsk, Belarus and author of several books, including Image and Hope.

HT: Tabletalk Magazine