Is Day-Age View of Genesis Synonymous w/Evolution?
by Nina Street Dunton
Ed.’s note: The author of this blog post took exception to the post of a few weeks ago by Pastor Ronnie Rogers titled “A Day Is a Day Is a Day of Course: Unless That Day Challenges Evolution!”
SBCToday asked Nina Dunton to write a response, which is below. And below that is a response from Pastor Rogers to this post. Pastor Rogers’ 2nd of this multi-part series will be posted on Wednesday.
Nina Street Dunton is a lay member of North Glencoe Baptist Church in Glencoe, Alabama. She has studied Christian apologetics for 18 years and holds a certificate in CA from Biola University, a bachelor’s degree in visual arts from Auburn University, and is a member of the board of directors of the Christian ministry Reasons To Believe.
The first time I became aware that there was confusion about the day-age view was at a speaker’s workshop in Georgia a few years ago. I was in conversation with a young Institute for Creation Research apologist who, after finding out I held this view, said, “So you believe in evolution?”
I scrunched up my nose and said, “No,” rather emphatically. In hindsight, I wish I had followed up on his reasoning that someone who held an old-earth view must necessarily believe in evolution—for they are two very different ideas.
What does a day-age creationist believe?
Hundreds of day-age creationists I know personally believe the universe is 13.8 billion years old and the earth is 4.6 billion years old. The ancient Hebrew word yom in Genesis, translated “day” in English, is literally a reference to six long periods of creation, not evolution.
When, in my early 20s, I first became aware of a potential conflict between science and the biblical account of creation, I naively assumed God did it through evolutionary means. Some years later I read a book, “The Creator and the Cosmos,” by astronomer Hugh Ross that set me straight, answering many of my questions, including whether evolution was God’s method of creation. I saw evidence that it was not.
To be clear, let’s define evolution. Its most simple definition is “change over time.” We sometimes hear of “micro” evolution. This type is non-controversial because it’s observable. We know it occurs. An example is when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Small changes over time happen, but the bacterium is still a bacterium, though slightly altered.
Most folks don’t mean the definitions above when they refer to evolution. Usually they mean “macro” evolution, where completely new body plans are assumed to appear through natural means. This is the controversial type. The goo-to-you type.
Historically, what has the Church believed?
Back to the day-age view; it’s not new. Early church fathers considered it, along with 24-hour days and instantaneous creation. They were unable to come to a consensus, however, due to a lack of scientific evidence to help guide them. Oxford mathematician John Lennox reminded us at the “In The Beginning,” conference a few years ago in Birmingham, Alabama, that our modern-day debate over the age of the earth has a precedent.
A few hundred years ago the debate was not over the “age” of the earth, but rather earth’s position in the universe. The accepted interpretation of several Bible verses was that they indicated a “fixed” earth, one that stood still, unmoved. Therefore, common reasoning suggested, the planet Earth must occupy the center of the universe while other celestial bodies revolved around it. This was called geocentrism.
Along came Galileo with his telescope and visual evidence that the Sun was in the center of our solar system with the planets, including Earth, in revolution around it. What were Christians supposed to do with Psalm 104:5 or 1 Chronicles 16:30? Was the Bible wrong?
As Lennox pointed out, we have no “fixed earthers” today because theologians rightly decided the scientific evidence was too weighty to be ignored and took another look at their interpretations of these verses.
This is where we are presently on the question, “Does the Bible teach that the earth is only thousands of years old?” The scientific evidence overwhelmingly (and measurably) shows the universe and the earth are billions of years old. In the words of researchers Allen Hamond and Lynn Margulis, writing for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Adoption of creationist [that is, young-Earth creationist] ‘theory’ requires, at a minimum, the abandonment of essentially all of modern astronomy, much of modern physics, and most of the earth sciences.”
Please understand, Christians are not being asked to choose between the Bible and science. Rather, we’re being asked to choose between two interpretations of the Bible, both by fallible human beings. Dr. Ross holds a concordant view of the relationship between the Bible and the record of nature: IF the Bible and the record of nature have the same Author, they should agree. A theologian’s job is to interpret scripture; a scientist’s job is to interpret the record of nature. When the theologian and the scientist disagree, they need to reexamine their interpretation(s).
Does the day-age view have anything in common with macro evolution?
The order of significant events remains the same from both a day-age view and an evolutionary view. An important key to consistency is the often-overlooked perspective shift in Genesis 1:2. In the context of Genesis 1:1 God is outside his creation. In the context of Genesis 1:2, God’s Spirit moves along the surface of the Earth, and the events that follow are described from that perspective. Verse 3, “And God said, Let there be light,” describes the first moment when sunlight penetrated the heavy cloud layers that blanketed the primordial Earth, not the creation of the Sun.
Similarly, on the fourth long day, the Sun, Moon and stars that had been created long ago finally became clearly visible through the dissipating clouds. This took time—a lot of it. We can see the stars today through a mostly transparent atmosphere, except when clouds obscure our vision.
I hope this article has cleared up some of the confusion about day-age creationism. There is much more to say than space allows here. For an in-depth look at Genesis chapters 1-11 from a day-age perspective, read Navigating Genesis, by Hugh Ross.