An Appearance of Age
by John Morgan
When you read the words of atheist evolutionist Richard Dawkins "Biology is the study of complicated things which give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose," how do you react? Do you say "Of course they appear designed; they are designed." When you hear the argument that Christ did not really die on the cross, He only appeared to have died, how do you react? If someone came into your church teaching the Gnostic doctrine that Christ did not really have a physical body but only appeared to have one, how would you react? When presented with the popular Christian doctrine that the earth and universe are not really billions of years old but only appear to be old, how do you react?
Perhaps both old earth creationists and young earth creationists can agree on this: there is some irony associated with the appearance of age doctrine. There is irony in the fact that the appearance of age arguments parallel those of doctrines almost all Christians oppose. There is irony because those who embrace the appearance of age still embrace the truth that the heavens declare the glory of the God of truth. But, if the universe only appears old, then those heavens must be giving a false report and objects more than, say, 10,000 light years never really existed as we see them.
Still, many Christians have embraced some version of "Appearance of Age" related to the age of the earth and universe. This position states that God created the earth and universe with an appearance of age. Some hold Adam and Eve up as an analogy because he created them as adults. There was some necessity that God create Adam and Eve as adults so they would survive. Analogously, there was a need to create the earth with coal deposits, limestone deposits and the many other features that suggest long periods of time. Others take the tack that God is an artist or craftsman. A craftsman could make a table and give it a distressed finish so that it looked weathered. The craftsman is not lying. He is simply doing with his art as he wishes.
This whole issue raises many questions. And, at each point Christians should ask, "what does the Bible say?"
- What is the Bible's expectation about the trustworthiness of experience - sight, touch, etc.
- What does the Bible say about how we can know?
- What weight does the Bible give to evidence in general and historical events in particular?
- Does the Bible give any suggestion that the world, including the heavenly bodies are not real?
- If evidence contradicts verbal testimony or prophesy, which should we believe?
- Can I distinguish between an inspired message and my understanding of it?
- In the Bible, how did men of faith know things?
- What do the words of God or Jesus say about what should persuade us of the truth of a claim?
I am compelled to begin by making an argument for something that should need no argument: the reliability of our senses. It should be unnecessary to argue this case, but, ultimately, the appearance of age position denies either the reality/reliability of creation or the reliability of our senses. Both of these are unbiblical positions.
Let's begin by observing that the Bible everywhere assumes that our senses are generally reliable and that we can believe that what we see, touch and hear is real. This does not mean that the person speaking to us is telling the truth. What I hear from someone may be false, but the fact that I am hearing it is real, not imaginary. Stating this as a general assumption does not preclude exceptions for delusion, intentional deception, or illusions. But, the world is not an illusion and we can trust our senses.
How does the Bible demonstrate this? By appealing to what people have experienced directly.
The Bible assumes the reality of the world and the trustworthiness of our senses. Consider these verses:
- 1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life?
- 1 Cor 15:5-7 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, ? 7. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
- Deut 4:3 Your eyes have seen what the Lord has done in the case of Baal-peor?.
- Deut 4:9 Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen ?
- Deut 4:12 Then the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire: you heard the sound of words but you saw no form - only a voice.
- Luke 24:48 You are witnesses of these things.
Beyond these few examples, the Bible contains many dozens of other specific appeals which assume the reliability of our senses and the reality of our experience. And, beyond these specific appeals, with every statement the Bible assumes the reliability of our senses. When we are told that Moses saw a burning bush, we believe it because it is in the Bible. But why did Moses believe it? Moses believed his eyes. Our faith depends not only on the word through Moses but also on Moses' eyes. If Moses' eyes were seeing illusions, then we cannot trust his report. Read any part of the Bible which describes historical events. How did the people of the time know the events happened? How did the Israelites know that Hezekiah sent letters to all of Israel and Judah? (2 Chr 30:1). They experienced it. We trust the Bible but it constantly assumes the trustworthiness of our senses and the reality of the world.
The importance of evidence
How important is evidence as opposed to verbal testimony (either oral or written)?
Consider Deut 18.22
When the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
Which carries more weight, the words or the events? Correct answer: the events. Do the hearers know the events happened because the prophet said they would or is the prophet judged by the events? Correct answer: the events judge the prophet.
Consider the words of Jesus: "And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that when it comes to pass, you may believe." (John 14:29) Jesus is acknowledging the validity of the Old Testament standard. If His words fail to match up with the events of reality, then He does not expect His apostles to believe. But, the consistency of His words with actual events should give confidence in His words. Either way, Jesus expects us to believe that what we experience is real and true. He never says, believe this or that no matter what the evidence is.
Consider Jesus' words to Nicodemus: "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" Jesus has spoken about things that Nicodemus can experience and things he can not. If Nicodemus can not trust Jesus in the areas he can experience and verify, how can he trust Jesus in the areas he can not verify, the heavenly things. But, the unspoken assumption is that we should believe what we see.
Consider Josh 4:1-7. God has an idea. Create a pile of huge rocks in the middle of the Jordan as evidence to future generations that the Israelites actually crossed the Jordan. God seems to think this evidence will carry more weight than just hearing someone assert the truth.
Read Joshua chapter 3. How will the Israelites know that God is with Joshua?
Go through Ezekiel noting every place that God says something like "then (you/they/the nations) will know." What does God want whoever to know? How are they supposed to be convinced? In each case, God wants them to know that He is the Lord. And the various acts of God in the real world are the evidence. God never says, I will assert my Lordship with words and they will believe. He says that He will engineer events and the events will be the evidence which persuades.
The whole gospel of John is structured around "signs." Signs in this context are something you can see which point to something you cannot see. Signs are a type of evidence.
Over and over, the Bible assumes and states explicitly that events are to be believed and will/should judge words purported to be from God. Never do you find a Biblical example of someone denying the reality of past events. Never do we find a Biblical author arguing God's Word in opposition to history.
We do see men and women of faith believing God's promises. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as faith. The ancients sought to understand the prophecies. The Jew of Jesus day expected a military messiah. But, when the events occurred, the events revealed that they were misunderstanding the Scripture. Still, they held to their interpretation and crucified the Christ. The events should have caused them to review their understanding of the words. But, they equated their understanding with the words of scripture and could not admit that scripture could be true without agreeing with them.
How does this relate to the age of the earth?
The heavens are filled with events which we can see today with our eyes. Those who have seen them, speak of what they have seen. Should we not believe our eyes or their testimony? God's Word says we should believe our eyes. The earth is filled with evidence which we can see and touch. Should we not believe it? Psalm 19 says "The heavens declare the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." Do the heavens reveal knowledge we can trust? God seems to think so.
Remember, biblically, we should use the evidence of history to determine if prophet is a true prophet. So, rather than being in conflict with reality, the Bible is firmly based on the reality of history. The Bible goes out on a limb essentially saying that we should reject it if it is inconsistent with reality.
So, back to Adam? Didn't God create him as an adult - with an appearance of age? `If God did this, couldn't he create the universe in similar fashion? The issue is not what can God do, but what did God do. Certainly, God has the power to create something in a short time that would normally take a long time to form, grow or whatever. But, that begs the question, which is what DID God do.
Maturity is not the same as aging. Granted that God created Adam as full grown, that does not mean Adam appeared aged. If we had been in Eden the day after Adam's creation, would we have any clues that Adam had not lived there long? Would his teeth have shown much wear? Would his feet have any calluses? Would the absence of other humans (parents) be a clue that he had not been born? Did Adam have a belly button? I think not. We would have plenty of evidence that he had not gone through a normal birth and aging processes.
What about the wine at the wedding in Cana? The first clue of something unusual is that the wine served later was better than the first wine. Hmmm? Then there is the fact that the wine was in water jars, not wine skins. These are just the clues recorded in scripture. If you could have researched the details, would you find a anyone to testify that they put wine in the water jars? What would you think if God had created a delivery receipt for a wine delivery that never took place? It would have gone beyond miracle to falsifying the evidence. Many of the evidences of nature are akin to a delivery receipt.
The Bible never holds up Adam or the wine as evidence which will condemn unbelievers. The Bible does hold up creation as condemning evidence (Rom 1:18-20). Here the Bible is saying that apart from the Bible, creation gives sufficient evidence for men to discover certain truths. Are they to discover the truth from falsehood? To many Christians, it seems inconceivable that God, who cannot lie, would condemn unbelievers because they failed to discern the truth false evidence. Romans essentially says: study creation to any level of detail and it will consistently say "creator." It says it so consistently and clearly that God is angry the people don't get the message quite apart from the Bible.
What is the evidence from creation?
If we see a star explode in a distant galaxy, is the event real? Or did God create the appearance of an explosion? If God created the light en route then the star never existed in a pre-explosion state and the event is fictitious. The heavens which declare the glory of the God of Truth become a fiction. If we say it is real, how did we come to see it if the star is millions of light years away?
If light from a distant galaxy shows attenuation by dust, did the light actually pass through the dust? Or did God create it to look like it went through a dust cloud? Why would God do such a thing?
When creation shows us an ion jet stream a million light years long, did it form over time or would you say God created it in place? How long did it take for the light to get to us? How about galaxies which appear to have been colliding for eons? Did God create them in the mid-collision?
How long did it take for mile thick lava on earth to cool? The thermodynamics says over a 100,000 years. Don’t invoke a global flood - it won’t help on earth and certainly not on the moon. Did God create a "mature" earth? What does it mean for the earth to be mature? One can argue that Adam needed to be mature so he could survive, but this does not make sense for the earth. Or does a mature earth/moon somehow require lava flows more than a mile thick? I think not. Placing such features in a young earth would be such a gratuitous distortion of the evidence that it should qualify as perjury.
How and when did the craters on the moon get there? Have you ever used binoculars or a good poster to count the craters on the moon and asked "When in the Genesis 1 account did the craters form on the moon?" Over what period of time did they form? Did God just create the moon instantaneously in its present state so that it appears to have had thousands of meteor impacts? If so, he falsified not only the craters themselves but also radioactive elements which show that more impacts occurred long, long ago and only a few have occurred recently.
How about the craters on the earth? It is not mere speculation that a massive impact occurred - an impact so massive that it would have filled the atmosphere with dust and changed the climate, killing most life. I expect some to question the date - 65 million years ago - but can we all accept that the crater exists? When did the impact occur? Before Adam was created or after? What are the implications of each answer? Would you claim that God needed to have such a crater for his miracle of creation to be mature?
Dozens of other evidences could be offered.
Two more ironies
How do young earth advocates treat evidence? They try to show that the evidence is consistent with their position. For example, all the talk about the Grand Canyon is trying to offer up evidence to support the position. This effort admits the importance of evidence. But, then they also claim that the earth/universe appear old. Isn't ironic that those who would argue for an appearance of age would offer any evidence at all. Of course, they are selective and ad hoc in what they will consider as valid evidence.
The problem is that there is no evidence consistent with a young earth. The author has personally investigated dozens of claims of such evidence and found every one lacking. They consistently contain at least one and usually several errors: errors in statement of fact, failure to consider both sides of a process, invalid extrapolation, invalid analogy. Some use dated (decades old) papers in which scientists raise questions which were answered a few years later. Some quote out of context and one actually changed the heading on a chart to make it say something the original paper never said.
Another irony is that some of the young earth leadership have slowly been publishing papers refuting some of the worst arguments because they have acknowledged that the arguments are invalid. But, you can still buy new editions of books, audio tapes and videos teaching the bad arguments. No effort appears to be made to pull bad material off the market. And the retractions are published in esoteric journals. So, while the young earth leadership is refuting arguments, they continue to propagate admitted error in the name of the God of truth.
The starting place of all people
Everyone who is born begins by trusting his/her senses. A baby does not question the presence of his/her mother's breast. A toddler learns that the wall is real and so is the floor. This is not because it was written so. Everyone starts by trusting creation. Ask an atheist "Do you have any reason to distrust nature? Do you think nature would lie to you?" What will the atheist say? Why should a Christian believe that creation would lie or be in any way deceptive? We believe in a God who cannot lie and He is on record as expecting people to get the truth from creation.
Science began because Christians believed that nature (creation) would tell us about God. The first scientists called themselves natural theologians. Today, all non-Christian scientists and most Christian scientists still trust creation. This is their starting point. If a book is proven inconsistent with the evidence, either archeological or scientific, what should an unbeliever make of that book? Is it significant that the Book of Mormon makes claims about historical events but there are zero artifacts to support the claims? Is it significant that there are thousands of pieces of corroborating evidence to support the Bible? Unless someone tampers with the archeological evidence, it too is bearing truthful testimony.
Again, what does the Bible say? Let's turn our attention to Genesis 1.
At some point, many believers come to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. (This includes the author.) This conviction may or may not come after full examination of the evidence. But, having come to such a conviction, some believers read Genesis 1 and, to them, it reads like the days of creation are six 24-hour days.
Let us look closely at Gen 1. Readers who want to pursue this study are referred to the excellent work of Rodney Whitefield: Reading Genesis 1. Many of the points made are from that book which is an in depth study of the Hebrew written for the layman. It is available through amazon.com.
Genesis 1 starts "In the beginning." In Gen 10:10 we are told something about Nimrod: "And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. " Clearly in Gen 10:10 "the beginning" is a period of time, a long period of time. When we use the phrase in English we may think of a point in time as the beginning, but it is clear that in ancient Hebrew a "beginning" can encompass a long period of time. (RG1, p 19)
In Gen 1:1 the verb translated "created" is in the perfect tense which can and would be better translated "had created." It may not flow poetically, but it is more accurate to the sense of the original. Thus the verse would read "In the beginning God had created the heavens and the earth." Before we ever get to God commanding light to come to a dark earth, the all the heavens and the earth had already been created. This is important because it helps interpret day four when God comments on the sun and the moon. It is an error to understand that the text says God made them at that time. All heavenly objects are referenced as created (perfect tense) in verse one. (RG1, p 16)
The Bible says that it was dark on the surface of the deep. It does not say there was no light anywhere in the universe. Since the heavens already existed (1:1) there would have been stars and even the sun. But the focus of the account is not outer space but the earth. Hence the comment about darkness on the earth and silence about what is happening elsewhere.
Points 1 and 2 combine to show that the Bible permits and implies a long period of time before we ever come to the earth being "formless and void.? Then "Day 1" begins not with "the beginning" but with God's command that light should be seen on the earth
Consider Gen 28:10-11 "10. Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11. And he came to a certain place and spend the night there ?" Question: How much time elapsed between verse 10 and verse 11? Surely enough time for him to journey. This is the same structure as with each of the Genesis days. Between Gen 1:5 for example ("? and there was evening and there was morning, one day.") and Gen 1:6 ("Then God said ?") there could have been an undetermined amount of time. The structure of the Hebrew places no demand that the events be immediately consecutive. (RG1, p71 & 31)
The primary meaning of YOM (day) is "daytime" and not a 24-hour period. This is made clear because in verse 5, God calls the light YOM and the dark night - one YOM. If I were to say "We'll meet in 3 Sundays." You would understand that there was intervening time between the Sundays. Three Sundays could span 21 to 27 days depending upon whether the words were spoken on a Monday or a Sunday. Three YOM are not three 24-hour periods but three daytime periods. An American will immediately jump to the conclusion that 2 daytimes marks three 24-hour days just like three Sundays mark three weeks - plus or minus. But, the Hebrew of Genesis 1 does not demand or even imply such. (RG1, p58)
The first daytime is called "daytime one" but the other days are called "an Nth daytime." The second daytime is not necessarily daytime two. It is a second daytime but the change in language seems to imply discontinuity and not continuity.
8. The phrase commonly translated "and it was so" is better translated "and it came to pass so" or "and it did come to pass so." This is awkward in English but it better conveys the meaning. There is nothing in the Hebrew that implies instantaneousness. In fact, just the opposite, the phase is often translated in other places to imply significant time. This is important, for example in the third YOM because what had come to pass was that the earth sprouted vegetation and plants yielded seed. This had all come to pass before day four. (RG1, p95)
The list could go on and readers are commended to Rodney Whitefield's book. The point is that properly understood, Genesis 1 does not paint of a six 24-hour creation period. Biblically, there is no reason to want the universe to be any particular age.
What is faith?
Biblical faith focuses on the trustworthiness of God as shown by His past acts and faithfulness. God's acts in the past are the evidence upon which we base our trust in Him for the future and for all that cannot be verified. Looking for evidence is God's idea and He expects people to believe what they see and experience. Trusting in an assertion about what is or was when there is clear evidence to the contrary is not Biblical faith in God but faith in fantasy.
The earth and universe give evidence of the past and testify to their ages of about 13 and 4.5 billion years respectively. Biblically, if some teaching is contrary to what has actually happened, we should reject the teaching and stone the prophet. We should at least distrust the source. Fortunately the Bible and creation are not in conflict. In fact, properly understood, Genesis 1's consistency with the testimony of creation is a reason to believe that the Bible is inspired from its first words, its beginning.
Faith is not rejecting the evidence of the real world; it is trusting God for the future in the face of the evidence. Consider Abraham. We are told that with respect to the promises of God, he did not waver (Rom 4:20). Abraham had evidence of God's faithfulness for years and now was willing to trust God for what seemed impossible in the face of the evidence of his age and the deadness of Sarah's womb. God did not come to Abraham and say "You are not really 90 years old." If some voice had said that to him, Abraham would have properly rejected the message and the messenger as false.
So it is with the age of the earth doctrine. It is not Biblical faith at all. Believing in the appearance of age is tantamount to saying that God falsified the evidence. Christians should flee from such a doctrine. It is a misunderstanding of the Bible and rejecting it is not rejecting the Word of God. Teaching such a doctrine rightly causes skeptics to doubt that the Bible could be from God. Teaching such a doctrine sets young Christians up for disillusionment if they ever connect with reality and understand the overwhelming evidence for the antiquity of the world.
Belief without evidence is not faith but gullibility. Belief limited to only evidence also is not faith. Biblical faith rests on evidence of God's proven reliability. It then goes beyond the evidence to trust the person.
May the Ancient of Days be glorified as believers embrace the truth declared by heaven and earth.
1. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, page 1, WW Norton & Co, NY; 1987