“Do the Six Days of Creation in Genesis Correspond to the Geological Ages”?

According to the established system of historical geology, the history of the earth is divided into a number of geological ages. The earth is supposed to have evolved into its present basic structure about five billion years ago. Certain increasingly complex chemicals in the primeval ocean, acted upon by electrical forces in the atmosphere, acquired the ability to replicate themselves perhaps about three billion years ago. For a long time only single-celled life forms existed, hut about one or two billion years ago metazoan organisms began to evolve.

Evolutionary Theory

Since the beginning of the Cambrian period, almost a billion years ago, the developing variety of life on the earth is supposedly recognized by the fossils of organisms which have been buried and preserved in the sedimentary rocks of the earth’s crust. The earliest vertebrates appeared in the Ordovician, fishes began to thrive in the Silurian and Devonian, and amphibians arose in the Permo-Carboniferous. Then, beginning about two hundred million years ago, we have the Mesozoic Era, the age of the great dinosaurs. This terminated with their sudden and unexplained extinction towards the end of the Cretaceous period about one hundred million years ago. Next, the Tertiary period is the age of mammals and birds. The hypothetical common ancestor of man and monkey appeared perhaps seventy million years ago. Finally man, equivalent to modern man in all essential aspects, is believed to have emerged about one or two million years ago.

In contrast to the above quite remarkable construct of the human imagination (remarkable in view of the fact that reliable written historical records extend back only four or five thousand years!), the Biblical revelation tells us that God created the entire universe in six days only a few thousand years ago. Consequently many Christian scholars have labored diligently, especially for the past century and a half, to find some way of reinterpreting Genesis to fit the framework of earth history prescribed by the geologists, not wishing to incur the easily-provoked ridicule of the intellectual establishment and yet wishing somehow to retain faith in the integrity of the Scriptures.

The “Day-Age” Theory

The most popular of these devices has been the “day-age” theory, by which the “days” of creation were interpreted figuratively as the “ages” of geology. However, there are so many difficulties with this theory that, for most people who have held it, it has been only an escape-hatch and, quite often, only a temporary stopping-point on the road to outright rejection of the historical records in Genesis (and, eventually and inevitably, of the historical accuracy of the rest of the Bible too).

Difficulties with the “Day-Age” Theory

The Hebrew word for “day” is “yom” and this word can occasionally be used to mean an indefinite period of time, if the context warrants. In the overwhelming preponderance of its occurrences in the Old Testament, however, it means a literal day—that is, either an entire solar day or the daylight portion of a solar day. It was, in fact, defined by God himself the very first time it was used, in Genesis 1:5, where we are told that “God called the light, Day.” It thus means, in the context, the “day” in the succession of “day and night,” or “light and darkness.”

Furthermore, the word is never used to mean a definite period of time, in a succession of similar periods (that is, “the first day,” “the second day,” etc.) or with definite terminal points (that is, as noted by “evening and morning,” etc.) unless that period is a literal solar day. And there are hundreds of instances of this sort in the Bible.

Still further, the plural form of the word (Hebrew “yamin”) is used over 700 times in the Old Testament and always, without exception, refers to literal “days.” A statement in the Ten Commandments, written on a tablet of stone directly by God himself, is very significant in this connection, where he uses this word and says plainly: “In six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is” (Exodus 20:11).

Not only is the day-age theory unacceptable Scripturally, but it also is grossly in conflict with the geological position with which it attempts to compromise. There are more than twenty serious contradictions between the Biblical order and events of the creative days and the standard geologic history of the earth and its development, even if it were permissible to interpret the “days” as “ages.” For example the Bible teaches that the earth existed before the stars, that it was initially covered by water, that fruit trees appeared before fishes, that plant life preceded the sun, that the 6rst animals created were the whales, that birds were made before insects, that man was made before woman, and many other such things, all of which are explicitly contradicted by historical geologists and paleontologists.

Theological Fallacy of “Day-Age” Theory

But the most serious fallacy in the day-age theory is theological. It charges God (the God of love, of mercy, of order, of wisdom and purpose) with the direct responsibility for five billion years of history of purposeless variation, accidental changes, evolutionary blind alleys, numerous misfits and extinctions, a cruel struggle for existence, with preservation of the strong and extermination of the weak, of natural disasters of all kinds, rampant disease, disorder and decay and, above all, with Death. The Bible teaches that, at the end of the creation period, God pronounced his whole creation to be “very good,” in spite of all this. It also teaches plainly that this present type of world, “groaning and travailing in pain” (Romans 8:22) only resulted from man’s sin and God’s curse thereon. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Romans 5:12). “God is not the author of confusion” (I Corinthians 14:33).

If God’s purpose in creation was the creation and redemption of man, as those who advocate this theory believe, what purpose could there have been, for example, in the age-long reign of the dinosaurs and their extermination millions of years before man appeared? Christian ethics (healing the sick, unselfish sharing, turning the other cheek, self-sacrifice) are diametrically opposed to evolutionary ethics (destruction of the unfit, aggressiveness, self-preservation).

The above are only a few of the dozens of Biblical, scientific and theological fallacies in the day-age theory and, indeed, in any theory which seeks to accommodate the Christian faith to evolutionary faith.

Dr. Morris is professor and head, department of civil engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia.