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Article Info:
published: 3/31/13
updated: 2/27/14

Old Earth Creationism

What is Old Earth Creationism?

Image from the Hubble Telescope

Old-Earth creationism in the Christian religion is a viewpoint that rejects Darwinian evolution and believes that the universe is billions of years old, based primarily on a particular interpretation of the first chapter of the book of Genesis. Most Old Earth creationists subscribe to the scientific consensus regarding the age of the universe.

While advocates state that their position is rooted in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 just like Young-Earth Creationism, it understands the word "day" differently. Whereas "day" signifies a 24-hour period in young-earth creationism, it refers to periods of time, like eras or epochs, in Old-Earth creationism. There are different kinds of Old-Earth creationism (see below).

Today the term "creationism" is applied to a variety of views about the origin of the universe, all of which share the belief that a supernatural being is ultimately responsible for its existence.

By definition all creationists believe in a supernatural being who is often referred to as the "Creator." However, adherents sometimes take different paths to arrive at their affirmation of creationism. Some creationists indicate that the origin of their view is their belief in God and the Bible, which should be interpreted literally. Other creationists testify that scientific inquiry, and particularly evidence that the universe was "fine-tuned," led them to their beliefs in creationism.

Key Aspects of Old Earth Creationism

Central to the understanding of Old-Earth Creationism concerns the word "day" in Genesis 1. Their view hinges on the interpretation that "day" does not refer to a 24-hour period, but a period of time.

  • The Hebrew word translated "day" (the Hebrew word is "yom") in Genesis 1 is used elsewhere in the Bible, and even in Genesis, as a time period that is longer than 24 hours. For example, Genesis 2:4 reads, "In the day the Lord made the heavens," which refers to the act of creation from beginning to end. Thus, even in the creation passage, "day" is used to refer to a time period longer than 24 hours.
  • The word "yom" occurs elsewhere in the Bible in reference to a period of time longer than 24 hours. For example, Job 20:28 refers to "the day of God's wrath" and Proverbs 21:32 refers to "the day of battle." Other examples include: Psalm 20:1; Proverbs 24:10; Ecclesiastes 7:14.
  • Another piece of evidence Old Earth creationists cite from Genesis 1 is the idea that Day 6 (1:24-31) contains so many events that they could not all occur in a 24-hour period. The day includes the creation of Adam and Eve and gave them dominion over the created order. Furthermore, all the animals were brought before Adam who named them and discovered there was no suitable helper for him. This led to the creation of Eve (Genesis 2:15-25).
  • It is also argued that because Day 7 does not conclude with the phrase "and there was evening and there was morning, a seventh day" it implies that the day is occurring.

Popular Theories of Old Earth Creationism

  • The Gap Theory: This view argues that there is a "gap" of millions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Proponents believe that God's first creation rebelled and was subsequently judged, which occurred during the "gap." What is read in Genesis 1:3 onward is the story of God's second creation.
  • Day-Age Creationism: This view argues that the "days" of Genesis 1 describe seven consecutive epochs of time, emphasizing that faith and science are not at odds.

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