by Kyle Butt, M.A.
For over three decades, Apologetics Press has contended that the Earth’s age is a topic of great importance. A straightforward reading of Genesis leads the reader to the conclusion that God created the entire Universe in six, literal 24-hour days only a few thousand years ago (Butt, 2002; DeYoung, 2005). We have contended that a compromise of this biblical truth opens the door of acceptance to false beliefs, such as evolution and the mythologizing of the Bible’s historic narrative (Lyons, 2008).
In the course of our work, we have been accosted by many who do not appreciate our young Earth position. Many people, including a host of well-meaning Christians, think that the age of the Earth is not an issue that should be taught, since it “causes such division.” They believe that we should simply talk about creation, the Bible, Jesus, and His church, and leave “peripheral” issues like the Earth’s age alone. Why would we choose, they contend, to spend our time teaching about something that is irrelevant to a person’s salvation, when there are so many other topics that we could address?
The idea that the Earth’s age should be left alone struck us full force when we were invited to speak at a large elementary school several years ago. My colleague, Eric Lyons, and I were scheduled to speak to the kids about creation. We were told that the school’s position on the age of the Earth was divided, some teachers and administrators believing the evolutionary-based billions-of-years idea, while others accepting the biblical time frame. I informed them that the young Earth concept was central to our teaching, and that we simply would not be able to avoid the topic. They assured us that we could address the Earth’s age during our presentations. Once we arrived, however, the age of the Earth again became an issue. Due to some pressure from parents who had been informed of our position, the principal pulled Eric aside only minutes before he was scheduled to address the entire assembly. She informed him that he should not address the topic during his presentation. He was shocked, and reminded her that we had discussed this, and had been given approval to teach about the Earth’s age. Needless to say, Eric did not adjust his presentation. He continued with his message that an all-powerful God created the Earth thousands, not billions, of years ago.
A recent article posted on ScienceDaily underscores one primary reason why it is important for Christians to teach the truth about a young Earth. Sehoya Cotner and Randy Moore, biology professors at the University of Minnesota, teamed up with Christopher Banks of the school’s Office of Information and Technology. They presented to 400 students a survey that contained questions about creation and evolution. The result of the survey indicated that those students who accept the billions-of-years time frame for the Earth more readily accept concepts such as human evolution. The article reporting the research stated: “High school and college students who understand the geological age of the Earth (4.5 billion years) are much more likely to understand and accept human evolution” (“Students’ Perceptions...,” 2010, emp. added). Researcher Sehoya Cotner stated: “The role of the Earth’s age is a key variable that we can use to improve education about evolution, which is important because it is the unifying principle of biology” (as quoted in “Students’ Perceptions...,” 2010).
While Cotner is wrong that the false concept of evolution is the unifying principle of biology, she is exactly right about one thing: if students can be taught that the Earth is billions of years old, then they will more readily adopt evolution. At Apologetics Press, we have known this fact for years. The age of the Earth is the “gateway” concept that makes evolution palatable. The mental process at work in a person who compromises the biblical idea of a young Earth is the same process that must be in place to accept the erroneous concept of human evolution. Cotner’s research verifies the fact that the Earth’s age is not a peripheral issue that can be left untaught. Instead, the Earth’s age could literally be the point at which the battle to win the hearts and minds of our young people to the truth about Creation is won or lost. In a very real sense, what a person believes about the Earth’s age has the potential to greatly impact his or her eternal destiny. Cotner and her fellow evolutionists know the importance of the battle over the Earth’s age. That is why they are urging their fellow evolutionists to recognize it, and use the alleged billions of years to “improve education about evolution.”
Cotner’s enthusiastic rally around the age of the Earth should be a wake up call to Christians as well. If evolutionists understand the importance of teaching about the Earth’s age, creationists should recognize the battlefront and be willing to stand for the truth. It may well be the case that if you can keep one young person from believing in an old Earth, that young person will be insulated against other erroneous concept’s such as human evolution, and equipped to defend the basic truths of Christianity—that there is a God, the Bible is His inspired Word, and Jesus Christ is His son.