For millennia, the standard Christian understanding of the text of Genesis 1 was that God created the earth and the universe in six days. Much of modern science owes its existence to scientists who were Christians. They were, by modern standards, young earth creationists. The argument in response to that reality is that when many of these scientists were alive there were no competing, or alternative views existed. This claim is false ithat there were those who proposed evolution and thus an older earth well before Charles Darwin came on the scene.
The old earth view pre-dates modern science and has its origin in philosophy. Many ignore the philosophical origins of the old earth view and that view is advanced as if it were scientific, proven fact. Science has been desperately trying to prove that philosophical assumption for decades, to no avail. All of the dating methods used so far work from the assumption of an old earth and begin with assumptions that skew how evidence is gathered and interpreted. The dating methods used by scientists provide erroneous results, dating recently created rock formations to be millions of years older than they are known to be.
One of the most astonishing claims by those believers who hold to an old earth model is that we, who hold to the young earth model, are limiting God. God we are told, is not bound by time, so limiting creation to six days is limiting God who could have created the universe in billions of years. Since God is outside of time, there is no reason, we are told, to limit God to a mere six days. But is it really the case that we are limiting God?
The issue is not whether or not God is bound or limited by time. God is eternal, and of course is outside of time and is not bound by linear time as we know it. So that point is not in dispute. It is not about whether or God is limited by time. The issue is, what has God revealed to us in His word? What does God say He did? We can sit around all day dreaming up scenarios where God could have done this or that, but those are meaningless speculations and do not provide substantive or intelligent reasons to discard a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. God could have done it any way He wanted in any amount of time, but the issue for us is not what God could have done, or in how long He could have done it. The question for us centers around what God said He did.
God said He created the earth is six days. In Exodus 20:11 God told the Israelites that their Sabbath observance was rooted in the fact that God created in six days and rested on the seventh day. How would those Israelite slaves have understood what God said? Would these former slaves standing there still dressed in the rags they wore as slaves, understood six days to mean billions of years? It is unlikely. Another place where God makes the same claim of a six day creation is in Exodus 31:15-17:
Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Exo 31:15-17)
You will note not only the repeated claim that the heavens and earth were made in six days, but note also the emphatic nature of the commandment. They were to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations (Heb. l’dorot), as a perpetual (l’olam) covenant and as a sign between the Lord and the children of Israel forever (l’olam). So if God wanted to communicate to these people that the creation of the earth and heavens were longer than six days, He had the perfect opportunity to make that clear. God is perfectly able to communicate clearly with us and doesn’t play word games with us.
One argument is that God was simply speaking in terms that ancient people could conceive of, that they had no concept of long epoch periods of time. But the Bible speaks to ancient people in terms of longer periods of time. The word “olam” is used to refer to long indeterminate time periods where eternity and the dateless past and dateless future is concerned. It doesn’t mean endless continuous time, but refers to long indeterminate, successive periods of time. God speaks to ancient people in terms of other long periods of time (Gen. 1:14, II Pet. 3:8). He could have used the Hebrew word “dor” which also means long periods of time. It is a word that refers to posterity and is often used to communicate perpetual ongoing generations in the Hebrew text (l'dorot).
But unfortunately for us today, for many Christians, the evolutionary dating assumptions have become the father of biblical interpretation. The assumptions made by the scientific community are the filter through which the Bible must be sifted and word of God is believed only inasmuch, as it can be modeled around the theories and assumptions of sinful men. The evolutionary claims of science regarding the age of the earth have become the standard measure of truth to which the Bible must conform as an obedient slave. Thus the limits being placed upon the Bible and by exension, on God, comes from those who reject a literal interpretation of God's word.