The Big Question 78: How Old is the Earth Really?

Sep 1, 2021 1651

Radio Version:

How old is the earth really?

For atheists, and also some Christians, this isn’t really a big question. They are comfortable with the view that the earth is approximately four and a half billion years old. However, many Christians still hold the traditional view that the earth is around six thousand years old. Who is right?

Now, I do think that any question about our origins is a big question. But I don’t think that all big questions are necessarily the most important questions in terms of life and death. Nor do I think that it is necessary to know, or that we can know, the answer to every big question. And the question of how old the earth is one of those questions.

But let’s look at it anyway. How do the more traditional Christians work out how old the earth is? The Bible doesn’t actually specifically tell us. But they take a literal reading of the Bible, look at the genealogies, assuming there are not gaps, and they add them all up.

One person who did this this was Archbishop James Usher of Ireland in 1650. He was very specific. He worked out that the world had begun precisely on the evening before the 23rd of October in the year 4004 BC. How’s that for accuracy! That would make the work today just over 6,000 years old. However, he wasn’t the only one who came up with roughly a date of around 6,000 years for the age of the earth. There were actually many others. It’s the traditional, historical view. Of course, today this goes against the views of mainstream science.

How do most scientists work out how old the earth is? They use radiometric dating to work out the age of rocks, not just on planet earth, but also rocks near the earth, such as on the moon. However, there are instances in which radiometric dating has been shown to give very ancient dates for rocks for which we do know the true ages. And those true ages are much younger than the results from the radiometric dating.

So, who’s right? The traditional Christians or the mainstream scientists? And what do I reckon?

I actually think that it depends on how you look at the evidence. While the scientific evidence seems to favour a older earth, there’s also scientific evidence that seems to support a younger earth. And I do think that the method of simply adding up genealogies in the Bible is very flawed. It assumes no gaps in the Biblical record, which is too much of an assumption.

While I consider myself a more traditional Christian, I have to say that I don’t really know. And I’m OK with that. Do you know why? Because at the end of the day I don’t need to know everything.

How Old is the Earth? (The Big Question 78)

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