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Old Earth Creationism

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Old Earth Creationism refers collectively to several theories which accept an old earth, but reject unguided evolution. These creationists believe in the literal Adam and Eve. Some may accept a global Noachian Flood, but many others believe that the flood was local. The definition for Old Earth Creationism is more vague than that for Young Earth Creationism. Theistic evolution is disputably a form of the former.


Kinds of Old Earth Creationism

Using the broadest definition possible then all Christians (and for that matter all theists and even deists) are creationists of some type, as they maintain that a miraculous act of creation took place at some point in the past. However the word "creationist" is more generally used to refer to individuals who hold to some literal interpretation of the Bible, or possibly the Qur'an.

OECs can be split into various types.

It will be clear that many of these beliefs merge into each other and they should not be regarded as mutually exclusive. The ideas in this first section generally exclude any idea of evolution whether guided or unguided.

  • The gap theory holds that there is a chronological gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, during which a battle between God and Lucifer destroyed the face of the Earth. Most commonly the gap is followed by ideas associated with Young Earth Creationism although this does not have to be the case.

More recently this theory has fallen out of favor and has both Biblical and translation problems, although why this particular form of OEC belief is subject to more criticism than others is not immediately clear.

  • Day-age creationism holds that each Biblical day of the creation week was not a literal day, but an unknown length of time. It also holds that God directly created all living creatures over this period of time. [1] Some forms of Day-age creationism are indistinguishable from Progressive creationism.
  • Progressive creationism accepts scientifically established timescales for the age of the universe and of the planet earth but holds that individual species were created through individual creation acts by God over time.[2] [3] Consequently it could be compatible with more literalistic forms of ID but not with Theistic evolution.

Creationist theories which may not be creationist

These two ideas may or may not fall within the ambit of the description "OEC" depending on the interpretation being used. Ideas of guided (but not unguided) evolution may be acceptable to some holders of these beliefs.

  • Intelligent design (ID) holds that evidence for all life on earth being designed is all around us. After this initial point, ideas about any other types of creationism may be added. For some, it is completely compatible with Young Earth Creationism, for others it is equally compatible with scientifically established dates for the age of the universe and the Earth. People who hold to the latter will usually maintain that God used evolution in order to carry out His creation and consequently feel it to be a form of Theistic evolution.
  • Theistic evolution holds that scientifically established dates about the age of the universe are correct and explicitly states that evolution was used to carry out God's plan. Furthermore evolution was used by God in this way with the explicit intention of creating mankind. As such it accepts evolution but rejects unguided evolution. Some versions, such as the Roman Catholic, maintain the literal existence of Adam and Eve.

Extra-biblical basis

An old Earth is not something that can be understood from reading the Bible, but is based on secular views of the age of the Earth, as can be seen from the following quotes.

We have to admit here [concerning those who take the six days of Creation as literal days] that the exegetical basis [the arguments from the words of Scripture] of the creationists is strong. … In spite of the careful biblical and scientific research that has accumulated in support of the creationists’ view, there are problems that make the theory wrong to most (including many evangelical) scientists. … Data from various disciplines point to a very old earth and even older universe.’ — James Montgomery Boice[4]

It is apparent that the most straightforward understanding of Genesis, without regard to the hermeneutical considerations suggested by science, is that God created the heavens and the earth in six solar days, that man was created on the sixth day, and that death and chaos entered the world after the fall of Adam and Eve, and that all fossils were the result of the catastrophic deluge that spared only Noah’s family and the animals therewith. Pattle Pun[5]

It is of course admitted that, taking this account [Genesis] by itself, it would be most natural to understand the word [day] in its ordinary sense; but if that sense brings the Mosaic account into conflict with facts, [millions of years] and another sense avoids such conflict, then it is obligatory on us to adopt that other. Charles Hodge[6]

From a superficial reading, the impression received is that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four hour days. If this was the true intent of the Hebrew author (a questionable deduction, as will be presently shown), this seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago. Gleason Archer[7]

[C]onfessedly, it would not have been as readily deduced from the Genesis text had it not been for the evidences advanced by secular science. — J. Barton Payne[8]

If an old earth were really the teaching of Scripture, then one claim is glaringly conspicuous by its absence, that is, any claim in commentaries that the Bible unambiguously teaches long ages. Rather, the usual claim is that the biblical text appears on the surface to teach a young earth but may allow for an old earth. Jonathan Sarfati[9]


  1. A Day-age Creation Theory
  2. "Progressive creationism" from "God and Science"
  3. What is Progressive Creationism?
  4. Montgomery Boice, J.L., Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan, 1:57–62, 1982; quoted by Ham, Ken, The big picture, Creation 23(2):16–18, March 2001 (their insertions in square parentheses).
  5. Pun, P.P.T., Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 39:14, 1987; quoted by Creation Ministries International[1].
  6. Hodge, C., Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, pp. 570–571, 1997; quoted by Creation Ministries International[2] (their parenthetical insertions).
  7. Archer, G.L., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Moody, Chicago, p. 187, 1985; quoted by Creation Ministries International[3].
  8. J. B. Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1972, p.136); quoted in Sarfati, Jonathan, "Refuting Compromise", Master Books, March 2004
  9. Sarfati, Jonathan, Refuting Compromise, Master Books, March 2004, p.55. Emphasis in original.
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