What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?

Question
What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?
Answer

Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is the understanding of Creationism that God created the universe in six (6) literal Days. It maintains a more literal interpretation of a Genesis 1-3, as opposed to looking at such texts as mere allegory or metaphor. They maintain an Ex-Nihilo Creation (see below).

So, YECs understand Genesis 1-2 as an historical account. The normal order for a Hebrew narrative sentence is: Conjunction > Verb > Subject > Object. The order in poetic writing is: Subject > Verb > Object. So, Genesis according to its grammar is historical. We might add, that in the Torah it begins with Genesis 1:1, which contains 7 words and 28 letters (divisible by 7), making this number of Days even more significant.

Evidence for the historical interpretation is overwhelming. For instance: (1) Adam is in Jesus' genealogy (Luke 3:38); (2) Paul understood Adam to be the first man (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:45, 47) and contrasted Christ and him with life and death (1 Cor. 15:22); (3) based upon the Creation account of man, Paul literally taught that a wife should be 'biblically' submissive to her husband (1 Tim. 2:13-14; Gen. 2:7-25); and (4) Enoch's genealogy is literally based upon the historical Adam (Jude 1:14; Gen. 5:21-24). In each instance, the Genesis record is taken at face value. No biblical author, or even Jesus himself, ever attempts to correct the Genesis narrative. Moreover, other Bible authors take the account of Creation at face value: (1) David (Psa. 8:3; 33:6-9; 104:19; 148:3-5); (2) John (John 1:1-3; Rev 2:7); (3) the author of Hebrews (Heb. 1:10); and (4) Peter (2 Pet. 3:5). Please see Jesus' support of YEC in "Are there two different accounts of Creation?" below.

YECs usually place the age of the earth at approximately 6,000-10,000. Central to its argument(s) is the meaning of the word "Day." While some of YEC arguments for the Hebrew word yom meaning "Day" are great distortions of the truth (i.e. 'the word "day" with a number always means a 24-hour period of time outside of Genesis 1'; but see Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:4-6; Zech. 14:7-9, but see, "What is the meaning of Day in Genesis 1?" below), it interprets the Hebrew word yom in Genesis 1, to literally mean a 24-hour Day, as supported by:

(1) Yom's Sabbath Day usage in Exodus 20:9-11 (cf. Gen. 1:1-2:3).

(2) Yom's appearance with the defining phrase, "morning and evening" (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).

(3) Yom's appearance with the time-stamp numbers (the first Day, the second Day, etc. in Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).

(4) "It was so" indicates immediacy [1-4], not a delay of 1000s, millions, or billions of years (Gen. 1:6, 9, 11, 14, 24, 30).

(5) "And God saw" indicates immediacy (Gen. 1:4, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). God pronounced that each event in Creation was "good" (Hebrew, towb, meaning "excellent") "only after" he saw what was completed ("and it was so"). This speaks of not only his decree, but his finished work. It refers to not only the sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, sea and land life, and man himself but the finished complex systems working within other finished complex systems to support all life. He pronounced that all six Days of Creation were "very good," only after "he saw everything that he had made" worked fully together as he fully created it to exist (Gen. 1:31).

(6) The fact that Genesis 1 lacks a comparative particle - "like" or "as," (implied in Psa. 90:4 and literally stated by Peter - twice - in 2 Pet. 3:8). This infers that Day in Genesis 1 means a literal 24-hour Day.

(7) The first use of yom (Gen. 1:4-5) literally refers to the daily light/dark cycle of Day and Night.

With all these limiting words and phrases restricting the context of Genesis 1 ("day(s)," 11 times; "it was so," 6 times; "And God saw," 7 times; "good" 7 times; "very good," 1 time; and the time-stamp numbers used 6 times), the "preponderance of the evidence" (meaning that it was more likely than not that something occurred in a certain way), seems to limit the usage of yom to an ordinary 24-hour day. I don't see how God could have been any clearer!

YEC understands that placing 1000s or millions of years between each day of Creation causes enormous interpretative challenges. To state a few:

(1) How did plant life created on the third Day survive and germinate without sunlight created on the fourth Day for 1000s of years? Though God is light (1 John 1:5), it is ludicrous to think he is photosynthesis sunlight. Of course, God could have done this through a miracle, but creating in six (6) literal Days is also a miracle. But, if one believes in miracles, why not then believe in the miracle of a six (6) Day Creation (Heb. 11:3; Rev. 4:11)?

(2) Without the heat from the sun within a week the global surface temperature would drop below 0 degrees F and within a year below -100 degrees, but of course God could have worked another miracle, (see (1) above).

(3) What about Adam's age? If 1000s of years existed between the sixth and seventh Days then Adam would have been older than 930 years old at his death (Gen. 5:5).

What is interesting is that even if science can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the earth is millions of years old, this still this does not disprove that the earth wasn't created some 6000-10,000 years ago. What? How can the earth be both young and old at the same time? We may deduce from Scripture that God Created "a mature universe; one with age." One where Adam: (1) understood instruction (Gen. 2:16-17); (2) could speak - as he names the animals (Gen. 2:19-20); and (3) was old enough to understand both the need for and to be given a wife (Gen. 2:18, 21-24) - he even marveled with words at his wife's Creation (Gen. 2:23). Adam was given instruction that he could eat of every tree of the Garden (Gen. 2:15-16) - except one (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). So, Adam had the ability to reason. Also, the "trees" in the Garden were ALREADY producing fruit! They were Created mature. God Created a mature universe.

So, when Adam was Created, he was a mature adult; fully able to walk, talk, and care for the Garden (Gen 2:15), etc. When God Created fruit trees, they were already bearing fruit. In each case, what God Created was functionally complete right from the start - able to fulfill the purpose for which it was Created. God's evaluation of his own work was that his completed Creation was "very good" (Gen. 1:31). God observing what he Created in Days - not just the sun, moon, stars, trees, vegetation, animals and man himself, etc. - but their function and harmony with each part fulfilling the purpose for which it was Created - was "very good."

Verily, God Created the universe - Ex-Nilho (Heb. 11:3) and in doing so he created all of its processes to work in harmony with one another. For, the universe to have functioned in such harmony from the beginning reveals that it had to be Created with "true maturity" - not just with an appearance of age, but with already complete operating system(s) (complicated complete systems operating within other complicated complete systems, etc.). So, we can affirm God created "a mature universe, one with age." So, in essence the earth can be both young and old at the same time. Please see, "What is the Mature Universe Theory?," below.

This said, not all YEC will agree with a mature universe view (such as, no death before the Fall - Adam at least ate plants before the Fall, so logically some things died, see, "Did man eat meat before the Fall and the Flood?," below), I briefly presented above and go forth and argue the science of YEC. YECs don't shy away from science. Please see "Scientific Evidence for YEC?" below.

Though I definitely don't agree with all the YEC arguments they use, this position has many valuable truths to teach. In my own personal view, I mix a sober combination of YEC, a mature earth view (see below), and Intelligent Design (see below), understanding that God alone is the Divine Designer, who created Ex-Nihilo (see below). Please see, "What About Hebrews 11:3?" below.

Footnotes

[1] Biblical Hebrew employs a rule called the "vav ha-hipuch." The preceding "v" flips the tense from past tense to future, or vice versa. Thus, the Hebrew, yehi-chen, means "it will be so" and the Hebrew, vayhi-chen means, "it was so." Gen. 1:7, 9, 11, 15, 24, 30 use the Hebrew vayhi-chen meaning, "it was so."

[2] "Scripture pictures God's creative word as bringing immediate response. When the Bible talks about God's creative word it emphasizes the power of his word and its ability to accomplish his purpose." Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 277.

[3] Ross who actually affirms Progressive Creationism even states, "The text reports that it happened as decreed: "and it was so." The word "so" (ken, from kun) is much stronger than it may seem. It means that, like an established thing, the light and darkness found their fixed place in the order of creation." Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 109.

[4] "'And it was so' seems to be redundant. However, it relays an idea over and above the mere execution of the divine will. The phrase has a temporal aspect, meaning that this event has come to pass and it has been in existence and operation ever since. It also becomes stereotypical for the remainder of the days of creation." John D. Currid, A Study Commentary on Genesis: Genesis 1:1-25:18, vol. 1, EP Study Commentary (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, n.d.), 66.

Various Creation Positions

What is the Big Bang Theory?
What is the Day Age Theory?
What is Ex-Nihilo?
What is the Framework Hypothesis?
What is the Gap Theory?
What About Hebrews 11:3?
What is the Intelligent Design Theory?
What is the Mature Universe Theory?
What is Old Earth Creationism (OEC)?
What is Progressive Creationism?
What is Theistic Evolution?

Related Topics

What is the meaning of Day in Genesis 1?
Are there two different accounts of Creation?
What is BioLogos?
Did man eat meat before the Fall and the Flood?
A Universal or Regional Flood?
What about the evidence of Carbon-14 dating?
What About Dinosaurs?
Scientific Evidence for YEC?
How could there be evening and morning the first three days of Creation?
Extraterrestrials and the Bible?
Can a person be born an atheist?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).