What is Old Earth Creationism (OEC)?

Question
What is Old Earth Creationism (OEC)?
Answer

Old earth creationism (OEC) is a phrase used to describe individuals who deny YEC (Young Earth Creationism, see below) and the universe's creation in six (6) literal consecutive 24-hour Days. OEC maintains that the earth is approximately 4.5 (+/-) billion years old. Variations of old earth creationism include: (1) Day-Age Theory - DAT - (each "Day" of Creation represents a much longer and undefined period of time); (2) Framework Hypothesis - FH - (which reads Genesis 1 poetically in two triads of Days); (3) the Gap Theory - GAP - (there is a long period of time between Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2); (4) Progressive Creationism - PC - (God created new forms of life gradually over several million years); and (4) Theistic Evolution - TE - (God began an evolutionary process(es)).

Old Earth Creationism (OEC) have some common errors. To state a few:

Problem
DAT
FH
GAP
PC
TE
Sun created before the Earth
X
X
X
X
X
Satan fell before the 6th Day
X
X
X
X
X
All Creation wasn't "very good"
X
X
X
X
X
Dinosaurs didn't live with mankind
X
X
X
X
X
Non-existent Symbiotic Relationships
X
X
X
X
Order of Events Conflict
X
X
X
X
X

OEC states that the sun was formed before the earth. However, according to Scripture, the earth was made on first Day (Gen. 1:1-5) while the sun was created on fourth Day (Gen. 1:14-19). If Satan fell before the sixth Day then everything could not have been "very good" (Gen. 1:31). God stated after each Day that his Creation was "good" (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25) and on the sixth Day that his complete complex systems with-in other complete complex systems were working together in absolute harmony - "very good" (Gen. 1:31).

It is plain in Scripture that dinosaurs existed with man. God created all the animals upon the earth, both living and extinct. Sea and winged-type dinosaurs were created on the fifth Day of Creation (Gen. 1:20-23) and land-type dinosaurs were created on the sixth Day (Gen. 1:24-25). God's sovereignty appointed them a place in his Creation (Job 39:6). He told Job that he is more powerful than the probable dinosaurs; the Behemoth and Leviathan (Job 40:15-24; esp. Job 40:19 and Job 41:1-34; esp. Job 41:10). See Psalm 74:13 and Isaiah 51:9.

In Creation, there are numerous symbiotic relationships that have to work together for life to exist. For instance, pollination is needed for plants to reproduce, and so many plants depend on bees or other insects as pollinators; a single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day! [1] However, according to Scripture, plants were made on the third Day (Gen. 1:11-13) and insects on the fifth or sixth Day (Gen. 1:20-23, 24-25). However, if there are millions of years between each Day of Creation, then how were the plants pollinated? One OEC answer has been, because God worked a miracle. However, if you believe in miracles, why not just believe in the miracle of all of Creation itself (Heb. 11:3; Rev. 4:11)?

OEC theories have to rearrange the Creation Days to make their theory(s) work. Some place reptiles before birds, others state that fish and sea creatures came before the land vegetation. The Scripture is holy ground, mere sinful men shouldn't try to correct God's perfect order (cf. Rom. 3:4). God's Word is true as given (Num. 23:19; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 13:8; 2 Pet 1:20-21; Jas. 1:17; cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19).

For the most part, OEC affirms a literal Adam and Eve (some 10,000-70,000 years ago), and the Fall in the Garden, but agree with the ever-changing scientific estimates of the age of the universe.

Besides their interpretative tool of Science + scripture, a main premise for their position(s) is their interpretation of the word "Day" (Hebrew, yom) in Genesis 1 and the rest of the Bible. They believe yom represents a longer period of time than just a 24-hour Day. Indeed, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament gives various definitions of yom. It can denote: (1) the period of light (as contrasted with the period of darkness); (2) the period of twenty-four hours; (3) a general vague "time;" (4) a point of time; (5) a year (in the plural; 1 Sam. 27:7; Exod. 13:10, etc.). [2]

But what does yom mean "in context"? OEC, in their arguments, appeal to:

(1) Psalm 90:4, which is later cited by Peter in 2 Peter 3:8. However, Psalm 90:4 uses an implied comparative particle - "like" or "as," (which is literally stated by Peter - twice - in 2 Pet. 3:8) and Genesis 1 uses:

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

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

(c) "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).

(d) "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).

So, the usages differ!!!

(2) Genesis 2:2-3 states that God rested on the seventh "Day," and this restful "Day" (yom) has continued for millions of years. However, the Trinity is intimately involved with his creatures every Day, including Adam, Eve, and the serpent in Genesis 3, etc. God spoke through his prophets (Heb. 1:1), he stopped the sun (Josh. 10:13-14), and did miracles through Jesus. So, God continues to "work," (he makes "new creations," 2 Cor. 5:17; cf. Job 33:28-29; Eph. 1:11; Phil. 1:6; 2:13, et. al.) but just not in the identical way he did in Genesis 1.

(3) Genesis 2:4 uses the word yom to mean more than a 24-hour Day; and since it refers to the entire first six Days of Creation, all six Days should be interpreted the same way. While this is indeed true that "Day" in Genesis 2:4 refers to all six Days of Creation, there are numerous problems with this OEC interpretation:

(a) Genesis 2:4 doesn't include the definite phrase, "evening and morning" (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). Therefore, this is not an apple to apple comparison.

(b) Genesis 2:4 uses the Hebrew be-yo-wm, not the Hebrew yo-wm (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31; 2:3). Genesis 2:4 uses be-yo-wm as it is an idiomatic phrase (a summarizing statement, as in Num. 7:10 and Num. 7:84) and not identical to the use of yo-wm in Gen. 1.

(c) In addition, Genesis 2:2-3 (Hebrew, yo-wm) refers to resting on the Sabbath Day (Exod. 20:11 - Hebrew, yo-wm), but if we assume OEC extended usage of be-yo-wm in Genesis 2:4, then they must interpret the Sabbath Day the same way (but be-yo-wm does not equal yo-wm).

(d) If we interpret the first six (6) Days of Creation, with the same number of Days that Genesis 2:4 is equal to, we are speaking of only 36 Days (6x6 = 36), not millions of years.

So, this does not change the meaning of the 24-hour Day in Genesis 1, if anything it strengthens the case for it.

(4) Genesis 1:24-31 refers to the sixth "Day" of Creation and would had to have been longer than 24 hours, as Adam would have had too much to do; such as (a) naming all the animals (Gen. 2:19) and (b) having slept for a while (Gen. 2:21-22). However, this is "an assumption" being placed upon and read into the text itself. Adam was created "very good" (Gen. 1:31). His brain had to have been very developed just so he could have named the animals in the first place. OEC logic limits the eternal God and the unfallen Adam to being only able to do what fallen men can do in time! This entails denying a miracle in Genesis 2 and thus, Genesis 1 as well.

While OEC may have good intentions, and this is somewhat an accepted Christian belief, their elevation of Science over Scripture causes them to misunderstand Creation. Paul and Peter both speak to them some all familiar words:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

There are other Scriptural solutions to the age of the earth. Please see, "What is the Mature Universe Theory?" and "What About Hebrews 11:3?" below.

Footnotes

[1] Pollination, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, (https://www.bees.techno-science.ca/english/bees/pollination/default.php). Last Accessed 6 December 2017.

[2] R Laird Harris (Author),‎ Gleason L Archer Jr., yom, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (Moody, 2003).

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 Progressive Creationism?
What is Theistic Evolution?
What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?

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).