One of the “internal” debates these days within the Church is regarding the days of creation. There are basically two camps on this issue. First, there are the “Old Earth Creationists” who believe that the Earth is millions (or billions) of years old. On the other side, there are the “Young Earth Creationists” who believe that the Earth is fewer than 10,000 years old.
What this essentially comes down to is how we interpret the days of creation in Genesis 1. The Old Earthers interpret these days as being long spans of time while the Young Earthers view these as normal, 24-hour days.
I have heard a number of arguments from both sides of this issue and, one of the ones I have been looking into recently was from Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason. Greg is an Old Earther and cites concerns with scientific discoveries and the distant starlight problem among his reasons for believing in an old Earth. As for biblical citations, he refers to a passage from Hebrews 4…
1Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. 3Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” 4And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.” 5And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
6It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. 7Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
As Koukl puts it, this passage seems to indicate that we are still in the seventh day of rest, thus this passage could seem to clarify the idea that the word “day” (yom) in Genesis 1 refers to an “age” or a “epoch” or “era” of time rather than simply an ordinary day.
In reading this passage, however, I can’t help but think that there is another way to view this. When I think of this idea that we are still in His rest, it almost seems to me that we need to make a distinction between an event as opposed to a continuing state of being.
For example, after working for a long time, most people look forward to retirement. Now, retirement, as with “rest,” it seems to me, can be viewed in two ways. First, there is the day that one finishes their last day of work. On that day, when they leave their job for the last time, they are “retiring.” This is an event that occurs at a particular time. However, several years later, that person is still retired. At this point, it is a continued state of being retired rather than a single, temporally finite event.
Due to how the wording is in Genesis, I am compelled to believe that the intent of the word “day” in this account is to mean an ordinary day of 24 hours. After all, it refers to morning and evening and refers to the days as the first day, second day, etc. Also, in other areas of scripture we see that these seven days are referred to in order to illustrate an idea that refers to ordinary days, such as the seven-day week with the Sabbath on Saturday.
Now, as for the scientific dating methods, which still seem to be under debate and the “distant starlight problem” which may have a solution (I’m awaiting the final compilation from Dr. Jason Lisle who claims to have found a potential solution to this issue), I don’t know that there is enough conclusive evidence in either of these areas to constitute forcing us to believe in what is often termed the “day-age” theory. I still believe that as we discover more, we may find that “day” in Genesis 1 means just and ordinary day.
Grace, love and peace.