While we do not harshly criticize those who are in error, we are told to warn or advise them. Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., writes about gently confronting our fellow believers.
I have a very loving Grandfather. He is one of the most sound Believers i know; but as he was showing me some rocks today, he made a comment about how it took "millions of years for the rock to get that way" now, he's a very elderly man. and i looked at him and said, now do you really believe it was millions of years? his reply was something like "well no man really knows..."
Through research, and reading the information on here, i have come to fully belive in a young earth.
What would be the best way to explain to my grandfather, in a respectful way, that the earth is simply not that old?
Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis. I'm glad to learn that your grandfather is a godly man. It is truly a blessing to have Christian family members you can look up to.
I can understand your dilemma and appreciate your desire to be respectful toward your grandfather while dealing with this issue. The Bible has several instructions concerning the respect we need to have for people. For example, 1 Timothy 5:1–2 states, "
Do no rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger as sisters, with all purity." While we do not harshly criticize (rebuke) those who are in error, we are told to warn or advise (exhort) them.
After spending some time in prayer over the matter, your best approach might be to simply ask him to clarify what he meant by the statement. If he reiterates that no one can really know the age of the earth, then ask him if he believes Scripture is authoritative and without error. This should present you with an opportunity to discuss what the Bible states on this issue in a respectful manner. Remember, you don't want to lecture him, but engage in a meaningful conversation. Remind him that God was there at Creation and He has told us in Genesis what He did.
If he agrees that the Bible is authoritative and inerrant, you may still hear several objections that you should be ready to address. Here are some of the common objections we hear from well-meaning Christians:
We have numerous articles on our website that deal with these objections and many more. For an example, see Could God Really Have Created Everything in Six Days?
Also, I co-authored a book with Dr. Jason Lisle entitled Old-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict Is In, which addresses the objections made by Christian leaders on this subject. Our goal was to gently and respectfully critique our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who use these types of arguments. We also wanted to show that the Bible consistently teaches God created all things in six 24-hour days about six thousand years ago and that the Flood in the days of Noah was a worldwide event.
Often overlooked in this discussion is the issue of the Flood. Your grandfather may not realize one of the huge implications of believing in millions and billions of years. Not only does it place death before sin (which undermines the foundation of the gospel message), but it also forces one to reinterpret the plain words of the Flood account.
You see, if the rock layers were truly laid down over billions of years, then the worldwide Flood in Noah's day never happened. As such, old-earth Christians are forced to reinterpret this event as a local or regional event. Those who do not are inconsistent in their beliefs because a worldwide flood would rip up the rock layers and lay down new ones. So if there was a worldwide flood, then the rock layers we see would be one of the results, thus wiping out the alleged evidence for the billions of years. In other words, if the billions of years are true, then there never was a worldwide Flood. Does your grandfather realize that he would need to reinterpret the Flood account as well? Respectfully point this out to him.
Many people have just never given this issue much thought, and so they may be excited to learn that the plain reading of Scripture can be trusted. We have found that the people who try to reinterpret the plain words of the text are ultimately allowing some idea from outside of Scripture to determine their interpretation of God's Word. In this case, it is the acceptance of the billions of years based on the unbiblical philosophy of uniformitarianism, which is the idea that the past can only be understood in terms of present processes and rates. This places man's ideas above Scripture. We should never allow the ever-changing opinions of fallible men override the never-changing, plain words of the infallible God.
Finally, it does not take a long time for rock layers to form. Check out our article Folded Rock Layers.
May God bless you in your efforts to gently share the truth of His Word with your grandfather.
Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.