Explain a Young Earth in Five Easy Steps

by Dr. Terry Mortenson on January 1, 2015
Featured in Answers Magazine
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“Why make such a big deal about the age of the earth? It’s so divisive!” If you’ve ever heard this question, or expect to hear it again, then this article is for you.

Have you ever heard the claim that young-earth creationists are divisive, putting a stumbling block in the way of nonbelievers? How do we help people see the importance of Genesis in the face of such criticism from other Christians? Does it really matter? Why can’t the account of Genesis 1 accommodate millions of years?

It does matter. If we can’t trust God’s account in Genesis, we can’t trust it anywhere else. God is clear in Genesis, and this message is easier to share than you might think.1

How Long Was Creation Week?

Genesis 1 makes it very clear that the days of creation were literal, just like the days of our week. The Hebrew word for “day,” yom, is defined the very first time it is used in the Bible ( Genesis 1:5). It is both the light portion of a dark-light cycle, where the dark is called “night,” and it is the whole dark-light cycle. The refrain at the end of each day says literally in Hebrew “evening was and morning was, the xth day.” Everywhere else in the Old Testament, the Hebrew words for “evening” and “morning” always refer to those time periods of a literal day, and when yom is modified by a number it always means a literal 24-hour day.2 Furthermore, in Genesis 1:14 we are told that the sun, moon, and stars enable us to measure literal years, seasons, and days.

The order of creation in Genesis 1 also indicates literal days. If they were really long ages of thousands or millions of years, how could the plants and animals survive such long periods of darkness? Or how could plants reproduce if the insects, many of which pollinate plants (made in the third “age”), were not created until the fifth or sixth “age”?3

Many Christians overlook Exodus 20:8–11, which stands as a concrete wall against any attempt to fit millions of years into Genesis 1. The Israelites were commanded to work six days and rest on the seventh because God created in six days and rested on the seventh. Notice in verse 11 that in six days God created “the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” Clearly then, God didn’t make anything before the six days (so the gap theory is wrong) or during millions of years between the literal days (so the so-called day-gap-day view 4 is wrong). And since God uses yom in both parts of the commandment, millions of years cannot be inserted into each day either (ruling out the day-age view).5 The framework hypothesis (that Genesis 1 is not chronological history) doesn’t stand up to God’s comparison, which treats Creation Week as historical and sequential, just like the Jewish week.

How Long Ago Was Creation Week?

The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 tell us that the time from Adam to Abraham was about 2,000 years. Several verses in the Old and New Testaments show that Abraham lived about 2,000 years before Christ. So Creation Week was literally about 6,000 years ago.

Some Christians, even fellow young-earth creationists, contend that extra time passed between Adam and Abraham because some names may be (or supposedly almost certainly are) missing in Genesis 5 and 11. But even if some names are missing here (I don’t think any are, but that is a separate discussion), that still doesn’t mean any time is missing. The genealogies tell us how old each patriarch was when the next person named in the genealogy was born, whether that person was a son, grandson, or some other distant relative.6 No matter what the relationship was between those two people, the amount of time is fixed.

In Mark 10:6 Jesus makes it clear that Adam and Eve lived at “the beginning of creation,” not billions of years after the beginning. In fact, every reference that Jesus makes to Genesis treats the text as literal history. In Romans 1:20 Paul says that the creation has revealed to human beings both the existence and at least some of the attributes of the Creator “since the creation of the world.”7 So, again, Adam and Eve were there on the sixth day of history to see that witness; the creation’s witness to the Creator was not unknown for 13.7 billion years as some Christians teach.

How Did God Create?

Genesis 1 and 2 teach that God created everything supernaturally by His Word. That’s literally true, not just an allegory or legend. These chapters clearly distinguish this supernatural creation from how all subsequent plants, animals, and humans would come into existence from their “seeds” (by natural procreation). Psalm 33:6–9 confirms this supernatural creation. The instantaneous miracles of Jesus recorded in the gospels8 also confirm this and reveal His glory as the Creator (John 2:11 and Mark 4:35–41). God did not need great amounts of time to create, but instead He spread His supernatural acts over a literal six-day period.

But Could God Have Created Over Long Ages?

Despite all this biblical evidence, some Christians who are locked into accepting millions of years will still ask this question. Yes, God could theoretically create things over long ages. But He said clearly that He did not. Furthermore, if we accept the old-earth claims of evolutionary geologists and astrophysicists, then we are accepting millions of years of death, disease, carnivory, and mass extinction among animals, plus thorns and thistles in the creation long before Adam sinned. But this totally contradicts the Bible’s teaching about the original “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31), God’s curse on the whole creation after the Fall (Genesis 3:14–19, 5:29; Romans 8:19–23), and Christ’s future redemptive work in the whole creation (Acts 3:21; Colossians 1:15–20; Revelation 22:3).9

If God created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago, He could not have been more clear in His Word.

Similarly, acceptance of millions of years assaults the character of God. He called everything “very good.” But the loving God revealed in Scripture would not say that about thousands of feet of sedimentary rocks containing dead animals. What kind of God would destroy most of His creatures millions of years before creating man, who was supposed to rule over the animals? Not the infinitely wise, good, and omnipotent God of the Bible. After all, under this scenario, most animals lived and died—and even became extinct—before He created Adam.

So, Does This Mean That a Person Must Believe in Literal Days to Be Saved?

Absolutely not! All that is needed for us to be saved from the future judgment of God is to admit to God that we are sinners deserving of death and put our trust solely in the death and Resurrection of Jesus to pay the penalty of sin and give us eternal life.

So then, it doesn’t matter what we believe about the age of the creation, right? Well, does it matter if we disagree with our Lord? The same Jesus who secured our salvation also believed Genesis is literal history. Also, the same inerrant book that clearly reveals Jesus’s death and Resurrection and promises His Second Coming also clearly teaches young-earth creation, the Fall, and the global catastrophic Flood. By rejecting Genesis (or reinterpreting it in some nonliteral way, which is the same thing), Christians are undermining the reliability, clarity, and authority of the Word of God and the foundation of the gospel they believe.


If God created in six literal days about 6,000 years ago, He could not have been more clear in His Word so that people in every culture in every century, regardless of education or age, would be able to understand. Conversely, if God created by guiding the processes of the big bang and evolution or by periodic supernatural acts over millions of years, then He guided Moses to write the most misleading account imaginable.10 But the infinitely wise God of truth and Creator of language is not so incompetent, nor does He mislead His people. God did create in six literal days about 6,000 years ago. He said so. Clearly.

Dr. Terry Mortenson is a well-known speaker and writer for Answers in Genesis–USA. He earned his doctorate in history of geology from Coventry University in England, and his master of divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago.

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  1. Thorough, scholarly defenses of most of these points can be found in Terry Mortenson and H. Thane Ury, eds., Coming to Grips with Genesis (Master Books, 2008).
  2. This is in contrast to Genesis 2:4, where yom is used in a nonliteral sense (without any mention of evening and morning or a number), and 2 Peter 3:8, where Peter is referring to God’s timetable for the return of Christ, not defining the length of the days in Genesis 1.
  3. For more on the contradiction between the order of Genesis 1 and the order in the evolution story see Terry Mortenson, “Evolution vs. Creation: The Order of Events Matters!” at answersingenesis.org.
  4. This is the view suggested by John Lennox of Oxford University in his widely praised book, Seven Days That Divide the World. He argues that God inaugurated a creation process on each literal day, but the process took millions of years to complete. Lennox also believes that there is a gap of millions of years before Day 1, which he says started in Genesis 1:3, not Genesis 1:1
  5. See Tim Chaffey’s article “Four Ways to Destroy the Creation Account” (Answers, October–December 2014, pp. 87–89) for more on what’s wrong with these old-earth interpretations of Genesis 1.
  6. For support of the strict chronology view, see Coming to Grips with Genesis, chap. 11.
  7. For Jesus’s and the apostles’ views on Genesis see Coming to Grips with Genesis, chaps. 12–13.
  8. Each of the stages of the two-stage healing of the blind man (Mark 8:22–25) was instantaneous, just like all of Jesus’s other miracles.
  9. See Terry Mortenson, “The Fall and the Problem of Millions of Years of Natural Evil,” at answersingenesis.org.
  10. Terry Mortenson, “Genesis According to Evolution,” at answersingenesis.org.


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