When creationists take a strong stand that God created the earth six thousand years ago, they’re often accused of making this a salvation issue. Well, it isn’t a salvation issue—but it is!
Because Answers in Genesis and other biblical creationists take an authoritative stand on six literal (approximately 24-hour) days of creation and a young (approximately 6,000-year-old) age for the earth and universe, some have mistakenly taken our unwavering stand to mean these beliefs are salvation issues.
However, nowhere does the Bible even imply salvation in Christ is conditioned upon one’s belief concerning the days of creation or the age of the earth or universe.
It does not state, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, and believe in six literal days of creation and a young earth and universe, you will be saved.”
Salvation is conditional upon faith in Christ—not belief about the six days of creation or the earth’s age. So these are not salvation issues per se. But it is a salvation issue in an indirect sense. Let me explain.
Many Christians, including Christian leaders, believe fossils, the earth, and the universe are millions or billions of years old. I contend that when they accept this timeframe and try to fit millions of years into the Bible, they are violating three vital issues.
One cannot get the idea of millions of years from the Bible. This idea comes from outside of Scripture. When a Christian adds millions of years to the Bible and reinterprets the days of creation or tries to fit this extra time into the first verse in Genesis or a supposed gap between the first and second verses, he is allowing fallible man to be in authority over God’s Word.
So I assert that such compromise (which I believe it really is) is setting an example for others that fallible man can take ideas outside of Scripture and reinterpret God’s Word to fit these in. Ultimately, accepting this view means God’s Word is not the final authority and is not without error. It also opens the door to others doing this with other historical claims of Scripture—such as the Resurrection and virgin birth.
Let me set this up with three major points.
First, Genesis 1:29–30 teaches that man and animals were originally vegetarian (before Adam’s sin). How do we know this for sure? Humans weren’t told they could eat meat until after the Flood in Genesis 9:3. This later verse makes it clear that mankind was originally vegetarian, but this changed after the Flood. Verse 30 of Genesis 1 (about animals’ diet) is worded in the same way as verse 29 (man’s diet), so it makes sense that originally the animals were vegetarian, too.
Second, at the end of the Creation Week, God described everything He had made as “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Third, Genesis 3 makes it clear that the animals (v. 14) and the ground (v. 17) were cursed. And verse 18 makes it clear that thorns came into existence after sin and the Curse: “Both thorns and thistles it [the ground] shall bring forth for you.”
Now the idea that things have been around for millions of years came from the belief that the fossil record was laid down slowly over millions of years, long before man’s existence. So when Christians accept millions of years, they must also accept that the fossil layers were laid down before Adam—before the first human sin.
Yet the fossil record contains fossil thorns—claimed by evolutionists to be hundreds of millions of years old. How could that be if thorns came after Adam’s sin?
The fossil record also contains lots of examples of animals that ate other animals—bones in their stomachs, teeth marks on bones, and so on. But according to the Bible, animals were vegetarian before sin.
Also, the fossil record contains examples of diseases, such as brain tumors, cancer, and arthritis. But if these existed before man, then God called such diseases “very good.”
Taking all this into consideration, it seems obvious that bloodshed, death of animals and man, disease, suffering, and thorns came after sin. So the fossil record had to be laid down after sin, too. Noah’s Flood would easily account for most fossils.
But what does this have to do with a gospel issue? The Bible calls death an “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26). When God clothed Adam and Eve with coats of skins (Genesis 3:21), a good case can be made that this was the first death—the death and bloodshed of an animal. Elsewhere in Scripture we learn that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22), and the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). Because Adam sinned, a payment for sin was needed. Because sin’s penalty was death, then death and bloodshed were needed to atone for sin. So Genesis 3:21 would describe the first blood sacrifice as a penalty for sin—looking forward to the one who would die “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10–14).
The Israelites sacrificed animals over and over again, as a ceremonial covering for sin. But Hebrews 10:4 tells us that the blood of bulls and goats can’t take away our sin—we are not physically related to animals. We needed a perfect human sacrifice. So all this animal sacrifice was looking forward to the one called the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
Now if there was death and bloodshed of animals before sin, then this undermines the atonement. Also, if there were death, disease, bloodshed, and suffering before sin, then such would be God’s fault—not our fault! Why would God require death as a sacrifice for sin if He were the one responsible for death and bloodshed, having created the world with these bad things in place?
One of today’s most-asked questions is how Christians can believe in a loving God with so much death and suffering in the world. The correct answer is that God’s just Curse because of Adam’s sin resulted in this death and suffering. We are to blame. God is not an unloving or incompetent Creator of a “very bad” world. He had a loving plan from eternity to rescue people from sin and its consequence of eternal separation from God in hell.
So to believe in millions of years is a gospel issue. This belief ultimately impugns the character of the Creator and Savior and undermines the foundation of the soul-saving gospel.
Many Christians believe in millions of years and are truly born again. Their belief in millions of years doesn’t affect their salvation. But what does it do? It affects how other people, such as their children or others they teach, view Scripture.
Christians who compromise on the idea of millions of years can encourage others toward unbelief.
Their example can be a stumbling block to others. For instance, telling young people they can reinterpret Genesis to fit in millions of years sets a deadly example: they can start outside Scripture and add ideas into Scripture.
I suggest that such people can, over time, get the idea that the Bible is not God’s infallible Word. This creates doubt in God’s Word—and doubt often leads to unbelief. Eventually they can reject Scripture altogether. Since the gospel comes from a book they don’t trust or believe is true, they can easily reject the gospel itself.
So, the age of the earth and universe is not a salvation issue per se—somebody can be saved even without believing what the Bible says on this issue. But it is a salvation issue indirectly. Christians who compromise on millions of years can encourage others toward unbelief concerning God’s Word and the gospel.