I've mentioned several times in these articles that there are numerous Biblical "disagreements" that have no bearing on critical doctrines like salvation. This is one of those "beliefs" that, whichever theory you have, will not get you into Heaven or keep you out. It's also one of those "beliefs" that, whichever theory you have, you are convinced you're right. A couple years ago we heard a guest speaker on two Sundays give his reasoning for a "young earth," and now I have decided to give mine for an "old earth." I've not, to my knowledge, been called a heretic because of what I believe on this subject but I have been accused of believing in evolution. Trust me, I do not!!! I believe Gen. 1:1 explains perfectly how the universe came into being. That said, I also believe Gen. 1:3-31 is an account of the 6-day restoration of the original earth, not a 6-day account of its creation. I have no idea how long it actually took God to create it, but I'm convinced He's capable of doing it in 6 nanoseconds (that's 6 billionths of a second) if He wanted to. He wouldn't need 6 days. There are four primary reasons I believe what I do about this -- (1) The actual meaning of the Hebrew word translated create (bara), (2) Gen. 1:2 compared with Isa. 45:18, (3) continental drift and (4) the physical appearance of the universe.
First, the Bible's use of the words create, created, etc.: Hebrew linguists generally agree that these words are often misused in the Bible and other Hebrew texts. The correct definition is to make something out of nothing, and according to Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, this verb always has only God as its subject. In the Bible it is often used where a better translation would have been to shape, form, fashion, select or to transform something. For instance, when David says, "create in me a clean heart, O God" (Ps. 51:10) it's obvious he didn't mean make me a new one out of nothing; he wanted the one he had fixed. Another example is Adam. Gen. 1:26 has God saying, "let us make (asah) man," Gen. 1:27 says, "God created (bara) man," and Gen. 2:7 says, "The Lord God formed (yatsar) man" [out of the pre-existing dust of the ground]. Technically, Adam and Eve were formed (the word means to mold into a form or shape) not created. An instance where you might expect to see the word created but don't is on day three. Gen. 1:9-13 does not say vegetation was created on day three. It implys the seeds were already in the ground and when the water receded and the land dried out the seeds sprouted. Where did the seeds come from? I contend they were already there from His original creation. If day 3 was the creation of vegetation God probably would have created an oak tree, not an acorn.
Second, look at the description of the earth in Gen. 1:2 and Isa. 45:18: Gen. 1:1 says the earth was created in the beginning, and in verse 2 it is reported to be "without form and void," a water-covered, dark, empty ruin. The expression without form (tohuw) means to lie waste, a desolation, desert, or a worthless thing. The word void (bohow) means to be empty, a vacuity or an undistinguishable ruin. Why would God have created an empty, worthless, desolate earth? Well Isaiah says He didn't. Isaiah briefly describes the creation in Isa. 45:18 where he says "He created it not in vain." Why the translators changed words between Gen. 1:2 and this verse I don't know, but vain and form are the same Hebrew word. Isaiah is saying God did not create it without form and void as it is described in Gen. 1:2. An obvious question is what happened between Gen 1:1 and 1:2? For one thing, I believe about 4.5 billion years. That's what the admittedly flawed, but commonly accepted dating methods (they generally use four different methods) estimate the age of the universe to be. Soil samples from the earth, moon and meteors all date the same. Also, I can't imagine God sending Lucifer down to a tropical paradise when he was cast out of heaven to the ground/earth (Isa. 14:12), so it was probably made void at or before that event. We know there was a time when lush vegetation covered vast areas of the earth, even up into the Arctic. We heat our homes and fuel our cars with the byproducts of that vegetation. There is no mention of the ice-age in the Bible or any other historical document and the last glacier is estimated to have been about a mile high when it crossed my farm in Champaign County. Someone surely would have mentioned it in ancient history. I imagine the original pristine earth teeming with the extinct species whose fossils are still being found today (dinosaurs, etc.), as well as the biped animals evolutionists call cave men. Don't let anyone convince you that Neanderthal or Cro-Magnon was your ancestor. I believe they existed over 10,000 years ago, anthropologists and archaeologists have found their remains, their cave paintings and their crude weapons. They were somewhat clever animals, not humans. Adam is the only "creature" that the "Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen. 2:7). Adam was the first human being. That happened about 6,000 years ago just like the Bible says.
Third, the continental drift theory: It was proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912 and was laughed at by other scientists, primarily because there was no theory as to what mechanism caused it. After Wegener died in 1930, scientists generally adopted his theory with a "moving plate" explanation. His unique geological similarities of rock formations linking mountains in Appalachia with those in Scotland, and those in South Africa with those in Brazil have been verified. The plates are still moving (that's what causes earthquakes), but so slowly that North America could not possibly have crossed the Atlantic in a mere 6,000 years, unless the event I suspect happened long ago, the one that caused the earth to become "without form and void," caused a rapid drift.
Finally, my fourth reason for believing in an old earth is its appearance: I've spent lots of time in the Rocky Mountains, and I've personally seen lots of other earth features in North America, Europe and Africa. I've spent several hours looking through a high power telescope at the moon, stars and planets, as well as imagery from our inter-galaxy space probes. I've spent half my life looking at the earth's surface on satellite imagery. The Rocky and Atlas Mountains and the Alps look really old to me, and even a casual look at the moon through good binoculars and the imagery of Mars show heavenly bodies that have been bombarded with meteors for what looks like a lot longer than 6,000 years. The massive impacts on the moon would have been seen from Earth and no historian has mentioned them. Can these four reasons possibly indicate an approximate 4.5-billion years between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2? I think so, what do you think?