The stupid, very dumb 'how old is the Earth' idiocy

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Wednesday November 21st, 2012

By DAN CALABRESE - God is smart. Idiots are dumb.

I know my Bible. While I write for a political site, my devotion is much more to God than to whatever it is that we talk about here. So most of the theological debates that find their way into politics make my skin crawl, because much of the time the conservatives are misapplying Scripture to suit their partisan purposes, and liberals who treat all expressions of faith as absurd by definition merely use these issues as traps for conservative politicians.

That's why this business about Marco Rubio, and his answer to GQ about how old the Earth is, represent such extreme idiocy all around.

First of all, Rubio's actual answer to the stupid question was not so bad. Here it is in full:

"I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute among theologians and I think it has nothing to do with gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the earth was created in seven days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries."

Right up front, by mentioning its irrelevance to anything a U.S. senator actually deals with, he essentially says, "Why are you asking me such a stupid question?"

As to his actual answer, he doesn't claim the Earth is only 10,000 years old. He doesn't even outwardly say he believes the account of Genesis, although he seems to imply that he does, and he leaves open the question of just what the seven days of creation might have encompassed in terms of the passage of time as we understand it.

But here's why this whole thing is so stupid. First of all, it's a left-wing fiction that Bible-believing Christians everywhere believe the Earth is only 10,000 years old, and are obsessed with perpetuating this belief. I'm sure there are those who believe it and teach it, but the notion that this doctrine is a key tenet of American Christianity can only be believed by those who have never spent much time in churches. In my lifetime, I have been a member of Catholic, Baptist (two of them), non-denominational and Pentecostal Christian churches. I've never heard the age-of-the-Earth doctrine taught anywhere. Not a single time.

Genesis, sure. We believe the creation account of Genesis. But the 10,000-year notion is the calculation of a few people who apparently added up the years associated with biblical geneaologies and came up with an age-of-the-Earth theory. To them, if you think they're wrong, you deny everything up to and including the Genesis account and therefore the very Word of God, and you are a heretic.

Here's the problem with that. First, let's take a look at Genesis 1:1-2:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Let me ask you a question. How much time passes between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2? Study the text carefully. Look for evidence to support your answer. OK, now go ahead and answer. How much time?

You don't know. You can't. It doesn't say. It could be an instant. It could be billions of years. You have no idea and neither do I. Neither does anyone. The way the narrative is written might cause you to infer the transition was instantaneous, but it doesn't say that. Now let's move on to Genesis 1:3-5:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

This is where we start getting into the passage of days. The cycle of light/day and darkness/night certainly seems to suggest that these were literal 24-hour days, and there's no reason to think God couldn't have done everything Genesis describes in six 24-hour periods (remember, He rested on the seventh day), because God can do whatever He wants.

Now, you ask, if God did all this in six days, then what's with the evidence that the process took billions of years? There are any number of ways to square the two, if you accept the supernatural powers of God. (If you don't, we really don't have anything to talk about so you might as well start tweeting about how Herman Cain has crazy people working for him.) It is not God's typical modus operandi to snap His fingers and perpetrate disruptions of nature. Rather, He uses nature to achieve what he wants to achieve. Genesis 1:11-13:

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

Seed-bearing plants and trees need roots, right? Vegetation grows from soil. Seed has to develop within fruit. If God did all this in one day, it stands to reason that He created the plants and the trees roots and all. That He tilled the soil. It could be that He just snapped His fingers and it was all there, in an instant. But given the way God usually deals with nature, my guess would be that He actually planted the seeds and let them grow. If they grew to maturity - to the point where they actually bore fruit - in a single day, then it would stand to reason that God sped up the process dramatically, sort of like time-lapse photography, and that he did the same with everything from rock formations to the development of continents and oceans.

Anyone examining the evidence would certainly find scientific backing to support the notion that they are billions of years old, and it's very likely that anything or anyone on Earth at the time (remember, mankind was not created until the sixth day) would have experienced it as if it was a passage of billions of years.

Am I arguing for the young-Earth theory? Not really. We know from 2 Peter 3:8:

"With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."

However long the passage of time was for anyone or anything on Earth, what matters is that it was a seven-day expanse of time as God experienced it.

Christian fundamentalists who get this wrong simply make too many assumptions about the passages of time described in Genesis, and forget the lesson of 2 Peter 3:8. The creation story is written from God's perspective, not from ours. It doesn't matter how long it took for us to live through it. God can create a billions-years-old planet in a day if He wants to. God can speed up time for us while slowing it down for Himself.

That's why this argument is so stupid. It's stupid for theologians because we don't need to explain all these details to have faith in God's Word. His power transcends the limits of the natural world so it's no problem at all to accept all scientific evidence and understand that it merely gives us insight into how God did what we know He did. And it's incredibly stupid for politicians because, unless they are biblical scholars, they have no idea what they're talking about and they're dealing with an issue that is completely irrelevant to their jobs.

But I suppose the dumbest people in all this are the Christians who demand politicians accept their ill-conceived young-Earth doctrine. (After all, a government full of young-Earth believers will facilitate the accomplishment of . . . what, exactly?) And the most loathesome people in all this are the secular leftists - especially those in the media - who scorn all notions of faith, and simply use these dumb questions as a trap to take down anyone they can.

Question: "How old is the Earth, Senator?"

Answer: "That's a stupid, irrelevant question."

Memorize it.