Issues with Old Earth Creation: The Gap Theory

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, June 27, 2014 12 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

In the next three weeks, including today, I am going to be addressing three of the more popular ideas about origins and how people try to demonstrate that the earth is really billions of years old. Some believers in Jesus Christ believe in what is popularly known as “Young Earth Creation” where the earth and the universe are really only about 6000 years old. But there are many church pastors and speakers who support the idea that the earth is billions of years old. Why is this? Who is right? How do we tell which is which? In this short series, I will be addressing three major position of “Old Earth Creation” (also known as OEC): The Gap Theory, Progressive Creation, and Theistic Evolution. I will explain what each position is, how they get such a position, and evaluate if it is valid.

Today, I will discuss the Gap Theory. What is this? The Gap Theory is an origins model that suggests that between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, there is a long period of time where Lucifer had dominion over the earth, then he rebelled, and God destroyed it when he defeated Lucifer in a great war in heaven. This destruction is known as “Lucifer’s Flood” and then after this point, the story picks up in Genesis 1:2 and God re-creates the earth now for man instead of for angels. The idea of Lucifer’s fall is frequently found in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28: 13-19.

Now it is interesting to note that these four sections of Scripture are the key ones used to suggest this origins account. But it is interesting to note that nowhere in Scripture does it say when Lucifer fell and became Satan. There is no source to suggest this actually took place. In Genesis 1:31, at the end of Day 6, we see God calling everything he made “very good”. The Hebrew for this describes “done, complete, perfect condition”. This gives rise to the idea that when God made all the angels, including Lucifer, good but at some point between Day 6 and when man fell in Genesis 3, Lucifer rebelled and became Satan. Which of these two is correct? To be honest, we don’t know because we are not told. What we do know is that Satan was in the picture in Genesis 3 and that is it.

But when Lucifer fell and became Satan is actually more of a side point. The real key thing to address about the Gap Theory is the history it speaks about it. The theory suggests an undefined, indefinite period of time between the first two verses of the Bible. Why is this even suggested? The truth is this: the Gap Theory wasn’t around until 200 years ago when many in the scientific community started to demonstrate that the earth was much older than previously expected. And many theologians and preachers did not want to appear foolish in light of these new findings so they had to find some way to understand how God could have made everything while still sounding like it is acceptable with the scientific community. This brings up how the age of the earth is determined from a scientific standpoint. I’ll address just a couple points.

What made the idea of an old earth popular was not Charles Darwin but his predecessor, Charles Lyell, the “Father of Modern Geology”. He falsified erosion rates of Niagara Falls to make the Falls appear older than they actually should be. No one actually knows how old Niagara Falls is because we don’t have a record of mankind being there when the river between Lakes Erie and Ontario got started. But no one really questioned Lyell enough to keep the idea down. I can write a whole series of posts about why science cannot determine the age of the earth and that the dating methods used for such a concept are false, but that is for another time.

Suffice to say is that the pastors and preachers of the time in general did not stand on the authority of Scripture on the account of origins. They did not rise up to challenge Lyell or the leading philosophers which included Darwin, and speak from the authority of Scripture. Instead, they compromised and began to interpret Scripture in light of man’s current “understanding” of nature at the time.

What I find interesting is that for 3300 years between when Moses wrote Genesis and to when these “old earth models” were coming around, the church had always stood on Genesis being historical. The debate in the 1st and 2nd century church was not 6000 years vs millions of years, but 6 days vs instantaneous creation. St. Augustine held to an instantaneous creation because to “limit” God to 6 days was to “limit” his power. But the issue is not how “could” God have created everything. God could have made it any way he wanted. That’s not the point. The point is “God said he made it in the way he did in Genesis 1. Do you believe him or not?” And so when for 3300 years, mankind has the wrong impression about Genesis, yet when science finally achieved the level it got to at that point, that men who did not fear God nor honor his word were able to figure out what 3300 years of church history had wrong? One thing is clear, if the earth is millions of years old, someone is lying. Either God lied about how he made the universe of man is lying about how old the earth really is.

The Gap Theory has other issues that they share with Progressive Creation and Theistic Evolution and I will deal with those issues in the next two posts. But I will make clear that the Gap Theory completely rests on the “modern scientific philosophies” instead of solid Biblical reasoning and it rests on ideas where Scripture is silent. It is very unwise to build a theology or even philosophy on a mere “could be”. Because time and time again, that “could be” actually sounds like a very familiar phrase: “Did God really say…?” Do not be fooled. God must be true, even if every man is a liar. I will stand by God’s word and the authority it has.

12 comments:

David J. said...

From your Facebook:
"And those initiated the claims of an "old earth" were Bible-haters."

Charles Lyell was a Christian who was very slow to accept Darwin's theories. Lord Kelvin (who, strangely, many creationist organizations like to claim as one of their own), was a Christian who believed that the earth was tens of millions of years old.
I realize Lyell said somethings about Mosaic history, but it doesn't make sense to me that a Christian would make up evidence solely to discredit Genesis if they believed the Bible as a whole.

" Yes, because he did not report what he was told." Then how do you know what he was told? Creationists can cherry pick one time that a scientist may possibly have left something out that he may not have felt was important? Amazing. Too bad science does not require its practitioners to be inerrant.

Charlie said...

Lyell influenced Darwin's theory. He was a contemporary of Darwin but his work preceded Darwin's. He did NOT believe the Bible. Lyell was as much of a Christian as Darwin. At best in name only. You are absolutely right that it no sense that a Christian would make up evidence solely to discredit Genesis if they believed the Bible as a whole. And the fact that he did tell me he was not a born-again Christian who knew Jesus. Lyell may have been slow to accept Evolution but Lyell played a BIG role in establishing Evolution. He did NOT believe the Bible, because if he did, he would never have suggested the concept of uniformitarianism.

How do I know what he was told? He was told the erosion rates were 3-5 meters per year on average. He reported only 1 meter per year. And this can be verified at Niagara Falls itself. It erodes more than 1 meter per year.

David J. said...

Darwin turned away from his Christianity, but I don't see any evidence that Lyell did. Obviously, belief in old ages and evolution is not enough evidence that someone turned away from Christianity, otherwise you'd have to say that C.S. Lewis and many other people were not Christians.

Even if Lyell made up evidence, you can't prove that his purpose for making up the evidence was to discredit the Bible, even if it happens to do that. There were obviously many other things that had already convinced him that the earth was old. (I don't even see why Niagra falls would be proof either way, since God could have made it in a way that makes it look like it had already eroded some.) You're taking one or two bits about his whole life to make a caricature of him, then judging him based on that caricature you've made.

"How do I know what he was told? He was told"
I ask you for evidence, and you just repeat your claim.

Charlie said...

Yes, Darwin turned away from Christianity. But I have no evidence that Lyell was a Christian to begin with. Going to a church does not make you a Christian. And this is not a "No True Scotsman Fallacy".

But I stand corrected. It was not meters, it was feet. We've measured the erosion rate, and the locals would have said something very similar. What he reported was blatantly false. I do not blame Lyell for lying about uniforitarianism, but I do accuse him of very bad science for such a model which is proven false time after after time. Making false assumptions does not make you a liar. But being given one set of data through observation and reporting another is dishonesty. He admits in his book quoted here that he rejected the actual reports and made his own conjecture.

// Mr. Bakewell, son of the eminent geologist of that name, who visited Niagara Falls in 1829, made the first attempt to calculate from the observations of one who had lived forty years at the Falls, and who had been the first settler there, that the cataract had during that period gone back about a yard annually. But after the most careful inquiries which I was able to make, during my visit to the spot in 1841-42, I came to the conclusion that the average of one foot a year would be a much more probable conjecture. In that case, it would have required thirty-five thousand years for the retreat of the falls, from Queenston to the present site. (Principles, 1859, 9th Edition, p. 217.)//

Lyell's admission was in a personal letter. No Christian, who believes Jesus Christ would attack his word like Lyell did. Jesus said if you don't believe Moses, you won't believe him. To be a Christian, according to Jesus, means to be a follower of him. If you don't believe Jesus, you are not a Christian. Source on this here.

http://www.icr.org/article/dating-niagara-falls/

http://creation.com/charles-lyell-free-science-from-moses

David J. said...

Thank you for the quote from his book, that's what I was looking for. In my opinion these statements of yours are not justified by what he wrote:

"He falsified erosion rates of Niagara Falls to make the Falls appear older than they actually should be."
"Lyell lied."
" The lying part is when the people reported one thing and he reported something else."
"Yes, because he did not report what he was told"

He did report what he was told! That's how we know he was told.

As far as all the bible-hating claims are concerned, you seem to be confusing motivations and conclusions. It seems to me that Lyell rejected Mosaic history because of the evidence he found. You make it sound like he hated the Bible and therefore sought evidence to disprove it (even resorting to making up evidence.)

15 minutes later:
So I just searched for the context of the quote from Principles of Geology. here is the very next sentence after the part you quote: "It seems by no means improbable that such a result would be no exaggeration of the truth, although we cannot assume that the retrograde movement has been uniform."
Here is the page online: https://archive.org/stream/principlesofgeol00lyelrich#page/217/mode/1up

Charlie said...

Yes, he reported what he was told but then in the same paragraph said something else. Someone is lying here. Either Lyell is lying or he is accusing the locals of lying, and because he provided absolutely nothing to substantiate his claim, tell me how I am supposed to conclude anything else. You say my claims are unsubstantiated but you have not provided anything to me to get me to think otherwise. I see claims that I have found to be unsubstantiated themselves. You claimed Lyell was a Christian and provided nothing to support it. I provided stuff that shows he wasn't. Many, including himself, claimed Hitler was a Christian, yet he did nothing that showed he was a Christian. I call such people for what they are: liars.

When someone calls themselves a Christian, I expect them to be striving to behave like Christ. I do not expect perfection because only one person is even capable of doing it: Christ. But if someone is going to call themselves a Christian, they need to support what Christ believed, which includes the Mosaic account. When the only evidence I see of someone being a Christian is their claim to be a Christian, I see actions speak far louder than words and I am greatly inclined to not believe such claims.

Did you look at the sources I posted? That will give you a bigger picture of what is going on.

David J. said...

"and because he provided absolutely nothing to substantiate his claim, tell me how I am supposed to conclude anything else.

You don't have to conclude anything! There's not enough information to conclude anything. I'm not saying that anybody should take his word for it, or that he provided enough evidence for a scientific critique. He hedges his claim with many statements of uncertainty.

I read your sources, and I find the ICR article to be dishonest. They cut off a quote just before he says "we cannot assume that the retrograde movement has been uniform." and then say "Lyell's faulty reasoning has impacted the entire field of geology, shackling it with the failed concept of uniformity"

I'm not going to speculate about whether he was a real Christian. But he clearly didn't have some crazy anti-God vendetta. Here's a line from the conclusion of his book:
"But in whatever direction we pursue our researches, whether in time or space, we discover everywhere the clear proofs of a Creative Intelligence, and of His foresight, wisdom, and power."

Charlie said...

//You don't have to conclude anything! There's not enough information to conclude anything. I'm not saying that anybody should take his word for it, or that he provided enough evidence for a scientific critique. He hedges his claim with many statements of uncertainty.//

Well, again, when I see actual data given and he suggests something else that is obviously against that data, I have to conclude something is wrong. I can understand a typo or something of that sort, but when you report one thing and then say something else, as someone trained in science, it stands out as academic dishonesty.

//I read your sources, and I find the ICR article to be dishonest. They cut off a quote just before he says "we cannot assume that the retrograde movement has been uniform." and then say "Lyell's faulty reasoning has impacted the entire field of geology, shackling it with the failed concept of uniformity"//

Are you suggesting that Lyell was NOT the "Father of Modern Geology" or the person who coined the term "uniforitarianism"? You might want to read more than just that one line if you want to go that direction. His entire book was about uniformitarianism. You talk to me about "quote-mining" and then you go about doing the same thing.

//I'm not going to speculate about whether he was a real Christian. But he clearly didn't have some crazy anti-God vendetta. Here's a line from the conclusion of his book:
"But in whatever direction we pursue our researches, whether in time or space, we discover everywhere the clear proofs of a Creative Intelligence, and of His foresight, wisdom, and power."//

Apparently you didn't read the other source I linked because he expressed a very strong anti-Biblical opinion in his personal letters.

David J. said...

//Are you suggesting that Lyell was NOT the "Father of Modern Geology" or the person who coined the term "uniforitarianism"? //
When I Google the phrase "Father of Modern Geology", the first two pages of results are all for James Hutton, except for one about a Google doodle for Nicolas Steno.
The term "uniformitarianism" was coined by William Whewell.


//Apparently you didn't read the other source I linked because he expressed a very strong anti-Biblical opinion in his personal letters.//

"Mosaic" seems to be the term used to refer to a literal 6 day creation and the deluge. If rejecting the 6 day creation and deluge makes someone not a Christian, then Lyell was not a Christian.

Charlie said...

//When I Google the phrase "Father of Modern Geology", the first two pages of results are all for James Hutton, except for one about a Google doodle for Nicolas Steno.
The term "uniformitarianism" was coined by William Whewell.//

Then there is another example of lies from the science textbooks. Because that is what is being taught. When I substituted for a Biology class a couple months ago, I had to teach an intro to Evolution and what I posted is what was taught.

//"Mosaic" seems to be the term used to refer to a literal 6 day creation and the deluge. If rejecting the 6 day creation and deluge makes someone not a Christian, then Lyell was not a Christian.//

It refers to the Biblical account of Creation, original sin, the Flood, all of Genesis, all of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Jesus said, "If you are not against us, you are with us." Lyell was against Biblical foundations on which every doctrine of Christianity has root. He may have called himself a Christian but time and time again, with few exceptions those who do not believe the Genesis account also do not believe the Gospel account. The few that do believe the latter and not the former do so inconsistently with clear logical breakdowns.

C. Robert Follett said...

When the original theologian postulated his belief in the Gap Theory, that there was a huge amount of time missing between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, he was definitely thinking outside the box, so to speak. And today, scientific evidence proves he was right.

Unfortunately, in regard to the rest of Genesis, he and every theologian since have allowed their beliefs to crawl back into that box and zip the lid shut.

Actually, EXCEPT FOR THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION, all scientific evidence is in complete agreement with Genesis, but ONLY when you get the interpretation
correct.

I suggest you do a google search on the phrase - "Does scientific evidence support the existence of a Divine Creator?" Be sure to include the quotation marks. I think you will be amazed at what you find.

Jason DeZurik said...

C. Robert Follett

I went and checked out the google search you asked us to do and all it did was take me to your book. I wish you would have just been honest enough to tell us you were pointing us to your book but it is okay. I would encourage you next time just to be up front about it because I went and looked at your book and it starts out with 2 "did you know"questions:

"that the Bible does not address the question, How old is the universe?"

"that there is nothing biblical supporting a 6,000 year old earth.?"

If you really wanted to be intellectually honest I would encourage you to do an edit on the next publication in starting your book with a better #2 "did you know question" It could be,
Did you know: that according to the Bible, we don't know how old the earth is? Old or Young?

I have tried finding information out about you as well and all I can find is, if this is the right person, that you are a "former artist and author and are loving being self employed." Congrats on the self employment! That is a great accomplishment. You are a very good painter.

What I am trying to find out though is how you are qualified to tackle this topic. Do you have a degree in theology? in science of some sort? A group of people with degrees you are pulling from? How can we know what you are saying is coming from a solid biblical foundation? I'm not challenging you just trying to get to know you.

Also, I have studied the creation/evolution debate now for about 20 years of my life and I pull from many people with Masters in Divinity Degrees as well as others with degrees. One is a doctor. So, I guess I am just trying to find out before we get into a discussion about this, what makes you qualified to discuss this topic in depth and even write a book on the subject?