By Paul Priest  |  23 June 2020  |

Much of Adventist origins theology is based on a young earth view of creation, which can be summarized with the following points:

  1. The earth was created about 6,000 years ago.
  2. It was created in 6 days.
  3. It was created perfect.
  4. Adam and Eve were the first humans.
  5. Sin ruined this perfect creation.
  6. Adam and Eve’s disobedience changed humanity such that all their descendants were born sinful.
  7. God introduced physical death as a consequence of Adam’s sin.
  8. The plan of redemption was introduced to deal with sin and restore creation to its perfect condition.

This interpretation was largely inherited from our Protestant roots. However, evidence in the earth itself challenges this model. It is an evidence-based fact that the earth is old. That means that the first seven points of the above young earth theology are wrong. They are more than just wrong; they are devastatingly wrong.

Radiometric Evidence

In the summer of 1980, I attended a two-week Geoscience workshop at Mount Ellis Academy in Bozeman, Montana, put on by the Geoscience Research Institute. (It was sponsored for all science teachers in the denomination, which I was at that time.)

While there, I had a discussion with Dr. Robert Brown, one of the presenters, about the age of the earth. He told me of a natural nuclear reactor at Oklo, Gabon, Africa, discovered in 1972 by French physicist Francis Perrin. It was an active about 1.8 billion years ago.[1] At that time the U-235 concentration in Uranium ore was about 3%. When the deposit became flooded with groundwater, the water acted as a moderator, slowing the neutrons down and starting the reactor. When the ground water level dropped below the uranium deposit, the reactor shut down. For thousands of years the reactor operated on and off, until the U-235 concentration dropped below what was needed to support a chain reaction.

The 1.8-billion-year age of this fossil reactor is based on the time it takes for U-235 to decay from a 3% concentration to its present concentration. The half-life of U-235 is 0.704 billion years.[2] The normal concentration of U-235 in Uranium deposits today is 0.072%. At Oklo it is 0.060%—a significant difference and, in some places, it is as low as 0.044%. An examination of the fission by products of the Oklo deposits matched that produced in modern reactors using U-235. Other Uranium deposits don’t have the fission by-products.

The lower than normal concentration of U-235 and the presence of fission by products convinced scientists that the Oklo deposits represent a fossil nuclear reactor. There are no natural reactors at the present time because the relative concentration of U-235 has decayed below the concentration needed to sustain a chain reaction.[3]

This fossil nuclear reactor testifies that the earth is old. It is not based on a radiometric measurement that requires knowing the amount of parent isotope and daughter isotope.

Today there are thousands of radiometric measurements that also show the earth is old. There are 92 elements that occur naturally, of these there are more than 300 natural occurring isotopes. Some 65 of these isotopes are radioactive.[4] These allow for a variety of different decay sequences to be used in radiometric dating. Many rocks have been dated using two or three different decay sequences and the results have been found to agree within acceptable limits of measurement error. For example, rocks from southwest Greenland dated using U-Pb, Pb-Pb, Rb-Sr, and Sm-Nd methods (four different methods) gave ages ranging from 3.5 to 3.7 billion years. The oldest rocks date to about 3.8 billion years. The very ground we stand on testifies to an old earth.

Non-radiometric Evidence

NASA’s Apollo program brought back about a half ton of moon rocks for analysis. Unlike the earth, the moon has no erosion, so its craters have remained undisturbed, and provide a record of the early formation of the earth-moon system. Many of these rocks were formed when the meteor hit the moon, forming melt rock. Analysis of these impact melt rocks show that these meteor strikes occurred between 4.1 and 3.8 billion years ago.[5] Moon rocks also speak to an old earth.

Another non-radiometric observation that supports an old earth is the Green River formation, in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. It is the main source of shale oil in the western U.S. It contains over 6 million annual layers of sediment. This means that these sediments were formed over a period of about 6 million years.[6] Each annual layer consists of a dark layer rich in organic material (the source of the oil) alternating with a lighter band of silt and clay. These alternating layers were seasonally deposited. In the warm summer, algal and planktonic blooms would occur. The cool fall would cause these blooms to die back and sink to the bottom of the lake and be covered with the silt and clay of the winter sediments.[7] The alternating organic and inorganic layers clearly show a yearly cycle.

These Green River sediments also contain fresh water fossils of fish, clams, snails, frogs, and crocodiles, birds, and land plants. These fossils show that life is also old. The Green River formation doesn’t speak to the age of the earth, but it does speak to an old earth and to old life. Many other examples could be given.

God Is Not a Liar

The Bible also speaks to an old earth.

God’s instruction to Noah in building the ark was to pitch it inside and out with pitch. The bitumen used to pitch the ark is oil-based. According to Ellen White, during the flood, trees were covered with earth and became coal which produced oil.[8] If the oil was produced from the trees buried by the flood, where did the oil that formed the bitumen to pitch the ark come from? Its existence shows the burial of organic material had been going on long before there was a flood. The strata in the Mesopotamian region are six miles thick.

Scripture is clear that God created the universe. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Since God created the earth, it will always tell the truth because God can’t lie (Heb. 6:18). God’s creation cannot contradict itself.

Once the earth testifies to its age, either young or old, its testimony will always be consistent. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (2 Cor. 13:1). This text argues for the consistency of witness testimony. In this case, it is how the earth speaks to its age. Every measurement whether radiometric, ice cores, mud core, or lake varves says the earth is old.

Young earth creationists argue for a 6,000-year-old earth. Would God deceive us by making all the evidence of the age of the earth appear old when in reality it’s only 6,000 years old? God doesn’t fabricate false evidence. Young earth creationism makes God a liar.

In a similar way, genome studies have shown our common ancestry with other creatures time and again. Why the appearance of common ancestry if each species was created separately? Why would God make the evidence appear one way, while reality is different?

The Burden of Proof

Pointing out the faults in scientific methods of age dating is not enough. The evidence for an old earth is overwhelming, so the burden of proof on the young earther is much larger. They must show that the earth is young by overwhelming evidence. They must produce physical evidence that says the earth is young and this evidence must, overall, be consistent. Not one measurement, but many consistent measurements are needed to show the earth is young. They produce none. There are no consistent measures that support a young earth. Nature speaks to an old earth, and it is consistent. Yet the church leadership continues to deny nature’s voice. They have built the young earth belief into the 28 fundamental beliefs of the church: number 6. To deny the evidence for an old earth says that evidence doesn’t count.

If one, as I did, grows up in the Adventist Church believing the doctrines of the church are true and then discovers that they are not, it marginalizes the gospel. When children are taught that the scientific evidence for an old earth and old life are not credible, they will eventually feel misled and deceived by the church.

Furthermore, old earth and old life are common knowledge outside of the Bible. When a churchman advocates young earthism to a seeker or skeptic, they lead their listeners to conclude the Bible itself is in error. Their minds become closed to the gospel, the foundation of salvation. Young earth theology must be rejected, and those seven doctrines revised to accommodate the evidence of an old earth. This is essential to maintain the authority of scripture.

  1. Scientific American, vol. 235 No. 1, July 1976, pp. 36-47
  2. Dalrymple, G. Brent. Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 55.
  3. Natural nuclear fission reactor. (Wikipedia, 2010 )
  4. Albritton, Claude, Jr. The Abyss of Time. (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1986), 209.
  5. Rutherford, Adam. Creation. (New York: Current, 2013), 66.
  6. Green River Formation. (Wikipedia, 2020).
  7. Prothero, Donald and Fred Schwab. Sedimentary Geology. (New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1996), 233-234.
  8. White, Ellen G., Spiritual Gifts, vol III, p.79

Paul Priest earned an Ed.D. from Loma Linda University with emphasis in science education. He taught for 22 years in Adventist academies, and 22 years in public school. He lives in southern California.

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