Perspective, Young–Old Earth––and More!
A true and correct perspective of reality is absolutely vital for life. Tragically, few have it or ever find it. “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Mt. 7:14 NIV).
Why is this? Why do so few understand what life and reality is actually like? Because man, in his innate sinful nature, is proud and relies upon himself and the powers of his mind to tell him what reality is like. This is a result of the fall into sin by Adam and Eve in the Garden. Before that fall, they relied upon God for everything, including knowledge and the right of God to withhold certain knowledge from them for their own good and welfare.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Dt. 29:29 NIV).
But why should God withhold anything from his children, those he claims to love? Any parent knows the answer to that question. Certain knowledge is withheld from children precisely because they are children. Some types of knowledge they simply do not need to know; it would only scare them or damage their soul’s innocence in those areas. Also, they cannot safely and wisely handle certain knowledge. In the case of Adam and Eve, this last fact sadly became all too evident.
The devil, the deceiver and liar (Jn. 8:44), deceived Adam and Eve into thinking that God was unfair and unloving in withholding certain knowledge from them (Gen. 3:1-5), specifically, the knowledge of good and evil. Eve apparently did not pause long enough to think about why God withheld this knowledge from them, or else she might have seen that knowledge of evil is not something desirable for her to have, nor was such knowledge necessary for her to have. Nevertheless, the temptation to know more than one needs to know is a powerful one. It is at the heart of gossip and the occult. The book of Revelation warns against the human desire to learn “the deep things of Satan” (Rev. 2:25).
So Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and mankind has felt the disastrous results of that sin ever since, always looking to the workings of the mind and reasoning ability, striving to gain more and more knowledge, rather than looking to God, as the chief means of growing and living.
But God, in his Word, condemns this approach to finding the answer to the mystery of the depths of reality and life and God.
“He who trusts in his own mind is a fool; but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (Prov. 28:26 RSV).
It is not wise to trust in one’s mind to try to figure out what reality is really like because reality is too big a thing for something as small as the mind of man to fathom. Neither is it something that can be comprehended by trying to poke and prod it and measure it, as science attempts to do with telescopes that let man see beyond that which he presently sees . . . (“No eye has seen, . . . ” (1 Cor. 2:9)).
“These are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14 NIV).
Reality is so deep, profound and beyond man’s ability to understand that his mind cannot even imagine its deepest essence.
“No mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV).
God prepared this magnificent universe as a dwelling place for man (Is. 45:18). But that is just man’s physical dwelling place, and man is more than a physical being. In addition to his physical makeup, man, whom God created in his image (Gen. 1:27), has a spirit, for God is Spirit (Jn. 4:24). Any view of reality, therefore, that ignores this spiritual constituency of man and the existence of his Spirit Creator is doomed to be woefully incomplete and distorted.
The true nature of reality, then, cannot be discerned by man nor discovered by anything he does. Instead, it must be revealed to him by the One who is the highest expression of that reality and who alone is able both to understand it and convey its meaning to man. Man searches for the truth in books and in his mind, but God has revealed what he is searching for in one book, the Bible.
“Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?” (Is. 40:13,14 NIV).
The answer to these questions, of course, is, “No one.” No one has ever taught God anything. Rather, it is he who teaches man–and all other beings whom he created. That is the line of thought which God used to correct Job when Job questioned God about his suffering, causing him to doubt his view of a reality that has a good and fair God.
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me’.
“‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone–while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?'” (Job 38:1-7 NIV).
Job was not the only human being who had difficulty understanding the nature of reality. He has not been alone in seeking to know what lies behind and beneath reality’s surface. Many other examples are given in Scripture of people who had a wrong impression or perception of reality.
Mention is made in Scripture, for instance, of those who say that there is no God (Ps. 14:1), that the only reality that exists is that reality that we can see or detect using our senses, that the physical universe is all there is. It was mentioned at the first here that such a view is doomed from the start, as is any view that denies the spiritual nature of man, God and reality. But even those who acknowledge the spiritual realm are easily fooled, so used are we to living our lives in the human realm without perceiving how the spiritual realm affects this material world. Jesus sternly chastised those who succumb to this human failing.
“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Mt. 16:2,3 NIV).
Peter also encountered this failure to discern reality correctly. When God healed a lame beggar through Peter, the people were astounded. Such things did not fit into their view of reality; they were completely taken aback. But not Peter, for he had the correct perspective. Therefore, he said to them, “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12,13 NIV).
Peter then went on to reveal to the crowd how this amazing miracle had happened, giving all credit to the invisible God. But he went farther than that. Peter knew that God uses such miracles as signs that there is more to reality than the familiar physical world. He also used the occasion to show just how dangerous it is to have a wrong perspective on reality, and the evil to which this can lead. He did this by telling them that their wrong perspective had brought about the killing of Jesus, God’s own Son.
“You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this” (vs13-15).
Peter wrapped up his explanation to the people with this insightful observation about their lack of accurate perception: “I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders” (v. 17 NIV).
Those who killed Jesus on the cross were ignorant of the true nature of reality. “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8 NIV).
This same ignorance and lack of the true perspective was clearly visible during that crucifixion of Jesus, as is evidenced by the insult they hurled up at him in his terrible time of suffering:
“Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (Mk. 15:32 NIV).
“. . . that we may see and believe. . . ” Can there be any greater condemnation of this human demand to believe only what can be seen? How utterly wrong was the perception that these people held. They were so completely engulfed in the human propensity to be governed by sight and senses that they failed to see how differently God works from the way human beings think things work (Is. 55:8,9). In their wrong perspective, they killed the author of life. That is how completely opposite to the truth a wrong perspective of reality and God can lead one: that one can even think that black is white and evil is good. It is therefore quite proper and fitting that God should condemn such wrong perspective:
“Woe . . . to those who say, ‘Let God hurry, let him hasten his work so we may see it. Let it approach, let the plan of the Holy One of Israel come, so we may know it.’ Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Is. 5:18-21 NIV).
Clever indeed are the many worldviews that twist the true nature of reality, as revealed by God in his Word, into a philosophy, worldview, or religion that fits the desires of one’s own heart, where it is deemed necessary and proper to kill the very Son of God. The enemy of truth is so skilled at deception and turning one’s perspective of reality around that we are warned specifically in Scripture to be alert for this often subtle trickery of the enemy of truth:
“Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8 NET).
Another instance of wrong perspective is found when Jesus went to a religious event and stunned the people with his understanding of Scripture.
“The Jews were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’
“Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me'”(Jn. 7:15,16 NIV).
The people thought that the only way to learn of God and his ways was to go through manmade systems of study. How backward and proud can man get? To think that man, a created and limited being, must be relied upon to interpret what God has said in his Word and that God is not capable or unwilling to teach man himself. Yet that same Word says:
“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him” (1 Jn. 2:27 NIV).
Jesus corrected false perspective by revealing the true Teacher of the things of God.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jn. 14:26 NIV).
One of the things Jesus said was, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (Jn. 2:19 NIV). Did the people to whom he said this have the right perspective, so that they could understand correctly what he had just said to them? Obviously not.
“The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body” (Jn. 2:20,21 NIV).
Even after he had been crucified and had risen from the dead, wrong perception persisted among the people. For when Paul later witnessed to the Athenians, he had to correct their false perception with these words:
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands” (Acts 17:22 NIV).
He communicated this same right perspective to the Corinthians:
“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people'” (2 Cor. 6:16 RSV).
All of this harks back to Jesus’ own words at his trial, when witnessing to Pilate. Standing before him, Jesus also corrected the false perception of one of this world:
“Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place'” (Jn. 18:36 NIV).
Whether it be a part of that kingdom, such as the temple of God, or the kingdom as a whole, it is always a stumbling block to this world’s people that they cannot perceive that they are meant to live by the spirit (Gal. 5:16; Gal. 5:25) and not solely in the flesh, to inhabit a spiritual kingdom and not solely a material one, though for now the fleshly body dwells in the material realm. God wants all to see beyond this temporary material world to the eternal kingdom. But human nature is such that most cannot see past that which is so familiar to them, the physical realm in which they now dwell. That is why the people clamored for a king in Samuel’s time. They said to him:
“Appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” (1 Sam. 8:5 NIV).
“The people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us'” (1 Sam. 8:19 NIV).
The world has wrong conceptions not only of the material aspect of reality but of time. An example of this is found in the disagreement between the prophet Jeremiah and the people over who is God and how they know this. Jeremiah had warned them that their misfortune was because they had abandoned God. But the people believed it was because they had abandoned their false god.
“We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm.’
“‘But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine'” (Jer. 44:16-18 NIV).
“Then Jeremiah said to all the people, both men and women, who were answering him, ‘Did not the Lord remember and think about the incense burned in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem by you and your fathers, your kings and your officials and the people of the land When the Lord could no longer endure your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became an object of cursing and a desolate waste without inhabitants, as it is today.’
“‘Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed him or followed his law or his decrees or his stipulations, this disaster has come upon you, as you now see'” (vs. 20-23).
The problem the people had in connecting what was happening to them to its cause was that there was a delay between cause and effect. God had been patient with their abandonment of him and their turning to false gods; he wanted to woo them back to him and so he continued to give them blessings, despite their abandonment of him. But they mistook the blessing that was upon them as having come from their turning to their false god instead of having come from the patience of the true God they had left. So God began meting out his punishment for their abandoning him as their God, and they then mistook this punishment as being the result of their returning to the Lord. They had it all exactly backward, and this because (among other reasons) their perception of time was wrong.
This was not the only time this wrong perception occurred in Israel’s history. Previous to Jeremiah’s ministry, Scripture records these words of God from Hosea’s time concerning Israel’s wrong perception and attitude:
“She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold–which they used for Baal. Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens, and my new wine when it is ready” (Hos. 2:8,9 NIV).
God delays punishment for sin because he is loving and kind and desires none to perish for their sin (2 Ptr. 3:9). That delay is meant to be a time for repentance, not a time for continued abandonment of God. But that delay can be seen as weakness and misinterpreted because of the time difference between what happened to the people and the cause of their blessings or misfortune.
“When a sentence is not executed at once against a crime, the human heart is encouraged to do evil” (Eccl. 8:1 NIV).
No doubt the writer of Ecclesiastes means for his words to be a warning against human lack of swift punishment, but in the case of God delaying punishment, it is for our own benefit, for as the Psalmist says, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Ps. 130:3 KJV).
Nevertheless, sinful man misperceives God’s gracious delay of punishment for sin as license to continue to sin. Man turns what God means for good into evil–all because he does not have a right perception of God’s use of time.
This misperception of time is a huge issue in our own age and time as well. There is a controversy between scientists and Christians regarding time and the age of the earth, and even discord between Christians: There are “old-earth” creationists and “young-earth creationists”.
This is not the place to go into the many aspects of this controversy, but it is appropriate to mention one aspect of it, that of the wrong conception of time, for that is the area we are examining right now, and a correct perception of time is crucial for understanding how to resolve this conundrum.
Put as briefly as possible, there are two main views regarding the age of the earth and universe, and two sources for these views: An old earth of billions of years of age, based on science, and a young earth of approximately six thousand years of age, based on the Bible. On the surface, it would seem that these two are so diametrically opposed that there could be no possible way to make them agree. Nevertheless, attempts have been made, often involving close examination of the Hebrew words for “day” in the Genesis creation accounts and criticisms of scientific means of determining age. Both of these methods have their defenders and critics, and usually neither side is convinced to change their perception of the age of the earth/universe.
This is a sad state of affairs, for there should be no disagreement between what the Word of God, the Bible, says about the world and how it came to be, and what man can discover about the world around him through using the mind God gave him and through science.
“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who have pleasure in them” (Ps. 111:2 RSV).
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord” (Is. 1:18 RSV).
Christians should not frown upon science rightly used to gain knowledge about the world. It is, of course, the “rightly used” qualification that is the contentious point. But in and of itself, science is simply a way of studying the world God has made in such a way as to give glory to him. God gets glory when man rightly uses his mind and reasoning abilities to uncover the mysteries God enshrouded in his creation.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings” (Prov. 25:2 NIV).
That unbelieving man uses science in a wrong way to give glory to himself and his own mind does not thereby negate its use at all. “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?” (Rom. 3:3 NIV).
Though the passage above is in the context of spiritual matters, it applies just as meaningfully to the issue at hand. Just because some choose to use a gift of God wrongly does not make the gift wrong; it is the misuse that is wrong, not the gift. God gave us the precious ability to think and reason and investigate and discover. In so doing, we should see more and more of the awesome nature and glory of God. Some may have no faith in God and misuse his gift for their own glory or purposes, but that does not thereby nullify that gift. The scientific findings or the interpretation of these findings on the age of the earth does not nullify the faithfulness of God, that what we see in the universe faithfully represents how it really is.
If there is a problem, then, it is not necessarily that the scientific data is at fault but its interpretation or perhaps faulty instruments or means of gathering the data. Neither is it the fault of the Bible, but how the Bible is interpreted. This has other applications besides determining the age of the earth. This same difference in interpretation affects areas such as baptism, communion, and other areas of the faith where sincere believers differ.
A correct perception of time helps solve much of the controversy in the area regarding the age of the earth. And, yes, perception of time by man was in need of correction, and, yes, God did use science and mathematics (!) to do this for us. He raised up a man who corrected our limited vision of both time and space. That man was Albert Einstein.
Einstein is famous for radically changing the way we view both space and time. His theory of relativity has withstood every test leveled against it, and its application to our concept of time is truly eye opening. The example of the so-called twin paradox in particular is especially illuminating. That example can roughly and simply be stated this way. (Those of you familiar with this thought experiment, please allow much leeway in this simple demonstration; only the general principle is meant to be conveyed, not to set forth all the details in precise accuracy).
One person of a set of twins on earth rockets away to a star at or near the speed of light, while the other twin remains behind on earth. If the traveling twin could look back on earth during his voyage, he would see his twin scurrying around his daily duties as though in a fast-forwarded video; time would appear to pass much faster on earth than for the traveling twin; everything is sped up for the twin observing earth while swiftly traveling away from it.
On the other hand, if the twin left behind on earth could observe his traveling twin, he would see him moving much more slowly, as in a slow motion film; time would appear to be passing much more slowly aboard that spaceship.
When the twin aboard the spaceship returns to earth, he finds that he has aged only (for example) four years, while his twin on earth aged (say) eighty years. Yet neither was aware of any difference in his own life or surroundings; all appeared normal. It was only when they looked at the other region that they noticed a difference in how time passed. It was perspective that determined for them how time passed: whether they were on earth or moving near the speed of light.
The above illustration leaves out a lot of detail that would make it more accurate according to Einstein’s relativity discovery, but still it does give the general principle that shows how perspective can bridge the seeming contradiction between an earthbound scientific viewpoint of the age of the earth of billions of years and a perspective from the heavenly realm, where the earth was seen to have been created in only six days.
When God described to Job his creation of the universe, he said that the angels “sang for joy” (Job 38:7 NIV). The implication is that the angels witnessed the creative activity of the Lord not for billions of years but in a normal, brief span of time for which they could respond in a normal manner of singing a song. That song of joy of creation was not billions of years long. So the Bible is correct in using the word day for the creation account.
However, the record of the earth itself is also correct, even though it shows a world billions of years old. But that age is from a perspective of the earth, not from the heavenly perspective of the angels, who saw it happen in six days. If God performed his creative acts at the speed of light or near it, how long those acts took would depend upon the location of the observer. An observer on earth would say that it took billions of years. An angel in heaven would say that it took but days. Who is right? Both are. It depends on the perspective.
Therefore, as one scientist who believes in the Bible has put it, when a Christian is asked if he believes the earth was created in six days or existed billions of years before man appeared, he should answer, “Yes.” This is not equivocation, for both answers are correct, depending upon the perspective.
It greatly saddens me when I see sincere believers in God and his Word demand that a Christian must believe solely in a literal six-day creation instead of billions of years because “the Bible says so and if you think otherwise, you put the entire Christian faith at risk, for, after all, if you doubt the Genesis account of creation, you are casting doubt upon the veracity of the whole Bible. ”
But it is not that one is doubting the Genesis account, only that it is seen in a new light that does no harm either to that account or the rest of the Bible. What many fail to take into account is that God is not limited to our perception of time. Why do you think he raised up a man like Einstein to show us that our limited conceptions and perspective do not tell the whole story? Those who insist dogmatically that the six-day perspective is the only correct perspective do not have a big enough God, one who can create time in such a way that its passage rate depends on who is looking and from where. To insist that the six-day creation account is the only way to look at creation is to limit God.
Now, this is not meant to be an endorsement of either position, young-earth or old-earth. It is meant as a loving admonishment to not limit what God can do by being dogmatic because of one’s interpretation of what the Bible says or because, just like those of this world, a limited perspective limits one’s view of how reality is put together.
To those who insist that their view of time is the only valid conception of that mysterious facet of reality, I ask, “Could it not be at least possible that your conception of time is not big enough?” Time is a great mystery, perhaps one of the greatest we know. To insist that the way time passes in our everyday lives is the only way it can function is to limit God’s creative power; it is to limit God.
J.B. Phillips wrote a book entitled, “Your God Is Too Small”. The thesis of the book is given in the title. But surely all of us humans have too small a conception and perception of God. He is beyond our ability to perceive fully.
“What man is wise enough to understand this? Who has been instructed by the Lord and can explain it?” (Jer. 9:12 NIV).
“How great is God–beyond our understanding!” (Job 36:26 NIV).
Nevertheless, though God in his fullness is beyond our understanding, it is not beyond our understanding to praise him for what we do understand of him.
“And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14 NIV).
“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom” (Ps. 145:3 NIV).
“Praise him for his surpassing greatness” (Ps. 150:2 NIV).
And that is what I do. That was why this was written. Praise the Lord!