When the theory of evolution came out, Christians who were not grounded in God’s Word attempted to combine the ideas of evolution with the Bible. The idea itself is as old as Saint Augustine but did not take off until the emergence of evolutionary theory in 1859. As evolution became more palatable to the general public, the church, first in England, then elsewhere had to respond. Many of the churches quickly abandoned what they had grown up with and accepted the ideas of science. However, they wanted to keep worshiping God so they attempted to combine their religion with the religion of the world. This lead to theories such as the gap theory and day-age theory. I will reserve the gap theory for another time. In this article, we will be discussing the day-age theory.
The idea of Genesis days not being a twenty-four hour period is not new. It goes back as far as Saint Augustine. However, the modern day-age theory was born in the middle of the eighteen hundreds, around the same time as Darwin published his book. The theory was meant to combine the now largely discredited theory of uniformitarianism which was popular at the time and called for millions of years. When Darwin’s book began making inroads into the culture, the churches that had accepted millions of years already, swallowed Darwin too. It was in this movement that the day-age theory came into being.
So what exactly is the day-age theory? Essentially it boils down to the word “day” which is used in the first few chapters of Genesis. Going into the Hebrew, “day” is the word yom. Proponents of the day-age theory claim that the yom used in the first few chapters of Genesis refer to an unknown period of time, an age, most likely the millions of years required by evolution. They point out that the word yom is used for long periods of time throughout the Scripture. A commonly cited proof text is 2Peter 3:8 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Day-age proponents also point out how busy day six appears. The animals are created, man is created and man names the animals, all before becoming lonely and God choosing to make a woman for him. Day-age promoters believe this could not all have happened in a normal, twenty-four hour day. Essentially, the claim is that, because these days were longer than twenty-four hours, there is space for the millions of years and evolution to have occurred.
However, the day-age theory has numerous serious problems with it, besides catering to evolution. The most obvious one comes from the requirement that the sixth day is more than a single solar cycle. If this is the case, some animals must have died over the extended age or else out reproduced their food sources. Yet the Bible specifically says that it was man’s sin that caused death. Romans 5:12 “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned“. The day-age theory requires death before sin, rather than sin before death which is what the rest of the Bible demands. However, this is far from being the only issue.
The day-age theory, with its acceptance of long periods of time between days of Genesis, sets itself up for a devastating counter-argument. In Genesis 1:11-13, it says “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.” A few verses down in verses 16-17 and 19 Genesis 1 says “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, ………(19) And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.” For the non-scientist, the problem is not immediately obvious. However, note that the day-age theory demands millions of years between day three, where the plants were made, and day four when the sun was made. Plants require sunlight in order to make their own food and thus survive. There is only a short period of time they can go without sunlight before they die. If there was a long period of time between days three and four, plants could not have survived. Now day-age proponents will cite Revelations 21:23 which states “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” The implication they want to make is that plants did not need light because God would have provided it Himself. However, using this verse to prove that He provided light for plants completely takes the verse out of context since it specifically speaks of the New Jerusalem, not the Garden of Eden. The problem remains.
The Day-Age theory has other issues with it as well. Notice in the Genesis account, the days are preceded by a numeric quantity such as first, second etc. Every other time the Hebrew word yom shows up preceded by a numeric figure, it means a literal, twenty-four hour day. On top of that, the words “evening” and “morning” are associated with the word yom. Every time this occurs in the Bible, it signifies a literal, twenty-four hour day.
The day-age theory fails on every front. It offers no explanation for how plants existed for millions of years without sunlight. It twists the obvious meaning of the word day in the Scriptures. It is merely an attempt to reconcile two irreconcilable thoughts. Believing that God created the world requires one to believe that He means what He says in Genesis. Believing in evolution requires the complete rejection of the Bible. Trying to combine the two merely compromises the base of the Bible and does not satisfy evolutionary theory.