Some Baptists combine Scripture with science to try to figure out how old the Earth is.
Some Baptists combine Scripture with science to try to figure out how old the Earth is.

Most Baptists hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible. At times, this causes significant disagreement with the mainstream scientific community. One area of serious contention involves the age of the Earth -- the mainstream scientific community believes Earth to be about 4.5 billion years old, while many Baptists believe that God created the heavens and the Earth a little more than 6,000 years ago.

Scripture

According to the Southern Baptist Convention's statement of faith, "All Scripture is true and trustworthy." This core principle of Baptist belief frames the way they examine the question of how old the Earth is. Discrepancies between scientific research - whether about the age of the planet or anything else - are viewed as a misinterpretation of scientific data, a misinterpretation of Scripture, or both.

Origins

The Bible includes extensive genealogies that depict the ages of fathers when their sons are born, extending from the creation of Adam, whom Baptists believe was created on the sixth day after the earth formed, to the birth of Jesus Christ. Baptists interpret these genealogies literally to calculate that the Earth is a little more than 6,000 years old. Some believe Jesus was born at the actual midpoint between B.C. and A.D., while others accept scholastic findings that place the birth anywhere between 7 B.C. and A.D. 4, leading to slight discrepancies in their calculations.

Creation Science

In recent years, a field of study known as creation science, or young Earth creationism, has arisen in support of a literal interpretation of the biblical creation account. This movement combines a literal understanding of the Scriptures with an attempt to re-interpret scientific data in a manner which harmonizes with the Bible, such as the Earth being 6,000 to 10,000 years old. They believe that the levels of sodium in the world's oceans, the depth of sediment on the ocean floor and measurements of the rate of decay of the Earth's magnetic field point to a planet which is thousands, rather than billions, of years old. Many prominent creation scientists, including Ken Hamm, founder of the Creation Museum and the Answers in Genesis ministry, are Baptist.

Dissent

Baptists don't unanimously support the idea of a young Earth. Some suggest that while the Bible is infallible, the planet may be considerably older than 6,000 years because of gaps in biblical accounts. One common theory suggests millions of years may have passed between Genesis 1:2, which describes the earth as being "void and without form," and Genesis 1:3, where the creation narrative begins. In this age-gap theory, the Bible doesn't relate what happened in the interim because it isn't necessary for a believer's salvation. Another school of thought, held by Charles Spurgeon - one of the most prominent Baptists of the late 19th century - proposes the age-day theory, where each day of the creation represents a much longer period of time than 24 hours.