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The erroneous idea that the existence of dinosaurs cannot be reconciled with the biblical account of creation is based on the supposition that either you have to believe in the young-earth theory of a 6,000-year-old earth and dinosaurs living with Adam, or you can’t believe in the creation week account of Genesis.
"I don’t believe in the bible because dinosaurs lived a long time before man ever did.”
Have you ever heard a statement like that? I certainly have—many times. In fact, this was one of the principal reasons Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution, eventually rejected the Bible (George Sim Johnston, Did Darwin Get It Right?, 1998, p. 21). Many have followed suit.
Most people believe you can’t reconcile dinosaurs and the Bible—but they are wrong. This erroneous idea is based on the supposition that either you have to believe in the young-earth theory of a 6,000-year-old earth and dinosaurs living with Adam, or you can’t believe in the creation week account of Genesis 1.
Yet many would be surprised to find that several centuries ago scientists did believe in dinosaurs, an ancient earth and in creation week.
In fact, many of the first geologists who established the basic geologic column were believers in both the Bible and an ancient earth.
British physicist Alan Hayward wrote about these premier geologists: “Among them were William Buckland and Adam Sedgwick. Buckland held the chair of geology at Oxford in the early nineteenth century, while Sedgwick was his counterpart at Cambridge [University]. Both were leading churchmen, and both preached the plenary inspiration of Scripture and argued in favor of special creation . . ."
“Buckland maintained close links with Sedgwick and the famous French geologist, Baron Cuvier . . . They did much to persuade the early nineteenth century church that the earth was extremely old and that such views could be harmonized with the teaching of Genesis” (Creation and Evolution, 1985, pp. 72-73).
Two Bible experts in the 1970s combined their skills to publish The Reese Chronological Bible, which supports an ancient earth and a creation week that is actually a re-creation of a devastated earth.
Edward Reese was a professor of Bible, history and missions at Crown College in Powell, Tennessee, and spent 20 years putting biblical events in chronological order. Frank Klassen was an architect and engineer who spent 10 years writing The Chronology of the Bible. They both agreed that the account of Genesis had important biblical events occur between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
They felt the first verses of the Bible chronologically would be John 1:1-2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
This is the same way 20th-century Church of God leader Herbert W. Armstrong explained the real beginning of the biblical account. Before space, matter and energy were created, there existed the Word (who would later become Jesus Christ, see John 1:14) and God (who later would be identified as God the Father).
Next in The Reese Chronological Bible comes a scripture that speaks of God existing before the creation of the earth, Psalms 90:2: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
Then comes the traditional first scripture of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This marks the creation of the universe as we know it, including the galaxies, stars and planets.
But the most fascinating part of this Bible is what follows—not Genesis 1:2, but Isaiah 14:12-17, where Lucifer’s fall from heaven is recorded. Next comes the parallel account of Lucifer’s fall in Ezekiel 28:13-18 (see also our booklet Is There Really a Devil?).
Only then comes Genesis 1:2: “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” In the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, a footnote to the word “was” in this verse says, “Or possibly became.”
Apparently, something happened to cause the earth to become, as the Hebrew denotes, “chaotic and in confusion.” Since God is not the author of confusion or chaos (Isaiah 45:18; 1 Corinthians 14:33), it makes sense that the earth became that way due to Lucifer’s rebellion and subsequent expulsion to the earth.
As Jesus Christ remarked, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Other scriptures reveal it was not only Satan, but also the fallen angels that were cast down with him. We read in 2 Peter 2:4, “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell [from the Greek tartaroo, a place of confinement, and in this case, the earth] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment . . . ” (tartaroo is a Greek term used in the Bible for the place where the angels are presently confined and are restricted to this earth, where there is also an abyss (Job 2:2; Luke 10:18; Luke 8:31)).
Revelation 12:3-4 describes the dragon (Satan, verse 9) as having drawn a third of the stars of heaven to be cast down to the earth—these “stars” being symbolic of angels (compare 1:20).
What we don’t know is how long it took Lucifer to rebel—and how long this was before the six-day renewal of the earth culminating in the creation of Adam and Eve, as described in the rest of Genesis 1. Satan’s rebellion apparently happened after the earth had passed through the dinosaur age. Then, geologists agree, something dramatic occurred between the age of reptiles and the age of mammals.
As the famous paleontologist G.G. Simpson once remarked: “The most puzzling event in the history of life on the earth is the change from the Mesozoic Age of Reptiles, to the . . . Age of Mammals. It is as if the curtain were rung down suddenly on a stage where all the leading roles were taken by reptiles, especially dinosaurs, in great numbers and bewildering variety, and rose again immediately to reveal the same setting but an entirely new cast, a cast in which the dinosaurs do not appear at all, other reptiles are supernumeraries and the leading parts are all played by mammals of sorts barely hinted at in the previous acts” (Life Before Man, 1972, p.42).
This seems to reflect the change from the pre-Adamic world to the world of man. Certainly there are smaller reptiles in our world, but they are insignificant in comparison to what existed in the previous age.
What has been presented here is not the only “ancient earth” explanation available, but it seems to make the most biblical sense. It is the only explanation I know of that accepts the literal 24-hour days of the creation (or to us, re-creation) week and, at the same time, makes room for an indefinite period before the creation of mankind that could include the dinosaurs and previous eras.
Recent geological and astronomical discoveries, such as cosmic expansion and signs of meteor impacts at the Cretaceous-Paleocene border of the geologic column, have only served to substantiate this view (see Hugh Ross, Creation and Time, 1994, p. 92; Gerald Schroder, Genesis and the Big Bang, 1990, p. 140).
So if anyone tells you he or she doesn’t believe in the Bible because of a dilemma with the dinosaurs, let that person know there is more than the young-earth explanation available—one that fits well, as best we know, with the biblical facts.
Compass Check (Winter 2017)