Questions and Answers: What is the “Doctrine of Apparent Age”?
What is the “doctrine of apparent age”?
How old is the Earth? No one knows the exact number of times this globe has orbited the Sun. However, using biblical chronology, a person can calculate the age of the Earth to be in the neighborhood of 6,000 years old.
“But the Earth looks millions of years old,” some people have protested. There are at least two responses to such a statement. First, one might ask: “Compared to what; what does a young Earth look like?” We obviously do not have another Earth that we know is younger than this one, so how would we know what a young Earth looks like. Second, it should not surprise us if science occasionally calculates older dates for the Earth, due to a concept known as the “doctrine of apparent age.”
This idea suggests that the things God made during the Creation week were formed complete and fully functional. For instance, how old were Adam and Eve two seconds after God created them? They were literally two seconds old! Yet they walked, talked, and looked like adult human beings, and even had the ability to reproduce (Genesis 1:28). If a tree were cut down in the Garden of Eden one day after the Creation week, how many rings would it have had? Possibly hundreds, yet it would have been only five days old (trees and other plants, remember, were created on day three of the Creation week). So, the real age of the tree and the apparent age of the tree would have been quite different. Just because this Earth may appear older than 6,000 years, does not mean it is older than that.
Some have opined that if God made the Earth appear older than it actually is, then He has deceived us because things aren’t really as old as they look. This criticism would be true—except for one thing: God told us what He did! He did not leave us in the dark or try to “trick us” or “test our faith” by hiding from us important information that He knew we would need. Rather, He was very straightforward and honest with us. Considering the material found in the first eleven chapters of Genesis (and elsewhere throughout the Bible), no one can justifiably accuse God of deception. If we ignore His Word regarding what He said He did, is it God’s fault? Hardly!
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