How Old is All that is?

I grew up in Southern Idaho, a mile and a half from a small, ancient volcano that had blown a hole in the side of itself. “Tens of thousands of years ago,” they said. Mother even decorated parts of our yard with ancient volcanic rock. And when we three boys dug around we’d swear we’d find dinosaur eggs – rocks that had to have been! They were shaped just like what you’d think. (Only the latter evidence here is suspect.)

Idaho: The Gem State. Southern Idaho: the place where Yellowstone’s hot spot used to be, millions of years ago they say.

There was also a road sign on Highway 25, one of those historical markers, that talked about Prehistoric Man and ancient fossils. You’d face north east when you’d read the sign, out toward “Hunt”, a desolate, ancient desert wilderness filled with sagebrush and antelope.

I remember thinking as a small boy

about the expanse of time, wondering what my home in the Magic Valley of Idaho looked like thousands upon thousands of years ago when the Hagerman Horse plodded awkwardly along the Snake River.

These thoughts bounced around in my soul along with the questions I’d learn in Sunday School. (That is after all one of the great gifts we can offer in Sunday School – the question. It’s only in the presence of a question that faith can be lived by.)

Now, I don’t remember my teachers or pastors dwelling long on the “age of the earth,” which for many is a very big deal. Sometimes I recall feeling alright with a “young earth” idea; then later I’d feel alright with an “old earth” idea.

This past week, I’ve heard many folks ask, “So then, which is it? Is the earth 6,000 years old (4,000 post Noah’s Flood) or is it 4,530,000,000 years old?”

Who is right? What is true?

Genesis 1 is magnificent ancient Hebrew poetry (I’ve heard; I’m a poor novice with Biblical Hebrew). This poem has an ancient purpose, declaring, “God has made all that is and all that is God has made. What God has made is magnificent!”

To bring us along to the sheer beauty of this, I wonder if poetry is simply the only way to go. (It also works well for sharing such a story in a world where very few read. With little reading there’s little writing – stories are told and memorized for generations.)

And the rhythms of the narrative poem?

It’s set up to mark the lines between Israel and all other people groups. “Our God, the Only God, made it all on his own,” is the cry, (which still demands a growing understanding of the hebraic dignified plural statement, “We’ll make them in our image.” …strange but present.)

So, is it true? Yes, in a way that only a poem could say, we are brought to see that something was started by Someone, but like only a poem can offer, the immense details are left aside, for the point is the majesty and beauty of the event. Getting into the muck of details deflates the beauty in the moment.

Sure, exploring it all later is neat (and that’s the wonderful work of the sciences today, especially the literary and fine-arts sciences which need more credit regarding what they contribute to this question and pursuit), but the initial impact of the story is to draw us into what’s going on, into the majesty, into the sheer magnificence of watching an artist create their masterpiece step by step and we, mere kindergarteners, watch in awe.

That is most certainly true. And the test of how true we come to see it will always be imitation and nurture. If it’s “true”, we’ll imitate such creation. If it’s “true,” we’ll nurture and “garden” what is, what has been, and what is yet to come.

So then, I’ll ask you: Is it true?