I wasn’t a Christian in eighth grade, but I didn’t let that stop me from agonizing over the eternal destiny of Mr. Upshaw, my science teacher. If you grew up in evangelical culture, you know the feeling—the certainty that the person teaching you the theory of evolution is definitely, definitely, going to burn in hell for all eternity. I’d learned that Genesis 1 is where God owns the libs and answers for all time the question of evolution. There remained, though, the pesky problem of reconciling the Genesis account with science, and that’s where things started to get a bit weird.

I’d been taught that dinosaurs and humans walked the earth together when everything was created about six thousand years ago. The prehistoric animals were so big then—but not now—because of something to do with elevated oxygen levels and a perfect environment for growing stuff, which all fell apart when Adam and Eve ate from the one tree. Alternatively, maybe all the dinosaurs and the fall of Satan and whatnot happened between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 (the “gap theory”). Or maybe evolution is correct and each “day” in Genesis was really just an indeterminate amount of time (the “day-age theory”). Or perhaps God just created everything to look old (the “apparent-age theory”). Or it could be that between each day in the creation story there are millions of years in which evolution and all that happened (the “punctuated twenty-four hour theory”).

Russ Meek

Author, editor, and lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew at Ohio Theological Institute