I don’t think the earth is 5000 years old, I never have, and unless I’m mistaken I don’t personally know any Christians who think it is. I’ve already talked about my feelings on literal interpretations of the Bible, but I thought I should unpack this one a bit more.
The best explanation I ever heard for the creation story was that you have to look for the moral, and the moral is in the first four words: “In the beginning, God.” The point of the creation story is to establish that before there was anything, there was God, that God exists outside our ideas of the universe. Nothing else in the story is as important as that.
I once read something on a pro-atheism website that claimed a sort of “gotcha” moment for revealing that there are two contradictory creation stories in the Bible. This isn’t much of a silver bullet, since anyone who has even made a passing attempt at reading the whole Bible knows there are two accounts of creation. I teach it in my Sunday School. And just like the multiple accounts of Jesus’s birth, common knowledge has mashed the two stories together. The first gives a seven-day story in which the light and the sea and the birds all came into being on separate days, and on the seventh day God rested. The second is about a man named Adam and a woman named Eve, and how the desire for divine knowledge was so great they sold out humanity for just a taste.
I could go on about how the days of creation are actually a pretty reasonable parallel to the real creation of the universe and the life on this planet (just put on God’s billion-year timeline instead of our simplified week). I could point out that in the first creation story man and woman are made simultaneously and equally in God’s image. I could talk about how God’s relationship with Adam and Eve was pretty patronizing, or how Eve needed a lot of convincing before defying God while Adam seemed to just go with the flow. But none of that really matters, because in the beginning, God. That’s all we have, and all we need.
In the beginning, God.