Question: "Old earth vs. young earth - what are the core issues in the debate?"
Answer: Both old earth creationism and young earth creationism seek to solve the apparent conflict between science and the Bible in regard to the age of the earth. What is the apparent conflict? If the book of Genesis is interpreted strictly literally, it seems to indicate that the earth and the universe are around 6,000 years old. In contrast, various scientific dating methods place the age of the earth around 4.5 billion years and the age of the universe around 14.6 billion years.
The options to solve the apparent conflict are as follows: the Bible is wrong, the Bible is being interpreted incorrectly, or the scientific data is being interpreted incorrectly.
Neither old earth creationism nor young earth creationism teaches that the Bible is wrong. Generally speaking, both old earth and young earth creationists believe in the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of God’s Word. What differs between these approaches is one’s view on what the Bible is, in fact, saying. It’s a matter of interpretation.
Old earth creationists believe a strictly literal approach is not the correct way to interpret the early chapters of Genesis. They view Genesis 1–2 as being primarily symbolic and/or poetic. Young earth creationists interpret Genesis 1–2 as a literal, historical account of how God created the universe. Young earth creationists question why, if the rest of Genesis is historical, should the first two chapters be interpreted differently? Old earth creationists question why, if the Bible uses symbolism in many other books, can’t metaphor be used in Genesis?
Young earth creationists contend that the scientific data supporting a billions-of-years-old universe is being interpreted incorrectly. They view old-earth arguments developed by naturalistic scientists as primarily being a defense for Darwinian evolution. They contend that the dating methods are flawed, at best, and are implemented by scientists with bias, presuppositions, and agendas. Old earth creationists view the scientific dating methods as being reasonably accurate and therefore accept that the earth and the universe are truly old. Also, a great number of old earth creationists reject Darwinian evolution.
So, in the old earth vs. young earth debate, who is correct? As a ministry, GotQuestions.org definitely leans toward the young earth perspective. We believe that Genesis chapters 1 and 2 are meant to be read literally, and young earth creationism is what a literal reading of those chapters presents. At the same time, we do not view old earth creationism as heresy. We are not going to question the faith or motives of our brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with us on this issue. Ultimately, one can hold to views other than young earth creationism and still have an accurate understanding of the core doctrines of the Christian faith.
As we interpret it, the Bible indicates that the earth is relatively young. According to secular scientists and those who accept an old-earth reading of Scripture, the earth is very old. Since neither viewpoint can be explicitly proved, we choose to side with a plain/literal interpretation of the Bible.