Gap Theory (Part One)

by Navy Christian

Periodically, we’ll visit the gap theory, which is one method of trying to understand why the earth could be billions of years old and not violate the principles of the traditional, fundamentalist’s reading of God’s creation.

I first learned about the gap theory sometime in my early teenage years in Kansas. I know my grandfather thought the idea was plausible, if not probable. A lot of this came from my family’s use of the Scofield Reference Bible, which suggests the gap in its reference notes. I believed that the idea warranted my attention back then, and I continue to wrestle with it in adulthood.

In short, the gap theory proposes that a “gap” exists between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. The length of the gap is undetermined. This theory is also called the Ruin-Reconstruction Interpretation. Scottish natural theologian Thomas Chalmers first championed the theory in the early 1800s.[1]

Whatever and whoever the first champion of the gap theory was, Answers in Genesis claims the theory is simply a compromise by Christians. Truthfully speaking, it more or less was a compromise. Mr. Chalmers didn’t develop the theory through theological study, though he was a Presbyterian minister, but through research in geology.

On the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) website, the case is made against the gap theory on two fronts. First, geologically, as they suggest that a ruin of this magnitude would require the End Life Event (ELE) to be so drastic that nothing would survive. Evolutionary scientist and geologists who believe that dinosaurs went extinct due to an ELE won’t accept the gap theory because it requires more destruction than their ELE theory does!

My friends, scientists and geologists who believe in evolution don’t care that the gap theory requires a ruin that is greater than the ELE. They don’t believe in the gap theory because it’s IN THE BIBLE! Out of hand they will reject the gap theory because it doesn’t first find its evidence in the fossil record.

The ICR then suggests that the gap theory can’t be real theologically because it requires acts of an unmerciful God. However, I might suggest that it was a merciful God who produced the gap. A merciful God that had to recreate everything, say with an asteroid hitting the Yucatan peninsula in the times of the dinosaurs, would have led to a fairly quick death for those involved. In fact, while some of the creation would have taken longer to die off, especially as the atmosphere would take a while to deteriorate around the world, it wouldn’t have required any more suffering than we already believe happened at the flood.

This article isn’t meant to discredit the ICR or AiG. All I’m suggesting is that the gap theory shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. It does have merit, which we will research over time and develop. I believe that it is certainly possible that God used an ELE to restart creation.

Instead of suggesting that the Bible cannot support a gap theory, let me show you how it can. In Romans 1:20, Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Therefore, the creation should suggest for us something of God’s power. Unfortunately for YECs, nature suggests a God who created things a very, very long time ago, long before humans walked the face of the earth. These two things seem very implausible…except for one option, which is to accept a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

The Lord knows my heart and knows that I believe in him for salvation and eternal security. Those who know me personally also know this fact and the fact that I’m fairly conservative in my theology. However, I cannot reconcile a young earth with the dinosaur bones or light from the stars.

This will certainly not be the only time we discuss the gap theory. Click HERE to receive updates on future posts regarding the study of evolution and creation.


[1] Larson, Edward J. Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Modern Library Edition, 2004. pg 25.