As a lawyer, I sometimes work on cases with complicated facts, and I usually prepare a chronology. Knowing when and in what order things happened – or what people claim happened – is often the first step in sorting out complex and conflicting stories.
I cannot prepare a definitive chronology for creationist beliefs because creationists disagree among themselves – the greatest divide being between young-Earth and old‑Earth creationism. I will – with a minimum of criticism – lay out a timeline for what young-Earth creationists actually believe.
I prepared this chronology using information from Answers in Genesis, the organization famous for its life-size Ark in Kentucky. Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research are two of the most prominent creationists organizations. Both organizations have a vast amount of material on their websites, and Answers in Genesis‘s site has an excellent search function.
In this post, I will not try to debunk creationist pseudoscience or explain it in detail. Instead, I think some readers will find this chronology be an interesting overview of what young Earth-creationists actually believe.
“A.M.” abbreviates “Anno Mundi” or years after creation. Answers In Genesis uses the “seven C’s of God’s eternal plan” to organize what they believe to be a chronology from the beginning to the end of time. I modified the :seven C’s” to create what I call:
The Six C’s of Creationist Chronology.
I believe this chronology summarizes what young-Earth creationists believe what happened and the order in which they think these events occurred. Now, lets look at each step in this process.
Creation – 4004 B.C.E. (0 A.M.)
Genesis 1:3-4 says:
Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.
God had not yet created the sun, so he created an initial, temporary light source. This temporary light source made the first three days and nights.
Genesis 1:6-7 says:
And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome.
I quote the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Creationists use different versions that say God created an “expanse,” not a dome, to separate the waters. Some creationists developed the “canopy theory” in which God created a canopy of water above the atmosphere, which then disappeared during the flood – either by collapsing on the earth or by dissipating into space.
Answers in Genesis now rejects the canopy model, in part because Genesis 1:14 says God placed the sun and stars in the dome/expanse. Therefore, the “waters that were above the expanse” must also be above the sun and stars. So exactly what are these waters above the stars? I cannot find a creationist who has ventured an opinion on the subject.
Genesis 1:9-13 says God created dry land and plants.
Genesis 1:14-16 says:
And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.
God replaced the temporary initial light source with the sun.
Although all young-Earth creationists believe God created the stars roughly 6,000 years ago, they have different theories about the “distant starlight problem.” The vast majority of stars and all other galaxies are far more than 6,000 light years from Earth. For example, astronomers have measured the distance to supernova SN1987A at about 168,000 light years, so its light took 168,000 years to reach earth. If God created the supernova 6,000 years ago, then its light should not yet have reached the earth. Creationists have proposed several solutions to this problem.
Genesis 1:20-23 says God created birds, great sea monsters and every living creature in the seas. The great sea monsters were aquatic dinosaurs.
Genesis 1:25 says:
God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind.
“Kinds” were roughly equivalent to modern taxonomic families. For example, God created one cat “kind,” not the forty-one species taxonomists now classify in the family Felidae. God created all kinds, including dinosaurs and other extinct kinds known from the fossil record. “Micro-evolution” allows new species to evolve within biblical “kinds,” but never to create any new “kind.”
Genesis 1:27-28 says:
So God created humankind* in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’
Everyone on earth descends from Adam and Eve. That means that the children of Adam and Eve married each other. Brothers and sisters could marry in Genesis because God did not forbid incest until Leviticus. Likewise, incest caused no genetic problems because Adam and Eve’s genes were perfect.
Genesis 1:29-30 says:
God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’
That means people and all the animals were vegetarian. Mosquitoes and dragonflies that now eat the mosquitoes were all vegetarians.
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 1:31 says everything was “very good” in the beginning. That means people and animals suffered no disease or death. Snakes didn’t bite, and spiders didn’t catch flies in webs. God originally made microbes to perform only beneficial functions. Parasites were harmless or beneficial in their original form.
The book of Genesis includes two very different creation stories – the first in Genesis 1:1 to 2:4 and the second in Genesis 2:4-25. In the second creation story, God creates Adam, then the animals, and finally takes a rib from Adam’s side to create Eve. Answers in Genesis claims that the second creation story merely clarifies what happened on the sixth day.
Corruption (Adam’s fall) – shortly after creation
The neighborhood started going downhill after Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit of the tree of life. Answers in Genesis explains that God created the perfect world:
But in Genesis 3 we read how Adam’s rebellion brought corruption and a curse upon this idyllic creation. As a result, we now have all these evil things—parasites that feed at the table of others, fierce animals that kill, and genetic mutations that disfigure and destroy.
Creationists use the term “defense/attack structures” or DAS to describe characteristics that animals use to kill or avoid being killed. Young Earthers have two schools of thought how these DAS came about. One group believes animals had DAS from the beginning of Creation, but they just didn’t use them. In other words, spiders could spin webs, but they didn’t catch flies.
The second perspective—DAS design features were brought in by God as a result of the Fall—calls for design alterations after the Fall to allow such attack and defense structures. To clarify, this was the result of man’s sin, not God’s original design, and the consequences of sin still remain. Such “cursed design” is from God’s intelligence as a punishment for the man’s, the woman’s, and the serpent’s disobedience. This second perspective would then better explain some things like sharp teeth, claws, the special glands that make the spider silk, etc.
People were still vegetarians. Genesis 4:2 says Cain was a keeper of sheep. He could sacrifice sheep to God, but he could not eat their meat.
For 1,500 years after creation, men lived long lives because they had not yet accumulated harmful mutations. The antediluvian patriarchs lived an average of 912 years.
Catastrophe (Biblical flood) – 2348 B.C.E. (1656 A.M.)
Pangaea, the original super continent, rapidly broke apart during the global Flood by the process of catastrophic plate tectonics. The movement of the plates also formed the ocean basins and mountains in today’s world. Most, but not all, fossils in the Earth today are in sediment deposited during the flood.
Genesis 7:2-3 says:
Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth.
This instruction raises several issues. In this post, I focus on issues related to timing, as opposed to practical issues like whether Noah could fit all those animals on the Ark.
Confusion (Tower of Babel) – 2242 B.C.E. (1762 AM)
In Chapter 11 of Genesis, God judged the people at the Tower of Babel by confusing their language, and they migrated to many different parts of the world. Groups of people became isolated from others and likely married only within their language group. The language groups then developed distinct physical traits, such as black, brown or white skin.
The Bible records a progressive decline in the life span of the patriarchs, from Noah who lived to be 950 years old until Abraham died at 175. Creationists attribute this downturn to harmful mutations and genetic bottlenecks. Genetic bottlenecks occur when significant proportions of the population die or populations become isolated. Such a bottleneck occurred after Noah’s flood when God reduced the human population to one family of eight people (six in the younger generation). Other smaller bottlenecks occurred following the Tower of Babel dispersion. These events would have further reduced the genetic variety within a population that started with only Adam and Eve.
Cold (End of post-flood Ice Age) – 1650 B.C.E. (2454 A.M.)
Most creationists agree that there was one major Ice Age following the Flood when post-flood volcanic activity released dust that reflected light back to space. This Ice Age reached its maximum glaciation about 500 years after the Flood and then lasted another 200 years.
Woolly mammoths supposedly populated what is now Siberia, Alaska and Northern Canada shortly after the Flood when the Ice Age was just beginning and temperatures were still warm. However, late in the Ice Age, winter temperatures turned colder and the climate drier with strong windstorms. The mammoths died by the millions and were buried by dust, which later froze, preserving the mammoths.
Consummation (Jesus’ second coming) – any day now
Isaiah 11:6-9 and Acts 3:21say that God will someday restore nature so that all animals will again be vegetarian. House cats will probably still be finicky eaters after God limits their dietary options to bean sprouts and tofu.
 John Woodmorappe, Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study 6 (Institute for Creation Research 2009).
 John Woodmorappe, Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study 49-50 (Institute for Creation Research 2009) (1550‑1200 B.C. was a “millennium or so after the flood”).