Russell and Duenes

did god wait 98,000 years?

with 5 comments

For the last month my high school seniors have been reading atheist Sam Harris’ “Letter To A Christian Nation.” Of course that means I’ve had to read it a couple of times while sifting through other relevant material on atheism, along with Christian rejoinders. I can only think about Atheist-Christian debates for so long before I finally feel like I want to go stick my head in the oven. So here’s a last gasp in the midst of the madness. I got stuck on something Christopher Hitchens had to say while debating Douglas Wilson over at The Huffington Post. He remarked,

We do not know, though we may assume, that our pre-homo sapiens ancestors (the erectus, the Cro-Magnons and the Neanderthals, with whom we have a traceable kinship as we do with other surviving primates) had deities that they sought to propitiate. Alas, no religion of which we are now aware has ever taken their existence into account, or indeed made any allowance for the tens and probably hundreds of thousands of years of the human story. Instead, we are asked to believe that the essential problem was solved about two-to-three thousand years ago, by various serial appearances of divine intervention and guidance in remote and primitive parts of what is now (at least to Westerners) the Middle East. (Read more at:

If indeed mankind, viz. the one who bears God’s image, has been around for 100,000 years or more, it would seem that Hitchens’ argument has some force. Why would God wait some 98,000 years before sending Christ? Hmm. My mostly fried mind landed on this:

1) The problem here for Hitchens is much larger than the problem for the Christian. If God exists and he took 98,000 years to send Jesus, I suppose he has his reasons. But if God doesn’t exist, as Hitchens supposes, then he has to answer for how the universe, and by extension, mankind, can even be here in the first place. Something can’t come from nothing, and there is no chance that the universe itself is eternal. The idea of infinite alternate universes is also devoid of any supporting evidence.

2) Perhaps God made the world billions of years ago, but the “Cro-magnon man” that Hitchens believes is human really isn’t. In other words, image-bearing human beings don’t get created until relatively recently.

3) The biblical “literalists” are correct and the world is only six to ten-thousand years old.

Of course, either way, God doesn’t have to explain himself to us, but Hitchens’ objection is worthy of an intelligent answer.


Written by Michael Duenes

November 7, 2009 at 5:06 am

Posted in Duenes, Science, Theology

5 Responses

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  1. It’s an interesting post and got me thinking.

    #2: I think this reasoning breaks down. Does it really matter whether God lingered 98,000 years or 10,000 or 2,000 while generations of people lived and died?

    #3: Same problem as #2. Even the Biblical literalistic acknowledge that generations came and went all over the world long before Christ and far removed from events in the Middle East.

    I’d just say God has always been revealing Himself in every time and place, even today, and people have responded in every time and place. Moreover, I’d say Hitchens’ emphasis on religion is misguided. Surely many religions have come and gone, and in the past few thousand years a few primary religions have dominated the human landscape. But what if religions are man made systems, so naturally they have “evolved” as societies have become more sophisticated. What if God never started any religion — if Jesus didn’t come to start a religion? What if religion is actually as much a hindrance as a help? I’m sure you would agree that all but one religion, at least, are hindrances. If religion is a human expression, the transience of religions doesn’t mean that God is transient or unjust, but that people have had varying degrees of knowledge and ignorance of God, and have always preferred to control God if they could.


    November 7, 2009 at 10:34 am

    • Andy – At one level, as I said, God can do what he wants, and so if he wanted to wait 98,000 years before sending his Son, so be it. And it is true that many generations came and went even if the earth is only six to ten thousand years old. We agree that “the heavens are telling the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” We agree that “what can be known about God is evident to people, because God made it evident to them, for since the creation of the world his eternal being and divine nature have been clearly perceived by the things he has made.” But what you and I disagree on, and which is germane to this post, is the fact that people cannot be saved without the preaching of the gospel. God says explicitly that he formed and called the nation of Israel to be a light to the nations, which means that the nations did not have light on their own. Of course some people had a relationship with God apart from Israel, but most often that happened by God revealing himself to them in a special way (e.g., Abraham). What you don’t seem to agree to is that “although people knew God, they neither honored him as God nor gave him thanks.” Hitchens perceives what you don’t, namely that if people come into a relationship with God almost entirely by special and not general revelation, then there’s a lot of people left out of God’s kingdom over 98,000 years. My guess is that you want to say that there are great gobs of people in God’s kingdom who responded to him by the light of nature and the Holy Spirit calling people in a general way, apart from the light of God’s special revelation.



      November 7, 2009 at 5:10 pm

  2. I’m not a universalist, but I’m open to God saving “great gobs of people” apart from the formula of one exclusively right form of knowledge plus a prescribed response. As you say, God can do what he wants.

    You cite passages from the Bible, but I don’t see them limiting God to acting in only one allowed way. Your own words speak of exceptions (“most often”, “almost entirely”), but you prefer to think of these as extremely rare exceptions.

    At any rate, the perplexing question you asked in this post is not resolved apart from “God can do what he wants.” Something bothered you about generations of people dying without knowledge of God, apparently left out of salvation from birth, and that’s what remains. Does it still bother you, or do you feel better after this?


    November 7, 2009 at 11:54 pm

  3. 2Peter 3:8, stated that,one day to God is one thousand years to mankind.Clay require a potter to form a beautiful shape.

    Ogunweide ADEYEMI

    May 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm

  4. I think Hitchens raises a really good point. 100,000 years is actually a fairly conservative estimate of the time our species has existed in its current form. If the Bible is true, I think it would require one to believe that for the vast majority of human history, pretty much everyone everywhere was damned. Jesus said “no one comes to the father except through me” which would necessarily exclude anybody who lived prior to that, with maybe the exception of a few Jews who complied sufficiently with Mosaic law, but even that, relative to the entirety of humanity is miniscule.

    It is just another version of “Why would God create people if he knew they were going to hell?” with the usual excuse of “free will” removed, as someone who lived 50,000 years ago never had the opportunity to be saved and it would take some serious apologetic acrobatics to argue otherwise.


    March 17, 2016 at 7:58 am

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