5000 give or take a couple hundred million

Ethan loves numbers.  He obsesses about them.  He loves figuring out patterns and puzzles.  His latest exploration is years.  What year did mommy and daddy get married?  What year was mommy born?  What year was it when you were in Kindergarten? 


Well last night when I was putting him to bed, he asked me if there were any people in the year 1.  I told him yes, lots.  But he seemed confused.  Then we had a protracted discussion of AD/BC and negative numbers.  Then the big question: what year was the world created?  Oh crap! 


I told him no one knows for sure but that it was a very very long time.  I wanted to give him a firm 5000ish, but I just could not go there.  It was late, so he fell asleep.


I know it is stupid, but I do not want to introduce ambiguity into his world just yet.  My parents adopted the fundamentalist line in total.  But they actually believe it.  I have faith, but I am considerably less dogmatic as the years go by.  Grey is a much more prominent color in my life today than in years past.


My dilemma is this:  I do not want to be inauthentic with my kid and blindly feed him the party line even if I do not believe it.  But at the same time I know that if I introduce too much ambiguity, God will become like Santa and the Easter Bunny (incidentally we do not *do* either). 



By Ben Posted in Life

10 comments on “5000 give or take a couple hundred million

  1. You sure know how to make a person think.

    Ok, first, ambiguity is a part of life, as you know, and Ethan really is old enough to handle it. The truth of the matter is, we don’t know. Even biblical scholars are divided. There is scientific evidence that actual supports a 10-15,000 year old range, but even that isn’t that precise. I mean, let’s say he asked you “What color is God’s hair” instead of how old the world is. Would you have any difficulty in answering that? I don’t think so, I think you would just say, “I don’t know. Someday I will see him, but I don’t know.” For Ethan having the same answer for the age of the world would be ok. The question isn’t tied up with all the baggage that it carries for us, so it isn’t a burden for him yet, just another piece of info to put in the old hopper. Plus what does the age of the earth have to do with God? The reality of God will be evident to him through your life, much more than anything else. That is what you need to focus on, making sure he sees God and God’s work in and through you.

    Oh and just a comment on the Santa and Easter Bunny thing. Not sure why, but they are out of vogue now. We *do* both. The kids have all figured out who Santa is, but he is real, he is me. And they know it. The oldest has even started to assist in being Santa. The thing I have found in my own experience, and the experience of my kids, is that Santa represents someone who cares about them. We never emphasized the naughty and nice thing, I think that was a weenie thing that someone came up with as a way to control their kids, other than to point out that Santa and we both thought they were great kids. As they have figured it out, it has become a sort of game for them. I know for me, it was my first time at giving to someone without them knowing who I was, so I got nothing out of it but the enjoyment of them enjoying getting a gift. To be honest, that is fairly important. I think all too often we give a gift knowing that we will get some affection back (which isn’t necessarily bad, but shouldn’t be our only motivation). I understand why people don’t do Santa, but it is like Halloween, if you do it right, I don’t see the problem. Anything you do badly is a problem.
    I always liked the line about the three stages of man. He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus.

  2. WAIT A MINUTE! Santa and the Easter Bunny aren’t real???? When did this happen?? Next you are going to tell that there is no tooth fairy! Or worse yet that the Cobbler Fairy doesn’t exist!!

    My whole world is crashing! Say it isn’t so, say it isn’t so!

    I have heard (meaning I haven’t studied it for myself) that the term we translate in Gen. that says “created” is the same word in Hebrew that one would use in describing how a potter would “remake” a vase or a jar out of what was previously there, not out of nothingness. Okay I am going to go get coffee, my brain hurts.

    No cobbler fairy, hmph, indeed!

  3. We’ve had to have some discussions like this with Zac. Not about the date of creation’s origin, but about how some things are yes sometimes and no other times. It’s going to be hard for the concrete thinkers to get no matter what the topic is, believe me! Zac’s biggest questions are about why people do things. Most of the time, I have no good answer to that. I’m not in their heads and can’t know their motives.

    If you’re living the life of faith, and I believe you are :), God won’t get lost in the shuffle. We strive to make our faith organic, something that springs out of our daily lives. We have no desire to shove Jesus at Zac and Ruby. We want them to choose Him freely when they are able.

  4. Because Phil believes in the literal 7 days and I believe “although God COULD do it in 7 days, it sort of seems unlikely!” we always tell them both. We say “the Bible says…(etc) but some people believe that God’s days are really long, i.e. like a dog year compared to people years.” We then tell them the important thing to know is that God IS the creator of all things and that He is responsible for every good thing! Life is full of ambiguity and kids are often more able to just accept that than adults are. For instance, some good people do bad things…kids can take that and not dwell on it – just accept it as truth. Whereas, I could lose a ton of sleep over even just that one ambiguity!

  5. You know it is a funny thing, in other cultures they have no problem with mystery or what seems to be contradictions or ambiguity. It seems only here in the West that we have this problem of dealing with ambiguity, for example I have talked with some Hindu Background Believers that have no problem in living with the “mysteries of God”. Yet I know I do. Maybe it is because I am so ego driven or prideful that I can say “I don’t know why God…” to someone, let alone one of my daughters! For some reason I feel like I must always have the answers, or at least I used too. I will say the older I am getting though, the more comfortable I am with the idea that I may not ever understand some things, at least this side of heaven anyway.

    So I wonder how bad is abiguity and how related is it to the culture we are a part of?

    I still say that there is a Cobbler Fairy though!

  6. The weird thing is I am OK with ambiguity, but I was not raised that way. So I have no frame of reference. I just have this notion, that if I do not subscribe to a literal translation he will not accept faith. I know it is a bogus notion, but again my frame of reference growing up was 100% literal…just part of the weirdness of being me.

  7. I’m okay with a reasonable amount of ambiguity. Not sure how to define “reasonable.”

    I’m also okay with science. The universe seems to have been born about 15 billion years ago, the earth in particular about 5 billion. Genesis creation passages are metaphors loaded with spiritual but not scientific truth. No matter–as a statement of faith, I believe that God created. Science merely describes what happened and attempts to find out how; the “why” is outside of science’s parameters.

    If Ethan can’t deal with all of this right now, doubtless he’ll be able to in stages later on.

  8. One of Alex’ teachers pointed out to me that most kids don’t really start to “get” abstracts until around 7 or 8 years old. That’s when they really start to struggle with them. Up to that point, they see things as more concrete, I guess. But kids are all different. Daniel, for example, knows there is no Santa/EBunny/Tooth Fairy, etc., and knows he still needs to play along for Alex’ sake. Alex is really reluctant to let go of these. Daniel can understand all kinds of scientific things, yet he insists that ghosts and aliens are real. Go figure.

  9. I for one accept the ambiguity. For my four boys I simply say that no person really knows how old the earth is. All we can do is estimate. When they ask about the creation in 7 days, I remind them that Moses the one writing it wasn’t there. All he was doing was putting down the oral tradition. The creation story wasn’t meant to be a scientific story…it was a story of faith. This puts me at complete odds with my family. Much like your (at least the way it sounds) family, they believe in a literal 7 24-hour day creation. According to my father, the earth can’t be more than 5000 years old. I remember as a child my parents even saying that dinosaurs never really existed they have been created by evolutionists to confuse Christians. Finally, I simply say I am comfortable with God creating instantaneously and God using evolution. Do I really know? No. But God is God.

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