Perhaps the neophyte will find it ironic that Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is the elder of the two branches of Creationism, the younger of the two being Old Earth Creationism (OEC). Once one has even a cursory knowledge of the issue, however, any surprise immediately dissipates.
A plain reading of the Old Testament and the Gospels makes it clear that the world was created supernaturally by God in the space of a week, and more particularly, in six days each consisting of an evening and morning. This event took place less than 10,000 years ago, which we can calculate more or less accurately from geneologies provided, for example, in Genesis 5 and the gospels.
Frankly speaking, there is no reason for anyone who excludes outside information from the Bible to arrive at any other conclusion. The Bible, on its face, is clear. God created the world, he did so in six days, and rested on the seventh day. In celebration of this fact, we observe the week.
Nevertheless, from time to time, weak Christians are tempted to believe the testimony of scientists (and their acolytes) who claim that they have unshakable evidence (some may even claim "proof") that the earth is older than 10,000 years. These Christians, led astray by the lies, deceit, or simply errors of the "science crowd" believe the testimony of the crowd.
Some do so by disbelieving the testimony of Scripture outright: these are the so-called Theistic Evolutionists. They deny that God created man from the dust of the Earth and woman from the rib of man. Others, however, seek to harmonize the Bible somehow to the old earth claims of the science crowd. These are termed Old Earth Creationists. They create novel and sometimes bizarre interpretations of Scripture to try to justify a timeline that holds the universe to be tens of billions of years old, and biological life to be billions of years old.
The detailed rebuttal of the underlying fanciful expositions of Scripture are a subject I hope to take up at another time. For the moment I want to seize upon one of the more sinister and devious approaches that have been made by those who oppose the plain truth of Scripture.
Specifically, some portion of the anti-YEC movement has been spreading lies regarding the age of YEC, claiming that YEC is a 20th century phenomenon. Seizing upon a grain of truth, namely that one of the foremost advocates for young earth creationism in the 20th century was a Seventh Day Adventist, dishonests oponents of young earth creationism have attempted to claim that it was never the view of Christians before the 20th century that the world had been created only recently.
Amazingly, some professing Christians in the 21st century have actually come to believe these lies. Let us put the lies to rest once and for all.
A few clear examples should suffice:
1. Theophilus of Antioch (3rd Century A.D.) dated the Creation at BC 5509.
2. Julius Africanus (ca. 225 A.D.) dated the Creation at BC 5500.
3. Ephraem Syrus (died 378 A.D.) - adopted LXX Creation date of 5508 and accused the Jews of subtracting 600 years to avoid the conclusion that the Christ had come.
4. James Ussher (died 1656 A.D.) - dated the Creation at BC 4004.
5. William Hales (ca. 1809) - dated the Creation at BC 5411
6. Henry Fynes Clinton (ca. 1824) - dated the Creation at BC 4138
The first (that I have been able to identify) that attempts to make the world older than the Bible indicates is
Martin Anstey, in his 1913 book "The Romance of Bible Chronology." He calculates man's creation at BC 4042. Mr. Anstey, however, asserts that a gap is to be found between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis. This gap is potentially of a great length of time, and the reason for it's appearance is obvious: Darwin's "Origin of Species" (First Edition 1859) had become wildly popular (launching from the platform built by Lamarck who died 1829), and in order to cowtow to the science crowd, it was necessary to avoid the first four chapters of Genesis. Accordingly, Anstey begins his chronology with Adam at Genesis 5, and essentially writes off the historical value of the account of the first week. The theory was not entirely new to Anstey, having been invented earlier by Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), with essentially the same obvious motivation, though to Lamarckian, rather than strictly Darwinian, Evolutionism.
Today, the idea that man was created less than 10,000 years ago is out of vogue with the science crowd, and consequently the gap theory of OEC is no longer widely popular. Even the other school of OEC, the day-age (alone) crowd, is no longer very popular, mostly because the science crowd will not agree that all of humanity descended from a single pair of human ancestors who lived less than 10,000 years ago.
Instead, we see modified old earth creationists holding to ever more erratic views of the text of Scripture, as they attempt to remain popular with the scientific crowd.
Another group has simply given up: their motto is, "There is scientific truth and religious truth, and the two are in different worlds." This is nonsense and confusion. There is only one truth. The Bible reveals that truth to us clearly and testimonially. If foolish scientists derive a conclusion at variance with the revealed truth of Scripture, it is that scientist who is in error.
But perhaps all that can wait for another day.
For now it suffices to say that OEC is essentially new. There are some scattered passages from the fathers that are sometimes pressed into service to attempt to show an older age for the earth, but this distortion is vain.
Perhaps we ought, like the monks who copied Scripture in the middle ages, to date our writings absolutely in testimony to the doctrine of Creation, rather than in testimony to the doctrine of the Incarnation.
If so, then we should consider this to have been written July of 7015 (if we adopt the LXX's chronology).
May the Glory of our Creator-God be praised in this 8th (or however many) millenia of His reign over the Earth!