The Precambrian: Part 3 of 3

Because the Precambrian part of geologic history covers so much material, the discussion is split into three parts with this being the third. Here is a summary of the three sections:

  • The first section summarizes the standard model for formation of the Universe, Solar System and Earth, Moon, oceans, continents, and plate tectonics.
  • The second section describes Precambrian rock exposures, as well as the atmosphere, climate, and Precambrian life. Many illustrative pictures are included.
  • This third section provides two perspectives suggested by creationists.


Creationists have two major ways (Roth, 1998) of explaining the Precambrian record: (1) it was mainly formed during the first half of creation week; or (2) the inorganic Earth is actually billions of years old, but then God created life on Earth a few thousand years ago.

First scenario. Those who believe that the entire creation is young note that: it may be inconsistent to explain the earth, light, water, air, land, sun, moon, and stars as created by process over long periods, but explain the birds, fish, animals, and humans as created by fiat in a week; the heavens and starry host were created fiat (Ps 33:6-9) and apparently as part of the six days (Gen 2:1; see also Doukhan, 2004, p.29-32); if the creation is partly old and partly young, then God had one Decalogue (see, Ex 20:8-11) for millions of years and then changed it a few thousand years ago. Personally, this scenario seems to be the most consistent reading of the inspired record.

In this scenario, Andrew Snelling (2009, p.467-470, 613-621) has suggested that the first few days of creation week involved unique inorganic processes not happening today: they exhibited a departure from the laws of thermodynamics, for matter was formed ex nihilo and useful energy increased. Robert Gentry (Gentry, 1988) has used pleochroic haloes as an evidence for the rapid formation of granitic rocks on the third day of creation. Michael Oard (1997) has suggested that any evidence for Precambrian glaciation can be explained in other ways. One summary discussion of this all-young creation can be found at Creation Ministries International.

Snelling (2009, p.321-327) fully recognizes that the Precambrian is a major part of the geologic record. He then emphasizes (p.205-209, 623-627) that during the first day of creation week the Universe, the Earth, light, and the night-day cycle were created. Snelling (p.211-212, 627-629) suggests that the second day of creation week saw the creation of the atmosphere from volcanic gases, interstellar space to hold the sun, moon, and stars, and Earth’s earliest crust from hot magma and hydrothermal fluids from the mantle. The third day (p.213-214, 631-638) brought the creation of the dry land and seas by horizontal and vertical catastrophic plate tectonics at supernatural rates, as well as creation of soils and plants and of cyanobacteria that form stromatolite structures. During the fourth day (p.219-224, 639-641) major tectonic activity could have continued, but primarily God created the sun, moon, and stars to take over the light-giving function.

Second scenario. Those who accept that part of creation may be old and part young note that: angels may have existed before the creation of this world (Job 38:7; Eze 28:12-15); Genesis 1 may not indicate when the angels, stars, sun, moon and Earth (Andreasen 1981) were created; heaven and earth may only refer to the firmament (v.8) and dry land (v.10).

This “old earth / young life” idea (Widmer, 1992; Johnsson, 1993) has not been developed scientifically, but has been briefly outlined by Gorman Gray (2000). This scenario would probably accept much of the standard scientific model outlined above for the inorganic material of the earth. It would probably include long ages of plate tectonic activity with the accompanying earthquakes and volcanoes, and long ages of radioactive decay that are found in Precambrian rocks and could be inherited into more recent rocks by recycling. It would probably only reject the origin of complex life before a recent creation week.

Complex life. In neither of these scenarios would one expect to find evidence of complex life in the Precambrian. Therefore, creationists would dispute the evidence for life in the Precambrian, or attribute the evidence to non-organic processes, or explain it as the result of later organisms invading deep Precambrian rocks (Roth, 1992). However, some creationists might accept the evidence pointing to pre-creation life, since single-celled organisms are not mentioned in the Genesis creation record.

Evolutionists as well would not expect to find complex life in the Precambrian. When asked what evidence might destroy his confidence in the theory of evolution, J. B. S. Haldane reportedly responded with "Precambrian rabbits" as one example. Although not rabbits, at one point it was suggested that angiosperm pollen had been found in the Precambrian, but with further analysis the evidence appeared to be the result of sample contamination (Chadwick, 1981).

The strongest creationist evidence against the standard scientific scenario is based on the difficulty of explaining the origin of life from non-life (Javor, 1998; Horgan, 2011). In addition, the sudden appearance of a great variety of complex life forms in Cambrian rocks, right above the Precambrian, seems difficult to explain in the standard evolutionary paradigm. The Cambrian explosion argument presented by creationists is outlined by The Discovery Institute, The Centre for Intelligent Design, Answers in Genesis, and Creation-Evolution Headlines. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry presents a counter-response.

Summary. No matter what scenario is accepted, creationists attribute Earth’s geology data to God working either through natural processes or by direct intervention.


Myron Widmer (1992). “Older Than Creation Week?” Adventist Review, August 13, p.4.