Coming in at 460 well-researched and dense pages, The Bible, Rocks, and Time covers an immense terrain (forgive the pun). The first 160 pages are the history of the science of geology. The authors give us a snapshot of major figures in the study of geology and their important discoveries. Their major point in this section of the book is to say that Christian geologists concluded that the earth was very old from an abundance of evidence before Darwin proposed his evolutionary theory and before radiometric dating was discovered. Their summary is detailed and helpful.
The second section of the book (the next 50 pages) gives a history of the interpretation of Genesis 1. In this section, the two geologists are obviously outside their primary area of expertise, but they do a great job of quoting major figures in church history and current biblical scholars that demonstrate the diversity of opinions on Genesis 1. Their main point is the same conclusion that Dr. Letham comes to in his survey of early Christian teaching in the Westminster Theological Journal - http://www.meetthepuritans.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Letham-Creation.pdf - that the church has never had a monolithic position on the interpretation of Genesis 1. Most held positions, but held them lightly as secondary positions.
The third section of the book (the next 200 pages) goes into great detail on the geological evidence itself for the antiquity of the earth (an earth that is 4.5 billion years old, not 6,000 years old). This section is the most meaty, as this is the area of expertise of these two authors. They cover the study of fossils, the geological column (what the layers of rocks teach us in various places around the globe), how sedimentation works, how mountains and plate tectonics works, the combination of catastrophic events and normal processes (like erosion) that have shaped the rock formations that we see today, and the history and accuracy of radiometric dating. Their scope is expansive and their arguments are convincing. All along the way, they interact with young-earth scientific arguments to show how the physical evidence leads to different conclusions.
The final section of the book (the last 50 pages) is all about WHY this even matters. As a pastor, this section was the most compelling. The authors believe that the young-earth position (that the earth is only 6000 years old) is not only terrible science, but that it is actually detrimental to the cause of the gospel. Their argument opposes the position of YEC-proponents who believe that their defense of a 6, 24-hour day creation is necessary to proclaiming the gospel. Drs. Young and Stearley strongly believe the opposite - that continuing to teach that the Bible only teaches a 6000-year old earth is turning a generation of young people away from Christ and ignoring a whole people group (professional scientists) away from Christ who know the truth about the age of the earth. Here is one of their most compelling paragraphs in their final chapter:
Frequently, students are taught that the traditional six twenty-four-hour days interpretation of Genesis 1 is the only interpretation of the text that is consistent with belief in an inerrant Bible. Often they are also misleadingly taught that the tenets of young-Earth creationism stand on equal scientific footing with mainstream geologic views of an ancient Earth. Many young Christians have been reared to believe that this concept of creation is a virtual article of faith that represents the biblical teaching. Those young Christians then go off to college, to a museum or to another source of knowledge where they may be exposed to legitimate geology and are stunned by the force of geologic evidence for the Earth's antiquity. They have been personally confronted with an intellectual and spiritual fixed great gulf that is far wider than the Grand Canyon, between their newfound scientific understanding and the religious views of their youth. To them, the Bible now becomes a flawed book. Sensing that they have been misled about creation by the religious authorities of their youth, they lose confidence in the rest of their religious upbringing. Such students may suffer severe shock to their faith. They were not properly taught the truth about creation, nor were they equipped to deal with challenges to their faith. Christians who are professional scientists have all heard far too many accounts of individuals whose spiritual journeys sound much like the scenario just described. Let's have no shipwrecks of faith of young, vulnerable, unprepared Christian youth that can be laid at the door of the pseudo-science promoted by Christians.
Everyone of us who is raising kids to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength needs to listen carefully to these words. May God give us the grace to teach His gospel faithfully to our children without putting any unnecessary roadblocks in the way of true and lasting faith.