Time for another reader question. You can submit your question HERE:
Hi Mike! I have always struggled with the topic of creationism, as I know there are many different types. I don’t know were to start with researching them, but I feel like I should know a lot more about it than I do (especially where I’m taking lots of science classes at college). Any suggestions on what to do? I’m a little lost.
Thanks for your question, it’s an important (and common) one. As we consider the glory of creation and the complexity of understanding HOW God created, I want us to keep a few things in mind:
- Science is Good: Unfortunately, the stereotype of religious folk is that we are unscientific. Most of Western history’s greatest scientists were faithful Christians who practiced science as a way to explore God’s good creation. Many of these people were actually funded and sponsored by the Church. Today, however, people have replaced faith in God with naturalism, which says, “If I can’t physically and scientifically prove it, then it isn’t real.” Science is good, Naturalism is not. The scientific method is the creed of the naturalist, just as the Bible is the authority for the Christian.
- Multiple Interpretations: Scientific data is often debated. There isn’t always one clear and obvious conclusion. Multiple scientists often draw different interpretations and conclusions from the same information. The popular voice isn’t always correct. Without room to debate interpretations, the best-funded voice will always prevail. This cuts both ways, and we need to be willing to learn from those with whom we disagree.
- Science is Limited: Obviously, a Naturalist will disagree with this statement, but it’s important to put up front. If you believe there’s more to reality than what we can empirically test, then you will draw different conclusions from the scientist who believes “it’s only true if you can scientifically prove it.” We will never understand everything. We aren’t supposed to. However, that’s not an excuse to disregard science. Science teaches us amazing things about our world, so take it seriously, but remember it cannot answer all questions.
- Adaption & Evolution: No one denies adaptation. Even the most literal 24-hour day creationist confidently agrees with significant amounts of adaptation within species (see HERE for an example). Adaptation and evolution within species makes good scientific sense to everyone. The debate revolves around whether or not one species can evolve into a new species, especially regarding the origin of humanity.
Summary of the Most Popular Views
I simply cannot give a lengthy argument for each view since there are so many. Under each of these, there are different particular views that fall under these general categories.
`1. Young Earth Creation
God created the Earth in six 24-hour days. Genesis 1 & 2 are literal and should be taken at face face value. In this view, the earth is thousands (not millions or billions) of years old. Adam and Eve are historical people who God specially made in his image, who sinned, and were then sent out of the garden.
2. Old Earth Creation
God created the earth, but probably not in literal 24-hour days. Genesis 1 & 2 describe what God did but not precisely how he did it, so there’s some room for science to fill in the details God left out of the biblical account. The earth is probably millions or billions of years old, but Adam and Eve are historical people who God specially made in his image, who sinned, and were then sent out of the garden.
3. Framework Hypothesis
Genesis 1 gives a poetic account of creation, where God creates Creation Kingdoms, and then Creature Kings to inhabit those kingdoms, all under the authority of the Creator King. This flows out from a historical-exegetical comparison of the biblical text in relationships with other Ancient Near Eastern creation myths. With this interpretation in text, and accordingly, there is much room mind for scientific explanation about how God created the world. Most proponents of the Framework Hypothesis view Genesis 2 as historical, and thus Adam & Eve are historical people who were specially and distinctly created by God in his image.
4. Theistic Evolution
There are many views under this category. They all generally believe some version of Old Earth Creation. Some believe God initiated and used evolution to facilitate the creation of man. Others claim that God created the world such that evolution would happen naturally, but he didn’t specifically oversee the evolutionary process into humanity. Typically, Adam an Eve are not historic people, but are symbolic figures who describe humanity’s sinfulness and rebellion against God.
Where Can You Go For More?
This could be an entire blog series, to explain and evaluate all the different Christian views of Creation. Since that’s far beyond the scope of this blog post, let me present you with a few resources.
- A 3:17 video overview of the major Christian views by Mark Driscoll (whose entire ministry I can’t endorse, but this video summary is very very good).
- Blue Letter Bible has a good summary of nine major views of Creation along with some critique of each view and resource for further study.
- Scientific Resources: Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution is a recent classic, exploring Darwin’s claims from a microbiologist’s perspective. Similarly, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design presents a compelling case for a Designer.
- Jonathan Safarti’s book Refuting Compromise is a good resource for an young earth view.
- John Piper gives a good response to the question of creation in his Ask Pastor John podcast. In his video he references John Sailhamer’s view on creation where God created the earth in Genesis 1:1, and then the six days of creation were God’s ordering and preparing the earth so it would be inhabitable for humanity. Personally, I find this view compelling for biblical/exegetical and scientific reasons. For further study on this view, see John Sailhamer’s book Genesis Unbound.
Remember Why Creation Matters
In all these discussions about creation and evolution, it can be remarkably tempting to throw your hands up and shout, “Why does this matter? I give up!” But don’t…
You don’t need to know everything. Which is good – because you can’t know it all. What you do need to know has been revealed through Scripture. Here are three non-negotiables when it comes to creation and Christianity.
- God created. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 ESV)
God caused the Big Bang; it did not happen on its own. Because God created the world, He is worthy of worship. Design leads to purpose. Because God is the creator of life, we can live with confidence that we have purpose and hope.
- God created man and woman in his image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 ESV)
Humanity is not an accident. Instead, God created us in his image. We are special among all creation because He made us to reflect him on the earth. Humanity is not another animal who evolved. Instead, we were set apart and created in his image. So when you feel worthless and useless and like an utter failure… remember in whose image you were created.
- God created humanity as his representatives on Earth. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26 ESV)
Because we share the image of God, we represent him on the Earth. We are not here for our own glory or to abuse the earth. Instead, we are here to cultivate it, to care for it, and to build upon it. God is the creator, and so we create. God is the giver of life, and so we promote life. God is the savior of creation, and so we forgive and restore what has been broken. The story of humanity flows from the story of Adam and Eve as real, historic people whose sin and promised-salvation continue to impact your life today.