In addition to the powerful rationale of the arguments for the existence of the mind and of God (which represent total other articles), most of us also have a powerful intuitive response to the idea that “there is nothing else.” I experience in my soul that there is something more. Of course, I accept that could be delusion, but I am convinced by the reason, my experience, what I believe to be the testimony of God’s Spirit, and my own intuition that there is something more.
With that in mind, how does someone with a serious respect for the scientific process of studying the “natural” world interact with the biblical accounts of creation?
I am glad you asked.
First, let’s look at the very basic perspectives that are in play:
In specific regard to the creation story… Here is a quick look at some theories that main views can be broken into:
Secular Scientism, materialism, naturalism (or sometimes referred to as evolutionism) – This view holds that process oriented theories, like evolution, alone can explain (and can explain alone) and do (or at least will) explain all the issues revolving the concept of where mankind and matter came from. This view says that “God” (whose existence is denied) had and has no role in any aspect of existence, including beginnings. There are many variations within this basic view, but they all share a secular foundation.
Theism, Deism (some call this theistic evolution, but that term lacks a common definition at this point)– This view holds that some kind of creator/designer god created all that is, including natural laws, which may include laws about evolution, set this creation into motion, and has not interfered in any way since then, at least not supernaturally.
Progressive Creationism (sometimes this is what is called “Theistic Evolution” as well)– This view says that this God has been intimately involved in the creative and growth processes of creation. It basically holds to the traditional or similar view of creation except for the timetables. It is basically an old earth view of creation. This view is very broad and might include, for example, an historical Adam or might not, depending on the person you ask. It often also involves a role for evolution – at least at the micro level and often at the macro level.
Traditional Creationism – This view holds to the strictly literal view of creation – historical Adam, 3 sons of Adam & Eve, 6 – 24 hour days, etc. Based on lineages offered in scripture, this view tends to see the earth and the rest of the universe as much younger – often between 6-10,000 years old. How/why, then does the earth seem so much older? Here are three common views:
1. Gap Theory – in the gap theory, the space between Gen 1:1 and 1:2 are seen as significant. This theory posits that the space in between indicate another age of “earth” that has already been before and been destroyed before. This earth is why the earth seems so old – because it actually is, at least below the surface. Technically, this would still be an old Earth theory. I see no problem with this theory except that it is crafted from silence. However, it would not be in any competition with other old earth theories.
2. Created Old Theory – in this theory, it is posited that the earth was created already old – like the chicken being created as a chicken, not an egg, or Adam being created as a grown man, not an infant. Of course, these first two would technically be old-Earth theories since in both cases, the actual Earth would be old. This one seems problematic to me because it feels deceptive. I do not think it fits in with the character of God that we cannot trust our experience of the natural world around us. Further, it seems extremely arbitrary since each created thing is aged at very different rates. An adult fruit fly might be a few hours old, an adult human 18 years? (odd to think how old Adam would have been, huh? We have no information. Maybe he was a fetus… or maybe 50), the light from a star might be millions of years old.
3. Environmental Changes – This view closely examines the pre-flood climate and the effects of the flood on creation… this one is actual young Earth theory. If you are intrigued to study this option more, I would recommend: https://answersingenesis.org
Biblically, I think that the first chapters of Genesis was written primarily to express why and by whom creation was managed (in other words, to show the teleology) – not how, when, or exactly what. It would be difficult to explain even simple systems that we do understand in only 2 chapters – imagine trying to explain the rules of football in 2 chapters!
Therefore, any theory that includes
1) God being the source of all things – matter, energy and life, for example and
2) indicates that He made man distinct from the animals (special) and that He was motivated by His desire to share a relationship with us (loves us) and continues to be engaged in His creation,
should be on the table for Christians and still be considered potentially doctrinally sound.
With that in mind, most of the Christians who are new to reading about these topics are most surprised to find that an old Earth view of creation is not heresy or blasphemy.
We will examine one example of an Old Earth interpretation of early Genesis next week…