Archive for November 14th, 2008

Infinitely More Likely than Random Chance“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is how the Bible starts in Genesis 1:1.  While this doesn’t seem to be all that controversial a statement (since none of us, or our ancestors, were there), it is all too frequently a point of contention and battle in the public square.  As such, it’s not at all surprising that a lot of terms and assumptions get thrown around, and that much of the conversation gets dumbed down to “Creation vs. Evolution” – completely missing the point.

In a similar fashion to our group article this summer on Atonement, I’d like to (fairly quickly) take a look at the different views of Creation, and in that light I think we need to set where the boundaries lie between a Christian view of Creation and a non-Christian view.

Guardrails

In the case of Creation, the Judeo-Christian boundaries are set by Genesis 1:1 – Who created?  God.  When did He create? In the Beginning.  What did He create? The heavens and the earth – everything.

The basic dividing line between a Christian view of Creation and a non-Christian view settles on the original cause – were the heavens, the earth and life upon earth the product of God’s intervention or random chance?  That is the basic question.  Not evolution.  Not timelines.  Just this – was it God or chance that caused everything that exists in our universe?

Where we often get hung up, though, is on the howHow did He create?  Here, we end up with (at least) five differing views, all of which are based upon different interpretations of Scripture and the evidence of Creation provided by God, and one atheistic view.  So let us examine the six views:

1. Historic Creationism

In this view of Creation, the earth and the universe is very old (having been created prior to the first day), and then over the course of six literal, 24-hour days, God transformed it and brought forth life upon it – literally as described in Genesis 1 and 2.  This is a historic view held by Augustine, which does not contradict modern scientific dating methods, but does take issue with macroevolution (because of its required length of time and random nature).

This view is supported, along with the other Christian views apart from Young Earth Creationism, by many Evangelical churches, along with Hugh Ross’ Reasons to Believe.

2. Young Earth Creationism

This view of Creation holds that the earth and all of the universe was created by God in six literal, 24-hour days, literally as described in Genesis 1 and 2.  Probably the most conservative of the views of Creation, this is the one that is most often characterized in the media as the “Christian view”, and it is also the one most often characterized as “Anti-Science”, because it views the earth as young (between 6k and 10k years) and humanity as young, as well.  Historically, this view was an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation and its tendency to treat the bulk of scripture, apart from obvious allegory, as literal.

Adherents of this view also tend to be the least tolerant of differing views of Creation, with many considering all other views as anti-Christian.  Key proponents of this view include Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis (along with his Creation Museum in Kentucky) and a number of systematic Calvinist churches, who have integrated this view of Genesis into their theological system (because death of animals – even dinosaurs – cannot, in their system, have occurred before the Fall of Adam and Eve).

3. Gap Creationism

This view, similar to Historic Creationism, holds that the earth is very old, as dated by science, but that human life on earth is very new, in comparison.  In this view, there is a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, during which the (later recorded) war in heaven occurred, in which Satan and his angels were cast down, which resulted in the Earth being thrown into chaos, becoming ‘formless and void’, tohu a’vohu, as described in Genesis 1:2.  Then, God recreated life on earth from the void, creating Adam and Eve between 6k and 10k years ago.

This view arose during the Eighteenth Century, primarily as a response to geological discoveries which date the earth as being much older than six thousand years, reconciling the evidence of Creation with the Biblical account.

4. Literary Framework

This viewpoint of Creation observes that, in light of the literary form of Genesis 1 and 2 as Hebraic poetry, along with its pattern of literary unfolding, the Genesis account of Creation should be viewed as a allegorical truth, not literal-scientific truth.   In this view, the seven-day creation story is a “framework”, or is symbolically a description of how and why God created everything.  So, in this view, the earth is old (as dated by science), life on earth is old, and humanity is new, though (in some views) theistic evolution may have occurred prior to Adam and Eve.  The most common views of Intelligent Design also falls within the literary framework view of Creation, as well.

This viewpoint is supported by early church fathers, along with some of the writings of Augustine.  Contrasting with Creation in six literal 24-hour days, adherents often point out that “day” and “night” weren’t created until Day Four in the Genesis chronology.

5. Day-Age View

In this view of Creation, the ‘days’ in Genesis 1 are viewed in light of the Hebrew word yom, used to describe each “day”, which may also be interpreted as ‘age’.  Thus, each “day” may be thousands, millions or billions of years old.  So, in the Day-Age View, the earth is old and life may be old, as well.  Theistic evolution and intelligent design also fit well within this view.

Historically, this view also borrows from the writings of Augustine, who observed that literal days could not exist until after Day Four when the sun was created.

6. Atheistic Creation

This is the primary non-Christian view of Creation, which holds that the earth is old and all life is old, all products of random chance and natural selection.  While often portrayed as the view of Charles Darwin, this is not accurate, as Darwin held an agnostic view more akin to intelligent design than random chance.  The one common thread between this view of Creation and the Christian views is that none of them can be claimed as “scientific” views, because the original cause – God or chance – cannot be scientifically proven, and thus must be taken on faith.

The Public Square

Regarding Creationism, Christians have spent a great deal of effort and emotional capital on this topic, to little end – primarily adding to the predominant secular view which posits a false choice of “science vs. religion”.   It would be far better off, in my belief, if it confined its arguments to keep what is science in the realm of science, and what is faith in the realm of faith.  By attacking “evolution”, it is my belief that many Christians miss the heart of the matter – the origin of life (a question of faith/philosophy, not science) – and end up quibbling about its post-origin mode of development (a question of science and observation – the evidence of Creation).

The purpose of science is to answer the questions of HOW something happened.  The purpose of religion is to answer WHY something happened.  By trying to answer HOW with a WHY, we only end up looking foolish – and not for the glory of God.  One need only look to Galileo and the issue of heliocentricity to see what happens when we confuse the two.

Additionally, internal quarreling within the church on this topic is self-defeating.  Any of the views above, 1-5, are acceptable Christian views which honor Scripture, even though some take different parts literally or figuratively.  Declaring Christians that don’t hold to your view as sell-outs to the world (I’m looking at you, YEC’s) isn’t helpful or Christian.  Deriding Christians who hold to a more literal view of Genesis 1 (I’m looking at the rest of you) as anti-scientific hicks isn’t helpful or Christian, either.

In the public square, we have seen the enemy, and all too often the enemy is us…

[Thanks to Mark Driscoll, whose taxonomy I've borrowed and expanded upon in the heart of this article.]

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Phil Miller turns 33 today – Happy Birthday, Phil!

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