God’s role in creation-evolution: what is your position?
WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• God’s role in creation…. four models.
• Which model reflects your position?
• Learn how to relate to others and their positions on creation-evolution.
A FULL-SIZE REPLICA OF NOAH’S ARK HAS BEEN BUILT IN KENTUCKY, and is now open for tourists. By full-size I mean the length of the ark is 170 yards (one and a half football fields), and its height is 7 stories. It’s an amazing thing to see. Included in the ark are models of dinosaurs, as well as Noah’s family. Wait…..dinosaurs were in the ark? Yes, plus explanations of the creation story. But which creation story?
It turns out there are three major creation models that Christians believe in. All three models support biblical inerrancy, but they vary in their interpretation of Genesis chapters 1-12. A fourth model is included for completeness but differs in that God is not assigned as the designer. A new book by Dr Hal Reed and Dr Duane Thurman called How to Think about Evolution** clarifies these models nicely. Here I have summarized from the book:
YOUNG EARTH CREATION (YEC).
• The creation occurred 6-10,000 years ago during a six 24 hour-day creation week by divine actions of God.
• God created the first two humans.
• Accepts the inerrancy of scripture over modern science, which means a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-12.
• The YEC model contends that the fossil layers and geological strata are a result of Noah’s flood in Genesis. The flood also caused the Grand Canyon just several thousand years ago.
• Major proponents include Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis Institute (who organized the Ark in Kentucky), and the Creation Research Society.
OLD EARTH PROGRESSIVE CREATION.
• The earth is ancient based on geological evidence….5 billion years old.
• God directly and progressively created the major groups of organisms through time.
• Humans are a special creation by God.
• Organisms and their molecular components are too complex to have been created by ultra-slow, step-wise Darwin evolution.
• God formed adult organisms representing the major body plans during direct creative periods throughout earth’s history (e.g. the Cambrian “explosion” which started 541 million years ago and lasted only 10 million ears).
• Supporters include astrophysicist Hugh Ross, and his Reasons to Believe organization.
EVOLUTIONARY CREATION (THEISTIC EVOLUTION).
• God was involved in and created the world by evolutionary processes.
• God is the creator of all things, using biological processes that he developed.
• Also, God created these processes and allowed them to progress to form past and present biota, including humans. God is involved via processes he created, and perhaps even guided which is sometimes called directed evolution.
• A danger is that God seems far away and limits his direct workings in the universe and relies purely on naturalistic processes. Stated another way: the cosmos and life are merely products of natural causes, and therefore diminish God’s involvement.
• Most famous supporter: Francis Collins, Ph. D. geneticist and NIH director, who wrote the book The Language of God (2007) and founded the BioLogos Foundation.
INTELLIGENT DESIGN MODEL (ID).
• Burst on the scene in the 1980s and early 1990s as a re-emergence of the old watchmaker idea…. That the amazing design of living creatures and their molecular components imply an intelligent designer.
• Darwin mechanisms only explain minor changes in biota, not major body parts or intricate organs or molecular machinery.
• ID supporters do not identify God or any other deity as the designer.
• The ID community has tried to seek inclusion in the scientific discussion of origins, especially in public schools. But critics argue it’s a thinly-disguised attempt to include divine creation, and that ID is not testable science.
• ID proponents point to non-evolvable structures (too complex to have evolved) such as bacterial flagellum, information molecules of DNA and RNA, blood clotting biochemistry, the first cell, and the major body plans of the Cambrian explosion.
• Many ID proponents are associated with the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture. Philip Johnson, lawyer, and Michael Behe, Ph.D. biochemist, are famous proponents. Behe wrote the book Darwin’s Black Box.
It is a challenge to discern the truths in the Bible and in science concerning our origins. If this article stimulates you to look deeper, there are books by biblical scholars and scientists. Books such as Canedy et al (2013) and Reynolds et al (1999) are good examples.
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Your comment in the Comment box below is always welcome.
** For more information about the book How to Think about Evolution you may contact the first author at Oral Roberts University, where Dr Hal Reed is a professor of biology. Thanks to Dr Reed for providing a copy of this book ahead of publication.
The Gray Nomad
Helping someone to hope
The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you! [Werner Heisenberg, super-great physicist who was involved in the discovery of quantum mechanics].
Thank you for your excellent summary Ian! I like your clear, unbiased, and loving prose. As a Christian, I believe the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. Unfortunately, I have seen, and continue to see, humans interpret the Bible as they narrowly (biased) think or want it to mean (sometimes ignorantly or unintentionally). That has led to intentional and dogmatic, or maybe unintentional and well-meaning, polarization and alienation. As a Christian who has been trained as a biologist, I desire to submit to God’s Supremacy and honor Him in everything I do (Col. 3:23). In that humility, I believe Christians should stand by their spiritual/ethical convictions, but NOT use that as a platform to promote bad scientific thinking and try to force nonscientific (non testable) explanations. I believe the Bible by faith, not by sight. I practice the scientific method by sight (thinking), and as a Christian I see no problem in science and faith being compatible. I hold to the conviction that Bible believers should not argue against scientific thinking, and non-faith people should not argue against what the Bible says. Trust the Lord to be the Judge, not us!
I also believe that God’s Creation reveals the Creator, and we humans should humbly and reverently be good steward of all human and non-human parts of that Creation.
I may be misinterpreting your opinion as describing theistic evolution… Which if the case is contrary to Scripture. “Argue” no.. is not the objective unless you consider apologetics arguing. 1st Peter 3:15. Christians can and should be able to make sound empirical scientific arguments in defense of the historicity and accuracy of Scripture. Science must take a seat behind Scripture in the life of a Christian. When we consider water into wine.. resurrection from the dead.. walking on water .. 6 day creation… feeding 5000… science has little to rely on. FAITH is therefore defined as “evidence of things hoped for and “substance” of things not seen.” Hebrew. 11:
Old Earth Progressive would be my choice, though I have never seen these 4 theories/beliefs laid out before.
As always — thoughtful and well-written, Ian. I especially liked your quote by Heisenberg which I was not aware of. I might share with you sometime how it was my research on the optics of the compound eye of the fly which brought me back to God.
I feel that I have to give you my SHORT opinion (belief): It does not have meaning for us to debate when GOD (or nature) has provided a set of natural laws which are valid forever (GOD = natural laws, and GOD does not have beginning or end, in agreement with most religions, including Christianity).
We try to discover GOD (natural laws). Evolution appears to be a natural law. However we cannot say that our discovery is complete…
I do not think that young earth (six day) creation is supported by our observations.
Nicely written Zissis. 🙂
Thank you for setting these forth for us to consider. I am a “special creation” proponent as it most closely fits the historical model, observable science, and inerrancy of Scripture. Much appreciated!
The universe and its components are miraculous facts determined by our consciousness and discovered by our investigations. I can not begin to understand how it all came about but I must accept its existence. The concept of an all powerful and knowing God creating all of this, is even more of an incomprehensible miracle to me, but I do not have to accept this concept.
I am content with living in the wonders of our world, respecting nature, loving my neighbor, and striving to fulfill my potential as well as helping others fulfill theirs. I believe in the power of human kindness and healthy ethics in creating peace and happiness. When I pass on, I hope I will be remembered fondly and that I have contributed something of value to this world.
So I would say that I do not subscribe to any of the four models proposed above for God’s role in creation-evolution. I appreciate Ian’s nicely written summaries of these and respect everyone’s right to believe in whatever works best for them and with which they feel most comfortable.
I appreciate your reply. 🙂
I found your blog truly interesting. Makes me who was brought up with the first theory–Genesis model–think about other possibilities. Honestly, the second theory is quite intriguing. To me, all of them speak of a Divine Creator in some fashion, and that the “Big Bang”, and total Darwin Evolution, could not possibly have created our universe and all of it’s complexities. So, that’s what makes it relevant for me and confirms my belief. So much is still a mystery, and perhaps a genius of sorts, a mathematical Einstein of Creation, will prove it all once and for all!
Given the choices presented I would have to place myself in the young earth camp. (YEC). To do so means to take the account in Genesis literally. I believe we can identify 3 periods in the biblical account with confidence.
a) pre-flood taken to be from the time of Adam and Eve to Noah’s flood, (a period of over 1000 years), using the genealogies of the patriarchs we can readily identify this period.
b) time period post-flood to the time of Abraham. This period is the only one that we have difficulty in defining in terms of years unless we resort to Bishop Usher’s method of adding the genealogies without the benefit of using overlapping lifespans.
c) from Abraham to today we can use biblical data as well as extra-biblical information, secular history etc to estimate the time Abraham lived. (I’m putting this at around 2200 BC.)
My purpose here is to try to remove the uncertainty of the periods a) and c) and so only period b) lacks detailed lifetimes to the extent that there is more uncertainty here.
Of course I’m making some assumptions about what is meant by a “year” in scriptural terms as well as possibly assumptions about the time Abraham lived.
With these caveats in place this would still leave a date of say 8000 BC as the oldest date for the creation of the earth as a conservative estimate. So how does this model compare with say a 5 billion year date for the origin of the earth? Well it doesn’t, obviously and this is where a biblical model, (one of them), parts company with the non-biblical model. Notice that those models that postulate a much older earth rely heavily on a variety of dating systems and if you discard these then the young earth model of course becomes reasonable. My point here is that for a very old earth date everything rests on the use of dating systems which in turn make considerable assumptions none of which are based on verifiable science. Any “clock” you want to invoke has to make considerable assumptions about the condition of the element at the time it began to decay as well as potential environmental factors which might influence the decay processes of C-14 containing molecules radically. (no pun intended). This issue of dating is critical to the different models so that the young earth by definition disqualifies these dating systems.