Old Earth Creationism

As mentioned, the idea that Earth is ancient was well established in science by the mid-1800s and was not considered a radical idea in either the Church of England or the Catholic Church (Eiseley 1961). From the mid-1700s on, the theology of special creationism has been partly harmonized with scientific data and theory showing that Earth is ancient. To many Christians, the most critical element of special creation is God's personal involvement in Creation; precise details of how God created are considered secondary. The present may indeed be different from the past, but old-Earth creationists (OECs) see God as a direct causal agent of the observed changes.

The creation/evolution continuum, like most continua, has few sharp boundaries. Although there is a sharp division between YECs and OECs, the separation among the various OEC persuasions is less clear cut. Even though OECs accept most of modern physics, chemistry, and geology, they are not very dissimilar to YECs in their rejection of biological evolution. There are several religious views that can be classed as OEC.

Gap Creationism. One of the better-known nineteenth-century accommodations allowing Christianity to accept the science of its time was gap or restitution creation-ism, which claimed that there was a large temporal gap between verses 1 and 2 of chapter 1 of Genesis (Young 1982). Articulated from approximately the late eighteenth century on, gap creationism assumes a pre-Adamic creation that was destroyed before Genesis 1:2, when God re-created the world in six days and created Adam and Eve. A time gap between two separate creations allows for an accommodation of special creationism with the evidence for an ancient age of Earth. In gap creationism, the six days of Genesis 1:2 and following are considered twenty-four-hour days.

Day-Age Creationism. Another attempt to accommodate science to a literal, or mostly literal, reading of the Bible is the day-age theory, which was more popular than gap creationism in the nineteenth century and the earlier part of the twentieth (Young 1982). Here religion is accommodated to science by having each of the six days of creation be not twenty-four hours but long periods of time—even thousands or millions of years. This allows for recognition of an ancient age of Earth but still retains a quite literal interpretation of Genesis. Many literalists have found comfort in what they interpret as a rough parallel between organic evolution and Genesis, in which plants appear before animals, and human beings appear afterward. Anomalies such as flowering plants being created before animals and birds occurring before land animals—incidents unsupported by the fossil record—are usually ignored.

Progressive Creationism. Although some modern activist antievolutionists may still hold to day-age and gap views, the view held by the majority of today's OECs is some form of progressive creationism (PC). The PC view accepts more of modern science than do day-age and gap creationism: progressive creationists do not dispute scientific data concerning the Big Bang, the age of Earth, or the long period of time it has taken for Earth to come to its current form. Indeed, some cite the Big Bang as confirmation of Genesis, in that the Big Bang is viewed as the origin of matter, energy, and time, which in the PC view is equivalent to creation ex nihilo, the doctrine of creation out of nothing. As in other forms of old-Earth creationism, although theories of modern physical science are accepted, PC incorporates only parts of modern biological science.

For example, the fossil record shows a consistent distribution of plants and animals through time: mammals are never found in the Cambrian, for example, and flowering plants are never found in the Devonian. However, YECs believe that flowering plants, dinosaurs, humans, and trilobites were all created at the same time and therefore all lived at the same time. They regard the orderly distribution of fossils in strata around the world to be an artifact of Noah's Flood, which is thought to have differentially sorted organisms into groups, even if they all died at the same time. In contrast, PCs generally accept the fossil distribution of organisms as "real" because they believe that God created kinds of animals sequentially. To PCs, the geological column reflects history: God first created simple, single-celled organisms, then more complex single-celled life, then simple multicellular organisms, then more complex ones, and so on up until the present time. With PC, there is no difficulty that seed-bearing plants appear after ferns and cycads: God created the more "advanced" plants at a later time. However, progressive creationists do not accept that the kinds evolved from one another, though they are no more specific than YECs about what constitutes a kind. As in young-Earth creationism, though, a kind is viewed as genetically limited: as a result, one kind cannot change into another.

Evolutionary Creationism. Despite its name, evolutionary creationism (EC) is actually a type of evolution. Here, God the Creator uses evolution to bring about the universe according to God's plan. From a scientific point of view, evolutionary cre-ationism is hardly distinguishable from theistic evolution, which follows it on the continuum. The differences between EC and theistic evolution lie not in science but in theology, with EC being held by more conservative (Evangelical) Christians, who view God as being more actively involved in evolution than do most theistic evolutionists (Lamoureux 2008).

Intelligent design creationism has been positioned on the continuum as overlapping YEC and OEC because some of its proponents can be found in each camp; old-Earthers among the intelligent design creationists have not categorically denied the scientific validity of YEC.

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