The Correct View of Creation?
In a previous post, I addressed how the rhetoric and views of some young earth creationists pose a threat to the task of an apologist. Some young earth proponents contend that the message of the Bible itself is in jeopardy if their hermeneutic is not followed. Such an exclusionary view makes it impossible to consider any other view of the creation narratives. To even consider the arguments for another view is to reject the very foundations of Christianity itself! (While such a summary might seem hyperbolic, I can assure it is not.)
In these next two posts I would like to address a weakness that is common to many of the views of creation. This weakness is not found in the philosophy, theology, or rhetoric of the different views, rather it is the certainty associated with these views that I wish to address. While I believe my argument is extensible to other views, in these posts I focus on young earth (YEC), old earth or progressive creationism (OEC), and the framework view. For the remainder of this post, I will describe how these views address four different topics within this debate.
What are the Days of Genesis? This question is probably the best known and most controversial. The YEC position is that the creation week was 144 hours long divided into 7, 24-hour days. The OEC view is that the days represent a sequence of long periods of time. This is also referred to as the “day-age” view. Under the framework view, the creation week of Genesis 1 is a literary structure representing a topical, rather than chronological, presentation of God’s creative works. While these seem to be three completely different perspectives, I would like to highlight how much the YEC and OEC views have in common when contrasted against the framework view. Put simply, both views treat the days of Genesis as a “literal,” chronological sequence. While both views have divergent, but legitimate claims on a literal view of yom, these differences seem to be in a completely different category relative to the framework view.
What is relationship between science and the creation narratives? The question of how science and Christianity interact generates an immense controversy without any particular context. My point here is not to wade into that somewhat intractable discussion (in which I am, based on my studies to date, biased), rather I simply want to point out that here the young earth view and the framework view have something in common. For slightly different reasons, both views tend to argue that science should not have any bearing on how scripture is interpreted. Scripture should always have the final say. In practice, what this means is that the interpretation of the theologian takes precedence over the interpretation of the scientist. This is contrast to the concordism usually associated with the old earth view.
Like many “ism”s there are varying degrees of concordism. The definition I am most comfortable with is that where the Bible and science address the same topic, the interpretations of science and the Bible will be consistent, they will not contradict each other. For example, the Bible is the only religious text that indicates the universe (matter, space, time and energy) came into existence from nothing (ex nihilo) a finite time ago. Since the 1960s, there has been steady progress toward greater and greater support for big bang cosmology. Another and opposite example would be the origin of life. While a segment of the scientific community would deny or at least defer talking about it, there has been continual negative progress toward any workable theory of abiogenesis (life originating as the result of a chemical process) or chemical evolution. Theistic evolution aside, abiogenesis being false is consistent with the biblical view that God created life.
Death before the Fall? A significant pillar in the young earth view is that the fall of Adam and Eve did not merely change the nature of humanity but it changed the nature of creation. Death itself, for all forms of non-plant life, did not exist until Adam and Eve rebelled against God. Here, in contrast to the previous two points, the young earth view is at odds with the framework and old earth views. The old earth view claiming for example that animal death was part of God’s provision in preparing the planet for advanced life. Advocates of both framework and old earth views contend that passages in the New Testament cited in support of the young earth view (e.g. Romans 8) are limited in scope to humanity.
Has the seventh day ended? Citing clues from Genesis itself as well as other passages, both framework and old earth contend that the seventh day, which is first mentioned in Genesis, has not in fact ended. The old earth view claims that God’s rest (especially as it is described in Hebrews) continues from the end of God’s creative activity in Genesis until a “new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1) are created. In contrast, the framework view denies any dispensational view that looks to fulfillment of prophecies in what are literary devices. They contend that the seventh day refers to a heavenly reality of the eternal rest that all Christians are called to in Hebrews 4. Among other arguments, the young earth view bases the ending of the seventh day on how the entire creation week is a sequence of literal days.
In summary, I would like to offer the following table as a visual aid to the content of this post.
|Days are “literal” and represent a chronological sequence||Yes||Yes||No, topical not chronological|
|Seventh Day has ended||Yes||No, it will end with new creation||No, It is eternal|
|Perspective of science||Scripture should not be subordinated to science||Concordism||Scripture should not be subordinated to science|
|Animal Death prior to the Fall of Man||No||Yes||Yes|
In the next post I would like to explore what I believe are the implications of this overlap between the various views of creation. In particular I want to explore the why it is significant that the overlap varies depending on the topic being considered.
 Hermeneutics is the art and science of Biblical interpretation. The highest goal one can have is to determine the intent of the original author. This involves understanding the historical setting in which was written, the original audience, and the genre or style of writing being considered.
 By this I mean that the more that is learned from microbiology about how complex life actually is, the more intractable problems appear. Various naturalistic processes are proposed for different steps in the process of chemical evolution, but abiogenesis has yet to demonstrated in the lab. When or if, abiogenesis is seen in a laboratory, it will be the result of tremendous effort by intelligent agents intervening in the process. It will then be incumbent upon the scientific community to demonstrate how this could happen apart from intelligent agency.