Get Answers: Creationism

The term creationism is often used in a derogatory sense to suggest the inferiority of a religious viewpoint (as opposed to a claimed scientific viewpoint exclusive to evolution), but this use is deceptive. The belief in creation is not an auxiliary belief attached to the Bible; instead, creation is the logical conclusion of a clear reading and understanding of Genesis in its intended form—that is, as a historical narrative. This historical narrative, which was given to humanity by the infallible Creator, is the basis and foundation upon which a biblical worldview is based.

There are various forms of creationism, including old-earth creationism, progressive creationism, and young-earth creationism (some also label the Intelligent Design Movement as being a form of creationism). Most forms of creationism contend that an intelligence, not natural processes, created the universe and all life. However, only young-earth creationism is supported by a straightforward reading of Genesis without introducing outside suppositions and beliefs foreign to the text (e.g., that “science” has proven the ancient age of the earth).

Based upon the biblical account, there are seven main tenets (the “7 C’s”) of young-earth creationism: 1) the triune God of the Bible created the earth, the universe, and all life around 6,000 years ago (some allow for a range of 6,000–10,000 years old); 2) humanity rebelled against God, and God removed some of His sustaining power, which led to death and suffering (the Curse); 3) a year-long global catastrophe (the worldwide Flood) 4,000–5,000 years ago destroyed all land life not aboard Noah’s Ark and much of the sea life (evidenced by the fossil record); 4) God judged humanity by causing a confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel, giving rise to the various people groups around the world; 5) Jesus Christ (God made flesh) was conceived by the Holy Spirit and physically born of a virgin over 2,000 years ago; 6) Christ died on the Cross and rose to life again to make a way for humanity to be restored to God; and 7) Christ will one day return to judge the earth (the consummation).

Creationism, like evolutionism (or naturalism), is an interpretive framework through which all data is processed. Both are based upon beliefs about the past and past events, but only one, creationism, relies upon an eyewitness account. Attempts to place naturalism outside the realm of belief are untenable.

Description

Framework

The terms creationism and creationist are often used to distinguish those who do not accept naturalism as a valid explanation for how the universe and life came to be. However, creationism (specifically, young-earth creationism) entails a wide range of fields, including geology, biology, astronomy, physics, theology, etc., and is not a scientific or theological discipline in and of itself. Instead, it is a biblically based framework through which all data are interpreted.

Contrary to popular belief, science is not naturalism (the belief that life and the universe were not created, but came about by non-teleological processes). In fact, many of the earliest Western scientists were creationists and relied upon their belief in God and the Bible to aid their research, and many creationist scientists today successfully experiment and make important discoveries (e.g., the MRI).

Science is a tool that is used to discover data about the universe. While science can uncover much about how the universe works in the present, neither science nor the data uncovered through the scientific method can independently provide knowledge about the past. Instead, science concerned with origins and past events (historical science) depends upon the researcher’s existing beliefs and framework.

Creationists base all of their research and conclusions upon the biblical record. In other words, nothing in science (or any field) makes sense except in light of God’s Word. Where the Bible does not give specifics, creationists form hypotheses and models that accord with what the Bible teaches about the world and test these hypotheses against present data. Thus, hypotheses can be discarded, but the biblical record is not. Although this is often a point of derision, evolutionists rely upon the same methodology: that is, while hypotheses are discarded, the belief in evolution is never questioned.

Fundamental Beliefs

In the simplest form, creationism is the belief that some form of intelligence created the universe and all life, as opposed to the universe and life arising without an intelligent cause. Although the age of the earth is often cited as an aspect of creationism, there are numerous schools of thought. In fact, the age of the earth is usually either derived from uniformitarian beliefs (i.e., the present is the key to understanding the past) or the biblical record.

While some creationists (in the strictest sense of the word) claim to believe in an intelligent creator, they refuse to postulate on the identity of this creator. However, most creationists believe that the Creator left both evidence of His work and a record of His activity, which are recorded in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah. This record, which purports to be an eyewitness account and is attested to by the evidence, is the basis for most creationist thought.

There is some disagreement among creationists (particularly between old-earth and young-earth creationists) about the age of the earth. However, a straightforward reading of the text does not support the ancient age many scientists claim (4.5 billion years) and is only necessary for those wanting to insert popular belief into what the Genesis narrative teaches.

The Biblical Account

Young-earth creationism is founded upon the belief that the Bible is what it claims to be: the inspired Word of the Creator. As such, young-earth creationists rely upon a straightforward reading of the Bible as foundational to all belief. A straightforward understanding of the Bible means that the reader accepts the form of literature as it is written (whether historical, poetic, prophetic, etc.) and does not impose “outside knowledge” (e.g., evolution, the ancient age of the earth) onto the text. This method is supported by Christ Himself when He is explaining the Old Testament to others.

(Genesis 1–2) With this as a guide, the Bible teaches that God existed before the universe and created all things in six sequential, 24-hour days (this is easily determined by the emphasis put on numbering the days and insisting upon each having an evening and a morning). God did not create all the species of animals that exist today, but, rather, He created kinds of animals with genetic variability to generate different species. In addition, God created human beings as an entirely unique kind (not related to any animal kind) in His own image (later called Adam and Eve).

(Genesis 3) Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden (which no longer exists). Because of their rebellion, God removed some of His sustaining power, meaning that the earth and the universe were cursed with sin and decay. However, God also promised to provide a Savior (i.e., Jesus Christ) to save humanity from death.

(Genesis 5, 11) The biblical account also includes careful chronologies of those living from Adam until Noah and then Noah to Abraham. These chronologies are instrumental in determining the approximate age of the earth.

(Genesis 6–9) Because of humanity’s continued and increasing wickedness, God, as the Creator, judged the earth with a worldwide Flood that covered “all the high mountains.” Because of His mercy, God provided a way out for those who would accept His offer in the form of a giant ship (the Ark). Noah, his family, and the animal kinds boarded the Ark and survived; however, all other humans and air-breathing creatures outside the Ark died, as did many sea creatures in the raging waters.

(Genesis 10–11) The people and animals that survived on the Ark are the ancestors of all humans and animal species alive today. The descendants of Noah did not obey God’s command to disperse throughout the earth and multiply. Instead, they remained on the plain of Shinar and decided to build a great tower. God judged their ungodly attitude by causing them to speak various languages. The people finally dispersed and, because of the great genetic variability, formed the people groups that exist today (e.g., Asians, Caucasians, Africans).

Order of Events during the Creation Week

The order of events as recorded in the Bible is as follows:

Day Events Reference
One God created light Genesis 1:3–5
Two God created the expanse/sky Genesis 1:6–8
Three God gathered the waters into one place and made the land appear; God created plant kinds Genesis 1:9–13
Four God created the sun, moon, and stars Genesis 1:14–19
Five God created the sea creature kinds and the flying creature kinds Genesis 1:20–23
Six God created livestock, ground-dwelling, and wild animal kinds; God created the human kind; God gave man dominion over the earth and gave green plants for animals and humans to eat Genesis 1:24–2:1
Seven God rested and set apart the seventh day as holy (the origin of the seven-day week) Genesis 2:2–3

It is important to note that the order of events listed is not compatible with current secular thought about the origin of the universe and life and, thus, precludes any attempt to allegorize the text to fit unbiblical ideas. For example, evolutionism posits that plants did not appear until after the sun coalesced and the first life appeared. However, the biblical account is quite clear that God created plants even before He made the sun.

Brief History of Creationism in the Church

Creationism is certainly as old as the Genesis account, which was given by God as a explanation of His creative process and as a form of how humans should work six days and rest one. Beyond this, young-earth creationism was assumed for most of church history, as the early church fathers attested to a young earth in their writings. In particular, the scholar Archbishop Ussher used the Bible and ancient texts to calculate the age of the earth as accurately as possible—his date of creation being 4004 B.C. His calculations were regarded as expert until recent times.

With the advent of uniformitarian beliefs (“the present is the key to the past”), many in the church quickly compromised the young earth to be in accord with “science.” This compromise led to the “reinterpretation” of the Genesis account to fit the idea that the earth had to be ancient.

Although young-earth creationists have continued to practice science (even when most of academia had accepted an old earth), it was not until the publication of the groundbreaking book The Genesis Flood in 1961 that creationist research began to flourish again. After this, several creationists organizations were established, including the Institute for Creation Research, the Creation Research Society, Answers in Genesis, and many others, as well as a number of creationist journals (including Answers Research Journal) and college programs dedicated to research from a biblical perspective.

Scientific Fields

General

Creationism in itself is not a scientific discipline. Rather, it is a framework (built upon the biblical account) that informs the scientist as to how to interpret the data. This is not unique to creationists, as evolutionists rely upon naturalism to inform their interpretations.

With the biblical history as a framework, creationist scientists build theories and hypotheses upon the historical accounts recorded in the Bible. Thus, the facts of a recent creation, the Curse, the worldwide Flood, and the dispersement at Babel must all be taken into account when forming hypotheses to test. In addition, no hypothesis is valid if it contradicts any part of what the Bible teaches. This is a matter of necessity, since God cannot lie and has given us understanding about the universe He created. Thus, a hypothesis contrary to biblical teaching is contrary to the nature of how the universe works.

Archaeology

Creation archeologists, unlike their secular counterparts, rely on the Bible as an accurate historical document concerning events of the past. As such, their research focuses on finding evidence of what the Bible describes in ancient cultures, aligning historical timelines to the biblical timeline, and using the Bible as a guidebook for making discoveries.

Astronomy/Cosmology

Creation astronomy addresses the nature of the universe beyond earth. Often creation astronomers study how planetary magnetic fields, spiral galaxies, comets, and other features attest to the young age of the universe. Over the last few decades, there have also been many attempts to explain how light can travel billions of miles in a young universe.

Biology/Baraminology

Much creation research in biology is concerned with the study of baramin or created kinds—the original kinds God created. From those original kinds, all the species that have ever lived arose because of genetic variability. Thus, creation biologists and baraminologists try to piece together how many kinds there were originally, how kinds speciate, and how this knowledge can help us understand disease and other maladies.

Geology

Creation geology is a growing field focused mainly on the Creation Week and the worldwide Flood as described in the Bible. Beginning with that framework, creation geologists seek clues as to how the earth was reshaped by those events. For example, many believe that the theory of catastrophic plate tectonics gives us clues to how the Flood happened and what changes it brought to the earth’s crust. Furthermore, creation geologists also seek to understand how the fossils were laid down during the Flood and the causes and impact of the Ice Age. This knowledge may one day help us understand how our dynamic world works.

Genetics

The field of genetics is an important aspect of creation, as it reveals the amazing complexity of the genome that God created. The genome is, after all, the information God programmed into all living things. Creation geneticists attempt to uncover the way in which the genome was designed to adapt to a cursed world and how that understanding can help create cures and medical breakthroughs.

Theology

A “creationist” theologian is more accurately called a biblical theologian—that is, a person who studies the Bible and accepts a straightforward reading. Theologians are important to all creationist research, as they provide a deeper understanding of the original text. Without this understanding and study, no sound research would be possible.

Others

Almost any field of research can be labeled “creationist,” since this depends only upon starting with a biblical foundation. Some creationist researchers were even trained in evolutionary biology, anthropology, and other fields generally associated with naturalism. These researchers subsequently apply their knowledge to understanding God’s world through the truth of His Word.

For those interested in pursuing a career as a creation scientist, please see So You Want to Be a “Creation Scientist” . . .

Other Forms of Creation

Old-earth Creationism

While many groups would fall under this category, the main aspects are simply the belief that “science” has proven the earth is billions of years old and that the biblical account in Genesis contains gaps, metaphorical language, or other means for including vast ages. The need to add such time into the Bible does not arise from the text itself and relies, instead, upon naturalistic assumptions.

Old-earth creationists often adopt other secular and naturalistic explanations and adjust their understanding of the Bible accordingly. Thus, human opinions and ideas have greater authority than the Word of God. Consequently, old-earth creationists often change dates and times based on the most “current” naturalistic explanations.

Gap Theory

Because some Christians have thrown out the straightforward meaning of the Genesis account and accepted long ages, they place a gap of indeterminate length between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. While there are many versions of what happened during this interval, the so-called gap theory undermines the biblical record and does not comport with secular ideas. Thus, it fails on both counts.

Day Age Theory

Some creationists (especially progressive creationists) believe that the days listed in Genesis 1 are not ordinary 24-hour days, but are periods of varying length (depending on the practitioner). This allows them to make the creation account fit with secular ideas about the age of the universe. After all, the word day has several meanings even in English (as it does in the original Hebrew).

However, the account in Genesis is emphatic that the creation week consisted of six consecutive 24-hour periods, qualifying this with “morning/evening” and ordinal numbers (first, second, etc.). In fact, this was the general understanding of the account until recent times, when anti-biblical ideas crept into the church.

Progressive Creation

Progressive creation is the belief that nature is, essentially, another book of the Bible, and naturalistic assumptions about the history of the universe are just as valid as the biblical account. All secular theories attested to by “science” trump the straightforward understanding of the Genesis account. Thus, the big bang, death before sin, millions of years of history, and a local Genesis flood are all accepted based on what naturalism teaches.

However, progressive creationists selectively pick and choose which parts of the Bible to accept as written and which parts to “reinterpret” based on secular ideas. Thus, they accept the resurrection of Christ—even though the “book of nature” suggests that resurrections are impossible. Secondly, they completely ignore the order of creation in Genesis on the basis that “nature” supercedes it.

The main problem with this belief is that a sin-cursed earth and universe can only be interpreted correctly in light of God’s Word. They are not and cannot be an independent source of revelation.

For more, see What’s wrong with progressive creation?

The Framework Hypothesis/Interpretation

The Framework Hypothesis (or Interpretation) assumes, first of all, that the creation narrative in Genesis 1:1–2:3 is a literary device that reveals God’s creative acts in a topical manner (i.e., the order is not meant to be sequential, but based on specific aspects of God’s work). Framework supporters also claim that there are figurative elements in Genesis (e.g., repetitive words and structures) that imply the text is referring to two different realms (heavenly and earthly).

While the Framework Hypothesis is touted as a straightforward reading of the text, the need for such a model does not stem from Scripture and is, instead, a desire to integrate naturalistic ideas about the origin and history of the universe. Furthermore, a close examination of the Hebrew shows serious flaws in any attempt to turn what is clearly a historical account into a figurative framework.

For a more detailed look, see A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account (Part 1 of 2) and A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account (Part 2 of 2).

Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design is only creationist in the sense that the theory posits that the complexity of living and non-living things suggests that there was an intelligent cause (i.e., everything was created). Thus, since it is opposed to naturalism, many lump the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) in with creationism. This is not a completely accurate assumption, however, as those in the IDM do not specify a creator and do not necessarily accept the Bible as historical. Many in the IDM also accept an ancient age for the universe and the big bang, while others accept common descent (the belief that all living things descended from a single organism).

There are some areas of agreement between creationists and Intelligent Design proponents (e.g., the inability of natural processes to give rise to life), but there are also a number of disagreements (e.g., a definite creator). However, the IDM is not Christian and is not dedicated to the gospel message, which is foundational to true creationism.

Theistic Evolution

Theistic evolution is the belief that God used evolution to “create” all life. God is not detectable in the evolutionary process, but, nevertheless, He at least imparted enough information at the big bang to cause the universe and life to evolve. The line between what is natural and divine is often blurred with theistic evolutionists, but naturalistic explanations are often accepted for the age of the universe and the origin and descent of life on earth. As such, theistic evolutionists regard the Bible as a book concerning moral truths and not necessarily historical truths. However, this begs the question: if one can’t trust what the Bible says in Genesis about how life came to be, then why should anyone trust what the Bible says about salvation through Christ.

Objections

Scientific Authority

One of the most cited objections to young-earth creationism is the argument from authority (which is often called a logical fallacy in and of itself). Critics claim, for example, that “science” has proven the age of the earth and the “fact” of evolution. However, science is a tool to discover data and cannot prove anything by itself. That is, the scientist determines what the data “proves” within a belief system.

Every scientist operates within a framework, which informs how he or she draws conclusions. A naturalist interprets all evidence based on their belief in naturalism (no supernatural events or causes), and a creationist relies on a biblical foundation. Thus, “science” does not prove the age of the earth or the factuality of evolution. Science can only uncover evidence that each scientist interprets.

Beyond this, popularity is no litmus test for the accuracy of a proposed idea. If 99% of a group is convinced of an erroneous conclusion, this does not make the conclusion accurate—only popular. There is ample evidence that the earth and universe is young, but these evidences do not speak for themselves—evolutionists interpret them to fit their framework.

Carbon and Radiometric Dating (or Other Dating Methods)

Critics often point to carbon and radiometric dating to show the ancient age of the earth. However, most are not aware of the problems with this claim. First, carbon dating cannot be used to date the age of the earth, since radioactive carbon would completely reduce to stable carbon in less than 100,000 years.

Next, dating methods of any type (e.g., radiometric dating) depend upon a number of untestable and unverifiable assumptions. Contrary to popular belief, radiometric dating is not like a clock that shows age. Instead, the only way to verify any type of dating method is to prove that 1) the current rate being measured (decay or accumulation) has always been mostly consistent, 2) the starting amount is certain, and 3) there has been no contamination. Since those assumptions cannot be proven, any dating method that does not rely on a first-hand account is suspect at best.

Evolution in Action or in the Fossil Record

As with other objections to creationism, the supposed “evidence” of evolution around us or in the fossil record depends upon the starting assumptions of the one viewing the evidence. Evolutionists sometimes claim that a fossil is “transitional,” for example. Often, this assertion is overturned later, but, more importantly, creationists look at the same fossil as evidence of the genetic diversity God created. All evidence is interpreted and filtered through a framework. When such proofs of evolution arise, it is useful to separate what was actually found from the suppositions about the evidence.

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