For Christians who reject society’s theories of evolution, spontaneous generation, and the Big Bang, creationism is the way to go. After all, it comes right out of Genesis 1! However, the creation debate doesn’t end with creation versus evolution. Within the ranks of Christians who believe God made everything from nothing, there are a couple of very different camps, and within those camps are many smaller groups of opinions on what happened while “God created the heavens and the earth.” Today’s article will examine four different subgenres of this dispute.
OLD EARTH OR YOUNG EARTH?
The answer in its technical form is simple enough: old earth theology says that God created the earth, but that it happened over eons of years. There are two major views held in this camp, which will be considered later.
Young earth creationism, contrarily, is basically this: God created the earth in six twenty-four hour days, and everything was created in the exact form in which it is now found.
OLD EARTH CREATIONISM
Day-age view: This is the idea that in Genesis 1, whenever the Bible mentions a day, as in, “There was evening, and there was morning, the first day,” (Gen. 1:5b), each day is a vast age of time. This view is attractive because it takes into account scientific findings on the age of the earth, which estimate it to be around 4.5 billion years old. This suggests that the earth came to be slowly, with God allowing eons to pass between his different creations. However, problems arise with a theory of this nature, among them the problem of a different timeline in the Bible than that of the commonly cited scientific timetable for the evolution of life.
Literary framework view: In this theory, the “days” of Genesis 1 are divided into a “framework” of poetic order. There are the days when everything was formed:
- Day 1 (Light and darkness separated),
- Day 2 (Sky and waters separated), and
- Day 3 (sea and land separated)
…followed by the days on which all was filled:
- Day 4 (Lights in the heavens, to fill the light and darkness),
- Day 5 (Fish and birds, to fill the sky and waters), and
- Day 6 (Animals and man, to fill the land separated from the sea.)
This theory is logically strong and lacks any kind of chronology, instead opting for a more poetic view of creation. However, it does have some issues, including the slight problem that Genesis seems to strongly suggest a chronological series of event.
YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISM
Mature creationism: According to mature creationists, when God created the world, He did so giving it an appearance of age, largely so that things like the light of the stars and the rings of the trees would look like they’d been there for a very long time even though they’d been created just days earlier. This theory makes sense, because after all, God did make Adam and Eve as full-grown adults. This does raise questions, however, concerning fossils and geological layers. Originally there was no death in our world—so how would those deep fossils have gotten buried so far down, especially if the layers have been there from the beginning?
Flood Geology: Finally, this viewpoint takes a similar stance to mature creationism, except it claims that things like fossils and geological layers came into being during Noah’s flood, which completely changed the layout of the earth. Things like the Grand Canyon, underground caverns, fossils, and the continental drift were all direct results of the flood, in this theory. However, very few professional geologists have ever been swayed by this theory, and it seems that if it’s that easy to explain, more of them should subscribe to it.
There’s no easy answer to how the world began. Every Christian must use his own discretion to decide which theory rings truest to him, just as he must decide what he believes in all aspects of his faith. While this issue does not decide whether or not a believer is saved, it is important for Christians to know what they believe, and it’s valuable to spend time figuring it out.
Grudem, Wayne A., and K. Erik. Thoennes. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2008.