The story of creation in Genesis is a source of much debate among Christians. It’s not surprising that the centre of the debate revolves around how literally the passage should be taken. The increase in scientific knowledge has contributed significantly to this. This should not be a bad thing (after all, God is the originator of all things including science) but should enrich the discussion. How then do we even begin to reconcile the differences between scientific theories and the Biblical account?
I first really came across this issue in a lecture when I was at Bible College. Prior to this I hadn’t given it too much thought, but I should have. I hadn’t had the opportunity of being exposed to the differing views and that I now believe was to my disadvantage. How we understand creation affects how we understand God and the way he interacts with the world. I had always been taught that the Bible was right and science was wrong. This stance is problematic and puts Christians in the position of having to reject scientific discoveries out of hand without even attempting to reconcile them in a Biblical worldview. The following three views have helped me to understand how theology and evolution relate.
Young Earth Creation.
This viewpoint understand the account in Genesis as literal history. The earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old and created by God’s direct hand over the period of 6 days. While it doesn’t outright reject scientific evidence, it does play the ‘Bible trump card’ which means that when there is conflicting evidences, the Bible is always right. This is sometimes reconciled by seeing God as creating things that are really old.
If Young Earth Creation builds their view on taking the Bible literally, then Theistic Evolution goes the other way. This view understands the world as being billions of years old and having undergone an evolutionary process. Significantly this view maintains that God is the creator but he used an evolutionary process to do it. In other words, in his act of creation God set in place all the required building blocks for our world to come into being and let it gradually come into being without his direct intervention. To do this, the approach to Genesis 1 is as a literary work rather than a historical one.
Progressive Creation tries to find a balance between the Bible and scientific research. This view doesn’t see the Bible’s use of the term ‘day’ as being a literal 24 hour period but rather as literary framework used in the account. As such it believes that the world is not a young creation but is extremely old. The events in Genesis came about by God’s direct intervention according to his timing. It generally rejects an evolutionary process preferring to see each part of creation as an intentional act of creation by God.
Does any of this really matter? Absolutely, it helps to shape how we understand God and the Bible. First it must be said that the Bible exists to teach us about God. It is not a scientific textbook. However the Bible is also a book of truth. The overwhelming truth that I see in Genesis 1 is that God is purposeful, logical and in control. In the first 3 ‘days’ he created the environments for life, and then subsequently created the living things to inhabit his creation. The account also flies in the face of other ancient views of creation which saw the world as coming about by warring gods. Humans in these views were the servants of the gods whereas Genesis see people as the pinnacle of creation. This is emphasised by ‘day’ 7 where God rests and enjoys his creation.
Finally, any 3 of these views can be held by faithful followers of Jesus – it will not affect whether you are saved or not. What it does affect is how we view God. Whichever option you take it needs to lead you to worship him. If it doesn’t then it’s a problem.