Each of these commonly held viewpoints has its pros and cons, and I'm gonna lay them out today, in brief, so that you have a handle on what it is that people do and don't believe.
First things first, if you're what I like to describe as a 'militant creationist' – or for that matter a 'militant evolutionist' – you're going to have to do one of two things. Either commit to having an open mind as you read this article, or shut down your computer, go pour yourself a nice cup of tea, and watch House, secure in the knowledge that no opposing view to yours could possibly be correct.
Because here's a big, massive truth-fact for your brain-space: there is absolutely NO Biblical evidence to support the notion that belief in the 'correct' interpretation of the creation story is necessary to Salvation through Christ.
Just to drive that home, let me repeat: All three of these creation viewpoints are Christian viewpoints: not one of them is a theological heresy. Not one of them is sending anyone to hell. Now then, on to business.
Number 1: Young-Earth Creationism
Put simply, this is the belief that the world (and, in fact, the universe) was created by God in six literal days, and that the genealogical data contained in Luke's Gospel is also literal and complete. So Earth and universe are about 10,000 years old, and nothing older than that exists in the natural. It might interest you to know that this was by no means the only accepted view of creation in Jesus' time: Modern young-earth theories didn't appear until around 750 CE.
Pros: YEC fits in with a nice, tidy, literal interpretation of Genesis. It's also the simplest and easiest to understand, which is why many Christians who don't study into it further assume it as a 'default position'. Also, it puts the Sovereignty of God first, and cannot be criticised for removing the power of God from any aspect of creation.
Cons: Look, guys, I don't want to put noses out of joint here but the truth is this: every credible field of science has empirical evidence that the Earth/Universe is way, way older. Geologists can prove it with rocks. Astronomers can prove it with stars. Biologists can prove it with analysis of DNA. Palaeontologists can prove it with fossils. Physicists of various disciplines can prove it in all manner of brain-bendy ways. It's pretty dang obvious from our observations of God's creation that it's really, really, really old. And I personally just don't subscribe to the idea that God put all that there just to trick us. Doesn't seem to fit.
Which brings us to:
Number 2: Old-Earth Creationism
This is definite middle-ground stuff, and a comfy position for many Christians to take as they begin to explore the vast array of what God has made. This position acknowledges that the universe is really old, and has no problem with the fossil record or the idea that life has been on Earth for billions of years. BUT it rejects the notion of any kind of evolutionary process. Maybe God took His time, but he made everything, as it is, complete and whole.
Pros: OEC accepts the overwhelming evidence of the age of the universe, while preserving some of the literality of Genesis (perhaps) in keeping all life 'whole' at all times.
Cons: Scientifically, it's the rejection of Evolution that is a difficulty here. Philosophically it's the rejection of a literal view of Genesis, and the questions that raises (see below).
And finally (don't hate me for mentioning):
Number 3: Theistic Evolution
Ok. Here's me being honest with you. Yes, I'm young, and I'm in this camp. Theistic Evolution upholds that the Sovereign God is most definitely the creator, preserver and governor of all things, but acknowledges that it's pretty dang clear that He used some kind of process to achieve the diversity of life on earth. So put simply: God did it, and Evolution was his tool. That's...incredibly simplified, but we'll get to the meat of this concept next time.
Pros: Well, put simply it's the best fit for our observations of the natural world. It sees the evidence for both an incredibly old universe and some kind of evolutionary process as overwhelming, and upholds that this does NOT in any way undermine God as designer and creator.
Cons: Well there's a couple. Firstly, you have to reject a literal reading of Genesis. Secondly, the problem exists of when in the evolution of Humanity did God intervene and decide He was done as far as our development was concerned – at what point were we the 'image and likeness of God'? Finally, how do you explain death and suffering in the world before the Fall?
So there's ups and downs to each of them, and we'll get meaty with them, don't worry. For now, I have to finish be reiterating something. Four things are required for a view of Creation to be Biblical (and therefore Christian). First, God is the source of all there is. Second, creatures are dependant (both on God and each other), but real and 'good'. Third, God creates in freedom and with purpose. Finally, Creation is fallen and needs supernatural healing.
The point? None of these views of creation violate any of these key proofs. They're all Christian.
So if everyone could chill out for a minute, we'll get to the good stuff.
Daniel Buckingham is currently studying towards a Diploma of Biblical Studies as part of his training to be a Salvation Army Officer (minister). He likes science and video games. He's a geek, but he's slowly coming to terms with it.
Daniel Buckingham's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-buckingham.html