Creation and Science: Ten Models image

Creation and Science: Ten Models

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So, creation and science. I think the time has come to write a few articles about this massively important and controversial subject, but I approach it with trepidation, because I know how strongly people feel about it, and how easy it is to get in a muddle. So here's the plan. I'm going to start by outlining the ten "models" people use to reconcile what we know from Scripture and what we know from science, on the subject of creation and origins. All ten are models which I have seen expounded by those who believe in God the creator of everything, the divinity of Jesus, the power of the Spirit, the inerrancy of Scripture (as they understand it), substitutionary atonement, miracles, justification by faith, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and everything in the Nicene Creed. Then, over the next few Wednesdays, I'll try and highlight some key issues in the discussion, and talk about how we can process them.

One comment I should probably make at the outset is that the following list does not look like most other lists I’ve seen, and there’s a good reason for that. Taxonomies in this area are frequently a bit confusing, in my view, because they fail to distinguish between specific models of harmonising science and Scripture (like these), broad types of model (young earth creationism, old earth creationism, theistic evolution), and views of Genesis (historical account, poetic narrative, literary framework, etc). So in Mark Driscoll’s list, for example, the literary framework view is presented as an alternative to theistic evolution, rather than a reading of Genesis which is sometimes said to allow for it, and so on. They also sometimes use titles for particular positions which skew them, either positively (“historic creationism”), negatively (“the naive view”), or mystifyingly (“the God days view”). So I’ve used my own labels, followed by a brief description in each case, which attempt to sum up each view as fairly as possible.
 
One or two minority positions are missing from the list, because I so rarely encounter them (Wiseman’s view that the days represent the days on Sinai where Moses heard all this, for instance), but broadly speaking, almost every evangelical Christian I know or have read operates with one of the following ten models.

Young Earth Creation Models

Mature Creation view. The earth was created with the appearance of age. Humans were created as adults, and trees as trees rather than seedlings, so why could the earth not also appear older than it actually is? Similarly, natural resources (metals, minerals, coal, oil) were also placed in the earth as a blessing to humans.
 
Flood Geology view. The dramatic cataclysm of Noah’s flood, in which the entire earth was covered with water, would have affected the rock formations and fossil strata in numerous ways. Assuming that our dating methods are accurate with respect to the antediluvian world is therefore impossible; the data has simply been distorted at a global level.
 
Contingency of Science view. The fact that scientific conclusions are always changing makes it a dubious basis on which to criticise the biblical account. At the moment, no satisfactory harmonisation of science and Scripture exists, but then again hardly anybody in the academy is pursuing one; in time, a convincing model will emerge.

Old Earth Creation Models

Day Age view. The six days of Genesis 1 represent six ages of time. The big bang, the emergence of oceans and an atmosphere, the appearance of plants on the earth, the visibility of the sun, moon and stars, the development of fish and bird life, and finally the arrival of animals and humans, each takes several hundred million years.
 
Gap Theory. A large chronological gap exists between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, lasting millions or billions of years. The rebellion of Satan, and consequent judgment of the earth, took place in this period; rocks aged, and plants and animals died. The six days of Genesis 1 thus describe the reformation of the earth, rather than its original creation.
 
Land of Israel view. Although Genesis 1:1 is about the creation of the universe, 1:2-31 is specifically about the preparation of the land of Israel (which is the same area as the Garden in Eden) for human habitation. This is the focus of the entire Pentateuch, and it means there is no conflict between Genesis and scientific evidence.

Evolutionary Creationism Models

Special Creation view. Evolution is the means God used to create the diversity of plant and animal life on planet earth. Human beings, however, were specially created by God, and do not share common descent with the great apes - Adam was created from the earth, and Eve was created from Adam’s side. All humans descend from them, and the fall literally happened.
 
Neolithic Farmers view. Evolution culminated in hominids, and eventually homo sapiens. The “dust of the earth” means matter, or physical stuff: in this case two Neolithic farmers whom God chose, granted his image, and into whom he breathed spiritual life. Not all humans descend from Adam and Eve; God created other humans in the same way. But the fall literally happened, and affected all humans, with Adam as the federal head of the human race.
 
Mixed Ancestry view. Human ancestry is mixed. Adam and Eve were created as per the special creation view, but many other early humans were created from pre-existing material as described in the Neolithic Farmers view. (A variant sees Adam as created from a hominin, but Eve as uniquely created from his side). Not all humans descend from Adam and Eve, but the fall literally happened, and affected all humans, with Adam as the federal head of the human race.
 
Accommodation view. God accommodated ancient ideas about origins in the Genesis story, even though Adam was not historical, and the fall as described in Genesis 3 never happened. Adam is an analogy for Israel, and the fall for Israel’s failure to follow God. Jesus and Paul operated with an ancient understanding of origins, and although incorrect historically about Adam, they were right theologically.
 
Have I missed any important ones? And are there any on here which people think should be ruled out altogether? Personally, there are six of these that I find completely unconvincing, and four that I’m open to, one of which causes me fewer problems than the others. But what does everyone else think?

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