Science and Creation: Some Tentative Conclusions image

Science and Creation: Some Tentative Conclusions

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This is the seventh, and last, post in a series on creation and science. The first summarised the ten different models evangelicals use to explain how we integrate what science and Scripture tell us about origins, and the second highlighted the ten key questions over which there is debate among Christians. Then I looked at how we read Genesis 1-3, followed by a summary of the most important scientific evidence in the discussion, and then a consideration of what the Bible does and doesn't say about human origins. (A previous post had engaged with the tricky question of whether, and in what sense, there was death before the fall). And today, I'm going to go back to the ten models, and the ten key questions, and explain what I currently believe about them.

If you’ve read all the posts so far, there may not be anything particularly surprising here. Nonetheless, I’ve tried to condense my judgment of each view into a couple of sentences, and my answers to the questions into a couple of words, to provide a summary for those who haven’t (and for those who have, but have got confused along the way). Fundamentally, I’ve tried to see what the picture looks like if you affirm the inerrancy of Scripture on the one hand, and the general reliability and integrity of scientific research, and of peer-reviewed journals, on the other. See what you think:

Young Earth Creation Models

Mature Creation view. This one works when it comes to rocks, to a point, and even coal and oil. But it starts looking very dubious when it comes to the idea that God put the fossils of animals that never existed in the ground, and then made them look as if they were millions of years old.

Flood Geology view. As several commenters have explained, the geological credibility of this view is vanishingly small. In fact, I’m not aware of any professional geologist at any research university or oil company who believes there is any empirical evidence for it. (I’ve followed up the CVs of everyone quoted as “geologists” at AiG to check this.)

Contingency of Science view. The best Young Earth Creationist approach, in my view, although still one that is difficult to maintain in the face of current scientific research. At what point does a scientific consensus become strong enough (as with geocentrism) to settle the question?

Old Earth Creation Models

Day Age view. Plausible with respect to Genesis 1, if we take the view that the sun, moon and stars became visible from earth during day four, rather than being created in day four. Often, it can leave questions about human origins largely unanswered. For a good, readable statement, see John Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World.

Gap Theory. Speculative, and more than a little bizarre. It misinterprets the fall of Satan, which in the gospels and Revelation seems to be linked to the ministry and death of Jesus, and then builds an elaborate theory on it, without foundation in the text of Genesis.

Land of Israel view. Fascinating, intriguing, and creative. As with all chronological readings of Genesis 1, day four is the challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Often, important questions about human origins are left unanswered. The most thorough statement is John Sailhamer’s Genesis Unbound.

Evolutionary Creationism Models

Special Creation view. Very plausible biblically, making lots of sense of Genesis 1-3, and it also coheres with palaeontology and geology. The genetic questions about modern humans remain, however, unless the view is adjusted (as below).

Neolithic Farmers view. Scientifically very credible, fitting well with palaeontology, geology and genetics, but more difficult than the above or the below to square with Genesis 2. Several good statements of this view exist, including Denis Alexander’s Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?, and Tim Keller’s paper on evolution and Adam.

Mixed Ancestry view. My preferred option at present, for (in my view) combining the scientific strengths of the Neolithic Farmers view with the biblical strengths of the Special Creation view. When abused, however, it has been turned into a macabre justification for racism.

Accommodation view. Rejects authorial intent as the basis for the meaning of Scripture, regards the statements of Jesus and Paul as inaccurate, and in the process undermines the death in Adam/life in Christ parallel which is so important in Paul’s gospel. The best presentation of this case today is Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam.

So that’s where I’m at. In practice, that translates to the following answers to the ten big questions I raised a few weeks ago:

1. Was God Responsible for Creation? Yes, with bells on.
2. How Old is the Earth? 4.6 billion years old.
3. In What Order Were Things Created? As per current scientific understanding.
4. Was Creation Perfect Before the Fall? No.
5. Did Animals Die Before the Fall? Yes.
6. Did Humans Die Before the Fall? No.
7. Was Adam Descended from Pre-Human Creatures? No.
8. Was Eve Descended from Pre-Human Creatures? No.
9. Are All Human Beings Descended from Adam and Eve? No.
10. Is the Fall Historical? Yes.

Not uncontroversial, and certainly not infallible, but not arrived at lightly, either. One day, praise God, we’ll find out how it actually happened. I’ll see you in the queue.

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