Creationism, Intelligent Design, & The Creation Science Spectrum
Creation Science and Intelligent Design has been a topic of hot debate for decades now. Do we take the Bible creation account literally? Is the creation story only a polemic against polytheism? Can proof of a Creator ever be found by scientific means?
To those that want simple answers to these questions – the solution has eluded them. And it is no wonder when you consider the different theories that are swirling in creationism today. Below are the major subsets of creationism today. They fall in three main categories, Young-Earth Creationism, Old-Earth Creationism, and Theistic Evolution. Here they are:
Flat Earthers are Biblical literalists who believe in a young earth creation model. They emphasize the Biblical passages that indicate that the Earth is flat instead of a globe. To the flat Earthers, numerous passages within the Text give the image of an Earth that is shaped more like a coin: flat in shape with rounded edges. And since their theology looks at the “flat earth” Bible passages literally with no metaphor or imagery intended, flat Earthers deny the globular nature of the Earth. The following passage is taken from the The Flat Earth Society and details the movements modern beginnings:
The modern age of the Flat Earth Society dates back to the early 1800s, when it was founded by Samuel Birley Rowbotham, an English inventor. Samuel Rowbotham’s Flat Earth views were based largely on literal interpretation of Bible passages. His system, called Zetetic Astronomy, held that the earth is a flat disk centered at the North Pole and bounded along its southern edge by a wall of ice, with the sun, moon, planets, and stars only a few hundred miles above the surface of the earth.
Rowbotham wrote the book, “Earth Not a Globe” and detailed the scriptures that talked about the earth being flat or having ends to it. He noted that for the cosmology of the Bible to be taken literally, one must draw the conclusion that the Earth is flat. At the time of this post, the number of adherents to this doctrine number less than around 3,000.
Geocentrists are Biblical literalists who believe in a young earth creation. While Geocentrists accepts that the Earth is spherical, they ardently deny that the Sun is the center of the solar system. Instead, they hold to the ancient idea that the Earth is at the center of the universe. They believe that the ancient Hebrew cosmology of the Sun, the Moon, and the stars all revolving around the earth is largely correct. To Geocentrists, Earth, and mankind especially, are central to God’s creation. Furthermore, since the Bible speaks clearly about the Sun rising and setting, the planets and stars in their particular motion, and the Moon going in its course, they do not see how a literal reading of scripture could have one have any other view of the universe. Here is a quote from The Biblical Astronomer:
In other words, either God writes what he means and means what he writes, or else he passes off mere appearances as truths and ends up the liar. The ultimate issue is one of final authority: is the final say God’s or man’s? This is brought home again and again by humanists, such as the twentieth-century philosopher Bertrand Russell and astronomer Ivan King, who point to the church’s abandonment of geocentricity as having “freed” man from the ancient God-centered outlook on life to the modern man-centered outlook.
So, for the Geocentrists, it is a matter of God’s integrity to reject anything but a literal interpretation of the universe revolving around the Earth.
While the vast majority of Biblical literalists would not ascribe to a flat earth or geocentric interpretation of scripture, you will find the majority of literalists in the Young-Earth camp. For Young-Earth Creationists, they believe that:
- The creation days set forth in Genesis are six consecutive 24-hour periods.
- The genealogies from Adam to Abraham contain few if any gaps. So, the work of Bishop Ussher and others put the creation dates around 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.
- There is no macroevolution. God created each species of animals in its kind and micr0evolution (or adaptation) has occurred as each species has adapted to unique environments. So, while a species may adapt unique traits to an environment, it will not speciate. Therefore all Neanderthals, archaic Homo sapiens, Homo erects, and all other hominids are the human descendants of Adam and Eve.
- The Biblical flood was a global in scope, completely submerged all the continents, and destroyed all land-dwelling, air-breathing animals with exception of those aboard the ark.
- All land animals and all humans alive today are descended from those species that were on board Noah’s Ark.
While the concept of Old-Earth Creationism is not new, more and more literalists are finding themselves moving to the Old-Earth Camp these days. This theory, as it stands, believes the biblical account of creation is accurate in that it describes the actual creative acts of God. With that said, they also strive hard to incorporate some of the findings of mainstream science. Here is a quick definition from Hugh Ross, the writer of More Than A Theory and founder of Reasons to Believe:
These individuals typically embrace both the truthfulness of Scripture and the scientific evidence for a multibillion-year history of the universe, Earth, and life on Earth.
Since the most crucial element of the creation story for Old-Earthers is that God created the material universe, they see room for science to fill in some of the how statements, so long as God is the Casual Agent. So within the Old-Earth umbrella, you have a variety of theories that have a literal look at the creation story and yet allow for a multi-billion year history for the universe:
This theory was first popularized in the nineteenth-century. It’s main claim was that there was a large temporal gap between verses 1 and 2 of chapter One of Genesis:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Many theorized that there was a pre-Adamic race that populated the earth complete with a full range of life, that life was wiped out in a cataclysm, and God re-created the world. This, they explain, would account for the full range of fossils and ancient strata that appears to be millions of years old. Since this strata is apart of a separate creation, it would not fit into the current creation timeline of approximately 6,000 years
This brand of creationism views the six days of creation as six epochs of distinct events that took thousands or millions of years per epoch. They see the creation story as a literal, chronological list of events, but insist that the Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 has multiple meanings and should be read to mean “periods of time.”
Since much of the geologic record and advancement of life can be roughly correlated to the creation sequence, they see much overlap between the record of Genesis and the record of nature. Although their detractors point out discrepancies between the scientific record and the creation account, they believe, that in time, the discrepancies will erode and a perfectly synchronized account of creation will emerge.
Most of today’s Old-Earth Creationists are by-in-large Progressive Creationists. They accept a wider swath of modern science including the big bang, the age of the Earth and universe, and the modern geologic timescale. Since the big bang confirms that matter, energy, and time were created from nothing – there is nothing inherently contradictory from this theory and Scripture. The area that progressive creationism strays from modern science is biological evolution – the materialistic theory that states that complex life evolved from lower forms with only naturalistic mechanisms to bring about the change.
Progressive Creationists view the fossil record as confirmation of the creation epochs. They accept that the universe and Earth are billions of years old. And while God started the creative process several billion years ago, He did so by miraculously producing the first life and producing new forms of life throughout biological history. While the progressive creationist will concede that micro evolution occurs within a species, no new species can be produced from naturalist means, that creative act is left to the Creator alone.
Concordism sees complete harmony between the special revelation of God in the Bible and the general revelation of God in nature’s record. Any conflict between the two revelations are from incomplete understanding on nature or a faulty interpretation of scripture. They theorize that ongoing scientific and theological research will resolve any contradictions. Since they view the Bible’s creation account as authoritative, specific and chronological, concordists draw considerable scientific detail from the Bible. They see the creation story as offering a dependable depiction of the origin of the universe, Earth, and life.
With Evolutionary Creationism, God the Creator uses cosmological, geological, and biological evolution to create the universe and life according to God’s plan. Although Evolutionary Creationism is close to theistic evolution, it differs in that God is more directly involved in evolutionary process, bringing about the changes He desires by directly guiding the evolutionary process.
And while Evolutionary Creationism allows for macroevolution to occur within its scientific model, God is more directly in control of this process and is guiding it to His ultimate plan for the universe.
This classification of Creationist has been around for quite some time and its definition has changed over the decades. Early on in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the term “theistic evolutionist” usually referred to someone who believed that God’s creative work took place over millions of years. And although they believed in evolutionary processes, they also held that God’s creative involvement included many miraculous interventions. Now-a-days, this type of creationism is better termed “Evolutionary Creationism.”
These days the vast majority of theistic evolutionists take the stand that God intervened only on extremely rare occasions. But, truth be told, most lean to the side that He was the originator of the big bang, made sure all laws were correctly set up, and then allowed naturalistic forces to shape the universe and life.
Fully Gifted Creationists
Is the form of Theistic Evolution that claims that God intervened in nature’s order only at the origin of the universe. Accordingly, God so “gifted” the laws of the universe at the big bang, that all that was necessary to complete His goals were nature’s laws. While it is true that some fully gifted creationists allow for the possibility of divine intervention apart from the cosmic creation event, they assert that such an act could never be detected by science.
The Framework Theory looks at the creation narrative as being a theological account and not an actual account. They see the account as being instructive in the fact that God, and God alone create the universe and He created it with purpose to accomplish His goals. Beyond that, they do not see the account as having much scientific value. Since they view the creation story as purely theological, they feel free with science providing details of our origin independent of the text. Therefore, the creation account could easily be brought about by the unfolding of creation through naturalist means. To them, the creation-evolution debate is nullified since the Bible is silent on chronology and timescale.
Intelligent Design Creationism
This is a large umbrella term that argues for the existence of a creator from the argument of irreducible complexity. In it, it states that the complexity of life that we see today could not have been randomly formed from lower forms of life. It accepts, in most cases, macroevolution as being a tool that the Creator used to propel life toward more and more complex forms, but it states that a transcendent, creative, casual Agent must have guided the process in order for the life we see today to have formed. The Intelligent Design Movement, champions the principles of Intelligent Design Creationism without specifically naming the Causal Agent as the God of the Bible.