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The Creation-Evolution Debate in a Nutshell

1. Young Earth Creationism (YEC)

The Skinny:

Belief that the universe was created miraculously by God around ten thousand years ago (or less).

Explanation:

YECs often insist that their view is the only way to understand and remain faithful to the integrity of the Scriptures. For them, options which integrate evolution or an old earth paradigm compromise the clear teachings of Scripture and even the essence of the Gospel message.

They will often argue (especially since the publication of  The Genesis Flood in 1960) that science is on their side using “catastropheism” or “Flood Geology.” They believe that world-wide biblical catastrophes sufficiently explain the fossil records and other geographic phenomena that might otherwise suggest evolution or an old earth.

They believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and global flood.

Relationship Between science and Scripture:

Scientific discovery always submits to Scripture in all matters. Science is interpreted in light of Scripture. YECs see the early chapters of Genesis, taken at face value, as an accurate and authoritative (even scientific) guide to the basic details of the origin of the universe. Science is of great value so long as it starts with the Bible.

Notable Adherents:

John Calvin, Martin Luther, Henry Morris, Ken Ham, John MacArthur, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Four in ten Americans believe in YEC.

2. Gap Theory Creationism

The Skinny:

Belief that the earth was created by God an indefinite number of years ago, while the creation of humanity happed ten thousand years ago or less.

Explanation:

The explanation for the old age of the universe can be found in a theoretical time gap that exists between the lines of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. God created the earth and the earth became formless and void. Therefore God instituted the new creation which begins in Genesis 1:2b.

Here is how it looks:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

—-Indefinite Time Gap—-

Genesis 1:2a And the earth was (i.e. became) formless and void.

This theory allows for an indefinite period of time for the earth to exist before the events laid out in the creation narrative. Gap theorists will differ as to what could have happened on the earth to make it become formless and void. Some will argue for the possibility of a creation which died out prior to humans. This could include dinosaurs and many other extinct species. While this was popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century, it was eventually replaced with Young Earth Creationism with the rise of “flood geology.”

They normally believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and global flood.

Relationship between science and Scripture:

Typically sees nature as a complementary guide from God which speaks authoritatively to issues about which the Scriptures are unclear or silent. Whatever source (Scripture or nature) is more clear is the authority in matters of origins. If both seem equally clear, yet seemingly conflicting, Scripture is the final source.

Notable Adherents:

Cyrus I. Scofield, Harry Rimmer, A. W. Pink, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Clarence Larkin

3. Time-Relative Creationism

The Skinny:

Belief that the universe could be both young and old, depending on your perspective.

Explanation:

Since time is not a constant (Einstein’s Theory of Relativity), time at the beginning of creation could have moved much more slowly than it does today. From the way time is measured today, the succession of moments (events with a causal relationship of before/after) in the creation narrative equals that of six twenty-four hour periods, but relative to measurements at the time of creation, the events would have transpired much more slowly, allowing for billions of “years” to elapse.

This view, therefore, does not assume a one-to-one correspondence in measurements of time/space/matter phenomena between the time of creation and today or from God’s perspective to ours. They would argue that any presumption upon the radical events of the first “days” of creation is beyond what science should attempt to speak about with any degree of dogmatism. In short, we can’t gauge, measure, or predict, much less be dogmatic about, the physics present at the creation event.

This view may or may not allow for an evolutionary view of creation. When they do, evolution would have happened very quickly from God’s perspective (almost instantaneously), but from the perspective of human science analysis, it happened very slowly.

They normally allow for a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and global flood.

Relationship between science and Scripture:

Typically sees nature as a complementary guide from God which speaks authoritatively to issues about which the Scriptures are unclear or silent. Whatever source (Scripture or nature) is more clear is the authority in matters of origins. If both seem equally clear, yet conflicting, Scripture is the final source.

Notable Adherents:

Seeing as how this view does not dogmatize anything but candid uncertainty, it may be broad enough to house all those who simply say, “Who knows?”

4. Old Earth Creationism (OEC)
(also Progressive Creationists, Day-Age Creationists, and, sometimes, Framework Hypothesis)

The Skinny:

Belief that the universe was created by God somewhere around 15 billion years ago, while the creation of humanity occurred just thousands of years ago.

Explanation:

The old age of the universe can be reconciled with Scripture by understanding the days of Genesis 1 not as literal 24-hour periods, but as periods of time of indefinite length. The word “day,” according to OECs, would be understood the same as in Gen. 2:4 “. . . in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”

While this view understands the universe is billions of years old, proponents believe that man was created a short time ago. Therefore, they do not believe in evolution.

Most believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and global flood.

Relationship between science and Scripture:

Typically sees nature as a complementary guide from God which speaks authoritatively to issues about which the Scriptures are unclear or silent. Whatever source (Scripture or nature) is more clear is the authority in matters of origins. If both seem equally clear, yet conflicting, Scripture is the final source.

Some Notable Adherents:

Hugh Ross, Francis Schaeffer, Norman Geisler, and possibly St. Augustine

5. Deistic Evolution* (DE; often just “Theistic Evolution”):

The Skinny:

Belief, as Darwinian Evolutionists, that God created the universe over billions of years, using naturalistic evolutionary processes to create humanity without intervention.

Explanation:

I call this “deistic evolution” due to the “hands-off” approach God takes to the development of man in the evolutionary process. Darwinian evolution, through the process of natural selection, is accepted. While there is across-the-board agreement that God did not/does not intervene in the process of evolution, DEers are divided as to whether God directly caused the first life to begin or whether he let life come into being naturalistically (abiogenisis).

Concerning Adam and Eve, the views are diverse and, often, complex. Some believe that the first few chapters of Genesis are a creation myth that served as a polemic against other gods and should not be taken literally. Adam and Eve, in this case, would simply be literary, symbolic figures representing the fall of humanity and the ensuing curse. Others believe that toward the end of the evolutionary process, God, through an act of special creation, created and elected Adam and Eve as the representative heads of the human race. Others believe that God did not use special creation, but appointed already existing humans as representatives for humanity, calling them Adam and Eve.

They normally do not believe in a snake talking and usually believe that the flood was local.

Relationship Between Science and Scripture:

DEers employ a type of science known as “methodological naturalism,” believing that the assumption of God should never be invoked at any point to explain naturalistic phenomena. Therefore, no matter how much science may lack understanding as to the “gaps” in our knowledge about the process of evolution, supernatural intervention should never be seen as an option; otherwise, the data is tainted with a “god-of-the-gaps” approach. This is to be distinguished from “philosophical naturalism,” which assumes the complete absence of God in its very philosophy, not just method of inquiry. This view places a higher authority on matter’s origins in their interpretation of nature through science than through Scripture seeing as how, according to them, Scripture does not speak clearly on these issues.

Notable Adherents:

The majority of Christian scientists, B.B. Warfield, C.S. Lewis, Pete Enns, Catholic Church (open to the theory, yet not dogmatized officially)

*Please note, I have never heard this referred to as “deistic evolution” so the designation may be original here. As well, don’t confuse this with theological deism which believes that God does not (indeed, can not) intervene in the affairs of humans at all.

6. Intelligent Design (ID)

The Skinny:

Belief that science itself, without reference to the Bible or any other religious book, points to the reality of an intelligent designer.

Explanation:

It is difficult to classify ID as a a distinct option among these listed. In fact, IDers can fit into any one of these groups except deistic evolutionists. For example, many IDers are theistic evolutionists, but they don’t believe that God took a “hands-off” approach in the process of evolution (otherwise, they would be deistic evolutionists).

It could look like this:

They argue that Darwinian evolution is insufficient to account for the “irreducible complexity” found in so much of creation. Science itself, according to IDers, needs an intelligent explanation to account for phenomena of the universe. God must have had his intervening hand in the process. Therefore, methodological naturalism is denied.

However, IDers are not arguing for a specific model of creation. They simply argue that there is sufficient reason to believe that science points to the hand of a designer.

Relationship between science and Scripture:

In theory, IDers are not about invoking any religious tradition into their agenda. Therefore, they distance their method of inquiry from any religious text.

Notable Adherents:

Michael Behe, William Dembski, Phillip Johnson, Stephen C. Meyer

A word of caution:

I believe that one can be a legitimate Christian and hold to any one of these views. While I lean in the direction of some sort of Time-Relative creation, I only do this because my main contention is that it is very unwise to be dogmatic. Though I used to be favorable to it, I now reject methodological naturalism, believing it leads to preset conclusions that end up being awkward, unnecessary, and very unscientific. Therefore, though I rejected it at one time, I have come to accept ID as a responsible approach to these matters.

In the end, I believe that the best anyone can do is lean in one direction or another. Being overly dogmatic about these issues expresses, in my opinion, more ignorance than knowledge. Each position has many apparent difficulties and many virtues.

While I believe this is an issue we should continue to discuss with excitement and hope, this is not an issue, in my opinion, that should fracture Christian fellowship.

177 Responses to “The Creation-Evolution Debate in a Nutshell”

  1. “A person is more than body and energy + algorithm, I’m sure you agree.”

    Yes, but that’s a third question entirely. :-) You seem to be saying that things are more than just the pile of parts that make them up. That’s a philosophical question. Is a person just a soul+animal that we perceive as a person? Is a chariot just wheels+seat that we perceive as a chariot?

    I am a metaphysical realist, so I say that a person is more than just soul+body, just like a chariot is more than just wheels+seat. Of course, this is orthogonal to how the person or chariot was created.

  2. Robert Hagedorn May 10, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Adam and Eve? Do a search: First Scandal.

  3. Michael no, Time-relative creation is not the same as Young-Earth, at least the way you have describe it. I know what you are talking about concerning variables light speed, but it is much more philosophical than that.

    I was not talking about variable speed of light, that is an alternative YEC solution to the horizon problem. One I have some sympathy with but is not held by many creationists.

    The major time-relative creationist theory I am aware of is variants of the Humphrey/ Harnett model. This postulates an ancient universe created over the same time as the 6 days of earth. This is definitely a YEC theory.

    Are you able to point me to alternative creationist theories that you would categorise as time-relative?

  4. In your May 26, 2009 blog “Six Views on the Creation/Evolution Debate,” you did a much better job of describing theistic evolution.

    Now for some reason you decided to arbitrarily rename theistic evolution as “deistic evolution”, which is actually a totally separate belief, namely that God started the universe off and let it run on its own without further interference.

    I suggest that after relabeling your #5 as theistic evolution, your “nutshell” needs two additional categories: (7) deistic evolution, and (8) atheistic (naturalistic) evolution. Then move the “deistic evolution” portion of your description of #5 to #7.

  5. I would argue that people that hold to any type of true evolution theory (i.e. – man evolving from single cell organisms) is borderline heresy. This almost completely takes God out of the equation. But, the biggest argument against it is where are the transition fossils. If evolution is true there should be MILLIONS of transition fossils and of all varying degrees. The fact is that they just are not there. Every now and then they will discover what is thought to be THE transitional fossil to prove it but even if this ONE existed, there should be millions of others to go along with it.

  6. Luke,

    Very skeptical. VERY!

  7. Paul, this post is a punctuated equilibrium step above that last one. My understanding has evolved a great degree!

    Did you read the qualification in the OP about Deistic Evolution, distinguishing it from Philosophical/Theological deism. I don’t think it is any more unnatural to call it that than it is to use the term “naturalism” for methodological naturalism. It does not mean it is “naturalism” proper, as in philosophical naturalism.

    Deism seems to be the best way to describe it as God created everything with the ability to function without miraculous intervention.

  8. “Exactly. Both are equally assumptive. I forgot that wonderful little word “catastrophism.” Ha. Isn’t this fun?”

    The Index to Creationist Claims says this:

    “Actualism (modern uniformitarianism) states that the geologic record is the product of both slow, gradual processes (such as glacial erosion) and natural catastrophes (such as volcanic eruptions and landslides). However, natural catastrophes are not consistent with creationist catastrophism, such as “Flood geology.” First, they are much smaller than the world-shaping events proposed as part of the creationists’ catastrophism. More to the point, they still represent processes observed in the present. Meteorites, glacial melting, and flash floods still occur regularly, and we can (and do, as in the examples above) extrapolate from the observed occurrences to larger events of the same sort. The scale of events may change, but the physical laws operating today are key to the past.”

    http://tinyurl.com/3gxmhfh

  9. CMP, Can you explain what do you mean by “natural selection… assumes uniformatarianism itself”? How are using the word uniformatarianism – you reference a physical & metaphysical aspect of the word?

  10. CH,

    I have no idea. “Natural selection…assumes uniformaterianism” does not make sense. Maybe I am just tired. Working on my Church History Boot Camp on the Reformation. Must…go…on. Finish…tonight.

  11. Stan Lewis,

    Biological evolution does not necessarily take God out of the equation. See, for example, Denis Alexander’s “Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?”, especially his descriptions of his Models A through E on pp. 234-239.

    Regarding transitional fossils, despite what you may have read in YEC literature, many transitional fossils have been found. See, for example, Keith B. Miller’s essay “Common Descent, Transitional Forms, and the Fossil Record” in the book “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation” (an excellent collection of essays by evangelical Christians) or any recent text on biological evolution.

  12. Stan Lewis,

    You said: “But, the biggest argument against it is where are the transition fossils. If evolution is true there should be MILLIONS of transition fossils and of all varying degrees. The fact is that they just are not there.”

    Below are links to a multitude of transitional fossils.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC200.html
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html#CC200

    In the Wikipedia article, you’d probably be more interested in the following sections: Fish to Tetrapods, Labyrinthodonts to Modern amphibians, Amphibians to Amniotes (early reptiles), From Lizards to Snakes, and Dinosaurs to Birds.

    Those are the fossil series that demonstrate “macroevolution” very well.

  13. I don’t like the “where’s the transitional fossils” argument and don’t think creationists should use it for two big reasons. First, it doesn’t matter how many are produced, one can still ask where is the transition between the newly produced one and whatever is on either side of it. It is an argument that can never be satisfied. But more importantly, the YEC has an even bigger burden on that front. It is easy to misplace evidence over billions of years, but the amount of species “evolving” from the different kinds since the Ark should have left all kinds of evidence. Where is it? Development occurring that rapidly should be visible today. Where is it? We should be careful when using arguments that sound really good when preaching to the choir, the audience for the typical YEC organization, when that challenge produces even more of a problem for the position they promote.

  14. Here is a good article by Avery Dulles that explains many of these same things that I dealt with in the OP. Worth a read.

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/09/001-god-and-evolution-33

    Also, he does reference the application of a form of Deism to Theistic Evolution.

  15. The dominant view of most of public and much of private education is that the physical world is a self-contained system that works by impersonal, blind, unbroken natural laws. Supported by a ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology, naturalistic philosophy declares that nothing beyond nature could have any conceivable relevance to what happens in nature.

    Of course, one of the problems with this view is that there is not one shred of scientific evidence for it. Honest scientists (and there are plenty of them in the academy) know that it’s simply outside the function of science to resolve such matters. Only faith could allow you to believe the conclusions of philosophical naturalism. Stretching science into philosophy (or a form of religion) has given people the misleading impression that the science of evolution offers more than it is capable of rendering.
    http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/a-world-without-windows-in-print/

  16. Regarding transitional forms:

    According to the evolutionary paradigm, there must be organisms that fill the gaps between other organisms, if they are related.

    The thing is, on this every organism dead or alive is technically a transitional form. My mother is a transitional form that connects her parents to me, while I am a transitional form that connects my parents to my kids. On the evolutionary paradigm, every fossil that exists, IS a transitional form (that includes all that have been found). This is how they can claim that they have so many transitional forms. However, this is also how critics of the view can claim that there are billions of transitional forms missing from the fossil record- since we do not have fossils of every organism between any two specific organisms, it is sound to claim that transitional forms are missing.

    Also, I would like to point out that many evolutionists cite morphological transitional forms that are not in chronological order. This fails.

  17. Good rundown here, but I have just a few nits/comments:

    1. It’s a bit anachronistic to include pre-modern figures as “notable adherents.” Our worlds, our presuppositional scientific views of the cosmos, are just too far apart to warrant it.

    2. Gerald Schroeder is one of the more notable adherents of your so-called “time relative” view. And it’s hardly reducible to “who knows?”

    3. “Deistic evolution” is not the only evolutionary option, as you correctly noted under the ID category. Ironically, those who see God’s act of creation as something entirely past (e.g., YECers) can also be labeled deistic.

    4. You’re right, ID is not rightfully a category in this list, as ID is a philosophical/theological presupposition underlying any or all of the views listed, including theistic evolution (a la Francis Collins, who is no deist). Thus, the missing category is a Collins-esque or John Walton-esque view.

  18. John Sailhamer has an interesting take on the creation account in his book Genesis Unbound. John Piper and Greg Boyd are both favorable towards his interpretation, which is really an accomplishment in and of itself! There’s a lengthy analysis of it on Piper’s blog here

    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/science-the-bible-and-the-promised-land

  19. Some people commenting here seem to think that the Sovereign God must act to prove he is indeed Sovereign. Is God still Sovereign if he chooses not to act?

  20. There seems to be a presupposition that it’s okay for the scientist to be dogmatic about the age of the earth, but not okay for the Christian to be.

    All views except the first are an attempt to fit science into the Bible, and therefore are rather modern (post-1700s).

  21. Is that presupposition any worse than the one that says that it ISN’T alright for Science to study an item itself to determine age, but it’s OK to be dogmatic about a text written about it even though it is open to multiple interpretations?

  22. Only “worse” in the sense that one puts God as the ultimate authority and the other puts man as ultimate.

    Science never studies “an item itself” because all science is done by scientists, who have presuppositions.

  23. That is a common and repeated false dichotomy. This is about man’s understanding of what God has done versus their understanding of what He has said about what happened. One is just as open to error as the other. Presenting it as God versus man is to equate our Biblical interpretation to God Himself. Personally, I don’t think that I am omnipotent when it comes to reading a translation of an ancient document from another culture, another time, and in another language.

  24. Dr. Michael,

    I agree with Daniel.

    I’ve found it incredibly common for creationists to assert that their interpretation is equal to God-breathed scripture itself. I was once in a Sunday school class on Genesis where I questioned the teacher’s interpretation of Genesis, and I was accused of attempting to undermine the authority of the Word of God.

    Go figure!

    Its also common for them to forget that fallible men are also responsible for interpreting scripture, just as fallible men are responsible for doing science. Unless God Himself comes down and tells us the meaning of every verse in scripture, there is absolutely no way around this problem.

    And its most certainly not a reason to disregard the findings of science in favor of an interpretation of the Bible.

  25. Greg and Daniel,

    Your point about YEC only being a possible “interpretation” would be valid…if there was evidence in the Bible itself for an old earth. However, a plain reading of the Word does not even imply this. And unless you are willing to deny the Perspicuity of Scripture (a day is a day, etc.) and say it takes a PhD to understand the creation account in Genesis, then YEC is the correct Biblical interpretation.

  26. Dr. Michael,
    The OECs that I follow do not deny the Perspicuity of Scripture. That is not necessary to hold the OEC view, as you claim that it is. In fact, they make a very good case that the authors of Scripture and the people who would be reading it at the time, could interpret the text as either young or old. Dr. Gerald Schroeder has done work that shows that ancient Jewish commentators believed the texts show a universe that is quite old (they did not have a Ph.D. as you say would be required for such an interpretation).

    Also, would you allow for something like the perspicuity of reality? There are measurements that, if you are to hold to a universe that is younger than 20,000 years, you would have to deny the truth of trigonometry and/or basic mathematics, or you may deny the reliability of our senses.

    Are direct measurements of God’s creation (sans interpretation) allowed to contradict God’s words (sans interpretation)?

  27. But the “plain reading” argument begs the question that this passage is be interpreted as “plainly” or “simply” as possible. In my studies, I’ve come across 15 or 16 *different* interpretations of the first two chapters of Genesis. And these differing interpretation of what this text is telling us go all the way back to early church fathers. So it isn’t as “plain” as the “plain reading” proponents pretend. When they come out with statements like “any other interpretation is a response to evolution” or “The church always believed in flood geology until Darwin”, they are flat out misrepresenting history and the facts. Godly men going way back have had issues with how this text, arguably from multiple sources/authors, is to be interpreted. Check out what Augustine said about it starting on page 42 of his work on the topic. http://bit.ly/augcreat

  28. The proponents of the “plain” approach to this text believe it is to be taken very literally. But even “literal” is open to interpretation. Going back to Augustine’s “The LITERAL Meaning of Genesis”, he had a view that is *nothing* like what folks today call the literal view. And, ironically, my favorite Christian theologian, CS Lewis, also held to what would be considered very non-literal today. It is only within the confines of the YEC camp that you see claims that a “plain” or “literal” reading of this text brings you to their particular conclusion. And if they are going to mislead you about that, what else are they misleading you on?

  29. Re Dr. Michael’s comment on the perspecuity of Scripture

    The Bible itself makes no claim to perspecuity on all issues; indeed, the contrary is true. Peter, in his letters, observes that some of what Paul writes is hard to understand.

    Furthermore, unless one is a native speaker of ancient Hebrew, with the cultural and other assumptions that that entails, one really cannot dogmatically assert what is “perspicuous” on a “plain reading”. We need the type of learning evidenced by PhD’s because of the very great distance (linguistically, chronologically, culturally and geographically) between the writers of Genesis and the English readers in America today.

  30. It seems that the Perspicuity of Scripture necessarily places all scriptures into one of two categories: Plain and Unplain. Which one is the default category (if either), and what is the criteria for placing a scripture in the other category? Further, where do we draw the boundaries of a “scripture”- is it at the chapter/verse divisions that are not present in the autographs, or the divisions of the specific books?

  31. I think while the issues Dr. Michael raises are important, I also think they miss the point. The crux is this: IF our observation of the empirical data leads, as conclusively as it can in this fallen world, to the affirmation of something quite distinct from Young-Earth Creationism, then to deny that conclusion would be tantamount to sticking one’s head in the sand, much like we see in the practices of cults (in its gnostic mistrust of the phenomenological). In other words, given that all truth is God’s truth, and given that a truth can be known in this world through the observation of empirical data (so-called “general revelation”), then to deny that truth once it has been verified (which admittedly isn’t an infallible verification), is an implicit denial of nature as a valid revelatory sphere (i.e., it is capable, at least in theory, of revealing real history). In short, it runs the risk of calling God a liar.

    This is the definition of a cult.

  32. Chris, are you saying that YEC is a cult?

  33. That was Augustine’s warning as well. He was concerned that if we made dogmatic claims about the creation that the creation itself contradicted, that it would cause people to also deny the spiritual truths in the text. Ultimately, the YEC position says we can trust an interpretation of a translation, but cannot trust the evidence of the creation. Yet Romans 1 tells us that we are without excuse because what we see in the creation tells us of God’s unseen qualities. I believe TRUTH to be one of them. If what we see in the creation cannot be trusted, how then are we left without excuse? I’d think “You deceived me” would make for a pretty good argument.

  34. Chris,
    While I do agree with you that many do have their “heads in the sand” with regards to what is revealed by general revelation, I do not agree that that is a necessary condition for a cult. If you stop there, you run the risk of categorizing YEC as a cult. However, cults deny at least one essential doctrine of Christianity.

    YECs do not deny that God exists.
    YECs do not deny that Christ is God.
    YECs do not deny that man is, by nature, sinful.
    YECs do not deny Christ’s bodily resurrection.
    YECs do not deny that Christ’s death was for the restoration of those, to the Father, who will accept His sacrifice.

    Now, the part that I think you were specifically referring to being cult-ish is that “sticking one’s head in the sand” regarding general revelation is tantamount to calling God a liar. YECs do not call God a liar. While you are correct that one would have to in order to remain consistent, a combination of inconsistent beliefs does not make one belief system a…

  35. I’d disagree that cults have to deny some key point of scripture. Most “cults of Christianity” probably do, but we can’t assume that we don’t have cults IN Christianity that believe good things, but have a lot of the hallmark tendencies of a cult. Whether it be KJV-Only or YEC or other “doctrinal” stances, I’ve seen groups that has otherwise good beliefs in other areas, but very cult-like behavior in how they idolize their leaders, separate from and/or expell those that don’t agree, excessive zealousness about their particular ideology, and so forth. My daughter is days away from graduating from an extreme YEC home-school group. I’m not the only one in the area that sees it as a cult.

  36. Then we have to get our definitions of “cult” straight or use a different term. Simply because I would not put YECs and Morons in the same category- one is Christian and one is not.

  37. Freudian slip, Luke? (“morons”)

  38. OMG, John. Mormons. :) ROFL

  39. Let me tell you guys what I REALLY think! :) LOL

  40. I don’t think that one can reasonably argue that YEC is a possible or permissiable view for Christians. In an shallow sense, where one only looks at the words in the Bible abstracted from their setting and abstracted from considerations of the actual physical world, one could make a plausible argument that Genesis should be interpreted as implying a young earth.

    However, as soon as one looks at anything other than bare words on paper, one cannot possibly come to that conclusion by rational means. The science that leads to a belief in an old earth is very basic science, which to deny would be like denying the existence of gravity. It does not have the gaps and disagreements among scientists that evolution has. To make YEC barely plausible one would have to make ad hoc assertions like “atoms interacted differently 6,000 years ago”, or “God made things with an appearance of age”.

    Basic science is not a matter open to skepticism or agnosticism.

  41. John,
    I agree with everything you said except that we cannot argue that YEC is a permissible view among Christians. That conclusion rests solely on the fact that consistency among beliefs is not an essential to Christianity. I will argue right beside you that YEC in inconsistent with nature, Scripture, and reason, and because of that it is false.

    However, unless I am willing to defend the idea that consistency is required among all my beliefs for me to be permitted to call myself a “Christian”, I will not argue that YECs are not permitted to hold that belief. If I am prepared to argue that, then I’d better also be prepared to argue for my own omniscience (the only way I can have consistency among all my beliefs).

  42. I think consistency is key. That is one of my biggest issues with the YEC arguments. They are not consistent. As such, they are very hard to defend from an apologetics standpoint. I can’t think of a single person that I would first and foremost call an “Apologist” that believes in YEC flood geology. Not a single one. And if the primary defenders of our faith are not avid disciples of the likes of Kent Hovind and Ken Ham, shouldn’t that at least have us open to more defensible positions?

  43. Luke, I agree with what you say. To clarify, I meant two things (1) it cannot be held with what is normally considered consistently (which you said more clearly), and (2) leaders in the evangelical faith should not allow YEC to be a permissible belief in the (limited) sense that “it’s OK to be YEC; we can’t know for sure”. It was this latter sense that I was focussed on.

    YEC will not prevent one from going to heaven, but it is very destructive to our knowledge of God, to our testimony, to our faith, to our witness, to his glory, etc.

    YEC is the kind of belief that can only be held if one starts with it, and then without reservation holds to it despite any evidence to the contrary. There is no evidence that would be sufficient to overturn that theory, because the belief comes before the theory and any contrary evidence is dealt with via miracle or “we don’t know yet how God did it, but we know for sure he did it in 6,000 years”.

  44. Daniel,

    I can’t disagree with anything there. Inconsistency too is my biggest issue with YEC “apologists”. I don’t think one who holds it can defend the faith if asked about the age of the universe. Apologists can be very effective and hold the view, as long as it never comes up. But as soon as it does, the other person will either soundly win or be confused about how Christianity could teach something so blatantly false, yet other worldviews cannot accommodate the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ- resulting in at best, confusion.

    The only thing that I am defending here is that a person can hold a YEC view and still be a Christian. I’m not defending the truth of YEC; I’m not defending the consistency of YEC; I’m not defending the use of YEC in evangelism or apologetics. In fact, I would defend against all three of those propositions.

    I only see damage being the result of using a theologically loaded term like “cult” to describe YECs in general.

  45. Every single tenet of so-called YEC science re the age of the universe and earth has been incontrovertably disproved by basic mechanical science and math. At this time they are only left with extravagent speculations that, of course, cannot be disproved other than pointing out that the speculations rest on premises that are extremely unlikely given what we know of God’s character and the nature of the universe as he has revealed it to us.

    I see the YEC position as very similar to the pre-civil war “Biblical” arguments in support of southern slavery. Sure, one could make them if one only looked at the bare words and made certain base assumptions, but they arguments were not only wrong but also unconscionable.

    All of the other views listed by Michael treat science as a rational understanding of the world that God has created and revealed, but the YEC view is in a category by itself. It is the only view that unavoidable creates a war between science and faith.

  46. John,
    (I’m just now reading the post right before my last one). I think I’m now tracking with you. Let’s see: are you saying that it should not be permissible to hold an agnostic view of the age of the universe?

  47. I agree with Luke N on the cult issue. Even if it were true, “Cult” is too loaded and too pejorative to use, especially on a brother or sister.

    Those that are not YEC can see the dangers of YEC leaders who brook no disagreements and who use demagoguery to paint opponents black, the dangers of being insular and irrational/ contradictory, the refusal to question beliefs and presuppositions, the close-the-ranks approach, etc. But such observations will never, I think, convince a YEC to change their beliefs.

    Rather, the approach needs to be almost missiological in nature in the sense that one has to meet them (the lay believers) where they are. In addition, one has to focus on the young people–a matter which almost makes one despair given the hold that YEC beliefs have within the homeschooling movement.

    Nevertheless, it is important that evangelical leaders directly oppose the perverse and gnostic YEC views about nature and the faith.

  48. John, I too would say that it is possible to be a YEC and a Christian. It is even possible to be YEC and not cultish about it. But I don’t think it is possible to be a YEC and be a *thinking* Christian. You can *defend* the position, but only by parroting something that someone taught you. If you ever get into actual study yourself and examine *ALL* the evidence, the dogmatism quickly fades.
    I come to this topic from a unique perspective. My grandparents and great-grandparents were part of a Christian group that, until the early 1900s, taught that the Bible “plainly” taught a flat earth. I’ve seen what that kind of dogmatic position on scientific matters can do to one’s spiritual credibility.

  49. Michael’s concluding statements are true, “I believe that one can be a legitimate Christian and hold to any one of these views”, and holding differing views should not “fracture” fellowship. That does not entail, however, that certain views should not be vigorously opposed. We can know with great certainty that YEC is wrong, and we can see the great harm that it does.

    One can decline to take an active or strong view on the wrongness of YEC because one does not know science all that well, but in those places where YEC is a big issue, evangelical leaders should learn enough so that they can be confident in opposing it. Leaders should also clearly distinguish between the issues of “age” and “Darwinian biological evolution” because the former does not entail the latter. I can understand the YEC concerns regarding our humanity and our relationship to God and the impact of Darwinian evolution beliefs on them. However, the YECs conflate the two issues.

    Interesting…

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