Creation and Evolution Basics Part 1: 3 Big Reasons You Need to Be Up to Speed on Current Views

3 Big Reasons You Need to Be Up to Speed on Creation Versus Evolution | Christian Mom ThoughtsI just returned home from vacation and had a wonderful amount of time to read each night after putting the kids to bed. I powered through seven books! After I finished the first four, I decided it was time to dive into an important faith topic I’ve avoided to date: views on creation and evolution.

To be honest, I’ve never felt this issue impacted my faith much. I knew very little about the competing views of origins other than that evolution was “man from apes” and creation was “man from God.” Last week I devoured three books by Christian authors on the topic and they couldn’t have reversed my previously passive interest more.

I was absolutely enthralled by the complexity of views discussed, from both a scientific and biblical perspective. I now feel the origins debate is crucial for Christians to understand, and especially for Christian parents to understand in order to proactively guide kids on these issues. Here are 3 big reasons you need to care too.

1.    The origins debate is becoming the dividing line between Christian faith and no faith; it’s that important.

Unless you’ve been in a cave for the last few years, you’re probably aware that the media is increasingly portraying a world that is divided between faith and science.

The specific tension that is most commonly driving the faith/science wedge is the creation versus evolution debate. Overwhelmingly, mainstream science believes that the earth is billions of years old and that life was created from the process of evolution. The literal 7-day creation described in the Bible does not allow for either of these mainstream science views; a literal reading of time frames and genealogies given in the Bible results in an earth that is 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and a literal reading of the creation story says that God created man without animal ancestors.

It is these two views – atheistic evolution and literal 7-day (“young earth”) creation – that the media has used to portray “faith and science” as polar opposites. And it’s working.

Studies show that many people now believe a person’s position on origins is an all or nothing issue. It’s faith or science. Creation or evolution. Christian or non-Christian.

According to Barna Group researchers, of 18-29 year olds raised in Christian homes:

  • 29% believe churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in.
  • 25% believe Christianity is anti-science.
  • 23% are turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.

These statistics are from David Kinnaman’s book, You Lost Me. The following quote from a young man interviewed in the book typifies the thought process driving young adults away from faith over this issue:

“To be honest, I think that learning about science was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I knew from church that I couldn’t believe in both science and God, so that was it. I didn’t believe in God anymore.”

This is a giant faith issue. If your kids graduate from high school without having been guided through reasonably detailed views on creation and evolution, they are actually quite likely to struggle with faith over it; possibly to the point of losing their faith altogether.

 

2.    Christ-loving, Bible-believing Christians can hold varying and (possibly) legitimate views on creation.

The previously described findings suggest that when people hear scientific arguments that persuade them of views other than a literal 7-day “young earth” creation, they don’t just toss out a specific view of creation; they toss out all of Christianity. But is that necessary?

Here’s something that’s really important to understand: the idea of creation versus evolution is a major oversimplification. There are not just two views. There is a spectrum of views – six major ones – four of which are held by Christians: young earth creationism, old earth creationism, evolutionary creation and theistic evolution.

In my next post, I’m going to cover the basics of each. But for now, it’s important to know that a literal 7-day young earth creation view is not the only view that can remain faithful to the authority of scripture. This is not to say the view is incorrect, but rather that there are alternative views that are also based on a reasonable reading of scripture (especially as it relates to the age of the earth). In fact, more than half of all pastors surveyed recently by Lifeway believe in one of the alternative views.

We need to humbly acknowledge that, whatever our position is, there are other people who love the Lord and love the Bible while coming to differing conclusions on what the Bible says about origins. We may disagree with each other on the scientific and/or scriptural validity of varying viewpoints, but adherence to a particular view should not become synonymous with a required position for a Christian.

If you don’t discuss the spectrum of views with your kids, you’re missing a major opportunity to give them the tools they need to navigate one of today’s biggest faith issues (if not the biggest).

 

3.    With 100% certainty, your kids will eventually hear about atheistic evolution; only you can ensure they’ll hear about varying Christian viewpoints.

Research conducted by America’s Research Group for Ken Ham’s book Already Gone found that:

  • Nearly four out of five young adults had instructors in high school who taught them that the earth was definitely millions of years old.
  • Three out of five had high school instructors who taught that life definitely evolved from lower forms of life to more complex forms (i.e., evolution).
  • About 30% left high school believing that the Bible is less true.

Meanwhile, the Lifeway survey I referenced earlier also showed that only a third of pastors teach on creation and evolution more than once a year.

You can be sure that your kids will learn in depth about atheistic evolution. You can also be sure they’ll hear very little about scientifically and scripturally robust viewpoints for Christians…unless it comes from you.

Are you ready to gear up? In my next post, I’ll break down the basic views and give you an awesome flow chart I made to help you remember the differences (if I do say so myself)!

How familiar are you with the varying views right now? What do you believe and why?  

26 Comments

  1. Shelly on May 22, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    I love this topic! I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old,and the universe is 13.7 billion years old. I believe that, because I’ve looked at the way scientists have analyzed things like the half-life of radioactive elements and the speed of light and those calculations appear to be logical and accurate. In terms of evolution, I think the idea of natural selection has been consistently proven over time. You saw evidence of it last weekend at the Breeders Cup. Horse owners breed horses specifically to emphasize character traits.

    Those two beliefs (old earth and natural selection) don’t contract my belief in a Creator God. Rather, it reflects the recent idea of a ‘year’ as a consistent unit of measure. For example, England and America didn’t adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752, in order to get the new calendar correct, people lost 11 days in September. In other words, people went to sleep on September 2nd, and the next day was September 14. There were riots in villages because the locals believed the government was trying to cheat them out of days of their lives. As another example, when the international date line was set up, to make it work in Alaska, Friday October 6th was followed by Friday October 18th – two Fridays in a row!! And this was in 1867.

    My point being the idea of a ‘year’ is a relatively recent one, and the idea of applying this unit of time to a creation story is optimistic, at best.

    The idea that the earth is 10,000 years old is a more difficult argument to make, because there is so much evidence to the contrary. I don’t consider my belief to be a core element of my faith, and I have no issues with someone who doesn’t agree with me.



    • Natasha Crain on May 22, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      Thanks very much, Shelly, for sharing your views! I know a lot of Christians are afraid to state support for non-traditional view points and I appreciate that you brought your perspective to the discussion. I’m going to jump down to respond to some of your other comments below.



  2. Heather on May 22, 2013 at 8:08 AM

    This is a very important issue but the Bible is very clear on a young earth. Radiocarbon dating makes many assumptions and is not accurate. If you go to Answers in Genesis there are many creationist scientists that show evidence of a young earth. Also natural selection is NOT evolution. Yes species can be bred to have certain characteristics and in nature certain species that have a beneficial characteristic will survive better than others and pass that characteristic on but NO species has ever turned into a different one. If we can’t trust and believe in Genesis then we can’t trust the Bible as a whole. You can’t pick and choose which parts of the Bible you believe and which ones you don’t.



    • Kalabashi on May 22, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      The bible is also very clear on a flat earth that rests on pillars. Your whole argument fall down if you do regard those statements as wrong. So better neglect anything science has shown with words like “many assumptions and not accurate”. For you the earth must be flat, or the bible starts to be wrong.



      • Daniel Christensen on May 22, 2013 at 11:51 AM

        Hello Kalabashi,

        I would like to respond to your comment. The understanding that the Bible teaches that the earth is flat is based on a misunderstanding of literary genre. Statements like “the four corners of the earth” (e.g. Rev. 7:1) appear often in the apocalyptic genre, which liberally uses poetic imagery to communicate. Phrases like these are best understood as referring to the four directions of a compass: north, east, south, and west. If you have another verse or passage in mind, I would be pleased to answer any questions about them you would like to pose.

        Furthermore, the Bible teaches that the earth is round. For example, Isaiah 40:21-22 state (especially v. 22):

        “21 Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above — the circle of the earth — and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in” (emphasis mine).

        Take care.



        • Andrew Wilson on May 29, 2013 at 10:08 AM

          “I would like to respond to your comment. The understanding that the Bible teaches that the earth is flat is based on a misunderstanding of literary genre. Statements like “the four corners of the earth” (e.g. Rev. 7:1) appear often in the apocalyptic genre, which liberally uses poetic imagery to communicate. Phrases like these are best understood as referring to the four directions of a compass: north, east, south, and west..”

          I would like to respond to your comment. The understanding that the Bible teaches that the earth is young is based on a misunderstanding of literary genre. Statements like “ and so he rested on the seventh day” (e.g.Gen. 2:2) appear often in the creation genre, which liberally uses poetic imagery to communicate. Phrases like these are best understood as referring to the days described in 2 Peter 3:8.



          • Daniel Christensen on May 30, 2013 at 8:07 AM

            Thank you for your comment, Andrew. Perhaps may response can be better clarified. The book of Revelation, as well as portions of the Old Testament prophets were written in a literary genre called apocalyptic. This genre, with its distinctive characteristics like beasts with multiple heads and horns, likely arose toward the end of the Old Testament era. It is found in abundance during the inter-testamental period. There is, however, only one book of this genre in the New Testament and that is Revelation (although some suggest there are portions of it in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Matt. 24 and 25).

            Genesis isn’t written in the apocalyptic genre, but in the narrative. Poetry can be found in narrative in the Bible, but it must be shown from exegesis that the writer intends a non-literal interpretation. If this cannot be shown, their words must not be bent to fit the reader’s presuppositions about want it can’t be saying.



    • Natasha Crain on May 22, 2013 at 4:23 PM

      Hi Heather, Thanks for your comment! As some of the other commenters have brought up, the issues of the earth’s age and human origins are quite different in nature. Personally, I would agree with you that the Bible is clear that God created humans directly. That is what it explicitly says and much of the rest of the Bible follows in theology from the notion of humans being God’s special creation and being made in His likeness. That said, I would disagree that the Bible is similarly clear on the age of the earth. The Bible is no place gives an age for the earth; young earth creationists use calculations based on years and genealogies mentioned in other contexts to come up with an estimate. There are significant assumptions made during that process. I’m not saying you could necessarily get to an estimate of billions of years based on different assumptions in those estimates, but I would definitely say an age is not “clear.”

      As Daniel said in another comment, there are legitimate reasons that (even conservative) biblical scholars believe the earth could be much older based on the study of scripture directly (i.e., not based on an appeal to scientific findings). Again, as he said, there is debate over the meaning of the word yom, the varying usages within the same text to mean a literal 24-hour day versus a time frame (“the day of the Lord”), and whether there is a gap in time period between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 (based on the original wording in 1:1). This is based on hermeneutics alone, not science. That’s why I said in this post that Bible-believing Christians can legitimately vary in interpretation – it’s not really a case of believing the Bible or not. Multiple view points use scripture alone to come to their beliefs.



      • R.Mckenzie on November 7, 2013 at 3:17 PM

        Natasha,
        I have appreciated much of what you have written, however, while you are studying the subject of creation, please also study the problems with the Gap Theory that you have referred to. Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research have a wealth of information on the varying theories. It is critical that we teach our children that they can trust the Bible from the very first verse. Science and the Bible do not conflict. As far as which should lead the way? Always the Bible. It is infallible and man is fallible.



  3. Daniel Christensen on May 22, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    Great post, Natasha. I, too, believe views on creation are critically important to building a biblical worldview. My wife and I have decided that part of our summer discipleship of our children will include lessons on creation.

    I would like to respectfully respond to Shelly’s comments. I appreciate your honesty, Shelly, and your desire not to make this discussion a point of division with other believers. I respond to you with the same intent.

    First, in regards to the Breeders Cup analogy: Inter-species changes doesn’t disprove creationism or prove evolution. The real argument for evolution would be if, say, an owner or trainer had a cheetah that was really fast and – some how, some way – turned it into a horse that ran the race. I understand that analogy is nonsensical because it doesn’t state the “how” or the “way,” but that is what evolution asks a person to believe. Changes within species in not problematic for a creationist.

    Second, with reference to your observations on the word “year”: A similar discussion about the word “day” is at the center of debate between young earth and old earth creationists. The Hebrew word for day is “yom” and in the Old Testament it can refer to a 24-hour period (in Genesis 1 yom is found with the phrase “and there was evening and there was morning,” which indicates one rotation of the earth) as well as larger periods of time, even in Genesis it can have this meaning (cf. 2:4; another example would be “the Day of the Lord”). Either interpretation, however, is a part of creationist positions, not evolutionist positions. Therefore, wrestling with what “day” or “year” means doesn’t automatically result in evolutionist view. (I have personally wrestled with this issue and I fundamentally reject all tenets of Darwinian evolutionary theory.)

    Second, with regard to evidence that the earth is 10,000 years old: What does the scientific evidence say about dead people physically coming back to life three days after they have been dead? There is a lot of “evidence” that says that they don’t. Yet I, and presumably you, as well as millions of Christians around the world, believe this very thing.

    In the end, I don’t believe a person’s salvation is at risk because they chose to believe evolution. However, other key doctrines to the Christian faith, such as the inerrancy and infallability of Scripture, as well as the sustaining nature of God’s sovereignty, are at risk. When such doctrines are jeopardizes one’s foundation may become a slippery slope.

    Shelly, I hope you will reconsider.

    Take care.



    • Natasha Crain on May 22, 2013 at 4:31 PM

      Thanks so much, Daniel, for these important points! You hit on a couple of things that I’ve only gotten straight in my head since my vacation reading adventure – the questions of human origins (evolution or creation) versus age of the earth are very different. As you eloquently explained, they are not necessarily tied together. This is a key point I hope to make in my next post. The second point, in your last paragraph, is also something that’s become more impactfully true to me recently. I’ve been reading about all the theological implications of there not being an historical Adam and can see the extent of that slippery slope. I generally hate the term slippery slope, as it makes me think of fear mongering, but in this case it rings true.



  4. Shelly on May 22, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    Daniel,

    Thank you for your kind measured response. I agree with your point about evolution versus natural selection. I think we’re in agreement about natural selection being compatible with creationism.

    I’m not sure I understand your comparison between the age of the earth and the resurrection. The resurrection was not a scientific fact, it was a historical fact. It was witnessed and documented by believers and non-believers. I’m not sure I’ve encountered a serious discussion about whether or not the resurrection happened, but there is, of course, debate about what it means. Second, the resurrection was, like all miracles, a miracle because of the scientific evidence against it. If it complied with science, it wouldn’t be miraculous. Believing that science reveals truths about the universe does not presuppose miracles. The miracles don’t deny the scientific truth, they occur outside it, which is why they’re miracles.

    The creation of the earth does not fall into that same category of events. It’s believed, not witnessed. Believing, for example, that dinosaurs existed 75 million years before humans, is absolutely consistent with creationism. Trying to fit the fossil record into a literal 6 day creation cycle requires a series of mental gymnastics that ends up with faith opposed to science. That’s a slippery slope, because the evidence, over time, is that science wins.

    Both views, the new earth and the old earth, can be held by people who believe in the inerrancy of scripture. A belief in the age of the earth is not a core belief, and as people of similar faith, to steal a line from someone else, we can disagree agreeably.



  5. Daniel Christensen on May 22, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    Hi Shelly,

    Thank you for a thoughtful response. Cordial conversations can be so beneficial; unfortunately, they seem rare on this topic!

    I will respond to your last paragraph first. To be clear, I believe that old-earth creationism can be compatible with inerrancy, which posits that the earth is billions of years old. However, I believe that because of hermenuetical possibilities related to the word “yom” (as I mentioned before) and not because of modern scientific theories. I haven’t been persuaded that Darwinian evolution is compatible with biblical inerrancy. If that is your position, then yes, we can “disagree agreeably” 🙂

    My point in bringing up the resurrection of Christ is to point to a Christian belief that today’s scientific establishment mostly rejects – that living people can physically come back to life after three days of being dead. I agree with you that the resurrection of Christ was a miracle. But perhaps different than you, I believe that the act of creation was a miracle as well.

    In my observation, science is constantly shifting. For example, when I was sick a few months ago, doctors did not have me undergo a series of bloodletting, like I would have had to suffer a few hundred years ago, but I was prescribed antibiotics in order to get better. For another example, what scientists have discovered in the last 100 years in regards to diseases like cancer has helped many hurting people, thankfully. So it’s generally good that science is a progressive or “shifting” field. But because this is the case, I personally look to the field to aid my understanding, but not to be the foundation of it.

    Lastly, I would respectfully take issue with your thought that “science wins.” As a creationist, I feel quite strongly that faith and science are not opposed to one another. I think the idea of “faith vs. science” is unhelpful to either theology or science. Many of the leaders of the Scientific Revolution were devout Christians, who not only studied universe, but wrote beautiful theology as well. I welcome science to inform my worldview, but I don’t give it the last word. Where modern scientific theories contradict the Bible, I am convicted to stand with the Bible every time.

    Thank you for the fun discussion, Shelly. Take care.



    • Natasha Crain on May 22, 2013 at 4:43 PM

      As you could probably tell from my post, I hate to see faith and science promoted as opposites too. For a Christian, science is simply the discovery of the laws God created. The question seems to come down to whether it is science or the Bible that should LEAD our understanding of the other. It seems every book and article I’ve read points to the historical controversy over heliocentrism. At the time the church was emphatic that the Bible taught the earth was the center of the universe. Science kept saying no. In that case, we needed science to “lead” our understanding of those passages in the Bible, which until that time were interpreted literally. The analogous question today seems to be whether scientific findings support a similar revision in our traditional understanding of creation. The roles of science, scripture and miracles are all part of the discussion.



  6. Amy Watkins on May 22, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    We just watched one half of a series last Sunday in small group….of course I can’t remember the name….but it talked about the Cambrian explosion…and evolution does not seem to have an answer for this event. I found it fascinating…and I praise God for making sure that fossil evidence of this event was abundant. And I have been thinking…His ways are not our ways….a million years to God is nothing…can’t the earth be as old as they think and the Bible also be true?? I am not a super smart person….I don’t know all of the scientific details…the biblical fine points….but I know my God is amazing…



  7. amy on May 22, 2013 at 7:23 PM

    I am fascinated by all of the discussion on creation and evolution. I would love to have some good books to read on the 2 views. I do believe we were created by God. Our Heavenly Father gave us His very breath to give us life. I do want to be more informed so that I can have discussions with my children about both views and back up our beliefs with facts. Reading suggestions appreciated.



    • Daniel Christensen on May 23, 2013 at 8:35 AM

      Hi Amy,

      I would like to make two book recommendations for you. Both are what I call “debate books.” In these books, different views (usually between 2 and 4) are presented on a given topic. Advocates of each view state their case in approximately 30-40 pages. Their essay is immedaitely followed by a short 3-5 page response from the other authors with different views. Then, it’s the next person’s turn to write their essay and state their case. Then, the others give short responses. This repeats until all the views have stated their case and the others have responded. It’s a great format and it’s fun seeing some of the Church’s best scholars interact with each other.

      The first book in this format that I would recommend is called “The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation” (by J. Ligon Duncan III, David W. Hall, Hugh Ross and Gleason L. Archer). Duncan writes for young earth creationism, Ross for old earth creationism, and Archer advocates for the framework theory. (The framework theory hasn’t been a part of this post and thread, likely because it barely touches science. By “framework” the view understands that Genesis 1 isn’t a description about creation or evolution per se, but has to do with literary organization alone.) I like this book because Duncan is a fantastic exegete and Ross is brilliant, which can be said even if a person isn’t persuaded by his arguments.

      The second book I would recommend is called “Three Views on Creation and Evolution” (by John Mark Reynolds, Howard J. Van Till, Paul Nelson and Robert C. Newman). This book doesn’t contain a “framework” argument, but it does include an argument for theistic evolution.

      Personally, I like the Genesis Debate because I think Duncan and Ross are superb, although it’s probably in $25 range whereas the second one I mentioned may be in the $10 range.



      • Natasha Crain on May 28, 2013 at 9:51 PM

        Thanks so much for sharing these recommendations! I read:
        Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care by John Collins – This was a good overview with a fair balance of positions explained. I would recommend it.
        The Origins Debate: Evangelical perspectives on creation, evolution, and intelligent design (Christianity Today Essentials) – This is just a collection of essays on related topics; I wouldn’t recommend it as any kind of foundation overall.
        Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science – I found this to be a helpful overview of various positions. I would recommend it.
        The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns – Enns discusses the biblical implications for Christians who believe in evolution (he is a theistic evolutionist). This is a helpful book for understanding evolution from the Christian perspective.
        Signature in the Cell by Stephen C Meyer – This is a long book (600+ pages) that gets into the FINE biological details supporting intelligent design. I’m reading it currently so I don’t know if I can recommend it yet. 🙂



  8. Sharon Nichols Young on May 22, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    You are right that this is a polarizing issue… and that they indoctrinate kids early… whenever Andrew brings home stuff from his science class – and he is only in 7th grade! – I try to make sure he understands that what science classes teach as fact is actually theory, and that origins theory especially is not “science” but a different kind of faith. It takes just as much faith to believe in evolution and man from apes and a Big Bang as it does to believe God created the earth and all that is in it, and that man was His special, crowning creation. And if they thought the earth was the center of the universe… for us, it is… it IS our planet after all, and until/unless we get to the point where we can go visit other ones (not just our own moon), it is the “center” for us even if astronomically this is not the case. Nice hot topic, Natasha 🙂 I anticipate lively discussion on this.



    • Natasha Crain on May 28, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      Wow – 7th grade! I’m surprised to hear that they get into it so early. I actually never learned any of this in high school. I know it’s become much more prevalent than when I was there, though. I love your response that evolution is a scientific theory, not fact. That’s a great way of framing the discussion so it opens doors to ALL the “theories.” Thanks, Sharon, I always appreciate your comments!



  9. John @ Social Scriptures on May 30, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Hi Natasha,

    I am glad to see that you have taken an interest in the creationism vis. evolution debate. This is something that had even intrigued me before becoming born-again.

    I had recently read Ken Ham’s follow-up to Already Gone, Already Compromised, which speaks about young adults moving on to bible colleges or seminaries, and how the views on Evolution vs Creation is explored by the staff at these Christian institutions. The results are very frightening and at times, a bit confusing.

    It’s important that people learn as much as they can about what’s going on in these instutions, or else you might be sending the sheep out to slaughter without realizing it.



  10. Around the Web (06/07) | Men's Bible Cafe on June 7, 2013 at 4:37 AM

    […] Creation and Evolution Basics Part 1: 3 Big Reasons You Need to Be Up to Speed on Current Views – “We need to humbly acknowledge that, whatever our position is, there are other people who love the Lord and love the Bible while coming to differing conclusions on what the Bible says about origins. We may disagree with each other on the scientific and/or scriptural validity of varying viewpoints, but adherence to a particular view should not become synonymous with a required position for a Christian.” Christian Mom Thoughts […]



  11. Mike on June 16, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    My 4 year old and 6 year old have started asking questions about “where did people come from” and “what’s the big bang?”. I wasn’t prepared to answer such questions at first, but reading posts like this are really helping. Thank you for bringing up these important questions and providing such good information.



  12. Christina on July 15, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    Since many readers brought up the “Fossil Record”, and since all theories outside of special creation rely on the premise that evolution is actually a fact, here are two intriguing and beautiful books, written by a scientist who set out to prove evolution is true:
    http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Grand-Experiment-Carl-Werner/dp/0892216816
    http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Grand-Experiment-Living-Fossils/dp/0892216913/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y
    There are also DVDs available that summarize the content of the books.
    I would also like to suggest Creation Ministries International and Institute for Creation Research as sources of very technical, scientific, and even theological, information, regarding nearly any topic imaginable.
    http://www.creation.com
    http://www.icr.org