Creation and Evolution Basics Part 2: The Six Key Views You Need to Understand

In my last post, I explained 3 big reasons Christian parents need to be up to speed on current views of creation and evolution. Today I’m giving you an introductory guide to the six major views you need to know about.

My intention with this post is not to get into the scientific or scriptural basis for (or arguments against) each view, but rather to provide a brief overview of what each view means. Leading adherents to each view here can provide extensive scientific and scriptural evidence to support their position…and similar evidence to counter each of the other positions. I plan to dig into the key pieces of evidence for and against each view in future posts.

For now, I created the following diagram to give you a lay of the land. It can be confusing to figure out how all these views fit together and understand the key differences. Take a look at this chart to understand the key distinctions, then dig into the descriptions below.

 6 Views on Evolution and Creation | Christian Mom Thoughts

 

Two Views Without a (Biblical) God

 

1.    Atheistic Evolution (sometimes called Naturalistic Evolution)

When people use the generic word “evolution,” this is typically what they mean. Atheistic Evolutionists say there is no God and that life emerged naturally from preexisting, non-living building blocks under the influence of natural laws (though the origin of those laws is not explained).

If you’re not familiar with the details of evolution (as I wasn’t until recently), there’s a lot more to it than the result that man came from apes. That is an implication of evolution, but it’s important to understand that extensive scientific research – down to the molecular (cell) level – underlies the theory. That’s not to say that it must therefore be correct, but rather to suggest an appreciation for the complexity of the underlying research. I’ve heard many Christians laugh off the concept that man could come from apes, but that betrays a shallow understanding of the scientific complexity underlying evolutionary biology.

 

2.    “Pure” Intelligent Design

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the term “Intelligent Design.” Christians often think Intelligent Design is synonymous with biblical creationism because it is so often portrayed in the media as the alternative to generically labeled evolution.

By base definition, however, Intelligent Design is simply “the theory that life, or the universe, cannot have arisen by chance and was designed and created by some intelligent entity.” Of course, that means any creation view that includes God would technically fall under the Intelligent Design umbrella, but scientists aligning specifically with the Intelligent Design label  are doing so to indicate their views are not based on biblical (or other religious) texts. These scientists don’t specify who or what the intelligent agent is, but state that some features of the universe and of living things are better explained by an intelligent cause than by the undirected natural process of evolution. This is compatible with a Christian view, but is based on scientific evidence rather than scripture; thus, pure Intelligent Designers take no explicit position on who the intelligent agent is.

 

Four Views With a (Biblical) God

 

The prior two views exclude the biblical God completely. Now we’ll look at the views that take God into account. The first dividing point (see diagram) is on whether God created humans directly (i.e., without evolution). Let’s look first at those who say “no.”

 

3.    Theistic Evolution

Theistic Evolutionists say that God created all the natural laws and building blocks for the universe, set it in motion, then stepped back and let creation take over (possibly, if not probably, designing it so life would emerge in the way it did). Like Atheistic Evolution, it presumes a natural evolution of life. The key difference is that Theistic Evolutionists identify the biblical God as the initiator of the whole process.

Theistic Evolutionists usually believe that Adam and Eve are literary and symbolic. The theological implications of there not being a historical Adam and Eve are significant, but beyond the scope of this post. I’d like to come back to this issue in a future post.

That said, it should be noted that some Theistic Evolutionists do believe in a literal Adam and Eve. Some believe that God, through an act of special creation toward the end of the evolutionary process, created Adam and Eve as the head of the human race. Others say that God did not use any special acts, but rather appointed two existing hominids (Adam and Eve) as the representatives for all humans. Either way, the view on Adam and Eve is tangential to the position of a Theistic Evolutionist.

Given the necessary time for evolution, Theistic Evolution implies a belief in a very old universe.

 

4.    Evolutionary Creation

Evolutionary Creation and Theistic Evolution are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, some prefer the Evolutionary Creation label to emphasize the theological importance of God’s role. They emphasize that the universe is a “created reality that is completely dependent for its every moment of existence on the will and grace of God.” I included it here as a separate view because both the Theistic Evolution and Evolutionary Creation terms are used frequently and I wanted to make it clear how they relate to each other. Regardless of the theoretical emphasis in the terms themselves, the resulting views are the same.

Moving back up the diagram to the dividing point on whether God created humans directly or not, we’re now going to move down to the views that say “yes;” these are the views that reject evolution as the natural mechanism through which God created humans from other creatures. This brings us to a final dividing point: the age of the earth. Here the question is, “Did God create the universe and humans in six 24-hour periods?”

 

5.    Old-Earth Creationism

This view separates the creation of the universe from the creation of life. Old-Earth Creationists agree with mainstream science that the universe is billions of years old, but deny evolution. They believe that God specially created humans and that there was a literal Adam. There are two sub-groups of Old-Earth Creationists, each pointing to a different scriptural basis for their view (i.e., the resulting view view is the same – old earth and no evolution – but they arrive at it differently):

  • Gap Creationists believe that there is an implied time gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 – God created the heavens and the earth (pause) then the earth became void. This view is based on the study of verb tenses in 1:1 and 1:2, which could suggest that an indefinite time period existed before a literal 6-day creation took place. Gap Creationists vary on what made the earth become void of life, but some believe a whole other original creation existed and was destroyed (accounting for the age of the earth and possibly dinosaurs).
  • Day-Age Creationists believe that the days of Genesis should not be taken to mean 24-hour days, but rather indefinitely long periods of time. This is based primarily on the analysis of the Hebrew word “yom,” translated day. It can refer to a 24-hour day or a more general sense of time, as in the expression “back in the day.” It has multiple meanings in the first two chapters of Genesis alone. There has been extensive dialog amongst scholars over the appropriate interpretation.

 

6.    Young-Earth Creationism

Lastly, we come to the view people most commonly associate with the term “creationism.” It says that the universe and life originated and developed in six literal days, based on a direct reading of Genesis. This implies a belief that the universe is about 6,000-10,000 years old (based on event time frames and genealogies in the Bible) and that humans were created directly by God, with Adam and Eve historically coming first. Young-Earth Creationists answer geological claims that the world is much older by holding that a worldwide flood (Noah’s flood) laid down the fossil record.

Phew! I know that was a lot. But it’s so important to have this background and be able to speak confidently with your kids when it becomes age appropriate. Was this helpful to you? What questions do you have that you’d like to see addressed in future posts? If this was a good reference tool for you, please share!

18 Comments

  1. Shelly on May 29, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    I am an old earth gap creationist because I believe that God reveals himself through nature and science. If God reveals himself through science, then there are really only three conclusions you can draw. Either He’s playing some kind of joke on humanity by creating a fossil/geology record that indicates the earth is 4.5 billion years old. Or, the earth is actually 4.5 billion years old, and He’s delighted that we’ve figured it out. Or, EVERY SINGLE BRANCH OF SCIENCE IS WRONG AT THE SAME TIME!!. One of those three is true.

    In reading through the comments from the previous post, I was interested to learn that 40% of Christians believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, which would indicate a belief in conclusion number 3. I also found a website that discussed how the dinosaurs lived before Noah, which I guess explains the origins of the Flintstones.

    The logical extension of this type of faith would be the refusal to provide medication for your children because faith could heal them. And, to be fair, faith could heal them. As could antibiotics. The use of antibiotics does not ameliorate the need for prayer. The belief that God created the universe 13 billion years ago does not detract from his glory. In many ways it adds to it.

    I like the idea of a creator taking 4.5 billion years with the earth as part of a master plan. I like the ideas of the climate changing, the ice ages, the creation of various forms of life, the changes to the continents and everything else reflected in the geological record. A God who does things in his own time.



    • Daniel Christensen on May 30, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      Hi Shelly,

      That the “logic extension” of young earth creationism is anti-medicine is absurd. It saddens me and angers me when I hear of Christian families that believe they are doing the right thing by withholding medicine. While they may be sincere, I believe they are sincerely wrong in their reading of Scripture. To project such a complex and challenging reality upon all whole ascribe to a certain interpretation of Genesis is out of place. Perhaps you can join me in praying for those families.

      I wish you well.



    • Rosemary Endicott on May 31, 2013 at 4:38 AM

      Shelly, there are other conclusions, not just the 3 you have concluded to. 4. There are scientists who disagree with the reliability of the methods used to date the earth/fossils but the voice that gets all the publicity, and which is forced in our schools, is the evolutionists view. The Answers in Genesis / creation website has tons of information from that point of view. 5. The physical earth is older than 10,000 years but life is not, in which case the method for dating is still unreliable. 6. Every branch of science doesn’t deal with dating the earth so some branches can be wrong while others can still be right. 7. Your only 3 conclusions are illogical, so is your “logical extension” to anti medicine so my only conclusion is that you are illogical also. But God can fix that 🙂



      • Shelly on May 31, 2013 at 9:14 AM

        I’m not sure I agree with your 4th comment. If you’re referring to the “scientists” who think dinosaurs existed between Adam and Noah, I wouldn’t classify that as science. I’ve looked at those websites, and what is presented is not science, it’s wistful thinking. You’re confusing a point of view with geology, and it’s not the same thing. In terms of 5, I agree that there’s a difference between the age of the earth and the age of life, but that’s not the issue at hand, so it wouldn’t be a conclusion one would draw. Your 6th and 7th points are likewise irrelevant.



        • Dean on July 6, 2014 at 10:01 PM

          Good Day Shelly,

          Thank you for your comments. If you’re interested, here is evidence that I found compelling regarding man and dinosaurs living together. I would suggest there are many historical figures ( including Jesus) for which we have fewer lines of evidence yet no one doubts that they existed. The lines of evidence that lead even secular scholars to believe in Jesus are 1.) the Bible text, 2.) extra-Biblical text and 3.) archaeology that confirms what we find in these sources. As far as I am aware we don’t have any portraits of Jesus (drawing/carving/paintings) produced by people who saw Jesus while he was on earth and we don’t have any dna or other forensic evidence we could analyze. Here are the lines of evidence we have that point to man and dinosaurs living together.

          1.) Soft Tissue – go to http://kgov.com/dinosaur-soft-tissue to find a list of peer-reviewed dinosaur soft-tissue discoveries.

          2.) Carbon-14 – found in dinosaur fossils (c-14 decays in only thousands of yrs) – here is a presentation made at the AGU Geophysical Conference in Singapore – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbdH3l1UjPQ

          3.) Strong evidence for DNA – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23085295

          4.) Unracemized (mostly left-handed) amino acids found in dinosaur eggshells – Life uses 100% left-handed amino acids to build proteins (and purely right-handed sugars to build DNA). The laws of chemistry demonstrate that after death, amino acids racemize back to a 50-50 mixture of right- and left-handed acids.

          5.) Biblical Text – Genesis indicates man and dinosaurs were created on the same day and Job 40 describes what sounds like a dinosaur.

          6.) Extra- biblical text – See if you recognize any of these names
          – Alexander the Great
          – Josephus ( Jewish Historian )
          – Marco Polo
          – Herodotus ( Greek Historian )
          – Aristotle
          – Aelianus
          – Ammianus
          – Mela
          – Solinus
          – Matthew of Edessa
          – Cicero
          – Philae
          – Athanasius Kircher
          – St. John of Damascus
          – Dio
          – Ulysses Aldrovandus (considered by many to be the father of modern natural history)
          – Konrad Gesner

          According to the Chronicles of Dinosauria by Dave Woetsel, all of these reference Dinosaur / Pterosaur / Plesiosaur – like creatures.

          7.) Artwork (drawings/paints/carvings) from around the world – Check out Chronicles of Dinosauria by David Woetzel and Dire Dragons by Vance Nelson. Here is an article where the Smithsonian tries to explain away one of the many pieces of evidence – http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/stegosaurus-rhinoceros-or-hoax-40387948/.

          Regarding the extra-biblical text and the artwork I’ve ran across 2 different explanations.

          1.) Carl Sagon suggested that our mammalian ancestors must of seen dinosaurs and these memories were somehow passed on to us.
          2.) Others have suggested that the ancients must have been expert paleontologist and that is how they were able to accurately portray them.

          You can decide for yourself if either of these explanations sound convincing.

          “In the world of fantastic animals, the dragon is unique. No other imaginary creature has appeared in such a rich variety of forms. It is as though there was once a whole family of different dragon species that really existed, before they mysteriously became extinct. Indeed, as recently as the seventeenth century, scholars wrote of dragons as though they were scientific fact, there anatomy and natural history being recorded in painstaking detail.” – Desmond Morris (and evolutionist)



  2. David Crain on May 29, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    This is a lot of hard thinking, bringing much needed clarity to this profoundly important topic. Well done, Christian Mom!



    • David Crain on May 30, 2013 at 7:18 PM

      This is a note to my earlier comment, not a reply to myself: Perhaps I missed it in your logic chart, but isn’t there another fundamental question that is usually part of these discussions, i.e., that God takes an interest in what the earth-bound affairs of mankind or God is uninterested–as Nietzsche contemplates, “God is dead.”



      • Natasha Crain on June 3, 2013 at 10:42 PM

        Yes, the issues of God’s sovereignty can be related here, but that opens up a whole other spectrum of thought, requiring another flow chart. 🙂 This one is just intended to give the view on origins specifically.



  3. Em on May 29, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    thank you! This topic is something I’ve struggled with myself, and I know it’ll come up with my kids (young elementary aged), as they already are hearing dribbles of evolutionary theory from books or media. I don’t think I ever really attached myself to any theory at all, but I do think I lean toward the evolutionary creationism theory. The thing is, we’ll never KNOW (on this earth anyway), so I always felt it kinda pointless to debate it. I do see that it does have implications on current culture though: If we are the result of no purpose at all, and we’re no different than animals, so we become a culture that basically treats humans as animals, no intrinsic worth. It becomes easier to defend abortion, or any type of killing of each other (like the recent mass killings going on, or gang violence-they don’t see humans as ‘special’ or ‘worth anything’, just more living creatures roaming around), exploitation (hey, we own animals, why not own humans?), etc. Anyway, your blog posts are a great talking point to bring up with the kids, when they start asking questions. Thank you for addressing it.



  4. Denes House on May 29, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Another key view, as I understand it, is the “Framework Theory,” which would insert another question into your hierarchy there. After the question, “Is the Intelligent agent the God of the Bible?” would come the question, “Does Genesis 1 tell us when and by what mechanisms God created the universe?” The rest of the views would answer “Yes,” and the Framework Theory would answer, “No.” For the Framework Theory, the key question is “what does the text of the Bible intend to say about Creation?” The wikipedia article on the Framework Theory is actually pretty good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framework_interpretation_(Genesis)

    Blessings on you as you strive to understand this vital component of the Christian faith, and apply it to Christian parenting.



  5. Sharon Nichols Young on May 29, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    Key to the entire discussion is that no matter what theory you wish to believe, it has to be taken on faith. All of the so-called “science” that people pull out to support their points of view is just observation of what currently is, NOT observation of what happened – whether 6000 years ago or billions of years ago. Anyone who wants to can interpret the “scientific findings” in a way to support his or her view (i.e. spin). Ultimately, however, the question is not “what specifically did God do when He created the universe” but “did I in particular accept Christ as personal Savior and trust Him to take care of my sin”.



  6. Daniel Christensen on May 30, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    One of the central attributes of God found in Scripture is that He is Creator. He says in Isaiah 44:24, “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.”

    For emphasis: “…by myself.” This phrase is either true or false.

    Also, creation is central to the person of Jesus Christ. John 1:3 says about Jesus, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” And Colossians 1:16 says about him, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him.” And Hebrews 1:2 says about Jesus, “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

    These statements are either true or false.

    Scripture teaches that creation is the work of a purposeful God, not random mutations. It teaches that creation is Christ-centered, not environment-centered. Christians, in my opinion, should be encouraged to discuss and cordial debate how to interpret and understand Scripture. But Christians should never put anything above Scripture. The Bible is the inerrant and infallible word to mankind (2 Tim. 3:16), which is true in all it affirms (John 17:17).

    The real issue, in my estimation, isn’t science – it’s faith in God and in His Word. Christians should consider and welcome scientific findings, but not build their foundation upon it for it is a shifting sand. Their foundation must always be Scripture. As Isaiah say, the Word of God is eternal: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (40:8).



    • Dan on May 30, 2013 at 10:05 PM

      +1 to everything Daniel just wrote ^^



  7. Juan on May 31, 2013 at 4:23 AM

    Missing: evidence of a god to be included in the first place.



  8. Daneille on June 11, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    A fun little clip from comedian Ron Pearson about Creation vs. Evolution – Enjoy! 🙂

    http://youtu.be/JBNE8DgcdLY



  9. Christina on July 15, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    Excellent summary! A very challenging undertaking! You and some of your readers would find the books by Dr. Carl Werner, “Evolution: The Grand Experiment,” and its 2nd volume, “Living Fossils,” intriguing! Dr. Werner set out to prove evolution was true, and reports his findings in these books.



  10. […] Personal attacks need never be taken seriously. A chart on my blog showing varying views of evolution and creation went viral to more than 26,000 people […]



  11. […] A chart on my blog showing varying views of evolution and creation went viral to more than 26,000 people this summer after being shared amongst atheist groups. Comments such as, “I’m mortified that these ignorant creatures and I are of the same species” and “Poor woman, she is obviously in dire need of psychiatric care …” filled my blog’s Facebook page. Unfortunately, personal insults are par for the course online. Our kids need to know that shaming tactics need never be taken seriously. They are conversation enders, not starters, and say much more about the person using them than the person being attacked. […]