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Major Christian Approaches to Science and Faith

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Source: Approaches to Creation

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There are plausible ways for Genesis 1-5 to be a combination of figurative, cultural accommodation, and literal, including a literal Adam and Eve, without contradicting science.
Major Christian Approaches to Creation:

1. Young-earth Creation (YEC)
Promotes a literalistic biblical interpretation of Genesis with a six-day creation approximately 6,000 years ago.

  • Theological Tradition: Fundamental (& a sizable portion of Evangelical), particular after the reformation and especially with the rise of fundamentalism in the 20th century.
  • Genesis Interpretation: Literalistic and based on modern understanding of scripture. Believes that the author, hearers/readers would have understood in a similar way that we do.
  • Science Compatibility: YEC denies a 14 billion year “old” earth & universe, and evolution. It is not accepted by at least 98% of mainstream scientists.[1]
  • Leading person & group: Ken Ham www.AnswersinGenesis.org
  • Video and More info: The Case for Youth-Earth Creation

2. Old-Earth Creation (OEC)
Accepts mainstream science on the age of the universe and the earth, but not on evolution.

  • Theological Tradition: A sizable portion of Mainline Protestant denominations and a significant portion of Evangelicals. It arose in the late 20th century in reaction to extensive evidence of a much older earth and universe than YEC allowed for.
  • Genesis Interpretation: Says Hebrew word, “yom” could be translated as “eras” instead of 24 hour days. Otherwise, generally accepts a literalistic interpretation of Genesis, except in the case of the flood believes the interpretation of Hebrew word “erets” probably referred to a regional flood.
  • Science Compatibility: OEC accepts Big Bang, a 13.7 billion-year-old Universe, and 4.7 billion-year-old earth, but denies the mainstream scientific view (98% [1]) of evolution and also DNA evidence that there were at least 1,000 individuals in the initial group of modern humans instead of 2.
  • Leading person & group: Dr. Hugh Ross: Reasons to Believe (www.Reasons.org)
  • Video and More info: The Case for Old-Earth Creation

3. Evolutionary Creation (EC) (aka Theistic evolution - TE)
Accepts mainstream science on the age of the Universe & Earth but believes that God created humans through evolution. It does not have a designated view of Adam & Eve, but has various plausible scenarios.

  • Theological Tradition: Unknown prior to Reformation. Since the beginning of 21st century, a sizable portion of Catholics, Mainline Protestant denominations, and small but growing numbers of Evangelicals.
  • Genesis Interpretation: It views early Genesis stories as at least partially figurative. It does not espouse a single theory on Adam & Eve but has multiple scenarios (see link below).
  • Science Compatibility: EC is compatible with mainstream science.
  • Leading person and group: Dr. Francis Collins: www.BioLogos.org
  • Video and More info: The Case for Evolutionary Creation.

4. Intelligent Design (ID)
A limited theory that believes in a designer without identifying the designer. Adherents of this view can be YEC, OEC, and occasionally EC or those who are non-committal on creation theories. Can believe in evolution, but has scientific-like arguments against non-miraculous evolution.

  • Theological Tradition: Is not directly connected with the belief in a Christian God, although many adherents are Christian. It began in the late 20th century.
  • Mainstream Science Compatibility: Because of controversial and scientifically refuted stands, ID has been rejected by the world largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[3] However, since there are a variety of ID arguments, some may be very logical, but still hard to prove.
  • Leading person and group: Michael Behe: Discovery Institute (www.discovery.org/id/)
  • Video and More info: The Case for Intelligent Design.

A subset of OEC would be The Gap Theory which reconciles both Faith and Science.  The idea of the gap theory can be traced back to the rather obscure writings of the Dutchman Episcopius (1583–1643), but it was first recorded from one of the lectures of Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847), a notable Scottish theologian and the first moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, and he was perhaps the man most responsible for the popularity of the gap theory.  Reverend William Buckland, a geologist, also did much to popularize the idea.  Lost in modern arguments against the Gap Theory is its Jewish roots and its reliance on 1 Enoch and various texts in the Old Testament and other ancient Jewish writings referenced in the Old Testament. 

As a Christian and as an engineer (practical scientist), this is the viewpoint I give most credence to.  Fortunately, whatever viewpoint you adhere to, it's not an essential to one's Christian faith.  God's unconditional love is enough to cover our misunderstandings regarding theology.

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I know a few people who hold to the Gap theory and have listened to a few sermons on it. I agree that this theory doesn't interfere with Christian faith. But the Day/Age Theory does a lot of damage to Christianity. Here is why I believe that. Christ fulfills many prophecies which uniquely qualify Him as the only begotten Son of God. In addition, his lineage is crucial, as it is traced back to Adam. Christ is called the second Adam. If you assign thousands or millions of years to each day of creation, then you destroy the direct line from Adam to Christ. In other words, no Adam means no Christ. 

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3 hours ago, JoeChan82 said:

I know a few people who hold to the Gap theory and have listened to a few sermons on it. I agree that this theory doesn't interfere with Christian faith. But the Day/Age Theory does a lot of damage to Christianity. Here is why I believe that. Christ fulfills many prophecies which uniquely qualify Him as the only begotten Son of God. In addition, his lineage is crucial, as it is traced back to Adam. Christ is called the second Adam. If you assign thousands or millions of years to each day of creation, then you destroy the direct line from Adam to Christ. In other words, no Adam means no Christ. 

Day/Agers would probably argue the point.  Since I'm not a Day/Ager I'll just let the comment stand "as-is" unchallenged.

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On ‎6‎/‎19‎/‎2018 at 6:08 PM, JoeChan82 said:

I know a few people who hold to the Gap theory and have listened to a few sermons on it. I agree that this theory doesn't interfere with Christian faith. But the Day/Age Theory does a lot of damage to Christianity. Here is why I believe that. Christ fulfills many prophecies which uniquely qualify Him as the only begotten Son of God. In addition, his lineage is crucial, as it is traced back to Adam. Christ is called the second Adam. If you assign thousands or millions of years to each day of creation, then you destroy the direct line from Adam to Christ. In other words, no Adam means no Christ. 

What you're saying is true for that application of the Day/Age Theory to creation.  It bothered me too.  Day/Agers have a modified theory which allows for 24 hour days after the Sun is created.  This to me is somewhat clumsy but does answer the criticism with respect to Adam being a real person.  As I said, this is not a theory I hold to or defend.  In fact, all the theories above and the Gap Theory have variations.  It's interesting to see what preacher/teacher/evangelist supports what theory.

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I have read the transcripts from the Scopes Monkey trial in Tennessee. Clarence Darrow plead his client guilty and William J. Bryan agreed to take the stand and defend creation. Bryan was intimidated by all the new science that seemed to prove that the earth was millions of years old, that he introduced any means to synthesize Genesis to the new science instead of insisting that the new science was wrong. I have read several books concerning the very subject of the age of the earth. The theory of evolution has so many flaws that we need not fear it, even if we cannot prove the Genesis account thoroughly. In order for something to be proven scientifically, it has to be observable, duplicatable, and must conform to the laws of science; such as entropy, etc. So it all boils down to faith. Atheists have a faith. We have a faith, but it not a blind faith. I personally don't hold to the Gap theory, but it certainly is possible. In fact I love all the discussions about Nephilims etc. I think this was an excellent topic. I expected an explosion of replies! 

 

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I intentionally picked this section of the forum to keep the discussion strictly amongst believing Christians.  I wanted to avoid the arguments and hostility that commonly crops up when this subject is brought up.  That's why at the very beginning no matter what beliefs you have on the subject, it won't separate you from God's grace and mercy.  If we agree on that, there's no reason for anything less than a peaceful discussion among peers.  I hope more people like you Joe will find this thread and share their views in a like Christian manner.

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2 hours ago, Saved.One.by.Grace said:

I wanted to avoid the arguments and hostility that commonly crops up when this subject is brought up.  That's why at the very beginning no matter what beliefs you have on the subject, it won't separate you from God's grace and mercy.  If we agree on that, there's no reason for anything less than a peaceful discussion among peers.

Thanks, SOBG, I very much appreciate the sentiment you express here. I just wish more Christians felt the same way!

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Posted (edited)

Here is another writer's take on the Theory of Creation.  It's fairly long so I'm not going to paste it below, leaving it to the interested reader to dive in.

Theory of Creation: Creation Theory

Hopefully, when we study the Biblical creation account, we get a sense of God's majesty and greatness.  And as we continue to read, a sense of His grace and mercy through His Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that is fulfilled in the New Testament.

Edited by Saved.One.by.Grace

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Hi SObG,

As a young-earth creationist myself, I hope I'm not being presumptuous in correcting a few things about your characterisation of my position.

 

Theological Tradition: Fundamental (& a sizable portion of Evangelical), particular after the reformation and especially with the rise of fundamentalism in the 20th century.”

I would further suggest that young-earth creationism was the default Christian position prior to the widespread adoption of naturalistic philosophy.

 

Genesis Interpretation: Literalistic and based on modern understanding of scripture.

I don't think “literalistic” correctly reflects my interpretation methodology. I fully acknowledge that God uses a range of grammatical tools in the Bible to get His message across. However, I don't think I have the authority to arbitrarily designate scripture as symbolic. In personally studying Genesis, I find no contextual justification for assuming the narrative is intended to be anything other than historical.

 

Believes that the author, hearers/readers would have understood in a similar way that we do.

This assumption is fundamental to all Biblical interpretation. All any of us can do is our sincere best to establish the intent of the Author. What's the point of studying scripture if we can't assume we can understand it the way it's intended?

In our favour, I would also suggest that subsequent Biblical references to Genesis (including where Jesus references Genesis) demonstrates an exclusive, consistent, historical understanding of the Genesis creation account.

 

Science Compatibility: YEC denies a 14 billion year “old” earth & universe, and evolution. It is not accepted by at least 98% of mainstream scientists.

I'd firstly point out that the argument here is a fallacy combination; i.e. an appeal to authority combined with an appeal to consensus. Logic doesn't mandate that an argument be accepted on the basis of a consensus of experts (authorities). Science, in particular, should advocate critical reasoning. There are thousands of professional scientists who are also young-earth creationists. Arguments are the true currency of logic, not popularity or expertise.

Your use of the term “science” is also somewhat ambiguous. I readily acknowledge that the observed facts can be interpreted to be consistent with the naturalistic faith assumption. But in every instance that I have encountered, all the very same facts can be interpreted to be consistent with the Biblical-creation model of reality. So whilst many “scientists” may disagree with young-earth creationism, the scientific facts are entirely compatible with Genesis history.

Furthermore, your use of the term “evolution” is ambiguous. Do you mean the General Theory of Evolution (that all life on earth is related through a series of common ancestors), or do you mean the suite of concepts that tend to find themselves under the general banner of "evolution" (i.e. Natural Selection, genetic mutations, speciation, adaptations etc., as well as Common Ancestry), or do you just mean any heritable change in a population? Of all these options, young-earth, Biblical creationists (such as myself) only contest the Common Ancestry hypothesis (that all life on earth is related through a series of common ancestors); along with the time frames required to make that hypothesis plausible.

And I don't deny anything. I have considered the evidence and arguments by which the secular conclusions are reached, and have determined that there is no objective scientific reason to distrust the Genesis narrative of history.

 

Leading person & group: Ken Ham www.AnswersinGenesis.org

This is a minor point, but the main international creationist organisation is CMI, not AIG. CMI is not a single-personality organisation, but administered by a group (mostly highly credentialled scientists). There is an historical association between CMI and AIG, but CMI has long been the go-to organisation for creationist information. Perhaps AIG has a higher profile in the US. If I had to propose a creationist personality; maybe the late Henry Morris would be a more appropriate choice.

 

Fortunately, whatever viewpoint you adhere to, it's not an essential to one's Christian faith

I ostensibly agree. However, since a significant portion of salvation theology is premised on the historical Genesis narrative, departing from that narrative makes it very difficult to maintain (and present) a consistent Christian world view. But more importantly for me, it is completely unnecessary to conform the Bible to secular conclusions. There is no objectively logical reason obligating a departure from Genesis history.

 

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I don't believe I've written anything above that needs correction, Tristen.  You've missed the point of this thread.  It's not meant to encourage differences between believers, but to bring us together, whatever our beliefs on origins may be.  There are and have been many discussions on origins on this forum.  Is it too much to ask that we have one where other points of view are not attacked and the writer put down for believing them?

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