In theology, many things are black and white. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I am the foremost. That simple, black and white phrase can be parsed out and studied for an eternity. To reject this simple statement is to reject the core of Christianity and turn it into to something else.
There are other doctrines which also need to be held dearly in order to conform to biblical Christianity and retain the truth of the gospel. Think of doctrines such as the Trinity (who is God?) and justification by grace through faith (how does God save us?).
Some doctrines, while still central to a clear understanding of the Christian faith, have divided Christians. And of course, both sides think they hold the truth. We’ll look at one of these doctrines today.
Creationism. noun. God created the entire cosmos through his spoken word and without the use of evolution as developed by Darwin and those following his work.
Perhaps nowhere else than in the doctrine of creation do we see how important another doctrine is: the authority of Scripture. Scripture may not address how often you need to change your air filters, but on issues where Scripture does speak, God has given the truth by which all other claims must be measured.
Christians devoted to the authority of Scripture can agree on the basic tenets of creationism. All of the created order is by God’s command, not chance. God existed in eternity past as Father, Son, and Spirit and did not need a creation in order to be fulfilled.
Beyond those basic truths, we must agree that what Scripture says about the days of creation are true, whatever they say. Even in poetic sections of Scripture, such as the wisdom literature and parts of the prophets, we do not need to do mental gymnastics to find out their meanings. Yes, we must apply sound interpretive principles, but we apply them because God’s word is meant to be understood.
Within creationism, there are many categories, but some of the more divisive ones are old-earth creationists and young-earth creationists.
Old-earth creationists argue that Scripture can be interpreted with integrity while maintaining recent scientific claims concerning the age of the earth. Young-earth creationists read the days of creation and the genealogies of the early chapters of Genesis and determine that all of creation was created at a high level of maturity.
Are both claims tenable? Or is it either/or?
To show my hand, I generally fall into the young-earth crowd. One of the main reasons I believe this is because Adam, one can infer from Scripture, was formed out of the dust at a high level of maturity, or as an adult. While there is no chapter-and-verse that says this explicitly, Genesis 2:15 does say that God created a man and told him to work in the garden. That command would be difficult to rationalize if given to someone without the intellectual capacity and physical ability to work the land.
Also, if you take the garden of Eden as a proto-temple, as I do, and Adam being a proto-priest, as I do, then it becomes more plausible that God made Adam as an intellectually and physically mature adult male, able to understand and obey religious commands. Ezekiel 28 uses the imagery of someone as a priest in the garden of Eden as a "taunt" against the king of Tyre. That imagery only makes sense if Adam was a priest before God in a temple-like environment in Eden.
God also made Eve for Adam so that he would not be alone and that the world would be populated with more worshipers of God. Without bringing in a set of diagrams from WikiPedia, procreation requires a certain level of physical maturity.
There is one old-earth creationist position that I believe could be justified, but it really share much in common with other old-earth positions. This position says that Genesis 1:1 is the actual creation act of God. We know this because in Genesis 1:2, the earth is already there and is described as formless and void of all life. From that point on, the days of creation are literal. Genesis 1:3 therefore picks up on day 1 of creation week. In effect, the world could be far older than the 6,000-10,000 years held by most young-earth creationists, but other biblical truth, such as the absence of death before sin, can still be tenable.
But even this is somewhat an argument from silence. There is no mention of any gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 unless you take 1:2 as describing that gap of time. I will concede that that is a possible reading of the text. There have been a goodly number of theologians in church history who have argued something like this, even before modern debates about the age of the earth.
Other old-earth arguments, such has the gap-theory (aeons passed between the individual days) or day-age theory (the word for “day” is to be taken as metaphorical term for a long period of time), seem to be more willing to concede Scriptural ground. I have read some of the literature arguing for linguistic evidence (what words mean in context) that the words in Genesis 1 and 2 are more fluid and not intended, even to the original audience, to be taken as conveying factual history. I think you start to place a disconnect between the way Jesus and Paul interpreted the creation passages if you start to expand the range of meaning of individual words too far.
There is no sin in trying to reconcile Scriptural knowledge with knowledge gained from the study of nature. Galileo was charged with heresy for contradicting the miracle of the sun standing still in Joshua 10 by saying that the earth was not the center of the universe. Was it a true contradiction, or were Scripture and nature looking at the same event from different perspectives? What role did a miracle play in Joshua 10? Why does no contemporary person reject the geokinetic theory (the earth is in motion, not static) when the church declared it to be a “suspected heresy” in 1633?
It’s interesting to note that what Galileo was charged with was rejection of the authority of Scripture.
But the evidence must be there, and the evidence must not contradict the truths found on the pages of Scripture.