The first approach we should briefly consider is the atheistic evolutionary perspective. In particular, we should recognize that this position is unlikely to be held by many sincere Christians. After all, a position that denies there is a God (atheism) is not easily reconciled with claims about God’s creative and redemptive acts! Nevertheless, this position is worth mentioning because it is typically one of the positions in the evolution/creation debate that gets more media attention.
The second approach to consider is young earth creation, which is the other position that gets more media attention, especially within Christian media. This approach is likely to be one of the more familiar perspectives to many Christians. It generally holds that God engaged in the process of creation in 6 literal days a relatively short time ago (i.e., 4000-10000 years ago). This position is drawn from a literal interpretation of the 6 days of creation of Genesis 1, combined with a close reliance on Biblical genealogies and timelines (such as that by Bishop Ussher) suggesting Adam and Eve were created about 6000 years ago (about 4000 BC). This close adherence to a literal understanding of scripture raises problems for reconciling it with evidence from other sources.
So, for example, fields of study such as astronomy, physics, astrophysics, engineering (e.g., space exploration) and geology (among others) have produced a large amount of consistent and unified evidence for the age of the universe/earth. Young earth creationists generally deal with this evidence by rejecting or questioning the evidence and assumptions provided by the relevant fields of study. Evidence about the relatedness or similarity of extinct and extant (currently existing) species is explained by the fact that God created all of them; the similarities simply reflect God’s design or plans. The fact that there are many extinct species is argued to primarily reflect the flood narratives (Genesis 6-9); many species that are now extinct (e.g., dinosaurs, ammonites) became extinct due to the flood.
The third approach I will consider is the old earth creation position. In contrast to the young earth creation position, the old earth creation position generally accepts as valid the large amount of physical evidence suggesting that the universe/earth are quite old. However, advocates of an old earth position tend to adopt similar perspectives of the biological evidence about the similarity of extinct and extant species as young earth creationists – that all species were created in a relatively short period of time (i.e., days) and that genetic and morphological similarities reflect God’s design, rather than evolutionary processes. Similarly, the extinction of many species is generally attributed to the Noachian flood.
Because the old earth creation position moves away from a strictly literal reading of Biblical timelines/genealogies, a degree of “interpretation” of the Biblical narrative is often adopted by advocates of this position. Two examples of this are the “day = age” interpretation and the “days of revelation” interpretations of Genesis 1. The “day = age” interpretation is more familiar to many Christians; this interpretation argues that the days of Genesis actually reflect long periods of time, along the lines of Psalm 90:4 - A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by . . . (NIV). That is, although Genesis refers to 6 days, these days are not 6 literal days, but are 6 longer time periods. Alternatively, supporters of the creative “days of revelation” interpretation of Genesis 1 accept the 6 days of Genesis, but understand these NOT as days during which God created things, but rather as 6 days during which God explained to Moses how He created everything. That is, according to this position, God created everything over a very long period of time, but God took 6 days to explain or reveal to Moses what He created and how He did it. In both examples (day-age and days of revelation), the 6 days of Genesis are still 6 days. However, both examples add a little twist to the interpretation – either applying other scripture (i.e., the day=age example) or a creative reading of scripture.
The fourth position, progressive creation, accepts the physical evidence about the age of the universe/earth and increasingly accommodates the biological evidence. This position argues that creation occurred over a long period of time, but, in contrast to the young earth position, in which all living things were created within a relatively short space of time (e.g., the 3rd, 5th, and 6th days of Genesis 1), the progressive creation position suggests that species were created “one at a time” over the (long) time course of creation. From this perspective, individual species were not created “all at once.” Rather, God is continually involved in creating individual species (e.g., apatosaurs, ammonites, mastodons) as appropriate and as reflected in the geological and paleontological record.” Creation (of species) is an ongoing process, but evidence about the relatedness or similarity of extinct and extant species is still explained by God’s design. The difference lies in whether living things were created “all at once” or progressively, a “little” at a time.
Former Salvation Army Officer