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Christian Views of Creation: Young Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Theistic Evolution

Updated: Dec 3, 2023




Within the religious and scientific community there are numerous debates regarding the origins of the earth, and not only the origins but process which brought us to where we are today. Within the Christian community there exists three main thoughts about life on earth such as: Young Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Theistic Evolution. Of course, there are likely more, however these are the primary Christian views on creation that I am aware of. Each of these maintain their own unique opinion about the beginning and progress of the earth some with more regard to what they are convicted are scientific truths while some remain unapologetically outside of the scientific consensus. Before getting started let's emphasize that this will shed some light on issues people are against; however, it is important for everyone to maintain a genuinely open mind even when studying scripture. We cannot discount things because it is what we have always thought. Without any more delays let's get into a basic description of each thought, the strengths and weaknesses of each stance, and my personal view.


Before getting started here are some resources on the subject that I feel would be very helpful:



















Young Earth Creationism

Young earth Creationism asserts that the Earth is estimated to be approximately 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and it maintains that God created the Earth within a literal timeframe of six consecutive 24-hour days. This perspective adopts a more literal interpretation of the book of Genesis compared to other viewpoints. Due to the contrasting opinions regarding the Earth's age and the prevailing consensus within the scientific community, this perspective often encounters significant tension. Scientists widely regard this viewpoint as inaccurate. It is worth noting that proponents of this perspective generally oppose evolution on a broad scale; however, they do acknowledge the possibility of microevolution for the purpose of adaptation. Nonetheless, according to this view, one species can never transform into another distinct species. For instance, a particular species of bird will always remain as that specific type of bird, albeit potentially exhibiting adaptations that enhance its survival capabilities.


Intelligent Design

One important point to consider when summarizing Intelligent Design is that Lloyd (2014) argues that it does not rely solely on the biblical narrative or theistic belief to support its claims. Instead, it is grounded in the recognition that science alone cannot provide a complete explanation for all phenomena in the world around us. Certain aspects of our world are complex and appear to defy natural explanations. Lloyd (2014) highlights the intricacy of living organisms and the enigma of human consciousness, asserting that these phenomena cannot be accounted for by natural sciences alone. There must be something beyond the ordinary, whether it is a divine entity, deities, celestial beings, or an abstract force associated with the New Age movement. The central theme of the discussion revolves around the intersection of science and philosophy, without explicitly endorsing or affiliating with any specific religious deity or deities, particularly the God of the Bible. The entire process of evolution, particularly its biological aspects, is deemed too advanced and sophisticated to have occurred solely by chance, without any intelligent intervention.


Theistic Evolution

Theistic evolution, as opposed to atheistic evolution, advocates for the incorporation of God into the theory of evolution. This concept is primarily associated with Christian theology, as it seeks to reconcile the scientific theory of evolution with the creation story. However, theistic evolution is not limited to the Christian sphere. It is often described as an evolutionary process initiated by God. According to Stewart (2007), it is widely accepted that prior to the existence of Adam, the earth underwent a history of formation and development through evolutionary processes. At a certain point in this timeline, God selected Adam, infused him with His Spirit, distinguished him from the rest of creation by creating Eve, and thus initiated the birth of the human race. Understanding the precise topic at hand can sometimes be perplexing, as the meaning of theistic evolution can vary depending on the context and type of evolution being discussed. Nevertheless, the evolution associated with theistic evolution is primarily aligned with Darwin's theory of evolution, adapted to incorporate modern scientific knowledge.


Young Earth Creationism: Strengths and Weaknesses


Strength:

Carbon Dating is a radiometric dating method utilized by scientists to determine the age of an object, specifically aiding in the estimation of the Earth's age. Carbon-14, an unstable and radioactive isotope, undergoes decay over time, transforming into Nitrogen-14. This process of decay is continuous, as Carbon-14 is consistently replenished in the atmosphere from extraterrestrial sources. The dating process can only commence once an organism has ceased to intake Carbon-14, at which point it begins to decay. The half-life of Carbon-14 is approximately 5,730 years, as illustrated by Riddle (2007), wherein he presents an example of a jar containing solely Carbon-14 atoms. After 5,730 years, the jar would contain an equal amount of Carbon-14 and Nitrogen-14, signifying the transformation of Carbon-14 into a different element. Riddle (2007) further highlights the challenge of determining the initial amount of Carbon-14 present at the time of an organism's death, as no one was present to observe it. To address this issue, scientists compare the ratio of Carbon-14 to the stable and non-decaying Carbon-12. In living organisms, this ratio mirrors that of the atmosphere. However, upon death and subsequent decay of Carbon-14, the ratio begins to alter. Riddle (2007) explains that this is where the complexity arises, as the ratio of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 is crucial for accurate dating. Scientists assume that the ratio between these two isotopes has remained constant throughout history. However, if this assumption is incorrect, the dating results may be inaccurate. Additionally, Riddle (2007) mentions the work of Dr. Libby, who discovered that the atmosphere was not in equilibrium during his studies. Libby's calculations indicated that if the Earth initially contained no Carbon-14, it would take approximately 30,000 years to reach equilibrium. This evidence supports the contention that the age of the Earth is no more than 30,000 years. Riddle further asserts in his analysis that Libby disregarded the inconsistency and, contrary to popular belief, the proportion of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 is not consistently stable.


Additionally, in a publication by Dr. Mitchell (2014), it is stated that a team made a significant discovery in early 2011. They found soft tissue, specifically keratin, within a fossilized lizard from the Green River Formation. A similar finding occurred in Sweden, where collagen protein was discovered in a fossil that was estimated to be approximately 70 million years old. Subsequently, other instances resembling this phenomenon have been observed in various locations. Dr. Mitchell further notes that the keratin found in these fossils is identical to that of modern lizards. This poses a challenge as the lizard fossils, along with the surrounding terrain, are believed to be around 40 million years old. The scientists involved in this research are perplexed by the ability of keratin to endure for such an extended period. Although they have proposed potential explanations, none of them can account for the presence of protein within the fossil from Sweden.


Lastly, it can be challenging to accurately measure events that occurred thousands or millions of years ago from a logical standpoint. While it is possible to some degree, attempting to make definitive determinations without direct observation can be difficult. As demonstrated by carbon dating, if the initial assumptions are incorrect, subsequent information may also be inaccurate. Additionally, if scientific data is only reviewed by colleagues with similar mindsets, it may be difficult to ask challenging questions. This post will explore cases for both old and young earth, but it is important to note that information regarding the young Earth is often ignored or hidden. Science relies on observation and experimentation, but there are limitations to what can be done with events from so long ago.


Weakness:

The Young Earth Creationism's primary weakness lies in the audience's literal interpretation of the creation account. While certain elements may indeed be interpreted literally, it is important to acknowledge the presence of extensive allegory within the text. Insisting on a complete literal interpretation of the Bible at all times, solely because it is considered the word of God, disregards the possibility of different writing styles and even leads to the belief in a flat Earth, for example. This unwavering dismissal of scientific evidence suggesting an old Earth creates a significant divide between the scientific and religious communities. It is crucial to question and explore ideas in order to make progress in any field. However, immediately discrediting scientific findings because there is a large and encompassing assumption that the scientific community is dishonest is both foolish and unwise. Science serves as a language or code through which we comprehend the world bestowed upon us by God. There should not be a division between biblical scholars and scientists. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge the presence of dishonest individuals within the scientific community, and thus, it is not suggested that we blindly believe everything that is claimed. As this world is the creation of a magnificent God, it is likely that we will never fully comprehend everything. Similarly, the Bible, being the written words of the same magnificent God, cannot be completely understood in this lifetime. It is essential to embrace the notion of not knowing the answers to difficult questions rather than attempting to establish nonexistent connections or rejecting contradictory evidence based on personal beliefs.



Intelligent Design


Strengths:

By positing the notion that the creation of the intricate universe, as well as the human body and mind, can be attributed to a form of intelligence, it facilitates a more inclusive and expansive discourse. Although the emphasis appears to be on excluding the Bible from the conversation, if the intention is to entertain the possibility of an intelligent designer, then the intelligent designer described in the Bible cannot be disregarded, as doing so would seemingly contradict the purpose. Based on observations, it appears that many Christians are fervently vocal about the origins of the universe, which is understandable if it aligns with their personal convictions. However, the aim is to avoid automatically defaulting to this perspective and instead approach the topic from a broader standpoint. By allowing for the consideration of an intelligent designer, it fosters more genuine discussions. If indeed an intelligent designer is responsible for all of this, it is undeniable that certain aspects surpass our limited comprehension, and we may spend our entire existence searching for answers that elude us. Recognizing this enables us to explore various scientific possibilities through a fresh perspective.


The acceptance of uncertainty can be advantageous as it promotes harmony among individuals by distinguishing the Intelligent Design community from the scientific community. Despite technological advancements, it is probable that there will always be unknowns, and potentially more as new discoveries are made. Those who support the concept of intelligent design do not necessarily oppose science, but rather embrace it. Even if the definition of science does not align with the Intelligent Design Theory, the established definition, which is subject to change, should not create a divide between groups with similar interests. Collaboration and solidarity can lead to greater achievements, regardless of differing beliefs about the origin of new discoveries. For instance, Lloyd (2014) cites John Lennox as an example of someone who believes in the God of the Bible, but does not reject science, natural selection, or evolution, but rather believes that they are insufficient to explain all aspects of human existence.


It is reasonable to consider the possibility of an intelligent designer being responsible for the complexity of the issue at hand. Despite the fact that one can believe in evolution and an intelligent designer simultaneously, the beginning of history remains a mystery that science cannot seem to address. Science primarily focuses on the evolution of man up to a certain point, but there is no definitive answer beyond the beginning. Scientists cannot disregard the first law of thermodynamics, which they have established through their studies of the natural world, that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Even if one believes that an intelligent designer initiated the evolutionary process, which can be naturally explained, the mystery of origin falls under the Intelligent Designer Theory, which suggests that not everything can be explained by the natural world. Highfield (2008) contends that everything in the created universe necessitates something to "activate it," whether it is a baseball and a pitcher, the sun and seeds, or the objects of desire within humanity, such as food, rest, and beauty. He concludes that this chain of one thing activating another cannot continue indefinitely but requires a source.


Weakness:

One of the significant weaknesses of the Intelligent Design Theory is its lack of recognition as a legitimate science due to the absence of proper attention given to it. Ravitch (2009) highlights the ongoing debate surrounding whether this concept can be categorized as theological and philosophical or if it can genuinely be integrated into the realm of scientific disciplines. If this theory were to be acknowledged as a scientific theory, Ravitch argues, it would open the door for other pseudoscientific ideas to claim a place within established academic fields. For instance, alchemy could be taught in chemistry classrooms, astrology in astronomy classes, and UFOlogy in various disciplines (Ravitch, 2009, p. 845). In simpler terms, science is the systematic study of the world through observation and experimentation, and scientific theories are formulated to explain these experiments and are derived from them. However, endorsing the belief in an intelligent designer implies the existence of phenomena that cannot be observed or experimented with to a high degree of certainty, thereby disqualifying it from the realm of science. Consequently, the definition of science as we currently understand it would need to be reevaluated to accommodate this notion.


Theistic Evolution


Strengths:

One of the strengths of this perspective lies in its response to the book of Genesis. If the reader interprets the book of Genesis and its creation story as entirely literal, there is limited room for flexibility beyond a young earth and a non-evolutionary standpoint. However, numerous renowned scholars of the Christian Bible and Hebrew bible alike concur that Genesis is not purely a literal narrative. Steward (2007) cites Walter Hearne and Richard Hendry, who argue that the Bible's creation story is highly figurative and that the "mechanism" of creation has no constraints. In the same section, Steward also mentions two other writers who assert that treating the first chapter of Genesis as science is a mistake. Instead, they view it as a literary expression of God's universal Lordship and humanity's complete dependence on Him. It is a story that highlights the marvel of our creation and the gravity of our rebellion. With this perspective, any conceivable "mechanism" of creation becomes plausible.


One thing that is closely associated with theistic evolution is the implicit agreement regarding the age of the earth. It is widely acknowledged that the gradual accumulation of minor changes over extensive periods of time is necessary for humans to have evolved to their current state. However, the precise estimation of the earth's age is subject to constant revision based on new scientific discoveries. Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that the notion of a 6,000-year-old earth is no longer considered plausible. Mathez shows The American Museum of Natural History (2000) introduces a scientific method known as "Zircon Chronology" which sheds light on this matter. This method involves the analysis of the mineral Zircon, which contains radioactive uranium that gradually transforms into lead over time. By measuring the quantities of uranium and lead present in Zircon, scientists are able to determine the age of the earth. This approach provides a compelling argument in favor of an ancient earth that aligns with the protracted process of evolution.


According to Steward (2007), Jesus's discourse on the book of Genesis does not imply that it can be interpreted literally. However, this does not diminish its authority, nor does it suggest that Jesus did not acknowledge it as such. Regardless of whether it belongs to the Old or New Testament, or whether it is a narrative or another form of writing, the word of God remains unchanged. For instance, the book of Revelation presents numerous symbolic depictions that may not be suitable for literal interpretation. Nevertheless, it undeniably serves as a valuable tool for instruction and retains its authoritative status as the word of God.


Weakness

In Bird's (2020) work, the author asserts that humanity holds a significant position in the creation narrative, emphasizing that humans possess higher cognitive abilities compared to other animals. This notion is further supported by the statement, "Humankind is not simply another animal within creation endowed with higher powers of reasoning..." (pg. 319). The intention behind God's act of creation was for the created order to reflect His own image in a deliberate and purposeful manner. In an interview conducted by The Gospel Coalition, Jay Richard, the author of "God and Evolution," raises a theological concern regarding the concept of theistic evolution. This concept, rooted in Darwinian Theory, revolves around the notion of random mutation. Richard argues that within the framework of this theory, the term "random" is synonymous with "purposeless," which contradicts the nature of the God depicted in the Bible. According to Richard, it is illogical to ascribe direction to a process that is inherently random or purposeless. Bird introduces the concept of Deism to illustrate an inadequate portrayal of God. In essence, Deism posits that God created the universe but does not actively engage or interfere with it following the initial act of creation (Bird, 2020). The course of history is often viewed as random and purposeless, as suggested by Darwin's Theory, but it is important to acknowledge the role of God's sovereignty and intervention. The creation of the universe by God establishes a God-centered reality, as noted by Bird (2020), and it is not a matter of choice for us to include or exclude God from this reality. Therefore, the divine purposeful involvement of God, as described in the Bible, cannot be easily dismissed from an evolutionary worldview. Our understanding of God should not be solely based on scientific evidence, but rather if our scientific findings contradict the Bible, we must either develop a better understanding or recognize that our understanding is flawed.

My Persona View

Once again, my view tends to change here and there so this is an open and inconclusive opinion. This post was not created to create argument but beneficial and constructive conversation or personal thought and reflection on the subject. There may be an opinion that you don't agree with and that is okay. Continuing, growing up in a Southern Baptist environment where the prevailing belief was in a young Earth, irrespective of scientific evidence, I never anticipated the difficulty I would face in forming my own perspective. Out of the three viewpoints I am aware of, although not with absolute certainty as I remain open to further examination, I am confident that I do not align with the Theistic Evolution approach. I adhere to the Genesis account and the overarching narrative in scripture that distinguishes humans as unique beings separate from other animals, a belief I have always held. Currently, I struggle to reconcile the notion that humans were initially indistinguishable from the rest of creation, only for God to later bestow upon us our uniqueness. In my understanding, the book of Romans provides clarity on this matter. It asserts that God's divine attributes and eternal power have been evident since the creation of the world (Romans 1:19-20). If this is the case, it seems implausible that evolution had significant room to occur before God made humans distinct. These divine attributes are not only observable in the world around us but are also clearly manifested within humanity, as stated in Genesis 1:26-27, where we are designated as God's representatives in creation. I firmly believe that this designation has remained unchanged. Disregarding the role of humans in the creation story would undermine the significance of man as the pinnacle of creation, as we are integral to the display of these divine attributes. Furthermore, this ties into my conviction that we cannot be a product of a purposeless and random Darwinian process, with a deliberate God at the center. My primary challenge lies in determining whether I believe the Earth is young or not. As previously mentioned, there is compelling evidence, such as the lack of equilibrium between Carbon-14 and Carbon-12 in the Carbon dating process, which suggests that the world may be less than 30,000 years old. However, the Zircon dating method presents a contrasting perspective. With this conflict, it is important to consider two possibilities: either someone is being dishonest about their findings, or our technological capacity is insufficient to conduct the necessary research that would reveal all the potential differences in findings. It is crucial to approach the first assumption with caution, as it can be a risky endeavor. Therefore, giving the benefit of the doubt, I choose the second option and assert that I am uncertain about the age of the Earth. This uncertainty may lead me to lean towards the Intelligent Design Theory, although it does not imply a disbelief in the Young Earth Theory. I firmly believe that the universe is highly intricate, and only an intelligent creator can be responsible for its existence. Nevertheless, science serves as the guiding principle for understanding the universe and the world around us, and the discoveries made thus far cannot be disregarded. As previously mentioned, the text in Genesis contains terms and words that suggest the possibility of a literal interpretation. However, it is my belief that the entirety of Genesis was not intended to serve as a scientific explanation for the creation of the universe. Consequently, approaching it with a strictly literal mindset can lead to complications. To illustrate this point, consider the scenario of watching Star Wars and encountering the opening line, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." If we were to disregard the captivating narrative being presented and instead focus solely on determining the specific galaxy and timeframe, it would be deemed foolish. While we would grasp the essence of a story, we would miss out on the wealth of deeper content that George Lucas intended for us to appreciate. Regrettably, we often adopt a similar approach when interpreting scripture. We become so fixated on matters that the original authors did not prioritize, that we overlook the fact that our fellow human beings, who may hold differing views on the age and position of the Earth, are in dire need of a more profound narrative - the Gospel. Considering these factors and taking into account the absence of conclusive scientific evidence, I am inclined to lean towards the concept of Intelligent Design rather than a 6,000-year-old Earth. This view holds to the goodness of the created order because it still has the God of the Bible at the center. If the Earth is older than 6,000 years old God still made us uniquely in a “very good” (Genesis 1:31) environment and commanded us to represent his love and character on creation. Regardless, the good order has been corrupted with sin but is still good, and Jesus came to save us from that, and one day the Earth along with the heart of every Christian will be perfectly renewed (2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:1-5). God has given us a conscience, which in unexplainable within evolution, so that we may exist within a community like himself and love one another. As a single celled organism to primates to human who evolved as mere chance on the basis of natural selection, I don’t think represents the community that is attributed to God’s existing character and always has been. A body of believers has always been a good thing God gave to us and doesn’t seem to be something only important at a certain stage of human history.



While this subject is complicated the biggest thing I can conclude as we close up is to remain open minded. This is not to say you cannot be convicted of your view on the subject, but be convicted with the understanding that others may disagree and perhaps rightfully so as there is evidence. We as Christians must do everything in love including disagree. If you read this far I want to give my thanks, and if you want to support us feel free to check out our store!




References:

Bird, M. F. (2020). Evangelical theology: A biblical and systematic introduction (2nd ed.). Zondervan. https://bibliu.com/app/#/view/books/9780310093985/epub/OEBPS/chapter10.html#page_42


Highfield, R. (2008). Great is the Lord: Theology for the praise of God. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. https://bibliu.com/app/#/view/books/9781467426282/epub/OEBPS/009_Chapter01.html#page_52


Lloyd, J. B. (2014). Subjective judgements influencing Christian beliefs about biological origins. Journal of Beliefs & Values: Studies in Religion & Education, 35(3), 291–302. https://doi-org.lopes.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/13617672.2014.980071


Mathez, E. A. (Ed.). (2000). Zircon chronology: Dating the oldest material on Earth: AMNH. American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/curriculum-collections/earth-inside-and-out/zircon-chronology-dating-the-oldest-material-on-earth


Mitchell, D. T. (2017, June 9). More soft tissue in "old fossils". Answers in Genesis. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://answersingenesis.org/dinosaurs/bones/more-soft-tissue-in-old-fossils/


Ravitch, F. S. (2009). Playing the Proof Game: Intelligent Design and the Law. Penn State Law Review, 113(3), 841–897.


Riddle, M. (2020, December 11). Doesn't carbon-14 dating disprove the Bible? Answers in Genesis. Retrieved February 20, 2022, from https://answersingenesis.org/geology/carbon-14/doesnt-carbon-14-dating-disprove-the-bible/


Stewart, D. (24 Apr, 2007). What Is Theistic Evolution?. Retrieved from https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_619.cfm




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