Transparency, Humility and Integrity
My prayer and desire for the evangelical church is to see it unified on the issue of origins. Most evangelical Christians ally themselves with some subset of three major positions: Old-earth creationism, Young-earth creationism, Theistic evolution.
Old-earth creationism suffers from its commitment to long ages and the death of animals before the fall of Adam and Eve. Interestingly, most old-earthers reject any form of Darwinian evolution. They believe that Adam was a historical figure created from the dust of the ground, and that Eve was created from Adam. They also believe in the historicity of the fall and the reality of original sin. Because old-earthers are committed to these essential biblical doctrines, I tend to find myself sympathetic to their position. I disagree with it, but I don’t think old-earth creationism is necessarily heretical in nature. Still, my prayer and hope is that old-earth creationists eventually adopt a young-earth position.
Theistic evolution, unlike old-earth creationism, is, I believe, a dangerous philosophical world view. Theistic evolutionists clearly deny the historicity of Adam, and a literal fall of humanity into sin. Not only do such claims contradict the clear teaching of Scripture in both the New and Old testaments, the very nature of theistic evolution is diametrically opposed to the purpose of redemption. Why do humans need to be redeemed when they never sinned in the first place? My prayer for theistic evolutionists is that they completely reject every facet of this heretical world view.
Young-earth creationism doesn’t get off so lightly, however. I’ve been intensely interested in young-earth creationism ever since I was first saved at the age of 25 (let’s just say more than 25 years ago!). This passion so engrossed me that I decided to pursue a terminal degree in earth science. But over the past 10 years I’ve been more than a little disappointed with young-earth creationism in general.
Most of my struggles are directly linked to the cavalier way in which many Christians who hold to a young-age view address the issue of origins. As a science professor, I get to have all sorts of interesting conversations! During many of these conversations, I’m usually “reminded” about all the “problems” within modern science. According to these people, we can’t trust anything that the secular scientific community says. None of them know what they are doing, and most are out to wantonly “hide” the “truth” from the ignorant public.
Young-earth creationist scientists need to help the general public understand that, for the most part, science is good and secular scientists are not the baddies. The “baddies,” as I call them, are those that have a specific platform or agenda that is outwardly aggressive towards young-earth creationism. Most scientists, however, are not “baddies;” they are just normal people who love science and want to contribute to humanity’s love affair with knowledge for the purpose of furthering many aspects of human endeavor.
The authority we, as young-earth creationists stand on is the Word of God, not science. As such, we don’t have to be afraid of the data. But we do need to handle it with transparency, humility, and integrity.
The importance of process
Another problem with most forms of modern young-earth creationism is that it makes no room for processes that were at work during the Creation Week. Most young-earth creationists just assume that God spoke, and poof, out came a planet or a star or a tree (ex nihilo). The main reason this straightforward approach exists is because most Christians are not scientists. They are just normal people who are either unaware or uninterested when it comes to how science interfaces with God’s created universe, and that's not a bad thing. Begin to dig into the natural order as a scientist, however, and things are no longer that simple.
The nature of the creation account itself indicates some kind of accelerated processes. On Day 1, the Earth was in its most basic form before being shaped into a geologically mature planet that could sustain life:
God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas (Genesis 1:9 – 10 ESV; emphasis mine).
These processes involved the movement of vast volumes of water and sediment. That the waters were gathered into a single location seems to suggest a commitment to basic laws of hydrology. Although this example is a little ambiguous in the details, a more biblically explicit example of process is described for the creation of plants on Day 3:
And God said, “let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:11 – 12 ESV; emphasis mine).
Commenting on this verse, Old Testament Hebrew scholar Claus Westermann says:
“The earth brought forth.” The effect of the command הארץ דשׁא תדשׁא, “Let the earth put forth vegetation,” is described in detail in v. 12* with the word ותוצא, “the earth brought forth.” ... The meaning of “the bringing forth” is primarily: “Let something which is within come out.” The plants are in the earth and the earth lets them come forth (Westermann 1994, p. 125).
William D. Barrick, an Old Testament Hebrew scholar and YEC says this in his commentary on Genesis 1 – 1:
“Let the earth sprout” (תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ, tadšē’ hā’āreṣ) might indicate God had already created the seeds for all these plants. He might have done so at the very moment he caused the land to rise out of the global ocean. The sprouting implies a process by which the seed germinates and the sprout pushes through the soil to the surface to grow and leaf out … Although there may have been an actual process take place, it took place at a much faster rate than it would thereafter in the normal order of things.
All vegetation, including large trees, is said to have matured in the period of just a single day. More importantly, these processes seem to have had an undeveloped starting point. The vegetated world grew from seeds or at least from seedlings buried in soil, and then into fully mature, seed-bearing organisms.
Danny Falkner (2016) agrees:
It is clear that some aspects of instantaneous ex nihilo creation are within the creation account, such as the initial creation of matter in the beginning. But it also is clear that many aspects of the Creation Week involved processes. These processes are not to be confused with the supposed gradual, undirected, and naturalistic processes of evolution. Rather, the processes of Creation Week were rapid and directed by God to complete His purposes within one week.
Faulkner (2016) has gone a step beyond that of Baumgardner (2000) in proposing some kind of highly accelerated processes for much of the creation. Faulkner gives his theory the name dasha, after the Hebrew word translated “to sprout” from Genesis 1:11 (ESV).
Barrick, W.D. 2020. Genesis 1 – 11, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife/Lexham Press Genesis 1—11
Baumgardner, J.R. 2000. “Distribution of Radioactive Isotopes in the Earth.” In Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, edited by L. Vardiman, A.A Snelling and E.F Chaffin, 49 – 94. Dallas, Texas: Institute for Creation Research, and Chino Valley, Creation Research Society.
Faulkner, D.R. 2016. The Created Cosmos: What the Bible Teaches About Astronomy. Arkansas: New Leaf Publishing Group.
Westermann, C. 1994. Genesis 1 – 11: A Continental Commentary. Translated by John J. Scullion. Minneapolis. Fortress Press.