Is theistic evolution heresy? What about old earth creationism – the belief that God created the world without using evolution, but took billions of years to do it?
Okay heresy is a strong word. But as I’ve listened to Christians debate origins over the years, it’s become clear to me that many would not regard heresy too strong a word for errant views on this topic. My point with this post is not to judge these views, but rather to inform Christians about the distinctives of each in a fair and even-handed way. So often, I find, we pass judgment on other views without fully understanding them. And, we accuse proponents of other views of disregarding Scripture when in actuality, they regard Scripture highly, but simply interpret it differently.
This isn’t to say that I don’t think some views are better than others. I do. And, to tip my hand, I don’t think evolution is consistent with Genesis, which clearly specifies that God created each species to reproduce “according to its kind.” At the same time, I’m not convinced that “Yom,” the word translated as “day,” necessarily means a literal, 24-hour day. So, I remain open to arguments on both sides and am really looking forward to the show Saturday on dinosaurs with Dr. Hugh Ross, an old earth creationist with Reasons to Believe – and Dr. Danny Faulkner, a young earth creationist with the Creation Research Society.
I truly respect Christians on all sides of this debate and am reluctant to label any of the views below as heresy. Heresy is an error on a fundamental doctrine of faith. And, the fundamental regarding origins is that God created – not that He created in a certain way. There is, however, the issue of Adam and Eve and the Fall. I am very leery of any view that rejects a literal Adam and Eve and reduces the Fall to metaphor or myth. That is very dangerous theological ground and one that at least borders on, well – heresy.
Here’s an overview of different Christian views on origins – and how each view reconciles science and Scripture.
Young Earth Creationism
Young earth creationists believe that God created the world in six, literal, 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago. They arrive at this date by using the genealogies in the Old Testament to calculate the time between Adam and Abraham – about 2,000 years. Then, they add 4,000 years to that number because most scholars agree that Abraham lived around 2,000 B.C. ( or 4,000 years ago). Young earth creationists believe that the fossil record and geological phenomenon indicating an old earth can be explained by the flood and other similar worldwide catastrophes.
Old Earth (or “Progressive”) Creationism
Old earth creationists believe that God created the world billions of years ago, which is consistent with the Big Bang Theory. They hold that the word translated as “day” in Genesis refers to long, indefinite periods of time, not a literal, 24-hour day. However, old earth creationists do not believe in evolution. And, like young earth creationists, they believe God created a literal Adam and Eve several thousand years ago. There are two other theories that explain how an old earth might be consistent with the biblical narrative – Gap Theory Creationism and Time-Relative Creationism:
- Gap Theory Creationism: Those who hold this view believe a large gap of time existed between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. In other words, God created the earth – and possibly even plants and animals (and dinosaurs) – and then something happened to render the earth “formless and void.” Then, after an indefinite period of time, God created again (possibly in 6, 24-hour days) and finished with a literal Adam and Eve.
- Time-Relative Creationism: Proponents of this view believe that time may have moved much slower at creation than it does today, based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. So, what constituted a day at creation might be billions of years today. Some time-relative creationists believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but some do not; some also believe in evolution, while others do not.
Theistic evolutionists believe the earth is billions of years old and that God used evolutionary processes to create all biological life, including human beings. Some theistic evolutionists believe in a literal Adam and Eve – that they were animals “ensouled” by God, who actually sinned and fell. However, other theistic evolutionists believe that Adam and Eve are simply symbolic representations and that the Fall is merely a myth or metaphor.