Back in 2014 Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham the Ark Encounter guy debated the popular topic of Creation vs Evolution with Bill Nye defending evolution and Ken Ham defending creation. But was this really what happened?
Neither of these gentlemen were uniquely qualified to fully hash out these issues being that Bill Nye is simply an entertainer and engineer without a degree in science and Ken Ham represents only one of the variety of Creation views in Christianity, namely, Young Earth Creationism (we’ll talk about that more later). Even so the debate has been viewed worldwide almost 7 and a half million times on the Answers in Genesis Youtube channel since it aired.
But what is this debate really about? Is evolution a scientific fact? Is Young Earth Creationism the only option for Christian theists to believe? Let’s find out...
What is evolution? It’s important to understand is that there are two different kinds of evolution when it comes to biological life. Micro-evolution and Macro-evolution. Micro-evolution is better known as adaptation, this kind of evolution is an observed fact affirmed by both creationists and evolutionists. It describes the process of how different organisms can make slight biological changes over short periods of time in order to adapt to and survive within changing conditions of environment. This however does not cause the organism to develop new organs and therefore become an entirely different kind of creature. That is, we have many kinds of frogs but they are all frogs… Many kinds of dogs but they are all dogs, and so on and so on.
Macro-evolution is what most people are more familiar with as it relates to Darwin’s theory. This kind of evolution posits that all of biological life came from single-cell organisms to it’s current state of complexity through millions of years of life gaining new organs, and functions over long periods of time through natural selection. That is, it assumes that if adaptation occurs many different times over millions of years it can actually take biological life from its original simple form to its current complex form. The problem with this is, nobody has ever or can ever observe a process that supposedly happens over such a long length of time. And the scientific method requires observable, testable, and repeatable experimentation to prove a theory.
Some schools of theological thought posit that God may have used evolution to bring life into existence, a theory called theistic evolution. But many Christians reject this on the grounds that evolution is a process in which “ the survival of the fittest,” which is driven by the death of weaker members of a species could not be a process that a loving God would use to bring life into existence. This also puts death before the fall of Adam which is not consistent with what the Bible teaches.
Let’s talk about all of the Creation theories related to Christian history. There are three major creation theories that theologians and Christians have relied upon when interpreting the Creation story of Genesis throughout church history. Young Earth Creationism, The Gap theory, and the Day-Age theory.
Ken Ham defended Young Earth Creationism in his debate against Bill Nye. This led many to believe that this is the primary way that Christians have interpreted the Biblical Creation narrative throughout history. This is not the case. Young Earth Creationism takes a strict literalist view of the Bible positing that God created the world in 6 literal days and that the Biblical genealogies can be used to mathematically calculate the age of the Earth, which when added up amount to anywhere between 6 to 10 thousand years. It also posits that the flood of Noah was a worldwide flood and is responsible for all fossil evidence that we find in the geologic column. Young Earth Creationism is appealing to many due to it’s apparent ease to fit within the plain text of the Genesis story, this is assuming that the Genesis was written with the intention to be taken literally. The challenges that this theory faces are primarily found within the modern scientific community having a consensus that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old.
The Gap theory takes a somewhat literalist approach to the Genesis Creation narrative however it posits that between Genesis chapter 1 verse 1 and 2 there was a long period of time prior to Adam and Eve in which biological life existed on the Earth. This life was eventually destroyed by a flood and then the Earth was reconstructed in 6 days leading up to the creation of Adam and Eve. This theory allows for an Old Age of the Earth but many Christians reject it because it posits something that the Bible does not specifically teach.
The Day Age Theory takes a non-literal approach to the Genesis creation narrative positing that each of the six days of Creation represent a long period of time. This theory relies upon the idea that the Hebrew word for day (yom) can be used to refer to both a literal day and a period of time. This theory also allows for an Old Age of the Earth but many Christians object to this approach because they believe it will create a precedent it which people can reinterpret scripture to be metaphorical on demand when it does fit their personal biases.
Jesus Christ taught that the world was created and he affirmed many characters in the early Genesis narrative to be historical people, but He did not specifically address the method of interpretation as it relates to the 6 days of creation and the age of the earth.
There are four things that all Christian must affirm as it relates to the Doctrine of Creation.
1. God created the universe in the beginning.
2. God created mankind in His own image.
3. Mankind sinned and is in need of redemption.
4. The atonement of Christ alone can redeem us from our sins.
If we can agree on these four things then we can have liberty to debate and explore the particulars as it relates to how to interpret Genesis as a whole. The key is having unity of the core issues and respectful discussion on the peripheral ones.
Written By: Kyle Bailey, D.Min.