Thursday, March 18, 2010

Creationism Options

Evangelical historian Mark Noll has penned a succinct definition of creationism. Noll says “The word creationism by rights should define all who discern a divine mind at work in, with, or under the phenomena of the natural world.” This definition spreads a very broad umbrella. In the past few decades events in the United States have served to narrow the meaning of creationism. Most journalists now use the term to describe those who see the earth as six to ten thousand years old. These creationists also believe the earth-encircling Noahic flood event occurred within that time frame and is responsible for virtually all of earth’s geologic features.

Even though public perception has now identified creationism primarily with young earth views, there are other camps who may object. My personal view is that the geological record manifests divine, creative emplacements of new life forms at widely spaced intervals along the timeline of Earth’s 4.5 billion year history. Evidence clearly speaks of a beginning to the time, space, matter, and energy of this universe. I believe the Beginner was God. Therefore, I am a creationist. By Noll’s criterion even theistic evolutionists could be termed creationists if they believe God created everything in the beginning and now guides the evolutionary process. There are many shades of belief systems which could rightly be called creationist according to this definition.

Let us fantasize that we are supernaturally enabled to observe a complete sensory re-experience of earth history from the creation event to the present. Imagine that the exact sequence of events could be chronicled in detail. Such a record would fill many thousands of volumes. Only one set of descriptions is correct. That set of true descriptions could be called “correspondence truth.” In the study of truth theory, correspondence truth is the view that truth is correspondence to a fact. Thomas Aquinas stated “A judgment is said to be true when it conforms to external reality.” Truth theorists describe many other categories of truth. Correspondence truth, however, comes closest to the category creationists embrace when they speak of their beliefs.

The account of creation in Genesis 1-2 is remarkably brief. God did not supply many details. He did, however, communicate the overwhelming truth that He is the Creator of all things in existence, both living and non-living. This message was understandable to the people in the ancient cultures of Moses’ day as well as every culture since then, including our modern culture. With respect to the details--How? When? In what order?--about which we are all extremely curious, God has gifted man with ability to discover the details through the processes of science and historical research.

Some of my good young earth friends with whom I have discussed creationism issues in detail insist that the most important details of creation events are evident in scripture alone. When I have offered scientific findings pointing to an earth of enormous antiquity, some of them have informed me that scientists, especially geologists and astronomers who make these conclusions, have preconceptions and presuppositions which predispose them to believe in an old earth, uniformitarianism, and consequently, evolution. Therefore, they reject or re-interpret all evidence which does not conform to their own presuppositions of a 6000 year old earth.

To those who insist that scripture contains most of the important information anyone would ever need on any topic, consider that even the writers of scripture would not advocate limiting acquisition of knowledge and truth in this manner. Recall a verse from the King James Version of scripture in Acts 1:3. Luke, the author of Acts, reminded his readers that Christ had shown himself alive after his death by “many infallible proofs.” Many other translations use the modifier “convincing” to describe the quality of proof we should seek when searching for truth in any area. We receive much encouragement from scripture to test and prove in discovering external reality.

The last two centuries, the last half century in particular, have afforded Christians an exciting discovery opportunity concerning the history and timing of creation events. Some creationists fear we are becoming more beholden to science than to the Bible text. Interpretations of both science and the Bible text should be approached with great care. Scholarship in both of these revelations is more complete and reliable than ever before. For the gift of our ability to make these discoveries, we thank God.