Creation Essentials, Creation Non-Essentials

Preface

 

This document is a response to an interpretation of the Creation account which positions belief in Young Earth Creationism as Biblical “fact”, rather than interpretation, and further positions the belief as an essential doctrine upon which all other Christian beliefs must stand or fall. I will term this Strong Young Earth Creationism (SYEC) with leading proponents including Ken Ham of the Answers in Genesis organization. It is not my intention to personally attack the beliefs of any individuals, or to say that all people who believe in a young earth share the extreme views of SYEC. Since Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis organization have been on the forefront of this debate, I will be at times specifically addressing their interpretations and statements, but not with the intention of questioning the sincerity or intelligence of him or anyone in his organization.

Unfortunately, certain elements of the Christian community are attacking each other on their interpretations of the creation. I do not believe Christians should spend time attacking each other on various interpretations of creation, fearful that it could lead to “foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels” (Titus 3:9). For a sad example of how this debate has degenerated, see http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2004/0601critique.asp. Both “sides” of the debate are casting dispersions, questioning motives, etc.  Why is the battle between Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationist so serious?  Christians who are focused on attacking each others beliefs are not able to focus on our real mission here, namely to go and make disciples. Our enemy is not a view of creation that we happen to not agree with. Our enemy is a world-view which doesn’t include God, or one which says there is no absolute truth.

Further, my concern is that we don’t saddle the gospel with baggage and add more to the Scripture than it says. The SYEC premise is that belief in Young Earth Creationism is a mandatory requirement for correct belief and interpretation of the rest of the Bible. This position further claims that the very foundations of the gospel hinge on this topic. I believe this is a very dangerous position. What is one to do who may start to doubt a young earth (for whatever reasons). Should this person then start to feel doubt for the rest of the Bible and the very gospel message? If you accept the Strong Young Earth Creationism message, then yes, you should doubt it all. Again, this is a dangerous, and in my estimation, a false teaching.  Forcing people to choose between Young Earth and the truth of the rest of the Bible is a false dichotomy, and a burden which we should not place on to anybody.

This document will not provide a complete critique of the SYEC interpretation, nor will it specifically advocate an alternative.  My primary goal is to place this topic in its proper perspective and show that multiple creation interpretations are plausible, and that Christians should not place this topic in the center of their belief system.

Summary

Part 1: Death Before the Fall

An examination of the SYEC claim: “If there was animal death before the fall, then the entire message of the gospel is mocked and invalidated.” This position turns the age of the earth/creation topic into a major theological debate, attempting to elevate it to an “essential doctrine”. We will show numerous problems with this position.

Part 2: Hermeneutics

An examination of the SYEC claim: “Using outside influences, such as science, to help interpret the Bible, undermines the authority of the Bible and places science over the Bible.” We will show that this position is unwarranted, not consistent with established Protestant hermeneutics, and actually not followed consistently even by SYEC proponents.  We will discuss the relationship between the fallible interpretation of science and the fallible interpretation of the Bible. We will also discuss a foundational aspect of hermeneutics, the original intended meaning of a text, and how much “science” was intended to be gleaned from the Bible.

Part 3: Exegetical Issues

There are some reasonable grounds for interpretation of Genesis 1 other than the literalistic 24 hours x 7 days creation week. A sample of arguments against a literalist interpretation will be provided, along with some rebuttals to common SYEC arguments against other views.

Part 4: Essentials and Non-Essentials

We suggest that the Creation topic is one in which a multitude of interpretations exist, and that mature Christians should be aware of all sides of the debate. In this final summary section, elements of the Creation debate are categorized into three groups: a) essentials which should be taught according to one interpretation; b) non-essentials which, when taught, could include multiple interpretations; and c) elements which should not be taught as valid interpretations.

 

Note: this document provides very little discussion on the scientific evidence for various views on Creation. There is plenty of evidence on all sides of the debate, and will in all likelihood continue to be for a long time.

 

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Young Earth Creationism. Old Earth Creationism. Was there Death before the Fall? What is the relation between Science and the Bible? Do they ever conflict? Can science help us interpret the Bible? What was the original intended meaning of Genesis 1?