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Science and Earth History
  • Views of Creation Compared
  • Strengths and Limitations of Different Positions

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Science and Earth History

What is the relationship between the Bible and science?

Rich Milne

  1. Views of Creation Compared

    1. Recent Creation

      Often called "creation science" or "scientific creationism."

      1. The world (and the universe) is less than 30,000 years old.

      2. All that we see was created in six twenty-four hour days.

      3. All the "kinds" were directly created by God.

      4. There was a worldwide flood that occurred about 4,500 years ago.

      5. Most of the sedimentary rock was created by the flood.

      6. Microevolution (small changes) is real, macroevolution (large changes) is not.

    2. Progressive Creation

      Sometimes called the "day-age" view.

      1. Universe is 10--15 billion years old (Byr), the earth 4.5 Byr.

      2. Genesis 1 describes six periods of God's activity, periods which may overlap or generalize about what happened on a particular "day."

      3. The creation of plants and animals involved some direct intervention, at other times God guided the natural process.

      4. The flood may have been local or worldwide without widespread geological formations resulting, but it did kill all people who were not on the Ark.

      5. The geological column was formed gradually and represents earth's history. The gaps in the fossil record are indications of God's ongoing creative work.

      6. Microevolution is real, macroevolution is not.

      Recent creation and progressive creation are often called "concordance" views because they attempt to make the information of Genesis 1 concordant with scientific views.

    3. Theistic Evolution

      1. The universe is 10-15 Byr, the earth 4.5 Byr.

      2. Genesis deals with theological not scientific issues. It is a literary or structural narrative not something that tells us how creation happened.

      3. There is no direct intervention by God in the creation or development of the universe.

      4. Not much discussion of the flood. Geologic strata formed slowly.

      5. Gaps in the column are just that-gaps, not evidence of God's work.

      6. Microevolution and macroevolution are both real.

      For theistic evolutionists Genesis and science are complementary, not concurrent. They discuss some of the same issues but from entirely different worlds of discourse. An example of complementarity would be a chemical description of the composition of ice cream and a person explaining why they love ice cream. Both describe the same object, but from very different, but complementary, perspectives.

  2. Strengths and Limitations of the Different Positions

    1. Recent Creation

      1. Strengths

        1. Accepts the text as it has been read through most of church history- "literally."

        2. Offers explanations for anomalies in the fossil record.

          1. Out of sequence strata, such as overthrusts are the result of the flood.

          2. Gaps in the fossil record show limits of created kinds.

        3. Gives a testable model of the flood that allows falsifiability.

        4. In the ten commandments the six days of creation are given as a model (Exod. 20:8--11).

      2. Limitations

        1. Must reinterpret most scientific work in geology, anthropology, astronomy, astrophysics, quantum physics, biology, paleontology. But this is leading to much new work in theory construction.

        2. Makes science "rightly so-called" the measure of truth. A statement is truer if it is also scientific. (This is a consideration in all of these views: science seems to be used to "prove" a particular view.)

        3. Tends to make a young earth the test of orthodoxy. One is a heretic if one doesn't agree.

        4. Must have all organisms in the geologic column alive at once, all geologic formations formed during the flood or soon thereafter.

          1. Karoo Supergroup in Africa 8 billion vertebrates in one formation, gives about 3.8 square meters for each of them in the whole continent of Africa.{4}

          2. 6,000 vertical feet of limestone in one formation.{5}

        5. Often attacks evolutionary "straw men" -- such as uniformitarian geology, which has accepted local catastrophes for decades as a major factor.

    2. Progressive Creation

      1. Strengths

        1. Accepts all the current data of science, though it would reject the evolutionary relationships proposed for all living things. Also disputes the sufficiency of the mechanisms.

        2. Takes the days of Genesis seriously as to order and content.

        3. Can explain gaps in the fossil record as showing the limits of natural variation.

        4. Most geological strata are old, the flood was recent. Thus it does not quarrel with old dates for rocks.

      2. Limitations

        1. So much death and destruction is recorded in the fossil record, despite God's statements about the creation being good.

          "The price of perfect design is messy, relentless slaughter."{6}

        2. Discrepancies between the days of Genesis and the ages of geology, or the order of the evolution of the universe.

          1. Sun created after the earth (day four for the sun and day one for the earth).

          2. Plants on land (day three) before sea creatures (day five.)

          3. Plants (day three) before the sun (day four.)

          4. Difficulties with the flood. Either it is global but leaves little evidence, or local despite the text.

      3. Theistic Evolution

        1. Strengths

          1. Widely accepted in the scientific world. But any mention of God often results in the same rejection as "creation science."

          2. Acknowledges God's role in all of life and in all the universe through creating the natural laws and holding together all of creation.

          3. Evolution seems to be the great unifying paradigm in much of science today.

        2. Limitations

          1. Widespread death (see above B.2.a.)

          2. Difficulty with historic Adam and Eve and therefore historic Fall. (If Adam was not real, and the Fall not actual, how is sin in the world?)

          3. The origin of life, the origin of the major phyla, and the consistent gaps in the fossil record all present difficult problems.

          4. Often difficult to distinguish from Deism, which hold God created the world and then let it go.

©1998 Probe Ministries
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