Reconciling Creation and Science

There are many ways in which Christians interpret the creation story in Genesis and reconcile it with modern science.

Introduction
Theistic evolution
Progressive creationism
Old-earth creationism
Young-earth creationism
Secular evolution
General questions and information


Introduction

In my opinion, each of the interpretations presented here (with the exception of secular evolution) is theoretically possible and at least somewhat plausible. I don't have a firm belief in any particular one, though I do favor creationism over theistic evolution, so I am presenting all of them; readers can then evaluate each and come to a conclusion. (For those looking for arguments and counter-arguments, most of the websites listed in each category argue against one or more of the other views.) As long as a view doesn't go off the theological deep end (e.g. hindering people's salvation or spiritual growth) or the logical deep end, it deserves to be considered seriously and without its proponents and opponents accusing each other of spiritual or intellectual blindness. However, I would caution people against an overly figurative interpretation of Genesis or the Bible, particularly those espoused by the more liberal forms of theistic evolution. As with any theological matter, Christians ought to approach this subject with prayer.


Theistic evolution

Theistic evolution (or "evolutionary creation") is the view that evolution occurred, but was planned and guided by God. Some theistic evolutionists believe there are problems with the secular theory of evolution and therefore atheistic evolution could not occur. Others believe the secular theory of evolution is viable and is also compatible with the Bible.

Creationists are often leery of theistic evolution because of fears that the opening chapters of Genesis will be interpreted too figuratively. While some theistic evolutionists are very liberal in their interpretation of Genesis, there are conservative interpretations within theistic evolution as well, which I have tried to represent here.

Theistic evolution sites:

Some of the questions for old-earth creationism also apply to theistic evolution.

How is Genesis 2 to be interpreted? Were Adam and Eve literal people?

Genesis 2:7-8 states that Adam was formed as a special act of creation from "the dust of the ground," and the rest of the chapter implies that Adam was created as an adult, not born to almost-but-not-quite-human parents.

If Adam and Eve were not literal people, then Cain, Abel and Seth were not literal either, and the history of Genesis 4 and the genealogy of Genesis 5 make no sense (particularly 5:3-5: if Adam wasn't real, why is his lifespan recorded and his descendants listed down to Noah?). One must also consider Romans 5:12-21, where Paul's argument assumes Adam was a real person and that we experience the ongoing consequences of his sin.

While some theistic evolutionists may interpret the story of Adam and Eve figuratively, a literal interpretation is not necessarily incompatible with theistic evolution. It could be that God guided the process of evolution to create all life forms except humans, and then specially created Adam and Eve in his own image as described in Genesis 2. The Catholic church offers as a possible explanation the notion that God could have specially created the human soul and/or spirit but not the body (Adam, Eve and Evolution). Carl Drews provides some other explanations (some conservative, some liberal) in Transitional Fossils of Hominid Skulls (see the Theological Commentary and Further Reading sections).


Progressive creationism

Progressive creationism is similar to theistic evolution in that it holds that the Earth and the universe are very old and that evolution occurred to a limited extent. It differs in that it believes God was more involved than in theistic evolution: rather than guiding the process and causing the more unlikely genetic changes to occur, he specifically created different kinds of animals by using previously existing animals (as opposed to creating them out of nothing).

Progressive creation articles/sites:

Most of the questions for theistic evolution and old-earth creationism also apply to progressive creation.


Old-earth creationism

This view accepts the standard scientific views of the age of the universe and the Earth, but rejects evolution. Genesis 1 is interpreted fairly literally, with the exception that the six days of creation were actually six eras, not literal 24-hour days. Hence, this view is sometimes called the "day-age" view.

Old-earth sites:

When did the first man come into existence: 50,000 - 100,000 years ago according to secular science, or 6,000 years ago according to Biblical genealogies?

Even if "became the father of" in Genesis 5 means "became the ancestor of," the age of each person at the time their descendant was born is still recorded. I have yet to see a satisfactory explanation of how this chapter can be reconciled with a belief that Adam and Eve existed tens of thousands of years ago. However, Carl Drews offers some explanations (some conservative, some liberal) in Transitional Fossils of Hominid Skulls (see the Theological Commentary and Further Reading sections).

Could animal death have occurred before the Fall?

Bert Thompson, a young-earth creationist, answers this question in the affirmative in Did Death Occur on Earth Prior to Man's Sin? See also an old-earth creationist answer by John C. Munday Jr.

How is the phrase "And there was evening, and there was morning" in Genesis 1 to be interpreted?

See How Long an Evening and Morning? by Otto J. Helweg


Young-earth creationism

This view interprets Genesis 1 and the rest of the Bible literally. The Earth and all its life forms were created in six 24-hour days, and the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

Young-earth sites:

What about scientific evidence pointing to an old earth?

See Answers in Genesis' articles on geology.

What's the age of the universe? What about stars that are millions of light-years away?

See Answers in Genesis' articles on astronomy and astrophysics.

Aren't the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 contradictory?

See WikiChristian.

Don't creationists use poor logic and science?

While there have been poor arguments advanced in favor of creationism, one shouldn't dismiss all creationists or creationist arguments. Answers in Genesis has an article on arguments creationists should not use.


Secular evolution

Secular sites which explain evolution:

The young-earth sites listed are primarily focused on rebutting evolution, but Reasons to Believe provides rebuttals from an old-earth perspective.


General questions and information

How could plants be created before the sun?

See WikiChristian.

But God wouldn't do it that way!

This argument is made by people on all sides of the issue, including atheists. Creationists and some atheists argue that a good God would not use the brutal, wasteful method of thousands of years of natural selection to produce humans and life as we know it. Creationists argue further that God would not demean the humans he created in his own image by evolving them from animals. Theistic evolutionists respond that creationism means God deliberately created viruses, parasites, creatures designed to be carnivores and other things we think of as evil.

It seems to me that one of the surest ways to fall into theological error is to make an argument about what God would or would not do based on our own fallible conceptions of what a good God ought to do. After all, this is the same reasoning that leads atheists to reject God (because a good God wouldn't permit evil) and universalists and annihilationists to reject the notion of hell (because a good God wouldn't punish people eternally). Clearly, God has deliberately created creatures that we consider to be evil, for he created Satan and the other angels who fell. Clearly, God allows animals to kill other animals and allows all his creatures to feel pain. Yet this does not prevent Christians from realizing that God is good. (See How can a good God allow evil?) We would all do things differently if we were God -- and we would do a lot worse than he does. Therefore a theory that contradicts our preferences is not always a theory that contradicts God.