creationism(redirected from Creationist theology)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.
creation science,belief in the biblical account of the creation of the world as described in GenesisGenesis
, 1st book of the Bible, first of the five books of the Law (the Pentateuch or Torah) ascribed by tradition to Moses. Beginning with two accounts of the creation and of humankind, the narrative relates the initial disobedience of the man and the woman and their
..... Click the link for more information. , a characteristic especially of fundamentalist Protestantism (see fundamentalismfundamentalism.
1 In Protestantism, religious movement that arose among conservative members of various Protestant denominations early in the 20th cent., with the object of maintaining traditional interpretations of the Bible and of the doctrines of the Christian faith in
..... Click the link for more information. ). Advocates of creationism have campaigned to have it taught in U.S. public schools along with the theory of evolutionevolution,
concept that embodies the belief that existing animals and plants developed by a process of gradual, continuous change from previously existing forms. This theory, also known as descent with modification, constitutes organic evolution.
..... Click the link for more information. , which they dispute. In 1981 a federal judge ruled unconstitutional an Arkansas law requiring the teaching of creationism, holding it to be religious in nature; a similar Louisiana law was overturned in 1982. In 1999, supporters of creationism in Kansas succeeded in removing the requirement that evolution be taught as part of the state's high school biology curriculum, but after several supporters of the measure were not reelected to the state school board that decision was reversed in 2001. Fundamentalist Christians have also opposed the teaching of scientific theories concerning the formation of the universe (see cosmologycosmology,
area of science that aims at a comprehensive theory of the structure and evolution of the entire physical universe. Modern Cosmological Theories
..... Click the link for more information. ). See also intelligent designintelligent design,
theory that some complex biological structures and other aspects of nature show evidence of having been designed by an intelligence. Such biological structures are said to have intricate components that are so highly interdependent and so essential to a
..... Click the link for more information. .
See E. C. Scott, Evolution vs. Creationism (2004); M. Ruse, The Evolution-Creation Struggle (2005); M. Berkman and E. Plutzer, Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms (2010).
Creationism(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
"Creationism" is a politically loaded word today. The famous Scopes Trial (sometimes known as the Scopes Monkey Trial; see Christianity) held in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925 inspired the play Inherit the Wind and put the issue of science vs. religion square into the realm of politics. (An apocryphal story from this time tells of a fundamentalist who, when told about Darwin's "newfangled" theory, prayed fervently, "Lord, make it not true. And if it is true, don't let anybody find out about it!") But the verdict (the evolutionists lost) didn't settle the argument. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court was still trying to settle it. They ruled that creationism is religion, not science, thus declaring the phrase "scientific creationism" an oxymoron.
But laws don't always change people's opinions. When Charles Darwin published his famous theory of evolution he sent shock waves through the religious public, who interpreted his ideas to mean there was no longer any need for God. If Creation came about by way of natural processes, to the proverbial man on the street it meant that science had replaced God. Because public opinion usually deals with extremes, people were divided into "Bible-believing Christians" or "godless atheists." The science/religion duality debate is still very much alive.
Lost in the popular argument, however, are nagging details that concerned the Supreme Court.
1. Science vs. religion is not an "either/or" duality. It is a continuum. There are at least ten different gradations in Christian interpretation alone. Christians who write books holding to one opinion often spend as much time railing against other Christians as they do against so-called godless scientists. And in truth, many of those same scientists are openly Christian and find no problem being both scientific and religious.
2. Other religions have creation myths differing from Judeo-Christian concepts. If creationism is to be taught in public schools, whether or not it is called "creation science," which brand is going to dominate the textbooks?
3. Arguments about Creation almost always become arguments about evolution. But describing the beginning of the universe is the specialty of the physicist and mathematician, while evolution moves to the realm of the biologist. Only the fundamentalist theologian dares put both disciplines under one roof. So which group of scientists does the theologian talk to when he wants to debate?
4. Although Christians seem to be at the forefront of the battle, the scriptures they invoke are really taken from the Hebrew Bible. So when we talk about "Christian" positions, we are talking about Jewish Creation stories, accepted by most Muslims as well. But Jews and Muslims, at least up to this point, haven't chosen to be as politically involved and "out front" in the creationism debate as conservative Christians.
To try to sort all this out, we begin with an overview of Christian positions concerning Creation. At the root of the argument is the fundamental religious problem of scriptural interpretation. If the Bible is the literal word of God (unless context makes it clear it is switching to metaphorical or poetical language), it has to be read the same way all the time. "Thou shalt not kill" means thou shalt not kill, ever. "Earth was created in six days" means Earth was created in six literal days, not six metaphorical periods of time. (Although, as explained below, some Christian positions draw the line here.) In other words, conservative Christians believe that people cannot superimpose ideas over the biblical text. One verse cannot be read literally and the next metaphorically unless the Bible clearly says to do so. If we adopt a "pick and choose" interpretation based on our own prejudice, we are guilty of editing God. There has to be clear biblical justification for doing so.
That biblical justification is at the very heart of the argument.
To understand why a literal interpretation demands a six-day Creation that occurred thousands, rather than billions, of years ago, we have to read some scripture and do some math.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was [or became] without form and void... and God said, "Let there be light, and there was light."
Six times, once at the beginning of each of those first six days, God repeats the command, "Let there be...." Each day, God speaks something new into being:
Day 1: light Day 2: separation of waters above and below the firmament Day 3: vegetation Day 4: sun and moon Day 5: fish and birds Day 6: people This is where the idea of a six-day Creation comes from. A simple, literal reading of Genesis provides that. But where in the Bible does it say this all happened only a few thousand years ago? To answer that question we have to turn to the "begats" in Genesis 5. This chapter outlines Adam's genealogy. "When Adam had lived 130 years, he begat Seth.... When Seth had lived 105 years, he begat Enosh...." And so on. By adding Adam's age at Seth's birth to Seth's age at Enosh's birth, and continuing on down the line through the chapter, we discover that 1,656 years passed between Adam's life and Noah's flood.
We then turn to Genesis 11 and find another list, beginning with Noah's son Shem, father of the "Shem-itic" or Semitic races. Continuing the same mathematical process, we discover Abraham was born 1,948 years after Adam.
But now we are in the realm of historical time. We know Abraham lived roughly 2,000 years before Jesus, and we live some 2,000 years after Jesus. We can now construct a rough timeline, rounded off to the nearest thousand years for the sake of simplicity: BCE BCE BCE CE CE This places Adam and Creation about six thousand years ago. James Ussher (1581-1656), an Irish archbishop, worked this timeline out in 1650. His date for Creation was 4004 BCE. Since then, even the most conservative theologians add a few thousand years. Adam and Eve, after all, could very well have spent some time in Eden, the "land that time forgot," before they ate the apple and started to beget children.
This timeline invites speculation both ways. A "line" begins somewhere, but it also ends somewhere. As soon as people began to look at history this way, they discovered that "six days" of Creation correspond to about six thousand years of history. In 2 Peter 3:8 it says, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years...." This statement, coupled with the fact that Jesus is supposed to come back and reign for another "thousand-year day," called the millennium, caused great speculation at the turn of the last century. Does history so far point to the six-day "work week" of God, while the reign of Christ, the time of the "peaceable kingdom," corresponds to God's "rest day," thus placing us right near the end of time? This concern sparked a number of end-of-theworld theories as the twentieth century came to a close.
Given this framework, Christian creationism can be summarized in the following manner (we list here both the concept and the principal source defending it):
Christian Creationism Theories
Young-Earth creationism is the literal view of scripture outlined above, usually with the added point being made that Earth was created with an appearance of age. In other words, the first tree probably already had growth rings. Adam and Eve were already adults (presumably with belly buttons). Geological formations were either laid down as they now appear or are the result of Noah's flood. The flood caused fossil deposits and the extinction of many species that couldn't fit on the ark. It also explains the evidence of universal catastrophes that science often attributes to plate tectonics or meteor strikes. Young-Earth creationists coined the term "creation science" and are generally at the forefront of lawsuits and political test cases. They often stage debates with traditional scientists and are highly skilled and convincing when they do so. They have become experts in finding every difficulty not yet explained completely by current scientific hypothesis. (More information about young-Earth creationism can be found in The Genesis Flood, by John C. Whitcomb and Henry Madison Morris, and at the Institute for Creation Research in El Cajon, California.)
The following paragraphs explore several different theories that fall into the broader category of old-Earth creationism. These people accept the idea of an ancient earth, but various subgroups explain it in different ways. (Articles on such topics can often be found in periodicals such as Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith and Christianity Today.)
The gap theory is one subgroup of old-Earth creationism. An alternate translation of Genesis 1:1 reads: "The earth `became' without form and void." In other words, Earth was originally created millions or even billions of years ago and was subsequently "blasted," presumably at the time of Satan's rebellion, "becoming" without "form and void." A gap exists between Creation and the re-Creation described in Genesis 1. It has been six thousand years since the time of Adam, not since the beginning of everything. So what do you do with the age of rocks and the disappearance of dinosaurs? Dump them into the gap! They all occurred before Adam and Eve. The obvious problem with this theory is that it opens more theological problems than it solves. Romans 5:12 declares that "death entered the world through sin." If there was no death before Adam's sin, what killed off the dinosaurs? (More information about the gap theory can be found in the Scofield Reference Bible and in Donald Grey Barnhouse's The Invisible War.)
The day-age theory suggests Creation days were long periods of time, not literal days. The order of events described in Genesis is similar to the order of geological periods defined by geologists. (For more information about the day-age theory, consult the Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.)
Probably the most popular old-Earth creationism, intelligent design creationism seeks to integrate science and religion. In evolutionary or theistic creationism, God is the "why," evolution is the "how." A conservative approach would be to say that God created the species and evolution works only within species. In other words, God created dogs; evolution created great danes and dachshunds. A more liberal interpretation would say that science pretty much has it right. It has discovered the process by which God is still creating.
Materialistic creationism is a variation of liberal creationism. This approach goes one step further, insisting that God does not interfere at all with the process now that it has begun. It says nothing about the spiritual aspects of creationism because that does not fall under the scrutiny of science.
An even more liberal interpretation, really outside the category of religion, is sometimes called philosophical materialistic evolution. It says that evolution is a completely natural process, and that belief or unbelief in God has nothing to do with it."
Besides all these, there are a few Christian concepts that do not represent the mainstream of any Christian group.
The Flat Earth Society still exists, and they can be reached at the International Flat Earth Society, Box 2533, Lancaster, CA. With tongue firmly in cheek but a guileless countenance, adherents affirm that Earth is flat and is covered by the "firmament" described in Genesis 1:6-8. The waters of this firmament caused Noah's flood,
and the Bible refers to such things as the "four corners of the earth" and "the circle (not globe) of the earth."
Geocentrism suggests that Earth is indeed a sphere, but, Galileo and the Hubble space telescope to the contrary, the sun is not the center of the solar system and Earth does not move. One proponent of this theory, Tom Willis (at http://www. csama.org/), was the one most responsible for the 2000 revision of the Kansas public school curriculum, which removed all references to evolution, Earth history, and science methodology. Geocentrists are a very small group, but they are obviously politically active.
Non-Christian Religious CreationismHinduism. According to Hinduism, this Earth is one of many that have existed in the past and will exist in the future. Metaphorically, Vishnu sleeps on the cosmic ocean, resting on a great serpent made up of the remains of the last universe before this one. The lotus of the universe grows from his navel. On the lotus sits Brahma, the Creator. Brahma opens his eyes and a world comes into being. One day in the life of Brahma is four billion, three hundred twenty million years, or one world cycle. When Brahma opens his eyes the dream is over until he closes them and dreams another cycle into existence.
Hindus believe all the gods are many faces of the one indescribable Brahman principle. Their myths are not intended to be read literally. Viewed metaphorically, the Hindu creation myth is a pretty good description of the cyclical nature of the universe. American Indian Creationism. There is not one view that can be called the American Indian view. Tribes had too many stories to list them all. But a very rough synopsis emerges from these many myths.
People and animals are really one. Megafauna and giant people once existed together, but they shrunk in size after their "golden age" passed. Earth was ravaged by fire, sometimes water, and many tribes have stories relating how their ancestors came into this world through a hole in the ground, escaping from the world that was before. Others tell about receiving help from various animals. Eastern Creationism (Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism). The universe is an expression of the Dao, with no real beginning or end. This principle involves a conception of time difficult for Westerners to grasp. The Shinto of Japan is a little different. In this view the beginning is unknowable, but historic progress is important.
Nonreligious Origin Theories
Besides the religious myths already listed, there are many creation myths that fall more readily under the heading of "cultural." Greek, Canaanite, Persian, Babylonian, Norse, Olmec, and many more creation myths were all a central part of the religion of their cultures. But some of those cultures, in spite of having different religions, share the same creation stories. Other times, as in the case of Roman myths, a previous culture's cosmogony—in this case, that of Greece—was given a new twist to apply to current conditions, but otherwise left pretty much intact.
There are, of course, nonreligious views of how it all began, current scientific theory being the most common. As far as creationism is concerned, the main question remains the same: If "creationism" or "creation science" is going to be taught in public schools, which religion's views are going to represented? The U.S. Supreme Court does not comprise—as the justices are sometimes portrayed—a bunch of "godless atheists." The judges are simply struggling with the views of conflicting religions, each of whom want their stories to be included.
an unscientific conception that interprets the diversity of forms of the organic world as a result of their creation by god.
In its extreme form, creationism denies the variation of species and their evolution. Many researchers in the 18th and early 19th centuries were creationists. For example, the Swedish scientist C. Linnaeus thought that all species of plants and animals existed since the “creation of the world” and were created by god independently from each other; the French anatomist and paleontologist G. Cuvier thought that vast catastrophes, or cataclysms, occurred during the history of the earth, after which devastated areas were inhabited by organisms that had survived the catastrophe in remote regions.
A crushing blow was dealt to creationism by C. Darwin, who, by his own studies, demonstrated the variability of species and the continuity between them. Modern creationism is characterized by attempts to “assimilate” the doctrine of evolution, subordinating it to the idea of divine creation. However, even modern Catholicism has to recognize (the encyclical of Pope Pius XII of 1950) the possibility that the human body descended from apelike ancestors, while attributing the act of divine creation only to the “soul” of man. Varieties of a limited creationism, which recognizes evolution only on the species level, are encountered in modern biology. Creationism in any form serves as a weapon in the ideological struggle of religion against scientific biology.