Is it reasonable to believe in a recent six-day creation?
Before answering the question of whether it is reasonable to believe in a recent, six-day creation, it is important to define its key elements: “reasonable” and “recent, six-day creation.”
While science has been associated with “reason” and thus is expected to be reasonable, creationism has been associated by many with “faith,” and thus seems to be incompatible with anything “reasonable.”1
But biblical faith, in this case faith in creation, is “reasonable” in the sense that it is not mythical and/or irrational; on the contrary, it presents historical (the Bible is also a historical document), natural and sensible evidence for its claims. While it is true that the Bible is not a modern scientific record of the process of creation but rather expects us to accept its record of creation by faith (Hebrews 11:3, 6), it does not expect us to exercise a blind or simplistic faith.2 On the contrary, the Bible offers a framework and arguments in order for this faith to be convincing that the events and elements presented by the Bible are true cosmologically and historically. Leonard Brand and David Jarnes summarize the Judeo-Christian evidence for the reasonability of Scripture by listing the following: (1) the historical fulfillment of biblical prophecies/predictions; (2) the archeological support for biblical historical locations, persons or events; (3) Mosaic health regulations which differed radically from those of Egypt, pointing to a supernatural revelation. The above three biblical sources of evidence are testable and so strengthen our consideration of the Bible as reasonable also in the portions of the Scriptures which are untestable – a characteristic due not to the pre-scientific character of the Bible but to the limitations of science.3
Justo Gonzalez defined “creationism” as “the response of some conservative Christians to the theory of evolution, which they see as a threat to the Christian doctrine of creation …. According to creationists, the biblical story … of creation is scientifically defensible, and there is an irreconcilable difference between the Christian doctrine of creation and the scientific theory of evolution.”4 One form of creationism, “recent six-day creationism,” emphasizes that life and the organization of this planet originated supernaturally in the span of six days and recently (some thousands rather than millions of years ago).5 Thus, while allowing that Earth might have been created at an earlier time (prior to Genesis 1:2), it avoids siding with either young-earth creationism, which insists that the planet itself, if not the whole universe, is about 6,000 years old and thus positing no gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2,6 or the “active gap” theory, which inserts a speculative description of what might have happened in the gap between the events of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.7
So, is it reasonable to hold to a recent, six-day creation? We believe so, for a number of reasons. The first three will be persuasive primarily for those who already believe the Bible, while the others may be more pertinent for the not-yet believing.
Evidence from biblical-theological studies
1. Recent six-day creationism is reasonable in the same way and to the same degree that faith in the Bible is reasonable. It is as reasonable to believe in the historical, non-mythical, factual character of the creation account as it is reasonable to believe in other biblical accounts, such as the account of the incarnation, resurrection, ascension, and promise of the second coming of Christ.8
In other words, recent six-day creationism is a matter of faith, but a faith supported by evidence. Naturalistic evolutionism is also ultimately founded on philosophical presuppositions (such as the eternity of matter/energy, biogenesis, absolute uniformitarianism, and reductionist naturalism). And so it also searches for evidence to establish its reasonableness. Consequently, one important aspect of this discussion about reasonableness concerns the degree of authority that should be given to the foundations underlying evolutionism and creationism respectively. Are the presuppositions and/or conclusions of evolutionary scientists more trustworthy than Scripture? Brand and Jarnes, having described the relativity of scientific theories on the one hand and the reasonability of faith in the Bible on the other, conclude that “if naturalism is false and God actually communicated with the writers of the Bible, we would have reasons to believe that it is more worthy of trust than human authorities.”9
2. There is a connection between a straightforward interpretation of the Genesis creation account and the posited date of creation. Richard Davidson argues convincingly that the biblical account of creation clearly points to a literal, historical record of the events described, implying a short creation process spanning just six 24-hour days. He shows that even the most cautious historical-critical scholars
have insisted that the author of Genesis intended his readers to understand the whole process of creating life on earth within that timeframe. The story of creation does not exhibit any sign of allegorical or mythological language and thus does not allow for a day-age interpretation of creation week.10 Also, the fourth commandments of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:8-11) presumes the creation days to be literal 24-hours days, inextricably connecting the celebration of the Sabbath (and its legitimacy) with that original week.11 Thus, any attempt to reconcile creation with a view of evolution based on an extended history of life on earth, such as theistic evolution and old earth creationism (progressive creation) is at odds with the clear intent of Scripture.12
The extension of the history of life on earth to fit either theistic evolution or old earth creationism is based on the presupposition that the Genesis genealogies are either symbolic or representative. B. Warfield set the foundation for this approach by arguing that we can trust to some extent the biblical genealogies beginning with Abraham since we have additional information besides these genealogies, but that we cannot do so with the earlier genealogies because “we are dependent entirely on inference drawn from the genealogies recorded in the fifth and eleventh chapters of Genesis. And if the Scriptural genealogies supply no solid basis for chronological inferences, it is clear that we are left without Scriptural data for forming an estimate of the duration of these ages.” Applying the Matthean and Lukan style of genealogies to the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11, Warfield explained that “there is no reason inherent in the nature of the scriptural genealogies why a genealogy of then recorded links … may not represent an actual descent of a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand links.”13
As opposed to this, Davidson argues conclusively that the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 contain two special features that make an extra effort to prove the contrary, that is, “that there are no gaps between the individual patriarchs mentioned:” (1) “unique interlocking features” of the text (“A patriarch lived x years, then begat a son; after he begat this son, he lived y more years, and begat more sons and daughters; and all the years of this patriarch were z years”) make it “impossible to argue that there are significant generational gaps;” and (2) unlike other biblical genealogies which use the Qal form of “begat,” the Hiphil form (yalad) is used, which “is the special causative form that always elsewhere in the OT refers to actual direct physical offspring, i.e., biological father-son relationship (Genesis 6:10; Judges 11:1; 1 Chronicles 8:9; 14:3; 2 Chronicles 11:21; 13:21; 24:3).”14 Thus, these biblical genealogies exclude the extensive history of life so much needed by those who want to reconcile the Bible with evolution and represent a reasonable historical tool for positing a recent age of life on earth.
3. A recent six-day creation is consistent with the biblical-theological concepts of divine omnipotence, justice, and love. Darwin’s “disillusionment” with the notion of a just and loving God was based on his rejection (and apparent misunderstanding) of the classical theodicy which attributes our planet’s current predicament to the abuse of the freedom of the will.15 But if God is indeed not only omnipotent but also loving and just, then it is perfectly reasonable that He would create and organize life on this planet in a short, harmless, and orderly process, because anything less, such as the violent progression of life during long ages described by the theory of evolution, would be repugnant to His nature.
Evidence from scientific studies
1. The reasonableness of a recent six-day creation is evident from the centuries-long debate between science and Christianity. The postulation of a long history for life on earth arises out of eighteenth and nineteenth-century concepts of uniformitarian geology and biological evolution from a common source based on perceived probabilities and natural selection.16 Roth, however, shows how recent developments in science have increasingly challenged uniformitarianism in favor of global catastrophism, noting that the departure began with observations of global phenomena such as turbidity currents producing rapid deposition; even more revealing is the rise of recent theories explaining dinosaur extinction by means of a global catastrophe resulting from an asteroid or comet.17 The emergence of neocatastrophism, which adds further support to flood models explaining the geological deposits in terms of rapid and recent developments, has provided additional support for a recent creation.18
2. Biological evolution has even encountered significant challenges from its own proponents. Interestingly enough, scientists such as Stephen Gould and Niles Eldredge have promulgated the concept of punctuated equilibrium in order to explain the lack of evidence for transitional fossils.19 Further, Michael Denton, on a purely scientific basis, has challenged the validity of evolutionists arguing from paleontology to molecular biology.20
In conclusion, the theory of evolution is far from being a proven fact, making room for the biblical account of creation as a reasonable alternative.21
Gheorghe Razmerita (Ph.D. AIIAS., Philippines) is from Romania and is professor of Theology and Church History at Adventist University of Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in Reflections, the newsletter of the Biblical Research Institute. Reprinted with permission.
1. Cf. Leonard Brand and David C. Jarnes, Beginnings: Are Science and Scripture Partners in the Search for Origins? (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 2005), pp. 25, 27; also Norman Gulley, “Basic Issues between Science and Scripture: Theological Implications of Alternative Models and the Necessary Basis for the Sabbath in Genesis 1-2,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society (2003) 14: 195-228, esp. 203, 204. (Hereafter JATS).
2. See also Norman Geisler, “Faith and Reason,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker), pp. 239-243.
3. Brand and Jarnes, pp. 30-32.
4. Justo Gonzalez, Essential Theological Terms (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox, 2005), p. 42
5. Ariel Roth, Origins: Linking Science and Scripture (Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., , 1998), p. 316; Richard Davidson, “In the Beginning: How to Interpret Genesis 1,” Dialogue 6 (1994) 3:9-12.
6. James Gibson, “Issues in ‘Intermediate? Models of Origins,” JATS 15 (2004), pp. 74,75; Roth, pp. 341, 342.
7. Roth, pp. 316-318, 340, 341. Adventist scholars continue to debate the existence of a “passive gap” between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2. Marco Terreros, “What Is an Adventist? Someone Who Upholds Creation,” JATS (1996) 7:147-149, allows for the passive gap only in theory but has some theological reservations, arguing that the theory is imposed by science and that there is no need for gaps in God’s creation. However, according to Richard M. Davidson, “The Biblical Account of Origins,” JATS (2003) 14:5-10, Gen. 1:1 should be translated as an independent clause, which then does not exclude the passive gap theory towards which he inclines without being dogmatic (ibid., pp. 19-25).
8. Brand and Jarnes, pp. 30-32, 27.
9. Lamech Liyayo, Ted Peters’ Proleptic Theory of the Creation of Humankind in God’s Image: Critical Evaluation (Ph.D. Dissertation; Silang, Cavite, Philippines: Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, 1998) notes that Peters accepts the possibility of a historical second coming of Christ, but rejects as non-historical the Genesis account of creation, despite both belonging to the same Scripture; see also, Gulley, p. 213. Randall W. Younker, “Consequences of Moving Away from a Recent Six-Day Creation,” JATS 15 (2004), pp. 64, 65, states that for “neo-Evangelical” scholars (who reinterpret Genesis in a non-literal fashion) “to be consistent, they must also deny an historic Patriarchal period (Abraham), the Sojourn (Israel in Egypt), the Exodus (Red Sea), Mt. Sinai (Ten Commandments-Sabbath), the Conquest (Jericho), and probably the existence of the Monarchy (Solomon and David), even the resurrection of Christ could be denied.”
10. Davidson, pp. 10-19; see also Gerhard F. Hasel, “The ‘Days’ of Creation in Genesis 1: Literal ‘Days’ or Figurative ‘Periods’/’Epochs’ of Time?” Origins 21 (1994), pp. 5-38; Jacques Doukhan, “The Genesis Creation Story: Text, Issues, and Truth,” Origins 55 (2004), pp. 12-33.
11. See Gulley, pp. 212-216, 221-224.
12. For a description of these models, see Gibson, “Issues,” pp. 73-87; Roth, pp. 342-344.
13. See B. B. Warfield, “On the Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race,” in Biblical and Theological Studies, ed. S. Craig (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian & Reformed Pub., 1968) pp. 240, 241.
14. Davidson, p. 26; see also G. Hasel, “Genesis 5 and 11: Chronogenealogies in the Biblical History of Beginnings,” Origins 7 (1980), pp. 23-37.
15. See Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Evolution and the Authority of the Bible (Exeter, U.K.: Paternoster, 1983), pp. 50-63. On Darwin’s problems with design, see Charles Darwin to Asa Gray, 22 May 1860, in Francis Darwin (ed), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (New York: Appleton, 1905), 2:105, quoted in Neil Messer, Selfish Genes and Christian Ethics; Theological and Ethical Reflections on Evolutionary Biology (London: SCM, 2007), p. 39.
16. Roth, pp. 197, 198.
17. Ibid., pp. 199, 200; see also. L. James Gibson, “Contributions to Creation Theory from the Study of Nature,” JATS 14 (2003), p. 147; Harold G. Coffin, Robert H. Brown, and R. James Gibson, Origin by Design (rev. ed.; Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2005), p. 394.
18. Ibid., pp. 200-230; see also, Coffin, Origin by Design, pp.37-43, 72-103, 183-194.
19. The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.; s.v. “Gould, Stephen Jay”). Although the idea of punctuated equilibrium was introduced earlier, it became highly influential with the publication of the landmark article by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, “Puntuated Equilibria: An Alternative to Phyletic Gradualism,” in T. J. M. Schopf, ed., Models in Paleobiology (San Francisco: Freeman Cooper, 1972), pp. 82-115, esp. 85-90, cited 26 August 2009, http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/ridley.classictexts/eldredge.pdf see also Coffin, Origin by Design, pp. 258-271.
20. Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 3rd rev. ed. (Bethesda, Maryland: Adler & Adler, 1986).
21. See Roth, pp. 332, 333; Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2000); Coffin, Origin by Design, pp. 393, 394; Bert Thompson, Creation Compromises, 2nd ed. (Montgomery, Alabama: Apologetics, 2000), pp. 50-71, cited 25 August 2009, http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/cre_comp.pdf.