As Katie Infantine explained in her post on Bill Nye’s viral video last week, there are multiple types of creationism, distinguished by varying attitudes towards evolution and rival interpretations of Genesis.
A recent piece in Christianity Today explores these differing schools through a profile of two scientists, both Evangelical Christians, who exemplify them. To use the article’s terminology, biology professor and president of BioLogos Darrell Falk is an evolutionary creationist, while science professor Todd Wood is a young-earth creationist. An excerpt describing Dr. Falk’s view:
In Coming to Peace with Science, Falk lays out the evidence for an ancient earth and the gradual development of its creatures over millions of years. He speaks of the message of Genesis — indeed, the whole of Scripture — as a testimony to God’s goodness and his plan to save the world.
Dr. Wood, on the other hand, has been a young-earth creationist since the beginning of his career:
The first human genome sequence was published the year that Wood began graduate school, providing strong evidence for evolution. The DNA for chimps and humans was virtually the same. Traces of common origins were everywhere: Humans even possessed a broken version of the gene that lizards and birds use to produce eggs. Wood remained fully committed to a six-day creation — he says he never doubted it for a minute — because he saw no other way to read the Bible. But that didn’t keep him from recognizing that evolution had powerful attestation.
Wood’s conviction that there’s “no other way [than his] to read the Bible,” with the implication that Scripture — not science — is what guides his views about evolution, is likely shared by the 46% of Americans who believe that God created humans in their present form.
Yet there are other ways to read the Bible, ways developed long before Charles Darwin entered the scene. As Alister McGrath has written in Christianity Today, St. Augustine was contemplating alternative interpretations of Genesis some sixteen centuries ago:
Augustine argues that the first Genesis Creation account (1:1–2:3) cannot be interpreted in isolation, but must be set alongside the second Genesis Creation account (2:4–25), as well as every other statement about the Creation found in Scripture. . . .
Augustine was deeply concerned that biblical interpreters might get locked into reading the Bible according to the scientific assumptions of the age. This, of course, happened during the Copernican controversies of the late 16th century. Traditional biblical interpretation held that the sun revolved around the earth. The church interpreted a challenge to this erroneous idea as a challenge to the authority of the Bible. It was not, of course. It was a challenge to one specific interpretation of the Bible—an interpretation, as it happened, in urgent need of review.
Augustine anticipated this point a millennium earlier. Certain biblical passages, he insisted, are genuinely open to diverse interpretations and must not be wedded to prevailing scientific theories. Otherwise, the Bible becomes the prisoner of what was once believed to be scientifically true: “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines our position, we too fall with it.”