Christians Differing on Creation Issues with Charity – Reasons to Believe

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“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.”
This first line from the Nicene Creed is biblically derived and affirmed by all of theologically conservative Christendom. The statement sets forth that God the Father, the first person of the Trinity, is the primary agent in creation. Nothing exists apart from God, for God is the very maker of all things.
The creed succinctly states what’s essential to believe, though it doesn’t address all matters concerning creation (that wasn’t its intent). That’s where organizations like Reasons to Believe can help provide details from both a biblical and scientific perspective.
I recently received comments and questions on social media about Christians disagreeing over creation-related issues. One respondent reflected a sentiment that I think is common. Here’s what she said (paraphrased) followed by my response. I hope you’ll find this interaction helpful.
Respondent: I have wondered why God hasn’t revealed himself in a more precise way in his Word. What I mean is that I decided to study the first chapters of Genesis in depth because of the controversy surrounding them. At the end of the day I wanted to be able to say that I had carefully researched the matter and had arrived at my own conclusions. After looking up Hebrew words, reading books, and watching debates I’ve come away with a firm conclusion that the old-earth perspective makes the most sense. I’ve excitedly wanted to share how I arrived at these conclusions with my young-earth creation friends, but they aren’t too interested in what I have to say and they certainly haven’t been persuaded by my attempts to explain. We are still friends, but it seems that we were closer before I started on my journey to figure things out. 
I’m convinced that if God had just added a few more verses to Genesis and to the New Testament, most questions that Christians differ over wouldn’t be controversial at all. It almost seems that God was vague about some things on purpose for some reason. Are the controversies found in the translations we are using? Do Christians in other parts of the world debate the same controversies? 
Me: There are generally three broad schools of thought among evangelicals on creation issues: young-earth creationism (YEC: see Answers in Genesis as an example), old-earth creationism (OEC: see Reasons to Believe as an example), and evolutionary creationism (EC: see BioLogos as an example). The links take you to the three organizations’ public statements of faith. Of course, not all evangelicals fit neatly into one of these three positions nor with one of the three representative organizations. So think of the three schools with their representative organizations as a paradigm (a model of explanation). Here are two thoughts to bear in mind. 
First, it is important to note that all three positions affirm the biblical God as the Creator, Designer, and Sustainer of the cosmos. Each of these creation positions stands starkly apart from a secular view of the universe, which asserts that God doesn’t exist and that life on this planet is the product of purely blind naturalistic processes. 
Second, all three general positions and corresponding organizations represent what might be called the broad “mere Christian worldview.” They affirm the fourfold biblical events of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.
What about the general agreements and disagreements among the three evangelical positions on creation? There are many issues of debate about the particulars of creation, but two hot-button issues are prominent.
Man’s Creation 
On the issue of man’s creation, the old-earth view agrees with the young-earth view that the original man was created directly de novo (fully formed) without God using evolution with common descent. All three views hold that humans were created in God’s image. For the old-earth view, Adam and Eve were created roughly 50,000–200,000 years ago. For the young-earth view, Adam and Eve were created about 6,000–10,000 years ago. For evolutionary creation, the first humans evolved about 200,000 years ago or earlier.
Age of the Earth and Universe
The old-earth view agrees with evolutionary creation on the age of the earth (about 4.5 billion years) and the universe (about 13.8 billions years). The young-earth view holds that the earth and universe were created 6,000–10,000 years ago.
Biblical Inspiration, Authority, and Inerrancy
All three views claim that the Bible is an inspired and authoritative revelation from God and they seek to interpret it carefully and know how it relates to creation-science issues. The old-earth and young-earth representative organizations in this model also affirm biblical inerrancy as do some in the evolutionary creation organization.
The Heart of the Differences
I think the differences are not attributable to various translations of Scripture per se but to interpretation of both the book of Scripture (theology) and the book of nature (science). Also, these science-creation issues are debated in many parts of the world by evangelical Christians.
To provide some perspective about the differences, I think ultimately that the affirmation that God created is more important than the when and the how. Yet the when and the how questions are important to how one understands central doctrinal features of historic Christianity in light of the historic two books model.
Personally, when it comes to controversial issues that divide conservative Christians on creation, I seek to promote three things: truth, unity, and charity. The truth issues come first and I seek to understand which position is most consistent with the two books of revelation (God’s Word and God’s world), though for me Scripture remains the final court of appeals.1Second, I seek to find key points of unity with other Christians though we disagree about creation. Third, I strive to express charity in my interactions with other Christians with whom I disagree. Sometimes, of course, I fail to achieve these lofty goals but I nevertheless believe in them deeply and think they are worth my very best effort.
The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures and gave us the perfect and sufficient Word of God. Maybe certain things or details about creation aren’t explicitly spelled out in Scripture because God wants us to work through the two books by means of seeking truth, unity, and charity. In other words, God wants us to grow in knowledge of the truth, but also in unity as believers and members of Christ’s body, and, of course, in love for one another. 
There are real differences among Christians on important doctrinal issues, including creation. Yet I think C. S. Lewis was right when he wrote:
“When all is said (and truly said) about the divisions of Christendom, there remains, by God’s mercy, an enormous common ground.”2
I’m glad you remain friends with your young-earth brothers and sisters in Christ. We all need to respect and love others in the faith whether we always agree or not.
Peace be with you.
The fact that theologically conservative Christians differ over important creation issues is a reality that can’t be easily resolved. But the golden rule of apologetics dictates that Christians treat the views of others accurately, evenhandedly, and, when possible, to extend the benefit of the doubt.3
Reflection: Your Turn 
How do you navigate conversations with other Christians who differ with you over when and how God created?
1. For my thoughts on what historic Christianity calls the two books model and how they relate to one another in terms of interpretation and authority, see chapter 5: “How Has God Revealed Himself?” in Without a Doubt (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004).
2. C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans,1967), vii.3. For a brief discussion of the key doctrinal agreements and disagreements among broader theologically conservative Christendom and the virtues needed to strike an acceptable doctrinal unity, see my book Christianity Cross-Examined (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2021), chap. 10.
3. For a brief discussion of the key doctrinal agreements and disagreements among broader theologically conservative Christendom and the virtues needed to strike an acceptable doctrinal unity, see my book Christianity Cross-Examined (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2021), chap. 10.
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