In the contemporary scientific academy, as is well-known, the word “creationism” derisively refers to a worldview irrevocably rejected by the secular scientific community in general. What may be less well-known is that there are contrastive worldviews generally subsumed under the term “creationism,” and that Christians espousing these worldviews indeed share elements present in “creationism,” but would not necessarily hold all the tenets associated with that term. The purpose of this piece is to: 1) identify the worldview to which the term “creationism” is generally applied, 2) explore contrastive approaches to earth history generally thought to represent “creationism,” and 3) consider two values of a creationist worldview, or what can be called a biblical doctrine of Creation.
Full Ussherian Creationism: A Worldview
On the first page of his 17th-century Annals, Bishop Ussher introduces three initial, seminal notions comprising his worldview regarding creation. One, everything except God was created during the six days of creation a few thousand years ago. Two, the spiritual realm and all the angels were created in the dark portion of the first day of creation week. This understanding means that the angels were created before daybreak on what we now call Sunday morning. Three, the literal and historical six day creation week occurred recently on 4004 B.C. This view suggests that the days of creation are interpreted to mean what one can call literal, historical earth days which we experience today, rather than creation days which are interpreted to be so-called literal divine days which translate into millions of years of earth time for each alleged literal divine day of creation.
This view raises some biblical questions that will be discussed below. However, a scientific question also arises at this point for Christians who endorse the concepts noted above. If distant stars in the galactic universe were created only a few thousand years ago, how is it that stars billions of light years distant from planet Earth can be seen by us today? The answer is that contemporary Christians who incorporate these three elements into their model of earth history assume that when the Lord created the distant stars of the galactic universe, He immediately created light waves extending instantly from all the stars to planet Earth, thus permitting humans to see far distant stars whose existence would otherwise be invisible on our planet.
The three elements indicated above constitute what can be called a full Ussherian worldview. This approach to creation represents the single model of earth history that many people associate with the term “creationism.” Many bodies of Christians ascribe to this world view such as, but not limited to, Southern Baptists, the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis.
In sum, the distinctive hall marks of present day “creationism” or full Ussherian worldview are its claims of 1) a young universe, young earth, young life on earth, and the young existence of angels in the universe, and 2) that on day four of the creation week, God created light beams extending from the far distant stars to planet Earth rendering their existence visible particularly by the humans to be created on day six of creation.
Contrastive worldviews regarding creation which, on the one hand, hold to a recent creation of life on earth, but which, on the other hand, do not claim that everything but God was created about six thousand years ago, represent models of earth history that may bring confusion to those who associate “creationism” with the full Ussherian view.. We turn to a brief description of these contrastive creation approaches to earth history.
John T. Baldwin, Ph.D.
July 1, 2013
Some Useful Sources
Baldwin, John Templeton, ed. Creation, Catastrophe & Calvary: Why a Global Flood Is Vital for the Atonement Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Association, 2000. See Gerhard Hasel’s seminal treatment on the meaning of day “yom” in Genesis 1. Perhaps Hasel’s work here is the most extensive and scholarly treatment of the term day in the Genesis creation account to be written in in the English language to date.
Baldwin, Gibson, and Thomas. Beyond Imagination. Nampa, Idaho: Pacif Press Publishing Assocation, 2013.
For the beauties of a six day creation see the first chapters. See chapter three, “A Gift of Balance” for the Sabbath of Creation and why a particular day of worship makes a crucial difference.
Brand, Leonard, and Richard Davidson. Choose You, This Day: Why It Matters What You Believe About Creation. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Association, 2013.
Gibson, James, et. al. Understanding Creation. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Association, 2011.
Whitcomb, John Clement, and Henry M. Morris. The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1961.
Ussher, James. The Annals of the World. London: Printed by E. Tyler for J. Crook at the Sign of the Ship in St. Paul, Court-yard, and for G. Bedell, 1658.