Edited by Leslyn Kim

How would you define yourself when it comes to religion, creation and science?  Go back and read Part 1 if you haven’t read it yet here:

Progressive Creationism:

How would you define yourself when it comes to religion, creation and science? Go back and read Part 1 if you haven’t read it yet here:

Often described as Old Earth Creationists*, Progressive Creationists are often seen as a middle ground belief between Theistic Evolutionists (see Part 1) and Young Earth Creationists.  They reject the scientific theory of macroevolution (e.g. – that we slowly evolved from fish to ape to human) on the grounds that it’s unsupported by fossil records.  Instead, they believe that God is responsible for creating all unique species of animal life over an extended period of time (4.5 billion years).  However, they leave wiggle room for the possibility of microevolution (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/_0_0/evoscales_02) within species.  In regards to the creation, they hold to a more literal interpretation (not as strict Young Earth Creationists) of the creation account, but also believe that the evidence presented by modern science in regards to the age of the earth (particularly in geology and astronomy) is compatible with the creation story in the bible.

So how do scientists calculate the age of the earth?  Radiometric age dating uses meteor, lunar samples (rocks), and other materials that contain radioactive isotopes and analyzes their radioactive decay rates to determine how old they are. As radioactive isotopes decay by releasing energy or atomic particles, they are said to have reached their “half-life” when the intensity of decay has decreased to one half of it’s initial rate. As this decay takes place the isotope/element is transformed into another element. Below is a VERY simple/crude word problem and example (conceptual only!) of how radiometric dating works:

A rock contains Radioisotope A. Radiosotope A contains eight units of mass initially and has a known half-life of one day. As it decays it transforms into a daughter product of Radisotope B which initially has zero units of mass.

Here are the results of the rock sample after one day has passed…..
– Radioisotope A has reached its half-life. Where it started with eight units of mass it has now decreased to four units of mass, transforming half of it’s mass into Radiosotope B, which now has 4 units of mass.

Here are the results of the rock sample after two days have passed…..
– Radioisotope A has reached yet another half-life. Where it started with four units of mass after day 1 it has now decreased to two units of mass, transforming half of its mass again into Radiosotope B, which now has six units of mass.

Now, let’s say that a scientist comes along at the end of day two and collects this particular rock to be analyzed for radiometric dating.  He collects the rock, pulverizes it into powder form, and sifts the sample to reveal that the rock does contain two mass units of Radioisotope A and six units of Radiosotope B. Knowing that Radioisotope A has a known half-life of one day, he can back-calculate how long it must have taken for Radioisotope A (two units of mass) to decay into Radioisotope B (six units of mass).

The scientist would then conclude, judging from the ratio of the two isotopes that it must have taken two days time for this process to complete. It is using a process similar to the conceptual one that I’ve outlined above that scientist conclude that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Indeed, scientists using radiometric dating analysis have found rocks on earth that are 4.5 billion years old.

If the example is still a little fuzzy watch this youtube video that explains it visually using M&M’s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EYQPcGvx4c

In short, Progressive Creationists have no qualms excepting that God has chosen more than one method to reveal himself to men. Those means include, but are not necessarily confined to – personal revelation through the reading of scripture and through scientific and natural evidence given to men for God’s glorification (Psalm 19:1-6).

In regards to scripture, Bernard Ramm, a Baptist theologian and apologist, saw the creation story in Genesis ,as a pictorial revelation of creation rather than a scientific description. Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist, astronomer and apologist, takes an even more traditional stance pointing to the fact that the word “yowm” translated “day” in Genesis 1 has multiple meanings (4) ranging from a short period of time to very long periods of time. For instance, the scripture verse from Psalm 23:6 – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days (yowm) of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever (yowm).” contains the Hebrew word ”yowm” twice, each having a distinct meaning, the former a matter of days and the latter meaning a much longer period of time. http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Psa&c=23&v=6&t=KJV#conc/6

Not surprisingly, there is very little evidence of any mainline Protestant denominations or Evangelical Protestant denominations adopting Old Earth Creationist views.  I say that it’s not surprising, because it’s no secret that the Christian church has been perhaps one of the greatest skeptics of modern science. Think vaccinations as an old example and global climate change as a modern day example [2]. This is not a new phenomenon. The church has often been at odds with new discoveries or scientific findings because they view them as threats to a Christian worldview or scriptural truths.

It doesn’t take much thought to surmise why. The whole idea of using scientific principles and natural laws to explain phenomena that often appear somewhat mysterious or supernatural makes science a target for all religions. In a sense, it appears to rob God of his sovereignty in all things. Instead of giving God the credit for the earth rotating around the sun every 365 days, gravity is credited. Accepting alternative ideas of a God who set natural physical and scientific laws in place aren’t that appealing either. For many, that would place God uncomfortably close in character to those of Deists and other Natural Law proponents – those who believe that God put things in motion, but then withdrew from men in his dealings.

Progressive Creationists are comfortable with the idea that God created scientific laws and principles, put them into motion, all the while playing an active role in the lives of mankind ruling and reigning sovereign over them all.  St. Augustine may have said it best when he delivered the following warning:

“Be on guard against giving interpretations of Scripture that are farfetched or opposed to science, and so exposing the Word of God to the ridicule of unbelievers.” [2]

I don’t pretend to speak for Progressive Creationists, even though I would say that I agree most with their view of the creation account. But they may ask similar questions to that of a Theistic Evolutionist to a staunch Young Earth Creationist – “How does believing that all of the earth’s vegetation sprang to life in one day enhance my faith in Jesus Christ?” Or, to put it another way…… “How does believing that it took longer than a literal day cause me to question the authority and truth of scripture?”

More on that subject in my final summary……

Here are two great resources, with much more in-depth information on Old Earth Creationism and Progressive Creationism:

http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/progressive.html

http://www.oldearth.org/old.htm

Stay tuned for Part 3……….

References:

[1] Progressive creationism. (2012, October 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14:43, December 29, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Progressive_creationism&oldid=518752238

[2] http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/progressive.html

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