Interpretation of the Genesis Account by Evangelical Scholarship

Evangelical Christians accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the only unerring guide of faith and conduct. However, there are numerous theories put forth by evangelicals to try to interpret the Genesis account in light of modern scientific findings. Donald England summarizes the major Christian interpretations of Genesis 1, as well as the atheistic evolutionist position, and suggests a few objections to each view in his recent book A Christian View of Origins. This is shown in Table 6.1

6.1 Three Tenets

The three most widely discussed tenets in the contemporary dialogues on the issue of creation and/or evolution are fiat creationism, theistic evolutionism, and progressive creationism (1).The three beliefs are reviewed briefly.

6.1.1 Fiat Creationism. Fiat creationism includes all the literal views. It demands a young earth and cataclysmic flood geology as well as the total repudiation of any forms of evolutionary development of life.

To the fiat creationists, evolution and creation are diametrically antithetical to each other with no room for reconciliation. They believe evolution is the culmination of the atheistic offensive to undermine the trustworthiness of the Bible. Therefore, to them, to give in by the least amount in the evolution issue would open Pandora's box for the ultimate destruction of the biblical foundation of the Christian faith (2).

6.1.2 Theistic Evolutionism. Theistic evolutionism accepts the historicity of the Bible but allegorizes the Genesis account to treat the whole creation story as a "poetic" representation of the spiritual truths of the human's dependence on God their Creator and their fall from God's grace [247] by the symbolic act of disobedience. They accept the processes of organic evolution as the ways God used to create humans; however, they believe God endowed humans with His spiritual capacity by supernatural means.

The theistic evolutionists see no conflict whatsoever in harmonizing organic evolution with the creation account despite the necessity to dispense with the historicity of the human Fall. They feel the fundamental Christian doctrines of original sin and the human need for redemption are unshaken by the incorporation of organic evolution into the Christian interpretation of life and origins (3, 4, 5, 6). Richard Bube summarized these two positions: "If the evolutionist usually puts too much emphasis on these [scientific] data, the antievolutionist usually puts too little" (5).

6.1.3 Progressive Creationist. Progressive creationists (1) are more liberal than the fiat creationists in that they are more open-minded to reinterpreting the creation account when necessitated by the findings of science. However, they are more conservative than the theistic evolutionists in their acceptance of the theory of organic evolution. They hold to the geologically demonstrated antiquity of the earth and limited microevolutionary processes occurring subsequent to God's original creation of the prototypes of present-day varieties. They also adhere strictly to the exegetical principles of the Bible and find ample room for the "day-age" (or similar) interpretation of the Genesis account.

While the hypertraditional fiat creationists and the enlightened theistic evolutionist have been outspoken for some time in Christian circles on the creation and evolution controversy, an increasing number of scholars are revealing that their views are in line with those of the progressive creationists (1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). It is the author's contention that progressive creationism is the best available model that maintains the scriptural integrity of the Genesis account and at the same time does no injustice to known scientific facts. This position and its rationale, as contrasted with the views of the fiat creationist and the theistic evolutionists, is reviewed in the following section.

Table 6.1. A summary of popular Genesis 1 concepts and objections to them.*

*NOTE: Reprinted, with permission, from England, D. A Christian view of origins. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; 1972. © 1972 by Baker Book House.

References 6.1
1. Ramm, B. The Christian view of science and Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans; 1954.
2. Morris, H. Evolution and the modern Christian. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed; 1967.
3. Bube, R. J. Am. Sci. Affil. 23:140; 1971.
4. Bube, R. J. Am. Sci. Affil. 27:171; 1975.
5. Bube, R. The human quest. Waco, TX: Word; 1971: 207.
6. Berry, R. J. Adam and ape, a Christian approach to the theory of evolution. London: Falcon; 1975.
7. Mixter, R. Creation and evolution. 2nd ed. Monograph. Am. Sci. Affil.; 1967.
8. Buswell, J. L., III. In: Evolution and Christian thought today. Mixter, R. L. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans; 1959.
9. Pun, P. P., J. Am. Sci. Affil. 29:84; 1977.
10. Newman, R. C.; Eckelmann, H. J. Genesis one and the origin of the earth. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity; 1977.
11. Young, D. Creation and the flood. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker; 1977.