Five Views of Biblical Creation

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

In this highly requested episode, Phylicia offers a high-level overview of the five primary theories regarding the creation of the world and the synthesis of science and Scripture. Utilizing sources from each view, we look at the arguments for and against some of these theories:

  • young earth creationism
  • literary framework theory
  • gap theory
  • old earth creationism
  • theistic evolution

We attach a lot of emotion to the topic of creation theories. Sometimes this is because it’s a view we were always raised with and questioning or challenging it feels like breaking apart faith itself. Remember: challenging our worldview doesn’t mean we necessarily walk away from our viewpoint. It forces us to be honest about what we believe and understand the questions skeptics are asking – even skeptics who are fellow Christians. Another reason we get emotional about creation theories is because we feel like too much is riding on the topic. We believe the bible is at risk, or maybe science is at risk, if we engage with a different view. 

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Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered-down Christian teaching. And if you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity, where every woman is a theologian.

Hello, and welcome back to Verity, my friends. Thank you for your patience in me getting this episode out to you. Full disclosure, I’m currently working on a new book manuscript and it is very research heavy. I promise it’s going to be worth the wait. But in the meantime, it has taken up so much of my research time for the podcast. Some of these episodes are coming out a little bit later than usual. But I’m excited to be back and my plan currently is to continue doing these more in-depth theology question episodes followed by every few weeks a short, rapid-fire Q&A episode. That’s what you can be looking forward to next week, answering a few extra questions from my weekly Instagram, Ask Anything Monday.

Today, we’re going to be looking at “creation theories.” What these are, are theories about how God created the world. Now, pretty much all Christians know that in Genesis 1 and 2, we have a depiction of the creation story. But within Christianity, there are a variety of views on how God went about creation specifically, and how science and the Bible can be reconciled, and how these two work together, how God used science to create the world. We’re going to look at four different views on this topic. Most of you are probably familiar with young earth creationism, which is popular in evangelical circles and I have a very large evangelical audience. I’m going to, of course, cover that one, but I am going to also talk about a couple of other viewpoints that you may not be as familiar with. If you’re new to my podcast, I introduce some of the primary views on major Christian doctrines, so you can continue your research and draw conclusion. I will also point out strengths and weaknesses of each view as you consider your position and I’ll point to the standard of reason and church history as part of the equation as well.

The first and foremost point of reference always on Verity Podcast is Scripture and is the Bible. But I also believe that God has given us minds and reason to work through the Bible with critical thinking and that He’s also given us a rich church history to look at how people in the faith have interpreted things over time. That is why when I talk about different things on the podcast, I will offer multiple viewpoints that have been held in history or are currently being held in history across Christendom or across the church at large.

Now, when it comes to creation theories, I’ve noticed that Christians tend to attach a lot of emotion to this topic. Sometimes, this is because it’s a view we were always raised with and questioning or challenging it feels breaking apart faith itself. Remember that challenging our worldview doesn’t mean we necessarily walk away from our viewpoint. It doesn’t mean that you have to say you disagree with it. I think that’s a bit of a misnomer that has emerged from deconstruction culture or I think more accurately, deconversion culture is the idea that in order to ask questions or by asking questions, we will inevitably walk away from the faith completely. That is definitely not the case. A strong Christian faith is one that is comfortable asking questions, digging into other viewpoints, thinking critically, looking at the history, looking at the facts, and letting those things align with Scripture, which they do. That’s the reason I’m a Christian today is because reason, and logic, and history align with the truths of Scripture. When we see that, we come away with a stronger faith than ever before. By thinking critically, we’re forced to be honest about what we believe and to understand the questions not only that we have, but that skeptics are asking, even skeptics who are fellow Christians.

Now, another reason that we get emotional about creation theories is because we feel too much is riding on the topic. We maybe believe that the Bible is at risk. If we were to engage with a different creation theory or in some cases, maybe we believe science is at risk if we engage with a different view. I just really challenge you to think through these different theories that I’m presenting, I will have all of my resources that are in article form listed in the show notes, which are on the blog. If you go to, to the blog, that’s where all of the articles are listed that have the show notes. If you can’t find it, you can go to the search tab, and search creation, and it should come right up.

Okay, without further ado, let’s start with our first theory. This is, as I said, a little earlier, young earth creationism. Here’s a quick summary of this viewpoint directly from the young earth creationist side. Whenever I go and research these different views, I go directly to the people that hold them and I hear it from the horse’s mouth as they say. This is a statement from a young earth creationist viewpoint. “Biblical creation is based on the Bible, where God created the universe and everything in it as described in Genesis 1-2. Genesis 1-2 is a specific creation week, though, commonly creation means Genesis 1-11. So, creation week is Genesis 1:1-2:3, but the Genesis narrative of chapters 1-11 is the entire creation story. The Creator did not need matter, large amounts of time, energy, or anything else, He created out of nothing in six literal normal link days about 6,000 years ago. This is also called “ex nihilo creation,” which means out of nothing.”

Young earth creationist typically believe that the creation days of Genesis 1 were six literal 24-hour days. They occurred between 6,000 and 12,000 years ago and creationists believe that about 2,000 to 3,000 years before Christ, the surface of the Earth was rearranged by Noah’s flood. It was a literal, worldwide flood that is evidenced in things like the Grand Canyon, in the layers that we see there, and how the rocks were laid down, and how swiftly they were laid down. They believe that fossils are also evidence of this flood, because the pressure and the quick covering of the dinosaurs’ bodies, for example, is what fossilized them. They also believe that mountains, one of the reasons that mountains exist is because of the force of the underwater fountains as the Bible calls them, coming up from the deep and pushing these mountains to the surface. Noah’s flood is responsible for a lot of the geological landscape that we see. All land animals and birds not in the ark along with many sea creatures perished, and many were subsequently buried in the flood sediments. Creationists believe that the global catastrophic flood was responsible for most, but not all of the rock layers and fossils and some rock layers and some fossils were deposited before the flood while other layers and fossils were produced after the flood in localized sedimentary processes. That’s a little bit about their overall viewpoint. Their view of creation in the literal six days, 24-hour days using the Hebrew word ‘Yom,’ which is used for day there, meaning a 24-hour day.

There are a couple other points about this that I want to read to you as well from the most famous young earth creationist organization Answers in Genesis. Here are a couple further points. First of all, Genesis is history, not poetry, parable, prophetic vision, or mythology. The argument here is that the Hebrew verbs that are used in Genesis 1 have the same characteristics of the historical narrative in the rest of Genesis. Genesis 12-50 and then Exodus. It doesn’t have the same appearance or verbiage of poetry as is seen in the rest of the historical narrative, which is throughout the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Secondly, the dominant meaning of Yom, the Hebrew word for day in the Old Testament is a literal day. The context of Genesis 1 confirms that meaning. It can mean other things, which we’ll talk about when we get to a few other viewpoints here. But the young earth creationist viewpoint is that, Yom means a literal day, especially when connected with a number. For instance, the first day, the second day with evening and morning, all of those specifics are in the Genesis 1 narrative. With that context, the young earth creationist says, “Yom means a literal 24-hour day.”

Third, God created the first animate and inanimate things supernaturally and instantly. They were fully formed and functioning. He was creating them to reproduce after their kinds. Because He is God and He is able to just create and say, “Let there be plants, stars, humans,” there didn’t need to be millions of years for things to come into existence. The fourth point and I’m not reading all of the points that they provide here. I’m going to have this article in the show notes. The fourth point is that Jesus comments about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, all of which are listed in the Genesis account are treated by Jesus as literal history just as the New Testament writers viewed them. Jesus was looking to this depiction in creation as a literal, actual historical event. If Jesus knew that there was another way that God went about the earth, the argument is here that He would have explained that or maybe would have left room for that, but in the text, that’s not indicated. Again, this is according to the young earth creationist argument.

Then lastly, the Bible teaches that there was no animal or human death before the fall of Adam and Eve. The geological record of rock layers and fossils could not have been millions of years before the fall. This is probably the biggest argument for the young earth creationist view, because the biggest conflict at the young earth creationist view has is with theistic evolution, which we’ll talk about at the end of this episode. Evolution, as we all know depends on the death of animals, the death of plants in order to produce a new kind. It takes millions and millions of years of death in order to produce a new kind. If sin has not yet in the world, the young earth creationist argument is, “Why is there death, why is there suffering, even among animals and plants in order to produce life?” This is the young earth creationist viewpoint common in evangelical circles. But it is not the only viewpoint within Christianity. The next view I want to look at briefly is the literary framework view. This one is not as common as some of the others we’re looking at today. This view holds that the days are not meant to be understood chronologically, but rather logically. The days are not in sequence, but are rather written as a literary framework. The writer of Genesis was not intending to tell us about either the length or the order of creation.

This is more of that poetic take on the Genesis account that this is not meant to be a literal face value reading. This is instead meant to be a literary effort to tell us that God is the Creator, but the actual length of time that it took or the order of creation was not the point of the author’s writing, that was not his goal. Again, if we look back to the young earth creationist argument, they would respond by saying, “Then why the detail, why the detail about the evenings, and the mornings, and the first day, the second day was– Why would we go to the effort of this detail if it’s just going to be a poetic viewpoint?” The literary framework, again, this one is not as common, but it is paired sometimes with other views such as the Gap theory, which we’ll move to next. Gap theory is actually a little bit of an older view. It emerged in the early church to a degree. It certainly wasn’t in the form that we see it now. But it took on this kind of idea of a gap between Genesis 1:1. God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:2 and the earth was formless and void.

We’re going to talk about the 19th century first and then we’ll talk about what was believed in the early church, because there’re two different approaches to Gap theory in these eras. Several geologists in the 19th century were outspoken Christians, who were concerned to uphold Scripture. They had no intention of denying the Christian faith, but the 19th century became an age of harmonization, a time when the Orthodox evangelical theologians and the scientists were trying to figure out whether they were going to adopt the more literal face value interpretation of Genesis 1-2 as evidenced by the young earth creationist, or if they were going to take a day age interpretation of Genesis 1. Theologians saw solution in the work of their predecessors in the 17th century wishing to establish the timing of Satan’s fall and the angel’s rebellion. There were theologians, who proposed that there was a narrative gap or a time gap that had no specific range of time. They didn’t know how long the time gap was, but they believe there was one between the creation of the universe and the events of the creation week. Between Genesis 1:1 and the rest of Genesis 1.

The 18th century advocates of this view put the gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 suggesting that earth began maybe ages and eons ago as the abode of angels, who ravaged it and ruined it when they fell. Isn’t that interesting? The creation week, according to this scenario could be viewed as a period of restitution, which is the word originally attached to the Gap hypothesis. This was a really fascinating study for me. I actually really enjoyed reading about this and the history of it, because there were ideas in the first couple centuries of the church entertained about a fall of the Satan and his angels within that first creation chapter within those creation verses. Nothing was ever affirmed or decided upon by the church. It was simply talked about a little bit by some of those early church fathers like Origen, and Irenaeus, and others. Then you move forward to the 17th century, where again, they’re entertaining this idea of when Satan fell and what the impact of his fall might have been. One of the things that came out of this was the idea of a gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. This making the earth much older than a young earth creationist would believe. When God created the world, He is creating this restitution of a world not creating something completely new. He’s creating something new on an old earth that the fallen angels had ravaged. Interesting theory and I have a couple articles for you in the show notes on that one.

Okay, our next theory is old earth creationism. This is important. It is not the same as theistic evolution. A lot of times these two get lumped together, specifically by young earth creationists, but old earth creationism and theistic evolution are not the same thing. However, many old earth creationists hold to what may be called a God initiated Big Bang. God spoke the earth into existence by using this Big Bang. Scientists at organizations like reasons to believe, which is basically the old earth version of Answers in Genesis, don’t hold to a Darwinian approach to human life, but actually believe that man was a distinct a new creation, even if he was pre-existed by animals as the creation story upholds. Krista Bontrager, who writes for reasons to believe, made a fantastic article that’s in the show notes that talks about old earth creationism and the problem of animal death. Now, again, this isn’t necessarily upholding a Darwinian approach to creation, but it is talking about animal and plant death, since we know that this is a big sticking point for the young earth creationist view. She says, “A careful examination of Romans 5:12 shows that Adam’s sin introduced death to all humans, not to all life forms on earth. Passages like Psalm 104 and Job 38-41 also make clear that plant and animal death in no way attributes evil or cruelty to the Creator.”

There are actually several well-known theologians, who hold to the old earth creationist view. I was actually surprised by how many did. Three of them are Millard Erickson, who wrote one of my favorites, Eschatology resources, Wayne Grudem, whose systematic theology I own, and many of you may be familiar with his work, and Gordon Lewis, and then is the organization that holds to old earth creationism. Again, they’re a parallel of what Answers in Genesis does for the young earth creationist viewpoint. If you’re not familiar with Answers in Genesis some, who hold to the young earth creationist viewpoint theologians, you have Ken Ham, the head of Answers in Genesis, John MacArthur is another very well-known young earth creationist as well.

Okay, our final viewpoint to discuss is called theistic evolution, also known as evolutionary creation. This is the belief that God used the process of evolution to create living things, including humans. There are different camps or views within this idea. Theistic evolution is what author Ted Davis calls a big tent covering multiple perspectives. We’re just going to do a very high-level discussion of this one. One of the first references to the idea of theistic evolution emerged as early as 1877 from a guy named John Dawson in his book, The origin of the world according to revelation and science. This is a quote from an article about him. In the midst of a lengthy discussion of the animals created on the fifth day of creation, Dawson says, “The long time employed in the introduction of the lower animals, the use of the terms make and form instead of create and the expression let the waters bring forth, may well be understood as countenancing some form of mediate creation, or of creation by law, or “theistic evolution, as it has been termed, but they give no countenance to the idea either of the spontaneous evolution of living beings under the influence of merely physical causes and without creative intervention, or of the transmutation of one kind of animal into another.” That was a very early approach to theistic evolution. As you can see, he’s holding to the idea that lower animals could be formed out of the water, so the waters are bringing forth these creatures. But at the same time, he’s denying the idea of evolution under the influence of merely physical causes. He’s denying a humanistic approach to this that would remove God completely.

Here are some other principles held by the theistic evolution view. First, the Bible was not intended to teach us about science. It was intended to teach about God, intended to teach spiritual values. It may sometimes support science, but it was not intended to teach it. Secondly, the Bible is a reliable source about God and spiritual things such as this quote by Galileo, which sums it up. “The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.” A third point, “Scientific theories neither support nor threaten the Bible.” Again, there are varied views on this one. There may be some scientists, some theistic evolutionists, who would say, “Actually, scientific theories do end up supporting the Bible, because we see that Scripture ends up being true on some of these things.” But as a general rule, theistic evolutionists are not looking for the Bible to really have a big role in scientific exploration. Fourth, the creation story in Genesis 1 is a confession of faith in the true Creator intended to refute pantheism and polytheism, not to tell us how God actually created the world. That’s from author, Ted Davis. Lastly, belief in God is consistent with science and supported by science, but doesn’t require scientific explanation.

With this view, we’re seeing a reconciliation of modern science and the theory of evolution with the creating God that we see in the Bible. For those who are engaged in scientific industries, for those who are teaching in schools, for those who are working at universities, this kind of approach to God’s creation to the melding of science and Scripture is much more common than it is for those who are engaging with a young earth creationist viewpoint in evangelical circles. I have found in the years that I’ve done this that the more academic the person I’m speaking to or working with, the more familiar they are with a theistic evolutionary standpoint versus a young earth creationist standpoint. At the same time, there are scientists in both of these realms and in the old earth creation realm, who will argue that science supports their viewpoint and can give you evidences for it. That’s why I wanted to overview each of these viewpoints and then give you all of the articles and resources I use, so that you can dig into this and study it more.

As we conclude this episode, I wanted to read something that I thought was really interesting as I was digging through a lot of these facts from the Gap theory article. It said that, “Research shows that the rate at which volcanic and tectonic activity increase and decrease in earth’s history perfectly coincides with the needs of living creatures. Even the species destruction and replacement, that such activity entails serves a valuable purpose in preparing earth for human habitation and civilization.” This just blew my mind, because it wasn’t directly dealing with the creation story, but it was more just showing that God set up the earth with laws to sustain it, with the ability to care for those who are upon it both animals and humans, and even says that the volcanic and tectonic activity increasing and decreasing actually coincides with the needs of living creatures. These things that we see as just random chance is just happening whenever the earth feels like it should happen, however the plates are moving, that is actually helping us live on this earth.

Even the species destruction, which we would see as a really sad and heartbreaking thing, and then its replacement serves a valuable purpose. This to me just shows the sovereignty of God and the Wisdom and Mind of God, who created science and set these natural laws into place. It goes on to say that new discoveries about nature and new understandings from theological research will no doubt challenge us to adjust or fine tune our present understandings of both science and Scripture. In every case, however, one can reasonably expect the trend to continue. Greater knowledge of nature and greater understanding of Scripture will yield more and clear evidences of the Biblical Creator and will cultivate for those who worship him a deeper appreciation for the marvelous world He has made, as well as the one that awaits. I don’t think I could say it any better than that. I’ll see you next week.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Verity. You can connect with fellow listeners by following me on Instagram @phyliciamasonheimer or on our Facebook page by the same name. Also, visit for links to each episode and the show notes.

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