Either / Or… or maybe “none of the above”?


I found a magazine from a couple of years ago kicking around the other day, and a question from an advertisement on the back cover caught my attention:

“How important is it whether you believe in a literal six-day creation or an evolutionary past that stretches back billions of years?”

Before I get into this, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I believe in God. I believe that God created the universe, and I believe that God created life. But whether God created everything in the literal six days as described in the Bible, that I’m not so sure about.  But, the thing that interests me with the “question” from the magazine is the “either/or” nature of it. The question is stated as though you can either believe in a literal six-day creation or you can believe in an evolutionary past that stretches back billions of years and that there is no other option.  I’m not buying that.

Sometimes, “either/or” questions can be fun.  I had a friend that used to ask me, “Do you pack your lunch or ride the bus to school?”  I would typically be caught off guard and hesitate for a second.  The truth is I could pack a lunch and ride the bus to school — it wasn’t strictly an “either/or” situation.  In retrospect, I suppose that I could’ve answered my friend with a “yes” or “no” and maybe that would’ve caused him to hesitate!  Sigh…  Why do I always think of these things when it’s too late?

Now, I understand that not all Christians hold to the black or white, either/or view on the creation of the universe or the origins of life. The magazine that I was looking at is from the Institute for Creation Research, and they obviously believe in the six-day creation theory as described in Genesis.  I am not going to argue with their science — if they can prove that the universe is only 6000 years old, great (not sure how they can prove that though).  On the other side of the coin, I certainly can’t say that I believe in evolution as an explanation of the origin of man:  there are too many holes in the theory and too little fossil evidence.  What I object to with the “question” they posed was the implied assumption that the only viable alternatives are the literal six-day creation model or an evolutionary past – there are alternative beliefs about the origin of life and the origin of earth that may ultimately prove to be just as valid… or maybe even… (gasp)…  true!

Have you ever seen someone frame an argument by asking an either/or question in such a way that the only viable answers are those that the questioner wants to defend or prove false? The debater states an “either/or” where the only alternatives are what he believes to be true and what he can prove to be false.  If you side with him, you’re right.  If you take the alternative, he can shoot you down.  There are no other alternatives, and you can be left with two options that you don’t necessarily buy into.   (Where is Monty Hall when we need him?  “Let’s see what’s behind Door #3!”)

The problem with this “either/or” type of framework is that it limits the possibilities we consider. Have you ever considered this scenario: what if God created the universe billions of years ago, but he didn’t create life on planet Earth until some thousands of years ago? (This is referred to as the Gap Theory – there is a gap between the first “days” of creation and the “days” where God created living creatures on earth.)  How about this one – God created the universe billions of years ago, and he created a first wave of life on earth at some point in time (think dinosaurs), then came back to the “sandbox” and created man at a later point.  Ever heard that one thrown out?  Is that because evolutionists want to deny that God had a hand in creation, or is it because Christians don’t want to rock the “six days” boat by suggesting the timeline wasn’t literal? 

The truth is, none of us is exactly sure how God created the earth, or how life got here. We’ve all got an idea in our head based on Scripture/faith or scientific evidence or some combination of the two, but none of us were there, so we don’t know for sure how it happened. In actuality, there is only one “truth” about the origin of the universe – we may not know how, but there’s only one method via which the universe came into existence.  (Can you imagine if the universe came into existence through a contest where 5 “creators” drew up proposals and the one with the best combination of price and design got to build the project? That probably wouldn’t work, and the universe certainly wouldn’t be done yet!)  However the universe got here, it got here, and we can only strive to discover how that happened.  Being shackled with an “either/or” alternative limits our viewpoint on the possibilities.

Judeo-Christian/monothiests: if you believe that God created the universe in the literal six 24-hour day creation model, that’s fine – I’m not trying to make you change your mind.  However, be aware that you could be limiting your perspective on God’s awesome creation. And, try not to act condescending towards others that don’t believe in the literal six day model – that tends to make us look narrow minded and foolish to the world.

Non-“Creationists”: if you believe that all of creation came into being at random and life is an unexpected consequence of who knows what, you should probably brush up on your math skills and look at the probability of “random” events coming to pass.  Put it this way: it’s more likely to pick winning lottery numbers 5 times in a row that it is for DNA to randomly form.  Think about it…..

As for me, my best guess is that God created the universe a long time ago, but it’s also possible he created the universe in six days… I don’t really know for sure. And I’m okay with that. Just don’t tell me that I’m less of a Christian because I’m okay with that!

How about if we do a small poll – I’ll give you some options and you can reply to my blog. Realize going in, most of my friends (aka, the handful of people that might actually read my blog) are Christians, so that could slant the results.  But, I am curious to see what people think.  So, here are your options:

A:  God created the universe and life on earth in the literal six 24-hour days as described in Genesis. 

B:  God created it all, but the universe is old.  The timing in the Genesis story is not literal, 24-hour days.

C:  The universe is billions of years old, and life on earth came about through evolution.

D:  I have no idea!!!!!

E:  None of the above   (after everything I said in the above blog, I better give this as an option!)

F: God created, but I have no idea if the universe is “young” or “old” (I added this alternative for those that can’t decide between A & B)

Let me know what you think.  I’m sure I’ll revisit this topic again someday….   (Yes, this is the kind of stuff I sit around and think about.   I know… you used to wonder if I was weird, and now I’ve confirmed it!)

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8 Responses to Either / Or… or maybe “none of the above”?

  1. Beth Yancey says:

    This is the kind of stuff I think about, too. I think I’ll stick with “F” above. I agree it doesn’t help to be dogmatic about young earth/old earth. None of us were there and the data, even Scripture, can be interpreted in good faith different ways. The important thing is that God is a mighty God, He created and sustains the universe and time is in His hands. We can know Him and be known by Him. Glory to His name.

    • Exactly… and Amen! Maybe someday we’ll figure out for sure if it’s old earth/young earth, but until then, I’m ok with “F” too. (I’m a little more inclined to go with “B”, but I’m open to hear what guys at ICR have to say, so “F” still works.) I’m also hopeful that someday we can get evolutionists and creationists a little closer together in their viewpoint, but I’m not holding my breath on that one. The biggest issue to me with the theory of evolution is that it violates the laws of physics. Entropy says order progress towards disorder… even inertia saws that an object won’t move unless a Force is applied to it: ergo, evolution won’t work unless a force is applied (i.e., by God). Getting ahead of myself — that set of rambling thoughts will be the subject matter for another day……

  2. John Gomes says:

    I’m in the “F” group. I think there is a lot of real evidence that things are older than 6K years. But I can’t believe that the randomness of some “bang” zillions of years ago created the complex and intricate life we enjoy today. Blog away, I’m looking forward to seeing your commentary.

    • Thanks, John! A lot of the thoughts that will be popping up have been lurking since back in the day when we’d have some of those late night conversations about life & reality…. My mind is still rambling most of the time – I try to keep it thinking on something productive and interesting.

  3. Patty says:

    Hi Dan, I became a Christian because Christ stepped into my life and started speaking in a way I couldn’t ignore. My faith has never been based on whether the Creation Story is literal or not. And honestly I have never thought about it. Now that I am thinking about it here are my thoughts……

    My experiences with God determine what I believe today and He has been both Literal with me, “When He spoke and told me we would leave California in 2 years and with 3 kids”. Almost 2 years to the date he spoke we moved with a 7 week old 3rd child in tow.
    He has also been vague. “He will bring me to Warm Springs”. a promise that could be a physical place or a spiritual one, and one which I have no answers for, so I have put it in the back of my mind to ponder another day.
    That being said Creation could be either/or yet I have chosen not to make that a Faith point on which I stand.
    SO I will say F. Though I do question considering the Universe Young or Old. 6000 is old in my book, so I would choose to look at it as Old and Even Older. : )

    • Hey Patty….. It’s interesting the different things that people rely on as the cornerstone or “foundation” of what they believe. For you, it’s the experiential stuff; for some, it’s the biblical/historical evidence; for me, it’s a combination of both — there are definitive experiences in my life where I know it was God’s hand moving, and there are certain historical events that I look at as my foundational truths to rely on. The experiences convince me that God is real; the historical truths (ie, the resurrection etc.) tell me that the Bible is true and that I can trust Jesus/Christianity as the Way (which is important when people try to tell me that you can have the “experiences” through other avenues.) One of my next blogs will actually be called “the Foundation”, talking about the evidence for the resurrection and why that’s my foundation.

  4. Theresa Shaw says:

    I as well , must pick “F”. I believe in Creation, but theres so much information/evidence of life millions of years ago. I’ll assume that like ‘His ways are not our ways’, His days are not like our days!

  5. GaryC says:

    If pressed for an answer, I would have to say F. I lean towards a young earth (6-10k years old) but can not blame someone who wants to believe old earth creation or the gap theory. Heck, I even know some Christians that believe in evolution, and I have no reason to question their salvation.

    That being said, I would think that at some point a Christian would need to come to some understanding that “God created,” as it is the first step in a complete understanding of the gospel.

    A common theme I’m sure I will come back to in my comments here, and on my blog is that lately I have come to a realization that there actually very few points of theology that are either/or.

    Keep up the posts.

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