We have pointed folks to a lot of resources regarding the creation/age-of-the-earth/evolution debate here at Veracity (just go to the main blog page, scroll down to where is says “search” and type in something like “creationism” and click GO, or go to our 2013 Symposium page for starters). But in my discussions, some get confused over a few of the terms used by different Christians in the debate.
One nagging question concerns what is the difference between “Old-Earth creationism” and “Intelligent Design.” The difference between “Young Earth creationism” and the “Old-Earth” view should be pretty straight forward: the “Young Earth” view holds that our planet is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old, whereas the “Old-Earth” view is consistent with mainstream science regarding the age of the earth in terms of millions years.
The “Old-Earth” view differs from “Evolutionary Creationism” in that the “Old-Earth” view does not accept the idea that humans are a product of biological evolution, instead affirming that all humans are descended from a literal, historical Adam and Eve, specially created by God in a uniquely different creation event. In contrast, “Evolutionary Creationism” accepts the mainstream scientific consensus, yet nevertheless affirming that it is the God of the Bible who used the process of biological evolution to give us human beings, though there is quite a debate among Evolutionary Creationists as to the exact role Adam and Eve play in all of that (are Adam and Eve historical persons, or are they symbolic somehow?).
Sometimes you will hear “Evolutionary Creationism” referred to as being “Theistic Evolution.” But most evangelical Christians in the Evolutionary Creationism camp are moving away from the “Theistic Evolution” term because it does not boldly emphasize the Biblical concept of creation strong enough. Many who believe in “Theistic Evolution” believe in a “God,” but not necessarily the God of the Bible.
But what about “Intelligent Design?”
“Intelligent Design” is mostly opposed to “Evolutionary Creationism,” viewing the process of Darwinian evolution, particularly of man, as being completely inconsistent with the notion of an Intelligent Designer. “Intelligent Design” as a movement in general is a bit wary of the Young Earth view that rejects the old age of the earth. So does that mean that “Intelligent Design” is the same thing as “Old-Earth Creationism?”
There is indeed quite a bit of overlap between the two positions, but there are important differences. “Old-Earth Creationism” self-consciously is about defending a high view of the Bible. “Intelligent Design” as a movement, on the other hand, is not necessarily identified with the Bible or Christianity. Sure, there are evangelical, Bible-believing Christians who believe in “Intelligent Design,” such as Stephen C. Meyer, author of the best selling Darwin’s Doubt, but there are also many other proponents of “Intelligent Design” who do not embrace Biblical faith, such as popular author Jonathan Wells, a member of the Unification church (or the “Moonies”). The following video by Krista Bontrager, affiliated with the Old-Earth Reasons to Believe apologetics ministry, tells you more about it, in a language you can grasp from the bottom shelf.
As might be implied from the video, the “Intelligent Design” movement, particularly as it is articulated by the folks at the Discovery Institute, makes some helpful arguments that should be engaged by thoughtful Christians. However, “Intelligent Design” is not explicitly tied to a Biblical concept of creation as are the three dominant models: Young Earth Creationism, Old-Earth Creationism, and Evolutionary Creationism. For that reason, while I fully affirm”intelligent design” (notice the small letters), I am not entirely excited about “Intelligent Design” (large caps) as a movement that Christians should uncritically embrace. I do not believe, as some Intelligent Designers speculate, that the Intelligent Designer of human life may have been some super extra-terrestrial life form. I also have friends of mine in the New Age Movement who subscribe to a type of “Intelligent Design,” but who nevertheless reject the Biblical teaching of a distinction between the Creator and the Creation.
In my view, Christians should be about winning others to the God of the Bible as the Creator, not just to some nebulous concept of an “Intelligent Designer,”, though I can concede someone might be persuaded of the existence of an Intelligent Designer as a type of first step in their journey towards Christ. Instead, I believe that Scripture is quite clear: God created humanity, and this God of the Bible created humans, male and female, in the image of God. We may debate exactly how God did the Creating, and over what type of timescale it happened in, and what role (if any) evolution has in this, but there should be unified agreement among followers of Christ that it is God, and God alone, who created us.
Can someone give me an “AMEN?”