Saturday, 13 February 2010

A Tentative Taxonomy of Creation Beliefs; Where Do You Fit?

This is a potentially futile attempt to categorise the differing views held by Christians with regards to the mode of creation used by God. It likely came to mind after returning from a lecture discussing taxonomy and giving some thought to creation related issues. Some of my definitions may be disagreed with; some may even appear to be the same thing. I am curious as to how others would identify themselves. I shall present it as several sections which often divide into other, more specific sections. This only applies to Christians.

All beliefs listed here come under the title “creation” which is divided into 2 categories. Category 1 is termed “Biblical Literalism/Creationism”.

1.1)Young Earth Creationism (YEC)/Ultra-literalism: The belief that the Genesis narrative is to be read as literal history occurring 6-10,000 years ago. There was a global flood and scientific theories such as evolution and the big bang theory are rejected. Within this view there are those who accept ‘creation science’ which claims that scientific evidence supports a young Earth (the main topics being ‘Flood Geology’ and ‘Baraminology’). Many also use the ‘Omphalos hypothesis’ which suggests that God created with an appearance of age.

1.1b) Modern Geocentism: An offshoot of YEC that claims the Sun and everything else orbits the Earth.

1.2) Old Earth Creationism (OEC): The belief that the Genesis narrative is literal, but that long time spans do not contradict it. This is often referred to as ‘concordism’ and is divided into sub-categories.

1.2.1) Gap Theory/Creationism: Also known as ‘Restitution Creationism’, claims that life was created recently on an already existing Earth. They believe that the verses Genesis 1:1-2 indicate an indeterminate amount of time before the creation week begins in verse 3. Many also believe that before this was a primordial Earth, explaining the prevalence of fossils spanning billions of years. Gap creationists believe in a global flood.

1.2.2) Progressive Creation: Also sometimes referred to as ‘strong concordism’. Progressive creationists reject evolution as explaining life’s diversity, but often accept that it does happen, though God intervenes at the key events (which are usually subjectively defined under the definition “kind” and some would suggest whenever speciation occurs). Most reject a global flood, accepting instead a local one and many interpret us as being in the 7th day.

*) Day-Age: Not specifically a belief like the others, but is a hermeneutic worth mentioning. This is the interpretation of the days of Genesis to be longer periods of time. It is mentioned here as many progressive creationists take this view, but as it is a hermeneutic it is also used by many who are found in later categories.

2) Category 2 is termed “Intelligent Creation” as referencing the philosophy which is sometimes referred to confusingly as intelligent design. There are again two main sub-categories.

2.1) Neo-creationism: This is again divided and has much overlap with some of the other categories. This is generally the belief that science cannot sufficiently explain the phenomena it purports to, but unlike Biblical Literalism it does not rely on Scripture (though many of its adherents are literalists too).

2.1.1) Abrupt Appearance Theory:
The belief that the universe and the Earth appeared abruptly and the animals and plants appeared fully formed. They make no appeal to the Bible and generally do not accept a young Earth. This can often be indistinguishable from other forms of neo-creationism or from progressive creationism.

2.1.2) Intelligent Design (ID): This has also been termed “Science Denialism” and its proponents have been referred to as both “Intelligent Design Advocates” and “Science Critics”. This claims that there are features in the universe, particularly biology, which are better explained by a designer than by naturalistic mechanisms. The usual arguments are irreducible complexity; specified complexity (and information theory); anthropic finetuning; and arguments about improbability. I have divided this further into two categories. Strong ID: This covers proponents who credit most of creation to the intervention of the designer but do not rely on the Bible for their justification. Many of their beliefs are creationist, but generally they reject this term. Weak ID: This covers proponents who accept the scientific narrative of history but reject that it could be achieved without a designer intervening. Some of these accept evolution to an extent and even accept common descent (albeit aided by the designer).

2.2) Christian Evolutionism: Also termed “Accommodationism”, is the second category within intelligent creation. This covers all the Christian beliefs which accept evolution. There are many within this and some are hard to distinguish from others. I have also defined many of them myself as they tend to all be termed ‘theistic evolution’ in most literature, which I feel fails to encompass the diversity of beliefs held concerning the act of creation. I shall list them in order from what I perceive as the most conservative to the most liberal.

2.2.1) Weak Theistic Evolution: Proponents of this vary, though generally Genesis is seen as having some accuracy. Many take the day-age approach and believe the Genesis sequence matches that of modern science (for which they could be listed under creationism, however, they accept evolution). Some do deny aspects of evolution, such as those that believe that evolution accounts for all except humans, which were created specifically by God (some even believing Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden onto this Earth).

2.2.2) BioLogos: A term used by Francis Collins which is also the name of an organisation. Proponents tend to be evangelical and many accept some concordance between Genesis and evolution (such as the belief in a real Adam or “Homo divinus” and a localised flood). They also tend to favour arguments such as anthropic finetuning; the Moral Law; and the innate desire to find God, which they do not consider to be God of the gaps arguments.

2.2.3) Evolutionary Creationism: Often indistinguishable from other forms within this category. Proponents tend to be evangelical and wish to emphasise that they either put God before science or that they favour Scripture over it by accepting this moniker. Concordance between science and Scripture is often rejected as unnecessary.

2.2.4) Strong Theistic Evolution: Also termed “Christian Darwinism”, this view accepts the entire evolutionary timeline and God is often seen as acting in a kenotic fashion. Less evangelical in this definition than the previous ones, however, it is the most well known term and is usually used to cover every evolution accepting theistic belief.

2.2.5) Evolutionary Christianity: A term from Michael Dowd (who also has bizarre terms like crea-THEIST and cre-ATHEIST). It appears to abandon many Biblical teachings for insight from evolution. For a review of his book look here:

2.2.6) Christian Deism:
The belief that God set the ball rolling 13 billion years ago and does not intervene or interact with creation. Every act of creation is seen as an instant action.

That is all for my attempted taxonomy of creation beliefs (I actually drew a diagram too). I personally place myself in category 2.2.4 even though it seems to almost be a catch-all category. Where do you fit?