Major Belief Systems About Origins

There are many hundreds of creation stories throughout the world. Almost all religions believe and teach their own unique origins ideas. Naturalistic evolution is also a popular belief. In North America, beliefs regarding the origins of the universe and origins of species of life mostly fall into three general groups, with many variations:

1. Scientific Creationism

Modern day creation scientists are divided into many sub-groups, primarily according to their interpretation of the Hebrew word "yom" (day) in Genesis, Chapter 1. All reject the possibility of biological evolution of the species:

A. Biblical Creationists (also called "scientific creationists", "young earth creationists") believers in the seven-day theory of creation, or literal creationists: They interpret the two Genesis accounts of creation literally and attempt to blend the two stories; the "day" mentioned in Genesis 1 is thus a standard 24-hour day, and creation was completed in 6 normal days. In their view, most sedimentary rocks are the products of the Noahic flood. Most believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old; a few hold to 4004 BC as being the year of creation.

B. Old Earth Creationists: They believe in the "infinite-age theory." They do not assign a specific length to a Genesis "day," but believe that God created the earth and its life forms in the sequence specified in Genesis, over billions of years. Each "day" refers to an era of hundreds of millions of years duration. They accept various indicators that the earth has been in existence for billions of years. However, they reject biological evolution.

C. Gap Theory creationists: (also called interval interpretation, gap restitution, and gap theory). They believe that after God created "the heaven and the earth" as described in Genesis 1:1, there was a very long time interval - sufficient to accommodate many geological ages. They maintain that the conventional translation of Genesis 1:2 "And the earth was without form and void... is better translated "the earth became waste and void," perhaps because of some unspecified cataclysmic judgment of God before the first humans were created. Verse 3 and following then describes how God reclaimed creation. Jeremiah 4:23-26; Isaiah 45:18; and Ezekiel 28:12-15 may have echoes of this interval. This belief can be traced back into Jewish second century AD writings.

D. Day-age creationists: They define each of the "days" in Genesis 1 as referring to a specific time interval; 1000 years is a common value, and is based upon the statement in II Peter 3:8 ".... one day is with the Lord as a thousand years...” Creation would then have occurred over a 6 thousand year period, starting circa 10,000 BC. The Qur'an, the holy book of Islam states that one day with God is equivalent to 10,000 years. That would push creation back to about 64,000 years BC. Both the Christian and Muslim beliefs fall way short of the 4.5 billion year age of the earth as measured by radiometric dating. Some feel that God's creative work was spread out over the full interval of time that made up the "day." Others believe that his work was done within a 24-hour day, he then waited for a long interval; during that time, animals and plants that he had created developed fully.

E. Revelatory-device theory: The author(s) of Genesis used "days" as a literary technique to organize his description of creation. An analogy might be a description of a construction project. A building might be portrayed, as being built in many phases: phase I would be excavation; phase 2 would be pouring of the foundation; phase 3 would be the erecting of steelwork, etc. Perhaps the author(s) are using "day" where other writers might indicate "phase."

F. Revelatory-day theory: Perhaps God showed Moses how he created the universe, taking 6 days to complete the demonstration.

2. Theistic Evolution

These accept that biological evolution happened, but insist that God had a major role to play in the process:

A. Theistic evolution: (also called process creation, and multiple creation.) This is similar to naturalistic evolution. The universe is over 10 billion years old; the earth is over 4 billion years old. Species developed in increasing complexity as observed by science. This belief system states that new species evolve by natural processes. God is seen as performing a supervisory function, intervening as needed, nudging evolution to make certain that it progresses in the right direction. These beliefs are common among mainline and liberal Christian faith groups.

B. Progressive creationists agree in an old earth, as do theistic evolutionists. However, they deny that natural processes can produce new species by themselves. Without God, there is no way that a species can evolve into a more complex life form. Some believe that God alters the DNA of an existing species in order to develop each new type of animal; others believe that God starts from scratch when he creates a new species.

3. Naturalistic Evolution

These models accept that biological evolution happened, and that purely natural forces caused it without input from God:

A. Naturalistic evolution (also called atheistic evolution or simply evolution), in this model, the universe started in a "big bang," -- a natural phenomenon, not involving God in any way. The evolution of the earth, its life and the rest of the cosmos are also viewed as having proceeded strictly by natural processes. A minority believes that species evolved more or less regularly over the past hundreds of millions of years. Most believe, on the basis of the fossil record, that species evolved through a process of punctuated equilibrium: there were long periods of relative stability, each terminated by a mass extinction and the relatively sudden appearance of many new species. They assume that there was no intervention by a God in any of these processes. The term "atheistic evolution" is really a misnomer, because Christians and other theists can and do believe in the existence of God and in naturalistic evolution. They see the driving forces of evolution as purely natural. A high percentage of modern-day scientists probably believe in theistic or naturalistic evolution.

B. Deistic evolution: This is the belief that God created the universe, perhaps using the "big bang" about 15,000 million years ago as his method. He then left the scene entirely, and has not been seen since. The earth coalesced about 4 or 5 thousand million years ago without any input from God. Later, elementary life forms formed, which evolved into the animals and plant life that we see today through purely natural forces. It is essentially identical to naturalistic evolution, except that it reserves one action for God - that of initially creating matter of the universe. This belief is common among Deists.

Here's a comparison chart from the Wikipedia page on Creationism .

Comparison of major creationist views||~ ||~ Humanity ||~ Biological species ||~ Earth ||~ Universe ||
Young Earth creationism
Directly created by God.
Directly created by God. Macroevolution does not occur.
Less than 10,000 years old. Reshaped by global flood.
Less than 10,000 years old.
Gap creationism
Directly created by God.
Directly created by God. Macroevolution does not occur.
Scientifically accepted age. Reshaped by global flood.
Scientifically accepted age.
Progressive creationism
Directly created by God (based on primate anatomy).
Direct creation + evolution. No single common ancestor.
Scientifically accepted age. No global flood.
Scientifically accepted age.
Intelligent design
Proponents hold various beliefs. e.g. Behe accepts evolution from primates
Divine intervention at some point in the past, as evidenced by what intelligent-design creationists call "irreducible complexity"
Some adherents claim the existence of Earth is the result of divine intervention
Some adherents believe in the teleological argument, that the existence of Universe is the result of divine intervention
Theistic evolution
Evolution from primates.
Evolution from single common ancestor.
Scientifically accepted age. No global flood.
Scientifically accepted age.