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Who are Creationists?

By David Dathe

Recently I was taken to task by our treasurer concerning the following argument I wrote in my book:

Creationists have questioned the validity of isotopic dating. They point out that some of the underlying assumptions are not met in nature and question the accuracy of measuring half-lives. While there is no doubt that some uncertainty exists in isotopic dating, the schemes are entirely workable. Geologists accept the results of isotopic dating for a number of reasons. First, the results are scientifically reproducible. One can repeatedly obtain the same age for a rock sample within experimental error. Second, isotopic dating schemes can serve as cross-checks on each other. For example, one can use two different dating schemes on the same rock and obtain the same age within experimental error. Finally, isotopic dates do not conflict with relative-age dating techniques. An igneous intrusion cutting across another igneous rock body must be younger than that rock body. This is confirmed by isotopic dating methods. Thus, isotopic dating schemes are accepted as accurate methods for determining ages of rocks. (Dathe, 1993, Fundamentals of Historical Geology, p. 13.)

The issue was not that I supported isotopic dating methods, but rather that I used the term "creationists" to classify a large and diverse group of people. The point is a good one and one with which I have struggled for some time. (The editorial decision, to which I agreed, was to use the generic term "creationists" rather than my original term "scientific creationists".) What is the difference between a creationist, scientific creationist, young-earther and theistic evolutionist? And how do these positions differ from that of a conventional geologist?

I identified three major aspects of each of these positions: (1) God, (2) Evolution, and (3) Age of the earth. A summary of how each position views these three components is shown in the table below. By this simplistic comparison four different positions are possible, with the terms scientific creationist and young-earther being essentially the same. There are other considerations as well, such as the accuracy of the creation account in Genesis, the occurrence and consequences of the flood of Noah, and the inerrancy of the Bible. However, to consider all these topics would probably lead to more confusion (and headaches) than clarification. As you will clearly note from the following discussion, my own views are in accord with a theistic evolutionist.

  God Macro-Evolution Age of the Earth
Creationist Yes Yes/No Young/Old
Scientific Creationist Yes No Young
Young-Earther Yes No Young
Theistic Evolutionist Yes Yes Old
Conventional Geologist Yes/No Yes Old


Agreement: Here we find the most common ground. All positions, except the last (and in this case it is still very possible), would acknowledge God as the author of creation. The question I have is: Why do some scientific creationists not use the term God? Their literature talks of a "supreme being" and "creator" but rarely, if ever, mentions God by name. Am I to assume that any being capable of supernatural acts (for example, Satan) created the universe?

Conflict: The exact process(es) of creation seems to be a matter of debate. Specifically, (1) by what process did God create the universe (special creation, evolution, or another method), and (2) when did God do it (billions of years ago or a few thousand)? Scientific creationists apparently go further by using scientific methods and processes to gather evidence to support the creation account in Genesis.

Comment: The idea of using "scientific evidence" to try to prove God has always bothered me. Is our God really one whose existence can be proven, as in a court of law, by the "preponderance of the evidence"? If so, where does faith enter in? Also, using God in arguments takes those arguments outside of the realm of science and into the realm of religion or philosophy. Can’t we approach the question by showing the limitations of science rather than using science to prove the existence of God? I have always perceived Romans 1:20 ("Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse") to claim that the magnitude of creation, and our inability to fully explain it, implies that there is more – namely God.


Agreement: The term evolution itself is often mis-used and misunderstood in discussion. Everyone agrees on two points: (1) there has been "change through time" in certain lines of organisms (the original meaning of evolution), and (2) that organisms do undergo changes during their lifespan (called microevolution).

Conflict: However, there is disagreement about major groups or lines of organism giving rise to other groups (called macroevolution). Macroevolution violates the Biblical notion of "kinds" which has been loosely equated with species.

Comment: Why is evolution looked upon with such contempt by Christian leaders? Certainly many people have claimed that evolution shows that there is no God, that all life formed by "accident" and "chance." Clearly, we would have trouble with this position. But from a Christian geologist position, is there any verse in the Bible that prohibits God from using evolution as a mechanism of creation?

Age of the earth.

Agreement: Young-earthers, by definition, and scientific creationists both agree that the earth is about 10,000 to perhaps 20,000 years old.

Conflict: Most conventional geologists would accept the 4.5 billion year old age given by several independent lines of evidence.

Comment: Unfortunately, here is where many scientific creationists err. The Bible clearly states the age of the earth – in the beginning (Genesis1:1). Why is a young earth necessary? From my own correspondence, scientific creationists and young-earthers "want" a young earth so that evolution will not have time to operate. Does the scientific evidence support a young earth? NO! (But remember, in science one is never 100% certain. There is always the possibility of error.) But is this a problem? Have any of you, ever, found evidence from your geological investigations to discredit the claims in the Bible or deny Jesus? I haven’t. I fully believe that God has given us talents to use – to investigate his creation. Should we fear the results?

I have struggled many, many years with the creation/evolution debate. The questions raised above represent only a small number of the ideas, thoughts, and queries I have had. While writing this I happened across a Bible verse that put the debate in perspective: For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (Isaiah 65:17) Until this time, I welcome your comments and thoughts.

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