Intro to Young Earth, Old Earth, and Theistic Evolution Models
The young-earth creation (YEC) model for humanity’s origin interprets the Genesis 1 account of origins as literal history, with each of the six creation days being a literal 24-hour period. Adherents to a YEC position also reject macroevolution. Young-earth creationists are skeptical of the scientific interpretation of geological evidence which demonstrates that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Their position is that there are many assumptions involved in various dating methods, and, therefore, the dates scientists arrive at cannot be trusted. Based on their literal interpretation of Genesis 1, coupled with their calculations of lineages contained within scripture, young-earth creationists believe that the earth is approximately 6000 years old. They explain that the fossil record, as well as much of the change in earth’s topography, is a result of the catastrophism triggered during the flood event. Young-earth creationists also believe that humanity began with a single pair of humans, a literal Adam and Eve, specially created by God in His image in a single location. YEC holds that the hominids are modern humans descended from Adam and Eve, and that any deformities are the result of disease, malnutrition, or extreme old age.
Like the YEC position, old-earth creationism (OEC) also believes in a literal interpretation of the Genesis 1 account of origins. However, the OEC position is that the days of creation are not literal 24-hour periods, but, rather, long periods of time. They believe that the geological evidence supports an old earth. Like the YEC position, the OEC position also rejects macroevolution. OEC maintains that the fossil record is legitimate. However, they believe that there has been a progressive history of life forms throughout history. They also believe and accept that the scientific data from various fields is legitimate. However, old-earth creationists draw a distinction between the data of science and the interpretation of that data. OEC also agree with YEC in believing that all of humanity began in a single location with a literal Adam and Eve. However, OEC holds that the dates for the origin of humanity are much older than 6000 years ago, proposing dates between 10,000 – 150,000 years ago with a very wide error bar.
Theistic Evolution Model
The theistic evolutionary approach to humanity’s origin takes the view that the scientific data is real and can be trusted. Theistic evolutionary adherents believe that the geological and fossil records paint an accurate portrait of earth’s history, and they accept the scientific interpretations of that data. Unlike YEC or OEC, theistic evolution holds to a macroevolutionary perspective, and, therefore, that is the manner in which they interpret the fossil record. As a result, their perspective is that humanity arose from an ape-like creature through hominid intermediaries millions of years ago. Theistic evolutionary adherents have differing views on Adam and Eve. Some believe that although their bodies evolved, that God supernaturally imposed a spirit, or His image, within the body. Others believe that both the physical body and the spiritual make-up evolved through strictly naturalistic mechanisms. In direct contradiction to both YEC and OEC, some theistic evolutionists believe that Adam and Eve are merely representative of every man, not the literal first man and woman.
The primary theological difference that the theistic evolutionary approach has in distinct contradiction to both the YEC and OEC approaches is the manner in which it views a literal, historic Adam and Eve. This approach, although perhaps more scientifically acceptable to some people, results in some very difficult theological issues, such as original sin, God’s image, various scriptural references to a literal Adam and Eve, Jesus as the last Adam, etc. This is a theological issue and challenge that neither YEC nor OEC have to account.