Orthodoxy and the Timing of Creation

In recent times, in many Christian circles, young-earth creationism has begun to be considered a point of orthodoxy. Now I consider orthodoxy a very good thing, and I lament the lack of standards of orthodoxy in much of Protestantism. However, I do not believe that the manner or timing of creation should be considered a point of orthodoxy.

I think that anybody who calls themselves a Christian should be able to affirm the Nicene Creed, and I also believe that true Christianity should embrace the five solas of the Reformation. The Nicene Creed is a summary of essential Christian beliefs, written by the church fathers and affirmed by Christians for 1600 years. It says nothing about the manner or timing of creation.

The church fathers were not even all calendar-day creationists. Sure, most of them were. But we know that the notable early Christian pastors and theologians Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, and Augustine did not hold to the calendar-day perspective of Genesis. Apparently, calendar-day creationism was not considered a point of orthodoxy in the second, third, and fourth centuries.

Augustine of Hippo, a notable church leader of the fourth century, believed that God created everything instantly. This view was not considered heretical by the church.

Now it is true that the Westminster Confession of Faith states that God created “in the space of six days.” The Presbyterian Church of America (which holds steadfastly to the Westminster Confession) formed a committee in 1998 for the purpose of researching and interpreting this statement and evaluating positions on creationism. The committee’s report was submitted two years later with the conclusion was that the statement was written with regards to the view of instantaneous creation and not with regards to a day–age interpretation. The committee did not find the day–age interpretation to contradict the Westminster Confession.

Yet any deviation from calendar-day creationism is still viewed by many as a mark of theological liberalism. Personally, I am in agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession (except regarding the Pope being the Antichrist, rest being forbidden on the Lord’s Day, or the elements of the Lord’s Supper being made holy by prayer). I challenge you to read this confession and judge for yourself whether there is any way that someone who agrees with it could possibly be considered liberal.

So maybe we should worry less about teaching young-earth creationism in our churches and more about refuting actual heresies, such as Pelagianism, modalism, and prosperity theology, which have begun to overrun the Protestant churches.