Monday, August 31, 2020

Humanity: The Broken Image

"The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good, not even one"
(Psalm 14:2-3).
Humans are born at war with God. How did we go from the image of God to enemies of God? The answer is the fall.

cracked sand sculpture
In Genesis 2 we learn that God put his humans in a beautiful garden that supplied their every need, then he gave them one rule. In chapter 3 we see them break that one rule. Some people want to deny that those events are literal history, but in some way or another, human beings learned to sin. More than that, they rebelled. And when they did, the image of God was broken.

Nature was designed such that everything reproduces after its kind, and for humans that meant passing on that new, fallen nature. Now, the human heart “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9). So sin comes naturally to us. We don’t have to teach children to sin; they figure that out on their own. It’s often said, we aren’t sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. This is called “original sin” — what GK Chesterton called “the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”1

So what exactly is sin? Erickson defines it as “any lack of conformity, active or passive, to the moral law of God.”2 It is the things we do and the things we don’t do. It can be found in our actions or our intentions. It’s anything in which we deviate from God’s character. And we do it as easily as breathing.

The result of our sin is alienation. We are alienated from nature, from God, from other people, and from ourselves.3 The world is broken because of us; we were cast out of paradise into a world that wants to hurt us. We cannot have peace with other people or even ourselves for very long. And we are at war with God. This is the second truth we have to grasp. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

All of this doesn’t mean that we’re completely wicked. But it does mean that everything about us is tainted. Theologians call it the doctrine of total depravity. It says that there is no part of us that isn’t touched by sin. That doesn’t mean we are only terrible all the time. We can follow God’s law when it seems like a good idea to us. But doing “good” for our own reasons isn’t honoring God; we’re still rebelling. That is why even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags to God (Is 64:6).

It gets worse. When we sin, we join in the devil’s rebellion. We are committing treason. And the penalty for treason is death. When Paul said “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23), he wasn’t being melodramatic. Sin introduced death to the human race, spiritual and physical, and eternal death is the just penalty for treason against an infinitely holy God.

These are hard truths, but they are truths we need to embrace. People don’t go to the doctor unless they think they’re sick. But once they know they’re sick, the treatment is precious to them. Human beings are desperately sick, and they need to know it.

But this isn’t just for lost people. Christians are still sinners, and we have the same problem. When we lose sight of our sin, the cross loses its beauty. Meditating on our sinful condition helps us appreciate the gospel. It also yields the humility that the Lord desires in us (Is 57:15). And it makes the cross shine forth in all the glory of the grace of God.4

People have never liked hearing they are sinners, but it’s probably even worse now. We cannot be ashamed of this truth. Refusing to tell a sinner he’s a sinner is no different than a doctor refusing to tell someone with a tumor he has cancer. We have the cure for the disease. They need to know they’re sick.

For more on this topic, I recommend “The Nature and Source of Sin” in Millard Erickson’s Introducing Christian Doctrine.

1 GK Chesteron, Orthodoxy
2 Millard Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine
3 RC Sproul, Everyone’s a Theologian
4 Richard Phillips, What's So Great About Total Depravity?

image credit: Fractured Sand, Brian Williams

Part of Christianity 101

Friday, August 28, 2020

Humanity: Made in God's Image

“So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
What are human beings? What makes them more valuable than anything else in God’s creation?

Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

Genesis 1 tells us how God created the earth. Again and again God said, “Let there be ...,” and it was. Then God begins to make humans, and things change. The pattern is broken. God says, “Let us make mankind ...” and then “So God created mankind...” (Gen 1:26-27). Gen 2 goes into more detail: “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (2:7). God didn’t speak humanity into existence. He got his “hands” dirty. He crafted humans. No other part of creation receives that kind of attention.

It also says, “God created mankind in his own image.” There is nothing else on earth that is described as being created in God’s image. “When the Creator of the universe wanted to create something ‘in his image,’ something more like himself than all the rest of creation, he made us.”1 Throughout the scriptures, and throughout history, this has been taken to mean that humans, just by virtue of being humans, possess a special dignity. This is why murder is a capital crime (Gen 9:6).

What does it mean to be made “in God’s image?” Theologians debate whether it means that humans are created with certain characteristics that make us like God or whether we were created to be God’s special representatives on earth. I think it’s probably both. RC Sproul says, “The image is a unique ability to mirror the character of God such that the rest of the world should be able to look at humans and say, ‘That gives us an idea of what God is like.’”2 We were meant to oversee this planet as God’s regents in a way that reflects him.

But we weren’t just made to represent him; we were made to know him. In Genesis 3 we find that God visits his humans in the evening after their work is done. Again and again in the scriptures we see that God desires intimacy with the people he has made. God did not make us to be pets or employees; he made us to be friends.

So the first truth we need to grasp is that humans are very valuable to God. We are special in a way that nothing else on earth is special. God cares for all of earth’s creatures, be we alone are made in his image. We alone were made for fellowship with God.

There are some implications we need to make clear.

First, all humans are made in God’s image. All humans are descended from these first two. There is no human being who is not of inestimable value. All of the artificial divisions we have created in the human race, all of the “us versus them” fighting, is a result of sin and losing sight of this truth. In the same way, “male and female” are both made in God’s image. There was never supposed to be one human who was less “the image of God” than another, and everyone you meet should be treated like an image bearer.

Second, “because humans are God’s creation, they cannot discover their real meaning by regarding themselves and their happiness as the highest of all values, nor can they find happiness, fulfillment, or satisfaction by going out in search of it. Their value has been conferred upon them by a higher source, and they are fulfilled only when serving and loving that higher being.”3 Or, as Augustine said in his Confessions, God has made us for himself, and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in him.

Finally, we have already seen that God exists in community, so it shouldn’t surprise us that, when the man was made first in the image of God, it was “not good” that the man was alone (Gen 2:18). We were never meant to be solitary creatures because we were made like the triune God. Not everyone is called to be married and raise a family, but everyone needs other people.

Spend some time reflecting on this: You were created to represent, resemble, and know the God of the universe. You are immensely valuable to him simply because of how he made you.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)
Yet the God who measures the heavens with his hands, who calls the stars each by name, cares deeply about you.

1 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, emphasis in original
2 RC Sproul, Everyone's a Theologian
3 Millard Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine

image credit: Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel

Part of Christianity 101

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Sovereignty of God in Traffic

traffic jam

I believe in the sovereignty of God. Except when I'm in traffic. When I'm stuck behind someone going 40 in a 55 on a country road where it's impossible to pass, or when I'm caught in stop and go traffic on the freeway, it's easy to forget that I believe that God is in control. My frustration over my schedule, where I want to be, or just how fast I want to go can distract me from the truth.

We believe that God's control extends to everything, no matter how small. We believe that God has a plan that he is working out. The scriptures say that God leads kings where he wants them to go and manages the diets of sparrows. Nothing is too big or too small for God's sovereignty.

In case you hadn't noticed, there's an election coming up. Lately it seems like every election is billed as "the most important election in history," but the stakes will be high in this one. Not only are very different viewpoints vying for control, but, since politics has devolved to the control of the Supreme Court, and since there are at least two justices not likely to serve for another four years, the next president will get to shape the nation for decades to come.

It's easy to feel anxious about that. The stakes are high, emotions are high, and the world is crazy. It's hard to predict how next weekend will work out, much less an election. It's easy to be distracted by all the drama.

When you feel anxious about the election — or anything else — take a deep breath and tell yourself that God is in control.

That doesn't mean that God will do what you want him to. God sometimes gives us the things we don't want. And the scriptures are clear that sometimes he gives us exactly the harmful thing that we do want. Our society is sick, and sometimes people want bad things. God may give it to them (cf, Rom 1:18-32).

What do we do? Pray and trust God (Phil 4:4-9). Pray that God will not give us the leaders we deserve but leaders that will lead us toward righteousness. Also pray that, however the election works out, people will be respectful and peaceful toward one another.

And remember that God is in control. In human terms, after a presidential election, one of two people will be the next president. The numerous minor parties have no chance of actually winning. But the God who parts the sea, who leads kings around by the nose can put whomever he pleases into office. Trust God can and will do as he sees fit.

But whether we get what we think is good or what we think is bad, a good God is in control. He is working everything out according to his holy, loving, just plan. When your party loses the election, when your kids are giving you trouble, when a pandemic is raging, and when you're stuck in traffic, remind yourself God is on his throne, and he wants what is best for you.

May I suggest spending some time meditating on Psalm 104 and Isaiah 45?

Image credit: Daniel R. Blume

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Introduction to the Doctrine of Humanity

"My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken" (Psalm 62:1-2).
There is no religion with a higher view of humanity than Christianity, but to get it right you have to consider three important truths.

I said we were going to use the Apostles' Creed as the organizing principle for this project, but that left me with a quandary: Where do I put Anthropology (ie, the doctrine of humanity)? There really isn't much in the Apostles' Creed about mankind. The Nicene Creed, the next in the line of creeds from the early church, answered the question. It says that the Lord Jesus

"For us and for our salvation,
came down from heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin..."
And that makes sense to me, to consider why Jesus had to come for us before we go into detail about his nature and work.

So we're going to look at what God intended us to be, where we went wrong, and what God wants us to become. Then we'll be ready to talk about what God did to address our problem.

Part of Christianity 101

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

God is not a Monster

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations ... and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy” (Deut 7:1-2).
A lot of people read the Bible and decide God — if he exists at all — is a horrible, horrible person. Some today decide the God in the Old Testament must be different from God the Father of Jesus in the New Testament, just like the early heretic Marcion, because the two seem to act so differently. In The God Delusion, “new atheist” Richard Dawkins famously summed up the complaint:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
The most frequent example they offer is the “genocide” of the Canaanites. (Here “Canaanites” is a short-hand referring to the people who lived in the land given to Israel before them, “the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites”.) YHWH told Israel “destroy them totally” as quoted above. They weren’t supposed to conquer them. They were supposed to wipe them out. Is that cruel? Is that evil?

To answer that, we have to remember who we’re dealing with. This is the God who made heaven and earth. He is the owner of everything and everyone. God decides when everyone dies; no one dies before God decides they will, and no one dies after God says they will. He is also the Lawgiver; he has standards by which he expects people to live. And he is the Judge when they fail to do so.

What does all of that have to do with this question? The Canaanites were horrible, horrible people. Everyone’s a sinner, but some people are wicked beyond belief. Some revel in immorality to such an extent that it turns the stomach of even immoral people.

child being offered to Molech

One of the many gods the Canaanites worshiped was the “detestable god” (1Kings 11:5) Molech (aka Moloch or Molek). Molech was worshiped by child sacrifice. And they didn’t just kill their children. They were burned alive.

Because of this and other immoral things they did, God was giving Israel their land and requiring their execution. God told them, “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you” (Deut 9:5). God didn’t just want to take the land away. If they were left alive “they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God” (Deut 20:18). (Which is exactly what happened, cf, Judg 3:5-7, 1Kings 11:5-6.)

So this was not a case of “a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak” calling for an ethnic cleansing. This was capital punishment.

And, yes, God did other things like this: the Flood, the plagues in Egypt, Sodom and Gomorrah, and, eventually, Israel. God punishes wickedness. But that’s not his preference:

“Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ez 18:31).
You remember the story of Jonah, the prophet who didn’t want to preach to Nineveh. Remember why: He knew if they would repent, God would forgive.

“Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2).

God wants people to repent. He gave the people before the Flood 120 years to repent (Gen 6:3). He gave the Canaanites 400 years to repent (Gen 15:13-16). He sent a prophet to Nineveh, and we know how he pleaded with Israel:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD:
“though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Is 1:18).
And that sounds very much like the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you’d like to read more about the Canaanite question, here’s a link to Clay Jones, “We Don’t Hate Sin so We don’t Understand What Happened to the Canaanites: An Addendum to ’Divine Genocide’ Arguments,” Philosophia Christi n.s. 11 (2009): 53-72.

image credit: "Offering to Molech", illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster

Part of Christianity 101

Sunday, August 9, 2020

God is Sovereign

“The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be,
and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24).

Is God in control? To what extent does he determine what will happen? How much freedom does he give us? This topic is hotly debated among Christians. I will try to keep to a “mere Christianity”, but it’s hard to discuss this without picking a side.

God is in control. He reigns on his throne, directing events in the cosmos to the end he has already appointed. People have free will. They make real choices with real consequences. And things go exactly as God says they will. You don’t have to believe God has determined our every decision to accept what the Bible teaches — that God really and truly reigns.

Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him.a
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.b
... for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.c
The plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.d
The scriptures do not give us the option of doubting the sovereignty of God.

God is in control, and this is only possible and only good because of what we know about him. “The idea of God’s infinite rule is not only difficult to grasp, it is difficult to trust, unless we have first spent time considering other aspects of his nature”.1 God is the uncaused creator of all things. All things belong to him and were created for him, so he has the right to determine how things go. He has the power to accomplish whatever he pleases, and the things he pleases are good because they are based in his wisdom and holy, just love.

God is sovereign, and that is good. If God were not sovereign, he could not promise anything. He couldn’t guarantee any outcome. It would be terrifying if God were not in control.

But God is in control, so he can promise that justice will ultimately be done. He can promise that all things will work for good. He can promise that good will triumph over evil. God may be intimidating at times, but that’s what we want. "We don't need a warm cuddly God who gives us a shoulder to cry on. We don't need a God who leads us in the serenity prayer. We need a colossal, sovereign, ruling, reigning, good, tender, and merciful God."2

Closely related to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is the doctrine of providence: God cares for his creation. And most emphatically, God cares for his people.

He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst. ...
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts. (Psalm 104:10-15)
God takes care of his creatures “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb 1:3). “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matt 6:26), and “not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care” (Matt 10:29). God holds the universe together and cares for the smallest of his creatures.

And that includes us. God allows people to do bad things, but even then he is at work. Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Gen 50:20). In the same way, God can turn the evil that people choose to do into good. When we suffer — whether by the actions of others or ourselves or by things that seem to be totally random — we can take comfort in the fact that God is in control. Nothing has come upon us that God has not allowed. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). This oft-quoted (and oft-abused) verse doesn’t promise that everything will be shiny and happy for us, but it does promise that God will take whatever happens in our lives and use it to make us into what he means for us to be. And when we get to the other side of this process, we’ll look back and won’t want to change a thing.

Aside: If God is sovereign, why is there evil? That is the $64,000,000 question. It is also, in my humble opinion, the final exam of Christian theology and apologetics. We will return to this topic at the end of this project after we have all the tools in place to discuss it properly.

So how should we respond to God’s sovereignty? First of all, we should kneel. God’s in charge, and you’re not. Let go of the desire to control everything. You can’t control it anyway.

Second, be bold in Christ. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). We should reflect on the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 and all the examples throughout scripture and church history of people trusting themselves to God’s sovereignty. Whether facing armies or lions, storms or crosses, our fathers and mothers in the faith have shown us what it looks like to trust God. Be bold, fearing God rather than men.

And don't worry; Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? ... Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? ... So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matt 6:25-32). Instead of worrying, "in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Phil 4:6). Worrying is a waste of energy. Trust God.

Also, trust God when you don't understand what's going on. When your heart tells you that things are spinning out of control, you know they are not — God is in control. We may not understand what he's doing, why he's allowing certain things to happen, but we know the character of the God who rules the universe, and we can trust his heart.

And this should yield optimism, not fatalism. Some think this doctrine means nothing they do matters. No! Instead God can make something good out of everything you do. When you fail, God can turn it into something good. When you do good, God is glorified. For the Christian, it's win-win.

Next, be thankful. All that you have is from God. All that you don’t have is because God has a better plan. There is no “luck”, whether good or bad. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (Prov 16:33). So be grateful for what you’ve received.

Finally, worship! Our God is in control! There is no foe that can stand against our God. He can give us everything we need. He is working everything out so that justice will be done, so that every wrong will be righted. Just as the apostles sang in prison, we should focus on the fact that our God reigns and trust him to take care of everything else.

“Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev 19:6)!

For more on this topic, I recommend "The Sovereignty of God" in Theology You Can Count On by Tony Evans.

a Psalm 115:3
b Dan 2:20
c Psalm 22:28
d Psalm 33:11

1 Jen Wilkin, None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing)
2 Stephen Altrogge, Untamable God: Encountering the One Who Is Bigger, Better, and More Dangerous Than You Could Possibly Imagine

Image credit: myri_bonnie

Part of Christianity 101

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Sidebar: Christians and the Environment

“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Gen 1:28).
The Christian doctrine of creation should inform Christian approaches to environmental issues or, as it is sometimes known, “creation care.”

There are two truths that have to be held in tension. First, “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” (Ps 24:1). It’s not ours to do with as we please. We ought to take care of other people’s things when they let us use them.

Second, though, God did give us the earth to use (Gen 1:28). We’re supposed to use it wisely, but it is ours to use. We’re allowed to cut down trees, eat animals, and dig up coal. Just don’t go crazy.

These two truths, combined with a healthy dose of “love your neighbor as yourself” should guide us in how to steward the world the Lord has given us in a way that is respectful of all of our neighbors’ needs.

(I have written on this in more detail here.)

Part of Christianity 101

Monday, August 3, 2020

Aside: When Did God Create?

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen 2:4).
The age of the universe is one of the hottest debates in the Church today, so we need to discuss it briefly.

I said before that there are primary issues (things that determine whether or not we are Christians), secondary issues (things that determine whether we are, for example, Baptists or Anglicans), and tertiary issues (things that people can differ on and still be part of the same local church body). The doctrine that God created everything from nothing is a primary issue. Christians have always believed that, and if someone does not believe that, their theology quickly unravels into something that is not Christianity.

Exactly when and how God created everything is a tertiary issue. Though some want to treat it as if it were a secondary, or even primary, issue, Christians who hold different beliefs can and do maintain fellowship within the same local congregation all over the world. We do not have to divide over this, therefore we should not. To divide over such an issue is sin.

So what are the acceptable views that Christians can hold? Here are the major positions that are considered to be within the pale of orthodoxy:

Young Earth Creationism (YEC)
This view holds that God created everything miraculously in six 24-hour days somewhere between 6,000 to 50,000 years ago. This has the advantage of being the most straightforward way of reading Genesis 1-11. This view has the burden of explaining why the universe looks so much older than it is, including fossil evidence.

Old Earth Creationism (OEC)
This is a broad term that encompasses several different theories, but the thing they all have in common is that they hold that the universe is 14ish billion years old and the earth is 4ish billion years old. Even though this view has mostly taken off in the last century or two, the first theologian I know of who wondered if the creation “days” of Genesis might have been longer than 24 standard hours was Augustine of Hippo (354-430), based on passages like Psalm 90:4 (“A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night”). Proponents generally believe God specially intervened to create some or all species — humans at a minimum — but some are open to the idea that God may have used some kind of “descent with modification” to achieve his ends at some points.

Within this group we have:
The Gap Theory: The view that the creation of the universe and earth is recorded in Gen 1:1 and that there is a gap between verses 1 and 2 wherein the earth was laid waste, perhaps by a war between the loyal angels and the fallen angels. Verse 2 picks up with the restoration of the earth that is accomplished in the six recorded days. This view is not very common today. It has to deal with the fact that there is little to no evidence for that destruction between 1:1 and 1:2 in the scriptures or anywhere else.

The Day-Age Theory: The view that the “days” of Genesis 1 were really long spans of time. It appeals to some quirks of the Hebrew text of Gen 1 that adherents find meaningful and verses like Ps 90:4 and Gen 2:4 which suggest that “day” in the Bible doesn’t always mean a 24-hour span. Proponents see various stages in the development of the earth that correspond to the creation “days” from the right frame of reference. This view has to contend with the apparent use of the creation days as the basis for the work six, rest one pattern of the sabbath.

The Framework Theory: The view that the creation days of Genesis were never intended to be taken as literal days and that the events of the creation story are arranged theologically rather than scientifically. This view’s primary weakness is the same as the last’s.

Theistic Evolution
I set this one apart, not because it’s not an OEC view, but because it’s pushing the limits of being considered orthodox. Some use the term “theistic evolution” for the idea that God may have used some kind of descent with modification in his creation. The major use for this term today, though, refers to a particular view that says God set the whole thing off and then stepped back, never intervening in the process after that first moment. Therefore, they believe in naturalistic, Darwinian evolution. I would rather call this “Deistic Evolution”, but proponents want to stress their Christian bona fides and insist on using that term. What really sets them apart is the view that there was no literal Adam and Eve, no literal Garden, and no literal fall event (Gen 3). They view Gen 1-11 as purely mythical. Their biggest problem is explaining how their view of Gen 2 and 3 works with New Testament views of salvation that seem to hinge on a literal Adam and a literal fall.

Intelligent Design
I include this for completeness, but this view is not creationism per se, though creationists may find their theories useful. Most proponents believe the universe is old. What sets them apart is they do not, officially, say who designed the universe. They only hold that the universe, the earth, and life on earth show signs of being put together by an intelligence. This view takes no actual position on Gen 1-11.

In summary, pretty much any position that holds that God created everything from nothing at some point is within the pale of orthodoxy. If they hold that mankind was a special creation and that Adam and Eve were historical people who had a literal fall from innocence, people will be much more comfortable with that position. And one day we’ll finally get to find out who’s right.

Part of Christianity 101