Christian Science

Christian Science

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IntroductionChristian Science, an indigenous Christian denomination, was established by Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote the founding texts of that religious and medical sect called the Church of Christ, Scientist. Embroiled in controversy over Eddy’s authority as author of their healing practices and doctrines, the Church of Christ, Scientist has offered seekers and adherents an alternative to established religion and orthodox medicine since 1879.Early churchSuffering from poor health, Mary Baker Eddy sought help from mental healer Phineas Parkhurst Quimby of Portland, Maine, in 1862. During Quimby's course of treatments, Eddy became a student of his practice of massage, encouragement and mental healing techniques.Shortly after Quimby’s death in 1866, Eddy suffered a debilitating accident. That event was bound up with the beginning of Christian Science.As her studies of the Bible continued for the following few years, Eddy began to teach others about a healing concept that was neither a magnetic force or the mind, as Quimby had taught. Shortly after her first book on The Science of Man and before the first edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Eddy received a letter of dismissal from the Congregational Church of which she had been a lifelong member.In 1876, Eddy organized a fellowship of students in Massachusetts that became the Christian Science Association. In 1883, the first issue of the Journal of Christian Science was published, and in 1886, an association for non-Massachusetts residents, called the National Christian Scientist Association, was established.The church reorganizedDoubting the stability of the structure under which the church was organized, Eddy dissolved the church, college and the association, and turned the Journal over to the Association. She reorganized the church in 1892 and reclaimed the Journal. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Boston, also known as “the Mother Church,” was stringently controlled by Eddy and a self-perpetuating board of directors that she established.Prone to emotional outbursts, paranoia, and activities involving her health, Eddy retreated from the church to live out the remainder of her days as the saint that adherents envisioned. When Eddy died in 1919, she left the majority of her $2.5 million estate to the church, which had grown to nearly 100,000 members.Beliefs and practicesAs written in the “authorized edition” of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Christian Science adherents espouse the following beliefs:

  • The inspired word from the Bible is sufficient for guiding adherents to eternal life;
  • belief in one God, and that man was made in God’s image and likeness;
  • casting out evil as unreal, adherents accept God as a forgiver of sins and that the belief in sin is punished for as long as that belief is kept;
  • the value of the crucifixion of Jesus was for uplifting one’s consciousness sufficiently as to understand eternal Life and the nature of the “allness” of Soul, Spirit and the nothingness of matter;
  • and they watch and pray for the Mind that was of Jesus, to replace their human mind; obey the Golden Rule, be merciful, pure and just.
  • Christian Science adherents hold beliefs that are either controversial or heretical to orthodox Christian churches. Adherents radically redefine Christian terminology — e.g. the Holy Ghost is Divine Science — by use of the allegorization process. They strongly reject any association with the New Thought Movement, which began as an offshoot of Quimby’s teachings on healing. They hold strong beliefs that run contrary to traditional Christian teachings regarding the Trinity, unique divinity of Jesus, and the atonement for sin and its creation.Adherents hold in common with other Christian denominations the belief in one god, and that God came in the form of Jesus Christ. Where they deviate is that one is "saved" through the Christ, which is demonstrated not only in Jesus, but in others as well. They make a distinction between the human Jesus and an "eternal, spiritual selfhood, Christ, Son of God." That selfhood has been expressed in individuals throughout history.Their beliefs also differ in that adherents believe in what they call the "allness of God," that everything lives within God. Because of that belief, they do not see disease, sin or death to be a part of reality. Also, evil is not defeated by Christ, but shown to be unreal — except for one's own belief in it. They also emphasize nonpersonal attributes of God as Principle, Mind, Life, Truth and Love. Although they recognize God as Father, not much emphasis is placed on that aspect.Clergy and organizationEach congregation has elected officers and is democratically governed. Officers must be members of the "Mother Church" and therefore are under the authority of the Mother Church's board of directors. The directors ensure the continued adherence to the original doctrine from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures and the Church Manual. The board also is responsible for overseeing the church's various other organizations, including their large publishing firm, as well as all of their teachers and practitioners. Each congregation is led by its "First Reader." No separate ministry exists within the church.To become a healer, an adherent must attend an intensive, two-week "Primary" training class, instructed by a teacher who is chosen from the congregation's active practitioners. Each congregation is responsible for operating at least one Reading Room, where Christian Science materials are available to the public.ControversiesFrom its inception, the Church of Christ, Scientist has been embroiled in controversy. Most of it stems from Mary Baker Eddy's teachings and their origin. The efficacy of its practices has also generated controversy within and outside the church.Before the first Christian Science church was dissolved in 1889, former students of Quimby — Julius and Annetta Dresser of Boston, Massachusetts — alleged that Eddy distorted Quimby's teachings on mental healing. Some of Eddy's former students joined forces with the Dressers in a bitter attack against her. Eddy and her later students claimed that the distortions were actually uniquely Eddy's discoveries and were the result of her own research and understanding. Members of the "New Thought" movement, some of whom were former Eddy students, used her healing practices to compete, which led to further contention.In the 1980s, Christian Science entered the “electronic church” era with the purchase of airtime for a monthly half-hour television production, followed by a nightly half-hour news show on a cable TV channel. They also purchased a cable TV station to produce their programs, a shortwave radio station and a syndicated radio production on National Public Radio.Not heeding the warnings received from church members and media professionals, the Church lost upwards of $250 million. Controversy regarding the unlawful allocation of those funds from a trust sparked lawsuits that pushed them to the brink of bankruptcy.The church was saved by a $90 million bequest from the Knapp trust involving the publishing of Bliss Knapp’s The Destiny of The Mother Church — which generated further controversy. The trustees had insisted that the book be published as “authorized literature,” but church officials had previously criticized Knapp for deviating from Eddy’s teaching on several points. In the end, the church received only half the original sum, owing to payments for lawsuits originating from alternate trustees to Knapp’s estate.A minor uprising by some prominent Christian Scientists as a result of that media debacle resulted in another lawsuit in 1993 against the board of directors for financial mismanagement. The case was eventually tossed out by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, but internal discontent continues.

    Christian Science todayOwing to controversy and bad publicity, church membership has considerably decreased since its initial upsurge. Although disclosure of membership figures is forbidden by The Manual of the Mother Church, the decrease has been noticed in the number of branch churches from roughly 1,800 down to around 1,000. Practitioners and teachers listed in the Christian Science Monitor also have fallen dramatically from roughly 5,000 to nearly 1,160.The Church of Christ, Scientist, has roughly 2,000 congregations in 70 countries. While membership figures are unavailable, it is known that the church’s membership continues to decline. Appealing predominately to women from its inception in 1879, Mary Baker Eddy’s work in faith healing continues to provide an alternative to established religion and orthodox medicine. Battered by controversy and lawsuits, the church continues to survive.

    Christianity and science

    Most sources of knowledge available to early Christians were connected to pagan world-views. There were various opinions on how Christianity should regard pagan learning, which included its ideas about nature. For instance, among early Christian teachers, Tertullian (c. 160–220) held a generally negative opinion of Greek philosophy, while Origen (c. 185–254) regarded it much more favorably and required his students to read nearly every work available to them. [1]

    Historically, Christianity has been and still is a patron of sciences. It has been prolific in the foundation of schools, universities and hospitals, and many clergy have been active in the sciences. Historians of science such as Pierre Duhem credit medieval Catholic mathematicians and philosophers such as John Buridan, Nicole Oresme and Roger Bacon as the founders of modern science. [2] Duhem concluded that "the mechanics and physics of which modern times are justifiably proud to proceed, by an uninterrupted series of scarcely perceptible improvements, from doctrines professed in the heart of the medieval schools". [3] Some scholars and historians attributes Christianity to having contributed to the rise of the Scientific Revolution. [4] [5] [6] [7]

    Christian Science - History

    Christian Science (Eddyism)
    Founder: Mary Baker Eddy

    The only thing Christian about Christian Science is the name itself. The beliefs of Mary Eddy are so far removed from the Bible that it seems like she is in her own world.

    The idea of Christian Science came in 1866 when Mary said she discovered the "Science of metaphysical healing". She organized it in 1879 and it was founded on her book, "Science and Health (with Key to the Scriptures)" the last part of the title was added later. She claims to have received divine revelation in writing this book but not believing in a personal God it makes one wonder how could she then get divine revelation? Mary simply took eastern mysticism (e.g., Hinduism) and pantheism (all is God) and called it Christian Science. The lure to draw people in was to call it "Christian" Science because people living in the United States even if they didn't like Christianity, still had strong roots to it.

    Mary Eddy said at one point, "I have marveled at the press and pulpit's patience with me, when I have taken away their Lord."

    The History of Weddings and Funerals in Christian Science Churches

    We have found no comments by Mary Baker Eddy in her writings regarding branch churches holding weddings or funerals in their edifices.

    There has never been a wedding held in The Mother Church on rare occasions, there have been memorial services. For example, as documented in the November 26, 1963, issue of The Christian Science Monitor, there was a special memorial service held in honor of the late President John F. Kennedy. 1 Memorial services were also held in The Mother Church for Presidents William McKinley, Warren Harding, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (Each of these presidents passed away while still in office, which may be why the memorial services were held.)

    In the Monitor’s article on the service held for Harding, the reporter writes that the order of service “will follow that used at the memorial service for President McKinley, Sept. 19, 1901.” 2 McKinley was assassinated in September 1901. Eddy sent a note of condolence to his widow, Ida Saxton McKinley, 3 and gave advice to Irving Tomlinson as to the content of the service: “Be ready for the meeting in memorium so as to appeal to the hearts present. Leave out technical Science speak of the power of Love Divine to save to the uttermost and the sure hope of our nation.” 4

    The practice of not allowing for weddings and funerals in Christian Science edifices was a tradition. For a time, the Christian Science Board of Directors strongly preferred that weddings and funerals not be held in branch churches see, for example, “Christian Science and the Marriage Ceremony” on page 112 of the February 1976 issue of The Christian Science Journal. 5

    In recent years, however, branch churches have been encouraged to make the decision democratically amongst their membership in accordance with the By-law in the Manual of The Mother Church, Article XXIII, section 10, “No Interference.” 6

    Christian Science - History

    We are pleased to offer audio recordings of historical Christian Science lectures. During the 1960’s, Christian Science lectures were frequently broadcast in the New York City area. Many of them were recorded by the webmaster of this site on reel-to-reel tape, which you may now enjoy. Visitors to our site have also contributed many additional lectures.

    In addition to lectures, you may find several talks and association addresses. An association address is given by a Teacher of Christian Science to their students. Few association addresses have survived the passing of years. They represent the more advanced writings on Christian Science.

    A few lectures use a synthesized, computer-generated voice. The lectures, with [S] after the title, date from 1922 or earlier, and were printed in media such as the newspapers and journals of the time. You may notice some imperfections in the text-to-speech conversion, but hopefully the message will come through.

    You may download and listen to these recordings for your own personal use only. You are not permitted to copy/upload the lectures to your website or any other website, sell them, use them for commercial purposes, or reproduce and distribute them without permission in any form whatsoever.

    If you enjoy these lectures, or wish to contribute your vintage recordings feel free to drop me a note. Another website called offers the full text of these and many others, which you may read or print.

    Would you like to leave a comment on these lectures? We welcome your thoughts and comments. Please click the icon to send us a message.

    A new address has been added: Christian Science:
    The Science Which Reveals the Ever-presence of God by Colin Eddison (Read by Anthony Whitehouse)

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    Our Favorite Christian Homeschool Science Curriculum

    For the past four years we have been using Sonlight Homeschool Science Curriculum packages and to be honest, their packages are so amazing is hard for me to even try to compare it with another curriculum. I love Sonlight science and their curriculum for other subjects as well!

    What I love about Sonlight Curriculum, most of all is the use of living books instead of plain boring textbooks. I love how they carefully craft the Science packages together using fantastic books, biographies, hands-on experiments and even a super fun DVD called, InquisiKids Discovery & Do, that my kids absolutely love watching!

    When I asked other Christian homeschool moms what they were using for Science, I discovered that there are other amazing Christian Homeschool Science curricula out there and most of them I have never heard about before!

    This year we are also using Apologia Astronomy and absolutely loving it!!

    Christian Science Beliefs

    Baptism: Baptism is the spiritual purification of daily life, not a sacrament.

    The Bible: The Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, are the two key texts of the faith.

    The tenets of Christian Science read:

    Communion: No visible elements are necessary to celebrate The Eucharist. Believers practice silent, spiritual communion with God.

    Equality: Christian Science believes women are equal to men. No discrimination is made among races.

    God: The unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is Life, Truth, and Love. Jesus, the Messiah, is divine, not a deity.
    Golden Rule: Believers strive to do unto others as they would have others do unto them. They work to be merciful, just, and pure.​​

    The tenets of Christian Science read:​

    Heaven and Hell: Heaven and hell exist not as places or as parts of the afterlife but as states of mind. Mary Baker Eddy taught that sinners make their own hell by doing evil, and saints make their own heaven by doing right.
    Homosexuality: Christian Science promotes sex within marriage. However, the denomination also avoids judging others, affirming the spiritual identity each person receives from God.

    Salvation: Man is saved through Christ, the promised Messiah. By his life and works, Jesus shows the way to man’s unity with God. Christian Scientists affirm the virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ as evidence of divine love.

    A Brief Overview of the Christian Science Worldview

    Every worldview has to answer three important questions. First, “How did we get here”? This question is foundational to how we see the world around us and to how we understand our role within that world. Secondly, worldviews must answer the question, “How did things get so messed up?” All of us know there is something broken about the world in which we live and our worldview helps us to understand what has been broken. Finally, worldviews answer the question, “How can we fix it?” Worldviews begin with a claim about our origin, but ultimately must answer the most important questions of life. Christian Science offers answers to these three worldview questions. Let’s examine the history of Christian Science and its answers to the three most important worldview questions.

    Mary Baker Eddy was born in Bow, New Hampshire on July 16th, 1821. She was the youngest of six children, and her parents raised her in a “Congregationalist” Christian church. She suffered a number of childhood illnesses leading her to examine the Biblical passages dealing specifically with healing. As she grew into a woman, her persistent illnesses continued. In 1862, at the age of 41, she became a patient of Phineas Quimby who was himself a “mesmerist” and “magnetic” healer. Quimby was a dualist who believed the mind was “spiritual matter” and man “exists outside himself”. He saw the mind and the brain as two separate entities interacting with each other, and he developed a theory of “mental healing”. He believed disease was simply the result of faulty thinking and his work with Mary Baker Eddy was formative to her own writing and theological thinking.

    In 1866, at the age of 45, Eddy suffered a fall and a spinal injury. She turned to the Bible for answers and recovered from the injury quickly (and unexpectedly). She spent the next three years studying the Bible and forming the basis for Christian Science as a philosophy of mind, a theory of healing, and a theological system. She tested her theories for several years and eventually published “Science and Health” (later re-titled as “Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures”) in 1875. She advanced this theological view and theory of science by establishing the Christian Science Church from students she taught at the Massachusetts Metaphysical College in the 1880’s. Today, there about 100,000 members of Christian Science in over 60 countries. They use the Bible and “Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures” as their two sacred texts.

    How Christian Science Answers the Question:
    “How Did We Get Here?” (What’s the Nature of God and Creation?)
    Christian Science teaches creation is the product of the Divine Mind, and the god of Christian Science is very different than the God of Orthodox Biblical Christianity. Eddy described God as an impersonal “Principle” rather than a person. In fact, Eddy often described God using a number of similar impersonal synonyms, like “Principle”, “Soul”, “Mind”, “Spirit”, “Life”, “Truth”, and “Love”. Christian Science also denies the Trinity and acknowledges Jesus as Divine, but denies He is God. For Christian Scientism, there is a distinction between Jesus’ human nature and His divine “Christ”:

    “Jesus is the name of the man who, more than all other men, has presented Christ, the true idea of God, healing the sick and sinning and destroying the power of death” (Science and Health, 473:10-17).

    While Eddy taught creation is a product of the Divine Mind, she described God’s creation as entirely spiritual and perfect. According to Eddy, matter, sin, sickness and death do not exist. While we may think these material things exist around us, we are simply mistaken they are an illusion:

    “The only reality of sin, sickness, or death is the awful fact that unrealities seem real to human, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise” (Science and Health, 472:27-29).

    Christian Science teaches we are bound by the material world until we finally understand it is not real. Once we accept matter, sin, sickness and death as illusions, we too will have power over them. God is spiritual and cannot be sick. Man, as his creation, is an eternal, spiritual being who has been deceived into thinking there is a material world where sickness and sin have power. Sickness is simply an imagining of what Eddy called the “Mortal Mind”. Here is a brief summary of these ideas as described in the Christian Science “Scientific Statement of Being” recited as a creed in Christian Science churches:

    There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material he is spiritual. (Science and Health, 468:9-15)

    Mary Baker Eddy taught the Bible was full of errors and was only useful when interpreted by her own writing, “Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures”. In this volume, Eddy rejected Genesis chapter 2 as a corruption (a “lie”) and relied on Genesis chapter 1 to make a case for humans as completely spiritual creatures who have nothing to do with matter (Genesis 2 links the creation of man to the dust of the ground). Creation Science describes humans as a purely spiritual and immaterial creation of a spiritual and immaterial God.

    How Christian Science Answers the Question:
    “How Did It Get So Messed Up?” (What Separates Man from God?)
    If God is the spiritual, immaterial creator of all things and His creations are purely spiritual, the problem with the world we live in is simple: we have been deceived into thinking matter, sin, illness and death exist when, in fact, they don’t. How did this happen? Christian Science teaches our deception is the result of the Devil, but it defines the Devil as “evil a lie error… a belief in sin, sickness, and death…” or a belief in the material world. The Devil is not a person, but a belief:

    “I am life and intelligence in matter. There is more than one mind, for I am mind, – a wicked mind, self made or created by a tribal god and put into the opposite of mind, termed matter, thence to reproduce a mortal universe, including man, not after the image and likeness of Spirit, but after its own image” (Science and Health, 584:20-25)

    This is our dilemma we are deceived by a false belief in the material world and a false belief we are independent material beings. We must overcome these beliefs before we can ever hope to solve the problems we have in a world filled with sin, death and illness. While we may see evil all around us, Christian Science describes this evil as an illusion:

    “Evil is a negation, because it is the absence of truth. It is nothing, because it is the absence of something. It is unreal, because it presupposes the absence of God, the omnipotent and omnipresent. Every mortal must learn that there is neither power nor reality in evil.” (Science and Health 186:12-15)

    In this worldview, evil is not actually “real” at all. Evil may appear to be real, but it is actually a mistaken view of God and man. Christian Science teaches God and His creation (as spiritual realities alone) are entirely good. As humans, deceived by our perception of the material world, we often have thoughts and engage in actions contrary to our God-given goodness. When this happens, we suffer in some way. In essence, we experience what we think is evil because we have simply misconceived the nature of our world. While God has created all things to be good, we continue to “misunderstand” His creation and then “misapply” the principles of His creation, resulting in the suffering we experience on earth.

    How Christian Science Answers the Question:
    “How Do We Fix It?” (How Can We Be Reunited with God?)
    So how can we “fix” this misunderstanding and misapplication? The Orthodox Christian worldview promises a new life in Heaven with the God who created us, but Christian Science rejects the idea of heaven as the abode of God. For the follower of Christian Science, heaven and hell are simply states of mind. Heaven is described as:

    “Harmony the reign of Spirit government by the divine Principle spirituality bliss the atmosphere of Soul.” (Science and Health, 587:25-27)

    In a similar way, hell is described as:

    “Mortal belief error lust remorse hatred revenge sin sickness death suffering and self-destruction self-imposed agony effects of sin that which ‘worketh abomination or maketh a lie.’” (Science and Health, 588:1-4)

    As a result of these beliefs about heaven and hell, the follower of Christian Science is not trying to escape the judgment of God and the destiny of hell as a place of eternal punishment, but is instead trying to liberate himself (or herself) from the illusion of the material world. Heaven (the “harmony” and “reign of the Spirit”) can be achieved if we can simply learn the truth and connect to the mind of God. The “salvation” of Christian Science is defined as:

    “Life, Truth, and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all sin, sickness and death destroyed” (Science and Health, 593:20-22)

    Jesus is part of the Christian Science solution, but not as a redeemer who paid the price for our individual sins on the cross (in fact, Christian Science teaches Jesus did not actually die on the cross, but his followers were instead fooled into thinking he was dead when he was really alive in the tomb). Christian Science teaches sin and evil are part of our material illusion. Jesus, therefore, helps us solve our own delusion problem by giving us true information about the nature of the spiritual world in which we live. Christian Science describes Jesus as:

    “The highest human corporeal concept of the divine idea, rebuking and destroying error and bringing to light man’s immortality. (Science and Health, 589:16-18)

    Eddy described Jesus as the vehicle by which God presented the “Christ” which is defined as:

    “The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error. (Science and Health, 583:10-11)

    Jesus saves us, but not by way of the “substitutionary atonement” described in orthodox Christianity. Instead, Jesus is the vehicle through which God imparts the correct view of the spiritual world. Christian Science teaches we can access the truth of God through prayer as a means of learning about God’s nature so we can begin to see things as He sees them. In prayer we are to do more than ask for a specific result we are to ask for clarity of what is truly happening at the spiritual level and claim the good existing at this level. When this is done, the follower of Christian Science expects a renewed view of the situation to emerge. If the believer was falsely deluded into thinking he or she was sick, for example, the new spiritual awareness of the unseen reality will cure this false notion and the believer will be “healed”.

    Followers of Christian Science believe their faith is perfected over time they get better and better at discerning the illusion of the material world as they learn more and more about the character of God and the spiritual world (through prayer). For this reason, they believe (in theory at least) the more they practice their faith, the more they will overcome the illusion of sickness, sin and even death. By this view, it should be possible for a faithful Christian Scientist to be illness free and immune from death. Every worldview must be internally and externally coherent. The challenge for Christian Science appears to exist at both levels. Click To Tweet

    Every worldview must be internally and externally coherent. The challenge for Christian Science appears to exist at both levels. There are a number of philosophical and Biblical questions exposing the internal contradictions of the worldview. We’ll examine some of these in another post.

    For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

    Christian Views of Science and Earth History – A Balanced Perspective

    Dr. Ray Bohlin and Rich Milne consider the three primary views held by Christians regarding the age of the earth and how the universe, life and man came to be: young earth creationism, progressive creationism, and theistic evolution. After considering the case for each one, they conclude with a call to work together for the cause of Christ.

    Introduction of Three Views

    How old is the earth? Did men live with dinosaurs? Are dinosaurs in the Bible? Where do cave men fit in the Bible? Did the flood cover the whole earth? How many animals were on Noah’s Ark? What does the word day in Genesis chapter one mean?

    These are all common and difficult questions your children may have asked, or maybe they are questions you have. What may surprise you is that evangelical Christians respond with numerous answers to each question. In reality, answers to the preceding questions largely depend on the answer to the first one. How old is the earth?

    The diversity of opinion regarding this question inevitably leads to controversy, controversy that is often heated and remarkably lacking in grace and understanding. For those Christians who are practicing scientists, there is much at stake. Not only is one’s view of Scripture on the firing line, but one’s respect and job security in the scientific community is also at risk.

    But we must say up front, that as important as this question is, it is of secondary importance to the quest of defeating Darwinism as currently presented to the culture. Educational leaders and evolutionary scientists are determined to present a fully naturalistic evolution as the only reasonable and scientific theory that can be discussed in the public education system. All Christians, whether old earth or young earth, should find common cause in dethroning philosophical naturalism as the reigning paradigm of education and science.

    Returning to the age of the earth question, we would like to survey three general categories of response to this question that can be found among Christians today. For each of these three views, we will discuss their position on Genesis chapter one, since theological assumptions guide the process of discovering a scientific perspective. We will also discuss the basics of the scientific conclusions for each view. Finally, we will discuss the strengths of each view and what those holding the other two views think are the other’s limitations.

    The first view of science and earth history we will discuss is the recent or literal view. This position is often referred to as scientific creationism, creation science, or young earth creationism. Young earth creationists believe that the earth and the universe are only tens of thousands of years old and that Genesis gives us a straightforward account of God’s creative activity.

    The second position, progressive creationism or day-age creationism, holds that the earth and the universe are billions of years old. However, progressive creationists believe that God has created specifically and ex nihilo (out of nothing), throughout the billions of years of earth history. They do not believe that the days of Genesis refer to twenty-four hour days, but to long, indefinite periods of time.

    A view traditionally known as theistic evolution comprises the third position. Theistic evolutionists essentially believe that the earth and the universe are not only billions of years old, but that there was little, if any, intervention by God during this time. The universe and life have evolved by God-ordained processes in nature. Theistic evolutionists, or evolutionary creationists, as many prefer to be called, believe that the first chapter of Genesis is not meant to be read historically, but theologically. It is meant to be a description of God as the perfect Creator and transcendent over the gods of the surrounding ancient Near Eastern cultures.

    Before we consider each position in greater detail, it is important to realize two things. First, we will paint in broad strokes when describing these views. Each has many sub-categories under its umbrella. Second, we will describe them as objectively and positively as we can without revealing our own position. We will reveal our position at the conclusion of this article.

    Recent or Literal Creation

    Having introduced each position, we would like to review the theological and scientific foundations for the first one: recent or young earth creationism.

    The young earth creationist firmly maintains that Genesis chapter one is a literal, historical document that briefly outlines God’s creative activity during six literal twenty-four hour days. If one assumes that the genealogies of Genesis chapters five and eleven represent a reasonable pre-Israelite history of the world, then the date of creation cannot be much beyond thirty thousand years ago.

    A critical theological conclusion in this view is a world free of pain, suffering, and death prior to the Fall in Genesis chapter three. God’s prescription in Genesis 1:29 to allow only green plants and fruit for food follows along with this conclusion.

    The universal flood of Noah, recorded in Genesis chapters six through nine, is also a crucial part of this view. On a young earth, the vast layers of fossil-bearing sedimentary strata found all over the earth could not have had millions of years to accumulate. Therefore, the majority of these sedimentary layers are thought to have formed during Noah’s flood. Much research activity by young earth creationists is directed along this line.

    Young earth creationists also maintain the integrity of what is called the Genesis kind, defined in Genesis 1:11, 12, and 21. The dog kind is frequently given as an example of the Genesis kind. While this is still a matter of research, it is suggested that God created a population of dog-like animals on the sixth day. Since then, the domestic dog, wolf, coyote, African wild dog, Australian dingo, and maybe even the fox have all descended from this original population. Young earth creationists suggest that God created the individual kinds with an inherent ability to diversify within that kind. But a dog cannot cross these lines to evolve into say, a cat.

    The literal view of Genesis chapter one has been predominant throughout Church history and it proposes a testable scientific model of the flood and the Genesis kind. Critics point out that there are immense difficulties explaining the entire geologic record in terms of the flood. Principal among these problems is that it appears there are many more animals and plants buried in the rocks than could have been alive simultaneously on the earth just prior to the flood.

    Progressive Creationism

    The next view to discuss is progressive creationism. The progressive creationist essentially believes that God has intervened throughout earth history to bring about His creation, but not all at once over six literal twenty-four hour days. The progressive creationist will accept the long ages of the earth and the universe while accepting that there is some historical significance to the creation account of Genesis.

    A popular view of Genesis chapter one is called the day-age theory. This view agrees that the events described in the first chapter of Genesis are real events, but each day is millions, perhaps billions of years in duration. The Hebrew word for day, yom, can mean an indefinite period of time such as in Genesis 2:4. This verse summarizes the first thirty-four verses of the Bible by stating, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heaven” (emphasis added). In this case, the word day refers to the previous seven days of the creation week. Consequently, the progressive creationist feels there is justification in rendering the days of Genesis chapter one as indefinite periods of time.

    Therefore, the progressive creationist has no problem with the standard astronomical and geological ages for the universe and the earth. A universe of fifteen billion years and an earth of 4.5 billion years are acceptable. In regard to evolution, however, their position is similar to the young earth creationists’. Progressive creationists accept much of what would be called microevolution, adaptation within a species and even some larger changes. But macroevolutionary changes such as a bird evolving from a fish are not seen as a viable process.

    These are the basic beliefs of most progressive creationists. What do they think is the predominant reason for holding to this perspective? Most will tell you that the evidence for an old universe and earth is so strong that they have searched for a way for Genesis chapter one to be understood in this framework. So the agreement with standard geology and astronomy is critical to them. Progressive creationists also find the biblical necessity for distinct evidence for God’s creative activity so strong that the lack of macroevolutionary evidence also dovetails well with their position.

    The most difficult problem for them to face is the requirement for pain, suffering, and death to be a necessary part of God’s creation prior to Adam’s sin. The atheistic evolutionist, Stephen J. Gould, from Harvard, commented on this problem of God’s design over these many millions of years when he said, “The price of perfect design is messy relentless slaughter.” There are also major discrepancies with the order of events in earth history and the order given in Genesis. For instance if the days of Genesis are millions of years long, then when flowers were created on day three, it would be millions of years before pollinators, such as bees, were created on days five and six.

    Theistic Evolution

    Having covered young earth creationism and progressive creationism, we will now turn to the view called theistic evolution and then discuss our own position with a call to mark the common enemy of the evangelical community.

    Most theistic evolutionists see little, if any, historical significance to the opening chapters of Genesis. They suggest that the Genesis narrative was designed to show the Israelites that there is one God and He has created everything, including those things which the surrounding nations worshipped as gods. In essence, Genesis chapter one is religious and theological, not historical and scientific.

    Essentially, theistic evolutionists accept nearly all the scientific data of evolution including not only the age of the cosmos, but also the evolutionary relatedness of all living creatures. God either guided evolution or created the evolutionary process to proceed without need of interference.

    Theistic evolutionists maintain that the evidence for evolution is so strong that they have simply reconciled their faith with reality. Since reading Genesis historically does not agree with what they perceive to be the truth about earth history, then Genesis, if it is to be considered God’s Word, must mean something else. They do believe that God is continually upholding the universe, so He is involved in His creation.

    Call for Caution and Discussion

    We have discussed the biblical and scientific foundations of three different Christian views of science and earth history. In so doing, we have tried to convey a sense of their strengths and limitations. The issue of the age of the earth is very controversial among evangelicals, particularly those who have chosen some field of science as their career.

    Our intention has been to present these perspectives as objectively as possible so you, the reader, can make an informed decision. We have purposefully kept our own views out of this discussion until now. We would like to take a moment and explain the reasoning behind our position.

    We have studied this issue for over twenty years and have read scholars, both biblical and scientific from all sides of the question. For some ten years now, we have been confirmed fence sitters. Yes, we are sorry to disappoint those of you who were waiting for us to tell you which view makes more sense, but we are decidedly undecided. This is by no means a political decision. We are not trying to please all sides, because if that were the case, we know we would please no one. The fact is, we are still searching.

    Biblically, we find the young earth approach of six consecutive 24-hour days and a catastrophic universal flood to make the most sense. However, we find the evidence from science for a great age for the universe and the earth to be nearly overwhelming. We just do not know how to resolve the conflict yet. Earlier, we emphasized that the age question, while certainly important, is not the primary question in the origins debate. The question of chance versus design is the foremost issue. The time frame over which God accomplished His creation is not central.

    Such indecision is not necessarily a bad thing. Davis Young in his book Christianity and the Age of the Earth, gives a wise caution. Young outlines that both science and theology have their mysteries that remain unsolvable. And if each has its own mystery, how can we expect them to mesh perfectly? The great 20th century evangelist, Francis Schaeffer said:

    We must take ample time, and sometimes this will mean a long time, to consider whether the apparent clash between science and revelation means that the theory set forth by science is wrong or whether we must reconsider what we thought the Bible says.

    In the sixteenth century, Michelangelo sculpted Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with two little bumps on his head. The word which describes Moses’ face as he came off the mountain, we now know means shining light, meaning Moses’ face was brilliant from having been in God’s presence. But at that time it was thought to mean “goat horns.” So Michelangelo sculpted Moses with two horns on his head. That is what they thought the Bible literally said. Now we know better and we changed our interpretation of this Scripture based on more accurate information. We believe we need even more accurate information from both the Bible and science to answer the age of the earth question.

    The question concerning the age of the earth comes down to a matter of interpretation, both of science and the Bible. Ultimately, we believe there is a resolution to this dilemma. All truth is God’s truth. Some suggest that perhaps God has created a universe with apparent age. That is certainly possible, but certain implications of this make us very uncomfortable. It is certainly true that any form of creation out of nothing implies some form of apparent age. God created Adam as an adult who appeared to have been alive for several decades though only a few seconds into his existence.

    Scientists have observed supernova from galaxies that are hundreds of thousands of light years away. We know that many of these galaxies must be this distant because if they were all within a few thousand light years, then the nighttime sky would be brilliant indeed. These distant galaxies are usually explained in terms of God creating the light in transit so we can see them today. These observed star explosions mean that they never happened in an apparent age universe. Therefore, we are viewing an event that never occurred. This is like having videotape of Adam’s birth. Would supernovas that never happened make God deceptive?

    Therefore, we believe we must approach this question with humility and tolerance for those with different convictions. The truth will eventually be known. In the meantime, let us search for it together without snipping at each other’s heels.

    1. Henry Morris, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), 37-81.
    2. Steven A. Austin, ed., Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe (Santee, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 1994), 284.
    3. Daniel E. Wonderly, Neglect of Geologic Data: Sedimentary Strata Compared with Young-Earth Creationist Writings (Hatfield, PA: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1987), 130. Howard J. Van Till, Robert Snow, John Stek, and Davis A. Young, Portraits of Creation: Biblical and Scientific Perspectives on the World’s Formation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1990), 26-125.
    4. Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: NAVPRESS, 1994), 45-72.
    5. Ibid., 73-80.
    6. Stephen Jay Gould, “Darwin and Paley Meet the Invisible Hand,” Natural History (November 1990):8. Mark Van Bebber and Paul S. Taylor, Creation and Time: A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross (Mesa, AZ: Eden Communications, 1994), 128.
    7. Van Till, et al., Portraits of Creation, 232-242.
    8. Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part 1: From Adam to Noah, trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem Magnum Press, 1978), 12-17. Henri Blocher, In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis, trans. David G. Preston (Leciester Press and Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 49-59.
    9. Ken Ham, Evolution: The Lie (El Cajon, CA: Creation-Life Pub., 1987).
    10. Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 15-112, 166-170.
    11. Davis A. Young, Christianity and the Age of the Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 158.
    12. Francis Schaeffer, No Final Conflict (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1975), 24.

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    Richard Milne is a former research associate with Probe Ministries. He has a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. Rich works in the area of the philosophy and history of science, focusing in particular on the origin of the universe and the origin of life, and the history and philosophy of art. He and his wife, Becky, are currently on staff with East-West Ministries in Plano, Texas.

    What is Probe?

    Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at

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