Spectrum of Beliefs on Evolution, Creation and Literalism

Vance McAllister has done an excellent job of laying out the different positions in regard to evolution, creation, and biblical literalism. After reading his spectrum, head on over to Reclaiming the Mind Ministry’s Parchment and Pen blog and The Submerging Influence blog for additional discussion. Of course, feel free to discuss on this blog as well!


Here is the spectrum generally, you can review the descriptions further below to see what each refers to:

1. FE
2. Geo
3. YEC
4. Gap (OEC)
5. Progressive (OEC)
6. TE1
7. TE2
8. TE3

(note: the Intelligent Design position could apply to any of these, other than possibly TE 3).

So, let’s look at the spectrum! See where you land:

1. Flat-earthers – believe that a plain reading of Scripture indicates that the earth is flat. Very few still hold onto this belief.

2. Geocentrists – believe that the sun and all the stars literally revolve around a fixed and unmoving earth. Still a surprising number of these around, although it suffered a major setback after the late 60’s. They have a plethora of Scripture and theological bases to argue from, however, and insist that a literal reading of Scriptures requires geocentrism.

3. Young-Earth Creationists – believe that the earth and universe are both young (less than 10,000 years old) and that all the diversity of species is the result of special creation, based on a literal reading of Scripture (even if not AS literal as those above).

4. Gap Theorists (a form of Old-Earth Creationism) – believe that the earth and universe were created at the time science says, but that God created Man and all the animals at the “young earth” time frame (with a huge “gap” in between. Some believe this is a “re-creation”, God having scrapped an earlier version (dinosaurs, etc).

5. Progressive Creationists (aka “Day-Age Creationists”, another form of OEC) – believe that the earth and universe were created at the time science says, but that each “day” in Genesis referred to an indefinite period of time. Genesis is an historically and scientifically literal account (using that alternate form of the word “day”), just that it happened over a VERY long time period.

6. Theistic Evolutionists (with a literal Adam and Eve) – believe in an old earth and universe, and accept that God used evolution as part of His creation, basically as science describes it. But they feel that there was a literal Adam and Eve in a literal Garden. Some attribute this Adam and Eve to an instance of special creation, others to election as “representatives,” etc. Also believe in biogenesis, not abiogenesis.

7. Theistic Evolutionists (no literal Adam and Eve, but biogenesis) – believe that Man evolved along with the other species (pursuant to God’s plan), but that the initial spark of life was immediately God induced. Some even push this forward to some mass special creation of a variety of “kinds” around the Cambrian period, with all the species evolving from there.

8. Theistic Evolutionists (abiogenesis) – God created everything and established the full system of natural laws upon with the universe and the earth would work. And it did work, entirely naturally, as God intended. With life arising at the time and place He had known it would, etc. So, here the “abiogenesis” would not mean that life arose without God, only that God built how life would first arise right into the “program.” This is not “deism,” however, since it says nothing at all about God interacting with and even directly intervening in His creation at any point in time (such as a particular event 2000 years ago, for example).

A bit of a side category is the Intelligent Design movement of recent years. This asserts that whatever you accept about creation, there is firm evidence that the universe and the earth in particular were designed with specific intelligence, by a designer, and not happening entirely naturally. Those holding this opinion come in each of the flavors mentioned above (other the last one, presumably), although the most recent and influential of these have been essentially Theistic Evolutionists of the first or second variety (whether they would claim that title or not). Also, some Theistic Evolutionists prefer the term Evolutionary Creationists.


Filed under atheistic naturalism, evolutionary creationism, intelligent design movement, old-earth creationism, protology, young-earth creationism

12 Responses to Spectrum of Beliefs on Evolution, Creation and Literalism

  1. Hi Mike, Thanks for the link to my blog. My path through the topics you mention wasn’t exactly linear–I never expected to be blogging about Genesis as much as I have. Over my life I think I have managed to spend time in each of your spectrum positions 3 through 8. No one can accuse me of being consistent! While most of the current debates seem to focus on human creation / evolution I predict that over time the abiogenesis issue will heat up. DNA and its supporting machinery is pretty complex.

  2. Each of *my* spectrum positions? I was excerpting *your* spectrum positions! (But I think I know what you meant.)

    I’m much more comfortable with the philosophical/theological aspect of the debate. As far as the scientific aspect of the creation/evolution debate, I have a lot to learn. I do intend to change that, however. Picked up Miller’s book, some Polkinghorne, and Fairbanks’ Relics of Eden. I’m also wading through some good stuff from Van Till.

  3. Hi Mike, I’m shocked actually. It would not be a trival to tease that spectrum out of the wide collection of blog posts that contained those positions.
    I just finished my 1st Polkinghorne “Intertwining of Science and Religion”. I thought it was very good.
    — Vance

  4. Vance,

    Shocked about what exactly? Not following you …

  5. Hi Mike, Ok, I’ll back up to the beginning. When I initially read your post I didn’t link the word “positions” in your first sentence with your use of the word “positions” in the second sentence. This is probably because I haven’t used a lot of the terminology you used. For example I don’t think I have used the term YEC or “Young Earth Creationist.” I also would not have guessed that I had touched on all 8 different positions in my blog. Now, not surprisingly the list you created aligned well with my life–hence my first comment.
    So, when you replied that the spectrum was extracted from my blog I was very surprised (shocked in a good way). However, as I thought back I could see that I had indeed touched on these positions, but they were spread out over multiple blog posts and it would take some very careful reading on your part to extract the spectrum from my blog–hence my second comment.

    — Vance

  6. Hi Mike, The real scoop is a case of mistaken identities. I am not Vance McAllister, I am Vance Harwood! I saw the other Vance a while back posting in the evolution / creation comments so I started using VanceH as my comment ID. Not many Vances around so it would be an easy mistake. When I first saw your post I thought you might be talking about the other Vance, but then I clicked the link and saw my blog. You might want to correct the link to http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/01/15/spectrum-of-beliefs-on-evolution-creation-and-literalism/ If you want to delete my comments to reduce the confusion factor feel free. Best Regards, Vance

  7. Heh! I suspected a disconnect. Had no idea you guys were different people! As a result, I’ve fixed the actual post to give Vance M. credit for the spectrum. I plan on deleting our comments; however, if you want to post a summary of your comments without the identity confusion bits, please feel free. I won’t delete that one.

  8. Mike,

    I am positively fascinated. I have a question for you regarding your statement that ID is not necessarily compatible with TE3. I am not getting that. It seems that ID would be the opposite of deism, no? And you stated in your description of TE3 that it is not (necessarily?) deism. So, I am just looking for a little help in connecting the dots in your argument. I guess the way I am seeing it is, that for abiogenesis to occur (life from non-life) that would suggest ID even more (?)


  9. With TE3 (abiogenesis), God’s direct intervention into the physical laws of the universe are, for all intents and purposes, undetectable, as life arose from natural processes. Thus, the entire ID argument falls by the wayside, for the IDer argues that God had to directly intervene in those natural processes for life to possibly occur. The direct involvement of the IDer’s “God of the gaps,” however, continues to lessen proportionally to the lessening of the gap in our scientific knowledge. As a result, the argument for an Intelligent Designer becomes weaker and weaker with the increase in our knowledge of natural and biological processes.

    For example, we as theists might say that God created the rainbow. However, we know that purely natural processes can explain the occurence of that rainbow: the refraction of light through a liquid prism. God’s presense, from a scientific perspective, is undetectable, as it can be explained using the physical laws of nature that God has upheld and sustained from the beginning.

    Only direct involvment from an Intelligent Designer, e.g., feeding a multitude of 5000+ with only two loaves and three fishes, can be detected by an observer, but only because the event completely defies the laws of physics. I believe one can successfully argue that the eyewitness testimony proves that matter and energy were created ex nihilo in this particular case.

    TE3 is not the same as deism because deism states that God wound the clock, let it go, and has never intervened since. As Christians who believe that God has intervened in human history, deism is an unacceptable alternative.

    Hope that answers your question, Tami!

  10. Tami,

    The inconsistency of ID and TE3 depends upon definition of terms. As Mike has pointed out, most peoples definition of ID is incompatible with TE3.

    As a TE1/3 (abiogenesis with a literal Adam), I still accept a design argument for the existence of God, just not any of the particular arguments brought forward by ID.

    I think that God fine-tuned the laws of physics so that evolution was not only possible, but predictable. For instance, if the laws of physics were slightly different, stars would not form much/any of the carbon necessary for life as we know it.

    Although, this argument depends on science, I do not consider the argument to be science, due to its inability to make a testable prediction. I see it on a level with the Cosmologic or Moral arguments for the existence of God: valid, but not science.

  11. Anonymous

    It wasn’t until I gave up supernaturalism, that everything made sense. The clutter went away.The purely natural world, for me, has a comfort and calm to it.To accept that our existence is but a blemish in time isnt daunting, but a mere fact in my eyes.This may be trite, but does not the person who believes they are finite, grasp life as the precious thing it is and marvel at the immense odds of this existence.From Brian

  12. Hey, Brian!

    It wasn’t until I gave up supernaturalism, that everything made sense. The clutter went away.

    It’s interesting how what “makes sense” is always in the eye of the beholder. It’s much like beauty.

    Of course, we are all “victims” of our own paradigms, which discourage us from looking outside of the boxes we’ve constructed for ourselves, others, and God. I certainly include myself in that “victim” category. However, unlike you, supernaturalism helps me make sense of the clutter.

    This may be trite, but does not the person who believes they are finite, grasp life as the precious thing it is and marvel at the immense odds of this existence.

    The same can be said of those who believe God has prepared a marvelous continuation of our existence beyond physical death. This life is still considered precious, for we are not supposed to live for just ourselves but also for our neighbor, our children, and our children’s children.

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