Discovering or Destroying the “Recipe for Belief in Creationism”?

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Recently, Dr. Jonathan Hill, professor of sociology at Calvin College, published on the BioLogos website the results of his national survey of 3,000 American adults to study the beliefs of Americans on issues related to human origins. The summary of his research is entitled “The Recipe for Creationism.”1 His research was done to see if previous surveys done by Gallup and others over the past few decades were giving us an accurate picture of what Americans believe.

Those other studies, the most recent published by Gallup in June 2014, have indicated consistently over the past 30 years that

  • about 45% of Americans believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so,”
  • about 35% believe that “human beings have evolved over millions of years from other forms of life and God guided this process,”
  • about 20% believe that “human beings have evolved over millions of years from other forms of life but God had no part in this process.”2

Those statistics are challenged by Hill’s new research.

Let me say at the outset of my analysis that Dr. Hill and the other people associated with BioLogos are undoubtedly kind and sincere Christians. But so was Peter when he disagreed with his Lord (Matthew 16:21–23) and when he caved in to peer pressure and (perhaps out of a desire to be respected by the majority in his social context) led himself and others into hypocrisy, unknowingly and unintentionally undermining the truth of the gospel that he believed (Galatians 2:11–14). And down through church history many sincere Christians have led other Christians into serious error, thereby undermining the truth and authority of Scripture. So while some readers will undoubtedly accuse me of attacking or questioning the faith of Dr. Hill and BioLogos, careful readers will see that I am not, but rather I am critiquing some of their published views.

Hill’s research was funded by an Evolution and Christian Faith grant from BioLogos, an organization founded by Francis Collins (who led the Human Genome Project and is Director of the National Institutes of Health), which promotes theistic evolution (also called evolutionary creation) in the church and world. In turn, BioLogos’s multi-million-dollar grant program is funded by the John Templeton Foundation (JTF).3

To reject the truth of God and encourage man’s autonomous spiritual imaginations is not a mark of humility but of arrogant rebellion against God.

But JTF is committed to religious pluralism and opposed to the absolute truth of the Bible. Sir John Templeton, a very theologically liberal Presbyterian, established this foundation to “finance humility” and promote “innovative and creative” ideas about religion and spirituality.4 But to reject the truth of God and encourage man’s autonomous spiritual imaginations is not a mark of humility but of arrogant rebellion against God. So BioLogos promotes theistic evolution using funds from a man who rejected the Bible as the uniquely inspired, inerrant Word of God and in fact rejected the notion that there is absolute truth in the spiritual realm.

Unlike Gallup’s one-question survey, Hill took his respondents through a series of questions focused on 15 statements related to the Bible, science, and human origins. As a result, he gives a far more nuanced picture of what Americans think about this controversial subject. He grouped people into one of three categories defined by their view of human origins: creationists (which included young-earth and old-earth creationists who believe that God specially created humans), theistic evolutionists (who believe that God was somehow involved as humans evolved from earlier primates), and atheistic evolutionists (who believe that God had no part in human evolution). Hill wanted to see not only what people believed about human origins but also how firmly they held those beliefs and what influences led to and keep them in that belief. As “evolution” is defined in this survey, it really refers to biological evolution—specifically human evolution. However, it is important to understand that there is a relationship between cosmological, geological, and biological evolution and the answers to these questions about the history of the universe as related to us in Genesis.

In contrast to the results of Gallup polls, Hill’s study found that there are “substantially smaller proportions” of creationists (both old-earthers and young-earthers), theistic evolutionists, and atheistic evolutionists in American society: 37% creationists, 16% theistic evolutionists, and 9% atheistic evolutionists (compared to Gallup figures of 42%, 31% and 19% respectively). The rest of the survey respondents were unsure on the question. But of those who said they were “very or absolutely certain” of their position, percentages were lower still: 29%, 8% and 6% respectively. Hill attributed these lower numbers to his survey having more questions with more possible answers than the Gallup surveys.

But in further distinguishing old-earth creationists from young-earth creationists, Hill concluded that only 8% of Americans “affirm the main points of young-earth creationism” (both a literal, six-day creation a few thousand years ago and the supernatural creation of Adam and Eve). This would be about what I would expect from speaking in hundreds of churches and Christian colleges and seminaries in this country (and in 22 other countries) and from my involvement in the Evangelical Theological Society for more than 15 years. Most Christian churches, colleges, and seminaries would never invite a young-earth creationist speaker to address their audience. And in most of the schools and churches that would host such a speaker, we have found that most people who would identify as creationists wouldn't be able to articulate well what that position is and certainly wouldn’t be able to defend that position in the face of challenges from Christians or non-Christians opposed to their view.

Concerning Creationists

Hill says that the most dominant marks of a person who is a convinced creationist regarding the origin of man are his belief in the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God, having an active relationship with God (including praying regularly), and belonging to a family and a church that believes the same and clearly rejects human evolution. Of course, this is no surprise because creationists believe in the absolute truth found in the Word of God, are seeking to walk with the Lord, and generally will be in fellowship with like-minded people. And Bible-believing Christians are instructed by God to be discerning and building their thinking and their lives on what God says, not on what the world (including the scientific majority) says.5 In contrast, theistic and atheistic evolutionists are in social relationships that generally exclude such people and convictions about truth and God's Word. But there is no surprise here either. First Corinthians 15:33 says that “bad company corrupts good morals.” It also corrupts faith and sound doctrine.

Because Hill usually lumps young-earth and old-earth creationists together, he occasionally assigns common beliefs to them that neither of them hold. For example, in survey question E5, Hill asks which view of biological origins should be taught in public schools. The E5 options are as follows:

  1. Evolution only—evolution says that biological life developed over time from simple substances.
  2. Creationism only—creationism says that biological life was directly created by God in its present form at one point in time.
  3. Intelligent design only—intelligent design says that biological life is so complex that it required an intelligent being or force to help create it.
  4. Some combination of these.6

But neither young-earth creationists nor old-earth creationists would agree with the vaguely worded definition of creation given here. First, we should note that in the title of the article and 23 times in the full report and survey questions (not to mention numerous times in the footnotes where Hill quotes or cites other people’s writings), Hill uses the term creationism. But never once does “evolutionism” occur. This common practice subtly reinforces in readers’ minds that creationists hold to religious doctrine whereas evolutionists hold to science. In fact, if he says creationism, then to be accurate he should also say evolutionism, for both creation and evolution are scientific models based on religious assumptions that are used to interpret the physical evidence (rocks, fossils, DNA, starlight, and so on) in reconstructing the unobserved past.

Young-earth creation is based on the revealed truth of the eyewitness Creator given in the Bible.

Young-earth creation is based on the revealed truth of the eyewitness Creator given in the Bible, whereas evolution is based on the atheistic assumptions that time and chance and the laws of nature can explain the origin and history of the physical reality. No scientific experiments can show that those atheistic assumptions are true: they are purely religious in nature. The atheist believes God does not exist and that the Bible is just a man-made book written by scientifically ignorant/primitive people. That is the evolutionist’s dogma, held to with as much religious fervor as the most ardent young-earth creationist. There is no such thing as a religiously neutral (or non-religious) scientist when it comes to the question of origins.

Secondly, young-earthers don’t believe that biological life was created “in its present form” and “at one point in time,” but we do believe that the complexity of biological life does unequivocally point to God, the infinitely intelligent Designer/Creator. We believe God created different forms of life on different days, not at one point in time. And while we believe God created different “kinds” (in most cases probably equivalent to the modern taxonomic classification of family, not species7), we don’t think those original representatives of each created kind looked just like present forms. Virtually all old-earthers would likely reject this definition of creationism as well, for they believe that the various forms of plants and animals were created or developed at different times over the course of millions of years.

This ambiguous question E5, therefore, cannot deliver accurate information about the beliefs of the respondents and it also subtly distorts the controversy. If we don’t define our terms accurately, we can’t debate the issues profitably.

What about the Atheistic Evolutionists?

What are the most important factors in causing 6% of Americans to become convinced atheists? Hill says the most important factors are the following:

  • Not having a religious identity (including those who identify as atheist or agnostic)
  • Praying infrequently
  • Belief that the Bible contains at least some errors

In other words, an atheist will likely be produced if a person doesn’t grow up in a religious family and doesn’t actively participate in the religious group, seldom prays, and thinks that the Bible is not completely trustworthy. But what is a major reason that people think the Bible has errors? As the research behind Already Gone shows, it is the teaching of evolution and millions of years. And that is true even of people who grow up in churchgoing families, such as the atheist evolutionist at Cornell University, William Provine, who said this:

Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear. . . . There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.8

Elsewhere, Provine remarked the following:

Of course, it is still possible to believe in both modern evolutionary biology and a purposive force, even the Judeo-Christian God. One can suppose that God started the whole universe or works through the laws of nature (or both) . . . A God or purposive force . . . has nothing to do with human morals, answers no prayers, gives no life everlasting, in fact does nothing whatever that is detectable. In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology . . . if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.9

Concerning Theistic Evolutionists

Hill describes theistic evolutionists as “a broad category” of people who acknowledge “God's involvement in the creation of humans while accepting scientific evidence for evolution. Apart from this there are no additional beliefs that reliably distinguish this view.” His study also notes that “the theistic evolution position does not come with a high degree of confidence for much of the population.”10 That is not surprising because, while they obviously have a very high degree of confidence that evolution is true, the considerable amount of exegetical gymnastics a theist who uses the Bible must do to try to make evolution compatible with the text of Genesis has to be more than a little unsettling, especially if they claim to have a “high view of Scripture,” as most people associated with BioLogos apparently would claim.

Confusing Language in this Report

As is typical of those who reject the clear, literal truth of Genesis (whether they are professing Christians or not), Hill frequently uses the vague terms science, faith, religion, and evolution. So we find phrases in Hill’s summary and full report like the following:

  • “the public rhetoric about science and faith,” and
  • “atheistic evolutionists believe in the superiority of science against what they see as superstitious and irrational beliefs that emanate from religion,”11
  • “the findings of science and the teachings of religion”12
  • and both creationists and atheists “say that science and religion are ultimately incompatible.”13

But the conflict is not between “science and faith” or “science and religion,” but between the naturalistic theory of millions of years of cosmological-geological-biological evolution and the clear teaching of the Bible. There is no conflict between science and faith or religion. Thousands of practicing scientists with PhD or MS degrees are convinced young-earth creationists.

And the atheist evolutionists (such as Lawrence Krauss, Bill Nye, and Richard Dawkins) don’t believe in the “superiority of science” but rather in the superiority of the belief of the majority of scientists. In other words, the atheist evolutionists (and their bedfellows, the theistic evolutionists) seem to believe that majority vote among scientists determines truth—a most unscientific position to hold. The history of science is replete with examples in which the majority of scientists were wrong. Furthermore, atheistic (and theistic) evolutionists believe in majority vote not over the “superstitious and irrational beliefs” of “religion” but over the clear teaching of the Word of the Creator, which is believed by millions of highly educated people for very good, rational reasons and after considering the irrational, shallow, and pseudo-scientific arguments of atheistic evolutionists.

Hill also confuses the issues when in his full report he writes the following:

When science and religion conflict, one group [creationists] favors religious ways of knowing (primarily a literal reading of scripture) and the other group [atheistic evolutionists] favors scientific way [sic] of knowing (trusting the mainstream scientific establishment to provide accurate information). Only theistic evolutionists oppose this conflict model in any substantial number.13

It’s not a “religious way” of knowing to believe what the all-knowing, truthful, eyewitness Creator has revealed in His Word about the origin and history of the creation. Believing reliable eyewitness testimony is the most important way that everyone tries to reconstruct the unobserved events of the past. This is a universally human way of knowing history. But the truly scientific way to know something is not by trusting the majority, but by observation and experimentation. The majority of discoveries in science were made by scientists not trusting what the majority of scientists believed. Furthermore, all informed young-earth creationists reject the “science and religion conflict model” as do a large percentage of old-earth creationists. What the theistic evolutionists oppose is the evolution versus the Bible conflict. They want the Christians and nonbelievers to believe there is no such conflict.

We see more confusion in Hill’s full report under the heading “Constructing Creationism.” Referring to both young-earth creationists and old-earth creationists, he remarks, “Creationists believe that God created humans as part of a single, miraculous act.”14 But this vague language would be rejected by all young-earth creationists and, I suspect, by most if not all old-earth creationists too. Young-earth creationists believe Genesis literally regarding the creation of man. So they don't believe that humans were created “as part of a single miraculous act.” Rather, they believe that Adam was created supernaturally from dust and a few hours later on the sixth day Eve was made supernaturally from the rib of Adam. And as Genesis says, they believe that creation involved many miraculous acts spread over six literal days. Old-earth creationists (which in Hill’s study does not include theistic evolutionists) would have various views on these matters, but many would agree with young-earthers about the creation of Adam and Eve.

Conclusion

Hill closes his summary article by considering what his study tells us about how to get Christians to believe that God used evolution to create man from apes and ultimately from the first living cell:

We do know what tends to shut down openness to evolutionary creationism. Ideas promoting evolutionary creationism are not likely to shift the perspective of many without attending to the issues of social context highlighted here. Strategies, for example, that open up space in congregations to have conversations about human origins without endorsing a settled position could go far to allowing Christians to entertain ideas that once seemed implausible. This is not easy work, but the importance of attending to theological issues in their sociological context should not be underestimated.15

In other words, Hill wants to open up individuals and congregations to theistic evolution by the same tactic that Satan used in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1–6). First, get people confused about and doubting what God said and then get them to outright deny the truth of God’s Word.

But God’s Word is crystal clear.

  • Genesis 1 reveals that God did create the heavens and Earth and all they contained in six literal (24-hour) days. See here and chapter 7 of this book.
  • In Exodus 20:8–11, God confirms that this is the correct interpretation of Genesis 1. See point 5 here.
  • God supernaturally created the first kinds of plants and animals and the first two humans and thereafter other plants, animals, and people came into existence by natural procreation, producing variety only within their respective kinds. See here.
  • The genealogies of Genesis 5 and Genesis 11 and other verses show that those days of creation occurred only about 6,000 years ago. See here and chapter 10 in this book.
  • Noah’s Flood was a global, yearlong catastrophic judgment of God, and Scripture’s description implies that the Flood (not millions of years) was the cause of most of the fossil-bearing rock layers. See here and chapter 9 in this book.
  • There was no animal death, disease, carnivorous behavior, or extinction or other natural evils (hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and so on) before Adam and the Fall, and therefore the millions of years never happened. See here.
  • Jesus and the New Testament writers were also young-earth creationists. See chapters 11 and 12 in this book.

BioLogos is spending millions of dollars (which it has gladly received from an anti-biblical religious foundation) to fund research, conferences, and lectures, write books and articles, develop curriculum, and so on, to try to convince seminary and Christian college professors, pastors, lay people and students to believe in evolution and millions of years and reject the clear teaching of the inerrant Word of God. Despite sincere protestations to the contrary, they are undermining the truth and authority of Scripture.

Christians, beware! The reason Christians become deceived by the “scientific evidence” for atheistic evolution and by the various attempts of theistic evolutionists and old-earth creationists to reinterpret the Bible to accommodate all or most of the cosmological-geological-biological theory of evolution is because most Christians (including most seminary and Christian college professors, pastors, and other leaders) have not carefully studied Genesis and young-earth creationist biblical and scientific arguments.

All Christians need to do some homework on this issue of origins so that they are not ashamed, accurately handling the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). We must prepare ourselves as best we can to teach and defend God’s truth, especially in Genesis, and, according to our God-given abilities, we must equip our children and grandchildren and Christian friends to do the same.

Knowing the power of peer pressure (or “social context,” as Hill’s study calls it), we must appropriately protect our children from the seemingly persuasive and intellectually rigorous teaching of those who reject the truth of God’s Word, until we have equipped those children with the knowledge and critical thinking skills needed to discern truth from deceptive error. We must endeavor to instill in them a fear of God to overcome the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25; cf. Psalm 40:4) and a passionate commitment to the lordship of Christ so that they will not be conformed to this world’s values and behaviors (Romans 12:1–2) or taken captive by the world’s deceptive philosophies and traditions and high and lofty speculations (Colossians 2:8; cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3–5) but stand strong as witnesses for Christ in the great spiritual battle for the souls of men, women, boys, and girls.

And as God leads you, help Answers in Genesis to do its part to equip the church and proclaim the gospel to the millions of lost souls in America and in every other country who have been deceived by the myths of evolution and millions of years.

Finally, remember what God said in Isaiah 66:1–2 (NASB):

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house that you could build Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, ” declares the Lord, “thus all these things came into being. But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”

Sadly, much of the church today is trembling at (trusting in) the words of men (some of whom are called scientists or theologians), rather than the Word of God. Only those who tremble at the Word of God are truly humble. Let us humbly walk with Him for His glory.

Footnotes

  1. Jonathan P. Hill, “The Recipe for Creationism,” BioLogos, December 2, 2014, http://biologos.org/blog/the-recipe-for-creationism. This is a summary of the full 83-page report, which is available as a PDF.
  2. Frank Newport, “In U.S., 42% Believe Creationist View of Human Origins: Americans' Views Related to Religiousness, Age, Education,” June 2, 2014, http://www.gallup.com/poll/170822/believe-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx.
  3. “Evolution and Christian Faith,” BioLogos, accessed December 12, 2014, http://biologos.org/ecf. The funding from JTF is noted in fine print at the bottom of this web page.
  4. The foundation’s web site says of its founder, “Although Sir John was a Presbyterian elder and active in his denomination (also serving on the board of the American Bible Society), he espoused what he called a ‘humble approach’ to theology. Declaring that relatively little is known about the divine through scripture and present-day theology, he predicted that ‘scientific revelations may be a gold mine for revitalizing religion in the 21st century.’ To his mind, ‘All of nature reveals something of the creator. And god is revealing himself more and more to human inquiry, not always through prophetic visions or scriptures but through the astonishingly productive research of modern scientists.’ Sir John's own theological views conformed to no orthodoxy, and he was eager to learn not just from science but from all of the world's faith traditions. As he once told an interviewer, ‘I grew up as a Presbyterian. Presbyterians thought the Methodists were wrong. Catholics thought all Protestants were wrong. The Jews thought the Christians were wrong. So, what I'm financing is humility. I want people to realize that you shouldn't think you know it all.’ He expected the John Templeton Foundation to stand apart from any consideration of dogma or personal religious belief and to seek out grantees who are ‘innovative, creative, enthusiastic, and open to competition and new ideas’ in their approach to the Big Questions.” For more on John Templeton’s life, see “Life Story,” John Templeton Foundation, http://www.templeton.org/sir-john-templeton/life-story.
  5. See, for example, Joshua 1:8–9, Psalm 1, 119:97–105; Isaiah 8:20, 66:1–2; Jeremiah 23:28–29; Hosea 4:6; Matthew 4:4, 7:24–27; John 8:31–32; Acts 17:11; 2 Corinthians 10:3–5; Colossians 2:8; 2 Timothy 3:16–17, 4:1–4; Titus 1:9; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 2:1–3; Jude 3; and others.
  6. Jonathan P. Hill, National Study of Religion and Human Origins, 65.
  7. Jean Lightner, “Determining the Ark Kinds,” Answers Research Journal 4 (2011): https://answersingenesis.org/noahs-ark/determining-the-ark-kinds/.
  8. William Provine, “Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy?” Origins Research 16, no. 1–2 (1994): 9.
  9. Provine, review of Trial and Error: The American Controversy over Creation and Evolution, by Edward J. Larson, Academe (January/February 1987), 50–52.
  10. Hill, National Study of Religion and Human Origins, 9–10.
  11. Hill, “The Recipe for Creationism.”
  12. Hill, National Study of Religion and Human Origins, 65.
  13. Ibid., 2.
  14. Ibid., 8.
  15. Hill, “The Recipe for Creationism.”

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