What is Progressive Creationism?

Author: Philip Robinson

The Progressive Creationist position finds it origins in the Day-Age Theory, in which the days of creation in Genesis 1 were not thought to be twenty four hour days, but rather represent vast periods of time, into which the Earth’s geological ages fitted. The day-age theory was first proposed by an Anglican clergyman, George Stanley Faber, in his book, Treatise on the Genius and Object of the Patriarchal, the Levitical and the Christian Dispensations (1823). Sarfati (1) says that Faber, “was the first theologian to use this interpretation of Genesis chapter 1 to harmonize the Bible with the supposed millions of years of geological ages”. However Mortenson (2) notes that Faber’s figurative interpretation of the days in Genesis chapter 1 was not widely accepted by Christians, that is, until Hugh Miller a prominent Scottish geologist and evangelical friend of Thomas Chalmers, abandoned the Gap Theory in favour of the Day-Age Theory.

Since Faber’s day, Thompson (3) records, that over the years the day-age theory has been advocated by a number of influential religionists. These include Wilbur M. Smith, a former dean of Moody Bible Institute, Bernard Ramm, a prominent Christian theologian, as well as Kenneth Taylor, who produced the Living Bible Paraphrased. Today the, “world’s most prominent progressive creationist”(4) is Dr Hugh Ross, who heads the Reasons to Believe ministry based in California. Since Faber’s time, Cosmology has also introduced the Big Bang theory into modern scientific thought. The Big Bang theory puts the age of the universe at around the 13/14 billion year old mark, as well as offering a naturalistic explanation as to how the universe was formed. Just as Faber used the figurative approach with the Genesis creation days to account for long periods of geological time, Ross also uses the same approach to the days to account for cosmological time, incorporating the Big Bang into the Progressive Creationist interpretation of Genesis 1-11.

In Ross’s book The Genesis Question (2001)(5), his first chapter is entitled ‘A personal journey’ in which he describes both his fascination with Cosmology as a youth, and his conversion to Christianity later in life. Ross admits that, “by the time that I had turned sixteen, I had studied enough Cosmology to become convinced that of all the origins models ever proposed, the Big Bang model best fit the observational data”. Ross was convinced of the truth of the Big Bang and the age of the universe long before he ever read the Bible. With this in mind, Sarfati (6) says, that with Ross “We find that many times he does not allow Scripture to speak for itself, but rather, reinterprets Scripture in line with secular ‘science’”.

It appears that Ross’s baggage, the Big Bang theory, has led him to the Progressive Creationist camp due to his eisegesis of the Genesis text. It is apparent that exactly like the Gap Theorists just a few years before them, the Progressive Creationists have also wavered from the traditional biblical interpretation of a six day creation to accommodate a naturalistic explanation of origins. Just as was noted in our Gap Theory article, there are also many differences of opinion in the Progressive Creationist camp. Below is a summation of the teachings of Progressive Creationism from Hugh Ross’ position. Hugh Ross’ position has been chosen as he is currently considered the world’s most prominent progressive creationist.

Below is a summary of the main progressive creationist beliefs:

– The universe is approximately 13/14 billion years old and came into existence via the Big Bang.

– The Earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old

– The days of creation were vast ages, undetermined in length

– The seventh day is still continuing now

– Death, disease and suffering were present before Adam’s fall into sin

– God progressively created brand new species as old ones died out, but did not use evolution as the process for doing so.

–  Before Adam, there were soulless hominoids on the earth, commonly referred to as Pre-adamites

– The genealogies in the Bible are not tight, but contain gaps i.e. missing generations

– Noah’s flood was not global, but local and was restricted to the Mesopotamian region

For a full refutation of all the teachings of the Progressive Creation interpretation of Genesis 1-11 return to our FAQ section or click on How long were the days of Genesis 1-2.

Recommended Resources

Creation and Time: A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross by Mark A Van Bebber, Paul S Taylor

Unformed and Unfilled by Weston W Fields

The Creation Answers Book

All available at creation.com

1) Sarfati, J. (2004) Refuting Compromise, Master Books
2) Mortenson, T. (2004) The Great Turning Point: The Church’s Catastrophic Mistake on Geology – Before Darwin, Master Books
3) Thompson, B. (1994) Popular Compromises of Creation – The Day-Age Theory, available at http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/301 (accessed 21st March 2006)
4) Sarfati, J. (1999) Expose of the Genesis Question, Technical Journal 13 (2): 22-30
5) Ross, H. (2001, 2nd edition) The Genesis Question, Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navpress
6) Ref 1