Young-Earth Creationism in 2021: Defining Characteristics of The New Creationists

What is this New Creationism being preached by The New Creationists?  What are its distinguishing characteristics?  What I am identifying as The New Creationists (TNCs) are not necessarily an intentional or organized distinction. I think it has happened organically and those whom I am calling The New Creationists may have never even thought of themselves as being members of a distinct brand of creationism though I think some of them do. Nonetheless I am going to set out a list of characteristics that I believe (see disclaimer at the end) form a useful tool for distinguishing between traditional and new creationists.   

These are broad brush characteristics. No doubt there is great diversity of thought among those who I have labeled as The New Creationists. Likewise, some of these characteristics can be found in individuals of what I think of as the Ken Ham type creationism that dominates fundamentalist Christianity. It is the whole package of traits, though may not all appear in any single individual, that I think can help us to understand the shifts that are occurring within creationism.

General characteristics of The New Creationists

–  A desire for gracious dialogue with other creationists and a willingness to engage with non-young-earth Christians. They treat Christians with other views as misinformed rather than as compromisers and question the legitimacy of their Christian faith. 

– More likely to be involved in academia than to be employed by a large YEC ministry

– More comfortable applying an academic approach to questions which entails application of testing and criticizing ideas reducing their susceptibility to fideistic tendencies and creation dogmatism.  

– More comfortable not having every answer to every question and more likely to say “I don’t know” holding out hope that their work will stimulate future answers.

– Marked by a curiosity of creation and desire to understand the world, not simply content or unable to do anything other than to poke holes in conventional theories. From the New Creation blog: “creation research needs to be forward-thinking and model-building. While using data to demonstrate how aspects of the conventional model are incorrect can be a good thing, the research should be tied to work that lends to the development of our own comprehensive model”

– Less likely to fear new discoveries and at times discourage discovery. New discoveries always seem to raise new challenges for YECs. They are also challenges to TNCs but the latter find the challenges exciting rather than daunting. On the other hand Ken Ham comes to mind when he laments our wasting time and money to explore the universe ostensibly because we have more important things to do with that money here on Earth but there is always a sense in his words that it is waste because we already know what we need to know about the Universe from God’s Word and so there isn’t really anything out there to discover that is worth discovering.          

– Likely to have a higher tolerance for appeals to a mature creation or creation with the appearance of age.  An acceptance of the regularity of God’s providential upholding of creation allowing science to function and make predictions.  General acceptance of the validity of the science of radiometric dating methods even as they strive to find means to explain those observations within a young world and universe. 

–   An acknowledgement that there is “plenty of evidence from biology, the fossil record, genetics, biogeography, and other areas that support the process of evolution; it cannot be thrown out entirely.”  https://newcreation.blog/building-a-creation-model/ 

– Less apt to conflate being on the correct side of the culture wars with the necessity of a Young-Earth viewpoint.  Most TNCs hold similar positions on social issues as other YECs but they don’t conflate holding, for example, a particular position on gender identity with a requirement to believe in a Young Earth. They don’t make having the right view of critical race theory (the AiG statement of faith for its employees sets out expectations on this and many other issues) contingent on passing the test of your view of origins.  Ken Ham and most other apologists at the Big 3 YEC ministries have mastered the technique of equating the necessity of believing the Earth is young to having the right view on a litany of social issues. In their mind, failure to acknowledge a Young-Earth therefore places the Christian in grave danger of ceding the entire culture to the forces of evil. Therefore compromise on the age of the earth is unthinkable! Over the years I have received many conventional YEC newsletters and fund-raising campaign announcements that use this logic. Calvin and Hobbes described this strategy very well.

Let me expand what I mean by some of these traits and who may best illustrate them.  I will group them into larger categories beginning with the most defining characteristics and then those with lesser discriminatory power.

Gracious dialogue:  A common feature I have observed in my interactions and the written words of The New Creationists is a commitment to respectful dialogue with those with whom they disagree, always remembering and acknowledging the bond fellow Christians have in Christ.  It’s a different approach to dealing with perceived enemies.  I like what Rob Barrett of the Colossian Forum says in the forward of The Fool and the Heretic:

What if the way we handle ourselves in our disagreements is a test of our Christian character? What if our failure to live out the gospel in the midst of these challenges is an opportunity to openly confess, repent, seek forgiveness, and try again?  What if Christian disagreement provides a beautiful opportunity to proclaim not how right we are and how wrong those other people are but how good and gracious God is and how committed we want to be to putting of the old, destructive ways and putting on new, life-giving ways (Eph. 4:22-24)?”

The book this quote comes from was written by Todd Wood along with evolutionary creationist Darrel Faulk. I reviewed that book here and here.  Wood presents a set of principles that I see in The New Creationists that is often, though not always, lacking in dialogue within young-age creationism and with other perspectives.  In a blog post in 2020, Wood makes these simple points that may seem antithetical to mainstream creationist leaders: “It’s OK to think that your intellectual opponent makes a good argument. It’s OK to say that someone you really, really disagree with has good reasons for thinking what they think. It’s even OK to be friends with people that see things very differently than you do…  If we keep looking at our “enemies” as completely irrational, thoroughly brainwashed, and totally evil, then the only solution will be to wipe them out.  We need to call out this lie, and we need to do it now.”

Dr. McClain, another of our new creationists, writing on why the New Creation blog exists for its premier post in 2020 wrote:  It’s not just the way creationists interact with evolutionists that needs to change. It’s the way that creationists act in general that needs to change. I have seen many creationist presentations for churches that talk about how dumb people are who reject creation or who don’t believe Genesis teaches God made everything in six days. I have heard people applaud the audience’s intelligence because they don’t fall for that “millions of years nonsense”

In describing what they believe, the New Creation blog includes this statement about presenting a positive case for creation:  

“We encourage the active development of testable hypotheses and model-building. Our aim is not to tear down evolution but rather build up the study of creation, and to do so in a respectful way. Dr. Leonard Brand, author of Faith, Reason, and Earth History, writes that “nothing is ever gained by making fun of others who have different beliefs on these issues. We each must carefully evaluate these philosophical questions and then deal politely and respectfully with those who disagree with us . . . Part of our task is to attempt to develop an internally consistent interventionist [that is, biblical creationist] theory, and then to evaluate the strength of the evidence for the theory.””

What these statements demonstrate is first, that this form of dialogue is not the norm in the broader creation community at present, and there are those in the YEC community that recognize that this is a problem and are trying, even if unsuccessful at times, to change the tenor of the discourse.  But this requires having some measure of respect for someone who you believe to be wrong. Ken Ham and others treat such dialogue as a sign of weakness, of compromise and of potentially allowing Satan in the back door, and maybe even the front door.  Some YEC believe The New Creationists are guilty of the same, on some issues.

Academic approach:  I have observed that most of The New Creationists are employed in academia, which results in some unique distinguishing characteristics.  First, the mindset of academics who are involved in both research and teaching can be quite different than that of a person employed to work for a YEC ministry. Secondly, those with faculty positions have a unique opportunity to train the next generation of YECs and so their viewpoints are more likely to take root in their students than with YEC apologetics ministries.  Finally, they are exposed to and  interact with a large number of students who sit in the church pews and influence their own churches for, potentially, many years.  

It is PhDs in academic positions that have the time, ability and resources to reflect upon and critique creationist theory and to break new ground.  Many of these have the freedom to explore and critique other creationist ideas in ways that employees at The Big Three YEC ministries cannot. Employees of a large YEC ministry may feel as though they have some freedom but they are typically hired to support the pre-established positions of that particular organization. These pre-established positions are typically reflections of the personal positions of the leader or leaders who control that organization.  

Academics from every field frequently play a role in shaping future ideas, even if they don’t have a large social media presence or name recognition. They tend to have a critical—in the sense of careful analysis—eye affording them more opportunities to expose any bad science or theology generated by populist organizations. This is why they are able to publish materials and espouse ideas that can break through previous dogmatism.

I say populists organizations because, although Ken Ham may think he is teaching truth to his audience, he is as much a reflection of his audience as he is an influencer (think echo chamber.)  He has a finger on the pulse of the conservative fundamentalist Christian and provides exactly what he wants to hear–he tickles the ears of his fundamentalists audience.  As such, products of his ministry are positioned and marketed toward the typical evangelical fundamentalists and their opinions on the world. This can be seen nearly daily on Ham’s FB and Twitter feed, where he shares his less-than-nuanced responses to so many social issues.  I’m rarely convinced he has anything but a superficial understanding of most issues that he comments on, but he is well aware of the position on those issues his audience expects him to take and support.  He isn’t so much educating as he is reflecting and confirming the views of a particular segment of fundamentalist Christianity.   

To YECs like Ken Ham, it isn’t just old-Earth compromisers at universities such as Wheaton and Calvin who pose a threat to young-earth creationism, it’s also YECs in academic positions that are the radicals that he fears.  For years, Ken Ham has been priming his audience to not trust theologians employed at seminaries and to be skeptical of Christian higher education, except at select institutions that have passed his strict checklist for approval.  Even within some of these institutions who have received Ham’s blessing,  the loyalty of some of those faculty have been questioned.

To see how the rhetoric of Ham and others plays out in the thoughts of their followers, just listen to a portion of this YouTube video https://youtu.be/SVqFwIOzqNg?t=2121 to which I referred in Part 1 of this series. Below is a transcript of a segment of this video in which the speaker is voicing concern about several of the New Creationists and the confusion they are sowing:

“…think about the stumbling block you’re creating for people trying to witness, think about it because the people on the street aren’t going to know what we mean when we say yeah, you can use it, evolution’s fine. And most of the people in the pew aren’t going to either. Speak clarity, not high academic gobbledygook! Speak clearly. Speak with clarity and honesty.  Yay yay and nay nay, not this wishy-washy in the middle gobbledygook because that helps no one.” https://youtu.be/SVqFwIOzqNg?t=2121

Do you notice what the speaker says that a ministry should appeal to?  They should speak to the understanding of the non-expert. If a person reads that “God did it,” then they aren’t going to understand how He could have used evolution to create.  So, then, any effort to invoke evolutionary mechanisms within a YEC framework is “destroying YEC.”  This speaker in this video is the fruit of Ken Ham’s rhetoric and, more broadly, that of the big three young-earth ministries. They try to articulate positions that leave no room for doubt, so that unshakable convictions in their followers results. (I would point out here the elephant in the room…  It is not the TRUTH that they are trying to establish, it is their own foregone conclusions that are being upheld.)

The New Creationist’s willingness to test YEC theories and to propose new hypotheses, even if they might borrow from secular science, is a threat to the traditional (and perceived to be correct) interpretation of earth’s history and life itself. 

A young-earth is not necessarily obvious:  Instead of proclaiming that a young earth is obvious and that secular scientists know this to be true but are actively trying to suppress the truth, TNCs freely admit that no one is crazy for believing the world is old and that evolutionary processes are play a role in maintaining and possibly even creating much of the diversity of life on earth. In stark contrast, YEC maintain their commitment to an apologetic that assumes that a  young earth and young biosphere is clearly discernible despite the considerable evidence to the contrary.  They justify doing so because, to YEC, the most important evidence, the Bible, is clear about the age of the earth and the creation of living things, each to their own kind and they expect that observations of the word will unambiguously reveal that truth.  

Sara Anne, one of the editors of the New Creation blog, reflects on “What is it like being a young, young-earth creationists?’ in a post of her own.  Sara is a graduate of Cedarville University and plans to pursue a graduate degree in geology. It is notable that her goal is to work toward advancing a creation science model, not at one of the big YEC organizations but from within academia. She has this to say about the state of creation science and the weight of evidence for the age of the Earth:  

“And I don’t say all of this to convince you that there is no scientific evidence for creationism—I think there is a lot! However, it is a young field with only a (relatively) small group of scientists who are actively model-building. As a result, the creation model isn’t as well-developed as the evolutionary model. This doesn’t make it wrong—it just means we have more work to do!”

Todd Wood also provides us with an example of this line of thought:  

“I have long (and infamously) maintained that there’s a reasonable case to be made for evolution.  It’s absolutely not fantasy or fallacy or illogical or completely without evidence or any of the other myriad cavils lobbed at it by its many enemies.  I also think there are substantial errors in the evolutionary perspective, places where things have gone wrong.  I believe this for scientific reasons, because of evidence that I have myself examined, and for religious reasons related to my understanding of the Bible and Christian theology, and for personal reasons based on my encounters with almighty God in my own life.  Just because I disagree with many of my evolutionary colleagues about evolution doesn’t make them morons or fools or whatever other insult you want to accuse them of.”

Dr. Coulson’s book Creation Unfolding: a new perspective on Ex Nihilo (2020) which proposes that God crafted a mature creation during six literal days of creation, provides an even more direct critique of traditional YECs.  Speaking about the problem he hopes to solve he writes:

“..I have become increasingly aware of some glaring problems within mainstream young-Earth creationism that stem from what I believe is an overly suspicious approach to conventional science. Exacerbating the problems are a plethora of on-line young-Earth creationist (YEC) websites that are hosted by well-meaning Christians who are neither scientists nor theologians.  These websites claim that scientific evidence abounds for the youth of the creation, and that a belief in millions of years is nothing more than propaganda cooked up by biased evolutionists out to wantonly deceive the world at large. In their minds, a YEC interpretation of nature is obvious, and only a fool would fall for the secular view that believes the Earth is 4.6 billion years old.” Pg 5-6

And later,

“It may surprise many Christians to learn, however, that much evidence exists in nature that supports the antiquity of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe.” Pg 6

Dr. Coulson will go on to develop a mature creation apologetic that he believes will allow the young-Earth creationist to acknowledge the evidence for an ancient earth and universe while still holding to a recent creation. This is not the place for a review of this interesting book, but I will say that several of The New Creationists recommend the book, even if they may not fully embrace all the tenets of its thesis.  My take on the book is that some of the solutions he provides are the only logical solutions to the “evidence problem” for YECs. As such, I think that we will see more and more creationists—most likely of TNC variety—embracing something like what Coulson is proposing.  This is especially true for anyone who comes to the realization that the evidence for an ancient earth is strong and that belief in an ancient earth isn’t simply propaganda whose purpose is to deny the existence of God, as the Ken Ham-type creationist might espouse.  

A similar acknowledgment of the challenge to creationism from radiometric dating and the problematic YEC apologetic response can be see on Coulson’s blog, Unfolding Creation, and reblogged on the New Creation blog in a recent post:  

“Absolute dating techniques associated with radioisotope decay are perhaps the greatest challenge to a cogent and scientifically sustainable young-earth creationist model. How are Christians to respond to claims that the earth is billions of years old?

Typically, most Christians and/or creationists will respond with some kind of anti-evolutionary rhetoric that categorically undermines the veracity of radioisotope dating—“it’s all bogus.” This is a mistake. Geochronology based on radioisotope models of decay is a scientifically robust discipline. A knee-jerk reaction that condemns the entire discipline is borne out of fear, not fact.” https://newcreation.blog/what-should-christians-think-of-radiometric-dating-pt-1/ 

Almost 20 years ago Kurt Wise wrote his treatise on YEC, Faith, Form, and Time: What the Bible Teaches and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the Universe in which he began an early chapter on dating the earth with the following observations:

 “A face-value reading of the Bible indicates that the creation is thousands of years old. A face-value examination of the creation suggests it is millions or billions of years old.  The reconciliation of these two observations is one of the most significant challenges to creation research.  Much more research must be devoted to this question to produce an acceptable resolution.”  Pg 58

You should not read too much into this. Wise is not saying that creation really does tell us earth is old, only that the common observations naturally lead to an old-age inference.  He believes that a closer look with the correct understanding gained from scripture will eventually reveal the true nature of the Earth age. Still, this is different from the implicit and sometimes explicit statements in traditional YEC literature that the youth of the world is plain to see and, thus, should point man to the Bible.  

Other TNCs may not go as far as Wood, Wise, and Coulson with respect to the relative abundance of evidence for an ancient earth and pervasive common ancestry (Coulson), but they do share the view that scientists aren’t simply charlatans whose every motive is to subvert the clear testimony of the earth regarding its young-age. They give credit to what appears to be legitimate evidence of an old earth while maintaining that there must be a way to re-interpret that evidence in light of a young-age. They believe they are doing that work of reinterpretation but realistically acknowledge they have a long way to go  to produce a “cogent and scientifically sustainable young-earth creationist model.”

Admitting the evidence at face value (that it does not shout out that the earth is young), some YEC apologists may feel as if one their best apologetic tools has been taken away.  If it is reasonable to conclude, from the evidence, that the creation is quite old, then it does not follow that one can proclaim that the masses are being duped by the scientific community, which is one of the mainstays of YEC apologetics. The responses from some traditional YECs to these perceived “concessions” to the scientific establishment are not flattering. 

Dr. Jake Hebert at the Institute for Creation Research wrote a response to TNCs, Is the Evidence Ambiguous? https://www.icr.org/article/is-creation-evidence-ambiguous thought he identifies the same individuals as Young-Earth Evolutionists (YEEs – because we need more acronyms:-). He accuses them of being influenced by fideism which I find interesting because I think the opposite is the case. But the crucial point here is that he identifies a difference between traditional creation apologetics–what he calls biblical creationists–and YEEs is the commitment of the former to the idea that the creation clearly testifies to its youth in all respects.  Hebert is convinced there is no ambiguity in the creation evidence–anything that doesn’t appear to point to a young earth is being wrongly interpreted. He wants to draw people into YEC by the self-evident nature of a young earth. He believes that YEEs are set apart from other creationists by their acceptance of ambiguity in the witness of creation to its age. 

Gavin Cox from Creation Ministries International reviewed (Healing Division or Courting Heresy?) Todd Wood’s book with Biology Founder Dr. Darell Falk, The Fool and The Heretic, and was especially displeased with the ground that he perceived Wood to cede to evolutionary theory. The first sentence provides Cox’s feelings about Todd Wood: “Long on rhetoric and short on science, The Fool and the Heretic (F&H) brings together two scientists with (allegedly) diametrically opposite views regarding the evolution-versus creation controversy.”

Similarly, I return to our anonymous YouTube screed about the dangers of The New Creationists with an extended quote showing the strong reactions that this view of the TNCs elicits. This time it is about giving away portion of the evolution is evil argument:

“…but I’ve been saying this for absolutely, for years. It’s all about taking everything the evolutionists do and somehow force-fitting it into creation science. Now I’m not saying we can’t use some of the material from the evolutionary community, like that’s not the point, the point is we can’t take every conclusion of theirs and just force fit it into creation science.  We can’t do that, I mean you can if you want to try but it’ll destroy your science. I’m gonna put a quote up. This is a picture I took from Woods book he co-wrote with Daryl Falk, “The Fool and the Heretic.”  I want you to have a look at the phrasing that Todd Wood uses. Have a look, notice what he says about evolution. Notice what he says about, you know evil, there being tons and tons of evidence for evolution. There’s lots of evidence for evolution. You know, I showed that to a creation, a creation scientist from another country who’s not really aware of what was going on here in the in this country at the time and that particular individual was absolutely floored that a creationist would write that.  But now you shouldn’t be because there is a wide swath of people within creation science, who very few people want to say anything negative about, who are deliberately, or perhaps ignorantly, but some of them at least are deliberately, undermining creation science. You really think that that creation science wouldn’t get infiltrated the same way that the southern Baptist convention has been infiltrated? Do you really think that wouldn’t happen? We’ve been effective so they have to bring us down. I mean it happens all the time at cemeteries, I mean seminaries.” https://youtu.be/SVqFwIOzqNg?t=1036 

This quote beautifully captures the fundamentalist mindset that Ken Ham wants his followers to take up. David French characterized this fundamentalistic tendency recently as an “obsession with the idea that compromise anywhere is compromise everywhere.” Seminaries—I mean cemeteries! –are dangerous, those in academia are dangerous, there are infiltrators trying to suppress the truth of a young earth and that reaches even into the young-earth camp just as it does within our churches.  You can’t trust your pastor if they don’t actively preach against this infiltration.  What must you believe in? Trust Answers in Genesis and others that fight for the truth and call out compromisers (even those that claim to believe in a young-earth if they have any doubts), for they are the only ones who are truly defending what is obvious to all—the youthful appearance of the Earth which testifies to the truth of scripture. 

General consensus on some big questions in creationism and greater ability to adapt to new ideas:  While not the most diagnostic identifier of a new creationist, I think that there are some consensus views among new creationists on answers to some of the biggest questions that have faced creationists that collectively unify them over the competing traditional creationist model.   

In my reading of recent creationist literature—I say recent because some new creationists are old creationist that have modified their views over time—I would characterize them as rallying around the following conclusions or approaches to scientific questions:  1) the Flood/post-Flood boundary in the geological is to be found at or near the Cretaceous Paleogene boundary, 2)  allowing a greater breadth of species diversity that can form from an original created kind than most creationists have in the past, 3)  a willingness to explore a diverse set of naturalistic criteria for defining the boundaries of a created kind, 3) belief that all or almost all fossils called Homo by paleontologists are descendants of Adam and Eve–a more inclusive view of the hominin fossil record, and 4) an acceptance that speciation via natural selection happens but the rapidity of their proposed speciation rates in the past requires that there may be other as yet fully described mechanisms of adaptation yet to be discovered.

Not only is  there greater consensus on these subjects among the TNCs, I also find them to be more adaptable to new ideas and willing to explore new directions as the traditional explanations are found to be inadequate.  Traditional young-earth models are most likely to be sustained by established YEC organizations who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and are less able to incorporate new ideas which may be perceived as undermining their ministry by confusing their donor base.  There is an enormous cost to YEC megaministries to have to reprint, redesign, and relabel if paradigms shift. Stasis is their friend and helps to give the impression of established truths. By contrast, scientific research is dynamic and provides the opportunity to correct misconceptions and errors.  TNCs are more willing to allow new information to challenge the status quo. 

Are there other new creationists out there?

Most definitely!  I focused on these seven because of their association with the New Creation blog. These individuals are either secure in their employment or semi-retired and comfortable with the stresses of being involved in creation apologetics. There are a number of aspiring creationists who gravitate toward the TNC approach and rather than aspiring to be the new Ken Ham.  But I also know of a number of faculty at Christian colleges who are or lean YEC who share in the conviction of TNCs. Though they may share their convictions with TNCs, they may be less vocal or not in positions which allow the freedom to express their concerns with traditional creationism, a la Ken Ham.  Again, notice that those that fit the TNC mold are either in academia or aer independent scholars.

Then, there are the students who have grown up immersed in young-earth educational materials and have entered college dreaming of becoming the next Ken Ham or, at least, working in some capacity in full-time creation apologetics.  Many of them don’t survive their undergraduate education, but some do and go on to graduate school knowing that the credibility that a PhD provides would be useful and provide greater employment opportunities. When they graduate, they may have to decide between a job in academia or working for a YEC ministry.  This is the point where,I think, the social and behavioral differences between  traditional creationists and new creationists determines the path that they take within the diverse community of creationists.   

As I said before, many of TNCs are in positions to train the next generation and essentially train their replacements. This gives them an influence that is greater than that calculated simply by adding up the views of their blogs, FaceBook pages, or YouTube videos.  

My predictions regarding Young-Earth creationism five years from now

Will I be saying, It’s dead, Jim!?  No. Creationism will still be alive, but it may not look the same as today’s creationism.  The influence of The New Creationists will be measurable; they will recruit or attract new members committed to a similar approach and viewpoints.  

The New Creationists will be more organized and better able to pivot on the fly. Through blogs, social media and regional meetings they will find a greater voice, though they may still be underfunded and kept on the fringes of the largest creation conferences and prime speaking opportunities.  There will be active efforts to keep their ideas at bay (see: Heberts article at ICR, Is creation evidence ambiguous?) because of their threat to mega ministries like AiG, who are so reliant upon donations from their devotees to keep their ministries afloat.   

Concluding thoughts

What I have done here is to present my interpretation of creationist history.  My opinions come from reading creationist literature, following their social media and listening to their talks over the past twenty years. Through this experience, I have formulated this thesis and framework for predicting possible future directions that young-earth creationism apologetics may take over the next decade. It may be that The New Creationists are too disjointed and will not be able to sufficiently agree to become the iceberg that upends the Titanic, which is AiG.  The hermeneutical methods, the form of rhetoric, and specific scientific models for earth’s geological and biological origins of AiG and ICR may be so deeply embedded in fundamentalist Christianity that the people will not accept significant departures in both the form of dialogue or the conclusions of traditional creationism. If so, the AiG-way will be perpetuated due to the strength of tradition alone. Time will tell what the future holds forthe TNCs.

Much more could be said on this topic, but I have to cut it off somewhere. I look forward to your feedback and am fully prepared to amend my ideas as new information comes to light.

Coming up:  Part 4 will include links to representative literature and websites of TNCs, critiques of individual TNCs, and a video in which I talk about some of these characteristics in more depth and speculate about the future of YEC. 

Disclaimer:  

In this and the previous posts, I am proposing an interpretation of the current state of Young-Earth Creationism.  It results from my extensive reading of creationist literature, following many YEC leaders and some of their fans on social media and listening to their seminary and presentations for over 20 years. This is my thesis and my framework for predicting possible future directions that young-earth creationism apologetics may take over the next decade.

Just so there is no confusion here, I am not proposing that the members of the New Creation blog are a monolithic group or a different species of creationists set wholly apart from other YECs. I am simply offering up the observation that they fit a general profile that puts them collectively into a different basket from the typical creationists of the past 40 years. 

All YECs have some connections and some common views despite their many differences.  There is no complete discontinuity among any individual or group of creationists.  The director/writer/producer of Is Genesis History? has talked about the future of creationism (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJWsG0n-9Ds ) where he emphasizes the need to work together, while acknowledging that there are many unresolved problems in creation science. He may have fostered some collaboration across diverse disciplines and between creationists from what had been different “silos” but the creation ministry that has formed since the film’s release reflects a particular approach to creation apologetics which is not universally held among all creationists.  There are identifiable subgroups or sub-baramin if you prefer within creationism even while they all operate with some shared principles. 

In the last installment of this series I will provide links to literature and websites that best represent TNCs. I will also provide a video reviewing the ideas I’ve presented here as well as reflecting upon what the next steps in this evolution of creationism may be and how those changes may unfold.

Editing kindly provided by MC

Comments

  1. “Dr. Coulson’s book Creation Unfolding: a new perspective on Ex Nihilo (2020) which proposes that God crafted a mature creation during six literal days”; How does this differ from Goss’s Omphalos? And why is it not an immediate terminator to discussion, as well as to the need for an independent creationist research programme, since nothing can actually be explained, but anything at all can be explained away, if we permit a gap between how something appears to have been formed, and how it was in reality supernaturally crafted?

    This raised another question in my mind. YECs made copious use of the philosophy of science, and in particular a naive form of Popper’s 1930s views on refutation, in order to maintain that this or that anomaly completely refutes the established scientific narrative. They also maintain that there is a fundamental difference between observational science and historical science, to the disadvantage of the latter. How do TNCs compare on these issues?

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    • As I read “Creation Unfolding” I was thinking of Gosse the whole time. Coulson mentions him early on in his review of mature creation apologists and speaks well of him. But he is going to spend huge amounts of time trying – I think unsuccessfully – to convince the reader that he can find room for fossils that are not part of a mature creation becuase that would be deceptive but then place a bunch of other stuff into a mature creation. His demarcation of the two bins of things created with and without maturity is not natural and built solely from a conviction of no death before the fall and reality of a global flood.

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      • So presumably the geological record, on the whole, is accepted as clear face evidence for an old Earth (ibn Sina worked this much about, from the existence of superposed strata), but the same is not the case for the fossils embedded in the strata. From what you say, TNC is genuine pseudoscience, while Ham-style YEC does not rise to that level

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        • Well, Coulson’s concern is with the basic structure of the Earth including the mantle, core and so forth and how its origins appear to have required events that would have taken millions of years. He doesn’t want to apply his mature creation to the fossil-bearing geological column. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense other than he is identifying a problem that YEC gloss over (how did God create by apparent process during the six days to form the part of the Earth) and providing the only possible solution that preserves some semblance of making sense of the “obvious” evidence of an ancient earth.

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        • I agree Paul. Despite some of positive aspects of TNCs described by Joel, I see their approach and views as essentially more nuanced versions of bad science, combined with overly rigid interpretations of Genesis.

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      • It drives me crazy when otherwise intelligent people argue that there was no physical death before the Fall, since this is Biblically unnecessary and scientifically impossible. By any reasonable analysis the “death” at the Fall was primarily if not entirely spiritual, not physical. After all, God told Adam he would die the day he ate of the forbidden fruit, but he did not physically die that literal day (so one or both terms had to be figurative). In terms of biology and ecology, the lack of physical death makes no sense. A world without death quickly results in exponentially exploding populations, turning Eden into Hell on Earth. For that and other reasons ecosystems cannot function without death and decay. Plus, without physical death,there would be no reason for so many creatures to have elaborate structures or compounds (like fangs, webs, venom, etc) to prey on other animals, and for others to have elaborate defenses against predators (such as camouflage). What’s the point of an insect looking like a leaf of stick if no creatures intended to eat them? What did spiders do with their webs in the original creation? What did sharks feed on? Did pythons squeeze watermelons to death? What were the rattlesnakes rattles for? Do YECs never ask themselves these questions? For more on this issue see my article here: http://paleo.cc/ce/nodeath.htm
        All of this relates to the larger question of why YECs, whether old or “new” do not stop to consider that perhaps the reason they have so much trouble dealing with so much evidence against their view is that their rigid, largely literal interpretation of Genesis is flawed and unnecessary, and that if they opened their mind to that, a lot of their problems would be resolved, without necessarily undermining their faith.

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      • rjdownard says:

        Whether old or “new” creationists, there’s always going to be the snag of the inability of their model to account for an ever-expanding scientific data field. Which means there will likely always be the “in for a penny, in for a pound” conspiratorial denialism that finds it easier to flush the whole shebang and go with the cartoon. How long the TNCers can keep up the mental juggling act remains to be seen, but definitely keep up your reporting on it.

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    • Paul, good thoughts about Popper and historical creationism. I need to look a few things up but my initial reaction is that TNCs would not deploy the Popperian falsification criteria in the way that traditional YECs use it. Also, Coulson certainly but others have a much higher regard for our ability to know the past because they are less likely to employ changes rates of fundamental “constants” in the past in their models. They have a higher regard for God being consistent in his creation.

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      • V. Peterson says:

        The other day I was reading parts of a long paper on stromatolites by Coulson that someone had posted, and he does seem to support rapid changes in the rates of some processes in the original creation (whether that involved “fundamental constants” I’m not sure).
        “During Creation Week, God used supernatural rates of change to mature and frame the earth. The crust of the earth was shaped by its emersion from the primeval oceans. Likewise, the vegetated realm grew from soil and matured in a single day. Since all rates everywhere were accelerated, yet kept constant with each other, the whole effect would look something like a time-lapse movie where real environments would “evolve.” (p. 116)
        I was surprised since that echoes the RATE study in having to resort to faster processes in the past in order to account for the apparent age of the earth.
        http://www.answersingenesis.org/arj/v14/stromatolites_precambrian_cambrian.pdf

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        • Thanks Virginia. I saw that article too and now that you bring it up I can see that I’m missing something here in his thesis. This speaks against what I just said to Paul and now I’m confused about what Coulson’s views on rates of processes have been. Sped up rates is different than Gosse’s assertion that God created immediately but within a historical cycle in his mind but Coulson also seems to find Gosse’s idea attractive as well. I’m going to need to go back and read that chapter in Creation Unfolding again.

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        • The problem is, whether YECs propose greatly accelerated rates of physical processes, or instantaneous creation events, once one starts evoking miracles (and that’s what they amount to) to explain (or explain away) scientific evidence, one might as well propose God putting fossils in rocks, or events in starlight that never took place. I really don’t see much difference, and many YECs actually have suggested the last notion (false events in starlight–such as exploding novas) to avoid the logical conclusion that stars millions of light years away demonstrate an old cosmos.

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      • But if they really believed that, they’d accept radiometric dating. It astounds me that those involved in ICR’s “RATE” project (including Austin) ended up concluding that the Earth recorded far too much radioactive decay to be consistent with a YEC model. Yet instead of accepting the ramifications of this (that the Earth is old), they invoked miracles (without calling them that) intimated that God must have greatly accelerating radio decay at one or more times in the past (despite the massive heat and other problems that would cause) and declared their study a success.
        http://paleo.cc/ce/RATE-project.htm
        With this kind of behavior, why are YECs (old or new) not surprised that mainstream scientists do not take them seriously? To me, Invoking ad-hoc miracles, or “appearance-of-age” arguments, whenever physical evidence flies in the face of YECism, removes any pretense of “science” from “scientific creationism”–a term which ICR used to use a lot, but which seems seldom used by modern creationists.

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  2. peter b says:

    What is your problem with creation and a creating God, as mentioned in Genesis?

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  3. Mountain Fisher says:

    Natural selection and mutations cannot explain the speed of whale evolution in only 10 million years. How did a fur bearing four legged animal go from living on land to being completely adapted to living in water, extremely cold water, in only ten million years? David Berlinski calculated the changes in increments that would have to occur, he stopped at 50,000 from being tired of the exercise. Even if only 25,0000 changes were needed, 100 changes a year would need to occur. Tell me what Darwinist process accounts for such rapid change? I’m an ancient creationist for sure, but the fossil record doesn’t support Darwin according to Gould and Eldredge. Geology is one thing, but biology is another.

    I have wondered about many issues along these lines and YEC will continue until rapid evolution and also lack of any evolution of many species are accounted for. Stephen J. Gould concocted Punctuated Equilibria to explain the absence of so many fossils. I believe evolution as we know it was not the method for change. An ancient creationist I am, a theistic evolutionist one I am not. Where do you put us?

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    • Mountain Fisher, First, your term “changes” is vague. Are you talking about specific anatomic or physiological changes, or any mutation or change in DNA? If the latter, then far more than you cite could easily occur over 10 million years, with sufficient numbers of adaptive ones to accomplish whale evolution. Second, the fossil record of whale evolution is being filled in with more and more, with many apparent intermediates known. What are you suggesting, that God intervened multiple times to alter DNA or otherwise propel whale changes in ways that just happened to look like evolution? Realize that speciation is sometimes known to occur in historic times over a few centuries or even several decades in some cases, so why reject the evidence that larger changes can occur over time spans many orders of magnitude greater? Good grief, AIG is now suggesting that Family, Order, or perhaps even Class level changes took place in only a few hundred years (which is truly implausible), but 10 million years?… that’s a LOT more time for natural selection and other evolutionary mechanisms to act and produce major changes, given open niches and environmental pressures. So if you don’t accept evolution, what is your explanation for fossil succession and what is your model of creation? Do you reject all evolution (even most YECs don’t) and if not, where do you draw the line, and why? Do you consider yourself a “progressive creationist” or ID advocate? The latter is that they do seem to do a lot of questioning of “Darwinsm” without proposing any fleshed out or testable model of their own. Even ID advocate Paul Nelson (who is also a YEC) acknowledges that.

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  4. Alec Armstrong says:

    Another great article. Although, I doubt that TNCs are as open to evidence and inquiry as you imply. Sure, they have accepted evidence of lacustrine deposits in the Cenozoic and haven’t tried to haphazardly explain them away. But they ignore basic, solid evidence of eolian deposits and try to explain them all away as “underwater dunes.” How could underwater dunes possess wind ripples and high-angle cross-bedding? Not to mention the abundant evidence of Paleozoic glaciations extrapolated from lithology and geochemistry. It just seems like they’re still cherry-picking science, much like the traditional creationists. If they really are open-minded, hopefully they’ll recognize these evidences.

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    • Alec, I agree entirely. As I mentioned, I think TNCs just like TOCS (the Old Creationists, ha) seem to base their views more on overly rigid interpretations of Genesis than hard evidence, making them essentially just more sophisticated sounding versions of the same very flawed paradigm. As you note, they often try to cram in to a YEC timetable even the most obvious examples of calm, slow, or non-marine deposition. In the “underwater dunes” example you cite, they not only dismiss physical evidence of aerial deposition, but ignore the many features of the vertebrate and invertebrate trackways that rule out underwater deposition. http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC365.html Speaking of which, they also have not come close to adequately dealing with many other trace fossils (like the thousands of dinsoaur and pre-dino track sites throughout the world, and vast dinosaur nesting sites) that also are utterly incompatible with a violent global Flood, especially since many of these occur when (according to many of them), when Flood was at or near it’s peak, and covering even the highest peaks on earth. I wrote a long essay on this, with virtually no response from YECs, new or old. http://paleo.cc/ce/tracefos.htm
      Likewise, as far as I know none have offered anything close to rigorous evidence for a young earth, or convincing counter arguments to radiometric dating, fossil succession, distant starlight, and other powerful lines of evidence for an old earth and old universe. So while they might deserve a little more credit than people like Henry Morris or Ken Ham, or far-fringe but popular YECs like Walt Brown, Kent Hovind, or Carl Baugh, to me it’s not saying much. Indeed, in a way I find TNCs even more troublesome and insidious, because they can sound even more convincing, and influence more people (especially those with some science education) while in the end doing more to undermine than support real Earth science education.
      It’s also curious to me that some of the TNCs work at or with AIG, where Ken Ham often promotes odd mixtures of new and old YEC ideas, sometimes appearing quite contradictory. For example, one can find AIG articles from them accepting much of evolution and natural selection –even massive, rapid evolution called “rapid post flood speciation” or the like, and other articles from Ham or other AIG employees or contributors largely rejecting natural selection and using “evolution” only in a disparaging sense. Plus as Joel notes, AIG’s literature often tries to tightly weld YECism and social issues, and their slick newsletter (and materials sold in it) often focus more on the latter than YECism itself, and they often try to foster the false dichotomy between YECism and totally secular science, ignoring and offending millions of theistic evolutionists. Likewise, to the extent that one might classify some ID advocates as TNCs, their views seem even more “all over the map” except for the general idea that some entity or force (they mean God of course, but won’t say so directly) somehow helped design living things or goose evolution at one or more points in the past (with precious few specifics or testable ideas). That too doesn’t seem like much if any progress.

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    • Evaporite deposits as well. They are even harder for a YEC to explain than eolian.

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  5. Clark Coleman says:

    “Likely to have a higher tolerance for appeals to a mature creation or creation with the appearance of age. ” I don’t understand how this is different from Ken Ham et al. They all seem to MAKE those appeals, so their tolerance is already 100%. How can TNC’s have a higher tolerance than 100%?

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    • Clark, I too don’t see much difference in the way “new” vs old creationists toy with the idea of “appearance of age.” In fact, on the major problem of distant starlight, if anything the majority of “new” creationists seem more reluctant than “old” YECs to advocate “appearance of age” arguments. A good summary of the different views by different YEC groups and individuals is given in the following ASA article:
      https://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/starlight.htm
      As I see it, no creationists, old or new, have ever given a plausible answer to the starlight problem. AIG sometimes uses the “where you there?” cliche to dismiss it, but this way of dealing with troublesome evidence (whether cosmic, geologic, or paleontological) seem especially vaccuous.
      By the same reasoning most of their own articles on fossils, geology, archaeology, etc. are invalidated, and there would be no point in investigating crimes that did not have personal eyewitnesses. Ironically, physical evidence of past events (whether fossils, DNA, fingerprints, radiometric isotopes, etc) are often far more reliable than eyewitness accounts, especially when multiple lines of evidence lead to the same conclusions. Of course AIG, would claim God is the one and only reliable eyewitness to ancient events, and that’s how we know YCIsm is correct, but this goes back to their presumption that their rigid and literal interpretation of Genesis is the only true one, and that it automatically trumps any scientific evidence, not matter how diverse or strong.

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    • David B Greene says:

      I guess God could have created everything with the appearance of age but I think it would have taken him several billion years to do so 🙂

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