We often forget to make the distinction between creation and creationism. One is a doctrine while the other is an apologetic approach.

On the one hand, creation is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. The essential features of the doctrine of creation are unchangeable tenets. The Bible teaches that those features include the truths that God, without compulsion or necessity, freely created the universe out of nothing according to his own will and for his own good purposes. Though marred by the arrival of evil and sin, creation reflects the nature of its Creator. So creation is both great and good.

On the other hand, creationism is an apologetic approach which attempts to integrate the doctrine of creation with the current understandings of the natural sciences. In particular, creationism seeks to relate the first 11 chapters of Genesis to the latest findings of science. For example, how does the biblical account of God creating the sun, moon, and stars square with what we understand through astronomy? Or the creation of plants and animals with research in biology and genetics? Or the account of Noah’s flood with geology? Or the account of the dispersing of nations after the Tower of Babel with anthropology? Creationism deals with issues such as the age of the universe, the origin of the first humans, and the nature of the world prior to the fall of the original couple. So creation is an unchanging and unchangeable doctrine while creationism, by its very nature, must constantly change and be amended. The doctrine of creation is derived from Scripture and is as old as the biblical witness itself. Creationism is relatively new, because it arose alongside the scientific revolution in the 17th century. As science developed, so did creationism, especially after Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859.

We must keep the distinction between creation and creationism in mind so that we understand what to hold firmly and what must be open to revision.

These are exciting days to be exploring creation and natural history. Evangelicals are a missional people. As such we cannot shy away from the difficult issues presented by origins science. We must engage the natural sciences with confidence and integrity. We must endeavor that the Lord Jesus Christ will have worshipers in every vocation, and we must advance the Kingdom of God into every arena of life—including the natural sciences.