Historical creationism is the belief, based on the Bible, that God created the universe and everything in it in six literal 24-hour days, sometime between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. This view stands in contrast to evolutionary theory, which says the universe is billions of years old and life developed gradually over long periods of time through natural processes.
There are several key aspects to historical creationism:
- God created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing) – Genesis 1:1
- The days of creation were normal 24-hour days – Exodus 20:11
- Creation occurred relatively recently – around 6,000-10,000 years ago according to biblical genealogies and chronologies
- God created distinct kinds of plants and animals – Genesis 1
- All people are descendants of Adam and Eve – Genesis 1-3
- There was a global flood in Noah’s day that impacted the earth – Genesis 6-9
- Fossils and the geologic column were largely formed after this flood – Genesis 7-8
Historical creationists cite biblical evidence that God created in six normal days and that Adam and Eve were real people created specially by God. They point to passages like Exodus 20:11 which says “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.” This suggests God’s creative acts were confined to normal 24-hour days. References to evening and morning throughout Genesis 1 are also taken to mean ordinary days.
Using biblical genealogies and chronologies, calculations are made for the date of creation. Archbishop James Ussher famously calculated 4004 BC, while others have placed creation around 6000-10,000 BC. So historical creationists believe the universe is only thousands, not billions, of years old.
Historical creationists claim the earth was impacted by a global catastrophic flood, pointing to Genesis 6-9 for evidence. They say this provides an alternative explanation for the geologic column and fossil record, which secular science says formed slowly over millions of years. Instead, they argue the flood rapidly laid down sedimentary rock layers and buried plants and animals quickly, accounting for fossils.
There are some divisions among historical creationists. Young earth creationists believe creation occurred 6,000-10,000 years ago. Old earth creationists say creation was still literal 24-hour days but may have occurred hundreds of thousands or a few million years ago.
However, all historical creationists unite behind core beliefs like:
- Supernatural creation by God’s power, not naturalistic processes
- Adam and Eve as real historical figures, not mythical symbols
- The global flood during Noah’s time as a real event
- The Bible as the accurate, authoritative source of knowledge about early origins
Historical creationists reject evolutionary explanations for origins, instead affirming the biblical account of God creating “kinds” of plants and animals with the ability to adapt and change within their kind over time. But they deny one kind changing into a fundamentally different kind, since the Bible says plants and animals reproduce “after their kind” (Genesis 1).
Opponents of historical creationism raise scientific criticisms. For example:
- Evidence like radiometric dating consistently points to an old earth and universe billions of years old
- Stars and galaxies appear to be millions or billions of light years away based on how long their light takes to reach earth
- Layers of sedimentary rock and fossil evidence suggest slow geological change over long eras rather than extremely rapid formation in a global flood
- Evidence does not show all humanity descending from a single human population in the Middle East just thousands of years ago
- Many more species exist than seems plausible to have arisen from created biblical “kinds” just thousands of years ago
In this view, scientific evidence contradicts key assertions of biblical historical creationism like the age of the earth and universe, the timescale and mechanisms of biological change and diversity, and a global flood. Historical creationism is considered unscientific and indefensible.
Creationists counter that radiometric dating makes flawed assumptions, the speed of light may not have always been constant, geological change can happen rapidly under catastrophic flood conditions, fossilization does not require long time periods, and God created with appearance of age built in. They say opponents arbitrarily assert biblical historical narratives cannot be accepted as accurate accounts of early origins.
The historical creationist approach takes the Genesis 1-11 accounts of cosmic and human origins at face value as real history. It developed from the 19th century onwards as biblical scholars like George H. Pember and scientists like Harry Rimmer argued the Bible revealed a recent supernatural creation and global flood. This upheld biblical authority amid growing scientific challenges to the biblical record.
Today, historical creationism is widely held especially among evangelical Protestants. Organizations like Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research promote this perspective. It is also the official view of groups like the Southern Baptist Convention. Historical creationists see it as an important way to uphold biblical authority and the gospel message in the face of secular science.
Critics argue historical creationism is pseudo-scientific, dismissive of evidence, and damages Christianity’s credibility. But supporters say it takes the Bible at face value and affirms God’s revelation is true, providing a vital counter to naturalism. The origins debate continues between these competing perspectives.
Historical creationism will remain an important viewpoint for conservative Christians who consider a plain reading of Genesis essential and see it as theologically foundational. As long as biblical literalism persists, the view of a supernatural creation by God in six days thousands of years ago will also persist. The historical creationism approach tries to explain origins based on the Genesis narrative taken at face value as an infallible account of cosmic and human beginnings.
Historical creationism centers the discussion around biblical exegesis – how Genesis 1-11 is interpreted. Supporters believe the texts describe real supernatural creation events, so we must shape our understanding of origins around this revealed framework. Critics argue Genesis was never intended as scientific history and modern science shows its narratives do not portray actual origins accurately. This debate at the nexus of science and religion will doubtlessly continue.
But historical creationism will retain significant cultural importance, especially in America. It represents a long-running approach to human origins among conservative Protestants. For those who consider biblical authority foundational, historical creationism provides a view of origins that aligns with a plain reading of Genesis. It affirms both God’s supernatural involvement and the accuracy of the biblical narratives. The historical creationist perspective will persist as long as biblical literalism does.