- Creationism is the belief that the universe and the creatures within it were were created by God. It has been especially reasserted, among some Protestant groups, in opposition to the theory of evolution.The publication of Charles Darwin's books On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) challenged the traditional belief that God created the Earth, each of the different animal species, and by a special additional act, humanity. Most Christians held to the traditional view through the early 20th century; intellectuals such as Henry Drummond and Louis Agassiz (1807-73) responded to Darwin by restating their beliefs in greater detail and in a great variety of modern scientific and philosophical terms. The most liberal thinkers in the church were theistic evolutionists, who accepted a form of evolution as descriptive of how God created and sustained the world and its life-forms.In their disputes with the modernists in the years after World War I, American Fundamentalists labeled evolution an attack on Christianity as a whole, as subverting belief in the veracity of the Bible. A campaign to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools was successful in three states - Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Tennessee law became the focus of the 1925 "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee. A local high school teacher agreed to stand trial for teaching evolution to test the law. Presbyterian layman William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) served as prosecutor, and skeptical lawyer Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) as defense lawyer. He was convicted (though the conviction was later overturned on a technicality), but afterward the evolution debate gradually faded from public attention. In the 1960s, as a footnote to the debate, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Arkansas law was unconstitutional.Through the middle of the 20th century, conservative Christians generally held one of two understandings of creation. The "gap theory" dates back to 1814, when Scottish Presbyterian minister Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) developed the idea that the Bible referred to two creations, the one described in the first chapter of Genesis that occurred in the distant past, and a second one centered on the Garden of Eden in relatively recent times. The gap between the two creations appears between verses 25 and 26 in Genesis 1. The gap theory was advocated by Cyrus I. Scofield in the Scofield Reference Bible; Chinese Christian leader Watchman Nee; Fundamentalist journalist Arno Gaebelein (1861-1945); conservative Presbyterian Harry Rimmer (1890-1952), founder and head of the Science Research Bureau; and radio evangelists Martin R. DeHaan (1891-1965) and J. Vernon McGee (1904-88). It remains a popular theory for Fundamentalists and Evangelicals.The "day-age theory" interpreted the "days" spoken of in Genesis 1 as the long geological ages that intervened after God, in a single act, created the earth and the natural laws that prepared it for the creation of humanity. This approach had much in common with the gap theory, both suggesting multiple creations. Major advocates included Fundamentalist Baptist preacher William Bell Riley (1861-1947) and William Jennings Bryan.In the early 20th century, George McCready Price (1870-1963), a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church with no particular training in science, began to advocate a third approach, the young-Earth theory. He suggested that a literal reading of Genesis was correct, that God had created the world in one week some 6,000 years ago and that the Flood described in Genesis 7 and 8 was an actual global deluge that occurred around 2000 b.c.e., during which all of the many fossil-bearing rocks were deposited.Price won little support until Old Testament scholar John C. Whitcomb Jr. and engineer Henry M. Morris published The Genesis Flood in 1961. Two years later, they pulled together a small group of supporters, most of whom had scientific credentials, to found the Creation Research Society (CRS). They began to call their approach "creation science." Morris and his supporters have produced a number of books that have made their approach a serious rival to old-Earth creationism in Fundamentalist and Evangelical circles. In the 1980s, they began a renewed campaign directed at state legislators to have creation science taught concurrently with scientific evolution. They succeeded in Louisiana and Arkansas, but in 1987 the Supreme Court overturned the Arkansas law as unconstitutional.While a generation of creation science has brought most Fundamentalists into the young-Earth camp, many Evangelicals still support the old-Earth approach, which retains the favor of the American Scientific Affiliation, a professional association for scientists who identify themselves as Evangelicals. Both views are now advocated by a number of Christian organizations, but a newer approach has captured the imagination of many. Termed "intelligent design theory," it was initially advocated by university of California law professor Philip Johnson in two books, Darwin on Trial (1991) and Reason in the Balance: The Case against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education (1995). Johnson has challenged the basic naturalism of the sciences, which starts from the assumption that scientific explanations should not appeal to God or the supernatural. In contrast, intelligent design theorists argue that God is a necessary element in understanding the patterns found in the natural world.See also Fundamentalism.Further reading:■ Robert B. Fischer, God Did It, But How?, 2nd ed. (Ipswich, Mass.: American Scientific Affiliation, 1997)■ Willard B. Gatewood Jr., Controversy in the Twenties: Fundamentalism, Modernism and Evolution (Nashville, Tenn.: vanderbilt university Press, 1969)■ Philip Johnson, Darwin on Trial (Chicago: Reg-nery, 1991)■ J. P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds, eds., Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999)■ Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1963)■ Ronad Numbers, Darwinism Comes to America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard university Press, 1998.)■ George McCready Price, Genesis Vindicated (Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald, 1941)■ Harry Rimmer, Modern Science and the Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1945).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.