Is Evolution a Sub-Category of Progressive Creation?

I agree with Guy. I see progressive creation as a proposal that things change over time and this includes modification of pre-existing forms rather than outright generation of complete novelties. So, evolution could be placed in that context.


@swamidass, @jongarvey
I know there are a few Progressive Creationists that believe in Common Descent; however the vast majority believe only in microevolution and accept the science of the universe just as evolutionary creation. But the key is the Progressive Creationists do not accept macroevolution and Common Descent. It is really the Day-Age Theory of American Baptist Church theologian Bernard Ramm. Some Southern Baptists accept this view and reject YEC. I have always believed in an old universe. To me, YEC is impossible. YEC is mostly found in Free Will Baptists and Independent Baptist churches. Bernard Ramm was a professor of Theology and New Testament at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Eastern University in King of Prussia, PA. I personally walk the tight rope between progressive creationism and evolutionary creation. I have a hard time with Common Descent, but as a linguist and comparing the similarity of languages and comparing the similarities of my cat to humans, I can see the possibilty of Common Descent.

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Yes, the evolution of languages really does provide a compelling argument. I believe using languages as an illustration of evolution can go a long way towards making breakthroughs in a student’s understanding of the concepts.


It is worth clarifying that the common understanding of “day/age theory” is already suffering from a confused perspective.
It is not as if adherents are saying, “Well, we know it says ‘day,’ but what we think it really means is ‘age.’ "
The accurate conception is to say, “Among the available translations for the Hebrew word ‘yom,’ we understand it to be saying a long period of time.”
The “24 hour ‘day’ theory” is no less speculative an interpretation of the original Hebrew text as the " ‘day/age’ theory” is.
Paying attention to the wider context is how you settle this question, because both meanings for the Hebrew ‘yom’ are equally valid.

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You are right, Allen. And you saw exactly what I was saying. That shows the linguist in you. I usually say the following to wife when I go to bed.

Te video et te amo, mea Nancy.
I see thee and I love (admire) thee, mine Nancy.

OE: Ic cann gan.
NE: I can go.
Ger: Ich kann gehen.

I’ve attempted to define Progressive Creationism by dividing it into two main subcategories I call PC-1 and PC-2 which are mostly differentiated by how much macro-evolution they are willing to accept. I would be interested in where you think I am not characterizing PC properly or could improve this definition. I’ve found the PC model of origins to be difficult to characterize the more I’ve tried to wrap my brain around it.

Progressive Creationism/Day-Age Creationism. Progressive creationism advocates believe God created new forms of life gradually over a period of hundreds of millions of years. It accepts mainstream geological and cosmological estimates for the age of the Earth. In this view God created new organisms at key moments in the history of life in which all “kinds” or species (see PC-1 and PC-2 below) of plants and animals appear in stages lasting millions of years. These key moments represent instances of God creating new types of organisms by divine intervention. All PCs hold that species or “kinds” do not gradually appear by the steady transformation of its ancestors; [but] appear all at once and “fully formed.” PC may or may not be fully overlap with Day-Age creationism in which the days recorded in Genesis 1 are considered to be long-ages corresponding to the great ages of Earth’s history.

For example: With respect to polar bears the PC may believe God created an ancestral bear kind or, possibly more specifically, the original brown bear and that common ancestor (primordial type?) had the capacity to adapt–genetic parameters designed by God–into many species including the polar bear that we observe today. However, the first bear “kind” was created fully formed apart from any animal ancestor.

PC-1 (Progressive creation typically at the taxonomic level of species) God specially created all (or most) species–no common ancestry except within “species.” For example domestic dogs were not specially created but are a variation of wolves and were adapted via natural processes from a wolf ancestor. This is the historical PC view which is a held by those who accept the evidence of an old earth but reject evolution as a process capable of generating new species and higher taxonomic categories. This view is uncommon today except among lay Christians and pastors that have not invested time studying origins models.

PC-2 (Progressive creation of “kinds” usually equivalent to the taxonomic category of family) God specially created “kinds” of organisms at various intervals throughout Earth’s history. Those kinds were created with the capacity to adapt to their environment including speciation within some limits. Speciation within “kinds” occurs similar to that of the YEC-3 hyper-evolution model except that this speciation process occurs at speeds consistent with measured rates of changes–mutation rates, natural selection and genetic drift–observed today.


It seems like there is a very large range of views here. It might better to describe this as a continuum, with some examples across the continuum, and explanations how they would concieve different case studies differently. At a high level, some seen the creative acts required for roughly sub-species, species, genus, phyla, and biogenesis level change. So there is a wide diversity of OEC view, and they seem partly defined by rejecting “evolution” as a term.


For which, I guess the justification is that neither by etymology nor common usage does “evolution” actually leave much room for “creation.”

The word itself, etymologically, implies an unfolding of what is inherent (and so Darwin was slow to adopt it), and the common usage is about an inherent ateleological “search” that stumbles on something entirely novel.

Within the Prog. Creat. paradigm, since “evolution” could mean simply change in bisophere over time, or transformation of existing forms by creative acts, or transformation of “platonic” forms by creative acts - or the changes occurring naturally to created forms either by intrinsic powers or by degeneration, then I can see why it’s a term apt to confuse.

My feeling is that reserving “evolution” for natural processes and “creation” for supernatural provides a clear distinction, and a way to talk about less clear distinctions: for example, a mutation is a natural process, but a specific mutation occurring at just the right time can be deemed a creative act.


It is abuse of the terminology. Evolution is silent on God action. Your rebranding of the scientific meaning also sets us up for perpetual conflict. No thank you.

Remember God can create by natural processes too, so the distinction is an abuse of the theological meaning too. No thank you.


Rather it’s strange that such a flexible term would be opposed on Principle.

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That’s an assertion needing closer definition of the words “natural” and “create” than is usually offered. Jospeh Butler’s definition of “natural” was not only shared by Asa Gray, but quoted on the title page of at least some editions of Origin of Species :

The only distinct meaning of the word “natural” is stated, fixed, or settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i.e. to effect it continually or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it for once.

So does progressive creation envisage God creating “continually or at stated times,” in a fixed and settled way that is, thereby, predicatable, or is each creative act something effecting novelty “for once”?

The growth of a tree from an acorn is not regarded as an act of creation, because the power to do so is inherent within the existing nature of the acorn. If the growing oak becomes deformed by an external agent like a virus, the new form is also not regarded as an act of divine creation, but of nature. Otherwise, everything that happens in nature is creation, which is to dissolve any distinction.

So what distinguishes “creation by natural processes” from “natural processes” simpliciter? What, indeed, is to be understood by the word “creation” in this context?

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All these questions are fine, but evolution does not mean natural processes alone. Common descent is really the only stable definition historically.


But apart from the fact that many of the progressive creationists mentioned are unhappy with common descent, many of the others would wish to distinguish change from natural causes (inherent powers of nature), such as microevolution, from supernatutal creation, that is, the arrival of something genuinely new by the direction of God.

I would be doubtful there are any who would see their position as compatible with, say, that brand of EC that believes that after the Big Bang, natural laws were sufficient to create all there is without further “intervention.” And if they don’t see that kind of natural evolution as being “creation”, then they will need a distinction between what nature does by its inherent powers or laws, and what God does by his extrinsic power.

I’m thinking here of the Progressive Creation paradigm, not yours or mine. So do they see common descent by natural means AND the intermittent creative acts as both being instances of evolution, even though with entirely different efficient causes?

“Common descent” seems to me to be a sober antidote to the type of “magical poof” conceptualizing that goes on under the banner of “creationist” thinking. Nothing in the Hebrew verb 'bara emphasizes either the speed of action, nor a necessary “ex nihilo” character to any material or physical substance used to bring about the new thing.
The emphasis is made, however, on both the agency of a creator and the startling newness of the result, requiring more than a mere happenstance physical continuity.
Common descent, with teleologically creative (dynamically “ingenious”) modifications, seems a bit more like how I would describe what we have found.
If nothing else, we have established that common descent and teleologically creative acts don’t rule each other out.

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Yes, Guy - that kind of concept seems to accord with both the biblical concept of creation, and the standard theological treatments.

But if you think about it, the “startling newness” is the ex nihilo component, viewed informationally or, perhaps more philosophically, in terms of formal causation. Indeed, “form” seems to come in however one considers it, whether as new information, or transformation, or formal causation.

Alone, “common descent” at least appears to imply a process of generation, that is one arising from implicit reproductive powers. In normal generation, we assume there is no intrinsic power to create new forms - as far as I trace my genealogy, they are people like me, and I expect my children and grandchildren to be a chip off the old block.

But if by the agency of the Creator my offspring were, in some way, startlingly new, that suggests something rather _un_common in the process, which is what I take “progressive creation” to entail if it is to be more than descent with random variation.

As for the “evolution” word, I wonder whether it would be acceptable to anyone - least of all the scientific community - to define ones evolution as descent with some particular frequency of startlingly new results above and beyond happenstance… though see my recent post on the nature of happenstance.

The “startlingly new” aspect was meant to both give the Hebrew verb 'bara its proper due semantic import, while also highlighting that “de novo” need not also mean “ex nihilo.”
In fact, so much so, that the Genesis chapter 2 account of Adam’s “origin” from dust works better, to my mind, as situative of Adam within the long continuity of “red earthlings” who were, nonetheless, “created in God’s image” in chapter 1 --and the comments about God breathing in his nostrils could also be similarly generally situative, or --try this on for size --Adam may have specifically been born to a now deceased mother, who, having died in childbirth, would’ve needed the “Angel of the LORD” to breathe the breath of life into her newborn son… surely an intriguing foreshadowing of a Birth that was yet to come.
Sometime after this, He places Adam in the garden, for a very special task and calling, as His first disciple, among other things.
As to whether evolution “beyond happenstance” would ever easily be accepted is not the point --virtually no one wants to willingly place themselves under God’s authority and care, because He’s got such “bad press.”
But that TRUTH is vital to each of us regaining a proper perspective on humanity’s calling, significance, and accountable work.
We’ve GOT TO get past the “survival of the fittest” mentality in society that too easily results in a competitive and dismissive utilitarianism.

The best way to navigate the diverging values is to say that “evolutionary science is not the whole story, even if it is largely correct.”

That is an eminently defensible position, that creates space for a large range of views, as long as we refrain from dumb arguments in defense of this obviously true position. Then Progressive Creation (version 1, 2 or whatever) becomes just one way that (outside of science) some Christians complete the story. Scientific arguments also can be offered for or against different Progressive Creation models. That is all legitimate, and would be received well.

Part of the resistance to this, however, is not merely anti-evolutionism. It is also a general lack of engagement between OECs in testing different versions of progressive creation. TI’ve covered this before:

Hugh Ross’s personal position, because of his deserved stature, eclipses the variation in their camp. Without this variation on the surface, there is just no context in which they are testing the plausibility of different models. This sort of activity should really be happening at RTB, but it is not. That is one place where Peaceful Science can help them.

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In that case, you’d presumably be saying (based on your previous objection to my first post) that God creates both by natural evolution and by … creation. Which is mmore or less what I said, except that “creation” appears in both parts of the story!

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A totally valid position, stated in a way that doesn’t create a needless fight with biologists. Why not? Unless of course one wants the fight!

My point was that if Adam himself were in any way new and beyond the ability of nature alone, that “newness” is the novelty that appears from nothing. In a literal rendition, the dust isn’t new, but Adam is. If you were to say that Adam was no different from his forebears, but his mode of creation was novel (eg from dust instead of normal generation), there’s still an element of ex nihilo in the mode.

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