Lutheran Creation Doctrine: The Verdict

This is the week when we will find out for sure what LCMS Lutherans believe about creationism! I feel like this is something I’ve been wanting to know for years, but I’ve never really been able to ask my family directly, and the one time I asked my brother-in-law, he said he wasn’t totally sure but to check out the Concordia Theology blog for answers. So that’s what I’ve done, and it may finally tell us what Lutherans believe.

So far I have read and responded to the introduction to this series, as well as their Lutheran-colored analysis of Old Earth, Young Earth, and Evolutionary Creationism. This is the conclusion of Charles Arand’s series, and it’s called A Few Reflections on Creation in Genesis 1. In the beginning, Arand states,

“This post will consider some of the key biblical texts where our interpretation of Genesis 1 conflicts with the conclusions drawn by many scientists from their reading of nature (and its history). How to deal with these texts is crucial for the three evangelical camps [the three creationism options] in their quest to show that God’s ‘two books’ (the book of Scripture and the book of Nature) do not contradict each other.”

I’ve felt throughout reading a lot of Lutheran creationist literature that they often get so close to being right, but they just won’t settle with the rational option: science and religion conflict because they conflict. They can’t both be true. That’s how conflicting works. Instead of trying to do the gymnastics needed to make them fit, it is more worthwhile to find which has evidence. This makes it a lot easier to figure out which is true and which is false.

Before going on with trying to pinpoint the Lutheran option for creationism, which feels a lot to me like trying to nail jelly to the wall, the author skirts around the question by explaining that the creation story in Genesis is meant to show the uniqueness and almighty-ness of the Christian god. Arand explains that he is not like Zeus, Odin, or their religions because he isn’t polytheistic and doesn’t have human qualities like jealousy or the ability to be duped. Reading through the even just the book of Genesis should clear up the fact that at least once or twice, he is all of these things. So the creation story has failed already in this regard. Next.

I’ve decided to skip ahead from here to Arand’s reasoning concerning the age of the earth, but if you’d like to read the post, he does include some…interesting stuff, like why the seven-day week exists only because of Christianity, and why the mystical metaphor of an eight-day week inspires the octogonal shape of Lutheran baptismal fonts.

So, how old is the earth? Arand says,

“Although the Scriptures do not give a specific age to the earth or a specific date for its creation, the Scriptures portray a world that has been created in the relatively recent past, that is, within a historical span of time measured in thousands of years rather than millions or billions of years.”

He later states,

“Exactly how recently did God create it? We simply can’t say definitively on the basis of Scripture. We can offer suggestions and guesses . . . but that is as far as we should go.”

After this long study, Arand gives pretty much the same response that my pastor-in-law gave me when I asked him about his beliefs: that he doesn’t know exactly how or when God created the universe. He said that this was second in importance to the fact that he did it. One of my friends does something similar in that she seems to want to be able to accept evolution as true, but for her, she just can’t fit it into the biblical narrative.

I’ve found there to be three main camps of Christian belief regarding creationism. You have your Young Earth Creationists, which, say what you want about them, but at least they are absolutely positive about what they believe, pretty much down to the day the earth began. Ken Ham has no wiggle room in his doctrine. Then you have the Evolutionary Creationists, which includes every Christian I know who is also a scientist, like my biology-major roommate from my Christian college, and also Francis Collins.

But there’s this third camp, including my brother-in-law and my college friend, where they feel as if their hands are tied and they aren’t allowed to say whether a literal Genesis might possibly be wrong. They tend to border more on being YECs, because it’s safe and it’s not the kind of thinking that will get them in trouble.

I think this is where Arand is. He seems stumped by the blatant contradictions between Scripture and nature. After talking to people with different beliefs, and a handful of scientists, he seems to say, “Huh. Well. I didn’t really expect them to make such good points. It seems that Genesis doesn’t actually line up with science as well as I hoped it would. I guess I can’t say one way or another what the real truth is.” What he actually says is,

“When we encounter conflicts between the conclusions reached by Scripture and science it is natural for us to ask how they can be resolved. God created us to want to understand the world around us, and to find answers to all the questions that our study of the Bible and of the world raises. We want answers, but sometimes we cannot find them.

In this we share Habakkuk’s dilemma as we wonder how long it will be until we see all things fully revealed. It can be hard to hear God say, ‘Wait for it’ (Hab 2:3). Like Habakkuk, God calls us to wait in faith. Until that day, genuine faithfulness requires us to confess the truth of God’s Word while having enough humility to recognize that when the Word of God does not speak directly to a question, we may have to live without answers.”

And this really is a shame. Without the bible to tell us how old the earth and universe are, how could we ever figure it out?

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If only there were ways to try to see how old the Earth is….

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Really, it’s such a shame that there is no way at all to tell…

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It’s not like the Earth’s materials have their age stamped right on them!

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Oh well! I guess we’ll never know!


Read next:

17.2.19 the great nye ham debate

15 Replies to “Lutheran Creation Doctrine: The Verdict”

  1. Interesting post!

    That one statement from that guy about “God not being a jealous God” had me scratching my head a bit. You see it all over the Old Testament where they use that exact word, so I don’t know which Bible or version he’s reading. I personally believe that it’s used more as a literary tool to describe God’s anger when they turn to other idols- idols that demand human sacrifice- something which God has clearly stated that He finds devastating and has little patience for.

    But I’ve never seen anywhere in the Bible where God’s been duped. I’m up for reading that passage if you know specifically where it is.

    As for the age of the earth, as a Non-denominational Christian with Lutheran roots, I believe in young earth with about 1,500 years give or take. Looking at Jesus’ lineage in Luke, it give you a pretty solid list of ancestors that can give you a good estimation of passing time. The reason being why I say “1,500 years give or take,” we’re never told WHEN some of these people had children- and before the Flood, they could live up to 1,000 years or more themselves. After the nationwide flood, the atmosphere changed drastically, so I doubt there’s anyway we have slipped in more than 15,000 years because I think the ozone layer surrounding the earth would be in a lot different shape than it is now.

    I think both sides are so bent on proving their bias on how old the earth is that we both purposefully look over certain things or create theories that contradict our own beliefs along the way. When in reality, certain sciences and instruments are ever changing, and atheism’s values on evolution and Christianity’s values on young earth may never be concretely proven on either side.

    I openly admit that Christians are called to walk by faith and not by sight. This doesn’t mean we’re called to BLINDLY follow any esteemed guy who read the Bible 5 times, but to study something for ourselves- and if we can’t figure it out, then trust that God inevitably has it handled.

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  2. Does it really matter if we ever know. There is a universe, as we know it. There is a world, as we know it. There is a now, as much as we can know it. What came before we call “his story”–women weren’t allowed to have stories. So when do we get “our story”? Does anyone really care?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If Charles Arand doesn’t believe that God is a jealous God, how much of his Bible has he really read?
    Second thoughts, yep the evidence for an old earth is plain to see, but many Christians will refuse to see it since it could shake their faith upside down – Genesis loses all credibility. In my view, the ‘evolutionary creationists’ are people in a massive state of cognitive dissonance. The science makes sense to them, but they really really don’t want to leave their religion, and to be fair to some of them, it isn’t an easy thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. To me, the Adam & Eve story literally looked like a fable. So I guess I call be said to follow the literalist line by taking it to be fabulous.

    But then there was that little problem of sunlight existing before there was a sun.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. ”but that is as far as we should go.” It is this stifling belief that cuts out millions of minds from engaging in discovery. My fear is the next Einstein will be born to sharia law or live in the Bible Belt and become a minister.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you! Raised Missouri Synod Lutheran myself, I gave up trying to figure out their wishy washy answers to these sorts of questions. Nothing fit quite right, and it was a major part of the reason I embraced atheism in my late teens. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Part of my reason for leaving was because I always thought they were young earth creationists which is why I was so surprised that they would go through these three options so thoroughly but it ended up being closest to YEC after all except with a lot of 🤷🏻‍♂️🤷🏻‍♂️🤷🏻‍♂️ mixed in.

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