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Old Earth creationism is an umbrella term for a number of types of creationism, including gap creationism, progressive creationism, and evolutionary creationism. Old Earth creationism is typically more compatible with mainstream scientific thought on the issues of physics, chemistry, geology and the age of the Earth, in comparison to young Earth creationism.
"In the beginning ... the earth was formless and void."
This is taken by Gap creationists to imply that the earth already existed, but had passed into decay during an earlier age of existence, and was now being "shaped anew". This view is more consistent with mainstream science with respect to the age of the Earth, but still often resembles Young Earth creationism in many respects (often seeing the "days" of Genesis 1 as 24-hour days). This view was popularized in 1909 by the Scofield Reference Bible.
Progressive creationism is the religious belief that God allows certain natural process (such as gene mutation and natural selection) to affect the development of life, but has also directly intervened at key moments in life’s history to guide those processes or, in some views, create new species altogether (often to replenish the earth).
This view of creationism allows for and accepts fluctuation within defined species but rejects transitional evolution as a viable mechanism to create a gradual ascent from unicellular organisms to advanced life. Progressive creationists point to multiple destructive events in the Earth's history (such as meteoric impacts and large-scale global volcanic activity) and geological evidence for rapid subsequent speciation as evidence for distinct, typically limited intervention by a Creator. This view can be applied (as it often is) to virtually any of the other old Earth views.
Evolutionary creationism, or theistic evolution, asserts that "the personal God of the Bible created the universe and life through evolutionary processes." According to the American Scientific Affiliation:
A theory of theistic evolution (TE) — also called evolutionary creation — proposes that God's method of creation was to cleverly design a universe in which everything would naturally evolve. Usually the "evolution" in "theistic evolution" means Total Evolution — astronomical evolution (to form galaxies, solar systems,...) and geological evolution (to form the earth's geology) plus chemical evolution (to form the first life) and biological evolution (for the development of life) — but it can refer only to biological evolution.
According to Hindu creationism, all species on earth, including humans, have "devolved" from a state of pure consciousness. Hindu creationists claim that species of plants and animals are material forms adopted by pure consciousness which live an endless cycle of births and rebirths. Ronald Numbers says that: "Hindu Creationists have insisted on the antiquity of humans, who they believe appeared fully formed as long, perhaps, as trillions of years ago." Hindu creationism is a form of old earth creationism. According to Hindu creationists the universe may even be older than billions of years. These views are based on the Vedas, which depict an extreme antiquity of the universe and history of the Earth.
Old Earth Christian creationists may approach the creation accounts of Genesis in a number of different ways.
The framework interpretation (or framework hypothesis) notes that there is a pattern or "framework" present in the Genesis account and that, because of this, the account may not have been intended as a strict chronological record of creation. Instead, the creative events may be presented in a topical order. This view is broad enough that proponents of other old earth views (such as many Day-Age creationists) have no problem with many of the key points put forward by the hypothesis, though they might believe that there is a certain degree of chronology present.
Day-age creationism is an effort to reconcile the literal Genesis account of creation with modern scientific theories on the age of the universe, the Earth, life, and humans. It holds that the six days referred to in the Genesis account of creation are not ordinary 24-hour days, but rather are much longer periods (of thousands or millions of years). The Genesis account is then interpreted as an account of the process of cosmic evolution, providing a broad base on which any number of theories and interpretations are built. Proponents of the day-age theory can be found among theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists.
The day-age theory tries to reconcile these views by arguing that the creation "days" were not ordinary 24-hour days, but actually lasted for long periods of time—or as the theory's name implies: the "days" each lasted an age. Most advocates of old Earth creationism hold that the six days referred to in the creation account given in Genesis are not ordinary 24-hour days, as the Hebrew word for "day" (yom) can be interpreted in this context to mean a long period of time (thousands or millions of years) rather than a 24-hour day. According to this view, the sequence and duration of the creation "days" is representative or symbolic of the sequence and duration of events that scientists theorize to have happened, such that Genesis can be read as a summary of modern science, simplified for the benefit of pre-scientific humans.
Gerald Schroeder puts forth a view which reconciles 24-hour creation days with an age of billions of years for the universe by noting, as creationist Phillip E. Johnson summarizes in his article What Would Newton Do?: "the Bible speaks of time from the viewpoint of the universe as a whole, which Schroeder interprets to mean at the moment of 'quark confinement,' when stable matter formed from energy early in the first second of the big bang." Schroeder calculates that a period of six days under the conditions of quark confinement, when the universe was approximately a trillion times smaller and hotter than it is today is equal to fifteen billion years of earth time today. This is all due to space expansion after quark confinement. Thus Genesis and modern physics are reconciled. Response to Genesis and the Big Bang: A book authored by Gerald Schroeder], Hugh Ross and Miguel Endara</ref> Schroeder, though, states in an earlier book, Genesis and the Big Bang, that the Earth and solar system is some "4.5 to 5 billion years" old and also states in a later book, The Science of God, that the Sun is 4.6 billion years old.
Some old Earth creationists reject flood geology, a position which leaves them open to accusations that they thereby reject the infallibility of scripture (which states that the Genesis flood covered the whole of the earth). In response, old Earth creationists cite verses in the Bible where the words "whole" and "all" clearly require a contextual interpretation. Old Earth creationists generally believe that the human race was localised around the Middle East at the time of the Genesis flood, a position which is in conflict with the Out of Africa theory.
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Old Earth creationism has received criticism from some secular communities and proponents of theistic evolution[who?] for rejecting evolution, as well as criticism from young Earth creationists[who?] for not taking a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative.