Throughout the history of Christianity, significant tension has sometimes put the church and science at odds. In the modern era, few controversies demonstrate this better than evolution. While many Christians have little or no trouble reconciling their faith with the ideas of evolution, others believe that evolution threatens the core of the Christian belief system. These fundamentalists oppose evolution and instead believe that God created the world and everything in it during a literal six day period.
In the late 1800s, certain biblical scholars began examining Scripture texts from a critical point of view. They examined the Bible as if it were any other work, comparing it with historical, scientific and even literary principles. These scholars found various inconsistencies in the biblical text, especially in areas such as history, geography and science. Some even questioned the veracity of the Bible's stories of miracles, the Resurrection and the Biblical account of creation. Man accepted evolution. Many conservative Christians rejected this view, and formed an opposing movement. This movement labeled itself "fundamentalism" because its proponents believed they were defending the fundamentals of the Christian faith. The movement labeled their opponents "modernists."
Fundamentalists believe the Bible is true. More than that, however, they believe the Bible is inerrant -- every word in the Bible is to be understood literally and is literally true. While many other Christian traditions view the Bible as authoritative in matters of faith and salvation, Fundamentalists believe the Bible is true in other areas such as history and science. Others believe that there are some areas of history and science in the Bible, such as a literal six-day creation and tales of miracles, that don't meet historical or scientific criteria.
Age of the Earth
One of the key issues for fundamentalists is the age of the Earth. Not only do fundamentalists believe the creation narrative is true, they also take the listings of generations in the Bible as true. The bible describes so many generations between Adam and Noah, so many between Noah and Moses, so many between Moses and King David and then so many between King David and the birth of Christ. Added together, these genealogies place the earth at just over 6,000 years old. This is an obvious problem for equating the time line with evolution, which can take millions of years.
Six Day Creation
Fundamentalists believe the Biblical account of a six-day creation. They believe God created light on the first day, the sky and waters on the second day, plants on the third day and so on. They believe these were literal 24-hour days. According to the Biblical narrative, God created each creature individually, ruling out the possibility that one species evolved into another. This differs from some creationists, who believe the Biblical days referred to geological eras. It also differs from the Roman Catholic view, which is that evolution occurred but, at one point in history, God uniquely created the human soul, setting humanity apart from all other creatures.
Fundamentalists and other Creationists are working hard in the modern era to promote their beliefs. In addition to sermons and teachings within the church, there are a number of fronts on which they're waging battle. Creationists regularly challenge the teaching of evolution in public schools. In most private fundamentalist schools, evolution isn't taught at all, or is taught as a "theory" that's disproven by the Bible. There is even a Creationist museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, that explains the fundamentalist understanding of how the world came into being.
- National Humanities Center: The Rise of Fundamentalism
- Gutenberg College: Fundamentalism and Biblical Interpretation
- Answers in Genesis: Why Shouldn’t Christians Accept Millions of Years?
- National Center for Science Education: Creationist and Fundamentalist Apologetics
- Evidence for God: The Days of Creation
- Catholic Answers: Adam, Eve and Evolution
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