Have you ever wondered where something came from? Who brought the plate of cookies into the lunch room? How did that scratch get on the side of my truck? How did that stain get on my shirt?
We all know that things don’t just appear out of nowhere; they have to come from somewhere. Right?
But what about the world? Where did it come from? Our planet. Our solar system. Our universe. Everything we see, touch, and smell didn’t just come into existence out of nothing, did it?
People have wrestled with the question of origins since the beginning of recorded history. The question of “How did the world come to be?” is one of the big questions of life, and the potential answers are diverse. In terms of religion and spirituality, however, we can narrow down most ideas to three general theories. Let’s take a look at each belief.
There are two main versions of “creationism” – young earth, and old earth. Creationists believe that God was exclusively and directly involved in the creation of all aspects of the universe. As the name implies, “young earth” creationists believe that creation happened relative recently – approximately 6,000 years ago, and that the entire process of creation occurred during six concurrent 24 hour periods. “Old earth” creationists, while affirming the role of God as do young earth creationists, instead believe that the universe is billions of years old, and that its creation did not occur in six literal days.
A more recent theory is that of “intelligent design”, which affirms the ancient age of the universe and looks to science rather than scripture as its primary source. Intelligent design theory observes the complexity and precision of the created world and concludes that the evidence points to an intelligent being who designed the world. Adherents of intelligent design reject evolutionary theory and also any element of “chance” in the creation process.
A third theory has emerged that blends both old earth creationism and evolutionary theory. Theistic evolution asserts that God created the world, and then used the evolutionary process of natural selection to populate the earth with all forms of living creatures. As with old earth creationism and intelligent design, theistic evolution assumes that the universe is billions of years old.
Of course, there are other theories of the creation of the world, some that include spirituality and some that do not. While the three theories above have a degree of overlap with each other, they each make specific assumptions about both science and sacred scriptures.
Questions to ask ourselves and others …
- Thinking of the questions at the beginning of this conversation starter, have you ever thought carefully about your beliefs and assumptions about the origin of the world?
- Another question to ask ourselves is “so what?” – in other words, what difference does it make what we believe about the origin of the world?
- What do your friends and family believe about the origin of the world?
PS. If you would like to explore this in more detail, check out a previous teaching of mine (audio file and PowerPoint).