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The Gap Theory

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We are grateful for the efforts of the creation science ministries (CSM's), among whom the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), and Answers in Genesis (AiG) are in the forefront. These major organizations are invaluable sources of information which supports the basic premise of a literal creation during a period of six 24-hour days during which God created the physical universe as we know it. We wholeheartedly agree with this scientific creation premise, and encourage everyone to attend these seminars whenever possible.—(Note: all emphasis in bold is ours unless otherwise noted.)

However, despite our support, we feel it is important to clarify our position in two specific areas where we have significantly different views:

1. Their presentation of the gospel, and

2. Attacks on all versions of what they call the "Gap Theory."

1. The Gospel

The gospel presented by the CSM's is typical of that found in most of the evangelical world. Their audience is an eclectic mixture of preservationists (fundamentalists), neo-evangelicals, and sacramentalists, so a free-grace, faith alone gospel would certainly alienate most of them, but the CSM's have successfully avoided this because of their version of the "Lordship salvation" gospel.

The following quote from "The Great Dinosaur Mystery SOLVED!" by Ken Ham illustrates the point. In the section headed, "How Can I Become a Christian?... What Do I Need to Do?," (p. 100) he says:

First, I need to repent!... I must turn from... any desire that takes priority over the Lord Jesus Christ... In Philippians 3:8, Paul makes a statement that needs to apply... "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord... that I may win Christ."

Repentance is absolutely necessary... Some people say that so long as I confess my sin, I'll be OK... that is not sufficient.

Proverbs [28:13] tells us that, "Whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy." Repentance is a complete turning from my former life... living the same life that the Lord Jesus lived... to imitate [Him] in every respect.

Aside from the fact that this standard cannot possibly be met by a Christian, including Paul himself, how can it be demanded of one who has not yet been justified, and so does not have the benefit of the indwelling HS and a new nature? This is a mystery far greater than that of the dinosaurs.

And he goes on to say...

Second, I need to put my faith in Christ... Faith is like an instrument the Lord provides by which we can believe in Christ... that channel that the Lord gives me by which I can trust and believe...

This is the ultimate extent to which one can go who believes in the Reformed error that faith is a gift. As a result of the misinterpretation of Ephesians 2:8, faith becomes a "commodity" we possess that can apparently remain in an "unexercised" state until one "places it" in something or someone. In other words, someone can have faith without believing anything.

In keeping with the typical neo-evangelical error, Ham teaches that forsaking all sin, living at the level of the Lord Himself, and believing in Christ as Savior does not, in itself, save. The believer must then pray before faith (believing?) becomes effective...

Third, I need to pray... [He then goes on to discuss prayer that would characterize someone who was already a Christian, and then says...]

Why not pray now, repent of your sin, receive Christ, and accept what He has done for you in His death and resurrection [to his credit, Ham very clearly presented these facts of the gospel earlier in the chapter].

Initially, he said that repentance was first in the order, and prayer was third. Now, however, prayer precedes repentance, and receiving is distinct from and precedes "accepting." Is anyone confused yet? One wonders how someone who is so brilliantly logical when discussing creation can take such a different course when discussing the gospel.

Enjoy the seminars, and benefit from the wonderful scientific information, but beware when they speak or write about the gospel, especially when teaching children.

2. The "Gap Theory"

AiG claims that one of the most frequently-asked questions they receive concerns the alleged time period between the first two verses of Genesis, which they seem to define as the "Gap Theory" (GT). The following quote from "The Answers Book" by Ham, Sarfati, and Wieland is typical:

Most versions of the GT place millions of years of geologic time (including billions of fossil animals) in between these first two verses of Genesis. This is the "ruin-reconstruction" (R-R) version of the GT...

All versions of the GT impose outside ideas on Scripture and thus open the door for further compromise. (p. 57)

Most importantly, the GT undermines the gospel at its foundations. (p. 65)

... the GT was an effective "anesthetic" that put the church to sleep for over 100 years. (p. 71)

One of the major problems we have with the CSM's is that they are able to make a tenuous distinction between the GT and the R-R version, but refuse to recognize the significant distinction between that view and our Creation-Renovation (C-R) model, which accepts the legitimacy of the Genesis discontinuity—the time period between the first two verses of Genesis—but does not place the geologic ages and fossils before Adam.

We prefer to use the term Gap Theory to describe the original, unscientific version which assigned the geologic ages and fossils to a pre-Adamic earth; the Ruin-Reconstruction view to describe those who recognize the fall of Lucifer as the primary issue in the discontinuity; and the Creation-Renovation model as the subdivision of the R-R view which rejects pre-Adamic biological life.

Contrary to what the CSM's teach, recognition of the discontinuity is not an "extra-biblical, compromising human invention," but a legitimate, scholarly interpretation of the original Hebrew text that is consistent with the modern, scientific creation position.

The Genesis discontinuity was recognized by virtually all of the early "Brethren," among whom were some world-class experts in the original languages (e.g., Darby, Kelly, and Wigram), as well as others who were influenced by them—notably, Sir Robert Anderson (see "Editor's Remarks" on The Buddha of Christendom), Dr. C. I. Scofield, and Lewis Sperry Chafer, all major pioneers in the dispensational movement, which had an unparalleled influence in clarifying the gospel, reviving the church, and evangelizing the world.

After more than 100 years, the successors of this movement have not succumbed to evolutionary theory, but remain among the most stanch supporters of the scientific Creation position. In view of what actually happened, it is difficult to understand how Ham and associates came to their conclusions about the damaging effects of the GT.

The Creationists generally fail to communicate that, until very recently, no one understood or had the resources to understand, what they teach today. Except for an obscure treatise written by a Seventh-Day Adventist in 1923, it was not until some time after 1961, when Dr. Henry Morris published "The Genesis Flood," that Flood geology began to be widely promoted among evangelicals, and seriously challenged the assertions of the scientific community. Until then, the GT was arguably the best explanation available. We are certain that, given the opportunity to evaluate the information available today, the original proponents of the GT—especially among Brethren writers—would abandon it in favor of the C-R model.

The CSM's fail to distinguish among the widely divergent views held by those who recognize the discontinuity, and tend to use demeaning language and misrepresentation to disparage them. Maintaining this characteristic adversarial stance creates an unwarranted division in the Body of Christ.

Additional Problems

Although the GT was used as an attempt to accomodate the scientific evidence of the time, the Genesis discontinuity is part of a far more important theological point that the CSM's fail to recognize.

The pre-Adamic fall of Lucifer is essential to a full understanding of the conflict between Satan and Christ as the eternal First-born, and is, therefore, an important element of the dispensational understanding of Scripture. As we have already pointed out, the original proponents of the R-R view were dispensationalists, so absolute rejection of the Genesis discontinuity is essentially a rejection of dispensationalism.

The Scofield Reference Bible, originally published in 1909, played a major role in promoting the literal interpretation of Scripture—the dispensational perspective—among fundamental, Bible-believing Christians. However, in keeping with the times, it included several notes advocating the GT.

Because of this, the Scofield Bible is specifically targeted by the CSM's, leaving the impression with the typical seminar student, that dispensationalists in general are false teachers who should be avoided.

Like PA2 dispensationalists, who "know" the Church didn't start at Pentecost, but can't tell you when it did begin, the creation organizations can only offer assumptions about the circumstances surrounding the creation and fall of Lucifer, and so have little grasp of its real significance in the overall dispensational plan.

The Creation-Renovation (Ruin-Reconstruction) Model (C-R)

No credible dispensationalist today believes in the GT. Virtually everyone understands that no human or animal life was created until the fifth and sixth days, and fossils are adequately explained by the Flood.

The C-R model leaves no room at all for a pre-Adamic biological earth, as the CSM's consistently—and falsely—imply. It recognizes that biological death did not occur before Adam's sin, and assumes a relatively short angelic period—probably about 2,000-4,000 years, but possibly much less—between the original creation and the chaos.

Our slide show will give you a general idea of the C-R model, and the Genesis 1:1-2 article provides an in-depth study of the scriptural basis for it. We hope you find it helpful in maintaining a discerning mind when attending Creation seminars or reading their books.


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Created 8/4/02. Updated 6/7/2011.