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Gap creationism (also known as ruin-restoration creationism, restoration creationism, or "The Gap Theory") is a form of old Earth creationism that posits that the six-day creation, as described in the Book of Genesis, involved literal 24-hour days (light being "day" and dark "night" as God specified), but that there was a gap of time between two distinct creations in the first and the second verses of Genesis, explaining many scientific observations, including the age of the Earth. It differs from day-age creationism, which posits that the 'days' of creation were much longer periods (of thousands or millions of years), and from young Earth creationism, which although it agrees concerning the six literal 24-hour days of creation, does not posit any gap of time.
Gap creationism became increasingly attractive near the end of the 18th century and first half of the 19th century, because the newly established science of geology had determined that the Earth was far older than common interpretations of Genesis and the Bible-based Flood geology would allow. Gap creation allowed religious geologists (who composed the majority of the geological community at the time) to reconcile their faith in the Bible with the new authority of science. According to the doctrine of natural theology, science was in this period considered a second revelation, God's word in nature as well as in Scripture, so the two could not contradict each other.
Gap creationism was popularized by Thomas Chalmers, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, founder of the Free Church of Scotland, and author of one of the Bridgewater Treatises, who attributed it to 17th century Dutch Arminian theologian Simon Episcopius. Other early proponents included Oxford University geology professor and fellow Bridgewater author William Buckland, Sharon Turner and Edward Hitchcock.
In 1954, a few years before the re-emergence of Young Earth Flood geology eclipsed Gap creationism, influential evangelical theologian Bernard Ramm wrote in The Christian View of Science and Scripture:
"The gap theory has become the standard interpretation throughout hyper-orthodoxy, appearing in an endless stream of books, booklets, Bible studies, and periodical articles. In fact, it has become so sacrosanct with some that to question it is equivalent to tampering with Sacred Scripture or to manifest modernistic leanings".
Gap Theory has had little exposure in fictional literature and entertainment. However, "End of the Beginning", a novel by Jon Snyder that depicts the race of angels and their plight before the creation of Adam, has been a prominent voice to help promote the theory in popular culture.
This book by Ramm was influential in the formation of another alternative to gap creationism, that of progressive creationism, which found favour with more conservative members of the American Scientific Affiliation (a fellowship of scientists who are Christians), with the more modernist wing of that fellowship favouring theistic evolution.
Proponents of this form of creationism have included Oral Roberts, Cyrus I. Scofield, Harry Rimmer, Jimmy Swaggart, G. H. Pember, L. Allen Higley, Arthur Pink, Peter Ruckman, Finis Jennings Dake, Chuck Missler, E. W. Bullinger, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong and Clarence Larkin.
Interpretation of Genesis
Some gap creationists may believe that science has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Earth is far older than can be accounted for by, for instance, adding up the ages of Biblical patriarchs and comparing it with secular historical data, as James Ussher famously attempted in the 17th century when he developed the Ussher chronology.
For some, the gap theory allows both the Genesis creation account and geological science to be inerrant in matters of scientific fact. Gap creationists believe that certain facts about the past and the age of the Earth have been omitted from the Genesis account; they hold that there was a gap of time in the Biblical account that lasted an unknown number of years between a first creation in Genesis 1:1 and a second creation in Genesis 1:2-31. By positing such an event, various observations in a wide range of fields, including the age of the Earth, the age of the universe, dinosaurs, fossils, ice cores, ice ages, and geological formations are allowed by adherents to have occurred as outlined by science without contradicting their literal belief in Genesis.
Because there is no specific information given in Genesis concerning the proposed gap of time, other scriptures are used to support and explain what may have occurred during this period and to explain the specific linguistic reasoning behind this interpretation of the Hebrew text. A short list of examples is given below:
- The word "was" in Genesis 1:2 for some adherents is more accurately translated "became". Such a word choice makes the gap interpretation easier to see in modern English.
- God is perfect and everything He does is perfect, so a newly created earth from the hand of God should not have been without form and void and shrouded in darkness. Deuteronomy 32:4, Isaiah 45:18 1 John 1:5
- The Holy Spirit was "renewing" the face of the earth as he hovered over the face of the waters. Psalms 104:30
- Angels already existed in a state of grace when God "laid the foundations of the Earth", so there had been at least one creative act of God before the six days of Genesis. Job 38:4-7
- Satan had fallen from grace "in the beginning" which, since the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, had to have occurred before the Fall of man. Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:11-19, John 8:44
- Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, Eugenie Scott, pp61-62
- The Scientific Case Against Scientific Creationism, Jon P. Alston, p24
- What is Creationism?, Mark Isaak, TalkOrigins Archive
- McIver, Tom (Fall 1988). "Formless and Void: Gap Theory Creationism". Creation/Evolution 8 (3): pp1–24.
- Moore, Randy; Mark D Decker (2008). More Than Darwin: An Encyclopedia of the People and Places of the Evolution-creationism Controversy. Greenwood Press. p. 302. ISBN 978-0313341557.
- Scofield References Notes online, verse by verse notes on Genesis 1.
- Numbers(2006) p208
- Numbers(2006), p11
- Unformed and Unfilled, Weston Fields, ISBN 0-89051-423-2, p43
- De Principiis, Book 4 (chapter 9) Origen, 3rd century.
- Thieme (1974)
- The Bible, Genesis, and Geology, Gaines Johnson, 1997.
- Without Form and Void, Arthur C. Custance. Some of these arguments can also be found in "Time and Eternity," which is available on line
- Pink (2007)
- Chafer, Lewis Sperry (1964). Satan: His Motive and Methods (reprint ed.). Zondervan. p. 144 pages. ISBN 0-310-22361-X.
- Gaebelein, Arno (1991). The History of the Scofield Reference Bible (reprint ed.). Living Words Foundation. p. 71 pages. ISBN 0-9628169-0-6.
- Larkin, Clarence (2005). Dispensational Truth (reprint ed.). Kessinger Publishing. p. 268 pages. ISBN 0-7661-8427-7.
- Numbers, Ronald (November 30, 2006). The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition. Harvard University Press. p. 624 pages. ISBN 0-674-02339-0.
- Pember, George (1987). Earth's Earliest Ages (reprint ed.). Kregel Publications. p. 464 pages. ISBN 0-8254-3533-1.
- Pink, Arthur (2007). Gleanings in Genesis (reprint ed.). Filiquarian Publishing, LLC. p. 408 pages. ISBN 1-59986-741-9.
- Thieme, Robert (1974). Creation: Chaos and Restoration. Berachah Tapes and Publications. p. 34 pages.
- Sailhammer, John Genesis Unbound (Multnomah Books, 1996, ISBN 0-88070-868-9).