Old Earth creationism (OEC) is distinct from Young Earth Creationism because it accepts the existence of deep time, and may accept scientific evidence about the Ages of the Earth and the Universe. As with all forms of creationism, OEC usually claims that the earth and the universe were created by the God of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam).
OEC's reinterpret biblical descriptions of the two differing creation stories in book of Genesis and try to fit real-world facts about the age of the earth, cosmology and - in some forms - even the facts of evolution.
Old Earth Creationism is harder to define than Young Earth Creationism as believers vary in how far they go in accepting full Biblical literalism on the one hand and empirical reality on the other. Nevertheless, the concept can be divided into three general classes - Progressive creationism, Theistic evolution, and The gap theory.
The answersincreation website carried out a (perhaps unscientific) poll of Old Earth Creationists which indicated that "45 percent are Progressive Creationists, 32 percent are Theistic Evolutionists, 10 percent believe in the Gap Theory, and the rest are old earth, but undecided as to which position to believe in". It is clear that although some of the ideas are mutually exclusive, it is possible to mix and match others depending on the believer's grasp of reality.
In this version of creationism there are a number of subdivisions. It is clear that various combinations are possible.
- In all versions of progressive creationism the days of creation are assumed to be much longer than one day. In some versions each day is assumed to be a fixed thousand years. In others, millions (or billions) of years may be assumed to pass and each "day" may not represent the same fixed period of time
- In some versions the days are entirely separate periods; in others the days may overlap with each other
- In some versions the chronological sequence of events as stated in Genesis is held to be true, others hold more flexible interpretations of the chronology
Typically, although Progressive Creationists believe in an old earth, they are unable to bring themselves to accept the evidence for evolution by Natural selection. Instead they believe that each species was the subject of a separate individual creation event - without evolving from a previous species. In order to do this they have to ignore the incontrovertible evidence of common descent.
See the main article on this topic: Theistic evolution
- either let evolution run its natural course via natural selection. (In which case it's not clear what is "theistic" about "theistic evolution".)
- guided evolution to produce humans. (The method of such guidance is not specified, although some adherents claim it could be the pseudoscience of Intelligent design - for which no credible evidence has ever been presented.) Another term sometimes used is Scientific creationism.
The Gap Theory
- Not to be confused with the God of the gaps
According to this hypothesis there was a gap of many millions - perhaps billions of years - between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Holders of this idea claim the earth somehow became ruined and was then repaired during during the six 24-hour days of creation.
In some cults the earth was ruined as a consequence of a battle between God and Lucifer - in more complex forms of the myth the destruction resulted in the death of the dinosaurs as well. There is, of course, zero geological evidence for any of this.
After the supposed "gap" most believers add beliefs about Young Earth Creationism.
Beliefs in a biblical flood tend to vary amongst OEC's. While some - perhaps especially those who hold to the "Gap Theory" - may maintain that a full global flood occurred, others scoff at the idea and point out its many failings. They prefer to believe in a smaller localized event (or events) and claim this inspired the various flood stories around the world. Yet others will prefer the pseudoscience of Hydroplate theory.