How does a Christian reconcile Creation with fossils?

Hi everyone.
I have a question for you, and this is not supposed to be a discussion of the relative merits of Creation and the theory of evolution.
As a Christian, with faith in the idea that what the Bible has to say about Creation is accurate, how does one reconcile this faith with such things as fossils of dinosaurs and other ancient lifeforms? To me, it seems that the existence of proof of life that was extinct long before man was “created” is hard to reconcile with the Bible’s version of Man’s creation.
Since I’m not practicing or believing Christian, and know none either, I would much like your take on this.
Oh, and feel free to direct me to previous debates of this point.

Most Christians view the biblical account of creation not as literal truth, but as a metaphor, or myth (note that “myth” has nothing to do with the truth of the story, and everything to do with its literary genre). So they have no trouble whatsoever reconciling their faith with science. As for the rest…well, there are people here who can better answer that.

FWIW, there’re a billion threads on this topic, all available through the “search” icon at the top-right corner of the page. And welcome to the boards.

Yeah, what ultrafilter said.

Oh, and this sort of thing is better suited to the ‘Great Debates’ forum.

Welcome to the SDMB BigE.

Oops, I meant to add, that you probably would have been better off asking ‘How does a Creationist reconcile Creation with fossils?’

Good point about the Creationists, Mangetout, thanks…oh, and the reason I posted here is that the point of the question was not that I wanted a debate, but a simple answer from the point of view of the Creationist – whatever they say will be just fine with me, I’m not going to debate them!
And thanks for the welcome!

You want previous debates? Wander over to the Search function (top right of the window with the magnifying glass over the globe), select Great Debates for a Forum, enter “fossil” for a search argument, and select 6 months (or longer) for a time to go back.

In non-GD format, the answer tends to follow several themes, depending on the brand of Creationism that one subscribes to:

Old Earth Creationist: Each day is a lo-o-o-ng time and dinosaurs had time to live and die before God created man–remembering, of course, that the dinosaurs were created by God and did not evolve.

Young Earth Creationists (1): The dinosaurs were created on the appropriate day of the six days of creation, but did not survive the Flood. Their fossils are found lower in the stratigraphic layers than other animals because they were heavier and sank lower into the mud. Methods used to date them earlier than a few thousand years ago are simply errors involving circular reasoning or misunderstandings by atheistic scientists of what really happened.

Young Earth Creationists (2), (not widely used, but it’s out there): The dinosaur fossils were planted by God to test our Faith.

There are several other versions of the preceding, including claims that radioactivity and the speed of light have increased or decreased in the last few thousand years to give us false views of ancient history.

Well, there are lots of ways, unless you must dogmatically believe that every sentence in the bible is the literal truth, which most modern religious scholars don’t accept.

The Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth. It’s doesn’t say HOW. Perhaps the whole process of evolution is a divinely inspired mechanism that IS the way he created the Earth. And maybe that process is still going on.

On a larger scale, you can just as easily say that the laws of physics are the manifestation of the hand of God, and therefore the study of physics is a religious pursuit to determine the works of God. Einstein himself said, “My sense of God is my sense of wonder about the universe.”

Those literalists who must accept that creation happened in exactly seven days, in exactly the order described in Genesis are missing out on a lot of the wonder and poetry of the universe. If you believe that God created that universe, isn’t that more than a little sad? Or even blasphemous?

BTW, there are two incompatible accounts of Genesis in the Bible, so it doesn’t even agree with itself. It’s these types of things that have led most modern religious scholars to accept that many of the stories in the bible are allegorical. Jesus himself spoke in parables all the time, and it was a standard method of teaching in the days when the oral tradition was an important way to pass knowledge.

I’m not religious, but I was raised Christian. My wife and I were married in a church, and in order to be married we had to attend counselling sessions. Our pastor had not just an advanced degree in religious studies, but a Masters in Pyschology from a secular university and a Bachelors in philosophy. I had many of these discussions with him. He explained to me that modern biblical scholarship has more to do with understanding the essence of God’s message, and not the literal truth of the stories themselves.

For example, I asked him why there was no physical evidence for a worldwide flood. His answer: Because there wasn’t one. The flood story is clearly derived from earlier flood stories (the epic of Gilgamesh, for one), and those stories in turn were told as morality plays. The essential message is that God did not like the way that humankind was turning away from him and engaging in unhealthy practices, and therefore he punished them and set them back on the path of righteousness. Or maybe it’s just a warning that he WILL do that if we push him hard enough. But a literal, worldwide flood? Nah. Perhaps it was a localized flood that was read by the people of the time to be a message from God, and over time was embellished into the story we have today. For a modern Christian, such speculation is fair game.

This gets us to the question, “Well, what IS real in the Bible then? What must we accept as true to be a Christian?” To him, that would be the concept of the existance of God, and the existance of Jesus Christ as a physical manifestation of God sent to bring us a new covenant to live by. It doesn’t matter if his life is documented in perfect accuracy - it does matter that he did exist substantially as the bible describes, even if he didn’t actually raise Lazarus from the dead or walk on water. And it’s important that he chose to sacrifice himself and die in order to redeem our sins. Does it matter if he was speared in the side or not, or whether there were in fact two thieves beside him? No, because it doesn’t change the message.

I understand, but although you personally may refrain from debating, this kind of topic tends to spawn debates between other posters.

Anyway, I’ll try to answer the OP - (answering here as the ex-creationist that I am, with all of the bias that I thus now hold).
Creationists reconcile creation with fossils chiefly by avoidance, diversion and plain denial; the literal account is the touchstone, anything that doesn’t agree, or seem to must be false or wrongly interpreted. Increasingly elaborate and unlikely explanations have to be invented (out of thin air, not based on anything written in the bible) to patch it all up, but sad to say, the chief tactic is a sort of “I don’t understand what you’re saying, but you must be wrong” approach.

Off to Great Debates.

moderator GQ

Er, sorry, Mangetout, but Special Creationists don’t avoid fossils–they love 'em! Fossils prove the Bible, didncha know that? :smiley:

See, the fact that they’ve never found any fossil missing links between men and chimps proves that fossils prove the Bible.

And sometimes they use fossils to prove other things, like Noah’s Flood, and not incidentally to refute “anti-Creationists”.

You can use dinosaur fossils to teach children about Creationism.

[sub]and in case anybody’s wondering–yeah, I’m a Fundie, but I’m a “directed evolution” Fundie[/sub]

And Ken Ham is one of the few people around who can still make my jaw drop. He’s the Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark guy.

Oh yeah.

How do Creationists reconcile fossils with their beliefs?

Simple Answer: Either they don’t, or they believe that the evidence isn’t believable.


Of course, the idea that dinosaurs went extinct during Noah’s flood is complete blasphemy, as any close reading of the Bible will easily show. How, you ask? Well, Noah took pairs of EVERY creature onto the Ark. EVERY creature. And that means EVERY creature. So therefore, he must have taken pairs of dinosaurs onto the Ark with him. The must have died out AFTER the flood. Anyone who says they died during the flood is not using their heads.

I don’t think it’s necessarily blasphemy; after all, the normal reading would imply that Noah brought paris of every EXTANT creature onto the Ark. One would hardly expect the text to say that he did not bring the extinct species along, as this would be needlessly self-evident.

Having said that, I don’t have any particular view on this matter.

The real problem for creationists is not so much one of the existence of fossils, but one of extinction. Fossils, for the most part, represent species which no longer exist. If it is believed that they died out prior to the Flood, then it must be explained why God would create a group of creatures, only to doom them to death. If it is believed that they died out after the Flood, then one must explain the layering of fossils within the record (and the absence of evidence of their existence after that time). And, of course, there’s still the question of why God would have bothered to create them in the first place.

Of course, the “simplest” way out is to state that fossils do not represent the remains of living organisms at all (the “testing of faith” argument).

I don’t think anyone beat me to it. sickeningly pleased with myself God created fossils. I’ll be here all week, tip your waitress and drive home safely.

Speaking as someone who has dug fossils as a summer job, creationism that rejects evolution is without basis. They claim that their are no “transitional” species. Wrong. They claim that fossils of dinosaurs are not found in the same layer as people because dinosaurs, get this, lived in different habitats. Ha, Ha! What about the La Brea tar pits Mr. Creationist, I ask, were dinosaurs unable to get stuck in tar?

Hey, Sam, actually there have been a lot of great floods, albeit not “worldwide.” Undersea landslides, earthquakes, and lots of other causes make some damn big ones. One example is when the Med. rushed in past the Bosporous Straits to form the Black Sea. This may have given rise to many of the flood legends.

You do know that there are no dinosaur fossils in the La Brea tar pits, right?

That was the point. taps microphone “Is this thing on?”

But how do YEC’s explain how bones become fossilized? It takes more than simply being buried. IIRC the fossilization process takes roughly 1 million years, and paleontologists can no doubt give a detailed explanation (I would like to see a link).

So what is the creationist explanation of the fossilization process?

I used to know it.