Ninety percent of evangelical leaders say it is acceptable for evangelicals to have different views regarding the origin of the earth so long as they maintain that God is the creator, according to the September Evangelical Leaders Survey.
“Evangelicals hold varying perspectives of how God created the earth — from a literal seven-day interpretation of Genesis to God-guided evolution,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). “But they vehemently agree that God is the creator of the earth. How God chose to create is important, but it is secondary.”
Roy Taylor, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America, agreed, “The non-negotiable is that God created the universe ex nihilo [out of nothing]. How God created the universe and the age of the universe is not essential to orthodoxy.”
Some people believe that God created the earth in six 24-hour periods less than 10,000 years ago, while others believe that “days” could mean an era or other longer period of time. Some believe that God created the earth with a plan for species to undergo minor, cosmetic changes through evolution — and others believe that God used evolution to create more significant changes, such as the development of entirely new species. Beyond these general descriptions, there are other nuances regarding how God created the earth, and they are held to varying degrees.
While evangelical denominations affirm that God created the earth, some do not comment on the particulars of how the denomination believes God created the earth while others do.
John Hopler, director of Great Commission Churches, said, “As an association we have made it clear that believing in a young earth is not a requirement for membership, but we have also made it clear that the young earth view is the predominant view of pastors in our autonomous churches. I would describe us as an association that generally promotes a young earth view on this issue, but with a gracious spirit that recognizes that this issue is not a litmus test for being an evangelical.”
Steve Moore, president of NexLeader, said, “The Genesis account answers the question ‘Who?’ much more than ‘How?’” Another leader predicted that “many of us will be surprised when God explains just how he did it.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.