The issue for Christians is knowing what the Bible says and what things are essential and what things are not. And though I believe in literal 24 hour days for the six days of creation, I do not think it is essential to true faith. On the other hand, believing in a literal Adam and Eve are essential both for Christian theology and for maintaining the integrity of the New Testament witness. This leaves out the Evolutionary Creationist view and brings into question the Intelligent Design view despite its brilliant criticism of pure evolution.
That does not leave us only with Young Earth Creationism, however. There is a fourth view, the one I hold to, which is called the Gap Theory. Now the name is most inelegant but the concept is intriguing. It asks the question, "What if there is a "gap" between verses one and two in the first chapter of Genesis and what if there is a long period of time between the creation of the heavens and the earth and the 'six days of creation' in the rest of the chapter?"
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Gen 1:1-2The heavens and the earth are created in verse one. That is the beginning. The six days say nothing about the heavens and earth themselves being created. Verse two says that the earth was (or became) formless and empty. The six days describe the earth being given form and then being filled. What is interesting is that Isaiah 45:18 states that God did not create the world "formless and empty". "The Hebrew for formless and empty is 'tohu' and 'bohu'. These two words are only put together in Genesis 1:2 and Isaiah 45:18.
So the suggestion here is that something happened between verses 1 and 2. This would allow for a long period of time from the original creation event and the creation of Adam and Eve. Is this biblically possible or just wishful thinking? The Gap Theory has been criticized as just being a compromise between "fundamentalists", who want to maintain a literal reading of Genesis, and secular scientists who insist on a very old heavens and earth.
Does a literal reading of the 'six days' be reconciled with this view? How about the fact that in most translations, verse three says that light comes on the "first day"? If it's the first day followed by the second day, etc., then how can there be so many days before that? The Hebrew does not actually read "the first day", "the second day", etc. Verses three to five ends with "one day". Verse eight says "a second day" and is in a different form than "one day". In other words, we can read this as a series of six days and not necessarily the first six days.
Some will complain then that the sun and moon are not created until the fourth day. But the word "made" is not the Hebrew word 'to create' as in verse one. The word for 'create' is only in verse one and then the creation of animal life (vs 20-21) and human life (vs 26-27). So it seems that the sun and moon existed already but were only made to appear from earth's point of view on day four.
Let's look at what the New Testament says:
Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 2 Peter 3:3-6Reading this carefully, it does not seem that there is any reference here to Noah's flood, but to the state of the earth in Genesis 1:2. The heavens existed "long ago" does not seem to indicate a creation that, at the time of the writing of 2 Peter, was only about 4000 years old according to the Young Earth Creationists. It seems to indicate a much longer period of time followed by a flood which wiped out the world that existed before. We still live in the same world that Noah and Adam inhabited. Noah "saved the world" by building an ark.
This would explain when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Young Earth Creationists not only claim that dinosaurs existed on earth from Adam to Noah but that they went on the ark. After all, Noah took two kinds of every animal. This would include dinosaurs. So where are the dinosaurs now? Young Earth Creationists say that they died out shortly after the flood because the oxygen content of the earth dropped so that dinosaurs could no longer get enough to live. My objection should be obvious. Why bother to put dinosaurs on the ark only to have them die when they get off? The reason for the ark was to preserve the lives of humans and animals, not kill them off later.
No, the dinosaurs lived in the previous world as did other animals and plants. God then wiped it all out and started again with Adam and Eve in a renewed earth. We can only speculate as to why God did this. It's His business, not ours.
So it seems that there is a little more flexibility with our literal interpretation of Genesis 1 than we thought before. That does not mean that we have to accept whatever secular science tells us as to what happened in the past. Neither does that mean that we have to dismiss it out of hand. We can accept some findings of science - apparent age of the earth and the heavens - without buying into their theories designed to exclude the possibility that there might be a Creator and that He might have revealed facts about creation in the biblical record.
We can accept the Bible as literal truth and seek true scientific knowledge as well.