God has much more in mind & at stake in nature than a stage for the drama of human salvation. His purpose includes the redemption of the cosmos. –Carl Henry
Creation Project FAQ
The Creation Project is three year, six program initiative on evangelical theology and the doctrine of creation, administered by the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding. As a ministry of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the leadership of the Henry Center unreservedly endorses the Evangelical Free Church of America’s Statement of Faith. (Trinity is officially affiliated with the EFCA.) In continuity with the ethos and Kenneth Kantzer’s guiding vision for Trinity, the Creation Project is also committed to drawing from the best of the full breadth of evangelicalism in order to engage and to respond to the pressing challenges of our day with intellectual integrity and humility.
As such, the Creation Project is committed to a posture of intellectual hospitality towards the broad range of views represented within evangelicalism and beyond, and we do not require adherence to a particular statement of faith in order for someone to be involved in the project. We recognize that this puts us in something of a unique position: the majority of organizations working at the intersection of science and the doctrine of creation are already committed to certain positions (e.g., young earth, old earth creationism, evolutionary creationism, intelligent design). In contrast, as a ministry of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the Creation Project’s aims are to draw attention to the biblical and doctrinal issues involved in the contemporary discussions, and to bring disparate perspectives into conversation.
1. What is the purpose of the Creation Project?
The Creation Project seeks to recover the meaning and importance of the grand themes of the doctrine of creation, and to articulate that doctrine in a way that is faithful to revealed truth and in open and earnest dialogue with the insights of modern science. At an academic level, we are committed to making progress in understanding about where the conflict between the current state of scientific inquiry and classic theological positions is real and where it is illusory. At a popular level, we are concerned both to revive the importance and breadth of the doctrine of creation beyond the narrow set of questions to which it has too often been reduced and to demonstrate a form of Christian intellectual hospitality that approaches some of the more difficult questions of our age with a posture of humility and in pursuit of greater understanding.
Learn more about The Creation Project, its objectives and social context.
2. Does the Creation Project require adherence to specific theological positions from its participants?
As a ministry of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the leadership of the Henry Center is committed to the EFCA Statement of Faith. The theological breadth of various participants of the Creation Project, however, is much wider. Congruent with Kenneth Kantzer’s vision for TEDS, the Henry Center invites speakers who represent the gamut of evangelicalism. In our commitment to engage the most pressing issues and thinkers of our day, we may also invite speakers and writers with whom we do not agree in order to grow in our understanding through earnest and respectful dialogue and debate.
Because the Creation Project consists of six separate initiatives, there are also different levels of participation and implied agreement between the aims of the Project and those who are participating. In the initiatives that include an ongoing relationship and support—such as the Henry Fellowship and the Stott Award—greater levels of theological agreement are expected. For example, we require that churches applying for the Stott Award hold to a high view of Scripture understood as divine revelation, and our selection committee for the Henry Fellowship prioritizes projects that will be most helpful to evangelical churches and the broader evangelical community. In other contexts (e.g., someone writing a piece for our online periodical, Sapientia) a broader range of theological and scientific perspectives may be represented.
3. Does the Creation Project require adherence to specific scientific positions from its participants?
The first question that many people want to know about the Creation Project is our position on a specific set of scientific issues (e.g., the age of the earth, common descent). The Creation Project is, at its core, a theological project. Its context is the church (not the laboratory), its leadership is trained in the theological disciplines (not primarily the natural sciences), and its expertise is in the interpretation of Scripture (not the analysis of empirical evidence).
With respect to specific issues in science, we have participants who represent the broad range of positions within evangelicalism. Stated positively, grounded in the Scriptures and the church’s historic witness, we are (1) promoting a form of rigorous, traditioned, and biblically grounded orthodoxy that also demonstrates humility and openness to the claims of science by (2) growing in our understanding of the natural sciences so that we can be more informed about the state of scientific inquiry in a range of disciplines, and thus (3) more able to discern where the state of scientific inquiry is in genuine conflict with Scripture and the classic teaching of the church and where such conflict is only illusory.
4. Does the Creation Project have an official position on the age of the earth?
No. The Creation Project itself does not advocate for any specific position on the age of the earth. Our primary concern is to recover the grand themes of the doctrine of creation, demonstrated in both Scripture and the tradition. Our advisory council, our speaker lineup, and our various participants make up a group of Christians from a spectrum of theological and scientific positions—young earth creationists, progressive creationists, and evolutionary creationists. As noted above (Question 2), the level of implied theological or scientific agreement varies based on the differing initiatives that make up the Creation Project.
5. Does the Creation Project have an official position on the theory of evolution?
No. The Creation Project does not advocate for any specific position on the theory of evolution. There are certain forms of evolution that are incongruent with orthodox Christianity, evident by their presuppositions and reasoned conclusions, but that does not necessarily mean that all forms of evolutionary theory and the Christian faith are inherently incompatible. An important part of the Creation Project is to discern where the apparent conflict between current scientific theories and the received theological tradition is real and where it is illusory, and an important part of that task is growing in our understanding of evolution, both its assumptions and its entailments.
Moreover, like our position on the age of the earth, our advisory council, our speaker lineup, and our various participants make up a group of Christians from a spectrum of theological and scientific positions—young earth creationists, progressive creationists, and evolutionary creationists. As noted above (Question 2), the level of implied theological or scientific agreement varies based on the differing initiatives that make up the Creation Project.
6. Does the Creation Project have an official position on the historicity of Adam?
Like our positions on the age of the earth (Question 5) and evolution (Question 6), our advisory council, our speaker lineup, and our various participants make up a group of Christians from a spectrum of theological and scientific positions—young earth creationists, progressive creationists, and evolutionary creationists. As noted above (Question 2), the level of implied theological or scientific agreement varies based on the differing initiatives that make up the Creation Project.
As noted above, the staff of the Henry Center unreservedly affirm the EFCA statement, which includes the affirmation of a historical Adam.
We also understand that the issues related to the historicity of Adam and Eve are some of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed. Many important theological issues are tied into the question of the historicity of Adam and Eve, from what it means to be human to how we are to understand the world and our own nature as fallen, among others. It is also a question of both biblical fidelity and church unity. Accordingly, we are taking this question with the utmost seriousness as we seek to provide guidance to the church on the bounds of orthodoxy and in the spirit of Christian charity.
7. Does the Henry Center have an official position on the issues listed above?
As a ministry of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the leadership of the Henry Center wholeheartedly endorses the Evangelical Free Church of America’s Statement of Faith. (Trinity is officially affiliated with the EFCA.) While our leadership holds to the doctrinal positions of the EFCA Statement of Faith, this does not mean that we only include voices representative of our position in the various Henry Center sponsored events. This is consistent with Kenneth Kantzer’s vision of Trinity, not only that the divinity school would represent the best of the full gamut of evangelicalism, but also that we would be able to listen to and engage with the pressing challenges of our day and voices other than our own.
8. What is the relationship between the Creation Project and the Henry Center?
The Creation Project is an initiative of the Henry Center. It therefore continues the Center’s purpose of advancing wisdom-oriented theological reflection for the glory of God, the edification of the church, and the witness of the world. See the Henry Center “about page” to learn more about the Center. In short, the Henry Center is a ministry of the TEDS faculty, supporting initiatives that are collaborative in nature and addressing the pressing needs of the church. We have supported a wide range of projects, representing a breadth of theological and ecclesial traditions. The Creation Project comes out of that same ethos. We aspire to bring together the full body of Christ, from a range of positions—including not only differing positions, but also denominations, institutions, and disciplines—to address some of the most important questions of our day.
9. What is the relationship between Trinity and the Henry Center?
The Henry Center is a ministry of TEDS, created to promote evangelical collaboration across denominations, institutions, and disciplines, and to address the pressing questions facing the church. As such, the Henry Center is closely related to Trinity and especially its faculty. The center is directed by Tom McCall, it has funded and administered faculty projects for Deborah Colwill, Don Carson, Peter Cha, Scott Manetsch, Robert Priest, Tite Tiénou, and Kevin Vanhoozer. Several faculty sit on the advisory board, and many others have participated in the various projects and initiatives.
If by “Trinity,” one primarily has in mind a degree program, responsible for training students and teaching classes, then the Henry Center has less prominence in the daily curricular and student life of Trinity’s campus. The Henry Center is more closely tied to the research and writing aspect of faculty responsibilities, and it is founded especially in an effort to overcome the fragmentation and specialization happening in scholarship as well as between the academy and the church. The Henry Center is therefore primarily focused on building partnerships between institutions and has limited regular involvement in the curricular programs of Trinity. The same would also be true with regard to the Creation Project.
10. What is the Creation Project’s relationship to the John Templeton Foundation?
JTF’s relationship to Trinity is that of grantor.
The John Templeton Foundation is a foundation that has awarded and is funding the project that we (grantee) submitted, a $4.2 million, three-year, five-program initiative on the doctrine of creation. The next question will address whether we have been required to shape our theology around any particular scientific theory. On the nature of our relationship to Templeton, however, it might be good to add a word about foundation work in general, which is common part of university life, but may be somewhat unfamiliar to many people in the church.
As a non-profit organization, institutions like Trinity are often looking for ways to fund new initiatives that are not part of standard operation, projects like curriculum redesigns, research study leaves, piloting new and experimental projects. Sometimes these projects can be funded by wealthy private donors or large capital campaigns. Another major means of funding is that of foundations. Foundations are non-profit organizations that provide funding to individuals and organizations, and they often fund around a set of core initiatives. The Creation Project was funded by a grant from JTF, but Trinity has many other grant projects currently under way. For example, Trinity currently receives funding from the Kern Family Foundation for projects related to faith and work, as well as two different projects from the Lilly Foundation.
When applying for any grant, Trinity always has to ask whether the granting foundation aligns with our vision and mission, specifically in the area of funding. (Of course, the same question is often involved even with private donors who dictate how their gift is spent.) We do not necessarily align with everything that the Kern Family funds or that of Lilly. But the question is whether our own needs and interests align with theirs in a particular area. The Creation Project has raised more questions than some of the others because Templeton has been more publicly scrutinized and the issues at stake are more divisive, but the question of institutional vision and mission is not different.
When applying for the Templeton grant, the leadership of the Henry Center and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School carefully considered the fit between Trinity and JTF, and we believe that there is sufficient overlap in the organizations to make this grant rewarding for both. Our grant is funded in the area entitled “Science and the Big Questions: Philosophy and Theology.”
11. Does Templeton require the promotion of theistic evolution by its grant recipients?
The simple answer to this question is no. Templeton funds a wide range of projects; some are led by atheists, some are led by adherents of other religions, and some are led by Christians who believe in creation.
Some of this confusion likely stems from misunderstanding about the nature of foundation work. Because Templeton promotes projects that either assume or promote evolution does not mean that the foundation is chiefly dedicated to the advancement of evolutionary theory nor that every Templeton-funded project is about evolution. Considering that evolution is a dominant theory in modern science and the impetus for much of the current discussion and controversy at the intersection of theology and science, issues related to evolution will be consistently near the surface. However, evolution is not the primary focus of the Creation Project, nor is the nature of its compatibility with orthodox Christianity predetermined.
Our actual funding area is called “Science and the Big Questions: Philosophy and Theology,” which funds projects that demonstrate potential in making progress on the “enduring Big Questions.” Nearly the entirety of our grant proposal is publicly visible on our website, either in the Creation Project landing page (objectives, perceived social context, and theme topics) or the individual programs (Henry Resident Fellowship, Stott Pastoral Award, Dabar Conference, Sapientia, and Public Lectures and Events). Evident throughout is commitment to developing the doctrine of creation and doing so with a posture of intellectual hospitality toward scientific inquiry. Moreover, we now have more than a year’s body of work, accessible both on our resource page and on Sapientia, which demonstrates the ways in which we’re engaging scientific questions and theories in conjunction with theology.
12. What is the Creation Project's relationship with other scientific Christian ministries focused on issues related to the natural sciences?
As stated above, the Henry Center has historically supported projects that are collaborative in nature and address the pressing needs of the church. As a project on the doctrine of creation, we are eager to partner with other organizations and individuals who are invested in this topic and who share the same commitment to truth, intellectual hospitality, collaboration, and Christian charity in our shared gospel labors. Accordingly, while there may be differences of beliefs and of disciplinary orientation on an array of issues, we have developed good relationships with many other Christian organizations addressing issues related to creation and the natural sciences, but we have no formal relationship with any of them. Members of these organizations participate in our summer conference, public events, and write for our online periodical, Sapientia. Moreover, as one of the few theological projects involved in the conversation, we hope to contribute to the conversation by raising new biblical and theological concerns and questions to an already lively and important discussion.