Exploring Gap Creationism

Planet Earth

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The gap theory, also known as the ruin-reconstruction theory or gap creationism, suggests that a time gap equaling millions (or perhaps even billions) of years occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. This theory is one of several Old Earth Creationism views.

Although proponents of the gap theory deny the concept of an evolutionary process, they do believe the earth is much older than the 6,000 or so years accounted for in the Scriptures. In addition to the age of the earth, the gap theory presents possible solutions to other incompatibilities between scientific theory and the Bible record.

The Gap Theory in a Nutshell

So, what is the gap theory and where do we find it in the Bible?

Genesis 1:1-3

Verse 1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Verse 2: The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Verse 3: Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

According to the gap theory, creation unfolded as follows. In Genesis 1:1, God created the heavens and the earth, complete with dinosaurs and other prehistoric life that we see in fossil records. Then, as some scholars suggest, a cataclysmic event took place—perhaps a flood (indicated by the "deep waters" in verse 2) brought on by Lucifer's rebellion and fall from heaven to earth. As a result, the earth was ruined or destroyed, reducing it to the "formless and empty" state of Genesis 1:2. In verse 3, God began the process of recreating life.

Dating the Gap Theory

The gap theory is not a new theory. It was first introduced in 1814 by Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers in an attempt to reconcile the six-day biblical creation account with the newly defined geologic ages being set forth by leading geologists of that era.

The gap theory became quite popular among evangelical Christians in the early part of the 20th century, largely because it debuted in the study notes of the Scofield Reference Bible published in 1917.

Dinosaurs in the Gap Theory

The Bible does seem to present some evidence for the existence of dinosaurs, with its descriptions of ancient, mysterious, and monstrous creatures that defy zoological classification. The gap theory is one possible solution to the question of when they existed, allowing agreement with the scientific claim that dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago.

Proponents of the Gap Theory

Thanks to the influence of Cyrus Scofield (1843-1921) and the teaching in his Reference Bible, the gap theory is favored by Christian fundamentalists who adhere to dispensationalism. A well-known proponent was Clarence Larkin (1850-1924), author of Dispensational Truth. Another was Old Earth Creationist Harry Rimmer (1890-1952) who employed science to try and prove the Scriptures in his books Harmony of Science and Scripture and Modern Science and the Genesis Record.

More contemporary proponents of the gap theory were well-respected Bible teacher Dr. J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988) of Thru the Bible Radio, as well as Pentecostal televangelists Benny Hinn ​​and Jimmy Swaggert.

Finding Cracks in the Gap Theory

As you might have guessed, biblical support for the gap theory is extremely thin. In fact, both the Bible and scientific theory contradict the construct on various points.

If you'd like to study the gap theory in detail here are some recommended resources:

  • The Gap Theory of Genesis Chapter One
    At Bible.org, Jack C. Sofield gives a layman's critical appraisal of the gap theory from the viewpoint of someone with scientific training.
  • What Is the Gap Theory?
    Helen Fryman at Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry presents four biblical points that she believes to refute the gap theory.
  • The Gap Theory—An Idea with Holes?
    Former Director of the Institute for Creation Research Henry M. Morris explains why he rejects the notion of a great gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
  • What Is Lucifer's Flood?
    GotQuestions.org answers the question, "Is the concept of Lucifer's Flood biblical?"
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Fairchild, Mary. "Exploring Gap Creationism." Learn Religions, Sep. 27, 2021, learnreligions.com/what-is-the-gap-theory-701497. Fairchild, Mary. (2021, September 27). Exploring Gap Creationism. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-gap-theory-701497 Fairchild, Mary. "Exploring Gap Creationism." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-gap-theory-701497 (accessed March 21, 2023).