Primary, secondary, and tertiary creation

People often fail to distinguish different types of creation.  Primary creation is creation from nothing.  It requires not only a supernatural ability but a transcendent being — one who is beyond creation.  Secondary creation is creation from something but that requires supernatural abilities such as super-strength or super-intelligence.  Tertiary creation is one that happens via natural processes over time.

For example, light was created from nothing.  Seas were created from a formless, watery earth.  Generations of creatures have come about from natural processes.

Many ancient Christians were influenced by Platonic thinking and interpreted Genesis as almost all primary creation.  That meant that every species was created from nothing — that is, a primary creation.  Later natural theology emphasized the magnificence of creation — something only a super-powerful and super-intelligent being could do — that is, a secondary creation.

In the late eighteenth century when the species concept was further refined, people started thinking that some species might have been “transformed” from other species — that is, tertiary creation.  The “naturalist” movement of the 19th century pushed this to include all species.  Darwin proposed a mechanism and the door was shut to alternatives.

December 2011