The controversy: Creation
Many denominations have a rift caused largely by the question, "How do you interpret the creation account in Genesis?" Though that's not quite fair; some might phrase it, "How do you interpret the creation accounts in Genesis?" (on the view that the "7 days" account and the "Adam and Eve" account are two separate accounts). Denomination after denomination has split in two, forming separate groups for the evolutionists and the creationists -- though that split usually goes with several other differences among the same groups. Among those who believe in God and to some extent form their faith from the Bible, there is only a slight common ground on this issue: the two main groups both believe that God could not possibly be wrong about how the earth was made. From there, they diverge almost instantly.
From the starting point that God could not possibly be wrong about how the earth was made, the traditional creationists work on the assumption that the Bible is God's word, infallible in all that it teaches, and that therefore the Genesis creation account can be taken as historically true.
Internal diversity: Creationists can be either young-earth or old-earth creationists. Advocates of Intelligent Design also have a place in the spectrum of beliefs.
Strong points: Viewing the creation account as historical was, for many centuries, the most common interpretation of the text; it was held by well-respected scholars. Prominent historians of previous ages took the accounts in Genesis as historical, incorporating them into their chronologies of world history. Though there were occasional exceptions, the historical view was the mainstream view for the majority of church history to this point.
External criticisms: Evolutionists see creationism as defending a fort that has already fallen. Evolutionists view creationism as a scientifically illiterate view. Critics also see it as putting the creationists' faith at risk of harm by making the adherents' Christian identity depend on something that is, in the scientific consensus, not true.
Response to criticism: Scientific consensus changes over time. New methods, new discoveries, and new theories continue to change how scientists view the natural world. It is possible that in the future evolutionary theory may become outdated or significantly revised. Whether or not this happens, one of the key claims of evolution -- namely, that the changes in life forms are the product of chance alone -- is not properly a scientific claim as it is not open to testing or verification. That particular claim of evolutionary theory is more of a philosophical stance based on a framework intended to exclude religion from consideration. It is not anti-scientific to call out particular claims that are not open to testing or verification.
The slippery slope: The historicist view requires rejecting today's scientific consensus. There is an internal risk of mistrusting the scientific consensus. Those who have gone to the extreme of the slippery slope may view evolutionary science as something like an anti-religious conspiracy. This concern is strengthened by the most outspoken evolutionists who have basically volunteered for the role of the anti-religious conspiracy, having gone to the opposite pole of the argument and openly trying to use science to overthrow religion. The general stance of mistrusting evolutionary science can, in some cases, lead to a broader mistrust of science. In the most extreme cases, it leads to a distrust of scholarship in general which is inherently unhealthy.
Uncharitable moments towards the other side: The creationists do not always attribute the best of motives to the evolutionists. Charges of selling out and unfaithfulness are not uncommon. Sometimes there are charges of doubting God, disbelieving God, or rejecting the Bible. There is frequently an all-or-nothing view of the Bible that equates hesitations or caveats over a part of the Bible with an outright rejection of the whole.
Charitable moments: Some creationists may recognize that the evolutionists, in accommodating their reading of Genesis to the scientific consensus, are actually trying to save and rescue things of value in the narrative in light of today's scientific understandings rather than trying to reject it. Creationists may recognize that many Christian evolutionists are not setting themselves up as enemies of the faith but as pioneers in building a new understanding.
Fair questions from evolutionists to creationists: At what point of certainty do you accept a scientific finding? Is there a double-standard used for accepting/rejecting evolutionary theory that would not be employed with other scientific findings that have no direct bearing on a traditional understanding of the Bible?
From the starting point that God could not possibly be wrong about how the earth was made, the evolutionists work on the assumption that since evolution has been proven true to their satisfaction, the Bible's story of creation is perhaps true in a symbolic sense but not in the historical sense. (See "related controversies".)
Internal diversity: Evolutionists who believe in God may believe that God guided evolution. Others believe that God had no direct role, simply setting up the initial conditions so that things would take their natural course.
Strong points: Engages with modern science and can respond to those who want to use science to overthrow religion in such a way that they may respect or understand the answer. Speaks to those who have been brought up taking evolution for granted and wonder whether science and religion are compatible. It is comfortable in the modern world and does not see evolutionary science as a threat.
External criticisms: Creationists see evolutionists as watering down or undercutting the authority of the Bible. Critics also see a risk to evolutionists' faith by becoming too cozy with modern culture and too dependent on external approval of their beliefs.
Response to criticism: Any authority that the Bible has comes from God's truth. If something is not true, we have to interpret in light of what we know. The untrue understanding cannot be accepted as the right understanding of God's word. It is a misuse of authority to compel people to believe (or claim to believe) something that has been demonstrated to be false to the satisfaction of the majority of scientists in the field. Holding to outdated views does not increase the authority of the Bible, but diminishes the authority of the Bible by saying it teaches things shown to be false in the eyes of most scientists in the field.
The slippery slope: The evolutionist view requires rejecting the historical consensus of Christianity and putting significant conditions on the acceptance of the Bible. Those who have gone to the extreme of the slippery slope may view the entirety of the Bible as little more than myth and legend. This concern is strengthened by some prominent scholars of this camp who still designate themselves as Christians but who do in fact teach that the whole of the Bible, including the narratives about Jesus, are to be thrown out nearly wholesale. This is nearly the mirror-image of the "all or nothing" view of the Bible on the opposite side of the belief spectrum, but now choosing "nothing" rather than "all."
Fair questions from creationists to evolutionists: Once you begin second-guessing the narrative, how do you know when to stop? Is there anything in the Bible that you take as certain; if so, why that and not the rest? Is there any belief you are sure will not be overthrown someday; if so, what is it and how are you sure about that?
Uncharitable moments towards the other side: The evolutionists are deeply embarrassed by creationists, which has led to some strikingly unbrotherly attitudes and behavior towards them. Those evolutionists with an uncharitable bent are seen to publicly malign the intelligence, education, reasoning ability, and even the reading skills of people who interpret the Bible according according to a plainer reading of what it says rather than accommodating the scientific consensus. The sometimes savage way in which Christian evolutionists treat creationists may be intended merely to distance the evolutionists' Christian identity from the creationists and communicate that the creationists' view is thoroughly rejected; in practice, it often amounts to caring more about the acceptance of outsiders than about kindness towards brothers and sisters in Christ, and identifying more strongly with secularists than with other believers. At its worst, it puts respectability above brotherly love.
Charitable moment: Some evolutionists may recognize the huge cultural shock caused when the consensus changed from a historical view of the creation account in Genesis to a symbolic view of creation account in Genesis, and may respond with patience and understanding as it takes awhile for views to adjust. Others may recognize that the creationists behave as they do out of allegiance to God and an independence of spirit.
Related controversies: The authority of the Bible. Models and methods for interpreting the Bible.
The conversation continues:
Martin LaBar writes on Young Earth Creation vs Intelligent Design. I also thought the flow chart of beliefs on origins was helpful.
Howard Nowlan looks over the conflicts between naturalism and supernaturalism in The Present Danger?
Craig points us to Gerald Schroeder's scheme for mapping the Genesis days onto contemporary scientific chronology, an example of one approach to compatibility between the "7 days" narrative and current scientific views.