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Evolution and God

Genesis 1:25 - And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 2:20-22 - So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of man, and He brought her to the man.

Romans 5:12 - Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men...

Romans 8:20-21 - For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of the One who subjected it, 21in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Can a Christian believe in God and evolution at the same time? Isn't it possible that God brought all the different kinds of plants and animals and even human beings into existence through the process of evolution? Questions such as these have been sincerely asked by a number of growing Christians. Raising such questions does not necessarily indicate that these people have doubts about God's existence or His ability to instantaneously create matter and life out of nothing, nor do they necessarily signal a wavering faith or a lack of spirituality. Some Christians honestly wonder whether God possibly used the means of evolution to bring about the great variety of life forms that we see in existence today. The focus of these questions is not whether man is merely a higher form of animal and less than uniquely made in the image of God. No, it is rather the possibility that God may have used evolution to develop the body of "man" and then at some point implanted a spirit and called the first specimen of this new species, Adam, the first man.

A number of Christians today have concluded that God did indeed use the means of evolution to one extent or another to bring about the variety of life forms in existence today, including human beings. Such a position is known as theistic evolution. It is not a denial of God, nor is it an indication that the person is not a Christian. It is a position that some Christians have taken, thinking that this is the best way to harmonize the biblical account of creation and the findings of science. But does the Bible permit the position of theistic evolution? Remember the real question here is not, "Could God have used evolution?" but rather, "Did God use evolution?" God could have brought life in all of its various forms into being in any number of different ways, but what does the Bible teach about how life came into being?

A straightforward reading of the creation account in Genesis would indicate that God did not use evolution to accomplish His purpose of bringing life to this planet. Regardless of how one interprets the length of the days of Genesis 1, the sequence of events in the biblical account does not fit the theory of evolution. According to the theory of evolution, for example, fish evolved before fruit-bearing trees, but according to Genesis 1, plant life came two days before marine life (Genesis 1:12, 20). The theory of evolution postulates that birds evolved from reptiles. Millions of years were required for the scales and forelimbs and solid bones of the reptiles to evolve into the feathers and wings and hollow bones of the birds. And many more years of evolution were involved to get the birds off the ground in flight. But according to the biblical record, God brought birds into being on the 5th day--before the reptiles, which came on the 6th day (Genesis 1:20, 25). According to the theory of evolution, insects were around long before man and had to be present for the pollination of the evolving plants. But according to the Scriptures, God gave life to land animals, insects and man all on the same day (Gen. 1:24-26).

The sequence of the sun, moon and stars coming into being on the 4th day, after the entrance of light on the 1st day, is not easy to comprehend (Genesis 1:14-19). However, this difficulty does not mean that we must jettison the historical, chronological interpretation of the biblical account as some interpreters have suggested. (God certainly could have had other light sources instead of our present sun for the first three days!) The "problem" of the 4th day is certainly not eliminated for the theistic evolutionists who try to harmonize their views with the biblical data. If anything, the problems of harmonization are even greater for those who try to fit the theory of evolution or, for that matter, any kind of "day equals age" scenario into the Genesis record. For example, how long a geologic age would the evolving plants of the 3rd "day" be able to survive without the coming of sunlight on the 4th "day?"

In light of these sequential inconsistencies between the Genesis account and the theory of evolution, some theistic evolutionists have chosen to take either a non-historical or topical approach to the "days" of Genesis. In the non-historical approach, the creation account is understood as an Old Testament parable or poem. The events are interpreted allegorically and not as real history. There was no literal Adam and Eve. They only symbolically represent the human species which has evolved from the animal stage to the point of spiritual response to God. The successive "days" are just figures of speech to show how God views man as the goal of His plan of evolution. In the topical approach, the historicity of the Genesis account is not denied, but the "days" are not taken as chronological. The term "days" is just used as a literary device to structure the presentation of God's creative activity. Reptiles, for example, are put on the 6th day not because they appeared chronologically after the birds of the 5th day, but because they are grouped topically with all the land creatures on "day" six. Some Christians, in order to explain the use of the term "days" in the topical approach have proposed that the days are literal days in which God revealed to Moses His former creative acts. In other words, when Moses was on Mount Sinai for the 40 days in which he received the Law (Exodus 24), the Lord revealed to him in a one week "Creation Seminar", how He brought the world and life into existence. On Sunday, He showed Moses how He brought light out of darkness. On Monday, He revealed how He separated the waters; and so on. At the end of the six day course, in this view, God rested from His week of teaching!

There are several problems, however, with all of these less-than-straightforward interpretations of the creation account. In the context of Genesis 1, there is no indication that we are dealing with any kind of literature other than normal historical narrative, in which events are to be taken historically and chronologically. The early chapters of Genesis are definitely not Hebrew poetry, and there is no indication of any change to a different kind of literature as we move out of these chapters. No New Testament writer ever considers the early chapters of Genesis as a parable or an allegory. Nothing about the creation account and the events of the early chapters of Genesis was ever taken as only symbolic by our Lord Jesus. (See Matthew 19:4-6 and Luke 11:50-51, for example.) So while you can be a Christian and believe in evolution, you will not be in the tradition of the apostles and our Lord Himself in your interpretive approach to the early chapters of Genesis.

Another obstacle to the concept of theistic evolution in the creation account is the recurring phrase "after their kind." (See Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 24-25.) The idea that God brought all life forms into being through the gradual emergence of one-celled organisms from a primordial sea of organic molecules is not compatible with the words, "after their kind." The idea that God used a selection of random mutations over millions of years as His means for bringing about the different life forms is not consistent with the words, "after their kind." Although there is some question as to the precise taxonomic boundaries involved in the word "kind", there is no question whatsoever concerning the fact that definite categories of plant life and animal life are being distinguished by this phrase. This is in direct contrast to the concept of the continuity of all forms of life as taught in the theory of evolution. According to the Bible, all life forms do not trace their origin to some prehistoric sea, and the many different life forms cannot be likened to the successive branches of a tree--continuously and progressively emerging over the course of millions of years. The Bible certainly allows for genetic variation within "kinds," but the Bible teaches that life forms for the land, life forms for the sea and life forms for the air were established by God "after their kind" right from the beginning.

The biblical account of the formation of Eve makes it particularly difficult for the theistic evolutionist to have a high view of Scripture. Suppose, in spite of the evidence to the contrary, we decided that the creation account should not be taken literally and the creation of man out of "dust from the ground" was only the Bible's use of figurative language to communicate the concept of man's evolution. Then how should we interpret the Bible's account of the formation of Eve in Genesis 2:18-25? What is God trying to communicate, if this is only figurative language? How do we harmonize the biblical statements with evolution when we read that at first Adam and the animals were all there and then God formed Eve? We do not read that Eve came from the animals or was molded from the ground but that God formed Eve from what He took out of the side of Adam. Whatever figurative or symbolic way we choose to interpret this account, we must admit that God has somewhat misled us with words, if in fact He brought woman into being slowly through evolution. If God was trying to communicate to us that the female part of the human species also came about through evolution, wouldn't there be a better way to say it poetically or allegorically?

By departing from a straight-forward, historical and chronological interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, the theistic evolutionist also waters down the doctrines of the New Testament which are based on these chapters. In Romans 5:12-14 we are taught that death is the result of human sin and human sin started with Adam. That is, death was not in the world before Adam and Eve. But the whole concept of evolution is based on the idea of billions of deaths of slightly maladapted organisms, and only the fittest survive and advance. Aside from the obvious problem of attributing to God an inefficient and cruel method for bringing about the first human, the Bible plainly teaches that death came after the first human was already in existence. Theistic evolutionists might argue that Romans 5 refers only to human death and not the non-moral deaths of the millions of "lower" animals, primates and humanoids leading up to man. But what about Romans 8:18-22? Here we are taught that the death and decay we see in the natural world around us came as a result of human failure. How can the Bible say that the natural world was unwillingly subjected to futility at the time of the fall of mankind if it was already a world of "tooth and claw" struggle for survival? Furthermore, we read that the glorious freedom which we look forward to as the children of God will affect the natural world as well. The whole creation, which is groaning now, will be set free from its slavery to decay and returned to a state of order and glory. If theistic evolution is the correct view of the first two chapters of Genesis, then this Scripture implies that we will return to a primeval world of violent death and savage survival! It also implies that this return is not only glorious, but is to be desired! Romans 8 could hardly be teaching such a doctrine! The simple teaching of the Bible is that both human and animal death began after the fall of mankind--as a direct result of the fall.

Theistic evolution may appear at first to be an ideal way to harmonize the theory of evolution with the early chapters of Genesis. However, a closer examination of the teaching of these chapters as well as other Scriptures indicates that such a harmonization is impossible. In the final analysis, the concept of evolution and God gets down to the choice: evolution or God's Word!  
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