Questions on Theistic Evolution

Comment

Front Page Tough Questions

NOTE: These questions were emailed to me and I thought they were worth posting here! These come from David Hynes, a deep-thinking guy who’s been coming to our church since our Grand Opening.

Hey Jeff!
I didn’t see how to post comments on your blog, so I decided to email
instead. I’ll go back and try to learn me a thing or two about yer blog
later.

Kristin and I have been talking a bit about your sermon on science vs. the
Bible. Did you receive her link to an article on death from Answers in
Genesis? We can resend it if you did not receive it.

Anyway, I have some questions about theistic evolution, which seems to be
the stance you were taking in the sermon.

Hi Dave! Thanks for your great questions. I would personally avoid the term theistic evolution as I don’t believe it inappropriately conflates two ideas. Evolution is by definition random and based on natural selection. To call something theistic evolution is to say that evolution is or isn’t random, we don’t know and God may or may not be involved, we don’t know.

My perspective is simply that the first chapter of Genesis is not intended to describe to us how God created the world, but THAT God created everything. Whether he did it in a long process or a short process, God was thoroughly in charge of everything that happened. I’ll dig into that a little more down below.

1) How does theistic evolution satisfy Jesus’ words in Mark 10:6? “But at
the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.'” Doesn’t
evolution teach that humans were not created “in the beginning”?

My perspective (not theistic evolution) is that the creation of humans was completely different in kind than the creation of all other things. The Hebrew word used in Gen 1:26 that we translate “Let us make” connoted direct involvement on a much greater level than the other words. In fact, all the other commands in the first chapter of Genesis are “passive” in nature. Here’s a quick run-down.

  • 1:3 — “Let there be…”
  • 1:6 — “Let there be…”
  • 1:9 — “Let the water… be gathered…”
  • 1:11 — “Let the land produce vegetation…”
  • 1:14-15 — “Let there be lights… let them serve… let them be lights…”
  • 1:20 — “Let the water teem with living creatures and let birds fly above the earth…”
  • 1:22 — “Be fruitful…”
  • 1:24 — “Let the land produce living creatures…”
  • 1:26 — “Let us make man…”

A couple things here are important. God’s command read literally in Genesis are not descriptions of creation at all. Additionally, they are not words of direct involvement. They are words of passive involvement. God doesn’t make animals. He tells the land to do it. God doesn’t make vegetation. He tells the land to do that too. A literal reading of Genesis has God as the source of creation but that the actual act of creating is done passively… until we come to the creation of humans.

When God makes people, he starts from scratch, makes the people in direct, special fashion.

So to answer your question. Evolution teaches that humans are just like everything else, the product of random mutations gradually producing what we are today. However, I don’t accept that. The Bible clearly teaches me that Humans are unique among all creation. However God made the world, he did it differently with people. Humans were specially created for a special purpose.

2) What does “each according to its kind” mean in multiple uses in Genesis
1? If it means plants and animals only reproduce plants and animals of the
same kind, how can evolution be allowed?

I agree with you that the intent of God’s words are to have animals and plants reproduce only according to their kinds. The words clearly indicate that an ongoing process of macro-evolution is not biblical. In fact, the whole notion of random mutations doesn’t seem to jive with the perfect world God was creating. However, that phrase also indicates to us God’s goal for each animal was to have it reproduce only according to its kind. It doesn’t tell us how God intended to reach that goal.

One other thing to note is that even evolutionary scientists would assert that plants and animals reproduce according to kinds. Evolutionary theory teaches that the individual mutations that collectively make up new species happen so gradually that no one would ever be able to draw a line between mother and child to indicate when new species was created. In that sense, every child is exactly the same “kind” as its mother even though the distant ancestors might have been a different kind.

I’m not trying to defend evolution here, I’m just trying to say that this phrase doesn’t teach us about how God created the animals and plants. It teaches us what his purpose for them was.

3) Evolution supposes that fit creatures survive, unfit creatures do not.
How is this compatible with Paul’s writings that death did not exist before
sin (Romans 5:12) and that nature is subjected to bondage to decay,
presumably as a result of the curse after Adam sinned (Romans 8:20-21)?

The notion of death before the Fall is the biggest difficulty with any old earth or process creation point of view, and I don’t have a completely satisfactory answer. (That’s why I remain somewhat undecided on the whole method of creation debate.) However, I think it’s possible that the death to which Paul refers might be only the death experienced by humans.

Aside from this statement of Paul, we have no biblical support for the idea that animals experienced no death before the Fall. That is, the Bible never claims that animals were created to live forever. Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to conclude that Paul’s statement in Romans 5 should be understood as limited to humans. The doctrine that there was no animal death before the Fall is possible in light of Romans 5, but it is not required by Romans 5 and it is not asserted elsewhere in Scripture to my knowledge.

Now the notion of decay coming after the fall actually serves to support the old earth perspective in one way. Decay, remember, doesn’t have to mean biological decay only. Decay can be a reference to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics that everything tends toward disorder (entropy). If decay in this sense began with the Fall (as Romans 8 claims) then before the fall, the world must have operated on a principle that everything was tending toward more order. It’s as if God created a world that was infused with creative energy but when humans sinned, God cursed the world and set it on a downward path.

Without endorsing this man or his website, I recommend a quick read of an article on death posted by Glenn Morton at http://home.entouch.net/dmd/death.htm.

4) What evidence is there that the seven days in Genesis 1 are really
revelation, not creation? It seems to me that stuff that’s not there is
being read into the passage in order to reconcile two opposing viewpoints.

The only evidence is circumstantial, and it is admittedly motivated by a desire to harmonize the claims of the Bible with the apparent facts of scientific discovery.

  • Moses wrote the Pentateuch including Genesis 1, and therefore, Genesis 1 had to have been revealed to Moses in some fashion.
  • It is written in fashion similar to other biblical revelation accounts. See the way John’s Revelation often follows the pattern, “I heard a voice … Then I looked …” Moses’ account here does the same thing. “God said … and it happened …” is the pattern in all of creation.
  • However, to be honest, the best reason for the revelation perspective is that it makes for a really good harmonization. According to Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe, the Genesis 1 account teaches exactly the same sequence of events as modern scientific thinking from the perspective of an observer standing on the surface of the earth and in timelapse fashion.
  • Finally, there is nothing inherently wrong with attempting to harmonize passages of scripture with other passages or with external sources so long as the integrity of the scriptures in their contexts is preserved. The “revelation” harmonization preserves the entirety of Genesis 1 as it stands and also explains why the creation account is broken up into two parts (Genesis 1 and Genesis 2). Timelapse overview and detailed description of a key event.

Even with that said, I’m not 100% convinced by the “revelation” idea. I think it’s plausible, scientifically reasonable, and in line with the rest of Scripture. I personally haven’t been convinced, but I’ll admit that I lean in that direction.

My theology is not impressive, but I do smell something that seems to
disagree with scripture. I have seen all too frequently lately that
whenever human reason/philosophy conflict with scripture, scripture loses.
If that is what’s happening here, I am very disappointed.

Let me know what you think.

I hope my responses have not disappointed you, and I certainly hope this conversation can continue. My basic claim is that Genesis 1 doesn’t purport to teach the method of creation, but it does intend to teach the source, purpose, and sequence of creation as God revealed it to Moses. It displays that God created the world in a mostly passive sort of way, but that when it came to humans, he got his hands dirty. Therefore, the true lesson of Genesis 1 is that God is ultimately in charge of all things, he made them by his incredible power, according to his design and purpose and that humans are uniquely special as the pinnacle of that creation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *