Article

Theistic Evolution

(I apologize for the length of this article at the outset.  They are not normally this long, but I hope that you will find it edifying nonetheless.)

How everything came to be in existence has been a question man has certainly pondered for millennia.  Since Darwin and his theory of evolution, the secular world, for the most part, believes they have found the answer.  If you don’t believe in evolution, you’re considered unsophisticated, non-scientific, even stupid.  For example, a man named Bill Nye here in the U.S. recently commented (August, 2012) about evolution. Bill Nye gained fame through an educational show he hosted on PBS (Public Broadcasting System) from 1993 to 1998.  He said that people who deny evolution and teach those views to children harms them, and even hampers scientific progress.  He went on to say, “Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology.  It’s like, it’s very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates.  You’re just not going to get the right answer.  Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.  And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it because we need them.  We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.  We need people that can — we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.  It’s just really a hard thing, it’s really a hard thing.  You know, in another couple of centuries that world view, I’m sure, will be, it just won’t exist.  There’s no evidence for it.”

If you want to be stupid, Mr. Adult, fine, but please, don’t make your children stupid!  In fact, you’re so stupid that in about two hundred years your world view won’t even exist.  That pretty much sums up the vast majority of the secular world’s view on the origin of the universe and life itself.  Knuckle dragging Christians like me, however, tend to have a different view.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few Christians, for various reasons, who do still believe in evolution.

Some Christians continue to believe evolution because they simply have been told all their life that this is the way it is.  They are told that this is proven scientific fact beyond the shadow of a doubt and are never told about the inconsistencies in evolutionary theory.  Therefore, they believe it’s true.

Christians who believe evolution and study God’s word soon realize they have a problem.  The best friend evolution has is time (because it takes billions and billions of years for evolution to work), so the earth is many billion years old (no one knows how old for sure, but there’s plenty of guesses, er, "factual" statements as to the earth’s age (sorry, my knuckles were dragging again; I must not have fully evolved yet).  The Bible student then reads Genesis, which states that God created everything in six days.  Uh-oh!  Now what to do?!

This is where it gets kind of interesting.  Many Christians, not wanting to look “unsophisticated or unscientific” have developed explanations that try to fit Genesis into the theory of evolution.  For example, since God does not make the sun and moon until the fourth day, some Christians theorize that the first three days were not literal days, which allows for billions and billions of years and, voila!, now the Bible agrees with evolution and we no longer have to drag our knuckles on the ground!  Yay!  We can now stand up straight and join the Bill Nye’s of the world and be scientifically literate, build stuff, and not worry that our world view will no longer be around in 200 years.  Whew!  I’m going to climb down out of this tree and go sit at my desk and design a bridge, just as soon as the callouses on my knuckles heal!

Unfortunately, there are some scientists who are Christians (not to be confused with Christian Science) who have promulgated this theory that God works through evolution, that what we read in His word is just an allegory.  They call this “theistic evolution.”  They believe God made everything, but that He did it through evolution.  In other words, Charles Darwin was absolutely right, and we just need to view Scripture through the lens of evolution instead of viewing the world through the lens of Scripture.

There are two major problems with this theory.  First involves science itself.  I’m not a scientist (remember, my knuckles drag), but there are plenty of scientists who are both believers and unbelievers who deny evolution.  So, I think it’s useful to list a few of the reasons why evolution doesn’t make sense from the evidence itself.  Second, and more importantly, is the fact that evolution contradicts Scripture.  While there are many things we could discuss about this, we’ll limit it to just a few very important issues.  In the end, I’m hopeful you will agree that a believer simply cannot hold to the truth of Scripture and the truth of evolution; they are mutually exclusive.

Let’s first consider some problems with evolution from science itself.  Evolution teaches that everything came into existence from a spinning dot that exploded (the “Big Bang” theory; note, they know not from where this spinning dot came nor how it exploded.  They simply believe that something came from nothing, even though science now tells us this is impossible; and they say we only have faith!)  If the spinning dot theory is true, then every planet that spins would spin in the same direction.  This is known as the “law of conservation of angular momentum”, which states “that when no external torque acts on an object or a closed system of objects, no change of angular momentum can occur.”  It turns out that all of the planets in our solar system, for example, do turn in the same direction.  Except two:  Venus and Uranus.  But wait, there’s more!  Six of 63 moons also spin in the opposite direction.  This is a problem for the evolutionist.  It does not automatically prove evolution false, but it does find fault with the theory’s premise of how the universe began (i.e., the spinning dot).  Therefore, at a minimum, the evolutionist must either account for these “backward spinning” planets and moons or change his premise/theory.

The evolutionist would also expect matter to be distributed rather evenly throughout the universe.  However, in fact, the universe is rather “lumpy”.  That is, there are clusters of stars and then great voids of nothing.  This is a problem for the evolutionist.

Another scientific problem for the evolutionist is that stars die about every 30 years.  Yet, there are less than 300 supernovas (dead stars) that we can see.  If evolution is true, there should be several hundred million supernovas, but there aren’t.

Evolution also teaches that oxygen at one point was not in the atmosphere, but that ammonia was.  The problem is that ammonia is destroyed by ultraviolet (UV) light.  Furthermore, ozone blocks UV light, but ozone has oxygen.  Therefore, ammonia could not have survived prior to the existence of oxygen.

There are also many creatures that don’t fit with evolutionary theory.  One is the termite.  They eat wood, but they cannot digest it.  To perform this function, they have little creatures in their stomach that digests the wood.  Which came first?  And you thought that question only applied to the chicken and the egg.

There is also no evidence of evolutionary transitions in the fossil record, or that we see in existence today.  If evolution is true, there should be a super abundance of evidence of transitional creatures.  Since so much time is required to move from one life form to another, how come we don’t still see some ape like creatures that are almost human, to name but one life form?  This is why evolutionists have been so desperate to find the “missing link”, but have yet to do so.

Finally, as a friend once pointed out to me, what did the very first organism eat?  Yeah, think about that for a minute.

Now, there are many, many more scientific problems with the theory of evolution that could be mentioned.  Again, I am not a scientist, but I just wanted to make Christians aware that objections to evolution are not all centered on evolution’s contradictions of Scripture.

We’ll now turn to the more important issue of evolution and Scripture.  What motivated me to write this article was a book that a friend loaned to me.  The book was written in 2006 by Francis Collins, and it’s entitled The Language of God.  When I first started reading it, I thought it was a book that demonstrated how science was in harmony with Scripture.  Instead, Mr. Collins sought to promote evolution and how it can be in harmony with Scripture.  He calls this theistic evolution, as mentioned earlier.  Sadly, he is not alone.

Mr. Collins’ background is also worth mentioning.  He is quite an impressive scientist, a leading geneticist and was head of the Human Genome project.  Mr. Collins is part of a larger organization he founded called BioLogos.  Their own description states, “BioLogos is a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith, guided by the truth that “all things hold together in Christ.” [Col 1:17].”  He and BioLogos are endorsed by quite a few pastors, including Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and Os Guinness, a famous Christian author.  My point here is that Mr. Collins is a serious scientist, and that there are quite a few well known and not so well known Christians who are in agreement with Mr. Collins’ (and BioLogos) views.  The question we want to ask is, are their views in agreement with Scripture?

First and foremost, Mr. Collins seeks to call into question whether or not Genesis 1 and 2, the creation story, is literal.  Throughout his book, Mr. Collins often quotes C.S. Lewis to justify his position.  Apparently, Lewis had bought into the evolution story and made allowances such that it seems he didn’t believe Genesis 1 and 2 was literal.  Never, though, does he quote the many Christians who view Genesis 1 and 2 as literal.  One person that believes evolution does not make it true; it only means C.S. Lewis was wrong.

Mr. Collins goes on to ask whether a non-literal understanding of Genesis 1 and 2 might lead the believer down a “slippery slope, ultimately resulting in the denial of the fundamental truths of God and His miraculous actions?  While there is clear danger in unrestrained forms of “liberal” theology that eviscerate the real truths of faith, mature observers are used to living on slippery slopes and deciding where to place a sensible stopping point.  Many sacred texts do indeed carry the clear marks of eyewitness history, and as believers we must hold fast to those truths.  Others, such as the stories of Job and Jonah, and of Adam and Eve, frankly do not carry that same historical ring.  Given this uncertainty of interpretation of certain scriptural passages, is it sensible for sincere believers to rest the entirety of their position in the evolutionary debate, their views on the trustworthiness of science, and the very foundation of their religious faith on a literalist interpretation, even if other equally sincere believers disagree and have disagreed even long before Darwin and his Origin of Species first appeared”  (The Language of God, pp. 209-210; emphasis mine)

I’m glad Mr. Collins used the term “mature observer” as the person who lives on a slippery slope, because mature believers are never meant to be on a slippery slope, as we’ll see below.  Furthermore, it seems that if there are no historical eyewitnesses to certain books of the Bible, then, well, we really can’t take them literally.  Let’s see if Scripture agrees with Mr. Collins.

With respect to being on a slippery slope, that is not where God wants His children to be on a regular basis.  One of the most famous sermons ever given was “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.  His sermon was based on a passage from Deuteronomy 32, which is where, in part, Moses speaks about God and His faithfulness to Israel, and Israel’s going astray and how God will punish them for it.  Specifically, v. 35 says, “‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’”  Psalm 17 says, “4 As for the deeds of men, by the word of Your lips I have kept from the paths of the violent.  5 My steps have held fast to Your paths.  My feet have not slipped.”  Psalm 18:36 says, “You enlarge my steps under me, And my feet have not slipped.”  Psalm 73 says, “17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end.  18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.  19 How they are destroyed in a moment!  They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!”  Jeremiah 23 states, “Therefore their way will be like slippery paths to them, They will be driven away into the gloom and fall down in it; For I will bring calamity upon them, The year of their punishment,” declares the LORD.”

There’s more, but I think you can see that it’s not a good thing to be on a slippery slope in God’s eyes!  Instead, Scripture says that God wants us to be set on a solid rock and a level path so that we don’t slip:  “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”  (Psalm 40:2)  Psalm 27:11 says, “Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes.”  Isaiah 26:7, “The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level.”  Jeremiah 31:9, “With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.”

And what does it mean to be on solid ground, on a level path?  Well, one thing is for sure, we must be able to have confidence in God’s word.  If we take Mr. Collins’ approach, the obvious question is what parts of the Bible do we take as true and those that are not true?  Where does Mr. Collins finally start saying, “Oh yes, Genesis 5 and on is literal?”  How does he know what parts are or are not literal?  Just by what C.S. Lewis says?  Mr. Collins is on a slippery slope indeed.  Thankfully, we have Scripture on our side to help us.

One of the biggest problems of evolution is that of death.  Think about it, for millennia, well before Adam comes on the scene, there has to be death, and a lot of it.  Yet, Scripture says that it is sin that brings death (e.g., Genesis 2:17, Romans 6:23).  The implication is that everything God made was made to live forever.  This is not explicit, but it logically follows that when God told Adam and Eve that if they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would surely die, the implication is that if they did not eat from it, they would not die.  Some might say this only referred to spiritual death, which indeed it did.  But it must have also referred to physical death, because God makes sure Adam and Eve cannot eat from the tree of life once they have sinned and thereby live forever (Genesis 3:22).  Therefore, evolution has the very serious problem of death occurring before sin, which contradicts God’s word.

(As an aside, as far as I am aware, evolution has no answer as to why death exists.  For example, if evolution is true, and life can literally come from nothing, why does everything die?  Why doesn’t at least something live forever?  The evolutionist cannot answer this; the Christian can.)

Back to death in Genesis, I suppose Mr. Collins would say, yes but that’s not literal.  Well, Paul apparently took it literally.  We read in Romans 5, “12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”  Romans 5 says death came through Adam’s sin; 1 Timothy 1:15 says that Christ came into the world to save sinners.  If death already existed apart from sin, as evolution teaches, then why did Jesus come into the world?

I suppose I could get cute and say gee, it’s too bad that Mr. Collins or some other theistic evolutionist wasn’t there to explain to Paul that Genesis 1-3 was not meant to be taken literally.  But that would ignore the seriousness of what Mr. Collins implies.  Remember, God tells us that all Scripture is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), meaning what Moses wrote and what Paul wrote were the very words chosen by God Himself.  Does Mr. Collins think that since Genesis 1-3 isn’t literal that we have to not take Paul literally in Romans 5 and 1 Timothy?  Then do we not take 2 Timothy literally either?  Do we ignore Jesus’ genealogy (e.g., Luke 3)?  Yes, this is a slippery slope indeed, and the logical consequence of Mr. Collins’ view leads to incredible confusion for the believer, who simply won’t know what to believe.  But God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Perhaps Mr. Collins is a “red letter” Christian, one who only thinks what Jesus said was important (referring to how many Bibles will put Jesus' word in the color red).  Remember earlier that Mr. Collins said Jonah had no historic witness, so we can’t really take it literally (you know, that whole whale swallowing a man thing; let’s get real!).  Yet Jesus, the God of all creation, took God’s word literally.  Matthew 19 says, “4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”  Notice Jesus specifically said have you not “read”, referring to Scripture.  Jesus also said this about Jonah:  “9 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

Hmmmmm…is it possible that the Lord performs miraculous feats in order to call attention to Himself?  Do you think maybe this is one of the explanations of Scripture Jesus gave to the disciples on the road to Emmaus?  Remember, the Scriptures testify of Him (John 5:39).  Is the arm of the Lord too short to cause a whale (or “sea monster”) to swallow a man and then vomit him up on the beach three days later?  If God can create the universe and all life in it, as even Mr. Collins believes, then why is it so hard to believe the story of Jonah?  Or of Adam and Eve?  If Jesus knew Adam and Eve and Jonah weren’t meant to be taken literally, why did He say these things to the scribes and Pharisees?  No, Jesus did believe it, so we can rest assured that it’s true.

What about the six days of creation and rest on the seventh?  Why is this an allegory and not literal?  David believed the creation story (Psalm 33:6,9), as did Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:6), Isaiah (Isaiah 45:18), and Paul (Colossians 1:16).  Again, all of these men wrote by the Holy Spirit of God.  Should we believe Mr. Collins, or Scripture?

I like what Steve teaches about the creation story.  Rather than ask why did God create everything in 6 days, the question is why did He take so long?  Clearly, God could have created everything in an instant.  Creating in six literal days was done with a purpose.  The 6 days of work pointed to man’s working for his salvation (six is the number of man), while rest on the seventh day was a picture of Christ’s salvation (seven is the number of perfection), in which we work no more, for Christ is our atonement and our righteousness.  Furthermore, if the seven day cycle is an allegory, how is it that the entire world works on this cycle?  This is a reminder to us of God’s creation.

There’s much more that could be said about how evolution contradicts Scripture, but this article is already longer than normal.  It’s good that we have Christians, like Mr. Collins, who are not afraid to show how scientific (or any) truth is in agreement with Scripture.  Evolution, however, really doesn’t pass the scientific truth test; when a so called “truth” contradicts God’s word, it’s always best to believe God’s word.  Let’s not be carried away with the world’s view of creation.  Even more, let’s be careful to not follow misguided brothers and sisters like Mr. Collins, who believe the world rather than the Creator.  Be assured that we can rest in the word of the living God, whose word sanctifies us in the truth (John 17:17).