Christianity and evolution seem like two words that should be forever at odds. Initially, maybe rightfully so, since evolution was atheistically supported and militant against Christianity and faith itself. The empirical process with its many benefits to life brought with it a disdain for the spiritual. This initial distrust of faith and religion, hence made evolution and Christianity natural enemies. Evolution as a tool of the atheist to explain the origin of the world without God became a powerful theory against religion.
Yet, truth is truth, whether discovered through atheistic eyes or devout eyes. As time proceeded, science showed the earth was very old. Carbon dating illustrated a far more ancient world than previously thought. The study of the cosmos showed how far stars are and how long light takes to reach a certain point, again showing a greater age to creation itself. As biology advanced, adaptation and how organisms change over time, especially with virus and bacteria opened new ideas how larger organisms could also change over time.
The idea of adaptation, older earth and an older cosmos seemed to challenge Scripture and old prejudices of the origin of evolution persisted in church circles. Furthermore, misunderstandings regarding evolution itself, as well as how Scripture is to be interpreted continued to cause a divide. Eventually, many mainstream Christian denominations became more open to evolution as a theistic mechanism void of its discoverer’s atheistic views years prior.
The only discord that exists to this day regarding Christian teaching and evolution is in fundamentalist circles who still suspect atheism within the theory. These individuals many times also do not understand the deeper science of evolution. In addition, fundamentalists tend to only interpret scripture to their own literal interpretations.
In this short essay, we will discuss the nature of theistic evolution and the dangers of always seeing scripture from a literal interpretation. Obviously, science is not at odds with faith, for both reason and truth both point to God. It is hence important that rationale beings who utilize faith, also understand the science of evolution from a theistic standpoint before dismissing it merely as an atheistic fairytale.
As Christians, we first and foremost stand against the concept of atheistic evolution. Atheistic evolution proposes the ridiculous idea that life happened by chance or the ridiculous notion that nothing became something. Obviously, those familiar with St Thomas Aquinas understand that every effect has a cause. The first cause, the uncaused cause, which infinite within itself and not forever regressing, is God. If God is a entity, a force, or whichever, does not matter, but the author of the universe must be acknowledged. This is the basis for theistic evolution. God caused the big bang, His infinite love for life, planted the seed necessary to create life in that moment of for the universe. The design was laid out among the chaos. Ironically, even Genesis points out to the darkness and disorder.
An idea of theistic evolution and God does coexist with the idea of theistic evolution. In now way is it not plausible that God could create this way. What matters from Scripture, is acknowledgement that God created life and the cosmos. The story in Genesis if taken literal can lead down a path of many concepts that do not correlate with science. However, if properly understood and interpreted, Genesis is not at odds with theistic evolution.
Genesis is not necessarily a historic narrative like modern history books. It teaches a historic moment or series of historic moments. It proclaims creation and most importantly the creation of humanity. It speaks of how humanity fell and needed a Redeemer. These are all facts, but it does so in analogical fashion. I avoid the word myth here because Modernism looks to reduce Genesis to a myth. Analogy is far different. Symbolism is far different. It still respects the history of Adam and Eve as true human beings, but how the story is told and how it illustrates a truth about them. It is not accounted like a modern journal but through a deeper language that was handed down. It does not dismiss the event as non historical like myth which only looks for a deeper meaning, but retains the historical reality of the event but in described differently.
When Scripture is interpreted only literally in every sense, then many contradictions can occur with science. The books of the Bible while only pertaining to one author, the Holy Spirit, nevertheless are written by different people. Within this school of talents, are also different ways of telling stories. Some stories are historical, some are psalms, some are laws, some are prophecy, and others are lessons. We must be clear to understand the form of the book within the Bible being read to understand its meaning, intent, style and audience of the time.
From this, one can see how literal interpretation of Genesis can create an unneeded confrontation with Theistic Evolution. However, when one discovers Genesis teaches creation, but leaves out the science, one can then learn to incorporate both together. “Humani Generis” by Pope Pius XII in the 1950s, helped lay a bridge between theistic evolution and Genesis. While he stated at the time, one can choose to follow theistic evolution or pure creationism, he pointed out that Christians could adhere to theistic evolution in good conscience. He however, warned against modernism which would look refer to Adam as mythical, or Adam as a tribe, or that the soul of Adam evolved from matter.
The other larger issue in fundamentalist camps is a misunderstanding of evolution. Evolution is not something that happens over night. The fossil record has confidently portrayed a world where adaptations occur within creatures. Adaptation is merely extreme genes that do best in a certain environment that are passed down to future generations. Individuals without these particular genes designed for better survival pass away. Hence, the gene that is best adaptive to a given environment continues to develop and be handed down. This leads to gradual change over time. While it is impossible to see massive change in human years, we see these changes in the fossil record, and we also see them in microbiology where generations upon generations can mutate and adapt within years instead of millions of years.
So, this does not mean something magically changes and becomes something new, but it is a natural change within a species due to time and environmental changes that forces certain genetic qualities to pass away and new ones arise in others. It is God’s long term design to allow a species to propagate and survive.
Another huge misconception in evolution is that humanity evolved from apes and monkeys. The truth is that both apes and monkeys share similarities to human beings and are closely related from a physical standpoint, but they are not humanity’s ancestors but merely a sharer of a common ancestor. These lines break off into what are today monkeys and apes and humanoids.
One may then naturally ask, since Genesis, although not literal, being historical speaks of only 2 human beings. Science actually shows that humanity genetic pool goes back to a pair but the idea that humanity evolved through a series of tribes on a global scale is incompatible. Many atheistic evolutionists contend this to be true, but Christians who believe in Adam and Eve, contend that Adam and Eve were the first conscious human beings to be endowed with a human soul in the image of God. Other cousins of humanity may have possessed human qualities and great intelligence, but without God’s blessing, no one could possess what Adam and Eve possessed.
Adam as a special creation was granted a reprieve from this world of suffering. He was granted an unfallen status. Whether this paradise was a place or a state of being, he existed without suffering until he betrayed God through his choice to follow the will of himself and Satan. Upon this, he was again thrust into the world that science has shown us to be temporal reality.
Did Adam and Eve’s children cohabitate with other humanoids of the time? This is very possible and may apply to the verse in Scripture referring to the children of God sleeping with the children of man. This was seen as something wrong, but it would pass upon these lesser humanoids, the gift of Adam, a human soul. Nevertheless, we know that the great Flood would forever change global geography and also the history of humanity.
How about dinosaurs? Again, the temporal age and Adam’s special status in Eden show a historical separation in the fossil record but this does not mean that in the time frame of creation, dinosaurs and other creatures did not exist prior to Adam. Genesis states Adam and humanity were created last. Hence a series of animals could have existed well prior to Adam. Either due to extinction or they evolved, they would not all exist at the same time humanity existed. Many fundamentalists try to state dinosaurs existed side by side with humanity. While other odd creatures may have existed during the writing of Scripture, as the fossil record indicates, the idea of classical dinosaurs existed side by side with humanity is far fetched.
So, yes, with evolution and with scripture, come many subjects of reflection. Some aspects are issues due to stubborn literal interpretation of Genesis, but other things must be clearly reflected upon with a biblical understanding and not merely a scientific mind that pretends Genesis does not exist.
This is not to dismiss those who choose to hold on a more literal meaning and creationist account. This is one’s own choice. One needs to be aware of the issues this creates from a philosophical and scientific standpoint. It does not damage one’s faith but it can lead to one demonizing others who hold to an equally valuable ideal about creation that does not distort Scripture. There needs to be mutual respect on any disagreements concerning this issue among Christians. Ultimately, in the end, all of these secrets will be revealed to humanity by Christ.
With so much reliable information about the age of the cosmos, earth and the fossil record, I find it very convincing that evolution was the vehicle that God utilized to bring about life. If one returns to the Bible and Genesis and looks for clues, one can begin to find that the two can co-exist if understood analogically.
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