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APPENDIX 3: EVOLUTION, THE BIBLE AND THE CHURCH

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013


A. WHAT DOES THE ‘THEORY OF EVOLUTION’ TEACH?

It is obvious that long age and evolutionary concepts have gone hand in hand either with non-theistic god concepts or with atheism for several millennia. From among the earliest non-biblical writings onwards evolutionary and long-age concepts are evident. In its modernized atheistic form it teaches:

That the world/universe began billions of years ago [most likely as a result of a ‘big-bang’] and life forms developed very gradually from extremely simple single celled organisms into the complex life forms we see today.
 
That this all happened ‘naturally’, that is, without supernatural intervention

That this process uses the random operation of time plus chance plus survival of the fittest

That through these billions of years a uniform set of parameters were in operation the same as those observable today

Evolution presupposes long ages of gradual, uniform development [uniformitarianism]. Richard Dawkins, one of the most vocal opponents of creationism and intelligent design is quoted as saying “Without gradualism, we are back to a miracle” [Illustria Media: “Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record”.]

 


B. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH?

The biblical writings, including the earliest biblical writings, teach, on the contrary,

That the universe was created by the deliberate action of God.

That each living species was designed and created deliberately and separately by God to reproduce after its kind. [This does not prohibit changes within species.]

That God created human beings deliberately and distinctly [that is, not as the result of a long process], as intelligent, responsible, and capable beings.

That various catastrophes brought changes to the physical world.

In other words: the Bible teaches the miracle of creation.

From very early times there has been a tension between the belief of those who know the God of the Bible and the belief of those who have made gods for themselves or chosen to disbelieve in any god at all. [This division of humanity on the basis of belief in the one true God becomes evident very early in Genesis, and persists right through Genesis and the rest of the Bible.]

We have seen in studies #1 to #4 that even before we read beyond Genesis 1:1-2 we are here confronted with a very specific God:

A God who alone is God

A God who existed before all other things – an eternal God

A God who exists in a Trinitarian unity – Father, Son and Spirit

A God who alone deliberately created all else that exists by the power of his word

A God who is distinct from all that he created: neither the universe as a whole nor its individual parts emanate out from him as part of him or as an extension of him: he actively and deliberately created it ‘out of nothing’.

A God who is therefore Sovereign: on whom all things are dependent, by whom the meaning and significance of everything is determined, and to whom everyone is responsible and accountable.

Many of these we will understand more fully as we study further in Genesis, but even here in Genesis 1:1-3 we are confronted with a God who can only be ignored at one’s peril, but also a God, when one knows who he really is in his greatness, his power, his majesty, one would not want to ignore. One would desire rather to know, to love and to honour this God.

From almost the beginning of time men have chosen, however, to ignore and reject this God. We shall learn how this rejection began in Genesis 3.


C. EVOLUTION WITHIN THE CHURCH

Even more disturbing than the adherence of unbelievers to the unproven theory of evolution, despite the many and increasingly evident scientific difficulties it contains, is the fact that people within the Christian church, some with true biblical faith in Christ, support  or accept uniformitarianism and/or the evolutionary theory for one reason or another. As Denton has so clearly pointed out, the theory of evolution has ‘literally changed the world’. And part of that change has been its impact on the church.

In nineteenth century Christianity many church leaders had embraced liberal theology with its denial of the inspiration of the Bible and of miracles. This meant that already, before Darwin’s publication of his theory in 1859, a number of traditional biblical beliefs, including the historicity of Genesis 1-11, were being questioned and discarded. It is not at all surprising that they embraced Darwin’s evolution.

As uniformitarianism in geology and the theory of evolution became more and more accepted even non-liberal sections of the church have attempted to accommodate the long ages into their biblical beliefs.

Whereas in the nineteenth century Lyell’s teachings on uniformitarianism [long ages of gradual change] in geology were welcomed by liberal theologians as a validation for their rejection of God and the biblical records, many of today’s evangelical Christians attempt to somehow squeeze God and the biblical records into the uniformitarian system. In other words they are trying to keep both gradualism and miracle. Whereas the atheist Dawkins rightly sees them as mutually exclusive, contemporary Christians attempt to marry them.

Some of these attempts were, and for some still are:

The ‘gap’ theory or ‘gap creationism’ was popularized by Thomas Chalmers [1780-1847AD] [years before Darwin’s theory was published] in a sincere effort to accommodate the long ages proposed by contemporary geologists. He suggested a ‘gap’ between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. [The first creation, 1:1, occurred long ages ago. The state described in 1:2 was, he taught, the result of God’s judgement on Satan’s rebellion. The recreation began in 1:3. From this point the recreation took place over 6 twenty-four hour days. When God told Adam and Eve in 1:28 to ‘replenish’ the earth, he was telling them to ‘refill’ the earth.] However, the word ‘replenish’ in the KJV is the old English translation of the Hebrew mawlaw which simply means to ‘fill’. There is nothing in Genesis 1 to support this ‘gap theory’ attempt to accommodate the Biblical text to current scientific theory in the early 19th century. However this ‘gap theory’ actually does not accommodate the Bible to the long geological ages assumed by science, as it inserts a massive ‘catastrophe’ – an event outlawed by geological uniformitarianism. [It also has serious biblical issues – see below.] This ‘gap’ theory was further popularized by Schofield’s Reference Bible, first published in 1909. Schofield, unlike Chalmers, also taught the possibility that the word ‘day’ in the Genesis 1 account could be a reference to a ‘period of time’.

A different ‘gap theory’ in which none of the above destruction/reconstruction takes place, but in which there is a long time gap between 1:1 and 1:2.

‘Day-age’ theory in which an attempt is made to equate the days of creation in Genesis 1 with the long ages taught by uniformitarian, evolutionary geology. This idea falls to pieces very quickly because the sequence of events in the days of creation is different from the sequence of events proposed by evolutionists. In addition, the Hebrew is the usual word for ‘day’. The natural meaning of the text is that it is a normal day: reference is made to morning and evening and night, and to the numerical sequence of each day – first, second, etc. One might ask: how else could the writer have worded this, if his intention was indeed to describe a six 24-hour day creation?

 ‘Progressive creation’ – [as taught by Hugh Ross and others] is an expression of the Day-age theory

The ‘Big Bang’ origin of the universe occurred 16-billion-years ago; death, bloodshed, and disease existed before Adam & Eve.

The days of Creation were long periods.

Noah’s Flood was a local event.

Sin has only a regionally limited effect on the world.

Man-like creatures that behaved much like us—and painted on cave walls—existed before Adam and Eve, but didn’t have a spirit and thus had no salvation.

The record of nature is just as perfect as the Word of God.

Over millions of years, God created new species as others kept going extinct.

[From: http://creation.com/whats-wrong-with-progressive-creation]

Theistic evolution. Some understand ‘theistic evolution’ to refer to the beliefs of a group of theologians who severely limit God’s involvement to the initiation of the evolutionary process. Its more common use is to refer to any teaching in which God is added to uniformitarian/evolutionary beliefs as the prime mover, designer and overseer of the process of evolution. Yes, they say, we took billions of years to evolve from single celled life forms into human beings; yes, each species has developed gradually into another; but this was done by the creative power of God. He is the creator, as the Bible teaches, but the way he did it was by the evolutionary process. The problems with this view are discussed further below.

On the surface this merging of divine creation, uniformitarian geology and evolution seems to solve the problem that evolution poses for the Bible-believing Christian. It appears to enable the Christian to accept uniformitarian and evolutionary theories, which are assumed to be true, and to continue to hold to the Scripture at the same time. It allows room for the presence of a personal, creative Designer, which accounts for the amazing complexity of even the smallest elements in nature. It allows room for a supreme Mind to be the origin of the incredible amounts of information packed into the DNA molecules of every living creature.

Beneath the surface however, as Werner Gitt points out, theistic evolution is only one step removed from evolution:

EVOLUTION =
Matter + evolutionary factors (chance and necessity + mutation + selection + isolation + death) + very long time periods.

THEISTIC EVOLUTION =
Matter + evolutionary factors (chance and necessity + mutation + selection + isolation + death) + very long time periods + GOD.
[p99 ibid]

 

D. BIBLICAL PROBLEMS WITH MERGING GENESIS, LONG AGES AND EVOLUTION

While there are obviously acknowledged scientific problems with the theory of evolution, there are, more importantly, significant deep biblical problems with attempts to combine divine creation with evolution. Some of these are:

[1] The theory of evolution necessitates and assumes the existence of incredibly long ages of suffering, death and destruction before fully human beings evolved and thereby denies the nature of God as revealed in the Bible. Genesis 1 teaches us that God looked at what he had made and saw that it was ‘good’ and ‘very good’.  

1:4 God saw that the light was ‘good’: yet today light (sunlight) can cause suffering and death.

1:10 God considered the separation of the land and the water ‘good’: yet today water is a cause of death and destruction.

1:12 God saw that the plants were ‘good’: yet today many plants cause suffering, death and destruction.

1:18 God considered the separation of the light from the darkness ‘good’: yet today the darkness is the context in which human wickedness is multiplied.

1:21 God saw that the creation of the water creatures was ‘good’: yet today some of the most life-threatening creatures are found in water

1:25 God considered the creation of the birds and terrestrial creatures ‘good’: yet today we here observe incredible carnage necessary for survival, and constant threat to human health and life.

In 1:31, having created humans, and placed them in charge of the earth and its creatures, summed up the whole set up with the description ‘very good’: yet today we see all of the above things that are not ‘good’ and in addition we see humans inflicting incredible suffering of all kinds on each other, and failing miserably in their function as stewards of the earth.

If the present state of life on earth is the end expression of what has always been, and the way it was meant to be, and the method by which it was intended to become what it now is, then either the writer of Genesis is simply a human liar, or God is a sadist. Only the most insensitive of human beings would call such tooth-and-claw, survival-of-the-fittest struggles ‘very good’. This perception of creation of living creatures, including man, via survival of the strong and dominant and the loss of the weak and helpless is completely contrary to the Biblical revelation of God as compassionate towards the helpless, and also completely contrary to the biblical commands demanding kindness, gentleness, love and compassion towards all men, especially including the weak and helpless.

Genesis 1 shouts loudly to us that the way things are today is not the way God created them: that there was a beginning – a definitive beginning of the universe and all of its laws and species that God made ‘very good’. Genesis 3 is where the suffering and death enters – not as the means of supposedly progressive evolution into better and better life forms, but as the result of a human choice and the judgement of God that ensued. [See below.]

 

[2] Genesis teaches that God made man in his own image, which assumes an immediate creation of a fully human person. The developmental process of supposed evolution makes it impossible to define at which point ‘man’ became the bearer of the image of God, and at which point ‘man’ thus became responsible and answerable to God. The factuality of the Genesis account regarding the image of God is called into question and deemed ‘myth’ to accommodate evolution. Yet the image of God concept is one that is repeated in Genesis 9:6 as the basis of the sanctity of human life, and is in focus in the New Testament both as a description of Jesus Christ and as the goal towards which the sanctifying activity of the Holy Spirit is moving the believer. Creation in the image of God gives us the answer to the fundamental questions ‘What is man?’ and ‘What am I here for?’ Evolution tells us we are no more than glorified apes: Genesis 1 tells us that we reflect the glory of God.  

 

[3] The evolutionary assumption of long millennia of death and destruction is also in direct conflict with the teaching in Genesis 2:17, 3:1-24, and Romans 5:12-21 regarding the entry of death and suffering into the world. According to these passages suffering and death entered the world because of Adam’s sin. God created the first two human beings as responsible creatures, accountable and answerable to him. The origin of suffering and death is the direct consequence of their choice to live independently of God and his command. Theistic evolution, indeed any Christian compromise that assumes the existence of suffering and death before sin, undermines this basic teaching of Genesis 3, again regarding it as mere myth, and not a factual account of what actually happened. With the non-factuality of the Genesis 3 record of Adam’s original sin Paul’s teaching in Romans 5 and 1Corinthians 15 falls to pieces, including his identification of Jesus Christ as the second ‘Adam.’ In addition, death is confirmed to be the ‘wages’ of sin in Romans 6:23, and identified as something from which Jesus Christ came to deliver us in Hebrews 2:14-16. We are not here because of death and suffering; rather, death and suffering are here because of us.

 

[4] If the factuality of the Genesis 3 account of the origin of sin and suffering is denied, a significant flow-on occurs: Our understanding of sin, our  understanding of our relationship with God before and after conversion, our understanding of the significance of the death of Jesus Christ, our understanding of the concepts of salvation, redemption, justification and reconciliation, our understanding of the concepts of judgment, condemnation, heaven and hell, the return of Christ to implement judgement and to initiate the new heaven and new earth, all are undermined and re-interpreted by the non-factuality of Genesis 3. If Genesis 3 is not fact, the death of Christ is robbed of the meaning given to it in the rest of the Bible. The work of Jesus Christ is fundamentally to undo and reverse Genesis 3. If Genesis 3 is not real – if death and suffering were always here – there is nothing to undo, nothing to reverse, nothing to regenerate, nothing to renew, nothing to restore. Christ, in so far as his ‘saving’ work, is rendered redundant.

[5] The biblical realities of the substitutionary atonement and representative priesthood of Jesus Christ are undermined. If long evolutionary ages of development lead up to man as we know him today then the question must be asked ‘For which ‘man’ is Jesus Christ the substitute and representative?’ The letter to the Hebrews takes great trouble to stress that Jesus had to be a real human being, one of us, just like us, in order to be a valid substitute for us under the judgement of God and a valid representative for us in the presence of God. Evolution states that we are in a process of upward development: how then can Jesus Christ substitute for and represent any but that particular ‘human’ in the then current stage of human development in the small race of Jews? How then can he stand for a ‘human’ from a currently ‘less evolved’ race? Or from a ‘more evolved’ race? Or for whatever ‘human’ exists several millennia on?

[6] All of the above also reveal a serious departure from the traditional Christian belief in the infallibility and authenticity of the Bible as the Word of God. Jesus Christ, Paul and Peter all grounded aspects of their teaching on the facts of Genesis 1 to 11. They viewed these chapters as facts not as myth. If we allow the theories of fallible human scientists to determine and dictate the validity of the Scriptures which up until 200 years ago the mainstream church regarded as the infallible word of a trustworthy, omniscient, and omnipotent God, then there has indeed been a major shift in our attitude to both God and his Word. To reject the factuality of Genesis 1-11 and call it ‘myth’ opens the door for the ordinary Christian to reject whatever portion of Scripture is offends them.

To further clarify the implications of accepting theistic evolution I have quoted from and/or summarized twenty pages from Werner Gitt [Did God Use Evolution? pp 89 – 109]. Gitt lists the following implications:

1.    Denial of central Biblical teachings
‘Events reported in the Bible are reduced to mythical imagery, and an understanding of the message of the Bible as being true in word and meaning, is scorned and regarded as superstitious’ p 91.

2.    Misrepresentation of the nature of God
‘The anti-biblical consequences of theistic evolution have become clear …
-    a false representation of God and of Christ
-    God is seen as imperfect
-    Death and ghastliness are ascribed to the Creator as principles of creation
-    It is assumed that the holy God used sin to create life
-    Sin is regarded as a harmless evolutionary factor, causing Jesus Christ’s work of redemption as the only possibility of man’s salvation, to appear (nearly) absurd
-    Adam’s fall into sin is seen as a myth instead of reality, conveying a false impression of death and suffering in this world’ p 94.

3.    Loss of the key for finding God
‘Only those persons who realise that they are sinful and lost, will seek the Saviour. … Evolution knows no sin in the biblical sense of missing one’s purpose (in relation to God). Sin is made meaningless, and that is exactly the opposite of what the Holy Spirit does – He declares sin to be sinful.’ [Gitt then refers to writers who describe sin as an essential part of the evolutionary process: ‘aggression as the flywheel that actually set evolution in motion’ … ‘the fist as the active instrument and proof of becoming human’ … ‘murder, hate and aggression as the “eggshells of evolution” the prerequisites without which man could not have developed’ and then comments: ‘If sin is seen in this way, then one has lost the key for finding God.’ P 95.

4.    God’s incarnation becomes incidental
Quoting Von Ditfurth “The only way that I see of resolving the contradiction (between evolution and the incarnation of Jesus) is to ascribe a basic historical relativity to the person Jesus Christ.” Gitt comments: ‘Von Ditfurth continues by saying that Jesus could not be a universal mediator between God and man, because neither the Neanderthal people (regarded as our probable ancestors), nor our potential descendants could or will understand Jesus.’ p 96.

5.    Relativisation of Jesus’ work of redemption
‘If one does not regard Adam as a real historical person but as a mythical figure, then one can consequently not accept Jesus’ work of redemption as real.’ P 97.

6.    God becomes a God of the gaps
‘In this system God is not the omnipotent Lord of all things whose Word has to be taken seriously by all men, but He is integrated into the evolutionary philosophy. The only workspace allotted to Him is that part which evolution cannot explain with the means at its disposal. In this way He is reduced to being a “god of the gaps” for those phenomena about which there are doubts.’ P 99.

7.    Loss of Biblical chronology
In respect to both past (creation and the age of the earth), and future (return of Christ and end of the age) time frames.

8.    Misinterpretation of reality
Evolution is presented and proclaimed as if proven and factual, whereas there is no proof. [See section above on scientific problems with evolution.]

9.    Loss of creation concepts
‘… the biblical creation principles are ignored in theistic evolution, but, on the other hand, evolutionary ideas are carried into the Bible. In this way God’s omnipotent acts are eventually negated.’ P106.

10.    Missing the purpose
‘The very thought of purposefulness is anathema to evolutionists. There are no blueprints, not any purpose. … [and quoting Bresch] … “man has … made a taboo of the question of the meaning of human life – its portal has been nailed shut with planks. He no more dares to touch it, because he fears to find the dismal answer that our life has no meaning at all”. … If man is unplanned, then he also has no purpose.’ [p107-109]


E. BROADER APPLICATION OF EVOLUTIONARY CONCEPTS

We need to note in passing that the concept of evolution is not limited to physical nature. Evolution is applied to such things as politics, culture, society and religion.