“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, November 6, 2009

Evolution: God’s Instrument for Our Creation

…Far from disproving God, evolution fits very well with theism, and in particular with the idea of a Creator who designed the physical world and used it as a means to bring into existence creatures in his image (see “C. S. Lewis on Theistic Evolution”). Suppose God exists and wants to make human beings. Assuming he is a God of order and continuity, one would not expect him to blip humans into existence instantaneously, without any created environment. Rather, one would expect God to prepare for physical human beings a physical world – without such a context, the existence of a physical being would be a jarring and ugly rift in reality. One would expect a God of order to create an entire world, into which the human being will fit with perfect order and continuity, like a puzzle piece – without the world, the physical body makes no sense. And assuming that this God values simplicity, one would not expect him to randomly blip into existence a complex world with incredibly intricate cells and organisms. This too would be arbitrary, lacking order and background. Rather, one would expect God to cause the desired world (which must, in one sense, be complex, because the desired humans are complex) to emerge in a gradual and orderly way from a simple and elegant beginning. In short, if one supposes a God like the “Christian God” to exist, one would expect him to use something like evolution as a means to create humans. And it seems that that is in fact what he has done…

9 comments:

  1. Supposing that God did use evolution to bring his creation into existence, how would sin have entered the world without the Genesis account of the Fall? And because death is a result of sin, would there not have been death before this "evolved" Adam sinned? If God created the world with sin/death from the beginning, where does free will come into play?

    Just some musings...

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  2. Some more musings... Death is indeed the result of sin, but the Fall of Man was not the first instance of sin. Maybe death, corruption, pain, evil, etc. entered the world as a result of Satan's rebellion - the very first instance of sin. Perhaps God allowed him some input into how the universe would be, foreseeing the cross even then.

    As far as Genesis 3, why couldn't it be consistent with evolution? Assuming Adam and Eve were historical persons, they must have been free from the sinful nature we inherited from them. What this meant for their physical bodies I do not know. God made our bodies as they are now so that they would be the physical bodies of spiritual creatures with a sinful nature. How he does that is a mystery - I suppose there is some part of our physical makeup that corresponds to depravity. Presumably God made the bodies of Adam and Eve in such a way that they were the physical bodies of spiritual creatures without that sinful nature, and how he did that is equally a mystery. Maybe he made a set things up in the physical world in such a way that when the first man and woman sinned, their physical bodies changed in such a way as to account for this new sinful nature. After all, one would think that if we were made through evolution, Adam and Eve were the first instance of a new species. Some mutation had occurred, or something like that. If evolution can make a new species, maybe it can also make what physically corresponds to a sinful nature. It is a mystery that our physical bodies are "vessels" through which we make free moral choices at all. How that works, it seems to me, depends on one's view of causation, and that could lead you into quantum mechanics, determinism, etc. But evolution need not imply determinism (John Polkinghorne wrote somewhere that the biologists have some catching up to do with the physicists in that regard), nor would an inclination to sin caused by something in our physical bodies.

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  3. More thoughts on sin and death: If there was animal death before Adam and Eve, and the evil of animal pain and suffering, that would have to be attributed to Satan's fall and rebellion - God has given him a measure of dominion over this world. But the NT seems to portray human death as the result of human sin (Romans 5, other passages???). If we could describe what would have happened if Adam and Eve had not sinned, then maybe evolution (according to which they would still have died) would be at odds with this claim. But can we even talk about that? Adam and Eve DID sin, and then they DID die, and their deaths followed their lives of sin. The first humans sinned and the first humans died. And perhaps God, knowing that they would sin, set the world up so that they would die, BUT ONLY BECAUSE HE KNEW THEY WOULD SIN. So in that sense, via God's foreknowledge of their sin and consequential making the world so that they would die, man's sin caused man's death. If they had not sinned (but they did sin, and that was their inevitable and free choice (paradox)), God would have foreknown that and made the world differently.

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  4. Those are excellent points that have never been brought to my attention. However, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, wrote them himself and instructed Moses to keep holy the Sabbath day. So God has a clear idea of what a day is on Earth, and the words used for 'day' in Genesis mean that the sun rises and then it sets--a 'day'. So how does theistic evolution interpret the 'days' in Genesis?

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  5. Theistic evolutionists may interpret Genesis in different ways. I am no expert on understanding Genesis, and it is very difficult to understand – it’s easy to bring your own assumptions (or those of your culture) to the text. One interpretation that I find very compelling is that of John Walton – I took an Old Testament class from him at Wheaton College. He argues that the “days” are literal but that Genesis 1 does not actually describe material creation. I explain it a little more in my post on “Creation, Genesis, and the Big Bang” and there is a link there to a lecture on this interpretation.

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  6. Are you familiar with the Framework Interpretation of the Creation account in Genesis? It doesn't necessarily take a Day=Age view, nor a 24 hour view, but instead explores the poetic and thematic qualities of the way creation has been described to us in the Bible. Of evolution's role in creation, I know not, but there is evidence of it taking place in nature. However, I am uncomfortable with humans evolving from a single micro-organism. I suspect that evolution began after creatures were called into existence. While this is all speculation, I find it sad that so many Christians try to use the Bible as a book of science and ascribe to the belief that if you don't accept the Bible 100% in a literal interpretation, then you are not saved. As you mentioned in your analysis of HP7, the most important theme regarding salvation is Christ's death and resurrection. All this other stuff is intersting and helpful to think about but not instrumental to the Christian faith.

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  7. I'm not familiar with that interpretation but it but sounds interesting...maybe similar to another reading, that of John Walton from Wheaton College (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6B2qTdacBY). In his view Genesis is not talking about material creation at all, but rather the dedication of the cosmos as a place where God is at work. There is overwhelming evidence for evolution, even from a single organism - so the biologists say - and I don't think it's necessarily degrading to humanity as God's image bearers, just his way of creating. In any case, as you say, it's not an essential issue for Christianity.

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  8. Here is a summary on what the framework interpretation. It basically explains that the theme of creation is to establish kingdoms and kings with God as the ultimate king who sends out decrees and they are so. Merideth Kline has some excellent writings on this subject.
    http://www.opc.org/OS/html/V9/1c.html

    The part that bothers me I guess about theistic evolution is where it differs so greatly from the language used in the bible. I don't have a problem with using figurative interpretations for certain parts of scripture like for instance, the creation days not needing to be 24 days. I just think we need to be careful where we draw the line because it can be a slippery slope trying to explain miracles with science.

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  9. I suppose if science is thought of as an alternate explanation that encroaches on a divine account of miracles then one might worry about a slippery slope, but if science and God's purposes are thought of as complementary, overlapping descriptions, then perhaps there doesn't have to be a slope at all. I mean, just because we can describe something scientifically doesn't mean that we have reduced or trivialized it into something with no larger meaning or purpose.

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