Q. Can a Christian believe in evolution? Is he still a real believer if he does? Does it conflict with churches? Is it an alternative to Creationism?
We know that several of our colleagues will disagree with us. But, not only can a true Christian believe in evolution, but many do!
Theistic evolution or evolutionary creationism is a belief held by many mainstream denominations. They include Anglican, some Baptist groups, Catholic, Congregationalist, Church of Christ, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, some Presbyterian and United Church of Christ denominations.
This is because many church denominations do not hold to a literal or historical view of the Genesis creation account. They believe in an allegorical method of interpretation which was held by many in the early church including St. Augustine in his early, fourth-century career (he later became a literalist).
Salvation in Literalism Only?
Those of us who take the Bible literally (or "seriously" as Dr. Missler says) need to be extremely cautious about negatively judging so many fellow believers. After all, salvation has to do with what Jesus did on the cross. It also involves what we do with the lordship and redemptive power of Jesus Christ - not with how we interpret Genesis chapter one.
Sequential Development of Faith
In fact, I doubt I would have become a Christian had Creationists "pounded into my head" the evils of evolutionary belief. Instead, I was exposed to ideas of Genesis that showed God created "kinds" of animals sequentially and in an order that agreed with evolutionary theory. I thought that was kind of "cool." (Check-out the Biblical order of creation for yourself).
In fact, I have no problem with theories of evolution that allow for a Creator who initiated things with the Big Bang. If He wanted, God could have created the elements and all of the conditions necessary for strong evolutionary development.
My problem is not so much with evolutionary theory. It is with hateful evolutionary-fanatics who ridicule any who disagree with them - such as Dawkins or Hitchens and their like. These are "ranting and raving" atheists who throw-out Old Testament notions of God and reveal their historical and theological poverty. The "New Atheist" parrots one another's distaste for anything religious and consider humanity's spiritual inclinations as "beneath" them. (They think they are more evolved than we are).
When all is said and done, the New Atheists became what they claim to hate: fundamentalist-fanatics.
The New Atheist's arrogance is puzzling, too. Darwin himself stated, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down" (Darwin 1968, 219).
Furthermore, our readers understand that the evolutionary concept began long before Darwin - it is an ancient idea! For instance, around 500 B.C. Anaximander taught that "humans originally resembled another type of animal, namely fish" (Griffiths 2008), among numerous other examples from thousands of years ago.
Besides, not long ago we discovered that living cells truly are complex molecular machines possibly of the type Darwin cautioned against. It is unlikely they could have formed from many "modifications" over a set period of time. The odds are against it. Not only are they fantastically complex, it seems they had to develop all at once in order to function right. We call that "irreducible complexity."
So that presents a problem for how evolutionary processes managed to develop complex, interdependent systems in and between all living things.
Furthermore, DNA blueprints do not appear to allow for successful breeding between different species. We don't seem to find good examples of intermediate species or fossil records of such things, either. Not yet, anyway. (Many of those we thought we had proved to be fakes - deliberate, falsified information of supposed records).
Yes, of course there are clear examples of adaptation across all living things. We see this wonderful, adaptive type of micro-evolution when we observe the differences between lions and kitties, for instance. But, each still belongs to a feline genus or "kind." Likewise, there are wolves, huskies, or teensy dog breeds.
But, at this time scientists cannot bring viable, living offspring between the mating of dogs and cats or other distinct kinds.
In addition, among human populations we have American white-skinned, African black-skinned and Indian beige-skinned peoples who thrive in their particular climates. But, believers know that God made from one man every nation (Acts 17:26). We don't teach our children that some races are closer to apes than others. Unlike Margaret Sanger who tried to wipe-out a certain race through the introduction of birth-control methods, Christians believe all men are created by God. That is a good, ethical principle.
Problems with Evolutionary Theory
We don't need to kid ourselves about this - Evolutionists are perfectly aware of the evolutionary conflicts with DNA codes, Irreducible Complexity and problems with evolutionary racism (such as proposed by Hitler). They know that mutations do not favor vigor or complexity in living things, either. Mutations are normally deadly. They do not result in the creation of "molecular machines."
Multiverse Needed for Evolution
So some hardcore evolutionists have created or embraced theories of a Multiverse to allow for near-infinite time and space needed for the evolution of interdependent, biological systems. However, as Dr. Collins notes, the Multiverse strains credulity and Occam's Razor (Collins 2006, 76).
This is why I have chosen to believe in Intelligent Design (which does allow for some evolutionary processes and adaptation, by the way). It isn't because I have a problem with all evolutionary theory or ideas of natural selection. It is because there are too many deficiencies within the theories of evolution itself. It just doesn't answer many of our questions satisfactorily.
Theistic evolutionists maintain that their religious teachings are compatible with biological evolution. Unlike hardcore evolutionists, however, they believe in the existence of God. The question of origins still lies in the theist's domain. God created the material universe and all conditions necessary for life. But, the Creator used evolutionary processes to develop these biological life forms.
Yes, many who believe this are true Christians. In the end it is what one concludes about the identification, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that counts (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
Artwork Copyright by Duncan Long. All rights reserved. Artwork used with permission of the artist.
Duncan Long's website - A must see! www.http://Duncanlong.com/art.html
(photo of texbooks, cat and dog, Stephen's Quintet - public domain)
Collins, Frances S. 2006. The language of God. New York: Free Press. (Advocates theistic evolution).
Darwin, Charles. 1968 ed. On the origin of the species. London: Penguin.
Griffiths, Paul James. 2008. Evolution: an ancient pagan idea. Creation Magazine (Sept.). Available from: creation.com/evolution-ancient-pagan-idea. (accessed 9 Jan. 2011).
Wells, Jonathan. 2000. Icons of evolution. Washington D.C.: Regnery. (Proponent of Creationism).
Authors Valorie Mays Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA focusing upon Christian origins. Ken received his MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University.