On the other hand, a person who believes in God (I use this term in the typical Judea/Christian sense) holds a paradigm allowing for forces beyond our material universe. They would argue some higher power outside of our material universe created our universe and directs it by his providence. But, due to the prevailing pressures from the scientific community (those who hold a neo-Darwinian worldview), many Christians are beginning to flirt with the idea that God used evolution to “create” and/or “direct” the world. In this blog I would like to define the term “evolution” so we can understand what the argument is actually about and try to answer whether some form of evolution is consistent with the Biblical account.
The term “evolution” has three distinct meanings in the scientific world; (1) change over time, (2) universal common ancestry, and (3) the natural mechanisms that produce change in organisms. Let us take a look at these three.
Evolution #1 “Change over Time”
Sometimes you may hear the distinction between macro and micro evolution. The latter refers to this first way the term “evolution” is used. For example, the recorded changes from biologists of a barren island transforming into a mature forested island community. This type of change over time happens in the animal kingdom as well. Just think of the different types of dog breeds we have today compared to a few hundred years ago. These changes result from a “proportion of different variants of a gene (called alleles) within a population over time.” (Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique; 35) I am not sure of any educated person who denies this type of evolution. This type of evolution is completely consistent with the Biblical account of creation. Genesis states God created plants and animals after their “kind” (Gen. 1:11-12, 21). This allows for God to create an original dog/wolf creature and then, allow it to change and “evolve” over time to the different types of wolves and dogs we see today.
Evolution #2 “Common Descent”
This type of evolution was popularized by Charles Darwin in his book On the Origen of Species. He argued that “probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form.” (Charles Darwin, On the Origen of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 484). It logically follows that no limits exists as to the morphological change that can occur in organisms. There are major scientific problems with this view. The fossil record being a big one. But further discussion on this point will be saved for future blogs.
Evolution #3 “The Creative Power of the Natural Selection/Random Variation Mechanism
In this third sense, “evolution” is used to describe the cause or mechanism that produces biological change. For modern neo-Darwinists, natural selection works through genetic mutations. We are forced to attribute the creative power to something and if it is not God, then, we must find another source. For those in a purely materialistic worldview, natural selection is attributed with the powers to create. I find it interesting that people who believe in natural selection speak out of both sides of their mouth. In one sense they say natural selection is a blind and pitiless process. On the other hand they use phrases like “natural selection chose”, “nature created”, or “natural selection gave us.” These sure do sound like decisions being made. But how is a decision (aka a willful choice) made by a blind pitiless process?!
In order to clarify the debate between the Bible and certain scientific theories we have distinguished between three ways the term “evolution” is used. From a Christian world-view, Evolution #1 is completely acceptable and I think the science is certainly overwhelming. Evolution #2 is inconsistent with the Christian worldview. There are certain Christians (Theistic Evolutionists) who claim God used and guided Evolution #2. But this view not only cherry picks the scientific evidence, thus making a mockery of true science, it also is terrible theology because it denies very clear and foundational Christian teachings that have been held historically by the Church. Finally, Evolution #3 is also inconsistent with the Christian worldview. The Bible states God created each plant and animal after their “kind” (Gen. 1:11-12, 21) and specially created man in his image (I know some Christians want to debate special creation of man/woman but that is a blog for another day). Furthermore, the Bible says God is the one who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). More on this last point in a future blog as well.
I know some, after reading this blog, will still think I may just be a Bible-thumper who doesn’t accept science. To the contrary, I absolutely love science, find it fascinating, and whole-heartedly believe it absolutely points to a reasonable conclusion that God exists and is active in our world. More blog posts to come on how science supports the idea of God!!!
(This blog is taken from my reading of chapter 1 from the book Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique)