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Austin Grigg

Husband, father of three boys, dabbling theologian, web developer and business owner.

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Theistic Evolution

This is the second in a series of posts looking at tough theological questions. If you missed the intro, check it out here.
The vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.
Werner von Braun, the father of space science1
Theistic evolution is a concept that asserts that classical religious teachings about God are compatible with the modern scientific understanding about biological evolution.2

I'll put all my cards on the table early: I don't believe that the two are compatible; however, I want to be very clear that this is an open-handed issue (we can absolutely disagree and still have a foundation of faith in Jesus). My hope is that by more deeply understanding the beginning we can more clearly view the Gospel.

I've written before about my understanding of evolution growing up and how that has shifted ofter the past few years. The reason it seems worth addressing again is that I'm seeing more and more that evolutionary theory is becoming a real stumbling block (or at the least a convenient excuse) from believing in God. If evolution explains the origins of the universe and that we are a result of natural selection, then there is no need of a God to speak everything into existence. Now, theistic evolution holds to the idea that there is a creator and that He used evolution as the creation process. We'll look at some of the evidence around that, but my concern is that if we teach evolution as truth, people will take or leave God because they don't see Him as necessary.

The Scientific Evidence

I genuinely believe that the Bible and science are not at odds. God created all things and put the scientific laws into motion -- which means it shouldn't surprise us when He does things outside of those laws. Here are a few scientific examples that undermine evolution and give evidence for what we see in the Bible.

Polystrate Fossils - Polystrate fossils3 are trees that have been fossilized upright in layers of sediment. Evolutionists claim that these fossils were created over millions of years as sediment slowly covered the tree. The problem with that theory is wouldn't the tree have rotted? Another scientific explanation is that the tree was covered very quickly by sediment by a cataclysmic flood. These trees are all over the globe and are a well-recognized phenomenon.

Darwin's Evidence - This article4 was very eye opening to how many of the evidences that Darwin rested his theory of evolution have been disproven by more recent scientific research. A few of the examples that stuck out:

Faked Embryos - "Darwin thought 'by far the strongest single class of facts in favor of his theory came from embryology.'" German biologist Ernst Haeckel produced drawings of various vertebrates to show that at early stages they were almost identical; however the embryos in reality do not look as close as Haeckel drew them (in some cases he used the same wood cut for difference species). Haeckel also drew embryos at later stages, not early on when Darwin said they should be most similar.

Life in a Bottle - Scientists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey did an experiment in 1953 to try to simulate the earth's early atmosphere. They created a hydrogen rich environment and sent a spark through a test tube which created amino acids. The two problems with this experiment are that scientists have not made much progress getting past amino acids and scientists now are in consensus that the Earth's early atmosphere had volcanic gasses which is very different from the environment Miller and Urey created.

Piltdown Man - In 1912, Charles Dawson found a partial human skull that he claimed to have ape-like lower jaw and teeth. It was later discovered that the whole thing was a hoax and and that the jaw had been chemically treated and the teeth filed down to make them look more human.

Biochemistry - The sheer complexity of life and the human body point toward an intelligent designer and the impossibility of us randomly coming about. Darwin said, "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." Biochemist Michael Behe has found multiple examples of complex molecular contraptions, such as cilia and bacterial flagella, that are extremely unlikely to have been build piece-by piece, because they have to be fully present in order to function at all.5 The more the human body is studied, the more unique and well-designed scientists are discovering it is.

The Theological Evidence

I believe that the scientific evidence against evolution and for Biblical creation is compelling, but I also think there are vast Biblical evidences against evolution.

God Spoke the World into Being  - Genesis 1:1 says that "God created the heavens and the earth." and that he spoke it into being (Genesis 1:3 "God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light.")

God Created Everything in 7 Days - There is much debate around whether God created the world in a literal 7 days or metaphorical. The Bible is fully of history, poetry, biography, genealogy, and personal letters. Jesus speaks much of the time in parables that are not supposed to be historical events, but stories that reveal truth. The key is always context and Genesis 1-2 reads like history to me. It doesn't begin with a story or a comparison, it just begins to tell how God made the heavens and the earth. Very matter-of-fact it describes the process of creation and says "and there was evening and there was morning, the first day" (Genesis 1:5) Why include the detail of evening and morning if it is just a metaphorical day?

Fall of Man - This is one of the most compelling theological arguments to me against evolution. Genesis 3 makes very clear that sin and death entered the world when Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This idea of the fall (that we were created in communion with God and separated by sin in the Garden of Eden) is not just in Genesis, but foundational throughout the whole Bible. Romans 5:12 says "Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned."

So, if evolution is true, then humans were the result of the evolutionary process which took millions of years and during those millions of years things were living, dying, and evolving until humans came into existence  The problem is, if we believe that sin and death entered the world at the fall when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, then there is a major problem with evolution because its premise is that there was death from the beginning.

Character of God - This was one of the things that originally made me take a second look at what I believed in regard to creation. The understanding I have of God from the Bible is that He is intimately involved. He proved in Jesus that He is a God who is not far off, but one who is willing to get His hands dirty and sweat and strive with us. I just don't see that same God spinning up the world through an evolutionary process and then standing back to let it takes its course. The picture we find in Genesis is God taking the earth, like a potter, and getting His hands covered in mud as he artfully crafted us and every living thing. That image is much more in line with the God I know from the rest of the Bible.

At the end of the day, can you believe in evolution and be a Christian? Absolutely yes. Can you believe in Biblical creation and still pursue truth and scientific evidence? Yes. I want to study, and learn, and search for the truth, but in the end I've found the Bible to more reliable than any scientific theory.

  1. Quoted in Case for a Creator, pg 273. Originally from "Gone Bananas," World (September 7, 2002)
  2. Definition taken from this Wikipedia article
  3. More information about polystrate fossils can be found at
  4. From the article Survival of the Fakest.
  5. Lee Strobel, Case for a Creator, pg 281.

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