Now let us look at whether evolution theory should be an problem for Christianity. First of all what is biological evolution? In the Scientific terms it can be described as genetic change in a population from one generation to another. The speed and direction of change is variable with different species lines and at different times. Continuous evolution over many generations can result in the development of new varieties and species. Likewise, failure to evolve in response to environmental changes can, and often does, lead to extinction. We can imagine a population of brown and green beetles. Increasingly succesful predators prefer the green ones, and eventually the green ones will become less in numbers. If this continues to their end, the green ones will become extinct. Then later the environment changes. The remaining bettle population will adapt successfully to the new conditions offered or will eventually perish. This way life changes over hundreds of millions of years. Studies of blood protein and DNA show which species are closest related. Some see a problem in letting science add millions and even billions of years to our understanding of history. Such numbers are too big for us. The Bible says God is eternal, and that is not easier to grasp. What did God do before the supposed creation 6,000 years ago according to Young Earth Creationism? What did God do before the big bang, dated 13,77 billion years ago according to mainstream science? I don’t know if it is simple minded or heretical to say so but 125 billion galaxies could perhaps explain what keeps God busy. Certainly big numbers do not introduce a new problem to Christianity. The Mormons have a doctrine of eternal progression of Gods. They believe that God the Father was once a creature that progressed to Godhood. There are millions or billions of Gods in the universe whose offspring must strive for progression too. This way they have an extra-biblical story bringing more light on eternity but not making it any easier to understand. It’s noteworthy that evolution theory actually did exist in a primitive form among the ancient Greeks, a people that excelled in philosophy and science, whereas the Hebrews excelled in at least hygiene and limitation of birth defects. Anaximander was one of the first and much later the Roman Lucretius wrote of similar thoughts:
Anaximander (* c.610-547 B.C.) says that the first animals were produced in moisture, enclosed in thorny barks. When their age increased they came out into the drier part, their bark broke off, and they lived a different mode of life for a short time. Aetius (5.19.4) He also declares that in the beginning humans were born from other kinds of animals, since other animals quickly manage on their own, and humans alone require lengthy nursing. For this reason, in the beginning they would not have been preserved if they had been like this. Pseudo-Plutarch, Miscellanies (179.2) Anaximander… believed that there arose from heated water and earth either fish or animals very like fish. In these humans grew and were kept inside as embryos up to puberty. Then finally they burst and men and women came forth already able to nourish themselves. (R, 12)Censorinus, On the Day of Birth (4.7) And in the ages after monsters died, Perforce there perished many a stock, unable By propagation to forge a progeny. For whatsoever creatures thou beholdest Breathing the breath of life, the same have been Even from their earliest age preserved alive By cunning, or by valour, or at least By speed of foot or wing. And many a stock Remaineth yet, because of use to man . . . Lucretius (* ca. 99 BC – ca. 55 BC). On The Nature of Things, Book V
Do the Biblical creation accounts allow for evolution theory? We will take a look at the biblical creation accounts, foremost in Genesis 1-2:3 but also John 1:1-5 and Colossians 1:15-20. We should read these accounts considering the culture they were written in. There is a conflicts of interest here. If the accounts were written in a language agreeing with modern science, it would be an amazing witness today. It would also be an awesome testimony today if the book of Revelation spoke about airplanes and nuclear weapons. Oh boy, we could get those mocking atheists. But the first receivers and ancient man would be left behind. He would not understand talk about the Universe and even evolution. Imagine the volumes speaking of yet not discovered Things. In the case of Revelation, the 1st Century Christians would have a book written under severe persecution that they could not understand and that didnt concern them. I include some thought provoking quotes from Rabbi Rashi (as well as some of my own thoughts and quoutations), medieval Judaistic scholar and highly respected in Judaism, showing Judaism does not read the creation account like a science record saying the earth is 6,000 years old.
Genesis 1-2:3 Verse 1. Creation of heavens and earth. The whole account is from the phenomological perspective from ancient man watching the world, our planet. The universe is not in view. Rashi on verse 1: In the beginning: Said Rabbi Isaac: It was not necessary to begin the Torah except from “This month is to you,” (Exod. 12:2) which is the first commandment that the Israelites were commanded, (for the main purpose of the Torah is its commandments, and although several commandments are found in Genesis, e.g., circumcision and the prohibition of eating the thigh sinew, they could have been included together with the other commandments). Now for what reason did He commence with “In the beginning?” Because of [the verse] “The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations” (Ps. 111:6). For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they will reply, “The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us. Verse 2. The earth is chaotic and dark. Waters covering the earth. But God is there, his Spirit is moving upon the waters. Compare to Psalm 74 putting some further Ancient Near East perspective on the record: Psalm 74:12 For God is my King from of old, Working salvation in the midst of the earth. 13 You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents in the waters. 14 You broke the heads of Leviathan in pieces, And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness. 15 You broke open the fountain and the flood; You dried up mighty rivers. 16 The day is Yours, the night also is Yours; You have prepared the light and the sun. 17 You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter. (See Rashi on Genesis 1:21 quoted concerning the slaugther and feast upon sea serpents). What happened? Is it a chaosbattle with the ancient seaserpents (sea; chaos, mystery, sin, evil) with God as the winner implied? Or is a previous creation implied? Or is this a timeless chaotic state we are to read God created from/out of? We don’t know, but such speculation is certainly biblical valid. Compare also this language with the prophet Jeremiah on the destruction of the Jewish nation by the Chaldeans: Jeremiah 4:23 I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; And the heavens, they had no light. 24 I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, And all the hills moved back and forth. 25 I beheld, and indeed there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens had fled. 26 I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities were broken Down At the presence of the Lord, By His fierce anger. So despite verse 14-19, it is possible to imagine the destruction of a former system, that was then covered by a Chaos-sea. We looked at the meaning of heavens and earth in the paper about Revelation 21:1 in ANE culture. I think it is plausible to imagine something was before. Verse 3-5. Creation of day and night. Verse 6-10. Heavens and earth is made by God dividing the earth covering the sea into two, one part placed above the firmanent called heaven, one part below on earth and after this arrange the waters on earth in a manner where dry land appeared. To ancient man, the heavens looked like a great sea above was held back by a firmament or bowl. Rashi on verse 6: “Let there be an expanse: Let the expanse be strengthened, for, although the heavens were created on the first day, they were still moist, and they solidified on the second [day] from the rebuke of the Holy One, blessed be He, when He said, “Let there be an expanse.” This is what Scripture says (Job 26:11): “The pillars of the heavens trembled” the entire first day, and on the second day: “They were astonished by His rebuke,” like a person who stands in astonishment because of the rebuke of the one who frightens him. [Genesis Rabbah 12:10]” Psalm 136:6 To Him who laid out the earth above the waters, For His mercy endures forever; Verse 11-13. Gras and fruits trees are made on God’s command to the earth. Notice God speaks to the earth implying it understand. One of the great scholars of Judaism, the medieval Rabbi Rashi comments on verse 12: “And the earth gave forth, etc.: Even though לְמִינֵהוּ.“according to its kind,” was not said regarding the herbs when they were commanded [to grow], they heard that the trees were commanded thus, and they applied an a fortiori argument to themselves, [a קַל וָחוֹמֶר -from the minor to the major], as is explained in the Aggadah of Tractate Chullin (60a).” You don’t hear such quotes from Young Earth Creationists, when they appeal to the understanding of Jewish Rabbis. Verse 14-19. Lights are placed on the heavens, they are needed under the firmament, especially the son and the moon to divide night and day. Rashi on verse 14:Let there be luminaries, etc.: They were created on the first day, and on the fourth day, He commanded them to be suspended in the sky, and likewise, all the creations of heaven and earth were created on the first day, and each one was fixed in its proper place on the day that was decreed upon it. That is why it is written:“with the heavens (אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם) to include their products,”and with the earth (וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ),” to include its products. — [Gen. Rabbah 1:14] Rashi, on verse 16: “the two great luminaries: They were created equal, but the moon was made smaller because it brought charges and said, “It is impossible for two kings to use the same crown.” – [from Chullin 60b] Rashi (ad loc.) explains that this derash is based on the discrepancy of the two expressions, “the two great luminaries,” which intimates that the moon was a great luminary, and“the lesser luminary,” which intimates that the moon was smaller than the sun. To reconcile this difference, the Rabbis asserted that the moon was originally created equal to the sun, but, because of its complaint that the sun wielded the same power that it wielded, it was forced to relinquish that power.” Verse 20-25. Animals are made. Notice also that God speaks to the animals, implying they understand. So this is the background of the talking serpent, there was nothing unusual about his ability in this symbolism. Rashi on verse 21: “the…sea monsters: The great fish in the sea, and in the words of the Aggadah (B.B. 74b), this refers to the Leviathan and its mate, for He created them male and female, and He slew the female and salted her away for the righteous in the future, for if they would propagate, the world could not exist because of them. הַתַּנִינִם is written. [I.e., the final “yud,” which denotes the plural, is missing, hence the implication that the Leviathan did not remain two, but that its number was reduced to one.]- [from Gen. Rabbah 7:4, Midrash Chaseroth V’Yetheroth, Batei Midrashoth, vol 2, p. 225].” Rashi on verse 22: “And…blessed them: Because [people] decimate them and hunt them and eat them, they required a blessing; and the beasts also required a blessing, but because the serpent was destined to be cursed, He did not bless them, lest he [the serpent] be included. — [from Gen. Rabbah 11:3, Midrash Tadshe 1]” Re the serpent, Rashi on Genesis 3:1: “Now the serpent was cunning: What is the connection of this matter here? Scripture should have juxtaposed (below verse 21): “And He made for Adam and for his wife shirts of skin, and He dressed them.” But it teaches you as a result of what plan the serpent thrust himself upon them. He saw them naked and engaging in intercourse before everyone’s eyes, and he desired her. — [from Gen. Rabbah 18:6]. cunning, more than all: Commensurate with its cunning and its greatness, was its downfall- [it was] cunning, more than all, [and it was] cursed, more than all. — [from Gen. Rabbah 19:1]” Verse 26-27. Man is made in God’s image. Notice God is asking someone to participate here in verse 26. Judaism as well as modern Christian scholars say the angels. Yet God is attributed fully in verse 27, so if anyone participated creating, it was though God’s power. Chapter 2:1-3. The ending of the first creation account. God resting after his work on the very long creation day (Hebrews 4:1-5) resembles Christ resting after his resurrection in glorified state (Hebrews 1:3). It means that a significant divine job has been finished.
Despite all the to us mysterious ANE culture, the theological message comes across clearly; a God this powerful is one you should fear and revere, and He is the God of Israel.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
The Word / The Logos here bear resemblence to the Greek philospher Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) who lived long before John wrote his Gospel:
This Logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this Logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep. (DK 22B1)
The Logos, the Word is the reason behind all things. This term was wellknown in John’s time. Philo the Jewish Hellenist had linked the Logos from Heraclitus and other Greeks to the Word of God in the Hebrew scriptures. One examples from the Old Testatement is:
Isaiah 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
John is saying; this reason and purpose behind all things you Greeks talk about, is the Son of God. Christ is the Creator, Sustainer and Savior of all. He is the appointed Mediator and Heir by which the Father accomplishes all things, God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). A similar thought is found in Acts 17:23-31, although not about the Logos, but about an unknown idol worshipped by the Athens. Notice the past tense here and in Colossians 1:13-20. The Greeks spoke in past tense about future events they believed were sure to happen. For this reason, these passages could contain both a progressive creationism worldview and an evolutionary worldview. However it would be going too far to say the Bible contains any hint of ancient biological evolution. Now are there any serious conflicts between the Bible and evolution? I think the only perceived hard case is Adam. Often Adam is presented as the death blow to a theistic evolution compatible with the Bible. Simply put Adam and Eve as the first two humans biologically and historically is impossible to reconcile with the evolution of the great apes. As both Christ and Paul confirms the teaching and Paul even builds a case for the need of salvation upon all men descending from Adam, opponents of theistic evolution are very sure this settles the case. You must choose. The Word of God or those “satanic mainstream scientists”. Many theistic evolutionists seem quite defenseless on this issue. Paul’s argument can’t be saved. ADAM is not a historical person but ancient science and myth. It seems to me the belief in the natural immortality of the soul rather than conditional immortality (i.e. that the saved will become immortal) is “the serpent in paradise”. I was disappointed to see a prominent theistic evolutionist argue that the penalty to Adam was physical death in his recent books. He even quotes out of context from 1 Corinthians 15 that says if Christ is not risen, then the saints have perished. Being an immortal soul in God’s hands hardly qualifies as perishing and having no hope. If the punishment to Adam was physical death only, then God’s warning in Genesis 2:17 isn’t true. Mainstream theology must add a lot to the early Genesis chapters. Cain married his sister and God changed his mind about the penalty. No, the death spoken of in Genesis 2:17, 3:17-19, Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 is spiritual (really quite clear from Genesis 3:17-19 also) and based on the Hebrew totality concept of body and soul – and the spirit returns to God that gave it. So we don’t have to reject Romans 5 as some immortal soulism believing theistic evolutionists claim we must. The death that entered the world with Adam was spiritual death and as far as revealed to us, that kind of death can only happen to a human being in spiritual fellowship with God. Paul can be outdated on the science of his day but not on such a fundamental spiritual argument. But Adam and Eve are difficult to exegete. On one hand, Adam appears in a genealogy of what would become Israel, on the other hand he appears in an account with a sheltered garden, a talking snake and supernatural fruits. I think the proper solution is that Adam was a real person placed in a symbolic setting. I suggest Adam was the father of Israel –to-come the lineage described in Genesis 5. He is the first man as far as the record goes and first man in sense of first in rank. The teaching of federal headship is found in Romans 5, for instance:
Romans 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
This is God’s arrangement. Adam was appointed to that role regardless of his biology. It is totally irrelevant whether we are in his biological lineage or not. It doesn’t in any way explain or make “original sin” more logical. This view of Adam also explains why other people were around that we see in the never soberly and morally solved issue of Cain’s wife. Did I leave out something important? Comments are welcome.