Is it necessary for Christians to accept that evolution is the true explanation for how the human-race came into existence?
The Creation versus Evolution debate finds Bible-believing Christians on both sides. Many Christians are afraid even to consider the “Creationist” or “Intelligent Design” side. This is because they believe that modern Science has proven that Evolution is correct. So, to doubt this is to be anti-scientific. And if Christians are considered anti-scientific then this will undermine the credibility of the Christian message.
But just the fact that the debate is framed in these terms (Creation versus Evolution) should be a clue to why no Christian who believes in the God of the Bible and the Bible as God’s Word can accept that Evolution is correct. In order to see why, consider that the debate could also be described as “Creator versus No Creator”. To put it this way helps us to see that Evolution is an inherently anti-Creator and anti-Creation approach. We will see that this is most clear with regard to Cosmic Evolution. So, from a theological or philosophical standpoint Evolution is anti-theistic and therefore must be rejected by Christians!
And it can also be seen that Evolution has serious scientific issues. So it is entirely appropriate for scientists to challenge these. And there are plenty of credentialed scientists today doing legitimate research that challenges aspects of the Evolutionary model and also produces valuable results revealing God’s designs. Such scientists approach Science as the reverse-engineering of an incredibly designed System. But they face enormous resistance from the mainstream scientific establishment, which assumes that Evolution has become “settled Science”. Creationist or Intelligent Design scientists are opposed to the point of being excluded from the peer-review process of mainstream scientific associations. So they must work within their own associations.
We will begin with claim that Evolution is “settled Science”. This claim is intended to exclude all challenges to the theory. But, amazingly, to make such a claim is actually a violation of one of the most basic principles of Science! That is, that all scientific theories must remain open to challenges. And, in some cases, they must be replaced by better theories, if they prove to have better explanatory and predictive power.1
This was what occurred with the so-called “Copernican revolution” (from about 1500 until the early 1600’s AD), in which the scientific community shifted from believing that the earth was the center of the solar system (if not the entire universe) to believing (correctly) that the earth revolves around the sun (not the reverse). Another big example of a fundamental shift in scientific theories was that which went from Newtonian Physics to Einstein’s theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics (during the early 20th century).
The philosopher of Science Thomas Kuhn (in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”) pointed out convincingly that the history of Science is not one of a steady build-up of knowledge on unchanging foundations and guiding principles. Rather, it is one in which progress often requires theoretical “revolutions”, in which commonly-accepted models or “paradigms” are exposed as having more and more difficulties accounting for what is found in research. As a result, alternative models begin to be considered. If an alternative model is found which can explain what the currently-reigning theory can’t, then this theory will eventually replace the previous one. In other words, both the foundations and guiding principles sometimes change.
Over the past several decades more and more scientists and others (Christians as well as non-Christians) are seeing that there are serious and, even, fatal philosophical and scientific problems with Evolution. This is causing many to abandon this model for a better one.2 And, in this case, the better one is actually the one which preceded it and which served as an entirely adequate foundation for Science for centuries: Biblical Creationism. Indeed, it was adequate enough that the modern age of Science was born during this time.
Contrary to a common conception, the Biblical view had come to be rejected by more and more scientists and other intellectuals not for scientific reasons, but for philosophical or theological reasons (or more accurately, anti-theological reasons). It was not that Science was showing the errors of the Bible. Rather, there was a widespread shift in which more and more scientists and other academic leaders simply didn’t have faith in the divine origin and reliability of the Bible. Instead, they had become convinced that it was merely a product of ancient men from a “pre-scientific” age, who were therefore quite ignorant of Science. And if this was the case then the Bible could not possibly serve as the foundation for modern Science.
So it was not research which drove the change. Rather it was a desire for a different model which caused a fundamental change in how research would be done. The model which would prevail would be Charles Darwin’s Evolutionary model. The history of Darwin’s work clearly shows that this is how his theory prevailed.
There are two basic aspects of Evolution:
Biological Evolution (or “Natural Selection”): the theory that all living things evolved from inanimate matter to simple organisms to increasingly complex ones due only to the operation of undirected natural forces acting on matter-energy over eons of time
Cosmic Evolution (or “Big Bang” Cosmology): the theory that the entire universe developed due only to mindless natural forces acting on matter-energy in space-time
While it is theoretically possible that God could have brought us into existence by an evolutionary process (a view known as Theistic Evolution), it is quite easy to see that Cosmic Evolution is based on the assumption that there is no Creator. In other words, it is a fundamental rejection of the first 4 words of the Bible: “In the beginning, God . . .” But, in reality, Biological Evolution is also based on this assumption.
Both the belief that the universe and life evolved are based on the assumption that only natural forces exist. This is known as Naturalism.3 So, the believer in evolution will always seek to explain what exists by means of natural forces only. But the Christian cannot accept this.
First, Naturalism sees natural forces as mindless and as functioning according to natural necessity, without any possibility of variation due to deliberation and choice. But it simply can’t be that only this type of forces exists because we have minds and make choices!4
Second, the assumption that there can only be natural forces is a logical fallacy. It could never be possible to know this because it must always be considered as possible that there are other forces besides natural ones. Indeed, putting aside the possibility that there is an All-powerful Creator for a moment (something which could never be ruled out), it is not even possible to rule out that there could be some other far more advanced being or race with cosmic-level power, who could have influenced the development of life on earth and, even, the development of the entire universe in ways which we could not detect.5
But the main reason that Evolution can’t be correct is because the Creator God does exist and everyone inevitably knows this (as was asserted in the previous chapter). So the simple truth is that all of today’s speculation about the origin of the universe and the origin of life is fundamentally flawed. In fact, the stunning truth is that it is just not possible to know what happened in the distant past and also what will happen in the future based on understanding how the forces of nature work today. Why is this? Because just the possibility that there is a Creator God will always be a huge uncontrollable and unaccountable Variable, Who makes all projections from the present to the past or the future invalid. And this is not just a possibility, it’s a certainty that is actually known by all!
The God of the Bible is “the ultimate Elephant in every room”: A Presence that one may wish to ignore, but Whose existence is ultimately inescapable. But God is also the ultimate Wild Card, Who is free to intervene in His Creation at any time. (How often God actually does this is a subject of debate among Christians. But that God can intervene anytime He wants is not in debate.)
It is just not possible for us to understand how God created the world because He was not bound by the laws of Nature which He Himself created. No matter how we understand Genesis 1, the Creation period must be seen as being a period of supernatural activity. The natural order that we observe today only began after this period. The Bible itself hints at this distinction in Genesis 2:5-6, which says that natural processes: plants springing up and rain, along with human agriculture based on these processes, had not yet begun to occur at the time that God created the first human-beings.6
By its nature, Science can only study natural processes. So it can only study how the natural world has developed since the end of the supernatural Creation period. It cannot possibly show us what happened within this period (or how long this period lasted). This is also why the assumptions of a very old earth and universe and that life took millions of years to develop are also fundamentally flawed.
The idea that the universe has “the appearance of age” is based on the faulty assumption that only natural forces were responsible for producing what we observe today. But if there is an All-Powerful Creator (as we know there is), then this Creator could have created everything at whatever rate and in whatever order or manner that He chose.
Some Christians see problems in understanding Genesis 1 as a chronological account of how God created the universe, the earth and its life. But there really are no unavoidable contradictions in doing so.7 It is important to realize that the description of the Creation in Genesis is in non-technical language, which the Bible’s original readers could understand. But that it is not in scientific language does not mean that it is in conflict with Science.
Science can and has helped us understand the Bible. But the Bible can and has also helped us understand Science. Indeed, there would be no Science unless God had created a universe with reliable laws. And there would be no scientists except that God created us in His image, with minds capable of understanding His designs. Indeed, the great astronomer Johannes Kepler described the task of scientists and other intellectuals as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”. He is correct.
That the universe is the Creation of an All-Powerful God means that it can’t be ruled out that God created everything in six 24-hour days. An All-Powerful God certainly could have done this. And, again, the complaint that it appears that everything is much older is actually the result of “smuggling in” the faulty assumption that there were only natural forces at work.
Furthermore, what is true about the entire Creation in terms of antiquity can also be seen to be true about the antiquity of the human-race. And, in this case, the Bible has actually provided a timetable. The genealogies in Genesis 5 & 11 are both given in such a way that the total elapsed time can be calculated. This is because the age of the father at the time of the birth of his principal heir is always given. So the amazing truth is that the human-race is only about 6000 years old! To deny this is to say that the Bible is wrong.
Of course, there is much evidence presented that this can’t be true. But it can be seen that all of this evidence is either based on the flawed Naturalist assumption that we considered previously (which actually makes all radiometric dating invalid, along with many Geological assumptions), or it is based on dubious archaeological assumptions.
And just as the beginning of the universe was determined by God, so will the end of earth and the universe as we now know them. (2 Peter 3:10-13 is a key passage discussing what the end of the current order, also known as the “Eschaton”, will entail.) This is why the more extreme forms of environmentalism and climate-change fears today are wrong. We cannot possibly destroy the planet or make the human-race extinct. Why? Because God has other plans!
However, environmentalism in itself IS Biblical because it is based on God’s assignment to the human-race to be the stewards of our world, as the ruler over all life on earth. Genesis 1:26 says this:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’”
That the human-race has dominion over the rest of living things is actually an amazingly advanced idea considering the fact that it was first communicated to us in written form at least 3000 years ago! And two verses later God says this:
“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
So, contrary to Naturalism, we are not at the mercy of the earth. Rather, we are called to subdue the earth. And human history has been the steady fulfillment of this assignment from God. Indeed, this is especially through the advance of Science! On the other hand, none of this could be explained if we are merely the most sophisticated product of mindless natural forces. Nor would our concern for the environment make sense.
It is true that some other forms of life exist in symbiotic (mutually-beneficial) relationships. But there is no parallel elsewhere in Nature for our concern for our environment or for the survival of other species. Indeed, animals are often known to destroy their own food supply, make other species extinct or ruin their environment in other ways.
Finally, believers in evolution say that extinction is part of the natural order and is inevitable for all species eventually, including us. But they consistently contradict this in practice insofar as they bemoan the extinction of any species, as well as in their concern about our future extinction and in their passionate efforts to prevent this. Indeed, in acting this way they act in the way that God created them to act.
It important to note that the same problem also applies to those who regard climate-change as “settled Science”. Ironically, people who treat both Evolution and Climate Science in this way fall into the same type of dogmatic resistance to challenges that religious people have often been criticized for, and rightly so.
- Along with this is the assumption that only material entities exist (known as Materialism or Physicalism).
- We will focus mainly on the philosophical/theological issues here. But there are plenty of resources for those who are interested in the scientific issues. A good video introduction to this is “Evolution’s Achilles Heels”. And a good website is CreationEvolution.org. A good book that introduces readers to both the scientific and philosophical/theological issues is Jason Lisle’s “The Ultimate Proof of Creation”.
- Naturalism says that everything that happens, including everything that we do, is determined solely by mindless forces of Nature. This means that everything occurs according to a strict mechanical or chemical necessity. After all, physical or chemical processes don’t make choices. There are those who cannot accept this view because it is too deterministic (and rightly so). So they attempt to avoid the determinism that is entailed in Naturalism by appealing to what is known as “the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle” and “quantum fluctuation”. This is the principle that says that everything in the universe is actually constantly moving randomly, so that we can never know exactly where anything is. But this won’t work. For it would only replace an absolute determinism with pure randomness. This can’t account for human experience either!
- Some evolutionary scientists suggest that life on earth was “seeded” by some life-form which came from somewhere else. (Spoiler alert) There was a popular film, “Mission to Mars” that was based on this idea. But to explain life on earth in this way doesn’t solve the problem of how life begins, it would just push it back another step. One would still have to explain how this other life-form came into existence.
- The notion that ancient humans were utterly ignorant of Science is simply a false modern prejudice. It has always been necessary for people to understand forces (like gravity) and processes of Nature (like how plants grow) in order to survive. That such knowledge was not formally recognized until later is irrelevant. The Biblical phenomenon of miracles illustrates this. Far from undermining the natural order, the only way that miracles could be recognized as signs of something special happening is that people were capable of recognizing that they were violations of what was normally expected to happen.
- Two prominent objections are worth considering. First there is the supposed problem of the existence of light on the first day of the Creation period prior to the creation of the sun and stars on the fourth day. But God could certainly have created light directly, without creating a light-producing object. Indeed, in Israel’s time in the wilderness God manifested His Presence as a light-producing Glory-cloud. And in the picture of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:23 it says: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” . . .
The second is known as “the distant starlight problem”. If the earth is only 6000 years old, then it would not seem possible to see any object that is over 6000 light-years away. There are 2 possible resolutions to this problem. One is that the method of determining the distances of objects in the universe is fundamentally flawed so that everything we see is actually within 6000 light-years away. But this doesn’t seem possible. So the explanation that I favor is that the speed of light is not a constant. Instead, it was virtually infinite at first, but has been slowing down in a reverse-logarithmic fashion since the beginning of the universe. In other words, its speed went down very quickly at first. But now its slowing is at such a low rate that it appears to be steady. This would explain how we can see very distant objects.