Trying to Reconcile Evolution and Creation
Many Christians feel compelled to try to reconcile evolution and creation through a view called "theistic evolution." In this article we will examine whether there are legitimate ways to do this. But anyone who attempts to do so are up against an initial problem that evolution is essentially an atheistic philosophy. For the evolutionist, if God exists he is irrelevant. The following definition of evolution was the 1995 official Position Statement of the American National Association of Biology Teachers and is consistent with what other major science organizations mean by evolution:
"The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments."
The concept of evolution being a godless random chance process is emphasized throughout the writings of scientists. For example, consider the words of famous geneticist Richard Lewontin:
"It is not that the methods and insitutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannopt allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen."
Or consider this quote from Richard Dawkins: "miraculous additions at any one stage of descent...i.e. any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all."
From such quotes we may infer that it is either/or: either 100% evolution or 100% intelligent design. But the landscape here is getting murky. Some intelligent desing proponents are saying that evolution happened but also that God's supernatural intervention helped at certain key points. Here is an interesting article that actually puts scientists in four different camps on this question: Paul Nelson on Design and Common Ancestry.
First, let us make a distinction between "Old Earth Creationism," "Young Earth Creationism," and "Theistic Evolution." Old Earth Creationism says that God intervened in natural processes at key points, such as at the creation of man. This view is sometimes called Progressive Creationism. A difference between Old Earth Creationists and Young Earth Creationists is that Old Earthers do not see the 6-day creation account in Genesis as literal 24-hour days, but rather long indeterminant periods of time. Or they may say that the 6-days of Genesis were literal but there were very long gaps in between the days. The proponents of Old Earth Creationism believe that the Bible is fully compatible with the generally accepted view of scientists about the age of the earth and other details of science. The most well-known proponent of old earth creationism is astronomer Hugh Ross whose website is Reasons to Believe.
Young Earth Creationistists hold to a literal 6-day creation. But they also believe that their views are fully compatible with science—that the vast majority of scientific evidences that help date the age of the earth point to a very young earth. The proponents of this view include Answers in Genesis and The Institute for Creation Research.
The majority view among Christians, including those holding to Intelligent Design, is for an old earth.
Old earth (progessive) creationists believe that when the Bible says that there was no death before Adam's Fall, it means spiritual death only. This is a necessary belief for the progressive creationist because they assume that man was created by God long after other animals were created, and these animals lived and died essentially as they do now. So physical death came into the world prior to Adam.
Young-earth creationists disagree, saying that when the Bible says "death," it means physical death as well as spiritual death. And this physical death must applied to animals as well as mankind.
There are numerous other implications about how the book of Genesis is interpreted in this regard. This all interesting to the theologian. But we would emphasize here that the bigger debate is not about the age of the earth. The key point in the debate with evolutionists is whether God created the universe and life, or whether it was a matter of pure chance.
There are four basic categories of theistic evolution, which we will simply call TE-1, TE-2, TE-3. In discussion with proponents of theistic evolution, we have noticed that most have not thought their position very deeply. They simply hold to some sort of vague idea. By breaking down these various views we might help the reader to get a better grasp of the possibilities. Our thanks to Stephen Meyer at the Discovery Institute for some of this helpful thinking.
TE-1 says that God directed evolution and further that we can scientifically detect this. This view, along with young-earth creationism and old-earth creationism can be considered part of the Intelligent Design movement. All 3 groups believe that we can infer from rigorous scientic examination that an intelligent agent must have been involved in the origins of life and its various forms. TE-1 seems to be an extreme version of progressive creation in that God was involved in every tiny mutation and each "natural" selection event. As far as we know, there are yet no visible groups that are proponents of TE-1.
TE-2 says that God directed evolution but that this cannot be detected scientifically. This group seems to take their view of origins of man largely on faith as they offer no scientific explantion for it. If we understand their views, The BioLogos Forum is a proponent of this idea. Like TE-1, God intervened trillions and trillions of times into random processes. Here's an interesting article about this: Olasky on Evolution. Olasky points out that there are serious contradictions with this view and Christianity. Also see our article How the Bible and Evolution Conflict.
TE-3 says that God did not direct the evolutionary process in any way. Yet they still say that God was involved in the process somehow. Thus, they believe that God guided an un-guided process. This view is obviously logically contradictory and thus is impossible.
Deism. There is another view that allows God in the picture. It says that God created the universe and then stepped back and let things run on their own. Evolution by random chance then took over and became the mechanism by which lifeforms came into being. This view is called deism. While it is a possible view, it certainly is not Christian. The Christian God not only created the universe, but specifically created all life. Further, God is not only creator, but sustainer of the world as well. There is a further philosophical problem with deism that has led many theists who have studied philosophy to discard it. The problem is that under deism whatever is, is right. In other words, if God allows all events to happen, how can one say that any event or choice is wrong? Thus ethics has no meaning.
We might call this view "Deistic Evolution." And it seems that there are at least a couple of version of it, which can label DE-1 and DE-2. Here is how they might look:
DE-1. God's only role is that of creating the universe.
DE-2. It seems that a few people say that God created the universe and did not intervene again until raising Jesus Christ from the dead. This seems to be yet another attempt to reconcile Christianity with evolution. But there are numerous problems with this view as well. For example, why would you assume that humankind would even exist at all if God did not ultimately determine it? Is God involved in your life? Can you trust in a God that is not really sovereign in all things?
So, any form of deism brings the ire of atheists and Christians alike.
Some Christians trying to harmonize evolution and creation will make the statement, "I believe that God used evolution to create." This is a naive statement. In fact, it is an internal contradiction. By definition, evolution is purely a random chance process ("undirected material process") with no part by a Creator God. We believe it is impossible for the rational Christian to say that God used evolution to create.
A final consideration is that some Christians have attempted to reconcile creation and evolution by compartmentalizing science and religion. Under this view, the two disciplines attempt to find truth in different ways, and the disciplines should respectfully not interfere with each other. But this too is inconsistent with Scripture. This is merely succumbing to society's effort to marginalize Christianity. The Bible insists that its worldview is all encompassing (Romans 1:19-20; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 2:10).
And some Christians attempt to reconcile evolution with the Bible due to an unfounded concern that the Bible will not hold up to scientific scrutiny. This is an unwarranted fear. Concerning science and Scripture, while the Bible was not written as a science textbook, Christians should welcome the Bible being investigated through scientific endeavors such as archeology, geology, paleontology, etc. The Bible consistently holds up under such tests. It is now even recognized that the Bible correctly demonstrates pre-science knowledge throughout the science disciplines. And there are no scientific mistakes in the Bible (Defender's Study Bible, annotations by Henry Morris, page 1525).
See our essays at Tough Questions.
Christianity is not based on blind faith, but faith in evidence. The Bible teaches that we should use our minds (Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 22:37) to "test all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21) in light of evidence (Acts 1:3, 2:32; 1 Corinthians 15:6; Colossians 2:81), and to contend for the faith intellectually (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3). The Bible is trustworthy. Christians do not need to discount the Bible or to water down their faith by putting faith in the theory of evolution.
Conclusion: Creation and evolution are competing worldviews that cannot be successfully reconciled.
Evolution is poor science. It is a bankrupt philosophy that is harmful to society. It is contrary to Christianity. The evidence is greatly against it. Why are you still clinging to it?