Monday, March 3, 2008

A Theological Look at Theistic Evolution

I must admit, ever since I was young, I have always been trained with the belief that God created the earth in six literal days, without a gap, and certainly without biological Macro evolution playing any part in the process. Every time I went to a museum that referenced any fossil as being over a “million years in age” my parents would kindly explain why that wasn’t true, and how that contradicted Scripture. I thought that every Christian believed the earth was less than ten thousand years old, and couldn’t fathom why anyone who believed the Bible would also hold to Darwinism. I even remember one time when I was about 11, crying for over an hour when I found out that one of my close relatives believed in evolution. My initial response was, “If my relative believes in evolution than they can’t be saved, and if they aren’t saved, then they aren’t going to heaven!” That thought frightened me a great deal, and although I’m reasonably convinced that this particular relative of mine is in fact saved, I still struggle with the idea that a soundly saved Christian can believe in Evolution. Before I continue, I must also let you know that my education regarding origins hasn’t been a complete fundamentalist-Christian indoctrination program. My parent’s made sure to give me both sides of the debate while I was home-schooled, and since those times I have had many experiences in College with Darwinian thought. Creation apologetics has become a bit of a hobby for me. I find the scientific arguments for it fascinating, the theological arguments water proof, and the philosophical arguments (my personal favorite) extremely potent. In this short Theological look, I don’t want to address anything scientific, or anything philosophical; in fact, I don’t even want to address the incompatibility of Macro evolutionism and Genesis. All I endeavor to do is answer that old question that used to trouble me so much. Is believing Macro-evolution a heresy?
In discussing the topic of Macro Evolution, It must be clearly understood that there are two distinct types of Theistic-Evolutionists. The first group I will call the “Ignorant Theistic Evolutionists”. This is a group of many shades and colors, because there are many different degrees of ignorance. It should be noted that the word “ignorant” is not meant to be a cut in any way, shape, or form. Ignorance simply means “without knowledge”. I myself am ignorant in so many topics it’s not even funny. Ignorance does not have to disqualify someone from becoming saved. When I got saved at 6 years old, I had no clue what a virgin was, but I didn’t deny the fact that Mary was a virgin. Someone can be saved and not completely understand every detail about the fundamental doctrines. Therefore, in my opinion, it is entirely possible for people that hold to this belief to be born-again.
The most ignorant of the Theistic Evolutionists are the ones that simply haven’t put the time into studying both Genesis and Darwinism. They haven’t addressed the issue, and therefore it really isn’t even an issue for them. Others in the Theistic Evolution camp have put more time into studying the issues. They may know Darwinism like the back of their hand, and they may even know a lot about Genesis, but they haven’t thought through the ramifications of reconciling the two. It’s only a matter of time before these educated individuals become aware of the contradictions that come about when the biblical account is put in conflict with Darwin.
The second major group I’d like to address in the realm of Theistic Evolutionism is the “Rebellious Theistic Evolutionists”. This group, in my opinion, is full of unregenerate people who aren’t saved. They have studied both issues, they see the contradictions within the two world-views, and they have rejected the biblical account. I don’t think I need to extensively point out the importance of Genesis or the vital doctrines within the Creation account since most Christians at least generally understand them. I will quickly summarize them so it can be clearly understood where it is I’m coming from, just so no one gets the wrong idea.
Our most important characters in the Bible believed in a literal Genesis. Jesus, Moses, Paul etc. commonly talk about Genesis as if it is literal truth. Also many important doctrines come directly from our Creation account. The total depravity of man, the trinity, the Adamic dispensation, the first reference to Christ (“the seed of the woman”), the role of woman, the role of man, and insights into the nature of God just to name a few. The most important and fundamental doctrine within Genesis is the doctrine of original sin. In Romans it says that “Death came by sin”. Now let’s put this in perspective. If death came by sin, and Theistic evolutionists believe that there was Millions of years of death before Adam (the first man) sinned then we have a heresy. Death is not what brought man into the world. Man is what brought death into the world according to Scripture. Sin is what “brought forth death”. If sin really didn’t bring forth death then it would be logical to assume that God was the one who brought forth death. A God who would bring forth death is a different God then the God of Scripture. It is imperative to have the right Jesus in order to be saved. “Rebellious Theistic Evolutionists” have really knowingly accepted a heresy.
A sub-group that can fall into either category is the “Allegorical Theistic Evolutionists”. I believe there are people from this group in both the “Ignorant,” and “Rebellious” camps of Theistic Evolutionism. I commonly will run into, or here, about people who say, “Genesis was just an allegory. It wasn’t meant to be taken literally!” Some people haven’t studied English enough to differentiate between genres of literature and have thus been duped by supposed experts. Unfortunately, I have to believe that others just use this phrase simply to be accepted in certain “Christian” circles.
There are many ways in which to combat this attack on Genesis. You could use scientific and philosophical arguments, but I fear that a belief in Darwinism is more of a theological error than anything else. Here’s the way I’d approach someone who insists that Genesis is allegorical. I’d Talk to him/her about how to interpret scripture using hermeneutical principles such as, “Authorial Intent”, “Scripture interprets scripture”, and “Contextual Insight”. If the author(s) of Genesis intended something other than literal interpretation, then what kind of interpretation did they intend? Both Jesus and Moses refer to Genesis as literal truth. The context of Genesis in its entirety is written as a literal account. Why would we assume that only the creation account is allegorical? What does each element of the creation account refer to if it’s symbolic? I never have gotten a straight answer to that question. In short, “What reason within the text is there to conclude that Genesis is an allegory?” We don’t assume that Jesus was in the tomb for three million years do we? We conclude that “a day” means “a day” in that scenario. Show the evolutionist that the order of creation doesn’t match Darwin’s order in the process of evolution. Ask him/her why God can’t do things the way He said he did them. These are only a few of many questions to ask someone who says, “Genesis is an allegory”.
If someone responds and says that Genesis isn’t literal because “a thousand years equals a day in the sight of the Lord,” then gently point out that it’s “thousands”, not millions of years. Also point out that the context of Psalm 90:4 is allegorical. ALLEGORICAL!! You mean to say that it’s an allegory and not literal? Yes, that’s precisely what I mean. Verse 2 says that the “mountains were born”. Were mountains really born? I don’t think so. If you read the whole chapter, it’s obvious that it’s an allegory. It says in verse 4 that “a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night.” Notice the word “like”. It doesn’t say “is”, it says “like”. The context of the Genesis account and Psalm 90 are also talking about two totally different things. But what if someone uses 2nd Pet. 3:8-9?; where it says, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” First point out that the context is judgment, not creation. Secondly, point out that it says, “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” If a thousand years are like a day, I guess it cancels out the thought that a day is like a thousand years doesn’t it? You see, it makes no sense. It’s cherry-picking scripture to make it conform with pseudo science. It’s a pretext, not a context. The point of both passages is that God’s realm is outside of ours. What may seem long to us isn’t long to him. God wouldn’t write something from a perspective that excludes us from understanding. The Bible was made for man to comprehend and obey.
In conclusion, Theistic Evolution is a heresy when taken to its logical outcome: i.e. having death before sin. Also, it is possible to believe in evolution and still be saved if one believes out of ignorance. In all honesty, I personally know many people that are Theistic evolutionists, and I can still have godly Christian fellowship with them, because I understand that they haven’t totally considered all the consequences of Darwinist thought. If you are a Theistic Evolutionist reading this, please keep in mind that your salvation rests upon the finished work of Jesus Christ, not your belief about creation, however it is essential that you have the right Jesus. The question you must ask yourself is, “Do you?”

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