Creation, Evolution, and the Bible

(Author's note: this blog post has the potential to offend some people that I call friends, and I know that up front. My goal is not to offend, but simply to start a discussion. So if you find yourself offended by this post, or disagreeing with it, I highly recommend commenting below, so long as we keep to a high minded and loving debate, not a war of name calling. Ok...on with the show!)

For a while now I've been leading worship for a friend's youth group on Sunday nights. A tremendous amount of people warned me that this church was super conservative, and that I shouldn't be doing this. But the truth is, I don't think there's that much that separates the conservative from the liberal (though I prefer the word "progressive", but we'll talk about that more later), and usually most Sundays I walk away feeling really good about what was being taught that night. The messages that are taught at this church are messages that could easily be taught at ours, if I only had the creativity to teach them!

That is of course until last night, when the topic was evolution.

Before I dive in, a couple of things to clear up. 1) I thought the teaching was incredibly well done, even though I disagreed with much of it. And 2) it takes some incredible guts to teach on this topic, knowing just how divisive and dangerous it can be. So before anyone starts jumping on the teacher of this message, know that I have the highest respect for him in the world. I just didn't agree with him.

It left me with a couple of questions that I've been running over in my mind all night and into this morning, and I thought I'd share them here and see if anyone has any thoughts.

#1. Why is the theory of evolution such a threat to Christianity?

I have honestly never heard a satisfactory answer to this question. We profess the greatest faith in the world, the love of Jesus Christ born in us, the power to conquer the grave. That's some powerful stuff! And yet when people start talking about evolution, an alarming number of Christians duck and cover (or worse, go on the offensive).

Really? That's what it takes to bring down the greatest story ever told? If in fact we are derived from monkeys, then Jesus doesn't love me any more? Really? Honestly if our faith is that weak, we need to re-examine some things.

#2. Are the scriptures literally true?
One of the answers I've gotten in the past that evolution is such a great threat to Christianity is that the Bible says that there was a 6 day creation. If this part of the Bible is not literally true, then we can't trust the rest of it. We need to defend the integrity of scripture.

Ok. First of all, the Bible doesn't agree with itself on the account of creation. If you read Genesis 1, you get the 6 day story, all the way down to a 7th day of rest. If you read Genesis 2, you find that the Bible says all of creation happens in one day, and that in fact it all happens in a different order than in Genesis 1.

But more important than that (and this may or may not be a sermon coming soon to the Bridge) is that the Bible does not have to be literal to be true. In fact, sometimes its least literal moments are its most true.

Take for instance the Prodigal Son. We all know this story, a boy tells his dad to essentially drop dead because he wants his cash, goes out and blows all of it on living like a teenager, and comes back to his father to find forgiveness and grace. It's a delightful story! The trick is, it never literally happened. There was no prodigal son. There was no inheritance given out. There was no pissed off older brother. This story is a parable of Jesus. He made it up. It never literally happened. What it does however, is it points to a significantly greater truth than the story alone could ever do. By itself, it's a heart warming tale of a father welcoming home his son. On a deeper level, it's the story of how a loving God can reclaim his fallen and sinful people. Even though it's not literal, it is incredibly and profoundly true.

If the world didn't come into being in exactly 6 24 hour days, does that negate the meaning of the story? I don't think so. I think the events that take place in Genesis 1 all say a few things about the story: that the world was created by a loving, intentional God; that somewhere along the way we didn't care very much for how God wanted things to be done and we started doing things our own way; and that God has been about the business of restoring his creation to the way it was before. The Genesis story can say all of those things and still allow a great deal of room for evolution and other ideas.

#3. Do we really need to demonize scientists?
Another thing that bothered me about the talk last night was the way in which we made science and scientists out to be bad guys. These are people just like us, out to find answers to some of life's more challenging questions.

When we feel threatened by them, and we start to put up walls and defend them, is there any chance that our scientist friends will ever know the deep and profound love that is Jesus Christ? If all they ever know of Jesus is that his followers really hate them and the work they're doing, are they likely to hop right on board? I doubt it severely.

If however we can agree that the theory of evolution doesn't actually pose a threat to the Christian faith, and we instead started talking about the INSANE amount of intricate details involved in the evolution process (i.e, perhaps there's something or someone bigger behind this) and that even with evolution going on, the world just doesn't seem to be the way it should be (fallen, broken, sinful), and that we represent a loving, caring, and intentional God who wants to restore the creation, no matter how it came to be, aren't they more likely to listen to what we have to say? If as Christians we believe firmly that our Jesus offers us the love and grace that the world is so desperately searching for, then why are we shutting people off to his power of love?

So anyway, these were the thoughts that were flooding my mind as I was on the way home last night. I'd love to hear yours in the comments below. Again, just keep to a loving and brotherly tone, or else I'll delete them (in love.)




David said...

Nice post J. I've always felt that the biggest problem facing Christianity is that it's followers take the Word too literally.

Something as powerful and awesome as Jesus (or really any religion for that matter) can't be destroyed by what species we came from.

Brad said...

Check out it's a great resource...Helped me a lot when fleshing out all of this :)

doubled said...

Hey Jason,

me/myself/I i have done a good bit of research on this topic, and I too think that Christians should not throw science into the wind, and take everything up on faith alone, however embrace science, and use it to help start/continue in a conversation with scientists when they start to bring up topics such as evolution. Now where you lost me with your blog was where God stopped and evolution began. When do you consider that time to be? Or is God still using evolution to make man, and us being in 'his image' has not been done yet?

Paul Pavao said...

Doubled: Exactly why do you think God "stopped" when evolution began? You have to be trained by conservatives to think like that. Why could God only create the world instantly? Why do you think he's not involved if he took his time?

Time's completely relative, anyway, so that's meaningless.

Jason: Excellent post. I commend you all the way down to your warm attitude to the conservative church you've been visiting.

Jason Freyer said...

Super glad you all posted and commented. Let me see if I can deal with everybody here:

David: thanks.

Brad: I'll have to check that out.

DoubleD: When you say that people were made in God's image, what exactly do you mean by that? Because if you mean that people physically look like God, I think that's a little bit of a over-simplification of that text. I think that to be in the image of God means to have a heart like God's, to want to do the things God can do. When you look at it that way, the next question would be when do we as a human species start to develop some of the traits that separate us from animals? When do we grow a conscious? When do we learn right from wrong? When do we learn to reason? These things are obviously different in us than they are in say my dog, and I think that's when we started to be made in God's image. Does that make sense, or was I just rambling?

Paul: My only caution in your thoughts was the use of the word conservative. I have such a hard time with this! In fact, there may be a blog post about this coming soon, but why is it a conservative idea to think the world was created in literally six days and a liberal idea to think that there was an evolutionary process? Why is it that it's considered to be a conservative idea to be deeply rooted in the word of God while liberals are often known for ignoring the Bible altogether in favor of "feeling" God through social justice? In other words, why have two completely political words with purely political meaning so deeply infiltrated our theology? Do I defend my beliefs because I believe them, or do I defend them simply because that's the "liberal" or "conservative" thing to do? Just a thought or two.

Thanks guys. This is fun! Keep it coming!



Justin said...


Google John Polkinghorne. Brilliant scientist/Anglican priest. Pretty amazing guy.