Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Answers in Creation and Evolution

Premier Christianity publishes the 10 questions about evolution that John McKay of Creation Research would like answered by Christians who believe in evolution.
Oddly enough, the answers given aren't from a Christian who believes in evolution.  So, maybe I can help...

1. If the Bible was your only source, would you ever suggest that Jesus Christ used evolution?

The Bible isn't my only source. And it isn't a set of books about geology or, really, cosmology. God has given me a brain and a lot of sources - including the fossil strata I can see in the cliffs of Somerset, the little sea shells in the greensand of Husborne Crawley, radiocarbon and the measurements we can make of outer space.

To be honest if the Bible were my only source, I'd have to assume I were living in some kind of isolation tank, and would have to wonder what green plants, earth, dust, snakes and other people even were. And how I learned to read.

As for whether "Jesus Christ" used evolution, I refer you to Q3.

2. Why do you believe rocks containing thorns are millions of years old? 

Genesis isn't giving me a system for dating rocks. It's telling me something about the state of humanity in this world. We're here to care for it and each other. But every time we try to do things in our own strength we cock it up. We try to seize power thinking we're so clever and yet we constantly get it wrong. "There is no health in us."

But then if I wanted to find the age of the rocks that I found a fossil in, instead of reading a reflection on God's goodness and humanity's ability to foul things up, I'd use radio-isotope dating and comparison of rocks to others with similar fossils. And then if someone came up with a genuine, provable reason why this were mistaken, I'd reconsider the conclusions. Which is what scientists do.

3. Why would you believe that Jesus the Creator used such processes to create the world, and then hypocritically declared it to be “very good”?  (Genesis 1:31)

I'm a bit worried about the use of "Jesus the Creator". I know that the man Jesus is also the divine Word through whom all things were created. But before the universe was brought into existence, Jesus did not exist per se as far as I can tell. So to say that it was Jesus Christ who declared all things "very good" strikes me as implying that Jesus was teleported into this world rather than the union of God and humanity occurring at the conception of Our Lord.

Leaving this to one side, this world is good. It has beauty, the consistency and logic of the Logos himself. It is also terrifying and awesome - a world which knows the same pain that the Saviour bore.

You know, isn't it the case that the Saviour, in dying on the cross, is God kind of taking responsibility for creating a world where pain and suffering and death are the preconditions of a greater life? 

Because I'll be honest, when God (not Jesus) declared all to be good then, even if the Bible is literally and historically true, that good creation included a certain snake. And that weren't good, were it?

4. Why would God use a process which favours the strong over the weak?

I think there are two problems with your question. Evolution doesn't favour the strong over the weak. That's Conservatism. Evolution favours the fittest, at any given time, to reproduce. Let me give you a random example. The tiny little furry vole-like mammals survived while the dinosaurs all died. 

There's gnats all over the place - not least because Burton Dasset hasn't picked up the windfall apples in the Orchard - but where's a mammoth when you need one?

The other is - God uses all sorts of processes we don't think are nice or fair, or where the balance is in the favour of the strong. The Babylonian exile. The death of Jesus - a process that favoured the strong over the weak. The persecution of the early Christians, which spread the Gospel across the world. In fact, we see God on earth most of all on that Cross where the strong triumph over the weak- but then find the victory overturned.

5. How do you reconcile the truth of God's word with millions of years?

By not making irrelevant comparisons. God's word is about God's purposes and our meaning, eternal destinations and our inability ever to fit quite right in this current world. Geology and cosmology tell me how the earth came about, not why.

6. At what point did humans become humans?

Don't know, couldn't know, don't care. As our Lord almost said to Peter about St John, that's someone else's story

7. Was Jesus mistaken?

[Why did Jesus base his teaching on marriage by using Genesis 1 & 2 as literal history?]

It doesn't make any difference to what Jesus taught whether he thought Gen 2 were literal history. The story of the Good Samaritan isn't literal history as far as I'm aware but the moral is pretty clear.

8. How can we trust God?

[Why should we trust God to keep trouble out of the new earth if God created it through evolution, death, disaster and woe?]

According to Genesis, God created a world that had the potential for, and a causal agent of, the Fall - which caused all sorts of problems- in it. Yet that world was "good". I trust God because God's Word entered the world, journeyed with us, and died like we do. That makes God authentic for me.

There's also the slightly worrying thought that, if God were weird, random and chaotic, we'd have to trust God in that as well, because God is God. I don't believe that, however much it make look that way some times. 

9. If evolution is true, then why didn't God simply tell us that?

The 6 days in Genesis are telling us nothing about how the world came about.  But in the middle of a polytheistic world, where the Babylonians thought the world was created after a battle between the gods where a sea-dragon had her body cut in half, Genesis tells us that the true God is one, the creation is ordered and - unlike those religions that compared a pure spiritual realm - the universe is good. Trustworthy, reasonable, capable of scientific investigation.

The Bible also doesn't tell me about nuclear physics, fluid dynamics, viruses or the American continent. But I'm pretty confident they exist.

10. What would the Apostle Paul make of the theory of evolution?  

He was a clever bloke. I'm sure he'd have got it. And like many pre-modern thinkers he was capable of dealing with illustration and analogy.


  1. Thanks for this helpful set of observations.

  2. I think that these thoughts are helpful to those who struggle with creation stories. And in this Creation Season, perhaps they should be published on the CofE website?


Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl