Creation vs. Evolution: The Imaginary Divide

The one who first states a case seems right,

until the other comes and cross-examines.

(Proverbs 18:17)

dalexanderI don’t know how often it happens that a person reads something which actually changes their mind on an issue, but I will say that reading CREATION OR EVOLUTION: DO WE HAVE TO CHOOSE? clarified enough issues in my mind regarding creation and evolution to put me more firmly in one camp in this debate.

A dozen years or so ago I began teaching an Introduction to Religion course at the University of Dayton which had as one of its required readings Genesis 1-3.  The students in my class held to a wide range of views on the issues related to creation versus evolution, and their questions and attitudes caused me to constantly reflect on my own beliefs regarding these issues.  I previously wrote about my own evolution in thinking on these issues in my blog Christianity and Science.

I held some vague ideas that Genesis 1-3 was true, and that evolution was true, and that these two sets of truth were somehow compatible, though I hadn’t thought out clearly what that meant or even if that was possible.  Years of teaching the Introduction to Religion course forced me to investigate more about the claims of evolution, of creationists, of intelligent design advocates, and of what truth meant when applied to Genesis 1-3.   I read books defending evolution and others advocating intelligent design.  I read more into how the Church has understood and used Genesis 1-3 in its own theology, Christology and soteriology.  The reading in Genesis, theology and hermeneutics caused me to realize Genesis 1-3 was not written to be science but was really geared to speak to the question, “For a theist, what does it mean to be human?”   Doing a detailed study of the text showed me that reading it absolutely literally was not the best way to understand the text (see my book QUESTIONING GOD). 

While I became more informed on the issues, the polemics and the polarization which pervade the creation versus evolution topic, I was willing to live with the ambiguities of how to live with the contradictions which the various points of view represented.  The contradictions did not seem to have any real resolution since each author would dismiss the claims of his or her antagonists and no one seemed capable of considering the merits of other points of view.

In CREATION OR EVOLUTION: DO WE HAVE TO CHOOSE, Denis Alexander does a wonderful job of looking at the issues of evolution and creation both from the point of view of science and that of Christianity.   Alexander is unabashedly Christian and unapologetically a scientist.  He does in his book what I had looked for the longest time to find: he considers both issues, evolution and creation from the two different perspectives of science and Christianity.  I found his writings balanced, informative and illuminating.  His book is endorsed by the Evangelical great J.I. Packer and by Dr. Francis Collins, Head of the Human Genome Project, USA.  He lays out the argument for evolution, and explains the theology of creation and Genesis, and makes an effort to weave the two together.  He points the serious scientific shortcomings of intelligent design and shows it to be more a culture war proposition than a scientific one.  The evidence for evolution is there, and Alexander makes a strong case for why evolution is not and need not be opposed to Christian thinking on creation, despite the attempts of a few atheists and creation scientists to declare them as incompatible.  For me the book removed from my mind notions that there is of necessity an incompatibility between evolution and Christianity.  The issues no longer seem ambiguous to me, nor do I feel ambivalent toward them.   Truth is truth – scientific truth reveals to us what God is doing just as much as biblical truth does.  The antagonism between Christianity and evolution does not need to be there and Denis Alexander shows us why.

5 thoughts on “Creation vs. Evolution: The Imaginary Divide

  1. Eric

    The reason why Evolution is not compatible with Creation is: “Through one man’s sin death entered into the world” If you have death already happening before man fell then you don’t have any reason for Jesus. And when God’s Kingdom is established after the Tribulation, what will He be restoring everything too? Will the Lion be tearing the guts out of the Lamb? Will death reign? You see in order for macro-evolution to work you have to have Millions of years of death before you finally arrive to Adam and Eve. The Bible says that death is our enemy! Why would you pay homage to a religion of death? Evolution and Creation are polar opposites.

  2. Fr. Ted

    I agree with you that there is much in evolution and creation that are opposites – in creation humans can aspire to divinity, we are in God’s image and likeness, whereas in purely evolutionary terms humans are in the image and likeness of all of their evolutionary ancestors and cannot aspire to anything more than being surviving animals on this planet. However as far as death goes, one has to consider very carefully what Genesis says about death. Adam and Eve clearly didn’t die the day they ate the fruit, despite God’s claim they would. Adam lived to a very ripe old age according to Genesis. However, if one sees that what is being discussed in Genesis is spiritual death, then one understands how sin causes a death different from mere physical death. Are we to think that cells didn’t die in paradise? Was the existence of Adam and Eve not biological? When they ate the plants, did those plants not die and the cells which made them up? Are you accepting some Babylonian mythology that Adam and Eve were somehow angelic beings without real biological bodies before the Fall and that earthly existence is like in those mythologies not the place which God created for humans, but some dump to which humans fell upon sinning? If our faith in Genesis is correct then Adam and Eve were biological beings, and Genesis is a rejection of Babylonian mythologies. Death is the final enemy for humans have come to spiritual death and separation from God which was not experienced before the Fall.

    1. Jacob Arminius

      HUH? Physical death is not in view in Genesis 1-3 but only spiritual death? Then why is our hope in a “physical” resurrection? 1 Cor 15 states our hope is in a “physical” resurrection because “death is the last enemy to be defeated” (1 Co 15:26). It makes no sense that death is an enemy to be defeated in the bodily resurrection, if death is all part of the way things are supposed to be as God intended.

      1. Fr. Ted

        Physical death is real and becomes part of human existence, but the point in the Genesis story is to explain why we don’t live at peace and harmony with God. Why didn’t God create a better world – one in which there is no sickness and death? Genesis says, He did! But humans were not satisfied in that world of Paradise and wanted to look elsewhere – outside of God’s domain as it were. The price of the disobedience is death but physical death follows spiritual death. To read Genesis 3 and miss the point of spiritual death is to misread Christ and the resurrection. It was not merely physical death that Christ overcomes in the resurrection – that is the final enemy – but Christ as the incarnate God restores the spiritual state of humanity; we are reunited to God through Christ. It is this communion with God that was lost which led to physical death. After the Fall, God says, “My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh. His days shall be 120 years.” (Gen 6:3) The withdrawal of the spirit from us is what limits our days on earth – the physical death follows the spiritual. Then in John 1:32-33 we see in Christ the man upon whom the Spirit comes down and REMAINS on Him. This is part of the restoration of humanity which Christ accomplished by His incarnation and life which is fully consummated in His resurrection from the dead.

  3. Pingback: Evolution, Creation and Christianity « Spritzophrenia

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