There is much to be said, and much that has been said on this topic. I hesitate to throw my hat in the ring because I am neither a scientist or a theologian. And yet, precisely because I am neither of those, I wanted to think through this issue, and share it with others in the same position.
My post became too long and too varied, so I’ve decided to split it into two parts. Keeping with my “thinking-through-writing” agenda, I’ve summarized the debate and have attempted to drill down quickly to what the real issues are. I have many great writers and thinkers to credit for helping me to this point. Lest I am misunderstood by the direction I take in part two – does six-day creation make us irrelevant? – I will end part one with my personal stance on the issue.
The ongoing debate over the creation account has had my attention for some time now. The heat on this topic is growing – online, in magazines and off pulpits. Some are calling this a major issue for the church of our times, and I tend to agree. How this is handled, and what viewpoints people adopt will affect the church and Christianity for years to come.
A recent study published in Christianity today noted that 70% of evangelical Christians worldwide believe in theistic evolution. Though there is variation within that camp, generally, the theory seeks to harmonize the “evidence” of modern science with the teachings of the Bible. The theory affirms the existence of God the creator, but also the laws of evolution. In other words, evolution is fact, but so is the existence of God, so the two must come together. Many respected scientists are declaring theistic evolution as a credible way to come to terms with their faith, and with what they know about our universe.
Not far behind, theologians worldwide are backing away from the traditional creation account. Some state their case rather convincingly, while many seem to be capitulating to the overwhelming flow of public opinion, rather than honestly seeking the truth. Christian thinkers, pastors and lay people alike are slowly accepting bits and pieces of this thinking.
As more Christians tune into the debate, the steady buzz – until recently mostly within the Christian community – has spilled over into the mainstream. With wider exposure, the world is watching, and those sitting on the fence must see their position through to the end and make the logical leap. To accept evolution and believe in the God of the Bible is not as simple as saying that God created the world through evolution. That statement by itself seems almost harmless.
What’s really at stake is whether there was an historical Adam and Eve, through whom all sinned, OR, there was no paradise, no Adam, no apple, no serpent, and NO FALL. Refined to these two opposing statements, the implications become much clearer.
By flushing the issues out to their logical conclusion, we now know what the debate is really about. Because to be honest, by itself, the idea that God created the earth in six days, or did it over billions of years seems almost a non-issue to me. Both give Him the credit. Both point to an awesome God. One might seem to affirm His sovereignty over creation more clearly, but I think a case could be made to support it in either theory.
What’s really at stake is the whole Gospel story. As Albert Mohler states clearly in a recent post,
“…the denial of a historical Adam means not only the rejection of a clear biblical teaching, but also the denial of the biblical doctrine of the Fall, leading to a very different way of telling the story of the Bible and the meaning of the Gospel….
If we do not know how the story of the Gospel begins, then we do not know what that story means. Make no mistake: a false start to the story produces a false grasp of the Gospel.”
With no Adam, and no fall into sin, we completely lose the connection with Jesus Christ. Other authors in the Bible (both old and new testament) reference Adam as an historical person, and talk about the result of his sin – our sin. Isaiah prophesies about the coming Christ as redeemer and Paul talks about the first Adam. The entire story-arc of the Bible (Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation) falls apart when Adam is a symbol, the fall is a metaphor, and neither really happened. Without sin, why would we need Christ?
Faced with this, what I now consider to be the litmus test for the debate, I believe that theistic evolution fails to properly interpret the findings of science in a way that supports the whole gospel. I believe in a six-day creation, because that’s what the Bible says, and thus far, I cannot reconcile what science has declared with God’s word. There are many unanswered questions, and so I need faith and patience. This is not the end of the debate…
Read part two of this post that wrestles with the question of our relevance in a world that overwhelmingly supports evolution.