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so what’s the problem?

Evolution 2

[NOTE: This blog post pairs with our ORIGINS teaching series at The Meeting House, Week 1: Love’s Great Choice. If you haven’t heard that message, you might want to begin there before reading on here.]

I hope you, like me, base your faith on Jesus – not young-earth-creationism or old-earth-evolution or Intelligent-Design or any other origin theory.

This disposition allows us to follow the evidence wherever it leads concerning how or how long God created. Our faith does not stand or fall on any particular interpretation of Genesis 1 since our faith is in Jesus, through whom God made the universe (John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2).

That said, it seems fairly evident from the text of Genesis that the six “days” of creation are not required to be understood as literal 24 hour chunks of time. I’m not contrasting the Bible VS science – I’m referring to what the biblical text itself is saying.

As we learned in our Sunday teaching at The Meeting House…

  • The sun and moon, from which we get our 24 hour cycle, weren’t created until the fourth “day”.
  • The sixth “day” in chapter 2 seems longer than 12 hours of daylight – how could 12 or 24 hours be enough time to create animals, then create Eden, then create Adam and place him in Eden, then instruct him on gardening and the moral decision of avoiding the which tree and why, then have time to name all living animals, take a nap, and meet his new bride? Just the animal naming alone must have taken months. “Day” six seems like a longer period of time.
  • The seventh “day” of rest has no “evening and morning” and instead seems to be ongoing, even today, and we are invited to enter into God’s sabbath rest (see Hebrews 4).
  • And most straightforwardly, the word “day” (yom in Hebrew) is used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to indeterminate, often much longer, periods of time (e.g., Genesis 2:4; Exodus 2:11; Job 24:6; Proverbs 25:13), like we might say “back in the day”.

So, why not just go with an old Earth theory as the most faithful to Scripture? Why not accept the idea that God created life on our planet through the long process of evolution?

Recently our twelve-year-old daughter, Maya, came to me with her first “crisis of faith”. She explained, “I know that evolution is supposed to work over millions of years, but the Bible says God made everything in six days. So, what’s up with that?”

After I celebrated her astute observation and critical thinking, we sat down and opened the Bible together and I pointed out some of the above points about how the Bible uses the word “day”. Then I also drew her attention to the order of creation in Genesis 1: first inorganic matter, then life begins, starting with plants, then life in the seas, then birds, then mammals, and finally humans. We talked about the possibility that God is very smart at explaining the process of evolution in a way that all people of all times could understand. Maya thinks God is pretty cool.

But was I right? Some Christians, including many that I respect and admire as followers of Jesus, would argue against what I taught Maya. They would contend that evolution necessarily contradicts the Bible. And why is that? Why not just accept current scientific consensus? What’s the problem?

The problem can be summed up in one word…

DEATH.

Twice in the New Testament (Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 44-49) the apostle Paul says that death entered the world when Adam and Eve sinned. See here…

 Just as through one human being sin came into the world, and death came through sin, so death has come to everyone, because everyone has sinned. Although sin was in the world, since there was no Law, it wasn’t taken into account until the Law came. But death ruled from Adam until Moses, even over those who didn’t sin in the same way Adam did—Adam was a type of the one who was coming.
(Romans 5:12-14)

That seems pretty straightforward. And pretty significant. Entire theories of how sin works and how atonement works have been built around the idea of a literal Adam being the literal entrance point for human sin, which opens the door for literal death to enter an otherwise perfect world. There is a lot riding on this. And I can understand why. If we take Paul at face value, then the idea of millions of years of “survival of the fittest” leading up to Adam and Eve, with lots of death as part of that necessary machinery,  is impossible for a Bible-believing Christian to embrace.

Unless…

It may be possible, even probable, that the apostle Paul is referring to spiritual death – our separation from the God of life. That seems to be the kind of death God is talking about in Genesis. Remember that Adam was told that if he ate from the bad tree, “on that day” he would surely die.

From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die. (Genesis 2:17)

Except, he didn’t.

Or did he?

On that day Adam ran from God, hid in the bushes, and accused both God and his new wife of causing his condition. The separation was real. Adam did die, in a way. And it was caused by the always-separating force of sin.

A spiritual death makes sense of the Genesis account, otherwise you have God promising a physical death that never comes when God promises it will come. And if spiritual death is the immediate consequence for sin in Genesis (followed by a later physical death because of being barred from the Tree of Life), then it follows that this spiritual death is what Paul has in mind as well when he’s talking about Adam and Eve. Scripture is consistent.

This opens up the door for a Bible-believing Christian to embrace the possibility of evolution as a tool God used to create the varieties of life on planet Earth. Do I believe this is the best route forward? I don’t know. Discovering the Bible’s openness to an old earth answers some questions while raising others…

Do we consider death and pain “good” parts of creation? Is Eden merely God’s good greenhouse in the middle of a planet marred by suffering and death? Were Adam and Eve commissioned to go out from Eden and rule over the rest of creation in order to help it become more Edenic?

It’s worth noting that the Hebrew word for “good” that God uses to describe his creation in the first chapter of Genesis is different than the word for “perfect” or “sinless”. In fact, in the last chapter of Genesis, this same word for “good” is used to by Joseph to describe a series of evil things that God intended for a loving purpose.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)

Perhaps God’s creation was “good” because it was accomplishing what he wanted it to bring about.

Still, this leaves us with the question: Why would God choose to use the death and suffering inherent in the system of evolution to create his “good” world? Is it possible that the destructive power of sin was at work well before the time of Adam and Eve? Is evolution an example of God bringing good out of evil, like in the story of Joseph? Should we think of the real “Fall” from grace as the fall of Satan from heaven to our primordial planet Earth long before Adam and Eve were created?

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
(Revelation 12:9)

Is your head spinning yet? Many of us are still sorting this all through. And without any threat to our faith, which is built upon the solid rock of Christ and his teaching (Matthew 7:24-27).

Yes, at this point, there are more questions than answers, but that’s exactly what we should expect if the apostle Paul was right when he said…

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
(1 Corinthians 13:12)

For now, we can be confident of the most important take-aways from Genesis 1…

  1. God is good, artistic, and loving.
  2. God (Father, Son, and Spirit) made us all to be like God, to love and create like God, and to do it all in partnership with God.
  3. Humans have a mission, a calling, a purpose: to represent God – his love and creativity and care – to this world.
  4. The seventh day is open-ended and ongoing. And, according to Hebrews 4, we are invited to enter into God’s sabbath rest with him.
  5. The story of Adam and Eve is not just an origins story, but also our story, repeated by us in every generation. We know better, and still we choose the selfish pursuit of our own pleasure at the expense of others people and our planet.

About that last point – notice that our guilt is not just something we can blame our parents (or ancient ancestors) for, because we repeat the story of Adam and Eve again and again, failing to make better choices than they did. Remember what the apostle Paul says in that Romans 5 passage…

Just as through one human being sin came into the world, and death came through sin, so death has come to everyone, because everyone has sinned. (Romans 5:12)

In the end, we can’t blame Adam and Eve, or Mom and Dad. The story of Genesis is the story of us.

Whether you believe in a young or old Earth, a literal or figurative Adam, or a geographical or metaphorical Eden, I’m looking forward to interacting with you during this series of blog posts, Sunday sermons, and Home Church discussions. To that end, I’m looking forward to your comments to this post at the bottom of this page!

I hope we all, with inquisitive and curious kindness, enjoy the journey of seeking answers, together.

Peace,

PS: For the keeners, here’s a starter pack of some extra reading resources…

  • Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? (Three Views), Counterpoints Series
  • The Historical Adam (Four Views), Counterpoints Series
  • Death Before The Fall, by Ronald F. Osborn
  • Adam and the Genome, by Dennis R. Venema and Scot McKnight
  • The Lost World of Genesis One, by John H. Walton
  • The Lost World of Adam and Eve, by John H. Walton
  • God Against Religion, by Matthew Myer Boulton
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Genesis and Human Origins.  Wipf&Stock, 2016, by Luke Janssen – a scientist and a Christian (but not a Christian Scientist) in our own Hamilton, Ontario!

Enjoy!

Tags : AdamAdam and EveCreationDeathedenEveEvolutionGenesis

39 Comments

  1. To me there is are no theological arguments that use the 6 day theory to explain why astronomy and geology determine an extremely old earth with age specific fossils in the strata of rock and shale.

    Please explain how this works with the 6 actual day interpretation. There are certainly other “Old Earth” theologies and Hugh Ross’s website is one of the scientific and Christian “literal” investigations of the Genesis accounts and how they square with science. Hugh and the team are physicists, biologists and theologians and they use the day/age concept as well.

    I think that in the scope of what Bruxy is doing, he has time to suggest the different interpretations and chooses to land on one that makes sense to the Anabaptist view.

    Your points are interesting but it could probably fill another Sunday to compare and contrast every view properly. I think the purpose of this blog was to allow for various questions and views to get aired so thanks for this contribution.

    But, please, in your view, can you explain the findings of contemporary science that will corroborate 6 literal days ?

      1. Hey Michael, this is really cool ! I’ve never seen this comparison before ,,, awesome ! I recently read that at the Big Bang, space expanded faster than the speed of light. Because Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, this is still possible because space IS “nothing” !

      1. Jonomyn,

        I’ve checked this out and for me, the link that Michael sent (below) makes more sense because it corroborates the Genesis record with science. The link you sent above only seems to use biblical arguments without science.

        Hugh Ross and the group at Reason’s To Believe talk of two books that God left us with, The Book of Creation and the Bible. What’s interesting to me is that Creation was spoken into being with God’s “Word”

        We should be able to “read” his word in Creation as much as we read it in scripture. And Creation was “written long before scripture. What we find out about through science should square with what we understand from scripture. The two should match. That’s what I like about Michael’s link

        https://www.slideshare.net/SarahSalviander/the-six-days-of-genesis-63120073

        Have a read and let me know what you think !

        1. Hey, Charlie and others, why not use a subreddit to discuss these sermons more? Reddit is so much easier to use than a blog for discussion.

    1. Hi Charlie B, I assume that you were replying to me?

      The main issue I have is the strange and uncharacteristic way of interpreting the Bible in this sermon. Normally things are well done.

      > To me there is are no theological arguments that use the 6 day theory to explain why astronomy and geology determine an extremely old earth with age specific fossils in the strata of rock and shale. […] But, please, in your view, can you explain the findings of contemporary science that will corroborate 6 literal days ?

      I don’t know all the answers, but I think that it makes sense to separate the solar system from the rest of the universe. The solar system does seem young while the universe seems old. Time dilation after the Big Bang could account for this if the Big Bang were like a white hole and we were fairly close to the centre of the universe. (Recall that the Copernican Principle is 100% assumption). With respect to geology, I assume that a global flood would have done all sorts of stuff to the landscape, strata, fossils, etc. These are where I would look for answers. But we can’t actually do experiments – create our own universe and see how it plays out, nor even create our own planet and fast forward it for billions of years to see what the strata look like.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Some great thoughts Michael, I’d love to be able to create a universe and test it out ! Being not that scientifically literate myself I think of creation this way.
        Although, NOT God, it seems to me that the universe is the manifestation of all that God is, and Jesus is the Incarnation of God’s heart. We se the amazing complexity of God written in the universe and the unparalleled LOVE that he is written in Jesus

  2. Love the series and conversation! No matter what view one takes, I believe we might all appreciate the poetic irony of David Rosenberg’s translation from “Book of J” by Harold Bloom.

    [“From all trees in the garden you are free to eat”- so Yahweh desires the man to know-“but the tree of knowing good and bad you will not touch. Eat from it,” said Yahweh, “and on that day death touches you.”]. (Pg. 62)

    The word play with “touch” is brilliant (I think), and even hints as to why Eve may have told the serpent they were not to “touch” the forbidden tree in Gen 3:3. As a parent, I can only imagine how grave the touch of death must have been to Adam and Eve when Cain killed his brother Abel. I have actually heard it said that having a child die is worse than facing death yourself.

    Grace and peace,
    Marilyn (Podrishioner)

  3. Thanks for these posts Bruxy.
    Would you please add content in a future post….

    How, if Adam is viewed as poem/metaphor/non-historical, how to make sense of Paul seemingly literal/historical view in Roman’s 5:12

    PS Thanks Sarah above for Tim Mackie Science Faith podcast!

  4. Reflecting on Genesis 1 & 2 lately.

    God “creates” with words, saying “let there be” then “places” things. Animals are “brought forth” from the earth. Earthlings are made of dirt & water, formed by hand, infused with a breath of life. God doesn’t create like a magician. God lets creation be, things arise from material he has already allowed to be and, similar to the process of natural selection and the long crafting of unique forms based on genetics, sexual selection and the natural stresses of the environment, God seems to form humanity in his image, like a potter forms earth material by “hand.”

    And of “the tree”

    What if the “Tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was the “tree” of sentience and cognition that has evolved with life forms over the millennium, and represents all the elements of cognitive thought ? What if the evolution of sentience had developed through consciousness, will, desire and the survival instinct of animal forms and all that remained was for the sapiens to “choose” their actions based on a moral standard that was revealed, “beyond” instinct ? To me, this “fruit” represents this collectively evolved process of knowledge, meaning and choice that it seems only humanity has fully possessed and utilises for both good and evil ? We took the step from a desire to “know” good and evil, and we hear soon after that “to know” is to have an intimate relationship with. We “know” good and evil, animals don’t.

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