A listener named Kevin writes in to ask: “Can we reconcile creation and evolution? Or are they contradictory?”
Incompatible with Naturalistic Evolution
I think the first thing that I would say is that evolution as it is ordinarily meant in our culture — namely, naturalistic evolution, evolution minus God, evolution as an explanation of the origin of life when God is not there to explain it — is incompatible with creation, incompatible with God, incompatible with Christianity.
This naturalistic evolution is the main form we deal with in the world. And, therefore, we ought to be alert to it and prepare our kids to encounter it. We need to realize that the reason evolution has been pursued and described is because when you leave God out of the account, it seems like, “What else can it be?”
But if you bring God into account you might say, “That whole effort to account for things might be unnecessary if there is a God in and above the universe who brought it into being another way.” So that is the first thing I would say.
Four Stumbling Blocks of Evolution
But probably the questioner has in mind a kind of evolution that could be coherent with theism or Christianity. Can God have been the designer behind the process of billions of years of natural selection? And the answer is theoretically yes, but exegetically, we have got a problem.
I will just give four stumbling blocks that give me very great pause for affirming evolution and keep me from believing that that was the way it was done.
One is the problem of death. This is probably the biggest one for me. If there has been billions of years of life and death, carnage, how do you make sense of Romans 5:12, that “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin?” And if you do a study of death throughout the Old and New Testaments, it doesn’t appear that the death Paul is referring to can be conveniently limited to human death after God somehow turned an ape man into a human. That doesn’t work very well. Death really appears to be, in all of its stretches, a part of the fall in sin which happened in a man. So that is one of my biggest problems in saying there have been billions of years of death in the world leading up to man.
The second is just the sheer textual affirmation. God made the beasts of the field according to their own kinds. That reading, “according to their own kinds,” now doesn’t that seem to imply that God was involved in the direct making of times of beasts and birds and fish?
And the third one is the way the Bible describes man’s creation. The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. He became a living soul. It does not sound like God worked through billions of years of evolution in order to find a being that he would now regard as worthy of being breathed into or something like that.
And fourth, I just have to say from my own experience, intuitively, as I read magazines and look at Ranger Rick and National Geographic and watch the Blue Planet and all these unbelievable portrayals of nature, I just say intuitively, “I can’t buy it.”
The complexities of things, including the human eye or a little spider that lives at the bottom of a pond, that gets a little bubble of air under his arm, takes it down, and stores it under his little mat house at the bottom so he can breathe down there and have his babies under water — it is just so crazy, you want to say, “Where did this awesome display of diversity and intricateness and complexity come from if not from a creator God?
Problematic, but Possible
So here is my summary answer: Theoretically, yes, you could have a God overruling billions of years and call it “theistic evolution.” Exegetically, it is going to be harder to make that stand. Theologically, you have got to have Adam as a created person as the head of his humanity so that Christ, according to Romans 5, can be a counterpart head of his humanity. You can’t have Adam being a non-historical being. And then, intuitively, I am just going to have to go at root here with what seems unbelievably unlikely to me.