Evolution and Christianity? Here are some reasons that Christians need to be open to evolution.
I am a committed Christian and an avid student of church history. I believe that the early, apostolic churches lost their power, holiness, and focus by trying to unite with people who did not wholeheartedly follow Christ. (I wrote a booklet available on Amazon, including Kindle explaining what happened. It's written from the devil's perspective, so it's pretty interesting.)
Thus, you will never find me arguing that Christians should unite around anything other than the truth that is in Jesus.
But what is that truth? Does it include a recent creation accomplished by divine fiat in 6 days?
I've aroused a bit of ire by saying that, for Christians, behavior is better than belief.
Of course, there are some beliefs that matter. It seem significant to me, though, that after 300 years of church history, when the churches had to come together to formulate a creed that refuted all the heresies and false beliefs that had cropped up over three centuries, they made a creed that was only about 170 words long.
That creed is still recited in millions of churches every week some 1,700 years later. It is called the Nicene Creed or Apostles Creed.
There are some good Scriptural reasons for emphasizing behavior over belief:
2 Timothy 2:19 says that the sure foundation of God consists of those who name the name of Christ and "depart from iniquity."
Are we in danger of building some other foundation than what God has built?
I say that not only are we in danger of building another foundation, but we have, and the results are horrendous. There are some good Christians out there, but overall Christianity is known for its division and hypocrisy, not for its love or unity, two traits Jesus emphasized over all others (Jn. 13:34-35; 17:20-23). Book after book is written discussing how out of touch the church is with the modern world, and we see churches everywhere trying to resolve the problem by conforming to the world, offering gymnasiums, coffee shops, and a cool, modern look.
Those things are necessary because we've lost our power, and we've lost our power because we've built a new foundation.
Our belief is supposed to produce a change in behavior. Paul was confident of his Gospel because it was powerful to produce a righteousness that was from God (Rom. 1:16-17). When he had people in the church disagreeing with him, he refused to exchange words with them. Instead, he asked them to show him their power "because the kingdom of God does not consist of words, but of power" (1 Cor. 4:20).
Today, fundamentalist Christians consider the Gospel to consist of a list of beliefs:</p
I've been through three evangelism programs over the last three decades. In the Assembly of God, I went through Evangelism Challenge, an adaptation of Dr. James Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion. Later I went through Evangelism Explosion itself. Finally, I went through the Southern Baptist's Continuing Witness Training.
Every one used approximately the same outline and somewhat the same verses to justify that outline.
The only problem is that the apostles didn't preach any of those things when they evangelized.
Read through the sermons in the Book of Acts some time. What you'll find is that the apostles didn't tell people they were sinners. The people already knew it. Even more astonishingly, they didn't tell anyone that Jesus died for their sins. Instead, they proclaimed the resurrection as proof that Jesus is Lord and Judge of all the earth, and then they exhorted people to come to him for the remission of their sins.
It is true that Jesus died for the sins of mankind. The apostles say that regularly to the churches.
They did not teach the atonement to the lost, however. The atonement is the how of salvation, and our faith is not to be in the how, but in the who. The apostles preached Jesus, who can save you from your sins. How he saved you and why he died on the cross can wait till later.
The foundation for the apostles was "Let those who name the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. 2:19). They had a Gospel of power, and they didn't want to mince words with those who opposed. They asked instead whether the ones in opposition had the same power.
It wasn't just Paul who chose righteousness over words (1 Cor. 4:20). The apostle John did so as well. In an epistle written to contend for the faith and refute gnostics, John exclusively emphasized faith in Christ and an obedient life (1 John). We know from history that he was refuting the gnostics, but he spent no time on anything but the most basic of gnostic doctrines, whether Jesus really came in the flesh, and spent all his time insisting that the person who claims to know God but doesn't keep his commandments is a liar, not a Christian (1 Jn. 2:3-4).
Our unity needs to be on the right foundation. That foundation includes believing in the only One who can save us, and then living a life obedient to him, as 2 Tim. 2:19 says. It does not include most of the doctrines that we have made foundational in our day.
We all acknowledge the huge problems that the modern church has, including the fundamentalist, Bible-believing church.
Those problems will not disappear by our doing and believing the same things that produced those problems. It's time to look at the Scriptures and see if maybe we missed the foundation we're supposed to be set upon.
I believe that as Christians our beliefs should be rooted in the historic Christian faith.
Being a student of the earliest Christian writings, it would be my judgment that most early Christians would have taken Genesis literally, believing that the earth was created in six 24-hour days.
But not all.
And at least one dissenter is extremely significant.
I won't give the quotes from Origen, who wrote in the early 3rd century, about 200 years after Jesus died and a good century before the church becamed mixed with the secular government. I've already covered what Origen has to say against taking Genesis literally.
What I want to point out here is that Origen was one of the most popular Christian teachers of his day. And remember, his day was early in the church's history. In the early 3rd century, the churches still had a strong conviction that they were to hold the faith unchanged as they had received it from the apostles.
Every Christian learned that basic faith from the apostles, which the churches called "the rule of faith" at baptism. No one was to wander from the rule of faith.
Apparently, that rule of faith did not include believing that Genesis was literal, despite the fact that Charles Darwin would not be born for over 1,500 years. The church's widely embraced Origen as the greatest teacher of his day, and he was very clear that he did not see how an intelligent man could believe that man fell by chewing on a literal piece of fruit with literal teeth. (Again, see my discussion of literal bible interpretation for the references.)
I am at a creation conference as I write this, waiting for tonight's session. Last night's speaker, John Lennox, who successfully and powerfully debated the atheist evangelist Richard Dawkins, pointed out that Justin Martyr, who wrote almost a century before Origen, conceded that the days of Genesis one might be epochs. He added that Clement of Alexandria said creation took place outside of time and that Augustine had difficulties with the word "day" in Genesis one.
Apparently, a belief in a young earth, or in a literal Genesis one was not foundational to the Christian faith.
In fact, Augustine, in a book entitled The Literal Meaning of Genesis wrote:
Apparently, the figurative sense was more foundational, as I argue elsewhere, than the literal!
Finally, we come to the scientific reasons that Christians should consider evolution.
This whole site is geared toward proving that the scientific evidence for evolution is so overwhelming as to be irrefutable. I hope that as you browse this site, you will see that this is true. You might begin at the Evidence for Evolution page.
Here, though, I just want you to keep in mind the history of Christianity in its opposition to science. When Bible interpretation comes in conflict with scientific evidence, time has proven that science is always the winner.
This is not because the Bible is unreliable! It is because science is, by nature, more unbiased. The whole basis of science is that multiple scientists are competing to prove new ideas based on evidence that is thoroughly examined and judged by other scientists. It is by nature impartial.
It's true that science, like all other disciplines, can get stuck in a rut, and those who oppose the mainstream view often meet so much opposition that it could be rightly called persecution. But that persecution is balanced by the opposite effect. A man who overcomes the resistance and establishes a theory outside the scientific mainstream has ensured himself a lifetime of honor and probably wealth as well.
Two major scientific subjects that touch on Bible interpretation involve the revolution of the earth around the sun and the germ theory of disease.
When Copernicus—and later Galileo—suggested that the earth goes around the sun, there was an uproar in the church. The Bible repeatedly says that the earth is immovable (e.g., 1 Chr. 16:30; Ps. 93:1; Ps. 104:5). Martin Luther was alive when Copernicus published his theory, and he dismissed it with a wave of his hand: "Joshua told the sun to stand still, not the earth."
Nonetheless, after a few centuries, it is safe to assume that every one of my readers, even the most literal of young earth creationists, believes that the earth moves.
It seems apparent as well that the writers of the New Testament blamed most disease on evil spirits. Yet today, almost all Christians believe in the germ theory of disease, and they are more prone to wash their hands and take antibiotics than to cast out demons. Even in the case of epilepsy, it is a rare Christian who believes that seizures are to be cured by the casting out of demons, though there are some who still believe seizures are usually demonic. (There's no doubt in my mind that demons are real and can cause people to writhe on the ground, though I think in most cases the difference between that and epilepsy is apparent to the experienced Christian.)
We might want to take a deeper look at evolution for exactly the same reasons. I know I did, and what's become clear is that the people opposed to evolution are, for the most part, remarkably ignorant about it. Nothing about their tactics seems unbiased, and they are fearful of more knowledge rather than seeking it. Explanations from the evolution side are ignored or misconstrued, and dishonesty is rampant.
I don't want true Christians to turn around only after we have egg all over our faces one more time and are proven to be ignorant and unyielding. The followers of Jesus love truth!
If we know Jesus, then surely we have nothing to fear. Surely we already know he is Creator in an unshakable way than won't be bothered by whatever means Jesus might have used to create the earth, whether evolution or divine fiat.
I'm going to put a link here to my page on Romans 5 because that seems to be the biggest difficulty that modern Christians have with the idea of evolution. The answer to that difficulty is obvious, as we are already using that answer to address a different Bible difficulty. So if the idea of death before Adam is a large hurdle for you to leap, or if you wonder about the relationship of evolution to the fall, then you may want to read that next.
All Bible verses are taken from the King James Version and updated for language and grammar.
Copyright © 2009-2016 Paul F. Pavao. All rights reserved.