FAQ: Why Should Christians Consider Evolutionary Creation?
In a Nutshell
Because evolution is a challenging subject, many Christians are tempted to simply ignore or reject it. Yet considering evolutionary creation has important benefits for Christians both in our relationship with the Creator, and with our relationships with other people—believers and non-Christians alike. First, Christians should study evolution because (like all the natural sciences) it is the study of God’s creation. Creation itself is a complementary revelation to what is communicated in the Scriptures, and through it God shows how and when he brought about life, to his honor and glory. Studying the creation is also an invitation into a deeper understanding of the attributes and character of Father, Son and Spirit. Second, considering evolutionary creation aids the church in its Gospel mission, supporting young Christians in their faith, helping answer critics, and equipping us to engage effectively in the wider culture. An anti-evolution attitude can harm Christian young people by presenting them with a false choice between pursuing science OR holding to faith. Similarly, a hostile attitude towards evolution can hinder evangelism when seekers hear that they must reject science to follow Christ. On the other hand, studying evolution as a God-ordained process helps Christians refute arguments that science encourages an atheistic worldview. Furthermore, as the church engages front-page issues raised by the rapid growth in science, medicine, and technology, a Christ-centered voice in such areas as bioethics will be stronger if based on a thorough understanding of the natural sciences, including evolution.
Why should Christians consider evolutionary creation?
Some Christians cringe when they hear the word “evolution,” and not without reason: considering evolution as God’s means of creating the life we see around us suggests that we need to revisit some familiar biblical passages and brings up some tough theological questions. Meanwhile, militant atheists repeatedly invoke evolution in the media, trying to discredit Scripture and the Christian faith. So why focus on such a controversial topic? We at BioLogos understand that these issues can be difficult, but we believe the church is called to consider evolutionary creation. For us, this conversation is not just about abstract ideas and academic debates, but about God’s ongoing creation, the faith of individual believers, and the mission of the church. Here are several points to consider about evolution in light of Christian faith.
Considering evolution helps us understand God's creation
As Christians, we believe that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and that the Bible teaches that God reveals himself to us in the natural world he created (“The heavens declare the glory of God,” Psalm 19:1). In the study of God’s creation, scientists have discovered tremendous wonders that reach far beyond what the Bible describes—things like quarks, neurons, and galaxies. Scientists have also discovered abundant evidence of the long history of the universe and of life (including people), which you can read elsewhere on this site. It is crucial that Christians consider this evidence because it comes from God’s own handiwork in the natural world. Since we believe that nature declares God’s glory, we cannot stop listening to the created order when it declares something that seems new to us.
At BioLogos, we view evolutionary creation as a description of how and when God brought about all the creatures on earth. We do not see God as distant from this process, for God did not just set up the universe at the beginning and let it go. Instead, he upholds the universe moment by moment, sustaining all things by the power of his word. The regular patterns in nature that we call natural laws have their foundation in the regular, faithful governance of God (see Jeremiah 33:19-26). Thus we believe that God created every species and did it in such a way that we can describe the creation process scientifically. The scientific model of evolution does not replace God as Creator any more than the law of gravity replaces God as Ruler of the planets.
Considering evolution helps us understand the Creator God
The created order—nature—also teaches us about the Creator. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) and show his eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:20). The Bible is our primary source of knowledge about God, and God’s character cannot be derived by looking at nature alone. But for those who know and trust God as their Savior, the created order has the stamp of the Creator all over it. The starry heavens show God’s glory (Psalm 19), the thunderstorm displays God’s power (Psalm 29), and ecosystems show God’s care for plants and animals (Psalm 104:10-18). Today we know much more about God’s creation than the biblical authors knew; telescopes and microscopes have expanded our horizons to the very large and the very small. Through science, we’ve learned how things work and fit together, too. Joining study and worship, we can think God’s thoughts after him, tracing his hand through the physical laws he used to create our world, marveling at the way he provides for creation as much as at the endless forms most beautiful he has created.
Here are three examples of biblical attributes of God emphasized by studying evolutionary science:
- God is extravagant. God did not create just one type of flower, but uses the system of evolution to create a huge variety of flowers, of every size, shape, color, and scent. As opposed to being “wasteful,” a biblical view of evolution helps us appreciate it as a pointer to the extravagance of God’s loving gift of life to the whole earth. God’s creation does not reflect a cold efficiency, but the transformation of such “waste” into worship, just as Jesus honored the woman who poured expensive perfume on his feet (Mark 14:3-9; John 12:3-8).
- God is patient and most often works gradually rather than instantaneously. In the natural world, we see God creating life over billions of years, not instantly, and grand geological processes playing out slowly over time, as well. Similarly, in the Bible we read of the centuries that passed between God’s covenant with Abraham and his covenant with David and the centuries more before Jesus appeared “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4). In individual lives, God often works by planting his Word deep in us and letting it grow slowly over time. God seems pleased with the slow but extraordinary unfolding of his universe, just as he is patiently unfolding his plan of redemption.
- God is the provider. He provides for his creatures in each moment, giving them what they need to survive, adapt and thrive in communities of life. The Bible speaks of God feeding and caring for animals (Jonah 4:11; Psalm 104), and modern evolutionary science is shedding light on how God has arranged complex ecosystems that support many different kinds of creatures together. But God provides for his creatures even at the genetic level, giving species a measure of biological “creativity” to help them respond to new challenges. As biologist Richard Colling says, “Evolution is not about the imposition of death and destruction and survival of the fittest. Those things are a part of it, but not the main core of what evolution is. . . [The] evolutionary process of creating duplicate genes that give rise to new possibilities [is] redemption, it’s possibility, and it’s hope.”
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