What is Evolutionary Creation?
God is the creator and sustainer of all things, and evolution is the best scientific explanation for the relatedness of life on Earth.
Before You Read
We’ll get right to it: Young people today are departing the faith in historic numbers as the church is either unwilling or unable to address their questions on science and faith. BioLogos is hosting those tough conversations. Not with anger, but with grace. Not with a simplistic position to earn credibility on the left or the right, but a message that is informed, faithful, and hopeful.
Although voices on both sides are loud and extreme, we are breaking through. But as a nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of donors like you to continue this challenging work. Your tax deductible gift today will help us continue to counter the polarizing narratives of today with a message that is informed, hopeful, and faithful.
So what are the central ideas that define EC? ECs believe that God created and sustains all things. We believe that God acts purposefully in creation, just as he does in our lives, and that he continues to actively uphold and sustain creation. We believe in the Trinity, the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus Christ, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We believe that all humans are made in the image of God and all humans have a sinful nature. We believe in salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone.
ECs accept evolution as the best scientific explanation we have for how life on Earth has changed over time. In biology, evolution refers to “descent with modification,” which includes the idea that all species are descended from a common ancestor over many generations. We therefore accept the scientific evidence that all life on Earth is related, including humans—which does not negate the image of God in us.
EC is neither science nor theology, but an explanatory system that seeks to incorporate the best scholarship from each. It also includes some ideas about how theology and science relate to one another. For how EC compares to other views on origins, see How is BioLogos different from Evolutionism, Intelligent Design, and Creationism?
The term “Evolutionary Creation” was probably first used in the early 1990s.1 Theistic Evolution (TE) is an older and more widely used term than EC, and many people use both terms interchangeably.2 However, we at BioLogos prefer EC over TE for at least three reasons.
First, we prefer EC because we are, essentially, creationists. We are not mere theists. We believe that God—by the authority of the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit—created all things. Our beliefs about God and creation come first. “Evolutionary” is simply an adjective that describes creation and marks our acceptance of evolutionary science as the best scientific explanation we have for the diversity and similarity of life.
Second, we do not talk about “theistic chemistry” or “theistic physics.” Neither should we speak about “theistic evolution.” We do not propose a special Christian version of scientific facts. Science provides powerful tools for investigating God’s creation. When we look at the insights science provides through the eyes of faith, we get an even fuller picture of reality. As Johannes Kepler wrote long ago, science, by discovering a deeper understanding of the world, is like thinking God’s thoughts after him.3
Third, many people have historically accused TEs of being deists. TE has at times been associated with the idea that God created the world and all the natural laws, but is no longer actively governing or involved in the cosmos. This is very different from how most ECs understand God’s involvement. In the BioLogos community we affirm the biblical miracles (most centrally the Resurrection), believe God answers prayer, and recognize that God works providentially through natural processes to accomplish his purposes. Natural processes and supernatural miracles both result in God’s handiwork.
It is worth noting that BioLogos Founder Dr. Francis Collins coined the term BioLogos as an alternative to TE.4 The name comes from the Greek words bios (meaning “life”) and logos (meaning “word”—a reference to how John 1:1 describes the Son of God). As he wrote in his 2006 book The Language of God, “‘BioLogos’ expresses the belief that God is the source of all life and that life expresses the will of God” (p. 203). BioLogos didn’t stick as the name of the view, but it fits well as the name of our organization.
In any community, not everyone believes exactly the same things. Some beliefs are primary and help to define the group. Others are secondary and open to debate. The EC community here at BioLogos is no exception.
The BioLogos Statement of Beliefs includes beliefs affirmed by all staff and Board members, and convictions shared by most in our community. However, on many topics a range of views exists within our community. On those topics we do not champion one particular view.
For example, everyone at BioLogos believes all humans are made in the image of God, but there are different ideas about what exactly this means. For some, the image of God refers to our cognitive capacities, while others emphasize our unique spiritual capacity to enter into a relationship with God. Still others view the image of God as being God’s chosen representatives to the rest of creation.
Or consider Adam and Eve. ECs generally agree that people were made by God and that humans are biologically related to other creatures, but they differ on how best to interpret the early chapters of Genesis. Some ECs believe Adam and Eve were a historical couple. Others see the story as a symbolic retelling of Israel’s story, or as a symbolic story about humanity as a whole. Many interpretations have been put forward and this remains an exciting area of scholarship.
Finally, all ECs believe the Bible is God’s inspired and authoritative word. But like the broader church, we disagree about how certain passages should be interpreted, and we disagree about whether biblical “inerrancy” is a helpful term.
On the science side, all ECs accept that common ancestry is true, but they might disagree about which biological mechanisms drive evolutionary change over time. Regarding the origin of first life, some ECs envision a supernatural miracle, while others see a variety of natural explanations, each under the providential guidance of God.
The groundswell of interest and support for EC over the past decade has coalesced into a thriving community at BioLogos. Communities are defined not just by ideas, but by values and commitments. In addition to our commitment to the historic Christian faith and EC, at BioLogos we are committed to truth-seeking. Truth-seeking requires community, exploration, and discussion. Questions—and even doubts—are welcome here, as we seek to understand both the Bible and the natural world. We value the expertise of scientists, biblical scholars, theologians, and philosophers. We value the sensitivity and spiritual understanding of pastors and leaders in the Christian community. We value the experiences and gifts of many, many lay people who love God and science. We value those who are simply exploring the claims of Christianity. Many people distrust organized religion or have been hurt by Christians, and we welcome them to look for healing here.
Another commitment for us at BioLogos is humility and gracious dialogue. Of course we don’t get it right every time, but we strive to love those who think differently than we do. This doesn’t mean watering down our message, but it does mean engaging in principled civility. We recognize that all people are loved by God and should be treated with respect.
Finally, we aim for excellence in all areas. This includes recognizing that science is both powerful and limited. Science has vast explanatory value when it comes to describing natural history and natural phenomena. Yet, it isn’t the right tool to answer some of the really big questions—like why there is something rather than nothing, and whether there is a creator God who loves us. We don’t aim to create an alternate Christian version of scientific facts. Instead, we aim to trust scientific consensus where it exists, since it is based on evidence, testing, and peer-review, and allow for a range of views where it doesn’t. And we aim to hold our scientific understanding with open palms in case new discoveries overturn consensus.
In our approach to the Bible, excellence means reading with sound principles of interpretation in mind. We seek to understand the purpose of a given passage and what it meant to the original audience, even if that understanding doesn’t answer our own modern questions. We don’t expect the Bible to reveal scientific facts that the original authors wouldn’t have understood. We don’t try to explain away the Bible’s evidence that people in biblical times had pre-scientific ideas and concepts. We prayerfully seek guidance from the Holy Spirit as we learn from teachers and scholars whose work can deepen our understanding of God’s word.
All of this means we can reject the fear, cynicism, and suspicion that can sometimes cause people to disengage from either science or faith. We have freedom to approach both science and the Bible with a sense of wonder, confidence, and joy.
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Charles Foster | Inhabit the World