What happens to Christian theology if evolution is true? Perhaps the best way of exploring this question is keeping in mind that God is the author of both Scripture and the natural world, and so, ultimately, these can’t contradict each other. Of course in our human attempts to do theology and to do science, sometimes we get things wrong. That’s why we need a healthy conversation between the two, to help correct human error made along the way and so understand both Books better.
God’s book of Nature contains substantial evidence that the universe is old, that life developed over billions of years, and that humans are related to other life on earth though a common ancestor.
These discoveries have caused Christians to rethink how they understand some theological doctrines. But it is important to remember that the core doctrines of our faith are not at stake here. But discoveries in genetics do show that today’s human beings, did not descend from a single original couple, but rather from a group of early humans. Adam and Eve could still be real historical people, perhaps a pair chosen by God who represented the whole group in a first act of disobedience. Or perhaps the Adam and Eve account tells the story of all of us falling into sin. Either way, we know that every human has rebelled against God and is in need of reconciliation with God.
Evolution raises other difficult questions like, “why was there so much death and suffering in the world prior to human sin?” Some people point to Romans 5 and claim that there could not have been any death before human sin, and therefore evolution is wrong. But that passage is clearly speaking of human death. The more difficult question is why God would choose to create through a lengthy process that involves so much animal death and suffering. At one level, we suspect that like Job we’ll never fully understand the secret ways of God.
But keep in mind that while evolution raises some theological questions, in other ways it fits well with what we know of God’s character from the Bible:
- God rarely acts swiftly, but seems to savor the process of creating over long periods of time.
- God partners with creation in bringing about his goals, rather than doing everything directly himself.
- God designed a process that favors cooperation and fosters moral development, such as greater parental care and altruism.
Of course this doesn’t clear up everything. There is a lot of hard work involved in theology’s conversation with evolution. At BioLogos, we’re committed to this work, sponsoring this important conversation.