The theory of organic evolution refers generally to the development of organisms and species over a long period of time, such that the diversity of present life is thought to be a modification of earlier forms. Biblical creationism refers broadly to the view that God created all things, as testified in the Bible. While various views of evolution and biblical creationism exist, the two are often pitted against one another and are believed by many to be diametrically opposed.
Many outspoken proponents of evolution, though not all, affirm some form of atheistic or naturalistic evolution: the origination and development of species by a naturalistic selection. Many evolutionary theorists deny God as the first cause of creation and the divine hand of providence to sustain, uphold, and direct all of creation to his intended purposes.
To understand how evolution differs from or has any parallels with biblical creation, it is important to know what the Bible says about how the world came into existence and what the intention of the biblical authors was in saying those things—often to tell the covenant community who God is, who they are, what God is doing in the world through them, and what is required of them as a result.
Further, it is important to remember that the bible is not a scientific textbook. The writers of Scripture are writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to declare the glory of God, instill faith, and tell God’s covenant story of redemption. They are not writing to lay out systematic scientific theories as evolution seeks to do. Even so, we can draw numerous conclusions from the Bible about creation, the God who created all things, and his active involvement in creation even today.
The Bible does not speak specifically to evolution or the development of life. It does, however, speak to the God who created and sustains all things, the God of Creation and Providence. The Bible teaches that nothing exists or can continue to exist apart from the direct plan and guidance of God.
Biblical Definition of Evolution
The Bible does not speak to the particulars of the theory of evolution, nor is science as a discipline even a tacit concern of the biblical authors. Instead, the Bible declares that God’s sovereign hand, even his voice, creates, sustains, upholds all things “by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3), and the internal reliability of the Bible on these matters.
How can we know how the universe came into existence? Should we trust biblical testimony or scientific theory that deny the direct intervention of God? Is the Bible opposed to science or can believers hold to scientific theories with modification and unwavering faith in the reliability of Scripture? Interestingly, all groups seem to affirm that human beings were not present at the outset of creation, so faith of some kind is in order.
Only two ways of reaching a conclusion about creation or the origination of life exist:
As such, people must ascend in faith to atheistic theory or divine revelation. While the apologetic for revelation is beyond the scope of this article, the essential question is this: if there is a God, and if he is all powerful (thus being God), is it reasonable that he would be able to speak into the physical or natural to explain who he is and what he is like, and thus act in creation at his good pleasure?
The biblical declaration is that he has revealed himself both in word and deed in the Old Testament, and most fully in the person and work of Christ in the New Testament.
Although the Bible does not have a definition of evolution, the Bible does have multiple declarations of God’s personal involvement in creation and providence:
With these things in mind, the means by which God brings things (such as life) into existence by his word and power are at times evidently process oriented. For example, new human life begins at conception and grows by God’s province to full term. The human life outside of the womb is also one of growth and change, a process that is not random but divinely ordained and carried out. Trees begin as seeds that grow, develop, and change all by God’s providence.
The fundamental difference between the Biblical view of creation and most evolutionary theories is the biblical notion that God is control of all creation, life, and creative processes within creation and always has been since he begin his creative work at some time in future past, which the Bible merely defines as “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1).
Some Christians read the Bible as if it were a scientific textbook that is seeking to explain, deny or confirm scientific theories about the creation of the world. It is easy for some people in this group to get uneasy or defensive when descriptions of the universe (such as the age of rocks for example) do not fit with their interpretation of the Bible related to the age of the earth. Other Christians find the temporality of the opening chapters of Genesis to be speaking to a reality other than 24-hour days.
When considering how life at the very beginning is similar to or different from life presently, the biblical response is that God holds all things together. Everything that is made is a result of his divine hand: seen and unseen.
Although some Christians argue that the opening chapters of Genesis describe the precise scientific mode in which creation came into existence, other Christians argue that the primary purpose of Genesis 1-2 is theological in its intent. As such, the opening chapters of Genesis are not necessarily intended to give a scientific explanation of creation. Many interpreters of Scripture, though certainly not all, do not find any inherent difficulty with accepting a form of theistic evolution that affirms God’s sovereign involvement in the entire process of species development at some level. Christians who hold this view see the opening chapters of Genesis as a declaration of God’s powerful, orderly, direct, ever-present action to create all things.
Although some interpreters of the Bible argue that the Bible does not specifically reject every aspect of evolutionary theory (though many other interpreters of the Bible would say that in fact does), the Bible is clearly against atheistic, naturalistic, or random-mutation theories.
The most significant point the Bible is making about creation is that God is the creator and sustainer of all things. Theologians speak of the doctrines of creation and providence as being part and parcel with one another.
Thus the biblical doctrine of creation is diametrically opposed to atheistic theories of evolution which claim that all that exists is the result of chance. Any theory of creation or explanation of life and the universe that denies the direct, continued, sovereign involvement of God throughout the entire process and development of creation should be rejected as unbiblical.
- Atheistic Evolution: the belief that there is no divine explanation or involvement in the existence or development of life forms.
- Deism: the belief that God created the world but is removed and uninvolved in the world after the initial creative act.
- Other World Religious Traditions: the beliefs of various regions around the world that have other explanations for the origin of the universe and how life came to be. Other forms of New Age spirituality or neopaganism that try (though certainly unsuccessfully and without rationality) to accept all traditions as containing truth would fall into this category as well.
- Agnosticism: the belief that knowledge of creation and the origin of life is unknowable. Unlike humility regarding the exact manner of creation, agnosticism disregards the clear teaching of God’s creation and providence in favor of taking no position at all.
Natural selection is a Darwinistic theory that life forms naturally adapt to their environments. Only those that adapt and improve will survive.
Although the Bible does not speak directly to natural selection, the primary point of conflict between natural selection and biblical doctrine would be the understanding of the “natural.” The Bible does not speak to the scientific adaptation of species over time, rather it affirms that God guides all of his creation across all time. Naturalism—the belief that nature causes and guides everything apart from supernatural involvement—is clearly opposed to the clear teaching of the Bible.
Like natural selection, adaptation is the general theory that life forms adapt and change over time to better survive in their environments.
Again, the Bible doesn’t speak specifically to this scientific theory. On a micro level, it is clear that people and animal groups do attempt to adapt to environments; those that cannot adapt will either move or will not flourish. Some will not survive. On a macro level, any theory of adaptation that denies the direct involvement of the Creator in any process or development would be fundamentally opposed to the clear teaching of the Bible.