“For most of its history, the church has believed that God created everything that exists ex nihilo (out of nothing). The church affirmed this doctrine based primarily on the opening verse of Scripture [...].
God, who eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, purposed to and did create a universe distinct from himself.” Movements have risen up in the modern church that dispute literal creation as depicted in Genesis in support of the theory of evolution.
Some proponents of these movements say that God started evolution. Creationists call this blasphemy; others say that creationism is not essential to the Christian faith. Which is true?
The Message of Evolution
“The early church soundly denounced the ‘atomic’ theory that everything that exists started out by the accidental collision of small elements [...] and then fortuitously developed by chance.”
Philosophers had debated the authority of Scripture for centuries, and the rise of science intensified attacks, but in the 19th century, Darwin’s Origin of the Species raised such discussions to a new, public awareness. More and more people were beginning to question where they came from, from God or amoeba?
Evolutionists believe that the earth and all creation began randomly but proceeded according to a process known as “natural selection.” Everything and everyone began as a result of chance.
Our ancestors were monkeys and apes; their ancestors were less sophisticated mammals, whose ancestors can be traced back to single-cell organisms. These scientists say that the image of man has changed considerably: From Australopithecus Afarensis to Homo Sapiens.
Posture, brain size, height, proportions, and other facets of the image of human beings have changed slowly since people first walked the earth as distinct from primates, supposedly over three million years ago.
According to scientists who believe this theory, life on earth is the result of random genetic adaptation slowly changing human beings so they will become stronger mentally and physically for the sake of survival.
Beliefs that perpetuate morality and religion have arisen from a quirk of genetic programming or of cultural adaptation. When we die, evolution says that we simply return to the earth. There is no afterlife.
The Scriptural Message
Genesis lays out a day-by-day plan in which God brought light out of darkness; separated earth and sky; established land, plants, animals, and man. Psalm 33:6 says that “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”
God is the purposeful Creator, and nothing existed before him. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). There was nothing before God except God.
The Bible provides a timeline for the earth of over 6,000 years, but not millions of years. Genesis 1:26 says that man was made in God’s image on the sixth day. Creationists will sometimes ponder the duration of those six days, but they never dispute the Creator’s purposeful design of all living things.
Image of God
People were created as image-bearers from the start. This is not a mirror image of the face of God, and human beings cannot replicate all the works of God or achieve deity; however, “the imago Dei is not a quality possessed by man; it is a condition [...] of confrontation established and maintained by the Creator [...] which constitutes him as him-whom-God-loves,” according to John Piper.
This status is not random; nor is it progressive. We do not earn or lose it. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” in front of a watching world, to his glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Success of the Species
Evolutionary success hinges on adaptation to one’s environment; becoming smarter, faster, stronger, or developing advantageous physical features. The Bible says we do not succeed as a species or as individuals at all: The world will end. Salvation leads to perfect union with Christ even as creation is perishing.
Success in Christian terms involves laying down one’s life in service to Christ, not surviving at all costs. Christ died for all human beings, but salvation is not general: Each man or woman must choose to believe in Jesus alone for salvation.
Mature and foundational faith is stronger because it acknowledges weakness, an idea counterintuitive in modern Western society especially. And faith is not genetically inherited: Our strength in weakness is not passed on but develops personally. One’s family might promote Christian values, but this is no guarantee for the next generation.
Purpose of Evolution
“We are not here for any purpose,” writes Dr. Steve Stewart-Williams Evolutionary theory offers no satisfying reason for suffering, pain, or even happiness. We are a fluke of nature. Evolutionary theory cannot provide a purpose for life because purpose requires thought and a thoughtful purpose-maker.
Robert Wright, writing about evolution, agrees there could be powers beyond our world, and “some scientifically minded people” are open “to the possibility that our world has a purpose that was imparted by an intelligent being.”
Instead of imagining a kind and holy God, however, he describes “some sort of mind-blowingly powerful computer” and the idea that we are projections created in its hard drive. Life as we know it is devised by the “unfolding of a computer algorithm whose author must be pretty bright.”
The all-controlling computer is itself controlled and created by another character, an alien perhaps who happily allows humans to fail in order to conduct experiments and learn how to fix mistakes.
This vast intellect controlling the world is merciless, remote, and impersonal. Evolutionists, if they do imagine there is a creator, potentially admire but do not praise him/her/it.
Purpose of Life
Why did God make people? Firstly, being image bearers is part of our purpose. “The image of God is what makes man human; man could not lose the image without ceasing to be what he is.” “God created the world for his glory,” says John Piper. This truth is “resounding through the whole Bible — from eternity to eternity — like rolling thunder.”
He did not create the world to toy with his creation. He did not start with one cell and gradually mold a hominid form to play with and perfect. The Lord says that we are “the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:21). The Lord created us specifically to do something animals cannot do.
He also gave us free will. With our freedom, we can rebel or glorify God whose image we reflect when we “bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:9-10).
Maturing in Christ is a process, one in which the sufferings of this world lead to endurance and character and hope (Romans 5), but our lives were deliberately and uniquely fashioned, one at a time, by our Creator.
We are permitted to fail, but God stays close and offers us a way out of life’s pain and confusion through his Son. Christ is one with God; he did not evolve out of a need initiated in the Garden of Eden; he existed from the start.
Why Does This Matter?
Every person was made in God’s image by his hand and, as such, should be treated with respect and dignity.
Moreover, “it’s only because man keeps his image of God — even in a broken or distorted form — that man is redeemable and worth redeeming. Without it, God would have had no reason to send His Son to die on our behalf.”
This same man defended himself against temptation, against Satan, by holding up the Word of God as a shield. He trusted its solidity, its heft, in the face of the monster. Furthermore, the notion of evolution as a random phenomenon implies that some people are better than others based on their genetic coding.
By a merely scientific understanding of life, we are all test tubes, the contents of which can be disposed of or subjected to extremes; distilled or combined with other elements; heartlessly played with, possessing no dignity.
When the world is cruel, hope comes from believing God: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). Each of us is uniquely made, a comforting reality for those who feel forgotten, invisible, and alone.
God tells us that we were not products of chance but deliberately crafted into the people he intended us to be, to face challenges he foresaw. Suffering will come regardless of our belief systems, but only hope makes suffering bearable.
Finally, to believe in creation-by-evolution would be like saying all of Scripture is God-breathed except the parts about creation, purpose, our role as image-bearers, and so on. Once one starts choosing what to believe and what to dismiss, why stop at Genesis?
In fact, the natural direction would be to argue that eternal salvation is available through other means than faith in Jesus, and that train of thought would lead away from resurrection life.
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/00Mate00
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.