Friday, January 23, 2009

Evolution, Creation – Where’s the Truth?

Since high school, I have been on a spiritual and intellectual journey from Young-Earth Creationism to Evolutionary Creationism (AKA Theistic Evolutionism). I’m finally settling into and becoming comfortable with what I accept as true regarding origins, so I thought I’d share today how I got here. Eventually, I’d like to do more posts that are more in-depth on this topic.

I grew up in a Christian home and an Evangelical church. The existence of God and His interest in our lives was never questioned. At school, evolution was barely mentioned in my biology class (although I might have missed it during one of the many naps I took during those lectures). When I was in high school in the early 80s, the Young-Earth Creationism movement was really gaining steam. I recall some discussion in church settings about the evils of evolution, although my most vivid memory is an assembly during elementary school (in a Christian school) in which we were taught a song that said something like, “I’m no kin to a monkey”.

I started college without much idea of what I thought about evolution and creation, except that God created it all. I had a general idea that Young-Earth Creationism was “true” since that’s what was in the Bible, but I didn’t think hard about it. Since I was studying zoology, though, I had to come into contact with evolutionary theory. In science, the word “theory” denotes the overall explanation of a set of scientific facts or data. As with everything in science, a theory is always being tested, but evolutionary theory was considered as foundational and settled as gravitational theory. My professors, many of whom were Christians, talked as if evolution were settled. At the time, natural selection was still considered the prime mechanism of evolution, but some of my professors talked about the new research into genetics that included “jumping genes”, regulatory genes, and other exciting topics.

By the time I got to medical school, I was too busy to think much about origins. One thing I did notice then and that I have often noticed since then is that people who aren’t Christians often equate Christianity with uneducated because of the Young-Earth Creationism issue. In residency, I started to get interested in the topic again, partly because we were considering homeschooling. My dad, who had also found people uninterested in the Gospel because of the perceived link with Young-Earth Creationism, had come across the books of Hugh Ross, a Christian astronomer. Dad sent me several of the books and encouraged me to read them. Ross is an Old-Earth Creationist who believes that the first chapters of Genesis are not so much a portrayal of actual events 6000 years ago, but God’s revealing of the creation events to the writer of Genesis.

I really like Ross’ books, but I wanted to give Young-Earth Creationism an equal shot. I read one of Henry Morris’s books and wasn’t terribly impressed or convinced. I then took a look at Answers In Genesis and was rather appalled. Ken Ham essentially said that a person who does not believe in Young-Earth Creationism can’t be a Christian since they don’t believe the Bible. Not only was I distressed by comments like this, but I found the attitude of most of the AiG material to have an unacceptably negative attitude toward scientists. I took classes, including labs, taught by the same PhDs who were being portrayed as either duped or deceptive by the AiG writers and speakers.

By the time I started in medical practice, in 1997, I was pretty convinced of the truth of the Old-Earth Creationism perspective. But, I started thinking, “Is there anything in the Bible that refutes evolution?” Over the last several years, I have pondered that question as I have read commentaries, Bible studies, and a book on hermeneutics. I came to the conclusion that a reasonable interpretation of the Bible does not preclude accepting the fact of biological evolution. (I hope to blog in more detail about my studies at a later date.)

The idea that evolution is not anti-Biblical opened up a lot of doors for me. I had already accepted that the universe and Earth are both old. I had also been comfortable with the fact that life is old. The question that remained, though, is how did life begin and develop. The Bible is clear that God created everything in the very beginning. The development, though, is not spelled out in detail in Scripture. I have done more reading and become convinced that evolution is a much better explanation for life than any of the creation theories.

Twenty years ago, when I was in college, evolution was still discussed in terms of gradual changes over long periods of time facilitated by natural selection. Nowadays, biologists talk about evolution by natural selection as well as other genetic processes that allow for faster changes. Evolution has become more well-supported by research over time.

Some Christians are happy enough with evolution until we get to primates, at which time they become uncomfortable with the idea and claim that God must have stepped in to create humans specially from scratch. I think, though, that biological evolution explains the physical development of humans from primates very nicely, but it does not explain the part of us that is spiritual. At some point, God had to have given us the “breath of life” to make us “in His image”. Humans are obviously different than the rest of the animals in more than just our language skills. God created us to love Him and be in fellowship with Him forever. Exactly how and when He chose to differentiate us from the rest of the primates, I do not know.

Are you concerned that I’m losing my faith? That I’ve given in to a “worldly” theory that leaves out God? Don’t be. My faith in God is stronger than it was twenty years ago, and has not been diminished by my changing beliefs about the origins of the universe and life. I still believe that God loves me and that He sent Jesus to take away my sin. I believe that He speaks to me through Scripture and He answers prayer. But, I now believe that God chose to create the universe using processes that we can identify and study scientifically.

Later on, I’ll write in more detail about some of the issues related to evolution and creation with which I have wrestled. These include (but are not related to) “Does Genesis rule out the possibility of biological evolution?”, “Where does ID (Intelligent Design) fit into this discussion?”, “Does evolutionary belief lead to all kinds of social ills?”, “Why is this topic even important?”, “What should I teach my kids and how can I help them make good decisions?”. If you have questions that you’d like me to tackle, please leave them in the comments (but, understand that I’m not an expert, just someone trying to figure this stuff out on my own). In future posts, I’ll try to be more detailed and list resources that I have found helpful.

Do you ever question what you were taught about evolution or creation? Does this even show up on your “radar screen”? How do you handle this topic with your kids?


Robin said...

Wow, you've opened a can of worms here. I don't agree with you, but that doesn't make either one of us less or more of a Christian. I, too, have been researching this topic in the last couple of years. But I have come to believe in a literal interpretation (young earth, 6 literal days of creation, worldwide flood) of the Bible and that's what I teach my children. So who's right? Who knows. I guess we'll all find out when we get to heaven and can ask God!

BTW - My biggest gripe about evolution is that students are not allowed to question it or discuss other theories.

Catherine said...

I get most frustrated by how this issue seems to divide the Church. I pretty much never talk about it except to my husband because I don't want to alienate my church friends. Of course, I bet that some of them agree with me, but don't want to talk about it, either. It's important to be able to discuss it rationally because it does affect how we reach out to unchurched people, especially those with science backgrounds. In any case, it's most important to keep Jesus first, middle, and last. The Gospel is really the only thing we have to agree on. Origins, end times, and other non-essential theological issues are interesting and important to debate, but shouldn't get in the way of being the Church. OK. I'm now off my soapbox.

Anonymous said...

You have a challenge from Ken Ham himself! Take him up on it! Any link from his web site will boost your search engine ranking.

And, I challenge this person to send me the quotes where I said what she claims I did above. And I encourage her to have a dialogue with our medical doctor on staff, Dr. Tommy Mitchell, who also homeschools his children, about how he once wrestled over the creation/evolution issue.

pwm said...

Well I'm not sure if AiG will choose to publish my response... so I'll post it here also.

Well I’m not the author of the blog Ken Ham challenged, but I am married to the author. She has a migraine today and has long ago learned not to publish anything controversial while she has a migraine. She did however almost instantly find a quote to answer Mr. Ham’s challenge. It’s the first paragraph of this post.

"Recently, in having an obvious dig at the ministry of Answers in Genesis, a person said, “the gospel doesn’t rise or fall on the days of creation.” My answer was, “That’s true—it doesn’t. But does the gospel rise or fall on the authority of Scripture? And does the authority of Scripture rise or fall on the days of creation?”"

With one logical step, Mr. Ham essentially states (or poses the question) that the gospel does indeed rise and fall on the days of creation. The post then goes on to label Catherine as a compromising Christian. I think this illustrates her point quite well.

Mr. Math Tutor

David Pratt said...

I certainly agree that people can be Christians without believing in a young earth but I have a question for Christians who believe in evolution.

First read Romans 5:12.
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" (NIV)

If sin entered the world through man, and death entered the world through sin, when did that occur?
If humans have only been around for a relatively short period of time, sin hasn't been around that long. But according to evolution, death has been in the world from the beginning of life (whenever that was). Evolution, through natural selection, requires death to select out the positive mutations to be passed on to future generations.

Romans 6:23
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (NIV)

According to evolution, death is not a result of sin. Death is simply a natural part of all life.

What is the answer for this seeming contradiction between the Bible and evolution?



Anonymous said...

"According to evolution, death is not a result of sin. Death is simply a natural part of all life.

What is the answer for this seeming contradiction between the Bible and evolution?"

The Bible is referring to spiritual death.

pwm said...

I agree with Anonymous. And would also like to add that the difference between spiritual death (eternal separation from God) and physical death is an issue that must be addressed for the gospel itself to make sense.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus"

Without the idea of spiritual death, we would have to argue that born again Christians will not die. This is obviously refuted every time we bury one of our brothers or sisters in the Lord.

I have never seen any scripture to suggest that it was physical death that entered the world with sin. I know many people hold that point of view, but I've never seen the scripture they use to support it. I've always assumed that spiritual death, just like spiritual life, only refers to humans and that it is spiritual death that the verse in genesis is referring to. I'd be glad to consider the scripture if someone has it.

Mr. Math Tutor (Husband of the blog author)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Math Tutor,
Your claim that Ham's comments are only one step removed is an unjustified leap in logic. He simply asked the question if the Gospels rest on the authority of scripture. I take it by your response that you agree it does. So a person who believes in the Gospels and is a Christian, in accordance with the message of those Gospels, but rejects the authority of Genesis 1-11, is simply being inconsistent. You will not find anything on the AIG web site that claims a person can not be a Christian and believe in evolution. It is the inconsistency of trying to merge the two that results in a compromise position. Even Thomas Huxley, "Darwin's Bulldog", understood that if evolution could be proven true that it would completely undermine the foundation of Christian faith. Richard Dawkins promotes evolution as the only means of being an "intellectually fulfilled atheist". Compromise positions such as theistic evolution do nothing to help Christianity. Instead, unbelievers laugh in the face of those who continue to believe while allowing the foundation to be destroyed. They simply watch as Christians stand on the branch while sawing it off near the tree. There is neither a scientific nor Biblical necessity for evolution. Secular history doesn't even have the appearance of animals (or planetary bodies, for that matter) in the correct order. Even Jesus says that "at the Beginning" God created humans male and female.

"The Bible is referring to spiritual death."

So when God proclaimed everything to be "very good", this was after billions of years of death, disease, and suffering? How do you explain fossilized thorns, which explicitly did not exist before Adam's sin? Allowing for death before sin means that the question of "How could a loving God...?" becomes unanswerable. Instead of allowing that the state of world is our own doing, we have to blame it on and reconcile it to an allegedly loving God.

I wonder if either of the homeschooling parents have read Sarfati's Refuting Compromise?

Anonymous said...

"I have never seen any scripture to suggest that it was physical death that entered the world with sin."

A literal translation of Genesis 2:17 readers: Dying, you will die.

Clearly in the context of Gen. 3, Adam and Eve died spiritually instantly—they were separated from God and hid themselves.

But in Romans 5:12 we see in context that Paul is clearly speaking of physical death (Jesus’ physical death, verses 8-10, and other men’s physical death, in verse 14).

We also find the same comparison of physical death and physical resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22. So both spiritual death and physical death are the consequences of Adam’s fall.

Catherine said...

Good evening. Migraine is better, thank you. This blog entry was not intended to start an argument, but to be the story of my journey. You may not like it, but it's mine and no one else's.

The only thing I will respond to right now is that Mr. Ham asked me to find a quote where he "essentially said" that someone who disagrees with him can't be a Christian. I think Mr. Math Tutor did a nice job with the quote he posted. The clear implication is that if you don't accept the literal 6 day creation account, then you don't accept the authority of Scripture, so you don't have any reason to believe the Gospel. The problem with this very logical argument is that the premise is false. Scriptural authority is not based on the literality of the first chapter of Genesis. I will discuss this in future posts, because it's the critical point in the argument.

Thanks for your interest and responses. Stay tuned for more - it may be a week or so before I get to this topic again, but be patient. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying my adventures in domesticity.

G.M. Grena said...

Dear Catherine & Mr. Math Tutor, if the Scripture you've been referencing only relates to spiritual death rather than physical death, then you should prayerfully consider whether there was any reason for Jesus to die a physical death via crucifixion.

You (jointly) wrote that you've never seen any Scripture to support the belief that physical death entered the world via sin. Since God initially created humans & animals to be vegetarians (Gen 1:29-30), it's a logical conclusion that animals began killing & dying only only after Adam's initial sin (since no healthy animal would want to die in God's "very good" creation). I've never heard anyone put forth a logical argument for death before sin from the context of Genesis 1 itself; they always begin illogically from an external frame of reference (e.g., textbook Evolution where things such as death within the animal kingdom are the same now as they've always been).

I too am "appalled" that you would misrepresent Mr. Ham's statements by saying a Young-Earth Creationist "can't" be a Christian. There's a huge difference between saying someone is inconsistent in their logic vs. saying that they can't be a Christian (in terms of ethical social behavior & spiritual faithfulness). It's true that if A=B & B=C, then A=C (what Mr. Ham was "essentially" saying); however, it's not true that A always (or never) equals C (what you misinterpreted him to be saying).

One can be a Christian, be saved, & go to Heaven, but they might not be able to defend their faith against atheists & pagan religions if they can't argue logically, or don't understand basic Aristotelian logic, hypotheticals, etc.

Anonymous said...

I was the "anonymous" that brought up spiritual death. I’ll leave my email to identify myself because I can’t seem to do the blogger thing right.

First, thank you for a great discussion! I look forward to future comments when you are inclined.

I agree that one can be a Christian and go to heaven—that’s all we have to do! Successfully arguing with atheists is, fortunately, not a requirement.

When we do so, however, we are called to be honest. To be dishonest is to damage the Faith. Augustine noted this well, specifically regarding interpretation of Genesis:

"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn....

For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion."

For a full analysis of Augustine in light of the creation debate see here:

God speaks to us in a number of ways—through Scripture, through the eyes of a child or spouse, through a sunrise, through nature and through the cosmos at night. All of these means of communication send a consistent message—they are not in conflict. If they appear to conflict it is because our limited human understanding of these forms of communication is incomplete. We may know more about the cosmos or biology in the future, thereby clarifying God’s message to us. We may better understand Scripture in the future as well, in light of advances in our scientific discoveries. Scripture is inerrant, but our understanding of Scripture is not inerrant, but instead is subject to error and may be improved in the future.

Based on that, I do not see how Christ’s physical death and resurrection present a problem for evolution at all. Christ’s death, whether spiritual or physical, was not logically required to redeem us at all. God could have redeemed us with a word—but for some reason didn’t. Instead the Word was made Flesh. Physical death is certainly more noticeable to dim witted humans than spiritual death might have been but even a crucifixion seems to have been overlooked by much of humanity, so I don’t think we can read too much into God’s choice of redemption method as a means to support Ken Ham’s position on creation, a position incidentally not accepted by the vast majority of Christians.

anonymous but available through

G.M. Grena said...

I understand that Catherine is busy with her domesticity, so I do not expect a response from her, but I hope she won't mind my continuation of the discussion with "Anonymous/sealawr".

I want to comment on one point in your reference to Dr. Young's article on Augustine. Augustine's statement, "one animal is the nourishment of another" is, with all due respect to Augustine's other theological contributions, absurd. Were he still alive, I would ask him if animals will be nourishing each other in Heaven as on Earth currently, or if they will be vegetarians once again as described historically in Gen 1:29 & prophetically in Isaiah 11:6-9 & 65:25.

Jesus said that God did not intend husbands/wives to divorce, yet allowed Moses to write the Divorce law. Likewise, God obviously did not intend animals to "nourish" each other via horrific/disgusting bloodshed; yet God later allowed animals to nourish each other as recorded in Genesis 9.

Augustine only sounds reasonable opining on Gen 1 as long as Gen 9 is ignored. Augustine was a fallible human like each of us. 16 centuries later, God's Word is just as logical, sensible, & trustworthy.

You said you "do not see how Christ’s physical death and resurrection present a problem for evolution at all." Well, for starters, His resurrection presents a huge problem, because no crucified human can simply resuscitate! There may possibly be people who become brain-dead for a few seconds or even minutes who might resuscitate, but nobody can resuscitate from a Roman crucifixion properly executed (including a spear through the heart for good measure).

So if you allow yourself to believe in the miracle of His resurrection, where do you draw the line? How could you possibly argue that God could not have created the world about 6,000 years ago? Did Jesus change water to wine instantly, or did He pour the water on grape seeds, wait for them to grow, harvest them, allow their juice to ferment, & then return to the wedding party the following year? Which scenario would be more acceptable in a Science classroom (if that's your standard for interpreting Scripture)? Or did Augustine have a better explanation for that miracle than for the Creation week?

On the other hand, steadfast evolutionists actually believe in religious miracles, & hypocritically proclaim them in Science classrooms. They believe Pasteur's law of Biogenesis was violated when a non-living thing gave life to the first living thing. They believe the 2nd law of Thermodynamics can occasionally be violated (i.e., over time, an isolated system such as a living cell can become more ordered & complex, instead of tending to become more disordered). They believe Natural Selection can create new things instead of being limited to selecting from among things that already exist.

Second, Christ Himself poses a problem for Evolution, because the Bible makes it clear that Jesus was the literal Son of God. Even if Mary's distant ancestors were apelike creatures, half of Jesus came direct from the Holy Spirit. If anyone disagrees with this point, I'd encourage them to walk into any secular Science classroom this week, & see if they can find "Holy Spirit" in the index of any modern Biology textbook.

Third, His physical death (atonement for our sins on the Cross) presents a complete contrast to Evolution:

According to Evolution, a species can only progress (get better & become more fit) when each defective/less-fit individual dies. A random event (i.e., a beneficial mutation) is required in the next generation.

According to God, the species will definitely die, but each individual has the opportunity to progress (i.e., go to Heaven in the next generation). It's a guarantee that's been secured by the death of the one most-fit member of the species (i.e., Jesus).

Anonymous said...

"I do not see how Christ’s physical death and resurrection present a problem for evolution at all. "

The problem is clear. The verses cited claiming Adam's sin resulted only in spiritual death, when read in context, clearly refer to physical death. No death before sin invalidates billions of years, making evolution impossible (that it is possible anyway when natural selection results in a net loss of genetic information)

Catherine said...

Thanks again for all your comments. I'll be posting more in the next few weeks (I hope).

Anonymous said...


Another homeschooling Mom who sees creationism as a threat to her children's faith the same way you do: