Can Christians Believe in Evolution?
Creation vs. Evolution
I honestly don’t care much for this debate; however, its not going away anytime soon. I recently received an email about this issue and taught on it in our Interpreting Scripture and Culture class. So, here are a few thoughts on the matter, not so much arguments for or against, but a plea for more biblically faithful reading of the Bible than either Creationists or Evolutionists typically offer.
To state it up front, I think there is room for both macro and micro evolution in a Christian worldview. What matters most regarding humanity is not the biological process of becoming human but that to be human is to be in the image of God. If homo habilis, homo erectus roamed the earth and homo sapiens beat them out in the survival of the fittest, Christians must not surrender the utterly unique nature of humanity as bearing God’s image. As people created in the image of God we bear a dignity and a responsibility incomparable to the rest of creation. We are to treat one another and the rest of creation as wise, benevolent, god-like creatures.
Genesis and Science
Science and faith are not incompatible, in fact, Christian faith should support scientific exploration and study. However, when it comes to the Bible we must bear in mind that the Genesis account of creation is not scientific but theological. Moses communicated a history of origins, purpose, and meaning to Israel as they escaped Egyptian slavery and moved towards becoming a more distinct people. With dust on his sandals and a camp full of tents, Moses saw the need to communicate a God-revealed understanding of origins, not to explain the mechanics of biological evolution or scientific cosmological formation.
Modern Christianity has imported scientific questions into the exegesis of Genesis. Debates revolving around the length of days, the placement of the “lights” and so on are often attempts to read answers out of the text that simply weren’t intended by the author. Genesis 1 is highly poetic and theological, emphasizing covenant and kingship, the creatures ruling over their corresponding domains, i.e. fish over water, birds over air, man over all. The point of Genesis 1 is not creation vs. evolution, but kings over kingdoms with humanity being God’s representative king of creation. For more on this interpretation see the fine work of Meredith Cline, Lee Irons represented in this book.
What matters most in Genesis 1 is that we affirm that man is created in the image of God. How man got to be there was an act of God. It seems plain that God created man out of dust; however, the text also tells us that there were no suitable helpers found for Adam among the animals, which leaves room for hominids that were close, but not close enough. But that is an argument from silence. There are many Christian scholars who hold the position of theistic evolution. For instance, check out the work of John Jefferson Davis.
What About Archaeology?
As you may know, a lot of the archaeological evidence to support biological evolution is scarce. Many of the so-called skeletons such as Nebraska man have been proven to be fabrications. In fact, there is not one complete skeleton of a hominid, which I find odd. Those skeletons that are intact are composites, combination of various skeletal pieces (See Bones of Contention). Nevertheless, this does not effectively rule out the existence of hominids but it does make their existence suspect. More honest research needs to be done, but at teh end of the day what matters most is not how we became homo sapiens; it’s that we are homo sapiens made in the image of God, unlike any other being to have ever existed.
How would you suggest I go about learning more about Anthropology while still maintaining a belief in Biblical Plenary Inspiration?
Get some good training on biblical interpretation. Start with Fee & Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. On Genesis, check out Blocher’s In the Beginning and grab a good, introductory commentary here.or here or here.