Skip to content

Can Christians Believe in Evolution?

March 25, 2009

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.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    March 25, 2009 10:31 pm

    I don’t take a strong position on any of the three primary views of the Genesis creation account (young earth, old earth, framework). However, I think that it is important to keep the theological distinction that appears in the creation narrative between the creation of the animals and the creation of man in the image of God. While there may well be room for macroevolution in some contexts of the account, there does not appear to be room for evolution from primates to hominids to man. The image of God does not evolve, but is breathed in by the creator.

    Great post with some good suggestions for further reading.

  2. Skyler permalink
    March 26, 2009 12:18 am

    I’m glad you feel the way you do, especially making the distinction between creationism and Genesis theology. I’ve seen the hardest falls from Christians, desperately trying to defend intelligent design, because to them, if that fails, so does their faith…it is very dangerous.

    I like what Michael Dowd said, “Few things diminish ‘the gospel’ more than the fact that millions of Christians have not yet been encouraged to distinguish meaningful metaphor from measurable reality.”

    • Tim permalink
      July 13, 2010 12:22 pm

      If intelligent design fails, that would mean there is no God and we are the result of random change… so how would that not defeat Christian faith? That’s like saying Christians shouldn’t hold so fast to the fact that Jesus rose from death on the third day because if they found out he didn’t than there faith will be defeated. Ya its not something we will ever know all the details and arguing and speculating about details we don’t know is pointless but certainly as a Christian intelligent design would be a pretty core belief, because we belief that we have an intelligent creator.

  3. March 26, 2009 10:31 am


    Does that mean that it was possible for things to die as the process of the survival of the fittest was going on until Adam and Eve, and then nothing was allowed to die anymore until the Fall/Rebellion in Genesis 3? Doesn’t macro-evolution demand death in the process of evolution? Maybe not, but that was my elementary understanding.

    I agree with you on the main point of Genesis 1-2 and its poetic/theological thrust (poetics primarily in Genesis 1). But that should not be used necessarily as a point against it being historical or confronting scientific theory at the moment.

    In Christ,

  4. March 26, 2009 1:04 pm

    I think death before the Fall was certainly possible. Adam and Eve could not have eaten without the death of biological life, i.e. plants. I’m sure they stepped on few bugs along the way too! Moreover, the provision of skins for their clothing in Genesis 3 would presumably require death. If that death was unique, we would expect some kind of commentary on its significance. But there is none.

    I think its probable that the dinosaurs died prior to the creation of Adam and Eve also.

    • January 3, 2010 9:54 am

      Note on dinosaurs: read Job 40-41

    • Tim permalink
      July 13, 2010 12:14 pm

      Why would there have to be death even of biological life for Adam and eve to eat? They ate fruit from trees and vegetation, that does not require death (even of plants and trees). Have you ever picked an apple off of an apple tree and ate it? If so did the tree die after you ate the apple. Also where are you getting this idea that there was skins used for Adam and Eves clothing in Genesis 3? Read it again it says fig leaves, there is no mention of skins (once again picking leaves off of a tree does not kill the tree).

      God declares his creation very good at the end of day 6, I have a hard time believing that his very good creation include billions of years of death and decay. There is no account in Genesis that indicates that even humans ate animal meat until after the flood, in fact why would God tell Noah he was now allowed to eat animals if he was already doing so? And just look at the last time you saw a dead animal in the street and ask yourself if that seemed like Shalom to you. We are created in the image of God and death (even in animals) is still emotionally disturbing to us. And as for the dinosaurs there is so much evidence that they lived at the same time as man well after the flood(in both cultural studies and in the Bible in Jobs, and the Psalms). I mean in Gods perfect creation without sin and curse you honestly believe entire species where dying out??

      The Bible says that the result of sin is death and the only way to overcome sin is through Jesus’ death on the cross, but if sin isn’t what causes death I’m kinda confused as to why its such a big deal that God had to die for our sins.

      Although I appreciate your article and agree this is not an issue to divide over, truth still needs to be defended and changing our interpretation of the Bible to fit with what popular science says is a very slippery slope. Evolutionary theory starts with the basic assumption that there is no God so trying to mix there theories with the Bibles doesn’t make a lot of sense it the first place. I mean if you don’t take creation literal, do you not take the flood literal, and if you don’t take the flood to be literal do you take Gods wrath and hell as literal?

      • Tim permalink
        July 13, 2010 1:33 pm

        “Moreover, the provision of skins for their clothing in Genesis 3 would presumably require death. If that death was unique, we would expect some kind of commentary on its significance. But there is none.”

        So yes there is a big commentary on its significance. This death immediately followed sin, it is the essence of the entire point of the Bible. The point of the skin here was that a sacrifice is required to atone and cover our sin (Romans 4:7 Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered) , because the result of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This was ultimately pointing to Jesus who would be our sacrificial lamb and atone (or cover) for our sins.

  5. Skyler permalink
    March 26, 2009 1:16 pm

    John said:

    “The image of God does not evolve, but is breathed in by the creator.”

    Exactly. What makes us ‘human,’ what makes us able to experience the divine unlike any other animal on this earth, is our spiritual growth. I think you are exactly right when you refer to the image of God, but you seem to be jumping the gun and referring to a materialistic view of God, rather than the spiritual. A Christian that agrees evolution happened does not believe that God is changing or evolving…but certainly we as humans are, and certainly the world around us is. The image of God is greater than the universe, and as we understand more about how human beings came to be, we can understand our flaws, or ‘sins’, in a deeper and more significant way than we ever were able to before.

    I really don’t understand the point of getting hung up on whether things were able to ‘die’ or not before the fall. What is relevant is what scripture means for our soul, and what can we learn from it spiritually. It is bad science, and equally bad theology, to use one to explain the other.

  6. John permalink
    March 26, 2009 8:50 pm


    I don’t think that I am having a materialistic view of God. My point was not to define the Image of God. That has obviously been a subject of great debate. Rather, my point is that because we are made in God’s image, we cannot have evolved from a lower form. There is a change in cadence in the creation narrative that makes the forming of humanity different and distinct from the rest of creation. The theological teaching of the narrative is that we are not simply a more advanced primate than chimpanzees. There is something spiritually different and distinct about humanity.

    I agree that God does not evolve or change. I would also agree that humanity (collectively at the very least) does evolve and adapt to changes in environment, culture, etc.

  7. Skyler permalink
    March 27, 2009 12:47 am

    “my point is that because we are made in God’s image, we cannot have evolved from a lower form.”

    Why not? You accept that certain things evolve, society, our environment, and I’m sure that you would accept certain aspects of micro-evolution…but not humans? Not when there is tons of evidence, accepted by nearly all scientists across the board, that suggests otherwise? What makes us different is our ability to comprehend the divine, and it wasn’t until humans were (created/evolved, whatever word you want to use for it) here that we were capable of understanding God, and how he was revealed to us. How humans evolved is irrelevant to God’s image, especially if it’s a spiritual one. It’s really a battle of linguistics, if one chooses to argue over what the “image” of God constitutes…especially if it is more than our ability to make choices that no other species could ever dream of on this planet.

    “The theological teaching of the narrative is that we are not simply a more advanced primate than chimpanzees.”

    Why do you choose this as an example of how we couldn’t have evolved? I’m not sure how these two elements are related. What does the lineage of humanity have to do with the theological narrative? Nothing. The writers of the Old Testament wrote what they knew about humanity at that time, and we were (and still are, and were a long time before that) able to rule over the animal kingdom, which obviously makes us special in our epic creation. How could they know, or even comprehend, the complexities of life that are now revealed to us through science? It wasn’t relevant to us at this point in our history, so it wasn’t revealed to us…until just VERY recently in our human existence. I really love the quote, “Facts are God’s native tongue,” because of it’s undeniable nature. This is how we are, and with our spirits guiding us, we will be right where we are supposed to be.

    Kenneth Miller, a prominent figure for the public understanding of evolution (who is also a Christian) had a wonderful thing to say on a interview I heard the other week:
    “When I talk to fellow christians, I don’t say, for example, “believe me because I’m a Christian just like you, and would I mislead you?” And lord knows the history of the United States and the history of the world is filled with people who profess to be Christians and misled people about everything…But the point that I try to tell them is, if you’re sincere about your faith, the first duty of any Christian is to the truth; and you should be just as curious as any secular scientist, as any philisophical materialist, about the nature of life, the origin of life, and the relationships between species; and if you are honest in that curiosity, it’s going to lead you to evolution, REGARDLESS of what you think about the ultimate questions of religious faith. ”

    Here’s another WONDERFUL, quick statement of his faith…I highly suggest everyone listen to it.
    “”But the evidence isn’t really what bothers most Americans about evolution. What bugs them is that evolution says something they just don’t want to hear: namely, that we not only live in the natural world, but we are part of it. We emerged from it, or more accurately, we emerged with it. To them, that means we are just animals, our lives are an accident and our existence is without meaning, purpose or value. My concern for those who hold that view isn’t just that they are wrong on science, wrong about the nature of the evidence, and mistaken on a fundamental point of biology. It’s that they are missing something grand and beautiful and personally enriching.”
    [audio src="" /]

  8. Skyler permalink
    March 27, 2009 1:23 am

    As you can tell, I love quotes, and I feel this is completely pertinent to our conversation, from the early 5th century, good ol’ Augustine.

    “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 the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold 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. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. 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.”
    – St. Augustine

    • Julie permalink
      August 6, 2010 12:23 pm

      very appropriate comment. Thanks for that. Couldn’t have said it better than Augustine!

  9. March 28, 2009 6:46 am

    “Can Christians believe in evolution?”

    They do. So they can. Get over it.

  10. March 28, 2009 9:42 am

    Glen: We are looking for constructive comments that advance mutual understanding and respect. The plain fact is that many don’t believe that (bible-believing) Christians can and should believe in evolution. You are correct, there are many good, faithful Christians on both sides of this issue, which is why we are looking for meaningful interaction here.

  11. March 28, 2009 10:01 am

    OK maybe i was a little too curt. Sorry. It was the title of your post that got to me.

    I guess my substantive point is that even to imply that accepting evolution somehow disqualifies you from being a Christian is dismissive and arrogant in the extreme. I am not aware of any who deny believers in seven day creationism the right to the title “Christian” but I have come across a number who question the bona fides of those of us see no problem in reconciling belief in divine creation and the conviction that the evolution of a variety of species through a process of natural selection is the best theory we have to account for the diversity of life on the planet.

  12. March 28, 2009 11:46 am

    I understand and thanks. The title is simply meant to address what many conservative people think. As the post points out, it is certainly possible, but ultra conservatives find that hard to believe. My hope was that the post would convice us all to read the Bible more faithfully, culture more openly, and to dialogue more winsomely.

  13. Skyler permalink
    March 29, 2009 11:22 am

    I think that considering humanity, the world, Christianity, in the light of what we know about evolution is quite an eye opener, especially to those who share faith. Why? Because it reinforces what religion and faith are about: love and sharing it with those around you. Faith is not about believing specifically how many years the earth has been in existence. Faith is not about following a rigid list of rules that you must unwillingly abide to. You don’t have faith because you fear ‘going to hell’. Faith does not exist for the sole purpose of the afterlife. Faith exists because it should bind us together while we are on this Earth, and keeps ourselves accountable for our own actions. If our focus is above ourselves, it only helps us and everyone around us every day.

    It may be somewhat of a ‘dangerous’ concept to some people, but I think a very important question to ask yourself is, “If Christianity/God was able to be disproved, and such was done so, would it change how you live your life? Would it change your moral standards or ethics?” If you can truly answer this question, it should reveal a lot about your motives for doing ‘good’ things. I find it sad when I hear about Christians that say if there were no God, there would be nothing stopping them to steal, kill, rape, etc, because that is absolutely horrifying. This is NOT the heart of Christianity. It’s very revealing of the evolved selfish nature that exists in humans, and what separates us from the animals is the choice NOT to indulge in our selfish desires.

  14. March 31, 2009 6:13 pm

    Hey Jonathan,

    I am with you on not caring for this subject much. This and eschatology end up generating a lot of strong opinions without much light. I did read a book this year called “Who Was Adam” that was very good. I linked it here on my blog.

    I still have a lot of questions, but this book was good because it was a legitimately scientific attempt to synthesize the fossil record and the scriptural record and to formulate hypotheses about fossil and genetic discoveries to expect in the future that will be consistent with science and the Bible.

    I highly recommend it.

  15. HughG permalink
    August 18, 2009 10:09 am

    some good thinking here, and a primer if you are new to the area as well.

  16. Charlotte Naizer permalink
    September 5, 2009 7:43 pm

    As I understand the Bible, a day could represent a thousand years, and the creation days could of been this long or longer. Who is to say? I do believe in adaptation of animals and plants. I think there are so many more important things to be concerned about in this life than if we evolved from a primate or not. I choose to believe that we were made in His image and by His hands. When I get to heaven and find out different, He can explain. It is called faith.

  17. Laura permalink
    November 16, 2009 2:41 pm

    I agree that most importantly we affirm that man is created in the image of God. As a chemist, I understand the tension between seeing genetically adaptive species and desiring to believe in evolution over a one-time creation event. However, we must, especially with humans, think through the implications of holding fast to an evolution perspective over the creation narrative in the Bible. If we march forward in defending evolution, then we risk contradicting our own compassionate acts out of God’s grace and love to our own communities. If I believe in evolution, why would I aid the poor, pray for the healing of the sick, and feed the hungry? Afterall, by natural selection’s definition, they were being genetically weeded out. And yet, out of Christ’s sacrifical love for me in my own broken state, I am compelled to see those who are both lesser physically and spiritually.

    It may only be a theological discussion but I feel it has practical implications on the expression of God’s love for our neighbors.

  18. Charlotte Naizer permalink
    November 16, 2009 8:15 pm

    God gave man dominion over all the animals of the land and all the fish in the sea and the birds in the air. Could the answer be any plainer than that. Man is made in God’s image and was given dominion over all other creatures of the earth. Of course, this is just the beginning. What an awesome responsibility to be the first caretakers of the world. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve fell short of God’s expectations. As sin came into this world, man was never forsaken by God. God led us through the darkest times then and He still there. By sendng His Son to die for our transgressions, we realize something very important, God is love.

  19. TTY permalink
    November 18, 2009 8:16 pm

    Laura: “If I believe in evolution, why would I aid the poor, pray for the healing of the sick, and feed the hungry?”

    Because the love and compassion of the Spirit of God is in you! That is what it means to me to be made in the image of God – we love like God loves. If we were mere apes, then sure we would discriminate based on principles of ‘survival of the fittest’. But we are above nature – God said he made us ‘a little lower than the angels’. We are to subdue the earth, not use its biological principles to determine our behavior.

    The kingdom of God overrides the natural principles of nature. The danger with your statement is that if evolution precludes us from loving people because they are being “weeded out” (ie better left to die), then logically we should only love people because they are biologically worthy. Isn’t that the point of grace? Loving people even if they are biologically unworthy?

    What you are describing as ‘evolution’ is actually closer to eugenics or social darwinism – people should be treated differently depending on their perceived genetic excellence. This is not the same thing as evolution: that the number of available alleles (genes) in a population’s gene pool changes over time. In my view this is not a philosophical framework that determines who deserves love!

    The spirit in us that God gave us is what we love people with. This is what separates us from the animals.

  20. SharaLee permalink
    November 21, 2009 5:37 pm


    I’ve really been challenged recently to look at evolution as a more plausible scientific explanation for the current state of mankind. I’m a Christian, and all I’ve ever learned has been short earth creationism, though I probably don’t know enough about it to maintain my end of a debate. I’m wondering if you or anyone else in this discussion who wants to can explain more about how one reconciles evolution with the Genesis account, since that is my main hangup about all this.

  21. Will permalink
    December 29, 2009 11:46 pm

    People who don’t believe in evolution are just ignorant and uneducated. Proof of biological evolution is not scarce. Watch Nova or the Discovery channel. We evolved from fish then to apes and then to human and this is simply a fact. We have adapted, our DNA change with our environment. We are not in God’s image. Everything on earth is connected. As embryos you could not tell the difference between a bat or a human.

  22. January 3, 2010 10:08 am

    As a human blessed by God with a scientific mind, I find it fascinating and odd on how many people who believe in creationism or evolution speak nothing on the possibility of future scientific discoveries. It is as though we have reached the peak the peak of science.

    Isn’t that the “glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of kings to search that matter out”? (Proverbs 25:2). Think of all the discoveries that mankind has made in the last 60 years in comparison to the 600 years prior to that? What new discoveries will we make soon? Is it even possible that we will discover corrections to theories (I’m looking at you ‘evolution’) or sciences (I am looking at you ‘quantum physics’)?

    Understand that I subscribe to neither young or old or framework earth (I can see the argument for all three but do not have interest to nail down a p.o.v… kinda like eschatology). But chew on this…

    What if scientists discovered that the measurements of time that was used to determine how old a discovery was (think archaeological) was very much askew and fossils are not as old as we think they are, say, by a factor of a 500,000. If the scientific community did in fact embrace this new discovery, I wonder how many non-scientist evolutionist would embrace this new discovery. I wonder if scientists are completely unbiased and let their discoveries speak for themselves or are they proceeding with only one agenda in mind?

  23. Ross Thomas permalink
    July 25, 2010 2:38 am

    i am a christian but i believe in evolution.


    in the bible when it says god created earth i believe he used the big bang to create earth
    when it says he created humans i believe that he evolved us from apes

    i believe these sort of things because you simply cannot deny the fossil evidence and simularities between humans and apes.

  24. Cory permalink
    October 5, 2010 4:14 pm

    I’m going to comment here and I encourage any Theistic Evolutionists (people who believe in Darwinism and creation at the same time). I specifically state “Darwinism” because rapid speciation and natural selection is very evident; the problem is inter-species evolution which is at the heart of Darwinism. The fact is, all living things are not gaining gene code but losing it.

    For those of you who say Creation is true but God created the “framework for Darwinism” cannot take the bible verbatim nor believe it is inerrant. You say, well the bible is interpretive but I say not. The bible has to be hugely twisted for it to work even minutely with any evolution theories. With a simple analysis of the Hebrew text in the first chapter of Genesis, “day” is referred to as 24 hour days. The writer (Moses) uses “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” this terminology that you read, comparing it to the rest of scripture and to Hebrew text, when evening or morning is mentioned, it is always in reference to a single human day. – Argument 1

    Second argument, if you are Christian, then you believe that we are in a state of sin and cannot come to God without a savior (Jesus).
    So, that said, sin then came into the world because Adam sinned right? Unless you don’t believe that part of the bible… So, unless Adam was not a man, not created in the image of God, he would have had to have been the first cell ever to have “appeared” out of lifeless chemicals then sinned before it evolved and therefore death and decay would be the curse through the millions of years of evolution. OR, Adam, the man, sinned and THEN death and decay was the result after then; hence, if you believe that Adam was created in the image of God and then was the first sinner, cursed the earth with death, you cannot believe in the big bang or any “framework” theory. This is not interpretive and you cannot believe in Christianity as a faith and accept that sin (death and decay) was before Adam or what evolutionists say would be the mitochondrial eve. Evolutionists do believe in the mitochondrial eve, and guess what; some evolutionist scientist’s timing is pretty close to the biblical chronological timing of one of the wives of Noah’s sons.

    I recommend everyone here to check out the following resources:
    Answers in Genesis: Ken Hamm

    A Judged Creation – Billy Crone

    cheers all!


  1. Can Christians Believe in Evolution? « Church Planting Novice

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: