Discovering God - Evolution

Discovering God - Evolution

What about evolution?

Earlier we saw that the origin of self-replicating life is inconceivable apart from intentional design. To date, no one has advanced any plausible alternative explanation. That includes evolution, because evolution can t happen without already self-replicating organisms. But the question here is how organisms capable of self-replication came to exist in the first place.

Once life was created, the possibility of mutation and natural selection could come into play. Most followers of Jesus believe that natural history involves a combination of divine intervention and natural processes, including natural selection, or evolution.[1]

The fact that God built into the DNA code of life the ability to adapt to differing conditions doesn t lessen the grandeur of that system. If anything, it enhances it. Life has adapted to new conditions even in our lifetimes, like DDT resistant flies and antibiotic resistant bacteria.

We know life developed slowly over billions of years but we don t know how much of that development resulted from divine intervention, and how much evolved naturally. Depending on how one interprets Genesis, a wide range of scenarios is possible.

Different theories

Theistic evolution

Some Christians go as far as advancing theistic evolution an evolutionary process, started by God, and possibly directed at points by God. I personally don t think this is a likely explanation, because it doesn t accord well with the language of Genesis 1 or the fossil record.

Progressive creation

More likely, God created only a limited number of what Genesis calls kinds, or general categories of creatures, and a process of natural selection has caused the variety we see today. He could have introduced new organisms periodically over many years. Bible scholars have shown several ways to see this in the text of Genesis.[2]

Naturalists argue for universal common descent. that means that all life has descended from a single ancestor. They posture creation as teaching that all life was created by God. Neither of these extreme views is necessary. Under progressive creation, God created initial life, and also intervened to add new life forms at key points in natural history. The rest came about via evolution. So this view sees a combination of creation and evolution.

Gap creation

Still others argue that the creation in Genesis is actually a partial re-creation of a world that already existed for billions of years, but had been substantially destroyed through a catastrophe. This view is called the gap theory because it sees a gap between Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and verse 2, and the earth became formless and void.

This reading accepts the marginal became because, under this view, most of natural history happened before verse 2, including extensive evolution. Then, earth became a wasteland, referring to some more recent event. Because the word for earth usually means land, some gap theorists suggest that only part of the earth was involved in this destruction and recreation. The rest of the chapter tells how God re-created many animal and plant populations, including humans.

Day-age theory

Under this theory, the days in Genesis are really long ages. The Hebrew word, yom, translated day can refer to periods longer than a day. For instance in Genesis 2:1 the singular day refers to the whole six days in Chapter 1.

Christian scientists have worked out a scenario where the ages described roughly match the sequence of natural history.

Another version of this theory holds that the days are not ages but literal. The ages lie between the days. The six days could refer to six interventions by God. But instead of being sequential, millions of years could pass between each day and the next. Under this reading, these six interventions by God might be examples, not necessarily a complete list.[3]

Days of revelation

A small minority of interpreters suggest that the days in Genesis 1 are days in which God revealed creation to Moses, the author. In other words, the first day, he saw a vision, like a movie, of what God did, creating light. And each day after that, he revealed more. Under this view, the days are literal days, but not days of creation. The textual support for this view is poor.


All biblical believers agree on one point: the human race was a product of direct divine intervention, not merely natural process. This must be true if people have souls or spirits that survive the death of the body. Biological evolution at most accounts for changes in physical features. Belief in a conscious afterlife is nonsense unless we acknowledge a nonbiological, nonmaterial dimension to humans.

This nonmaterial soul or spirit could only derive from a nonmaterial source God. The Bible explicitly teaches this in Genesis 2:7 and elsewhere. According to Hebrews 12:9, God is the father of spirits. God imbues each new human with a spirit at some time prior to birth. Scientists cannot, with their material metrics, measure or detect a human soul. But a vast number of scientists believe we do have one.[4]

So special creation must have happened as we saw in earlier chapters, and God probably introduced specific creative interventions between long periods of evolution. Nothing science has learned contradicts this picture. In fact, periodic creative episodes could explain some of the massive gaps in the fossil record. No one has explained why radically different life forms appear suddenly in the fossil record without any clear predecessors. Naturalists argue that these gaps are just fossils we haven t found yet. But after two hundred years

[1] An exception to this are the young earth readers, who favor a view that all species were created directly by God, and that all of natural history (and in fact the history of the whole universe) happened within about 10,000 years. This is a fundamentalist view that rejects valid science and cannot adequately answer objections. We reject this view.

[2] See Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, (Downers Grove IL: IVP Books, 1972) or John Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).

[3] Both Day-age and Gap theories argue that the sun and moon are not created on the fourth day, but that they appeared on the earth s surface. Before that, cloud obscured the sun and moon. I give much more detail on the pros and cons for these views in Dennis McCallum, Lessons from Genesis: A Study Companion, Vol. 1, (Columbus: New Paradigm Publishing, 2020) Chapter 6.

[4] Recently a number of scientific findings may be demonstrating the reality of the soul like never before. See Mark C. Baker, Stewart Goetz, et. al., The God Hypothesis: Investigations into the Existence of the Soul, (NY: Contimum, 2011), or Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary et. al., The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul, (NY: HarperOne, 2009).