Discovering God - Evolution

What about evolution?

Earlier we saw that the origin of life would only have been possible through intentional design. To date, no one has advanced any plausible alternative explanation for this, including evolution (since Darwinian evolution requires already self-replicating organisms).

Once life was created, the process of mutation and natural selection could come into play, but not before. Most Bible students believe that evolution is real but not enough. More is needed. They usually see natural history involving a combination of divine intervention and natural processes, including natural selection, or evolution.

Nobody knows how much of life’s development is the result of divine intervention, and how much evolved naturally. Depending on how one interprets Genesis, a wide range of scenarios is possible.

Some Christians go as far as believing in theistic evolution—that the evolutionary process is 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.

Perhaps God created only a limited number of “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.[1]

Still others argue that the creation in Genesis is actually a re-creation of a world that already existed but had been substantially destroyed.[2]

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. Scientists cannot, with their material metrics, determine whether or not humans have a spirit. But a vast number of scientists believe we do.

So special creation must have happened as we saw in earlier chapters, and specific creative interventions were probably combined with periods of evolution. Nothing science has learned contradicts this picture. In fact, periodic creative episodes could explain some major gaps in the fossil record. No one has explained why radically different life forms appear suddenly in the fossil record without any clear predecessors.


[1] 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).

[2] 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.” Notice this reading accepts the marginal “became” (NIV) rather than “was.” Under this view, most of natural history happened before verse 2. The earth becoming a wasteland could refer to some more recent event, and the rest of the chapter tells how God re-created many populations, including humans.