What is theistic evolution?
Question: "What is theistic evolution?"
Theistic Evolution is one of three major origin-of-life worldviews, the
other two being Atheistic Evolution (also commonly known as Darwinian
Evolution) and Special Creation.
Atheistic Evolution says that there is no God and that life can and did
emerge naturally from preexisting non-living building blocks under the
influence of natural laws (like gravity, etc), although the origin of
those natural laws is not explained. Special Creation says that God
created life directly, either from nothing or from preexisting
materials. (There are a variety of Special Creation hypotheses
reflecting a variety of Theistic traditions. For the purpose of this
article we will focus on the biblical Christian perspective.)
Theistic Evolution says one of two things. First, either there is a God,
but He wasn’t directly involved in the origin of life. He may have
created the building blocks, He may have created the natural laws, He
may even have created these things with the eventual emergence of life
in mind, but at some point early on He stepped back and let His creation
take over. He let it do what it does, whatever that is, and life
eventually emerged from non-living material. This view is similar to
Atheistic Evolution in that it presumes a naturalistic origin of life.
The second alternative of theistic evolution is that God did not perform
just one or two miracles to bring about the origin of life as we know
it. His miracles were multitudinous. He led life step by step down a
path that took it from primeval simplicity to contemporary complexity,
similar to Darwin’s Evolutionary Tree of Life (fish begot amphibians who
begot reptiles who begot birds and mammals, etc). Where life was not
able to evolve naturally (how does a reptile's limb evolve into a bird's
wing naturally?), God stepped in. This view is similar to Special
Creation in that it presumes that God acted supernaturally in some way
to bring about life as we know it.
There are numerous differences between the biblical Special Creation
perspective and the Theistic Evolution perspective. One significant
difference concerns their respective views on death. Theistic
evolutionists tend to believe that the Earth is billions of years old
and that the geologic column containing the fossil record represents
long epochs of time. Since man does not appear until late in the fossil
record, theistic evolutionists believe that many creatures lived, died
and became extinct long before man’s belated arrival. This means that
death existed before Adam and his sin.
Biblical Creationists (as Biblical Special Creationists are often
called) believe that the earth is relatively young and that the fossil
record was laid down during and after Noah’s Flood. The stratification
of the layers is thought to have occurred due to hydrologic sorting and
liquefaction, both of which are observed phenomena. This puts the fossil
record and the death and carnage which it describes hundreds of years
after Adam’s sin.
Another significant difference between the two positions is how they
read Genesis. Theistic evolutionists tend to subscribe to either the
Day-Age theory or the Framework Theory, both of which are allegorical
interpretations of the Genesis 1 creation week. Biblical creationists
subscribe to a literal 24-hour reading of Genesis 1. (See “Does Genesis
chapter 1 literally mean 24-hour days?” on this site.)
Both of the two theistic evolutionist views are flawed from a Christian
prospective in that they don’t line up with the Genesis creation
Theistic evolutionists imagine a Darwinian scenario in which stars
evolved, then our solar system, then earth, then plants and animals, and
eventually man. The two theistic evolution viewpoints disagree as to
the role God played in the unfolding of events, but they generally agree
on the Darwinian timeline. This timeline is in conflict with the
Genesis creation account. For example, Genesis 1 says that the earth was
created on Day One and the sun, moon and stars weren’t created until
Day Four. Some “progressive creationists” argue that the wording of
Genesis suggests the sun, moon and stars were actually created on Day
One but they couldn’t be seen through earth’s atmosphere until Day Four,
leading to their placement on Day Four. This is a bit of a stretch as
the Genesis account is pretty clear that the earth didn’t have an
atmosphere until Day Two. If the sun, moon and stars were created on Day
One, they should have been visible on Day One.
Another example of discordance is that the Genesis account clearly says
that birds were created with sea creatures on Day Five while land
animals were not created until Day Six. This is in direct opposition to
the Darwinian view that birds evolved from land animals. The biblical
account says that birds preceded land animals. The theistic evolutionist
view says exactly the opposite.
One of the most unfortunate trends in postmodern Christianity is that of
reinterpreting Genesis to accommodate evolutionary theories. Many
well-known Bible teachers and apologists have caved in to the
evolutionists and have come to believe that adhering to a literal
interpretation of Genesis is somehow detrimental to the credibility of
Christians. If anything, evolutionists lose respect for those whose
belief in the Bible is so tenuous that we are willing to compromise it
and embrace their ideas. Although the number of true creationists may be
dwindling in academia, several faithful organizations such as Answers
in Genesis, the Creation Research Society and the Institute for Creation
Research have affirmed that the Bible is not only compatible with real
science, but affirm that not a single word in the Bible has ever been
disproved by true science. The Bible is God’s living Word, given to us
by the Creator of the universe, and His description of how He created it
is not compatible with the theory of evolution. Trying to combine the
two is like trying to combine oil and water—it just won’t mix.
This page is also available in:
What does the Bible say about Creation vs. evolution?
What is the Intelligent Design Theory?
What is Progressive Creationism and is it Biblical?
What is the God of the gaps argument?
What does Creation "ex nihilo" mean?
Questions about Creation
What is theistic evolution?
Questions About God
Does God exist?
Who is God?
Is God real?
Is God dead?
What are the attributes of God? What is God like?
What does the Bible teach about the Trinity?
Can monotheism be proven?
What is Theology Proper / Paterology?
Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?
Did God create evil?
Why does God allow the innocent to suffer?
Does God love everyone or just Christians?
Is God sovereign, or do we have a free will?
What are the different names of God, and what do they mean?
Where was God on September 11th?
Why doesn't God still perform miracles like He did in the Bible?
Does God hear / answer the prayers of a sinner / unbeliever?
Why does God love us?
Why was God so evident in the Bible and seems so hidden today?
Does God punish us when we sin?
Why is God a jealous God?
Who created God? Where did God come from?
How do I get the image of God as imposing and angry out of my mind?
Does God change His mind?
Has anyone ever seen God?
What does it mean to fear God?
Is it wrong to question God?
Is there anything God can't do?
Does God have a sense of humor?
Why is God so different in the Old Testament than He is in the New Testament?
Is God / the Bible sexist?
Why does God demand, seek, or request that we worship Him?
Is God fair?
Why did God command the extermination of the Canaanites?
Is God male or female?
What is YHWH? What is the tetragrammaton?
Does God make mistakes?
What does God look like?
Why does God allow sickness?
What does it mean that God is love?
Why does God create people when He knows they are going to go to hell?
Why does God allow evil men like Hitler and Saddam to come into power?
Does God tempt us to sin? What about Abraham in Genesis chapter 22?
What is deism? What do deists believe?
Does God still speak to us today?
Why does God allow natural disasters, i.e. earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis?
What was God doing before He created the universe?
What is God's will?
What is the immutability of God?
Could God create a rock so heavy He could not lift it?
Why does God refer to Himself in the plural in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22?
Why does God require faith?
Does God help those who help themselves?
Why does God allow birth defects?
Why does Scripture emphasize the right hand of God?
Does God have a physical body?
Can God sin? If God cannot sin, is He truly omnipotent?
What does it mean that God is infinite?
Why does God allow evil?
Why does Isaiah 45:7 say that God created evil?
Where is God now? Where is God when it hurts?
Does God want us to worship Him as Father?
Is it sometimes God's will for believers to be sick?
What is the key to truly knowing God?
How is belief in God any different from belief in a Flying Spaghetti Monster?
Why won't God heal amputees?
Is God cruel?
Is God imaginary?
Why did God allow the Holocaust?
What does it mean to find God?