So just how can a Christian respond to evolution, and other like things? As it turns out we can respond in a number of ways that fall well within the Christian faith. But before that we need to outline what makes a good Christian response.
First every good theory has to try to make sense of the world we find ourselves in; geology (rocks look old, the grand canyon looks like erosion gone wild, the continents look like they fit together), cosmology (stars are really far away but we can see them, the universe also seems to be very old i.e. approximatively 15 billion years old), palaeontology (fossils/ dinosaurs), the existence of things like oil, coal, diamonds (These things were plants but now they are not), biology (why do men have nipples, why do we have appendixes).
Second it needs to fit into the Christian meta-narrative; God is good, he created a good world which included God-image bearing humans with free will, that rebelled, and are in need of redemption.
With that in mind let’s take a look at the four most popular responses;
1. Young Earth- Creation Science
Like I said before this is by far the best known and loudest of the Christian theories. That being said there isn’t really one youth earth theory, there are a number of them. The best that I have come across could be called ‘The Adult Universe’ theory. According to this theory like God made adult human beings God made an adult universe. In his wisdom and power he knew it would be far better for us to live in a universe that is about 15 billion years old, but apparently he didn’t want to wait 15 billion years. Instead the world was made in 6, 24 hour periods some 6,000-10,000 years ago. At first blush this theory answers some questions, almost all of the cosmological, and some of the geological questions can be checked off with little trouble. And of course it fits with the normal Christian meta-narrative with no problem.
That really is all the good points I can assign to this theory. Its major problem is it doesn’t explain very much at all, and what it seeks to explain you cannot test to see if it is true. How can you test the age of a rock, discover that it is 1 million years old and than test to see if it really is 1 million years old or if it only looks that way. This also does not move us anywhere in a biological sense it doesn’t explain the fossil records, it doesn’t explain most odd things we find in anatomy, heck it doesn’t explain why we have oil in the ground. Oil, like all fossil fuels need bio-matter, heat, pressure and time to form. This theory supplies none of those things. The best it can guess is God gave us oil as a present.
But maybe the final nail for me with this theory is that no one that doesn’t hold a very conservative or fundamentalist view of the bible ever comes to this conclusion. This means unless you are dedicated to proving that the earth is only 6000 years old you will never come to the conclusions this theory has.
2. Old Earth- Gap Theory
This theory states the earth is in fact old, as is the universe. BUT God did create in 6 days, he just took unspecified long breaks in-between. These breaks could in fact be millions, maybe even billions of years long. According to this theory who can really say how much time past between ‘let there be light’ and ‘separate the water from the sky.’
In all fairness this theory is just plain silly to me. It has all of the ‘strong’ points of most young earth theories, and all the same short fails. It does no better at explaining the world accept in very superficial ways; and it requires ideological consent before you can understand the world the way the holders of this theory do.
But it has another detractor that the previous theory does not. According to the biblical record on day 7 God rested because his work was finished and he considered it good. If God paused between creation days, what do we mean by him resting on day 7? Wouldn’t it be more significant that he apparently rested for some 14 billion years between day 1 and day 2?
3. Theistic Evolution
This theory more or less goes like this, everything modern science tells us about the world is assumed to be correct. If rocks appear old, well than they are old. If star light takes millions or billions of years to reach earth, well it must of had millions or billions of years to get here. If it looks like life evolved from simple single cell organisms to all creators great and small than it did. But the twist that this theory throws in is that God began and oversaw the process from the begin all the way until now, and will continue to do so until we all reach the other side of eternity. To be clear this was not a passive observation, God made sure the universe developed in a way that creatures like you and I could live and thrive here.
Despite criticism from the ‘Young Earth’ crowd to the contrary most people within this group do in fact take the biblical account very seriously. They just tend to take more of a birds eye view of the creation stories. They highlight the poetic elements contained within the creation account and point out that when they were written it was not to create a scientific text book but it was created to tell us that God created.
In truth some aspects of the biblical account are easier to fit in to this theory than others. For example death prior to the fall of humanity seems to be counter to the biblical account. However it has been pointed out that things like poisonous spiders, and snakes, clearly are designed to kill and eat meat, leaves and fruit were not on the menu for them. Likewise worms, maggots and other like insects live off of decomposition and death. Therefore the ‘death’ spoken of in Genesis must be a spiritual death, a separation from God. This understanding is quiet consistent throughout scripture.
Other things are far harder to figure out. For example how did The Fall happen? When did humanity stop being animals and start being privileged image bearers of God? I don’t have any better answers for you than any of the people who are far more learned than I. Instead those who live within this theory simply accept the uncertainty.
4. Bio Logos
This theory has been coined by Francis Collin author of The Language of God. The theory itself is more or less the same as theistic evolution. The name change represents two things. One Collin’s wanted to get away from the term evolution all together. He felt atheists have more or less cornered the market on evolution, and Christians needed a new term to use. Second this language moves us closer to what natural theology used to be. In the not so distant past the study of science and the study of theology was seen to be co-equal in trying to learn about God. It has only been the last 100-200 years or so that the conflict between science and faith has existed. Even saying that is a little misleading as for most of that period of time the conflict was confined for very few small areas of the globe.
Because at its core Bio Logos and Theistic Evolution operate on the same frame work this theory has no detractions that are different from Theistic Evolution.
There you go, the Christian responses. If you read this beast of a post I thank you.
But before we end I want to make a point clear. All of these are Christian responses. One of the things we need to get away from is calling a person not Christian, or some kind of sub-category of Christian because they do not affirm the same theory you do. In your reading of this you have no doubt pick up which ones I favor but it is important to note that I would never consider someone to not be a Christian because they disagreed with me on this. Let’s try to grant that courtesy to everyone shall we.
**It is worth noting I didn’t make a category called intelligent design. The reason I didn’t is because it is not really a category in of itself, and is far too general. Intelligent design can be the label applied to any one of these categories. At its most basic ID simply means we look at the natural world and find evidence that leads us to believe in a designer. Philip Johnston who really coined this phrase is very much a young earth guy, but flies the flag of ID, but William Lane Craig also flies the ID flag but would either fall into theistic evolution or Bio Logos.