A Question About Evolution – Answers Anyone?

sweater ds2Is Christianity like a warm cozy sweater, but one that requires only one dropped stitch to unravel?

Paula Kirby has suggested that it is, and that evolution is the stitch that unravels the sweater. But more of that toward the end of the post.

I put up a piece last Thursday looking at a phone survey of senior pastors performed by Barna, commissioned by BioLogos: Creation, Evolution, and US Pastors. One of the questions posed in the survey asked about concerns raised by evolution. Four concerns were considered. Theistic evolution …

1. undermines the authority of scripture.

2. views portions of the Bible as non-literal, like Genesis.

3. raises doubts about a historical Adam and Eve

4. raises questions about how and when death and sin entered the world.

The senior pastors/priests were asked if they found these to be a major concern, a minor concern, not a concern, or if they were unsure.

Which of these raise major concerns for you? Why?

BL Major ConcernsThe results are not terribly surprising. Most of those who hold to a Young Earth Creation find all of these to be a major concern. I find it a little surprising, however, that the percentages are slightly higher for the two questions that deal directly with scripture than for the questions about Adam and Eve and Sin and Death. Unlike those holding to YEC or PC, few of those who hold to theistic evolution (7%-13%), and only somewhat more who are uncertain how God created (20%-27%), find any of these to be a major concern.

To refresh your memory, should you need it, the definitions for the categories used in the plot are:

YEC: Young Earth Creation. Believe that God created life in its present form in six 24 hour days. Assert that the earth is less than 10000 years old. Absolutely certain of these perspectives.

Lean YEC: All others who believe that God created life in its present form in six 24 hour days, but who express qualified uncertainty or who doubt “young” age of the earth.

All PC: Progressive creation. Believe that God created life in its present form over a period of time, but not via evolution or who embrace an old earth view but express qualified uncertainty.

All TE: Theistic evolution. Believe God created life, used a natural process like evolution. Express the belief that natural selection can explain the rise of new species. This also includes all others who embrace the idea that God used a natural process to bring about life in its present form, but who express some qualified certainty.

Uncertain: Believe that God created life, but admit they are not certain how.

Large Churches: More than 250 Adults in attendance at weekend services.

BL Sin and DeathI find the results on the last two questions, concerning Adam and Eve and sin and death, mildly surprising. For me at least, these questions – especially the questions of sin and death – are far more significant than a question about the authority of, or literal interpretation of Scripture. Yet fewer than half of those who believe God created through evolution or are uncertain how God created find sin and death a concern. Only 31% in “All TE” and 46% in “Uncertain” suggested that it was either a major or a minor concern.

I don’t know quite what to make of it. While I am convinced that God created through evolutionary means – I also think we need to wrestle with what this might mean more than has been done often.

And a question via e-mail. The survey does not really dig any deeper than the relatively simple questions concerning Adam and Eve, sin and death. The questions, however, go deeper than sin and death alone. For many the question of sin and death is inextricably intertwined with the questions of atonement and redemption. I received an e-mail earlier this week that raised just this question.


I was reading an article online and I would love for you to answer this claim. I really found this claim interesting and it made sense. What would your response be?

“Evolution poses a further threat to Christianity, though, a threat that goes to the very heart of Christian teaching. Evolution means that the creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis are wrong. That’s not how humans came into being, nor the cattle, nor the creeping things, nor the beasts of the earth, nor the fowl of the air. Evolution could not have produced a single mother and father of all future humans, so there was no Adam and no Eve. No Adam and Eve: no fall. No fall: no need for redemption. No need for redemption: no need for a redeemer. No need for a redeemer: no need for the crucifixion or the resurrection, and no need to believe in that redeemer in order to gain eternal life. And not the slightest reason to believe in eternal life in the first place.”


A quick search on the web found at least one source for the quoted paragraph – at the Washington Post’s On Faith forum where Paula Kirby (a consultant to secular organizations) wrote a post Evolution Threatens Christianity. Kirby’s aim is to convince her readers that the case for Christianity is unraveling before their eyes. The bit about the warm cozy sweater is in the paragraph following the one quoted above.

I think Kirby’s argument is fundamentally wrong. There is no more certain fact than the “fallenness” of humankind. We don’t need a single mother, a single father, or a snake to convince us of this. It runs through human experience worldwide. Given a fallen creation (however it got there), we need redemption and a redeemer. … That is, we need redemption and a redeemer if there is anything beyond the purely natural world. Within naturalism, sin and human “evil” (if we can call it that) simply is, as a natural product of evolutionary processes and survival of the fittest. It is naturalism, not evolution, that poses the threat to Christianity. And, of course, it is naturalism, not evolution that leads one to the conclusion that there is “not the slightest reason to believe in eternal life in the first place.

That “evolution destroys the loving creator on which the whole of Christianity depends” is ridiculous. The method of creation doesn’t destroy the idea of a loving creator. And the instant creation of Genesis 1 and 2 doesn’t do away with the problem of evil or the fact that the snake was in the garden before the fall.

On the issues of redemption, redeemer, crucifixion and resurrection, Scot’s post yesterday, They Killed Him, but God Raised Him, points to a deeper understanding of the events of Jesus’s death and resurrection. Atonement, and atonement for sins certainly. But the overly streamlined story of creation, fall, redemption, and eternal life doesn’t do justice to the whole sweep of scripture, including the New Testament story of Jesus or the early church. It does, however, provide fuel and an opening for those like Kirby who seek simple ways to cast doubt on the Christian story.

This isn’t a complete answer to the question however, and many who read may disagree with me (some quite profoundly).

How would you answer Kirby and the concerns of the e-mail writer?

Or do you think that Kirby’s right – no Adam, no Eve, no need for a redeemer, the whole thing falls a part?

If you wish you may contact me directly at rjs4mail[at]att.net

If you wish to comment please see A Question About Evolution – Answers Anyone? on Jesus Creed.

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