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An entire universe … wasted on us?

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Published: 12 September 2013 (GMT+10)

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We often interact with people who argue that it is possible to be a Christian and an evolutionist, and to a certain extent, we would agree. But the reason we oppose theistic evolution is because one has to impose a fundamentally different narrative on the biblical text to make it compatible with evolution. And this is clear when you actually read the writings of theistic evolutionist Christians. Daniel Harrell, the senior minister of Colonial Church in Edina, Minnesota, wrote a blog entry on BioLogos’ website titled ‘Why Evolution Matters to the Church’. He did not fulfill the title’s promise to tell us ‘why evolution matters to the church’, but he does give us an interesting ‘case study’ of evolutionary eisegesis in action.

He wrote, “Critics of Christianity look to evolution to show how the emergence of human life on earth demanded enormous ruin and ravage, billions of years of apparent waste and futility, species extermination and organism road kill. Not only was the massive dying off rampant, it was mandatory too. The emergence of life depends on the death of prior life, millions of generations of mutational and reproductive misfire and failure. Moreover, the popular struggle for survival narrative portrays a process by which cruelty and suffering are the standard fare. There has been so much dysfunction, so much excess and error, so much ruin and ravage in the evolutionary epic that to attribute it to any superior, intelligent, and benevolent being is practically an insult.”

This is the conundrum for the theistic evolutionist—how do you explain how a good God uses such a wasteful, cruel process to bring about His will? Harrell compares the story of the woman who was commended for anointing Jesus with the costly perfume to the wasteful process of evolution: “billions of years and billions of organisms, galaxies, and stars, all extravagantly wasted on us, for us” (emphasis in original). He also compares it to the cross: “by faith we view this ancient instrument of ruin and ravage as the supreme expression of extravagant, sacrificial love. In this light, we can see the entire creation as an expression of God’s sacrificial nature—a cross-shaped character permeating the whole universe.”

There is no way to make God the originator of death and suffering in nature without attacking His omnipotence or benevolence.

So is evolution another example of God’s extravagant love? Billions of years of death and suffering… all for us? I would argue that there are several problems with this view of evolution.

First, it imposes post-Fall realities on the pre-Fall world. This is critical to understand. The world we live in now is not in the same state as the world God originally created. We’ve written before about how any long-age timescale puts death before sin (see Did God create over billions of years? for more detail). In evolutionary theory, death is what produced people over millions of years. This means anyone who wants to include evolution in their theology has to make death ‘very good’ somehow. Romans 8 makes clear that the Fall had cosmic implications—because God gave Adam headship over the physical creation, his sin affected the whole creation, as well as all his descendants. Because we believe death is a corruption of God’s ‘very good’ creation, the existence of death and suffering isn’t a problem for biblical creationists in explaining God’s goodness. But there is no way to make God the originator of death and suffering in nature without attacking His omnipotence (because he was stuck using such a wasteful process) or benevolence (because he used terrible means to bring about the desired ends).

Second, it implies a primarily anthropocentric (man-centered) creation. True, Genesis 1 does make the creation of man and woman the most important event during creation week. In a certain sense, creation exists so that mankind can have a suitable place to live. But far more importantly, creation and mankind exist to glorify God and to show His power. Even if an evolutionary scenario could result in a world suitable for mankind’s home, it would not glorify God and show His power. Why? Because if evolutionary history (from the big bang to the formation of the earth to the eventual evolution of all species) is true, God is not needed at any step or at any time. Evolution simply removed any need for God. This is shown by the simple fact that most evolutionists do not even believe in God, but all creationists must.

The Bible teaches that death is a corruption and an enemy, but in theistic evolution it becomes the primary way God works to bring about evolutionary progress.

Third, it employs illegitimate comparisons between evolution and salvation. It actually compares Christ’s sacrifice to death—the very thing we have to be saved from! Christ had to come to earth, live a perfectly obedient human life, and die in our place as a blameless sacrifice because of death, brought by sin. Death is the ‘last enemy’ (1 Corinthians 15:26), but theistic evolutionists would weave it into the fabric of creation from its inception. The Bible teaches that death is a corruption and an enemy, but in theistic evolution it becomes the primary way God works to bring about evolutionary progress. The Bible teaches that God’s plan will culminate in a perfect new creation, where sin and death will never enter. But how can billions of years of death and suffering result in a glorious new creation without death and suffering? And if that’s what God wanted, why didn’t He simply create that in the first place?

The woman’s sacrifice of the expensive perfume was also unlike the ‘sacrifice’ of billions of creatures who had to suffer and die. It was the woman’s own perfume that she used to anoint Jesus; if she had stolen someone else’s savings to buy the perfume, it would no longer be a beautiful story. The beautiful part about the Cross is that God Himself came down and suffered for us. God causing innumerable creatures to suffer and die in a relentless evolutionary march that would lead to humanity is monstrous and not analogous in any way to anything God does in the Bible.

Another pastor 2,000 years ago wrote that “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:1). We don’t have access to the events that brought the universe into being; we have to have faith in someone’s version of accounts. If we call ourselves Christians, that version of events should be the one that Genesis teaches.

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Readers’ comments
graham P., New Zealand, 12 September 2013

What's weird with this Biologos blog is that designers and creators we see today never make something by such a wasteful process as is posited by evolution: Real designers / manufacturers husband their resources and treasure their prototypes: look at the auction prices of sports-car prototypes, like Jaguar for example. Real designers try to get it right first time by using maths and theoretical models.

Again, the great, almost unbelievably beautiful cathedrals of the world aren't surrounded by miles of trial and error ruins and failed attempts. They were built as they were designed: practically perfect.

Victor B., Australia, 12 September 2013

Thanks Lita - When discussing Genesis in the context of Creation - one often encounters from fellow Christians that "we should not divide over non-essentials". However as your article shows "eisegesis" is an important problem in reading the biblical text when one has an external authority or worldview arising out of "evolutionary thinking".

So much so that "death" which is clearly "the last enemy" becomes the very means by which God originally creates life. Also "death" the result of "sin" - the very judgement that Jesus took upon himself to save us becomes less significant or at the least dulls our appreciation of the Cross and the Resurrection.

Brad C., United States, 12 September 2013

I just don't understand how anyone can claim to be both a Christian and an evolutionist. Genesis is very clear on the creation timeline. God created "In the beginning", and it was "very good". Only after sin entered the world did death and destruction begin to happen. It seems that these theistic evolutionist are straddleing a fence. I just hope they choose the correct side to fall to.

Richard L., United Arab Emirates, 12 September 2013

The woman is noble (in contrast, as you noted, to the ugliness of inflicting-massive-suffering supposed evolutionary history) for the reason you noted and for another reason. She annointed Christ for his necessary (death and) burial.

She is the only recorded disciple who acknowledged, ahead of time, the necessity of Christ having to go to the cross. She alone acknowledged what Jesus had steadfastly been teaching: that he had come to die--as Suffering-Servant Messiah--for our sins, and to rise again on the third day. She alone--in contrast to the Twelve and all others--had successful intake of Jesus' vital input.

She alone humbled herself and did not insist that God perform according to the errant sensibility of the surrounding culture. She is our exemplar.

In total contrast, theistic evolutionists--as godly as they can be in other areas--fail in the area of orgins, submitting uncritically to the errant sensibility of surrounding intelligentsia, and blocking (subconsciously, in many cases) and failing to have intake of the clear input from Biblical origins-text.

Karel F., United States, 12 September 2013

Lita did an excellent job of contrasting the pre-Fall and post-Fall worlds. Darwinian Evolution is a savage theory inspired by the post-Fall world.

As for St. Paul, he also tells us in Hebrews 2: 14, that Satan invented Death as a way to annihilate Humanity. Satan hated Adam and Eve and decided to murder them so he could have reign over the Physical Universe.

Lita Cosner responds

Thanks for this comment. But Satan did not 'invent' death though he certainly played a part in it entering the creation. God warned Adam about death being the penalty for eating the fruit before the serpent's dialogue with Eve.

Denise P., United States, 12 September 2013

Thank you, Lita :-) Interesting how when we try to 'dress things up a bit' with man's better imaginative ideas & try to explain away the 'inexplicable cruelty' of Hell & judgment (inexplicable because of our allegorizing & 'fixing up' the plain reading of God's Word in the first place!) which righteously & without our limitations & corruptibility deal justly & perfectly with sin, suffering & death.....we end up creating a tyrannical scenario of bondage & determination & death under the 'liberating' leadership of that other, default 'father' of John 8 ....justifying to fallen minds yet in darkness, refusing to receive & keep God's words of light with no shadow, further tyrannical 'fixes' of fascist socialism or communist socialism in dreadful unions of 'church/harlot' -world/state. Better to quietly & humbly serve & prepare, warning others & calling them to the same promise, as we wait for the Bridegroom & perfect judge, trusting His mercy & salvation as written, & without any other agenda. 2 Peter. God bless you & the ministry, all in Christ Jesus & those yet to humble themselves & come before the door closes: when faith becomes sight, & all see Him as He is: as Savior or Judge. Maranatha.

Daniel M., China, 13 September 2013

It would seem that when God instructed Adam to dress and keep the garden, this was more consistent with a well-managed, six day creation than with 13+ billion year process where God simply stepped back and let things go. If He had simply started things at the Big Bang and then let everything run its own course, then to be consistent with this methodology, His instructions to Adam might have been, "Just leave the garden alone and let it do its own thing." Instead, He instructed Adam to do things decently and in order, just as He had done.

Sarah N., United Kingdom, 13 September 2013

I find it extraordinary that there are sincere Christians (and there are many in my church) who believe in this way . God has revealed to us his wonderful creative personality and absolute power. For them God is neither big enough, strong enough or powerful enough. It can also be a slippery slope to other thinking. I pray the Lord will bless them and open their eyes to see, really see, how awesome he is. Thank you for this article I may be able to help others to see.

David G., Australia, 14 September 2013

I think your statement "Fall had cosmic implications—because God gave Adam headship over the physical creation, his sin affected the whole creation" goes as far as it could: the Fall introduced 'anti-god' into creation. From the Fall, the creation was no longer aligned with God, but misaligned. It ceased to bear the marks of 'very good-ness' which was consistent with it having come from and being a product of the loving God, and now bears the marks of something from which God has been shunned by his creation. To back death into creation in any way is to mix

God and 'non-god' or even 'anti-god' in the one sphere of being. Theologically incoherent.

John G., United States, 14 September 2013

Another insidious effect of theistic evolution is that it makes of no effect the 4th commandment. The only commandment that starts with the phrase "Remember." If the creation week was really millions of years does this mean the creator rested for millions of years after the work of creation ? We are commanded to rest,and commune with our maker. And contemplate our place in this creation on the 7th literal day each week. There is no reason to assume the meaning here was anything different than 7, 24 hour days. Any compromise here is with the Devil.

Ronald B., United States, 18 September 2013

Since science is examining the evidence and evolution has no evidence why even discuss such nonsense ?

Evolution is a faith based mind set.

Anthony C., Australia, 19 September 2013

The flaw in young earth creationist thinking as I see it is that it relies on the inerrancy of everything written in the bible. It may in fact be inerrant but logically it can't be known for sure that it is. The fact that it says in the bible that it is is not really reliable evidence, unless it is in fact inerrant, which is the question being explored.

Any thoughts?

Lita Cosner responds

Of course the underlying assumption of biblical creation is that the Bible is a reliable testimony when it comes to how the universe and life came to be. But there are extremely good reasons for believing that the Bible is inerrant. It's the most investigated and attacked book, and it has withstood all of that.

And even though I definitely believe the Bible is inerrant, nothing else is held to the standard of inerrancy in order to be considered a good piece of evidence. For instance, no one thinks that Josephus is an infallible historical source. In fact, we know that he was in error regarding certain things. But we consider him an overall good historian and what he says is used as a piece of historical evidence.

Ian B., Australia, 19 September 2013

To the day I die, I will never cease to thank God for your ministry. My eyes were opened to how silly and futile the anti-God brigade are, in all their attempts to get God off the stage of life, when my wife and I attended your week-long seminar on the Gold Coast ('06 I think). You think clearly because you see clearly - you "get it"

that the Earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof. You get it that He has made us all for His glory, and any attempt by man to run away from God's love is futile, however much we may inlellectualise this. God bless your wonderful eye-opening ministry.

Wes J., Australia, 20 September 2013

Hi

That blogger who comapres the wastefulness of the announting Jesus with oil to wastefulness of time and the extinction of species has picked a poor analogy to start with.

The annointing of oil was not wasteful at all... it fulfills scripture and the requirement of anointing the priesthood that Jesus needed to happen. Other 'every jot and tittle of law would NOT have been fulfiled'.

I believe nothing in the scripture is points to a waste of time and energy. This is one example where an understanding of the scripture is lacking, but one that popular protagonists of the scripture seem to pick on. They do so errantly and the blogger use in like kind.

Carrying on then with the comparison, there was nothing unuseful or wasteful about the anointing of oil, and God certainly does nothing wasteful with his creation!

That is my humble opinion. Blessings...

David S., United States, 20 September 2013

God loves us with so much love, He never waste anything. The vastness of space we have has a meaning, we are very special to God. Who can know the mind of God? We should return His love, with thankfulness, and praise.

Joe B., United States, 20 September 2013

You never answered the question "An entire universe.. .wasted on us? I still wonder why the universe is so large just for our small planet. Just think about the size of the known universe that is billions of light years across and the trillions of stars within.

Lita Cosner responds

The answer is that the universe wasn't created for us--it was created for God and to display His glory. The vastness of space with billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, shows God's majesty and power.

Patrick A., United States, 20 September 2013

I think another "clue" given us in Genesis is the emergence of "thorns and thistles". If understood more broadly, it points to the new 'aggressive' posture of the natural world where predation, survival and death are now the norm. This is clearly seen in Genesis as a catastrophe. But it is followed by the promise of a Deliverer, who will 'crush the serpent's head.' To read survival and death as God's 'plan' is perverse beyond words.

James L., United Kingdom, 20 September 2013

Very good article (although they are all good) which just confirms what I always believed that anyone who claims to be a Christian and at the same time believes in any form of evolution I would question whether or not he/she is a Christian in the first place?

Peter F., United States, 20 September 2013

Only a point--well, maybe, two. The Victorians left us the phrase, "Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw". A fairly accurate description of any branch of 'Natural History". Indeed, the struggle for survival that Darwin described continues to this day everywhere where Man has not intervened--sometimes for profit, sometimes for amusement, sometimes from religious or other ethical reasons.

But, while some might use this to argue against the Benevolence of a Deity (I do not, just for our ignorance) it in no way contradicts His (or Hers or Its or Their, as the case may be) Omnipotence, or Omniscience, or such. Or are you saying that if God decided to create us using the Darwinian paradigm, He couldn't?

Now, that WOULD contradict the idea of an Omnipotent Deity.

Lita Cosner responds

I would argue that God could not create in such a way that would contradict His own nature. That is not an attack on omnipotence, because the description of God's omnipotence is that He is not constrained by anything outside His own nature.

I would also argue that God would not tell us He created in a way that He did not actually create; i.e., God would not lie to us.

Guillermo P., Sweden, 20 September 2013

This is a matter of the utmost importance. Brilliantly argued, Lita! May the Lord Jesus always bless you!

Pat G., United States, 20 September 2013

It seems to me that God created the vast and extravagant universe to illustrate His majesty and glory. Some creationist astronomers have postulated that the speed of light is vastly slower today than it was to begin with. This means that at one time, the limit on space exploration would be minimal, since the speed of light limitation would be a non-issue. What if the secondary reason for creating the universe so vast was to give the human race something to explore, wonder about, and as a result, to glorify God?

Alan S., United Kingdom, 20 September 2013

If evolution is true who were Adam and Eve? Where do they come into the story? How did their disobedience bring about death and corruption? Clearly death would have existed already so how could it suddenly become a punishment for sin? Presumably there were pre-existing humans before Adam so how would they relate to eternity with God? Their death could not be considered as punishment for sin because they would have had no sin. God announced the fact of sin and its consequences to Adam. How could Christ's death be effective for them if they weren't sinful? In any case Rom 3.23 says all have sinned. In what then did these forebears of Adam sin, seeing the fact of sin hadn't been declared to them? Was the effect of Adam's sin retrospectively applied to them? If so where is the justice in that? At what point would evolving man become guilty of sin? Presumably at the point where self awareness was achieved? They couldn't know about it though. Maybe Adam or some equivalent was the first thinking man and he is the one God picked to be charged with the responsibility of keeping himself from sin? The questions and the problems just become more convoluted the more I think of it all.

How do these theistic evolutionists cope with all that? Perhaps they don't believe Rom 3.23. Perhaps they don't believe Christ died for them. Perhaps they don't believe the Bible really is the Word of God but simply take it as another religious book and all roads do eventually lead to heaven if they believe in heaven or eternal life.

W. Wade S., United States, 21 September 2013

An excellent article. In both written and verbal communications with believers, I have encountered an ingrained attitude among too many that states: “what does it matter?”; “the Bible is not a science textbook...”; “the important thing is Christ’s message, not interpretations of Genesis”, etc. Really, what they want (whether they realize it or not) is to have their cake and eat it, too. They want to embrace the surety of salvation, without having to reject the prevailing evolutionist presuppositions and Godless worldview of their indoctrination.

I counter that Jesus Christ is “grace and truth” (John 1:14). And we are exhorted through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to “walk in truth” (3 John:4). The two are of a piece, in the same way that space and time are. And there are no boundaries to Christ’s truth; in addition to our personal fealty to truth in words and deeds, we should strive for a truthful understanding of our existence and reality, with Scripture as the authority over science, rather than the other way around. From that standpoint – and only from that standpoint – we can see that the best scientific explanations for the origins and nature of our reality correspond to Biblical truth. This website, and the copious resources available through it, are an awesome, invaluable, and blessed resource in supporting that argument.

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” -- John 8:31b,32

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