An entire universe … wasted on us?
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.”
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.
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.