On the Origin of Evolution

“being transformed … from one degree of glory to another” 2 Corinthians 3:18

It’s time to give some attention to the subject of evolution.  This is the reason we are talking about science and faith to begin with, so we need to be clear on what it means.

Evolution means several things, which adds to the confusion.  At it’s most basic, evolution describes the gradual process by which things change.  This is the meaning we use to describe the evolution  of ideas.

Evolution has evolved as an idea.

Evolution also means the way living things change over time in the physical world.  This is called micro, or small scale evolution.  It’s seen in the way animals and humans adapt to the environment around them.  This process is very slow, and so we didn’t pay much attention to it before the last 200 years or so.

At that time, science was not much more than a hobby, carried on by men who had the money to pursue it.  The overwhelming majority of these men were part of a social class that accepted the literal interpretation of the Bible, that the world had been created in six days and was about 6,000 years old.

But there was also a great interest in exploration, and the information it could reveal about the natural world.  A British woman, named Mary Anning, was one of the first people to think that fossils could tell us about the past.  In 1811 she found a fossilized skeleton that did not match any known animal at the time.

This caused a lot of debate between those who saw a greater role for science, and those who rejected any suggestion that challenged their interpretation of the Bible.  This was a subject of wide debate when Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” in 1859.

Darwin originally tried to reconcile his view with Biblical creation, but in later revisions rejected Christianity.  His book provided the evidence needed for those who wanted to see the end of Christianity’s influence on science.

Darwin and others thought they saw evidence of natural selection that guided how new species developed.  Darwin in particular argued that this process alone could explain the great diversity of life on earth.  This is what we know as The Theory of Evolution.

To this point, evolution does not necessarily contradict belief in God.  Many people, then and now, believed God guided this process of natural selection to some degree.  Today we call that view Theistic Evolution.  (I discuss this view in a later post.)

In the early 1900s, the Theory of Evolution became identified with the philosophy that belief in God was unnecessary.  This new atheist form of evolution is often referred to as Darwinism or Neo-Darwinism.  This view argued that man was like any other animal, and had evolved from the same ancestor as primates.

This form of evolution is incompatible with Christianity, which believes Man was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26).  Although that image was affected by sin, God came to restore it through Christ (Col. 3:10).

In some ways, the Christian faith is centered on the hope that we will evolve into something we are not.  But that is not evolution as a natural process that proves God does not exist.  Rather we are redeemed from our fallen state, and returned to the purpose for which we were created (2 Cor. 3:18).

We can be better, but only as a result of God’s supernatural work of grace.