According to a Gallup poll, in 2012, 44 percent of Americans believed that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time in the last 10,000 years or so.” A second group of 32 percent believed that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.” Then there’s the 15 percent who believed that “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.”
These are striking figures, especially in light of the effort by scientists in the last 50 or 60 years to instill the evolutionary theory in our minds from the first grade on up. The strong faith in the supernatural origin of our human race can be attributed, I believe, to two factors. The first is the confidence that religious people have in the reliability of the Bible; and the second is the intricate design in nature, which makes it extremely difficult to suppose that the unguided forces of nature could bring about something as complex as human beings with our brains, eyes, and reproductive systems.
Clearly, a huge intellectual tension exists between creationists and evolutionists— and we humans don’t particularly like intellectual tensions. We want answers! However, in the matter of origins, both creationists and evolutionists are confronted with problems for which satisfactory answers are elusive. Creationists puzzle over the millions of years that radiometric dating suggests for the history of life on earth, which challenges the short-earth history found in the Bible. On the other hand, a significant challenge for the evolutionary theory is the sudden appearance of fully developed life forms in the geological column, which contradicts the idea that today’s plants, animals, and humans developed through gradual changes over those same millions of years.
So far neither side has found truly satisfactory responses to its challenges. But we want answers! So what do we do? Where do we turn? Unfortunately, one of the solutions that’s used by each side is to ridicule the other as either ignorant or ungodly. But ridicule creates disrespect and answers nothing. I’m not interested in that.
Not about compromising
Both science and the Bible claim to be authoritative. However, when two authorities contradict each other, one has to give way to the other. And the temptation is to achieve that subordination by compromising the one we consider to be secondary.
However, I have great respect for both science and the Bible as authoritative sources of truth, and I don’t want to compromise either one. For reasons I shall explain, I believe that the Bible offers the ultimate truth in this matter. However, in subordinating science to the Bible, some creationists have compromised science by offering solutions that are illogical and contrary to the facts. I’m not willing to do that.
On the other hand, some Christians have compromised Scripture by subordinating it to the authority of science. They conclude that the Bible’s story about God’s creation of the world can’t be taken as literal history, and they accept the evolutionary theory of earth’s history and the origin of living things. This is what the second group in the Gallup poll has done with their conclusion that God created human beings (and all other forms of life) by guiding the evolutionary process. At first glance this seems to be a reasonable way to bring the two sides together. Unfortunately, it ends up creating a major theological conflict with the Bible’s teaching about salvation.
The crux of the matter
The issue is the Bible’s account of Creation, the Fall, and God’s plan to resolve the problem created by Adam and Eve’s transgression. The reason for the seriousness of the issue is that the plan of salvation is rooted in the assumption that the Bible’s account of the creation of our first parents and their subsequent fall from grace is literal history.
Allow me to elaborate. According to the Bible, death is the result of sin, and it’s an enemy that will one day be destroyed. On the other hand, the evolutionary theory proposes that death is normal. Living things change as the fittest survive and the less fit die or are killed off—a process that’s called natural selection.
The issue isn’t whether nature works this way at the present time. Today’s creation scientists generally acknowledge that it does, at least to a limited degree. The issue is whether natural selection explains everything about the origin and development of life on our planet, including human life.
According to the Bible, God created humans fully intelligent, and evil and death originated when they disobeyed Him. Jesus, by His crucifixion, provided the solution to the problem that evil and death pose for us. Science, on the other hand, proposes that evil and death have always existed and that natural selection involves beings who are becoming increasingly intelligent and thus able to resolve the problem of evil themselves. Obviously, these two views are seriously at odds with each other.
It’s impossible to separate the Bible’s plan of salvation from the literal history of origins as found in Genesis.
I accept the Bible as authoritative in regard to salvation. Consequently, I’m unwilling to compromise its testimony about the history of Creation and the Fall in order to accommodate the evolutionary model, regardless of how rationally compelling the scientific account may appear to be.
Speaking with authority
So how do I live with the tension? I begin by allowing science and Scripture to each speak with its own authority. I will not accept cheap shots at science in order to justify my acceptance of Scripture. Neither will I compromise Scripture by reinterpreting it in ways that may satisfy science but that compromise the history on which the Bible’s plan of salvation is based. Rather, I wait patiently for the ultimate explanation to emerge.
One further brief word is crucial to my personal convictions. The Bible’s plan of salvation isn’t mere theory for me. As I apply its lessons to my spiritual life, I find that the solutions it proposes for the evil I myself struggle with really do work. For me, the Bible is true at a very personal level. But I refuse to compromise science in order to justify this deep personal experience.
I assume that there is an answer to this tension and that if I wait patiently, I will discover it—even if that wait carries me into eternity.