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Theistic evolutionism is the belief in both evolutionism and theism. It is held that the book of Genesis is a non-literal story written simply to teach that man is fallen, and not meant to describe the specific circumstances regarding the origins of the universe.
Theistic evolutionists fully accept that evolution is the scientific description of how organisms change over time and the result of descent with modification. At the same time, the theistic evolutionist is a theist - who believes in a God who is both personal and concerned with His creation. Theistic evolutionists could thus belong to any of the three main monotheistic faiths, or to any other theistic faith.
Theistic Evolutionist Perspectives
There are a variety of opinions amongst theistic evolutionists regarding the extent to which God has been involved with the development of life on Earth. Some, such as Michael Behe, do not believe that abiogenesis can occur without the intervention of God. Others, such as Dr. Howard Van Till, believe that God created the universe in such a way that what He desires will occur through natural processes, and that abiogenesis will probably be fully understood by science one day. The outworking of God's creative process and natural laws are much the same thing.
With regard to Adam, there are also different views that Christian Theistic Evolutionists hold. The historical ancestor perspective teaches that Adam and Eve were literal ancestors of humans, who literally sinned. They evolved as all other life did according to Darwinism, but were given a spirit when God selected them out from all other creatures. Another view holds that Adam & Eve were not literal ancestors but a type that represent the nature of us all.
Arguments for Theistic Evolution
- Main Article: Arguments for theistic evolution
The Meaning of 'Yom'
- Main Article: Days of creation
A main point of contention between young and old earth creationism is in regard to whether the term Yom refers to a 24 hour period of time. This term is the one used for 'Day' in Genesis 1, and much debate about how this narrative should be viewed revolves around this issue.
First, if Yom means a literal 24 hours it makes not the slightest bit of difference to the narrative. The days may well be literal within the mythology of the narrative. It is the narrative that is figurative, not the elements within it.
Secondly, it doesn't actually make the narrative any more scientifically credible to say the days are millions of years long. The order is not in accordance with the fossil record; for example there were flying things long before there were fishes.
Theistic evolution before Darwin
Critics of theistic evolution often claim that if one reads the Creation accounts in Genesis without any 'evolutionist presupposition', then the narratives clearly read as historical accounts. It is said that only after Darwin did people start interpreting the passages as anything else.
This is untrue. Many Church leaders interpreted the Genesis account and figurative long before Darwin. Consider the following quotation:
|“||In the beginning were created only germs or causes of the forms of life which were afterwards to be developed in gradual course.||”|
This quote is not from a modern day theistic evolutionist, but from Augustine of Hippo who lived during the fourth century. Russell Stannard points out in Science and the Renewal of Belief it was the 'more Biblical than thou' bickering between the Reformers and the Catholic church during the sixteenth century that gave rise to literalism. Without any geologists or biologists to contend with, Christians did not take Genesis literally at this time.[Reference needed]
Two creation accounts
- Main Article: Alleged contradictions
Theistic evolutionists point out the contradiction between Genesis 2 and the Creation story in Genesis 1, which says man was made last. The motivation for the making of the animals in verse 18 is to make a suitable companion for the Man He has made. The clear reading of the second Creation story is that God makes the earth, then Man, then the animals to be his companions, then finally the Woman because none of the animals are suitable. This sequence of events contradicts the first Six Day story.
It is believed that when the book of Genesis was put together, the compiler had a number of sources, and at least two Creation stories. Since the contradiction was not of concern, it would seem clear that the truth being communicated was not the simple factual description of how the universe came into being. If both accounts are true, then they are not true in a literal sense.
Theistic evolutionists interpret the Genesis stories as mythological. They argue that facets like God walking through the Garden of Eden in visible form (despite Scriptural insistence that no-one has ever seen God), lends strong evidence in favor of a mythological status of the stories. In addition, there is a talking snake, trees bearing symbolic fruit, and an ancient reworked 'Just So' story about How the Snake Lost its Legs. And lastly the poetic structure in Genesis 1, where what is made on the first three days is populated on the second three. These are all viewed as possessing the characteristics typically found in mythology.
Arguments Against Theistic Evolution
- Main Article: Arguments against theistic evolution
The primary challenge to theistic evolution is the genealogical record and the point at which exegesis becomes historical-grammatical or simply a plain reading of scripture. Many theistic evolutionists believe that Adam was not a real man, yet the Bible clearly treats him as such within the books of Genesis and Chronicles which contain the ancestral record from Adam to Noah. The book of Luke repeats this genealogy from Adam to Jesus.
Those who criticize theistic evolution frequently argue that Genesis is so inextricably intertwined with Judaeo-Christian-Islamic theism as to be inseparable. While the first chapter of Genesis may be interpreted as allegory; the creationism theme runs throughout the rest of Genesis and into the New Testament.
The biblical genealogy of Genesis 5 is not allegorical as some proponents of theistic evolution put forth. The allegorical intent of the specific years and dates given for those people, the year at which they had the next son in their line, and the year they died all imply real people born into this world by other real people. Likewise the Table of Nations and the references to Noah by Jesus and Peter in the New Testament are ways to determine the historical realness of such events and people.
It is held that the importance of Genesis is in the message that man is fallen, not the historicity of the vehicle. In essence, theistic evolutions hold that a non-literalist position is tenable, and is not merely the product of syncretism with evolutionary science, but rather is in agreement with the understanding of the importance of Genesis that has informed the church from the beginning.
- Creation Compromises Gap Theory, Theistic Evolution, Progressive Creation
- BioLogos and Theistic Evolution: Selling the Product By William A. Dembski, April 27, 2011
- Old earth creationism
- Arguments for theistic evolution
- Arguments against theistic evolution