Is it possible to believe in evolution and still be a Christian? If being a Christian means believing that the Bible is the authentic, trustworthy Word of God and that Christ is our Creator and Savior, the answer is “No.” One cannot believe these things and also believe in evolution as the explanation for the origin of life on our earth as we know it.
Some theologians have attempted to reconcile the biblical Creation story with the evolutionary explanation for the origin of life. But to do so requires interpreting the six days of creation in Genesis as long, indefinite periods of time rather than six literal, twenty-four hour days as the text indicates. Such an interpretation of Scripture cannot be supported by sound principles of Bible study. In many ways evolution and Christianity are not compatible. Here are some points to consider.
1. The Creation narrative. The Creation narrative in the first two chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, clearly indicates that the work of creation was done in six, twenty-four-hour days. Evolution directly contradicts this and denies God’s creative power. Just as Christ performed miracles instantaneously while He was here on earth, so also He did His work of creation instantaneously during Creation week. The Bible says, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. . . . For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 9, NKJV). God says, “I have made the earth, and created man on it. I—My hands—stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded” (Isaiah 45:12, NKJV). One cannot believe these verses and also believe in evolution.
2. The week of seven days. If life developed gradually over millions of years, there would be no explanation for the weekly cycle. The day, month, and year are based on natural movements of the earth, moon, and sun. But there is no astronomical basis for the seven-day week. It had its origin at Creation when God made the earth and everything on it in six days—and rested on the seventh day.
If we look carefully at the biblical creation account, it is very difficult to come to any other conclusion but that Moses, the author, intended to describe literal, twenty-four-hour days. The Hebrew word, yom, has the same meaning as our English word day. In both languages the word can refer to literal days or it can refer to longer periods of time. For example, we may use expressions such as “the day of our forefathers.” However, in Hebrew, if a numeral accompanies the word yom, it always means a literal day. There are no exceptions. In the Creation account, yom is associated with day one, day two, day three, etc. Moses also makes use of the following expressions: evening and morning (see Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, etc.), light and darkness (see Genesis 1:5), night and day (see Genesis 1:5). He could hardly have made it more clear that he was referring to literal days.
If each day in the Creation account is actually a long period of time, plants would have been created long before insects, since plants were created on the third day and insects were created on the fifth day. Yet many plants cannot survive without the pollination provided by insects.
The clear intent of the biblical account is that each day of Creation week was a twenty-four-hour day. If not, then the basis of the fourth commandment is wrong. The fourth commandment (see Exodus 20:8-11) says that the Sabbath is based on the Creation week when God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day and blessed it. Evolution does not allow for a Sabbath that celebrates a Creator God who created our world in one week. Theistic evolution, the belief that God created through the process of evolution, has no reason for a weekly memorial of Creation.
3. Creation is the basis for the equality of all humans. If the theory of progressive evolution from lower life forms to humans is true, there could be a biological basis for considering some human races inferior and others superior, because some races would have advanced further up the evolutionary scale than others. America’s founding fathers said that all men are created equal—and they were right. All human beings are equal. All are children of God. All have the same origin. Racial intolerance has no basis for those who believe in Creation. Those who believe in evolution have reason to believe that some races are more highly developed than others.
4. Origin of sin and death. The idea of gradual evolutionary development of living things until humans finally appear makes it difficult to understand sin and the origin of evil. The fossil record gives much evidence of death, disease, predation, and cruelty—all supposedly taking place eons of time before Adam and Eve evolved and sinned. Yet the Bible clearly tells us that God said everything He created was “good” or “very good” (see Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 25, 31, etc.). The Bible teaches that sin originated in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God (see Genesis 3) and that death is the result of sin. But if parasites, predators, disease, and death occurred before the creation of Adam and Eve (as the theory of evolution requires), then death would be part of God’s original plan.
5. Salvation. The theory of evolution raises questions concerning the purpose for Jesus’ death on the cross. The Bible says that death is the penalty of sin (see Genesis 3:3, 4, 19; Romans 6:23). Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin that we should have paid. If the Creation narrative, including the origin of sin, is only myth or allegory, what is sin? And was Jesus’ death necessary? Scripture calls death an “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26, NKJV), and the whole plan of salvation was designed to eliminate death and bring humans back to God’s original plan of eternal life.
Furthermore, if evolution involves the gradual, continuing improvement of the human race, the atonement of Jesus is quite unnecessary. Given enough time, undesirable characteristics, physical weaknesses, social unrest etc. will be eliminated. Even disease and dying could be overcome. History fails to support such improvements. The Bible clearly indicates that mankind’s nature is basically evil. Only through the power of God can human beings have a future of hope.
6. World-wide flood. Evolution makes no allowance for a world-wide flood. The concept of uniformity that has dominated evolutionary thought declares that the present is the key to the past. In other words, the gradual processes of nature that we currently see slowly eroding seashores, reducing the height of mountains, and shaping the course of rivers, etc. happened in the past at the same rates we see today. Thus there is no need for a universal flood as described in the Bible. Yet Jesus clearly accepted Noah and the flood as historical fact (see Matthew 24:37-39).
7. Bible authors believed in Creation narrative. Many of the authors of both Old Testament and New Testament clearly accepted the creation account as accurate history: David (Psalm 33:6, 9), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:6), Isaiah (Isaiah 45:18), and Paul (Colossians 1:15-17). Jesus, Himself, accepts creation as a literal historical event. Referring to the creation of Adam and Eve, He said, “He which made them at the beginning, ‘made them male and female’ ” (Matthew 19:4, NKJV). The expression “at the beginning” is the same expression used in the first three verses of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. If each day of creation were a long, indefinite period of time, the creation of humans, occurring as it did at the end of the sixth day of Creation, would not have been at the beginning of creation, but after six long eons of time.
8. Credibility of God’s Word. If the Creation narrative is only an allegory, what about other parts of the Bible such as the translation of Elijah to heaven, Jonah and the big fish, and the miracles and resurrection of Jesus? If we dismiss the accuracy of the biblical Creation account, we are free to dismiss other parts of Scripture and thus become the judge of what is or is not true in spite of what Jesus and the Bible authors say.
9. The second coming. The creation of earth and human life some six thousand years ago—rather than millions of years in the past—makes believable the soon second coming of Christ as promised in the Bible. If the Creation narrative is only an allegory, what about Jesus’ promise to come again (see John 14:1-3)? If a spark of life was created millions of years ago and organisms evolved over those many years, what is to keep us from thinking that Jesus’ promise of His return is also just an allegory?
10. Free will. Carried to its logical conclusion, evolution—the undirected, random evolving of living things—eliminates the power of the human will. Darwin, himself, came to the conclusion that free will is an illusion. If evolution is true, then it means that all our choices are merely actions or behaviors determined by our genes or our surrounding environment and are conditioned by past choices—either successful or otherwise. Such a view eliminates the power of choice. But God gave humans free will with the power to choose. Adam and Eve could choose to obey God or not to obey Him. God want His human creation to worship, love, and obey Him because they want to—not because they must. Humans are not robots.
The Bible says that God created this world perfect in the beginning, but that since the entrance of sin, it has become more and more degenerate (see Genesis, chapters 1-3). This is completely opposed to the evolutionary idea that the world is evolving and progressing upward. Jesus has promised to come again and restore this world to its original perfection (see Revelation 21:1-5). God does not require the slow process of evolution and the cruel method of “survival of the fittest” to create. When we look at the flowers, the birds, the trees, etc., we see the evidences of a great Creator God who loves us and created these things for our happiness.
Much more could be said to show that the theory of evolution is incompatible with the Bible and with the beliefs of a Christian that are based on the Bible. Evolution is based on “survival of the fittest” and the reign of tooth and claw. Christians are persons who understand that God is both their Creator and their Savior. They believe that God is eager for as many of His children to be saved as possible. They believe He will return soon as He promised to bring an end to the tragedy and sorrow and evil that exist in the world today.