Could God Have Used Evolution?
“Why couldn't God have just used evolution as his means of creating the world? Why do many Christians consider it a threat to their faith? What’s the big deal?” This is one of the most commonly asked questions about the origins debate, especially from young people. Many people wonder why Christians don’t simply accept Darwin’s theory as the means through which God created and then get on with it.
This is a question I have wrestled with quite profoundly. I have asked many theologians, scientists, and philosophers the question, Is Darwinian evolution compatible with Christianity? After much thought and research, the conclusion I have come up with is that they are not compatible. To accept Darwinian evolution would be a grave mistake. Let me explain.
Christianity and Darwinian Evolution: An Oxymoron!
The reason the two cannot be wedded together is actually rather simple: Darwinian evolution (as you may recall from 9th grade Biology class) is a blind, undirected, purposelessness process. As Richard Dawkins regularly points out, evolution is a chance process that has no end-goal in mind. On the other hand, when we design something it’s no longer blind and it’s no longer undirected—it’s purposeful. Thus, to say God used evolution is an oxymoron (designed-chance) like “Christian-atheist,” “jumbo-shrimp,” or “Microsoft Works.”
Think about it this way. There are two ways to build a computer (which, by the way, is far less complex than a single human cell). One option is to throw the parts on the ground and let natural processes alone do the work. Maybe with wind, rain, and a big earthquake the computer will be assembled by itself. If so, this would be a chance process. Most reasonable people will recognize that this will never happen, but it does illustrate how something could in principle be constructed by chance (ignoring the question of where the parts came from in the first place!)
But there is another way to build a computer: design. A computer designer makes individual parts and places them in the right arrangement so it will perform certain functions. A computer designer has a purposeful, directed plan for the computer—it is not the result of chance.
Can you see how this relates to evolution? God could either design the world or let it go by chance, but not both. As soon as God guides the process (design) it is no longer natural (chance). It is simply illogical to claim that God used evolution as his means of creating the world, for it would be an oxymoron: designed-chance.
Now, if by “evolution” we simply mean common descent, then sure—God could’ve used common descent. Common descent refers to the idea that all species are derived from a common ancestor millions of years ago (i.e., you are related to your pet snail!). God could have created all organisms with a common ancestor. But here’s the key point: His mechanism would not be natural selection acting on random mutation, for that is an un-designed process.
Consider Corvettes as an example. Corvettes have a common ancestor (the first year they were made). As Corvettes are designed over multiple years, we see similarities and commonalities with each successive model. But, of course, Corvettes were designed. If that’s what we mean by evolution, then sure, God could’ve used it. Many proponents of intelligent design actually believe this (for the record, I don’t).
Can Christians Believe in Evolution?
So, can someone be a Christian and believe in evolution? Sure. You can be a Christian and believe in all sorts of things that are false! But the real question is, Can Christianity be true and Darwinian evolution be true? I don’t think they can.
I think a lot of people want to find a way to reconcile the two because they believe the evidence for Darwinian evolution is so overwhelming that they want to “save room” for their faith by saying maybe God just used evolution. So, they want to maintain their faith without giving it up. But as I write in Understanding Intelligent Design (Harvest House, 2008), you don’t have to! There’s another scientifically and philosophically rigorous theory that is much more compatible with the historic Christian faith.
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