Theistic evolution is a classic example of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. If you are not familiar with the theory, it is basically this: God is the Creator of all things, but evolution is the means He used to bring about all organic life on earth. So, according to this theory, the earth is billions of years old. Life began spontaneously in some primordial oceanic goo millions of years ago. The generally accepted secular geological time table is correct. And human beings are evolved primates, descended from some ape-like ancestor of a few million years ago.
Theistic evolutionists who are Christians (are there non-Christian examples?) generally accept the moral and theological truths of the Bible. They believe in God, the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection of the Lord, salvation through grace, and other essential doctrines of the Christian faith. They simply reject a straightforward interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis as literal and historic.
Now I think there are a number of problems with this view. Chief among them is this: To reject the Genesis accounts of the Creation, early human history, and the Flood is dangerous. When you reject any portion of Scripture at your own choosing, you call into question the entire rest of Scripture. Indeed, you cast doubt on the Bible as a whole. But this is not what I want to deal with today. I want to focus on one other problem in the theistic evolutionary view.
If theistic evolutionary theory is true, then life has been around for millions of years. Through the long ages of its history, this planet has seen myriads of creatures live and then die. There have been innumerable carnivores that have spent their lives pursuing, killing, and then eating innumerable herbivores. Disease, plague, accidents and injuries have been the norm for thousands of millennia. The world has suffered through countless hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and global climate changes. In other words for eons there has been pain, suffering, destruction, and death on this planet.
Pretty obvious, right? But if you believe in God, and you believe in the Bible, and you also believe that God has used natural processes over millions of years to effect the evolution of all life—well, how to explain all this death and destruction? All these of these things (disease, accidents, tornadoes, etc.) are what are called “natural evils.” They are evils. They are not good things. But there is no moral or spiritual content to them. They are just natural. They just happen. They are “natural evils.”
The traditional biblical view offers a ready solution to the issue of natural evil. Adam was created as the apex of God’s creative process. When Adam rebelled and fell away from God, then all of creation suffered as a consequence. From Romans 8:21-23 we understand that the creation itself has been brought into corruption and bondage. Here we see the image of creation groaning and crying out for redemption, which will only be realized in the resurrection and coming restoration of all things. It is the Fall of Adam that brought about natural evil.
It is also in the Fall that we understand the origin of death itself. Death came about as a result of sin (see Genesis 2:17, Romans 5:12). Before the Fall, there was no sin. And without sin, there was no death. The two are tied together.
Most theistic evolutionists (that I have ever read) do seem to believe in a Fall. They believe that things happened sort of like this. Evolution eventually produced a human being who was capable of entering into a spiritual relationship with God. This evolved being was “Adam.” God put a human spirit in this evolved Adam-creature. Yet, this Adam-creature somehow fell into sin. End result: the Fall. And the Fall produced the spiritual and natural evils we now must endure. But one question lingers. If this is true, how do you explain the death of all living things before this Fall?
Indeed, how does theistic evolution explain these two realities at all: natural evil and death? I don’t know. I can only think of two possibilities. One is that God is the origin of these things. As Creator, He made the world as it is. This means that He must have created it with natural evil inherent in it. Then this is the way God intended for things to be. Is God then the origin of disease, disaster, pain, suffering, and death? Is this the God of the Bible we worship and serve? Emphatically NO! Yes, God is seen in Scripture as using these things. But they are clearly not part of His original creation, and were not His initial intention for the world. In the Genesis 1 and 2 we see God create a beautiful world, a perfect environment, that is not only “good” but “very good.” To posit that all natural evil was the intended creative work of God is an affront to God Himself.
The only other possibility I see is that we must trace everything back to Satan and his fall. At first glance, this seems plausible. Death, destruction, and evil certainly are the result of sin. And Satan’s rebellion against God was certainly sinful. So could this be the answer?
Not really. First of all, there is absolutely no biblical support for this theory. Secondly, you would have to rethink all of the Scriptures that point to Adam as the source of sin and death in this world. Thus, you would need to rethink a whole lot of the Bible! The Scriptures never attribute the current world situation to the Devil. Instead, it is consistently laid at the feet of Adam.
But, you may ask, if Satan sinned, wasn’t death the obvious result. Yes. Death for him. The Devil would have instantly experienced a spiritual death, a separation in his relationship with God. But there is nothing that points to his fall causing immediate cosmic consequences. He was not designed as titular head of the created order. It was Adam who made to rule and have dominion in the world. Not Satan. That is why it was Adam’s sin that thrust all of nature into a maelstrom of death and destruction.
So for the theistic evolutionist who claims to believe in the Christian faith and accept the theological truths of the Scripture, there is a real problem indeed. How do you account for natural evil and death, present in all creation?