Theistic Evolution is the old earth creationist belief that God used the process of evolution to create life on earth. The modern scientific understanding of biological evolution is considered to be compatible with the Bible.
There are varying degrees of theistic evolution. Many theistic evolutionists believe that God set in motion the laws of nature that led to evolution, but He did not take an active role in guiding the evolutionary process. He merely let nature take its course. Others believe that God actively guided the evolutionary process (this is also known as Evolutionary Creationism).
From a theological perspective, there is nothing in the Bible that would prohibit belief in evolution. In fact, the Bible even implies that God used evolution. Concerning Day 3 of creation, Genesis 1:11-13 says:
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 12And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 13And the evening and the morning were the third day.
As you can see, God told the earth to bring forth vegetation, and in verse 12, the earth brought it forth. It is the earth, with its laws of nature that God instituted, that did the work. The same is true for the animal creation on Days Five and Six
20And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life... (Day Five)
24And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. (Day Six)
In each case, the Bible implies that the earth was doing the work. To theistic evolutionists, this is proof that God created through the use of evolution.
To properly understand theistic evolution, we should examine several topics.
The creation stories of Genesis is generally thought by theistic evolutionists to be allegorical in nature. This is to say that the creation account should be understood to be symbolic. For example, many TE's do not believe that Adam was a literal person, but rather the story of Adam represents the early beginnings of mankind in general. Theistic Evolutionist Carl Drews states,
Genesis 2:7 states "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." The Hebrew word for "man" used here is "Adam" (with a long 'a' in the second syllable). According to my Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, "this noun usually refers to mankind in the collective sense (Gen 1:26, 27). It is also a proper noun, Adam, the first man whom God created (Gen 2:20). 'Adam' is translated 'persons' in Numbers 31:28, 30, 35, 40." So from the very beginning we have a hint that Adam represents all mankind, not just single individual.1
The allegorical understanding of Genesis is in contrast to the literal understanding of Genesis. Many old earth creationists, and all young earth creationists, believe Adam was a real, individual man.
The main difference between these two boils down to this. When God was finished with creation, he imparted mankind with an eternal soul. Man could now choose for himself to follow God or not. With a literal view, God imparted this eternal soul to two people, Adam and Eve, and the rest of mankind descended from them. With the allegorical view, when God was finished with mankind's creation, there were probably thousands of humans on the planet who would have instantly received an eternal soul.
A belief in theistic evolution means a choice between allegory and literal. Although many TE's believe the creation story is allegory, it is also possible for TE's to take a literal approach, and some do so.
Many who believe in theistic evolution do not believe that Genesis is a scientifically accurate account, since it was written in a pre-scientific age and originally intended for religious instruction; as such, seemingly chronological aspects of the creation accounts should be thought of in terms of a literary framework. The framework interpretation means that the days of creation are not consecutive days, but rather represent specific events of the creation week. This means the days overlap one another. For example, plants are described as being created on Day 3, and animals on Days 5 & 6. The fossil record shows new plants and animals appearing together, so these events (Days) overlap each other.
The main complaint is that the order of creation, including the creation of light, is considered out of order, and thus it is not scientifically accurate. In our opinion, Genesis can be considered scientifically accurate, even with evolution. This problem is solved if you have the proper frame of reference. The creation account is written from the perspective of a person standing on the surface of the earth. From this perspective, observation of the events described in Genesis are indeed in the correct order.
Although theistic evolutionists vary in their positions, from conservative to liberal, there is no reason why a theistic evolutionist cannot be conservative, believing in an inerrant Bible.
Acceptance of Theistic Evolution
Many Christian denominations support or accept theistic evolution. For example, on 12 February 2006, the 197th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth was commemorated by "Evolution Sunday" where the message that followers of Christ do not have to choose between biblical stories of creation and evolution was taught in classes and sermons at many Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Congregationalist, United Church of Christ, Baptist and community churches.2
To learn more about Theistic Evolution, check out these websites:
Theistic Evolution Web Sites
Did you know that you can be a Christian,
and believe that the earth is billions of years old? You can even
believe in evolution and be a Christian. There is no conflict
between science and the Bible...all one needs is a proper
understanding how to merge science and the Bible. To learn more
about old earth creationism, see
Old Earth Belief,
or check out the article
Can You Be A
Christian and Believe in an Old Earth?
Feel free to check out more of this website. Our goal is to provide rebuttals to the bad science behind young earth creationism, and honor God by properly presenting His creation.