How should we respond to evolution?

We must recognise that the Bible makes us wise for salvation “through faith in Christ Jesus” (not Adam) and that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”32 Genesis is written that we may be spiritually complete; not deceived as a novice on moral issues, but trained in righteousness and equipped for every good work. We must respect this functional intent of the Bible, and respect God’s choice of literary genre. We must not fall for the anachronistic treatment of Genesis as a literal historical record,[1] for Genesis was not written to answer the concerns of modern Westerners

whose culture, paradigms and expectations are radically different from those of the Ancient Near East. In fact Genesis is a revelation, rich with symbols, types and allegories. God has not given us a modern science textbook, and the Bible generally describes natural phenomena using the language and false concepts of the day. Those who read Genesis literally thinking it was written to reveal scientific concepts such the age of the earth, the origins of its geological features, its fossils or any other natural phenomena including the origin of the species are making the same mistakes as those in the past, just like the early Church Fathers who imagined that the Bible defined the motions of the sun and the planets[2]. Even though such misuse of Scripture has long been proven to make both us and the Bible look foolish, our recent attempts to disprove evolution from Genesis merely echo those of Bro Griffith who when writing to the Christadelphian asserted from the Bible that the earth must be flat (see The Christadelphian : Volume 50, 346–348)
We must not raise differences on these matters to the level of fellowship. Such actions dishonour both the Creator and his Creation, and place unnecessary burdens on believers. The facts of science are matters for scientific enquiry, to be determined by evidence, not affirmation, ideology or human creeds. We should be content to affirm the very clear Biblical principles outlined at the start – that the heavens declare the glory of God, that creation is a faithful witness to his ways – and if unable to reconcile Genesis with scientific evidence then leave the how and when as matters of uncertain detail (see Robert Roberts, ‘True Principles & Uncertain Details’, The Christadelphian (25.183), 1898). Furthermore within our community we have always had faithful adherents to many different views on these matters. Applying a simple standard of truthfulness, none should presume to speak for “theChristadelphians” when propounding their view, much less impose their views on others as a condition for fellowship. And we should be especially careful about slavish commitment to doctrines, expressions and ideas developed during periods of ecclesial and philosophical conflict, such as in the 19th century when the whole world was grappling with problems like the origins of suffering and evil, the age of the earth and the origins of man. With the benefit of hindsight it becomes obvious that some controversial doctrines were imported into the Scriptures rather than derived from them.
Nor should we impose modern biology on people who are not interested or cannot accept it, as like other scientific subjects – chemistry, geology, physics etc – biological evolution is not a Bible subject, it does not change the Gospel and it is not essential for faith. Beliefs about gravity or meteorology do not arise at baptism, so why single out evolution? We should respect the views of others when exhorting or teaching and patiently give people time to come to terms with the extraordinary discoveries of science that have overturned many areas of knowledge since our community was founded. All that is essential is that individuals be free to consider evolution as the handiwork of God, and that ecclesia not impose rejection of God’s witness or undeniable facts as a condition of baptism or fellowship.
We must give full weight to the fact that the foundation of our faith is Jesus Christ, and not the shadows in Eden.[3] This is extremely important. The basis for our belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who rose from the dead is the testimony of eye-witnesses, many of whom received the power of the Holy Spirit to declare with signs and miracles the truth about the Christ they had personally known, seen with their eyes and touched with their hands. Even Paul “received (the gospel) through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”39 These apostles knew personally that Jesus was a real man who had a real human mother, who shared our nature with all its passions, who died by crucifixion at the hands of sinners, was buried but rose from the dead to receive immortality, and much more. The essential truths of the Gospel of Salvation that was preached so effectively it “turned the world upside down” were based on evidence gained from the apostle’s personal experience of Jesus with almost no mention of Adam, Eve or the events in Eden found in the book of Acts. This is the apostolic faith which we believe; it was foreshadowed by and is enriched by the Hebrew Scriptures, but it stands firmly on its own foundations of the personal witness of literal people about the literal things they had seen and heard. As it is in these personal reports of the apostle’s eye-witness testimony of Jesus in which we stand, not the books of Moses, our faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel ought not be threatened by any scientific conflicts with Genesis, or any proposed literary reconciliation that invoke a metaphorical Adam, Eve or Eden, or for that matter any proposed or perceived difficulties with the Old Testament generally.

 

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[1] “I have tried to show throughout this book that we must let the Bible speak for itself. We must not twist it, to make it mean what we think it ought to have said. We must let it make its own message clear to us. It is necessary to make due allowance for figures of speech in the Bible. We must not treat poetry as it were prose, or parables as if they were literal truth. We need to be very, very careful not to read the Bible as if it had been written by Englishmen; instead, we must read it in the light of the

Hebrew idiom that shine through into the English translation.” – Alan Hayward, God’s Truth, ch 23

[2] Alan Hayward observes “in fact they (the early Church Fathers) were only defending their own wrong interpretations of the Bible. And in the long run they harmed their own cause, by giving people the impression that Christianity was opposed to the scientific method of seeking knowledge. Luther and his contemporaries also meant well when they opposed Copernicus and Galileo because ‘the Bible said’ the sun goes round the earth. But they, too, had mistaken their own interpretation for Bible teaching. Thus they, too, made many people think that Christians were prepared to hide their heads in the sand. There are many indications that history is in danger of repeating itself.”  Alan Hayward, Creation & Evolution,p.79

[3] “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  Apostle Paul, 1 Cor.3:11 39 Gal.1:11-12

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One thought on “How should we respond to evolution?

  1. Paz

    “…matters of uncertain detail…” have always been part of the mystery which is an essential element of religious FAITH.
    “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.
    Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
    1 Corinthians 13: 12,13

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