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Theistic evolution holds that God used evolution to create mankind. It seems to follow then that this view must also hold the creation account in Genesis to be unhistorical. So, Adam and Eve may have been people, but were perhaps the first humans whose parents were pre-human.

According to those who reject it, what are the theological implications or problems with theistic evolution?

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Related: Can I believe in evolution and still be a Christian? specifically see software monkey's answer, which discusses this question – aceinthehole Mar 31 '12 at 17:09
If you are looking at an evolution basis, then I cannot think of a sane way of taking Adam and Eve as literal "first Human" individuals. Evolution is an very slow and gradual process; there is no "suddenly Human" - just "ever so slightly human that the last few hundred generations". It also hasn't ended! – Marc Gravell Mar 31 '12 at 19:47
Theistic Evolution Christians generally hold the Adam & Eve stories to be parabolic. That is, a parable: true but not literal. – RBarryYoung Apr 17 '12 at 18:06
Population dynamics disagrees with you on a point: "Species" has fuzzy boundaries. As such, there was no human whose parents were non-human. – Kaz Dragon Aug 17 '12 at 13:51
up vote 17 down vote accepted

Answers in Genesis writes about this topic a lot. Their primary arguments are:

  1. The Genesis narrative seems to be written as a historical one, and not allegorical. Adam and Eve are treated as historical figures, having offspring, a genealogy, and death. Thus treating it otherwise would be poor hermeneutics.
  2. The Genesis account of the order of things created is different from the evolutionary account.
  3. In the Biblical account, death enters the world as a result of sin, specifically Adam's sin (Romans 5:12-21). In the evolutionary account, death must precede man. This view is argued to undermine the nature of the fall of man, and thus the redemption of Christ.
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IMO, the only valid point is point three. – fredsbend Aug 2 '14 at 16:19

The theological problem with holding this view stems from Gen 1:26 & 27 (NLT)

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Human beings that evolved would hold a value less than what this verse implies.

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Not necessarily. Theistic evolution would still allow that God took some extra measures in Man's case, to the point of even directing the evolution of other animals so that man would be in God's image. – Joel Coehoorn Mar 30 '12 at 16:16
I don't see how your last sentence follows from that at all. We're either in the Christian god's image or we're not; how we got there doesn't change that. – Chelonian Mar 30 '12 at 16:45
God's image must not necessarily mean physical image. We only live in 3 spatial and 1 temporal dimensions, how can we know how many dimensions God has? Imagine if you are a computer programmer, that you write a program and make it sentient. How can you explain to that program what differentiates it from all the others? You can say that you created it in your image: it is sentient just like you are. That does not mean it has two eyes and two hands, these words are meaningless. Talking about theistic evolution, what if you used genetical algorithms or metaprogramming to write that program? ;) – vsz Mar 30 '12 at 16:52
@ashansky That belief is fetishistic; that two objects, currently identical in all properties, are not actually identical because the process that created them was different. Many people think/feel this way; I happen not to. I buy generic pharmaceuticals. – Chelonian Mar 30 '12 at 18:30
You need to provide more reasoning for "a value less", in the question body, for this to be a decent answer. A counterexample: "I tweaked things for thirteen billion years to produce you" sounds like a lot more care was taken (and thus the result was more valued) than, "Oh, one day I decided to create you, and poof! there you were." Hence, an argument is needed. – Rex Kerr Mar 31 '12 at 11:50
  1. God made Adam from the dust of the ground - I guess you could take that as a sort of metaphor for evolution, but why not just say so?
  2. ..and Eve from the rib of Adam - okay, that sounds much more supportive of Evolution.
  3. Wait, who are our first parents anyways? This isn't a very technically rigorous argument, but Evolution seems to blur the line on the fact that Adam and Eve were our first parents (see Paul NT, etc.). If they evolved from pre-human species, wouldn't those species be our first parents? Also, it seems sort of strange that at some point something just magically "clicked" and "real" humans sprung into existence, with souls, consciences, and a knowledge of the Creator.
  4. <opinionated>Again not very technical, but it seems rather anti-climactic - God makes a world, then sits around "waiting" for a few billion years for Adam and Eve to come along? That doesn't make a very good story, and in my opinion, the Bible is a very good story.</opinionated>

In sum, it just doesn't seem like God at all to create man that way. Not very glory-bringing to him to have a slow, natural process create man when he could do it himself.

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...I know this isn't a super-technical answer, so I expect some dv's on it, I guess. Hopefully it's helpful, though :) – Thomas Shields Mar 30 '12 at 22:33
Can you expand on (4), perhaps? In Theistic Evolution, not only did God create the natural process but had a special hand in guiding it to the desired outcome, so why is it any less glory-bringing? In Job, God makes a big deal out of how impressive the natural world is...being part of that world (as well as in the image of God) would seem to be a glorious thing. – Rex Kerr Mar 31 '12 at 12:30
@RexKerr that's a good point. #4 is sort of opinion, I guess - it seems more... "epic", i guess, for God to create Adam and Eve essentially from nothing, as opposed to evolving them. #3 is my main argument; i've edited to show that 4 is more speculative/opinionated. :) – Thomas Shields Mar 31 '12 at 16:25
"a couple of hundred years" - is that intended as your shorthand for about 4.5-13 billion years (depending if you are counting from the start of the universe or just planet Earth). – Chelonian Mar 31 '12 at 17:16
@Chelonian haha, yes. I have no clue why I wrote "couple hundred". I'll fix it. – Thomas Shields Mar 31 '12 at 17:17

This is something I've come to understand better over the last year. To understand how I got there, let's first take a little side-trip.

The Nature of God

Think about who God is: the ultimate being, the creator of the universe, all powerful, all knowing, all encompassing. As humans, we cannot possibly begin to understand such a being: his motives, plans, or desires. We have only three ways to understand Him: those limited aspects revealed to use through the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and through studying His creation.

In Scripture, God reveals to us ultimate outcomes regarding our behaviors, attitudes, and loyalties. On the one hand, we can align with God and attempt to live the kind of life modeled for us through Jesus in scripture; the outcome is heaven. On the other hand, we can do whatever we want without regard for God; the outcome here is hell, even if doing whatever we want results in living as a "good" person.

But what if God's lying? God has the same moral obligation to us that we would to a small colony of ants, because we are so insignificant by comparison. In fact, it's even less than that, because without God our little "ant colony" lives would never exist in the first place. It would not be immoral for him to use us as pawns in some sort of cosmic game beyond our understanding. How are we to know that we have any hope at all beyond this life? That anything revealed in scripture will last?

Thankfully, scripture also addresses this issue, if indirectly. In scripture, God is carefully presented over and over and over as a being that keeps his promises, and deals only in truth... often even across generations and hundreds of years.

Genesis and Faith

So back to the question. Genesis is understood by a great many Christians to be God's personal account, revealed to Moses, of what He did at Creation. If God lied to Moses, it undermines everything else we understand about who He is. If God lied to Moses here, is he also lying about what happens after we die? As 1 Cor 15 says, if our hopes depend on an "if" such as this, we are to be pitied. Can we be sure any longer that there's any advantage to remaining a loyal Christian? Genesis needs to be an honest account of Creation, or everything else begins to unravel.

That should cover the actual question. Theistic Evolution creates theological problems because it can undermine the whole of everything else Christianity asks you to believe. It is possible to go through your whole life believing in Theistic Evolution and a fully allegorical account, but it forces you take a piece of scripture that is seemingly written to be literal and interpret it in an allegorical way, and this can erode Faith over time.


How do we resolve the seemingly-strong naturalistic evidence for Evolution with the seemingly literal Creation account? There are a few options.

The first is that we believe in a God who is big enough to "fake" the evolution evidence, as another kind of cosmic joke. I think most Christians believe God has that kind of power and more. However, this again falls outside of what we understand of His nature, and would undermine Faith no less than would simple Theistic Evolution. God could do this, but I don't know many who believe that is what actually happened.

The second option is that Moses lied. This is tempting, but it doesn't get us very far because most Christians also believe Scripture to be inspired. If Moses lied, and the lie was allowed to remain part of scripture, this again undermines much of the rest of what we believe.

Another possibility is that the evidence is wrong, incomplete, badly-misinterpreted, or some combination thereof. Any real scientist needs to admit to this possibility, as that is what makes science, science; there is no such thing as "settled science." Personally, I think there is some of this, but that it's not the whole story. For example, if you carefully read the Genesis account you see that order of Creation is incredibly close to the order of Evolution... but not an exact match. It would not surprise me that at some point in the future new fossil finds will require the Theory of Evolution to adjust the proposed order to match Genesis, or that such fossils may have once existed but are now lost to us forever.

A fourth possibility is that we have historically made a flawed literal reading of the Genesis creation account. I've covered this in a few other answers, but it comes down to the biblical definition of the word "day". We often take the sections that read "and evening came, and morning. The [Nth] day" and apply the modern 24-hour definition to that section. We forget that the ancient Jews had a very specific definition of day. It was the time from sunrise to sunset. Given the complete lack of a sun for the first several days of creation, it now becomes obvious that God must be delivering an allegorical account of what he did, because the "normal" (for the initial audience) literal definition of day had no meaning yet. For that matter, even the "modern" definition is not really 24 hours, but rather the time for the Earth to complete a rotation with respect to the sun, a timespan which may have been much different at first. This is a position that definitely encourages at least a limited Theistic Evolution.

Of course, this is not a completed position. There are still elements of the Creation account that cry out to be read literally. What about the 2nd half of the first week, after there was a Sun for use in marking days? The Creation of Man? Cain and Abel and other early humans? At the moment, I don't have a completed answer. What I do have is Faith.

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Can you back up the assertion that "most Christians" understand Genesis to be "God's personal account, revealed to Moses, of what He did at Creation"? I'd like to see the statistics (and not just for the U.S.) on this. – Bruce Alderman Aug 17 '12 at 18:27
@BruceAlderman You're right: I can't authoritatively say "most", and I doubt anyone has ever run a statistically valid survey. However, I've read enough in this area and heard enough thoughts and opinions from a wide variety of denominations and fellowships to confidently say "a great many", and will edit accordingly. – Joel Coehoorn Aug 17 '12 at 19:36

If the Creation account in Genesis is unhistorical, Adam and Eve are unhistorical (so they can't be the first humans, with pre-human parents).

I have no problem with its not being historical. It means the Creation account is allegorical, and it's interesting that the occurrences which are listed as occurring within a week happen in the same order as a geological-time account of creation and evolution.

The question is very similar to one asked previously.

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What about the first humans to have a soul? Or the first humans God revealed himself to, just like Abraham and his descendants were the first who had a role as "chosen people"? – vsz Mar 30 '12 at 15:03
Any source? Answering a question with your own opinion is interesting, but adding sources add to the discussion. – David Laberge Mar 31 '12 at 0:18
Are you claiming the order of events in Genesis is thought to be accurate based on scientific evidence? It's not wholly different, but the order is pretty scrambled. – Rex Kerr Mar 31 '12 at 11:54
Yes, some things are surprisingly accurate. Some others are way off (IIRC, Fish come way too late). Most are ambiguous, because it depends what you take certain words to mean (both as a matter of translation and as a matter of categorization). – RBarryYoung Apr 17 '12 at 18:11

The primary theological problem with theistic evolution is this:

  • It renders a literal reading of the foundational book of Old Testament incorrect.

Some people are highly uncomfortable with the implication of this. A "best reading" would be that the Old Testament is not a 'timeless book', but a 'book of the times' and must be reinterpreted in light of modern knowledge.

Many (I'd go so far as 'most') are completely fine with that implication, and already view many parts, if not all, of the Old Testament as either fable, allegory, or metaphor.

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I'd be happy to improve my answer if the person downvoting would explain the problem. I thought I answered it quite succinctly. – Kaz Dragon Aug 20 '12 at 6:55
Maybe that is is only one little point in quite a few that could be mentioned. It's incomplete, but so are all the other answers on this question. I didn't downvote any of the answers but I also couldn't bring myself to upvote them. – fredsbend Aug 2 '14 at 16:24

protected by Caleb Oct 5 '12 at 5:01

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