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Genesis 2:7 NKJV

7 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 being.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 NKJV

37 The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.”

4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” ’ ”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

9 Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” ’ ” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’ ”

Ezekiel 37 offers a vivid and detailed depiction of God's power to instantly create a biological body, breathe life into it, and make it a living being. This rapid, almost instantaneous process contrasts sharply with the millions of years of gradual changes proposed by evolution. Does this not provide insight into the interpretation of Genesis 2:7? If so, how do theistic evolutionists reconcile this with their understanding of Adam's creation within the broader framework of the theory of evolution?

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Theistic evolutionists do not hold that God couldn't have created life on earth over a short span of time; rather, they hold that the evidence He has left for us to examine suggests that He didn't.

Instead, He chose to create life on earth over a lengthy span of time. This viewpoint sees in the Bible a much greater focus on the why of creation than the how or the when.

Ezekiel 37 describes the resurrection. Neither those who believe in a young earth nor those who believe in an old earth believe that the resurrection follows the same process as physical birth. From the premise that the resurrection is a rapid procedure nothing at all follows with respect to the rate at which mortal life develops or propagates.


Re Genesis 2:7

The human body is principally made of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus (source), all of which are found in dirt. Theistic evolutionists have no difficulty believing that God used the dust of the earth to create the physical human body. Whether He did so in a single step or in a multi-step process is not specified by Genesis, and there is not a single view on this matter among theistic evolutionists.

But this particular clay creation was endowed with something unique - the neshamah ("breath" or "spirit"--Hebrew regularly uses these ideas interchangeably). And, specifically, a spirit which is not merely a creation but the very offspring of God (see Acts 17:29, Hebrews 12:9). Whatever God's creations on this earth prior to that time, in whatever process, sequence, and timespan over which He elected to create them, Genesis 2:7 describes a distinct act of creation: God endowed one of His children with life on earth by bringing together physical body and spirit.


Disclaimer - groupings such as Old Earth Creationism and Theistic Evolution describe a variety of viewpoints, and I do not claim to be a strict adherent of any of them. There's enough overlap between my thoughts and these views that I considered it appropriate to answer this question.

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First, I like to point out vers 1:

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley;[1] it was full of bones.

God is not creating a new species here but bringing back to life what is dead. Also, I view it as a special miracle, similar to the resurrection on the cross.

When it comes to miracles I argue, that we have to inspect each miracle singularly, because there is no reason why God is obligated to perform every miracle the same way.

Secondly, in general, the level of detail in the Bible is contestable. What science considers detailed and what the bible considers detailed is different. Science would ask things like: "How exactly did the bones come together? Were physical forces at play here and how exactly were they caused and how did they interact with the bones so that they came together." But as Mark pointed out, some details that are described in the Bible would rule out certain interpretations. For e.g. Ezekiel does not allow for the interpretation that the miracle took millions of years.

However, I argue that Genesis does allow for that interpretation because Genesis does not provide a scientifically precise description of how creation exactly happened. This is exacerbated by the limitations of language and worldview at the time. In particular in Gen 1,2:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

It is not precisely clear what God did in detail when "saying" something like that. All it says is that God did something to create Light, but how do we know if the people at the time of Genesis even have the necessary words to precisely describe what God did?

That is the same with Gen 1, 27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

=> What exactly in molecular detail happened when he created man?

Same with Gen 2,7

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

=> What exactly happened when man was formed? Something like a character creation in a video game? Abiogenesis? How long did that process really take?

So Genesis is answering the question of "Who" created and gives a very broad and rough description of "How". The Bible also does not have to answer the question of "How" in such detail.

Science has a different standard for precision, so if the Bible were to answer the creation of the world with scientific precision, the Bible wouldn't be a book but an entire library.

So evolution for me is a process that describes the history of changes to organisms. It does not answer the question of "Why" the changes occurred, beyond random mutations. Naturalists assert that Chance is a satisfactory answer to the question "Why" so many changes were constructive for evolution to occur, but Theist evolutionists would disagree and say that God "tipped the scales of probabilities" at the very least.

So theistic evolutionists basically say that the Bible does not provide enough information to assert anything about the physical process of the creation of the world. The exception is that God was the one directing the process but that is not a scientific question.

It is not saying that the Bible isn't true, but it is saying that the Bible is not describing the process of creation enough.

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  • Secondly, I challenge the level of detail here a bit. What science considers detailed and what the bible considers detailed is different. Science would ask things like: "How exactly did the bones come together? Were physical forces at play here and how exactly were they caused and how did they interact with the bones so that they came together." - You don't need that level of detail to still be able to rule out clearly far-fetched interpretations of a passage, do you? Surely there is NO WAY that the miracle witnessed by Ezekiel took hundreds of millions of years, right?
    – Mark
    Commented May 29 at 12:51
  • @Mark Fair Point. Edited the answer accordingly.
    – telion
    Commented May 29 at 13:18
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The simple answer is that TE has no need to deny that God can do "miraculous" things. Rather, TE takes the stance that "science" (that is, materialistic interpretations of available evidence) "proves" that the origin of humans wasn't miraculous.

This is primarily based on the belief that Earth is billions of years old and that rock layers containing animal and human fossils are millions and hundreds-of-thousands (respectively) of years old. Such beliefs ignore alternate explanations and assume that the Flood is either not a historic event at all, or that the description in Genesis is substantially exaggerated from what actually happened.

It's true this is a rather... inconsistent (to put it mildly) interpretation, since it allows for miracles while rejecting miraculous interpretations of e.g. geology, but it isn't an actual problem.

(Additionally, to be honest, even as a Creationist, I wouldn't dogmatically insist that Ezekiel 37 is a real event as opposed to a vision. The possibility of the latter offers a different plausible "out" for TE.)

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    Good answer (+1). I take the "out" of Ezekiel 37 being a vision and not a physical reality, but not for any reason related to evolution. (I do believe in a special creation of Adam and Eve.) But there's no reason within TE to exclude the possibility of miracles, it is simply a question of what miracles brought about the world as we see it today. Commented May 29 at 15:55
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    People who disagree with me are schizophrenic isn't a particularly helpful answer to the question. This post devotes about as much space to arguing against the viewpoint requested in the OP as it does arguing for it. Also, the scientific method doesn't prove things, it disproves things. Commented May 29 at 16:08
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    TE's are not denying God's ability to assemble a human directly from inanimate matter, but rather the actual history. Also, they do not postulate that the Bible teaches evolution, nor that any of the biblical authors themselves believed in evolution. This alleged difficulty just seems like a non-sequitur to me. Commented May 29 at 16:27
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    @Matthew “a better adjective”—how about simply inconsistent? Describing it as a mental illness does not make your argument more persuasive, nor your prose more engaging; it just comes across as abuse. Commented May 30 at 17:30
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    I think "schizophrenic" is closer than "inconsistent" to your intended meaning (because what TE's are asserting is not a contradiction, which is my first thought if I read "inconsistent". Instead, you are simply claiming that they are applying principles inconsistently.) With that being said, Tim is correct that it's a bad tactic in this debate Commented May 30 at 20:29

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