Disclaimer - Even though my personal views are well-established, I'd like to point out that I am not out to make a point with this question, and I am absolutely not out to establish whether any specific perspective is true. I am simply curious about this. I know the atheistic views, I know the day-age theory, the gap theory, etc, but I've never heard an answer to this, good or bad. I'd like to know what the answer is from those who genuinely hold this view.

Theistic Evolution defined from Wikipedia:

Theistic evolution or evolutionary creation is a concept that asserts that classical religious teachings about God are compatible with the modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. In short, theistic evolutionists believe that there is a God, that God is the creator of the material universe and (by consequence) all life within, and that biological evolution is simply a natural process within that creation. Evolution, according to this view, is simply a tool that God employed to develop human life. According to the American Scientific Affiliation:

In general, most Christian teachings assert that the relationship between God and Man is unique, and different than the relationship between God and other animals.

Assuming that theistic evolution is a valid point of view (and I'm not arguing that it's not), are there any established teachings from any denomination or proponents that explain at what point we evolved enough to have a unique relationship with God?

Barring that, what characteristics had to be present in order to have said relationship? The ability to speak? Cognitive reasoning?

The Wikipeda article lists several denominations that hold a theistic evolutionary view. I'd like answers/reasoning from any of those perspectives, or from any established organization that holds/defends this view.

  • You might be interested in Fr. George Coyne's fertile universe talk(s). There are several versions of it on youtube (interesting to watch the talk evolve over time, actually). But, I think in most of them, he speaks about the birth of humans as the point in time at which "the universe" is finally able to "reflect on itself" or "think about itself." Not sure he answers your question exactly, but it's an interesting, related concept and talk.
    – svidgen
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 17:24
  • A friend of mine, an emeritus professor of microbiology, is also a believer in God-superintended evolution. When I asked him, "OK, when did the human species emerge as a critter in God's own image?" he said, "Well, that's the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. We just don't know." As a firm believer in the special creation of the complete Adam (and Eve) in God's image being coincident with their completeness, physically and spiritually, I said to myself, "Well, that figures: It's a mystery even to evolutionists!" See the utube video of Donall and Conall meet Richard Dawkins for a good laugh. Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:47

3 Answers 3


My lay, minimally-researched Catholic understanding may not necessarily qualify, since Catholicism doesn't require a belief in evolution. But ... well, here I go:

In my understanding, it would be the first creature capable of bearing God's image. That is, it would be the first creature capable of love, but with freedom of will, and capable of contemplating the divine mysteries.

The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

The whole chapter on The Dignity of the Human Person explains in great detail the aspects of being human make us "special" or "in his likeness." But, the summation, I think, is the capacity for Godly things.

And, perhaps more of a side note, another "qualification" for human "God likeness" would be a creature capable of dominating all other earthly creatures.

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. (Genesis 1:26)

In any case, if you're after a particular point in time or creature to which we could say, here's the baby that broke the barrier, I'm not sure that's a wholly religious discussion. If we did venture such a guess, it would be whenever the anthropologists told us it was! But, I think the general criteria apply to both the creationist and evolutionist-leaning perspectives.

  • 5
    Interesting. (+1) Since (in this view) "humanness" was gained by the natural process of evolutionary improvement, I wonder then if there are physical traits that could be lost thereby declassifying a person as "human". For instance, could brain damage cause a person to no longer be "human"? Also, I wonder about unborn (or even young) children who are not yet fully developed... I know the Catholic church takes a hard stand against abortion, but it would be interesting to hear how that is reconciled with this view.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 21:38
  • @Jas3.1 Great questions. I'll have to think about whether I can answer those questions in the same line of thought and/or whether my answer is as Catholic as I thought!
    – svidgen
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 21:40
  • 1
    @Jas3.1 My knee-jerk reaction, however, is that "human" applies to "the class of being" rather than the "instance" thereof. Because one human has been made divine, all are divine. Hence, we bury the dead despite the fact that they're not even alive anymore. We hope recklessly, in all instances, that the human figure reflects a spiritual reality, a soul - and even the possibility of the miraculous restoration of the soul's body. More difficult to tackle theologically (for me) is the case wherein an extreme deformity is present at conception. Even then, we hope there's still a soul.
    – svidgen
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 21:51

I hold multiple views on creation. My personal view under the assumption that human evolution occurred in a Darwinian manner descending from apes is that humanity existed in a non-image of God state (no spirit) prior to Adam and Eve. There is some Biblical support for this. Genesis 4:13 indicates that when Cain was sent away, he indicates that whoever finds him will kill him, but who else was there? Further, it says in verse 26 that at that time people began to call on the Lord. Then in chapter 6, verse 1 indicates that the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful and they married any of them they chose.

It is possible that there was a more animalistic version of humanity which the descendants of Adam and Eve interbred with and that Adam and Eve were the introduction of a human spirit in the image of God rather than the simple flesh and blood creature. Then with the flood, only those who had bred into the descendants of Adam and Eve would have remained since Noah was part of that line.

Ultimately, since Genesis makes no attempt to be a history book, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered, so it's really all just theories based on fragments of information and particular phrasings that may or may not be valid interpretation. Thus I give this theory with the caveat that it should be taken with a large grain of salt and regarded as just that. A theory.

  • +1 for "Genesis makes no attempt to be a history book". The Bible may have all the theological answers, but it does not have all the answers. Is it really spiritually important to know that human beings were unique starting at Neanderthal man or whenever?
    – Eva
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 21:36
  • I'd drop the content regarding Cain, since there were likely many other people (if not people groups) in existence when Cain killed his brother Abel. Just as the "time element" in creation needs to be somewhat plastic, so also does the time element need to be plastic regarding the process of the populating of earth. Eve had MANY more children--some of whom were girls--besides just Cain and Abel. Remember, life expectancy back then was staggering (unless, of course, your brother kills you). (And yes, at some point in the "evolution" of the human species, "blood relatives" married and had kids.) Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:33
  • I wouldn't even hazard a guess as to what the population of planet Earth was when Cain slew Abel, but the Genesis narrative, though telescoped, has more theological significance, if you will, than historical significance. For example, though females have absolute equality with their male counterparts, the story of Cain and Abel is significant in part BECAUSE they were both males. The "sin gene," if you will, is carried by the male of the species, which is linked with the concept of Adam's (the male's) headship in the human race. "In Adam, all die; in Christ, shall all be made alive." Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:39
  • @rhetorician - this is just one of many possible ways it could be viewed. There is no mention of other children to this point (though they are mentioned later). Additionally, having further descendants of Adam and Eve does not explain the distinction made between the sons of God and the daughters of man. I'm not saying "this is how it happened" but rather "it is a possibility that would fit with evolution, even with a literal interpretation of scripture." Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:40
  • I agree with you about it being more theological than historical, even if literal. I'm not sure I agree about the significance of both being male or of the "sin gene", but that's really drifting vastly off topic for the scope of this question. Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 16:44

From the Roman Catholic point of view, the answer is very simple: when God created man, i.e. when God infused a spiritual soul in two individuals. If there is a spiritual soul, there is abstract reasoning - including true human speech as described e.g. by Chomsky's universal grammar -, moral sense, etc.

BTW, Genesis provides a clear basis for divine creation ex nihilo of each spiritual soul: the verb bara (Strong 1254), "create", as distinct from asah (Strong 6213), "make". Bara indicates the exclusively divine action of creating something which is not the result of reshaping a preexisting entity, and is used, as bārā or wayyiḇrā, in:

  • 1:1 & 2:3 for the whole universe;
  • 1:21 for the sea animals, the first living beings from the viewpoint of the Hebrews (for whom plants did not count as such);
  • 1:27 (& Deut 4:32) for man.

Thus, while sea animals are "created", meaning that their being does not come from mere reshaping of preexistent inanimate matter (since for the Hebrews plants did not count as living beings), birds and land animals are "made", meaning that their being comes through the reshaping of sea animals (which BTW was just the actual case according to contemporary natural science). Man, in turn, is also "created", meaning that his being (i.e. his spiritual soul) does not come through the reshaping of an existing animal.

Now, in Roman Catholic theology theological sentences have one of several degrees of certainty, which from higher to lower are: de fide, fidei proxima, certa, communis, and probabilis. Using these degrees:

It is not even sententia communis whether the infusion of the spiritual soul of the first two human beings happened at the time of their conception or later. For all subsequent human beings, it is sententia certa that it happens at the time of their conception. (In particular, Aristotelian "delayed hominization" is not compatible with Roman Catholic Magisterium, pace St. Thomas Aquinas).

It is also not even sententia communis whether the first two human beings were the only two specimens of a new biological species or were part of a larger population. To note, if the latter was the case, the other members of such population, lacking a spiritual soul, would not have been human beings.

It is sententia fidei proxima that all human beings descend patrilineally from the first man, biblical Adam. Which is in agreement with the observational evidence, through Y chromosome, that all extant men have one patrilineal Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA), dubbed Y-Chromosomal Adam. Therefore, biblical Adam must be either Y-Chromosomal Adam or a patrilineal ancestor thereof.

It is sententia de fide that the first man disobeyed God and lost, for him and his descendants, the supernatural gifts that he had received from God.

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