Creation and evolution

Creation and evolution can be emotive topics for Christians.  Some believe, or are taught to believe, that only Young Earth Creationists are Christians; it is not possible to be a Christian and believe in evolution.

What does the Bible say?  It says God created the universe and everything in it.  It says the universe had a beginning, and has not existed forever.    It says God created all life.  It says man (humankind; men and women) was made in the image of God.  It says God sustains everything.

What does science say?  Until recently, it said the universe was eternal and had existed for ever.  It says that life did not always exist; that it started simple and unicellular, and became more complex and multicellular.  It says that as each organism reproduces, some changes are transmitted to the descendants.  These changes, if beneficial, allow the descendant to reproduce at a higher rate than co-descendants without that change.  Thus these changes become widespread in the population, by virtue of producing more organisms without that change.  This is evolution.

What does the Bible not say?  It does not – necessarily – say that the universe, earth and life were created in seven literal 24-hour days.  This is because the word ‘yom’ used for day is used in other places that do not mean ’24-hour day.’ It is used to mean daylight, 24 hour day, a season, a period of time, year, forever.[1]

It does not say how God created.  He spoke, and it was so.  Did it come gradually, or all at once?  The bible doesn’t say.

What does the Bible say about the order of creation?  It says that God created the earth.  He then separated water into sky and sea; and separated the sea to give land.  Then came plants.  After that God made the sun, moon and stars visible (the Hebrew is in the past tense, meaning they had been made before the fourth day, but were not visible at this time because of the clouds.)  The next day came animals in the oceans, and flying animals.  This is commonly translated as birds, but the term correctly refers to flying animals.  These could equally be translated as flying insects.  After that came land animals, and last of all the humans.

What does science say about the order of universe and life formation?  It says the Earth formed around 4.53 billion years ago.  It says that over time the earth cooled, and water condensed into clouds and oceans.  Life began as organisms – similar to today’s bacteria – that used solar energy and released oxygen, in the way that plants do (plants contain remnants of the earlier bacteria-type organisms as chloroplasts in their cells).  Multicellular life, similar to the plants and animals we would recognise today, began in the oceans.  Plants evolved first, then animals.  Plants were also the first to get on to land, followed by the arthropods (insects, spiders, crabs and lobsters); the insects were the first organisms to develop flight.  After this, vertebrate animals moved onto land.  Much later, humans arrived.

How does this compare to the Bible?  The story of evolution is a lot more complex; many details are included.  In contrast the Genesis account of creation is simplistic and told in poetical language.  It is structured and repeats certain phrases – and God said; it was good; morning and evening; the next day.  The Bible only ever discusses plants on land, and animals.  It therefore completely misses out the bacteria, archaebacteria, fungi and water-dwelling plants.

The Bible and history of the universe agree on two very important things: the beginning of the universe, and the order of creation/formation.  There are some important things to consider.  The Bible may be referring only to things that can be seen from land, with the unaided eye.  Most created organisms are completely ignored.  Equally, the sun, moon and stars were ignored until they would have been visible from earth.

Both agree that after the formation of the earth, water condensed into sea and sky.  Plant/plant precursors were the first things to be created/evolve; these may have been left out from the creation account as the first reference to living things is plants on land.  Then came animals in the oceans, and flying animals – these would be insects, as vertebrates made it to land some time after the arthropods (insects, spiders, crabs and such like).  Having populated the oceans, vertebrates finally moved on to land, and humans arrived much later.

The Bible and science therefore agree on how life came to be.  The only question is whether God created by speaking and causing instantaneous effect in 24-hour periods of time, or whether he created through a period of evolution.  I am inclined to trust the scientific evidence, given that the Biblical account is too simplistic and misses out too much information for us to be able to glean any reliable idea from the Bible alone of exactly how God created the universe and the life in it.


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