Genesis and Origins TheoriesAuthor: AJ | Filed under: Blog
As promised in the second piece of our Genesis series, here’s a quick summary of what Genesis implies for origins theory (variants of evolution and creationism) and a couple places you can go to learn more.
As we said at ArtsTech, the questions we typically ask about the beginning of the world are not questions that Genesis answers. We’re interested in knowing how matter–quarks, leptons, and so on–came into existence from nothing. We’ve all had lab classes. We find this material origins question (Where did the stuff come from?) intriguing.
But Genesis wasn’t written to us, originally. In approximately 1400 B.C., the main question of origins was a different one: How did things begin to function? How and why does this world work? Genesis 1-2 answer this functional question clearly, telling creation history in poetic, beautiful, non-scientific language.
Why does light give life? Why do plants do photosynthesis? Why do our hearts pump blood? Because God made them function as he intended.
Other than to give God absolute credit for whatever happened, Genesis doesn’t provide us with an account of material origins. “There is no biblical view of material origins aside from the very general idea that whatever happened, whenever it happened, and however it happened, God did it” (The Lost World of Genesis One, John H. Walton, 113).
This doesn’t downplay what God has done, but it does imply a change of focus in how we read Genesis. It also defuses the long-standing argument between current models of evolutionary theory and Genesis. “Biological evolution is not the enemy of the Bible and theology; it is superfluous to the Bible and theology” (Walton, 166).
Genesis doesn’t insist that God created matter in a prescribed way but it says emphatically that whatever process God used, He is the Creator and fully involved. The origins of the human race go beyond a merely natural process. “This follows from how hard it is to get a human being, or, more theologically, how distinct the image of God is” (Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? C. John Collins, 120).
Related to this is the question of Adam and Eve’s role in the creation narrative. Were they really the first humans on earth, as depicted in Genesis by Moses? Are they historical, or a theological fiction?
While Genesis is a poetic, literary book, it is an account of something that really happened. The lives of Adam and Eve, the father and mother of our race, are part of that historical core.
When people suggest that Adam and Eve were not the first humans, they imply at least a couple things.
- Sin did not come into the world through two people who were originally good. Therefore, sin, evil and death are innate to Creation and this is God’s fault. Either he made earth with sin present or he was powerless to stop sin when it appeared.
- Sin and its effects–death, disease, despair, and so on–are not an alien invasion in our lives as the Bible depicts. Instead, they’re just part of life. Biblical ideas of atonement, redemption, and resurrection lose much of their force. Jesus dies on the cross, not for the polluting effects of sin in our hearts, but for an unfortunate quirk of creation processes.
Therefore, we agree with Jesus, who believed that Adam and Eve were real people, that their disobedience caused all creation and humanity to fall, and that his life would reverse the blight of sin.
Where do these basic beliefs leave us? Christians are free to examine various origins theories, but with a commitment to the involvement of our Creator in whatever scenario is proposed. Some naturalistic theories of biological evolution deny any divine involvement. Other scenarios, including creationist and some modified evolutionary theories, allow the Creator room.
In the long run, accounts of material origins that allows God space to be God will outlast anything in currently in vogue that denies the direct involvement of his love, wisdom and redemptive intent.
To explore further, we recommend two excellent, readable books. The Lost World of Genesis One by John H. Walton speaks to the functional nature of creation in Genesis and its implications. Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by C. John Collins tackles exactly what you think it does.