Many Christians, especially fundamentalists, manifest basic antipathy to the very concept of evolution and constantly rail against it without defining it. They tend to think in terms of either creation or evolution. This is hardly surprising since they accept without equivocation the Augustinian worldview which posits initial perfection, the original righteousness and holiness of Adam, fall, curse and the final redemption of creation. However, it ought to be obvious to anyone who is a serious reader of Scripture and considers his own development that this scenario is vulnerable to criticism.
First, it is vital for us to recognize the fact that creation, like procreation which recapitulates it (cf. Isa. 45:9f.), is a fact of life. As the Bible indicates, all visible things have a beginning. Science at one time supported the view that the material world was eternal and Fred Hoyle, the famous British scientist, for example, once held to the steady state theory. More recently, the evidence has forced scientists to infer that the universe had a beginning (cf. the big bang) and has evolved to its present state along with much else including man himself.
Second, whatever has a beginning also has an end (Gen. 8:22; Mt. 24:35) and even scientists concede that ‘creation’ is transitory and headed for eventual destruction sooner or later. In other words, it is not eternal.
So far as Christians are concerned, this scenario causes difficulties. The underlying problem is that the ecclesiastical worldview is more Augustinian than biblical (1* See my Worldview, The Biblical Worldview.) and does not allow for this. What do I mean?
Sin and Curse
It is traditionally held in the churches, that is, in their creeds and confessions like the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Thirty-nine Articles of the C of E, that God originally created a perfect world and that Adam and Eve were initially righteous and holy but (mysteriously) sinned and ‘fell’. Since they were the designated lords of creation, their failure resulted in a cosmic curse with the result that the state of affairs portrayed in Genesis 3:14-19 continues to this day and is held to be endorsed by Paul in Romans 8:18-25.
The Biblical Picture
Birth and Infancy
But is this the biblical picture? We have only to look at Jesus for the answer. First, at his incarnation or creation in the image of Adam (Gen. 5:1-3, cf. Luke 3:38) through his mother he became a product of the earth and inevitably took on some of its main characteristics. In short, he first had a beginning. Whereas the first Adam began literally in the ground, Jesus was ‘born of woman’ (Gal. 4:4) who typified the earth in procreation (cf. Gen. 3:20; 1 Cor. 11; Eph. 4:9f.). What does this teach us? That he did not begin perfect, that is, mature or full-grown as Athene in classical mythology is said to have sprung from the head of Zeus and as Adam is said by traditionalists to have begun or been created. This view of course stymies all ideas of development or evolution which is surely the corollary of creation. (2* Scripture makes it abundantly clear that once he had finished his work of creation, Gen. 2:1-3, God did not lapse into inactivity, John 5:17,19,30, cf. Ps. 121:3f.) Bluntly, once he had been formed as seed like all flesh and conceived, Jesus gestated, developed or evolved first in his mother’s womb as Adam had developed in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race. But whereas Adam evolved to full physical maturity before gaining knowledge (of the commandment) like a child before leaving the Garden womb (cf. 1 Cor. 15:46), Jesus was born in an animal stable knowing neither the law nor good and evil as an innocent baby (cf. Dt. 1:39; Isa. 7:14-16; 8:4, etc.). In fact, Jesus lived out his infancy, as we all do today in blissful ignorance. However, once he had come to knowledge (i.e. gained rational self-consciousness) and begun his childhood under the covenant with Noah, like his forebears, he lived as a slave in Egypt (Mt. 2:15; Gal. 4:1).
On his ‘escape’ from Egypt and return to the Promised Land which like creation was very good (Gen. 1:31; Num. 14:7) but impermanent (Heb. 3,4), he became a Son of the Commandment and lived under the guardianship of the law of Moses (Luke 2:40-52; Gal. 3:23f.).
As an avid reader of the OT, however, Jesus must have been well aware that he would never reach his intended maturity or perfection by remaining under the law (Lev. 11:44f.; 19:2). In any case, had not Moses (Dt. 30:6), Jeremiah (31:31-34) and Ezekiel (11:19f.; 36:26f.) pointed to a new covenant which would transcend the deficiencies of the old? And had not Adam himself been taught that sin would deprive him of life (Gen. 2:17, cf. Lev. 18:5, etc.)? So clearly his aim was to seek glory and honour, keep the law and thus gain eternal life. This he did to the satisfaction of his heavenly Father who baptized him with the Spirit, who remained permanently on him (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27), thereby spiritually regenerating him (Mt. 3:13-17). This is clearly the teaching of John 3:1-7 which indicates the necessity as opposed to the imperative of the new birth for all flesh (mankind). So far as Jesus was concerned, it put him in a position, or qualified him, to lay down his fleshly or old covenant, first-Adamic life in atonement for the sins of all who were to believe in him. (3* If he had died while under the law, his death would have been permanent and clearly the wages of sin. As regenerate, he was the Son who had something to offer, cf. Mt. 17:24-27; John 10:17f.; Eph. 2:10.) Thus, though sinners were incapable of gaining eternal life by keeping the law themselves, they were nonetheless capable of receiving their acquittal and justification by faith in Jesus. In this way they met the precondition of salvation (Lev. 18:5). Here it perhaps needs to be pointed out that though OT believers in general were never able to exercise faith specifically in him for obvious historical reasons, the atonement was retro-active (Heb. 9:15; 11:1-40). In other words, whoever is saved by faith owes his salvation to Christ whether he is aware of it or not (cf. Ezek. 16:59-63; Mt. 8:11-13). In the book of Revelation the three races or three covenant peoples (cf. 1 Cor. 10:32) all give praise to the God of salvation. They are the twenty-four elders, representing faithful Christians and Jews, and the four living creatures clearly representing the heathen and children (Rev. 4:6b-11; 7:9, cf. Mt. 8:11).
The Perfection of Jesus
Having died for his sheep, Jesus’ perfection or evolution was completed first by his resurrection from the dead (Luke 24:39; John 20, etc.), then, since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50) by his ascension transformation to heaven. When this occurred, having been perfected (Mt. 19:21; Heb. 2:10; 4:14; 5:9; 7:28), he took his place at his Father’s side and was declared Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). In plain truth he had progressed from ground to glory as man (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb.1:3). He who was freely made flesh, but only for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9), conquered in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). And we who follow in his trail-blazing footsteps (Heb. 6:20; 12:2) as we are led by the Spirit are conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29) and do the same (Rev. 3:21).
Apart from B.B.Warfield’s essay on The Human Development of Jesus, I have nowhere come across a better summary of Jesus’ evolutionary ascent from earth to heaven (cf. John 3:13; 6:62; 16:28), etc.) than that of Professor William Barclay who wrote in his book Crucified and Crowned, “Through man’s disobedience the process of the evolution of the human race went wrong …. But in Jesus Christ the whole course of human evolution was perfectly carried out and realised in obedience to the purpose of God” (p.100). (Quoted by Michael Green, p.59).
See further my:
1. If the second Adam underwent evolution, the first Adam who was his type (Rom. 5:14) clearly did so too. The early chapters of Genesis must be interpreted in that light. The analogy of faith is important.
2. Naturalistic evolution embraced by agnostics, atheists, materialists, et al., is a complete enigma and confessedly meaningless and purposeless. If they ask who made the eternal God, we must ask who or what made temporal evolution? Surely it is obvious that evolution needs creation to set it in motion just as our own perfection (maturation) requires procreation to initiate it. It should further be noted that mere development without change or mutation as in animals leads to eventual oblivion (cf. John 6:63) and this is what Scripture teaches. Apart from evolution which is the law and corollary of creation, this world in which we presently live is futile (Rom. 8:20), and if the resurrection of Jesus is not true, we are as Paul says left in misery (1 Cor. 15:17).
3. The widespread view that Jesus was transformed at his resurrection leads inexorably to the conclusion that Jesus’ evolution or (process of) perfection was incomplete. By his resurrection he overcame death, but by his transformation he overcame creation’s natural corruptibility or divinely ordained proclivity to decay.
4. It would appear that the Roman Church which is thoroughly Augustinian (original righteousness, original sin, curse, etc.) is not so infallible after all. Its Pharisaical tendency to drag its feet and resist reformation is contrary to the forward movement and dynamism that is intrinsic to Scripture. (3* See my No Going Back.) Regrettably the same is true of some Protestant churches despite the motto of the Reformed which is Semper reformanda (Always reforming). Like Israel of old (Jer. 7:24; Acts 7:39), they want to go backward not forward, back to the nations, to Egypt, to tradition, the Fathers, Reformers, Puritans, Victorians (cf. The Oxford Movement), and the like. But the way is forward as the author of Hebrews, for example, urges (Heb. 6:1-3, etc.). To posit the redemption of creation on account of sin as many do is to go backward. Our calling is a heavenly one (Phil. 3:14,20; Heb. 3:1) and was so from the start (cf. Gen. 2:17; John 3:13; 13:3, etc.).
5. Procreation recapitulates creation (cf. Isa. 45:9f.). Men as the image of God typify God and fertilize women who typify (mother) earth (Gen. 3:20; 1 Cor. 11). Thus we all have a beginning which is followed by gradual evolution or process of perfection (completion). Physically, we reach perfection then decline like creation itself till death; spiritually, we follow Jesus to ultimate perfection in the presence of our eternal God (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-5:5; Rev. 3:21).
6. Jesus was flesh only for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9). He remains human but not incarnate in heaven (1 Cor.15:50). He is as man the exact image of God (Heb. 1:3, 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15).
7. The church has taught descent (Fall) from an initial “high estate”. The Bible teaches ascent from an initial low estate (cf. Eph. 4:9; Phil. 2:7f.) despite sin which is atoned for.
Michael Green, The Empty Cross of Jesus, London, 1984.
Meeter, ed., The Shorter Writings of B.B.Warfield, Vol. 1, Nutley, 1970.