In my view the traditional worldview inherited by the church from Augustine of Hippo (d.430 A.D.) which posited an original perfect creation including a holy and righteous Adam and Eve followed by sin, fall and cosmic curse is false to the Bible. Initial perfection (completeness, maturity), which is contrary to the divine modus operandi as revealed in Scripture, history, experience and science, renders evolution or development of any kind redundant, even impossible. After all, the difference between the fall of man and his ascent is fundamental. What follows is an attempt to sketch the true view which is not merely much more realistic but also more accommodating of genuine as opposed to naturalistic evolution.
1. Mankind was created or brought into being (Rom. 4:17; Heb. 11:3) out of (mother) earth like all seed-bearing flora and fauna (Gen. 1). Adam and Eve, though created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28), were hence dust or clay (Gen. 2:7; 3:19,23).
2. Adam was transferred as seed to gestate in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15) which was obviously the womb of the race.
3. Eve (woman) was taken out of Adam (Gen. 2:21-23) and, since she functioned as the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20), she typified the earth as Adam typified God himself (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7,12).
4. Once initial creation was complete (Gen. 2:3), in the providence of God procreation took over (cf. Isa. 45:9f.). Thus as the image and glory of God (1 Cor. 11:7) man imitates the activity of his Creator and fathers or begets children in his own image (Gen. 4:1f.,25; 5:1-3).
5. Man’s male offspring follow suit in their turn. In other words, each generation repeats the experience of the previous one and so on transgenerationally (Gen. 4:17-5:32). And just as the individual grows and develops, so does the community or race as a whole. Put otherwise, the individual is the race in miniature. It should be noted, however, that separation (individual) and solidarity (race) are basic features of biblical theology and anthropology.
6. Genesis 5:1-3 properly appreciated make it clear that each generation begins at the beginning like Adam as the image in principle of God and inherits neither the moral nature nor the physical stature of its parents. Moral status is acquired by personal reaction to commandment or law (Rom. 6:16; 7:9f.; Eph. 2:1-3) as it was in Adam and Eve’s case (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:14-24). Initially, there is neither sin nor righteousness (cf. Rom. 9:11) since there is no law or knowledge by which to determine or define them (Rom. 4:15; 6:16, etc.). So, we all begin like our first parents knowing neither good nor evil on both the moral and natural levels (cf. Gen. 2:16f.; 3:5,22). Until we personally transgress, we remain innocent and unaware of pain (Dt. 1:39, etc.).
7. It is evident from Genesis 2 and 3 that Adam and Eve did not acquire knowledge until they were physically mature. To express the issue alternatively, when they left the Garden womb (= were born), though physically adult, they were mentally and spiritually infantile. This implies that prior to their acquisition of knowledge, they lived off the land like animals (Gen. 2:16). Furthermore, they apparently bred instinctively, again like the animals around them. This is a reasonable inference from the fact that the woman’s pain in childbirth is said to have increased greatly as knowledge dawned and sin became a possibility (Gen. 3:16).
Note on Adam and Eve
Adam, the man, and Eve, the woman, were obviously single individuals but they epitomized and represented mankind, the race, tribe or community which explains their great age. Even today individuality only becomes distinct or pronounced with development. Cattle, sheep and the like vary little individually and even human babies born in maternity wards in hospitals have to be tagged for identification purposes. It might be usefully added at this point that in light of universal ignorance, the idea that thorns and thistles, Gen. 3:17-19, not to mention death were the consequence of sin is a major mistake. At the start, if man did not (could not) sin it was because, like a baby, he had no knowledge (Dt. 1:39; John 9:41; 15:22,24, cf. Rom. 4:15; 7:9f.). This being so, we must necessarily conclude that he had no consciousness of his environment and that it was in any way any problematic (cf. Gen. 3:17-19). As far as I am aware, this remains true of babies and animals even today!
8. Assuming the truth of the above, mankind’s evolution after initial creation followed the pattern mutatis mutandis we know by personal experience of procreation. However, at the start, since Adam’s development to physical adulthood preceded and outstripped by far his mental maturation (cf. 1 Cor. 15:46), the antediluvians resembled animals in transition like human babies. Needless to say, if such was their condition, their native fleshly or animal constitution virtually guaranteed their limited dominion on the one hand and their meagre mental/spiritual development on the other. In light of this, failure to obey the commandment and rampant sinfulness and violence (Gen. 6:5-13) led inevitably to curse when the earth was not properly tilled as required (Gen. 1:26-28, cf. Gen. 2:5; Prov. 24:30-34). This culminated in the curse of the flood and the death of all but Noah and his family who became the first recognizable heathens. This can only remind us of the enormous scale of infant mortality in the ancient world. But it also points up the lack of development of the stillborn suggesting their subhuman state. Even Noah’s ‘baptism’ was figurative (1 Pet. 3:21).
First Covenant and Heathenism
9. Following the mere (negative) commandment given to the ‘infant’ Adam, the first covenant was established with Noah (Gen. 6:18, etc.). This immediately suggests not only his greater maturity than that of his predecessors but his racial ‘childhood’. Though this covenant embraced the animals too guaranteeing their preservation, they were clearly unconscious of it. How could they recognize rainbows or name the rest of the animals? Despite their obvious sinfulness and heathen status, Noah’s children were capable of exercising faith (see espec. Heb. 11). (1* It might well be asked at this point how it was that Abel, Enoch and others who never acquired covenant status were able to exercise faith. The answer surely lies in the fact that they were adults. If they had sufficient knowledge to sin – for without knowledge of law there is no sin (Rom. 4:15; 7:8, etc.) – they also had enough knowledge on which to base their faith (Rom. 10:14,17). It was under this covenant that mankind began to take on personal characteristics like creativity that we associate more readily with modern adults (Gen. 10f.).
The Abrahamic Covenant of Promise
10. The first palpable move away from heathenism auguring a culminating future appeared with the covenants made with Abraham. They promised much and remain relevant even today. There was, however, much to occur in the meantime.
The Mosaic Covenant of Law
11. Slavery in Egypt was symptomatic of the immaturity of both the race and the individual as Paul indicates in Galatians 4:1-3. Even Jesus as truly human (incarnate) was subject to it as Matthew in particular realized (Mt. 2:15). The time came when Moses having learned the wisdom of Egypt (Acts 7:22) was able to separate the children of Israel from the peoples in general (Lev. 20:24). At this point the law serving as a wall of separation came into effect. This experience, like the Passover (Ex. 12:41-51), was recapitulated in all subsequent generations both as individuals and communities (cf. Ex. 13:8; Acts 9:4). The fact that circumcised boys became sons of the commandment at age thirteen indicates that only adolescents were involved. Of course it was during the dispensation of law that the covenant promises were made to David.
The Messianic Covenant
12. The problem with living under the law is that it locks those held captive by it permanently in adolescence (Gal. 3:23). Clearly there is a further step to take in man’s evolution to spiritual maturity. This step, which was implicitly promised as early as Genesis 2:17 and made more explicit by the prophets Jeremiah (31:31-34) and Ezekiel in particular (11:19; 36:26f.), proved unattainable because it hinged on keeping the law to perfection (Lev. 18:5). Needless to say, no one succeeded in achieving this (1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23). Since God intended saving his people himself (Ps. 130:9; Isa. 45:22, etc.), it remained to Jesus, the eternal Word made flesh, to meet the condition of life, freedom and sonship (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). Thus as man, the incarnate Son who had pleased his Father under the law and been born again (or from above), he was qualified to lay down his natural life (flesh, Col. 1:22) not only to save his people from their sins but to give them by faith the righteousness which was the precondition of life for them.
The Blessing of the Spirit
13. But an alien or legal righteousness is not enough. Even ‘adults’ need to improve or be conformed to the image of their Creator. After baptism and regeneration Jesus himself worked towards his Father’s perfection (Mt. 3:15; 5:48; 19:21, cf. Phil. 3:12-14) which, once achieved, resulted in his transformation ascension. Then, in accordance with the plan of God, we who believe in him follow the trail he has blazed.
14. In fact human evolution is summarily and conveniently sketched by Paul in Galatians 4:1-7. We begin as babies born of woman who through Adam stemmed from the earth. Then as children we become slaves who follow the race into adolescence. (2* Cf. Modern education’s three-tier system.) Next, we graduate into the freedom of adulthood or maturity en route to perfection. In other words, we are first slaves, secondly, servants and, thirdly, sons and heirs. (3* See further my Perfection, The Human Path to Perfection.) Having begun in an earthly paradise we progress towards a heavenly one where God himself dwells and is finally seen in Christ (Rev. 22:1-5).
Human evolution is from ground to glory and is implied in John 1:9-13; Romans 1:16-3:31 (racial); Romans 7-8 and, of course, Galatians 4:1-7 (individual). Recapitulation, or the repetition of a pattern, is basic to our understanding of it.
According to Michael Green in his The Empty Cross of Jesus (p.59), William Barclay remarked in his Crucified and Crowned (p.100) that in Christ the whole course of human evolution was perfectly effected in obedience to the purpose of God.