is evolution compatible with Christianity?


I’m almost halfway through Peter Enns’s “The Evolution of Adam”. Enns accepts the scientific consensus on evolution, which is that humans evolved from less complex organisms. I accept the scientific consensus too. Does anyone here think evolution and Christianity are fundamentally at odds? If so, please give your reasons.


That, my friend, is what we call 'opening a can of worms"! :smiley:

Let it be open!! It’s a great topic.


I thought the book was a brilliant read. I don’t hold to biological evolution. I do believe in cultural and societal evolution, but not biological… that’s mainly because I can’t get my head around some of the basic assumptions of it. I certainly don’t rule out that God could have been the means of biological evolution, but I just don’t see it. What I liked about the book is that it doesn’t so much make the case FOR biological evolution but simply explores HOW “Christianity” doesn’t need to be at odds with it, at least not in biblical terms.


davo said:

Can you explain?


That’s the main point I got out of it as well.


As I understand it… there is a certain complexity to life that without that complexity LIFE simply cannot be sustained and thereby exist. For example… what was the ‘heart’ doing to sustain life BEFORE it became a fully functioning heart to where it was sustaining life? And by what means was it itself able to survive? Further… what other process was in play sustaining the heart AND the rest of the living organism while it was becoming what it needed to be to sustain such life as we presently now know it? We need the heart to live! IOW… what or how was the heart doing/functioning BEFORE its now present condition?

Now just replicate that same series of questions to the likes of the lungs, or blood, or whatever. Like what function did the eye perform BEFORE it became a fully functioning eye, etc, etc? And thus… HOW did life survive at some apparent lesser level into an apparently higher level? Not only that… what evidence does science provide along these lines as reasonable raised above of our continual biological evolution?

I’m pretty sure if I threw a packet of ‘316 marine-grade stainless steel’ nuts and bolts out into the desert and came back in a billion years to where there had now grown a rainforest, the one thing I won’t find is the remnants of a car that made itself by itself… unless of course, it fuelled itself by itself and thus by itself drove away.

To believe that complex living things created themselves, out of nothing, by accident, and this repeatedly is scientifically irrational and unsupportable. At least this is how I’m presently seeing things.


So your take is that those who view evolution as viable, are touting that complex things created themselves, out of nothing and by accident, are irrational, and the view is unsupportable. (It is obvious I am rehashing your comment but am doing it for a purpose) So do you think genesis chpt 1 and genesis chpt 2 are talking about different things, in other words is gen1 talking about a creation and gen 2 talking about Israel? :slight_smile:


I think chapters 1 & 2 are different angles of the same account of Israel’s origins, not the time-space universe. Biological evolution may be true in part or in whole, but I can’t see it, yet at least.


I think it is a mistake to assume such complex organs as the heart, eye, and lung evolved from a state that, from the beginning, was functioning as a heart, an eye, or a lung. Studies of some biological systems have shown that many complex structures and behaviors seem to evolve in small steps, such that each step confers an advantage to the holder. That advantage allows such early stages to persist, and they may be followed by another stage that adds on a new function to the earlier function or even replaces that earlier function. In this way, a complex organ with function A can be understood as possibly evolving from an earlier, simpler organ with function B.

Thus, the eye could have evolved from a very early stage that was begun by a mutation that conferred the ability of a simple nerve-cell membrane near the surface of the body to be sensitive to light. That could result simply from the surface cell layer (integument) above the nerve cell becoming less opaque, say from losing some of its pigment through a random mutation. So, when the surface cell layer let light pass through to the nerve membrane, the nerve membrane would be struck by light and, as many nerve cells do when disturbed, it would send out a nerve impulse. If that sensitivity allowed the holder to respond in an advantageous way to the presence of light, then that holder would be more likely to pass on its mutation for such a light-detecting arrangement to future generations. It the holder did not have any advantage, then the light-detecting arrangement would be insignificant and would likely be lost to future generations.

There have been some pretty convincing studies on how complex behaviors evolved in just such a way. These studies are convincing because many of the earlier stages are still observed in closely related species. I have observed several step-like stages in what appears to be an evolutionary sequence in the mating behavior of a group of species called water mites. The sequence starts with a relatively indiscriminant method of sperm transfer via external deposition on a surface together with sperm pick-up by the female from that surface and ends with true copulation in which the male and female touch their ventral sides, and the male inserts the sperm into the female genital opening. Several intermediate steps in that sequence are observed in different members of the water-mite species group.

It’s also a mistake to assume that evolution occurs by accident. The only step in the process that could be called accidental is mutation or the formation of new genetic material. What follows that initial step is never accidental in the case of the evolution of adaptations, and that is the sort of evolution that most concerns us. The environment passively acts on the random process of mutation to screen out the advantageous from the disadvantageous random mutations. That’s known as natural selection, and it is not an accident or random.


I have no issue with biological adaptation of what already exists, no doubts; but that’s a loooong way from nothing to something.

So is it unreasonable to prefix “natural” with “supra” or “super”? Like I’ve stated… I don’t rule out the possibility of biological evolution (not adaptation) but like your “seem to” or “could have” it is a little too convenient.


Good post, lancia.

So far it doesn’t sound like anyone here thinks evolution is incompatible with Christian doctrines. :question:


Well what do you think?


I think it depends on what one’s presuppositions are concerning the meaning of ‘Christianity’ - which is certainly not univocal.

The best fit for me is evolution within species, not inter-species, through the mechanism of natural selection, and all under the guiding wisdom of God.

The question of the relation of the Genesis Adam to Paul’s Adam in Romans 5 is a deep one, and I have no dog in the fight yet. I can see both sides of the historical/metaphorical/scientific debate about Adam, I find it very interesting, but don’t have any ‘answers’.


This is getting interesting :laughing:

DaveB go ahead and dive in :wink: Actually your comment about Christianity is very intriguing!


Dave said:

My question is do you (*&^%$#@! :wink: :open_mouth: :smiley: …can you ever see how it is not one and the same Adam, cause I want to know!!


In most cases, yes, it is unreasonable. I say that because natural selection has been documented so many times in so many ways, that to doubt its existence and effects is unreasonable.

But why would you say that? Adaptation is the one of the most observed and documented aspects of evolution.

But using such language is accurate! Unless one sees the actual steps in the process of evolution of complex systems (and how would one do that in such systems that take sometimes thousands of generations to develop) one should use words that convey such a level of uncertainty. Now, as I said, there are systems in which the process is better known, and more definitive language can be used.


Chad, you frightened me with that *&^%$#@! Not sure how to proceed. :confused:

Let me channel Bill Clinton: “when is the same, not the same”?

I DO NOT KNOW. There, I said it. Not for the last time. :smiley:


I’m obviously not as versed in this as you are, but I don’t see “adaptation” as reliant on biological evolution. IOW… evolutionary theory doesn’t have a mortgage on ‘adaptation’ any more than Calvinism has a mortgage on “election” even though its adherents assume and believe it does.


Well, adaptation does rely on evolution to the extent that it is an example of evolution. The relationship is tight enough to be able to say that adaptation is a sufficient condition of evolution. That means, one cannot have adaptation without also having evolution. It’s not a necessary condition of evolution, though, because genetic drift (neutral gene theory) can also change allele frequencies over time and thus can cause evolution to occur, though that evolution is not adaptive. So, in some cases, one can have evolution without adaptation. But again, one cannot have adaptation without also having evolution behind that adaptation.


Thanx bro… did not mean to frighten anyone. Merry Christmas :exclamation: