Evolutionary Creation: Biblical Accounts of Origins — Spiritual Truths
The greatest perceived problem with evolutionary creation is that it rejects the traditional literal interpretation of the opening chapters of Scripture. Church history reveals that most believers have understood the biblical accounts of origins to be a record of actual historical events. Even more troubling for evolutionary creation is the fact that the New Testament writers, including Jesus Himself, refer to Genesis 1–11 as literal history (Matt 19:4–6; Rom 5:12–14; Heb 4:4–7; 2 Pet 2:4–5). Therefore, the burning question is:
“How do evolutionary creationists interpret the early chapters of Holy Scripture?”
In response, these Christian evolutionists first emphasize, without any reservation, the foundational principle of biblical revelation. As Hebrews 1:1–2 clearly states, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
Evolutionary creationists are also quick to add theologian George Eldon Ladd’s observation that “the Bible is the Word of God given in the words of men in history.” Stated another way, the Holy Spirit inspired the biblical authors at a specific point in ancient history, using their languages, literary conventions, and ideas, including their conception of the natural world. The ancient intellectual categories of the inspired writers were not set aside, but employed in the process of biblical revelation. Christian evolutionists contend that there certainly is science in the Bible, for that matter, state-of-the-art science. However, it is science-of-the-day, a few thousand years ago in the ancient Near East. And like most science over time, it is improved, if not completely replaced, with a better understanding of nature.
Evolutionary creationists recognize that the opening chapters of Scripture are a special type of literature. That is, it is a unique genre, and most biblical scholars see Genesis 1–11 as a separate literary unit. Consequently, conservative Christians today must respect the distinctive character of these biblical passages and learn not to read their modern assumptions, expectations, or agendas into them. An appreciation of the type of literature that the Holy Spirit employed in biblical revelation is fundamental to grasping the inerrant spiritual truths. In particular, Genesis 1–11 features three characteristics: spiritual truths, ancient science, and ancient poetry.
First and foremost, the purpose of Genesis 1–11 is to offer spiritual truths concerning the Creator and His creation with special regard to men and women. This Holy Spirit-inspired revelation includes foundational truths of the Christian faith: God created the world, the creation is very good, humans are the only creatures made in the Image of God, every man and woman has fallen into sin, and God judges humanity for their sinful acts. These are spiritual truths that change lives and upon which joyous and successful lives are built. Evolutionary creationists assert that these spiritual truths are delivered by using an ancient scientific understanding of nature and ancient poetic literary techniques. In the same way that the Lord personally meets each of us wherever we happen to be, the Holy Spirit came down to the level of the ancient biblical writers and employed their conceptualization of the physical world and their style of literature in order to communicate, as effectively as possible, inerrant spiritual truths.
Therefore, evolutionary creation recognizes that the opening chapters of Genesis feature two basic components: the Message of Faith (inerrant spiritual truths), and an incidental vessel which contains this divine revelation (ancient science/ancient poetry). In qualifying the vessel as “incidental,” there is no intention to suggest that it is unimportant. On the contrary, the ancient science and ancient poetry are absolutely essential in delivering the eternal messages to an ancient audience. They act like a cup that holds the “living waters” (John 4:10). But these features of the Scripture are not the life-changing spiritual truths. Other sciences and literary devices could have been used at different times in history to transport the identical revelation. For example, if Genesis 1 were written today, the literary style might include a scientific format with mathematical formulas, and the science could feature the evolutionary discoveries of modern cosmology, geology, and biology.
Evolutionary creationists emphasize that separating the spiritual truth from the incidental ancient vessel is critical in understanding the biblical accounts of origins.
About Denis Lamoureux
Denis O. Lamoureux is a professor of Science & Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. He holds three earned doctoral degrees — dentistry, theology, and biology — and has written several books on the relationship between Christian faith and modern science. Denis worships at a Pentecostal church.
Click on the links to purchase his latest books from McGahan Publishing House, The Bible & Ancient Science: Principles of Interpretation and Beyond the Evolution vs. Creation Debate / Click HERE for his webpage.