Allegory and Evolution

I recently listened to a pastor I respect talk about old-earth creationism. He made a statement to the effect that if you believe that Genesis should be interpreted allegorically, you shouldn’t even call yourself a Christian. It may come as a shock, but I pretty much agree with him on this.

You see, if Adam and Eve were allegorical, then their sin was also allegorical. And if Adam’s fall is allegorical, how can Christ’s redemption be anything but allegorical? This interpretation necessarily denies the reality of original sin and reduces Christianity, at best, to Pelagianism, a view that clearly contradicts the teaching of scripture (John 6:44, Rom. 5:19, Eph. 2:3) and that has been denounced as heresy by multiple church councils. Orthodox Christianity requires a literal Adam and a literal fall.

Now let’s take a look at evolutionary creationism, also known as theistic evolution. According to this model, God directed the process of evolution by which simple organisms eventually developed into humans. (BioLogos is an organization that promotes this view.) According to evolutionary theory, it is populations that evolve, not individuals. As a result, if humans evolved by natural selection, it is not possible that there could have been a single first human or pair of humans (Adam and Eve).

Now it can be argued that Adam and Eve were not the first humans but that, instead, God took these two individuals from among the population of modern humans and breathed into them the breath of spiritual life, instilling into them the image of God. According to this view, the fall remains a literal event. I think that this may be the only position regarding Adam and Eve that an evolutionary creationist can take without falling into total heresy. Although I do not consider this view heretical, I will still argue that it is wrong.

Genesis 2:7 says, “the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground.” There are other verses in the Bible that speak of God forming people. In Psalm 139:13, for instance, David says, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” However, I think there is a big difference between God forming a person in his mother’s womb and God forming a person from the dust of the ground. It seems to me that Genesis 2:7 indicates a special act of creation not involving birth from a mother. If Adam were taken from an existing human population, then God did not form him from the dust of the ground.

This is why I do not think that the theory of evolution by natural selection (at least concerning the origin of man) is compatible with biblical Christianity. Eventually, I will explain why I do not think biological and paleontological evidence demands an evolutionary interpretation. However, that will have to wait for another time.

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The Appearance of Age

I often hear people claim that God created the world with the appearance of age. In a sense, I don’t have a problem with this. In another sense, however, I have a very big problem with it.

God created tigers on the sixth day of creation. I’m thinking he probably didn’t create only baby tigers that would have been dependent on their nonexistent mothers for nourishment. I’m thinking that instead he made tigers as adults. Similarly, I don’t think Adam and Eve were created as babies. I think God made them full-grown. I don’t have a problem with this idea.

What I would have a big problem with would be the notion that God may have created Adam with a scar on his left forearm. A scar is an indication of a historical event. If God made Adam with a scar, he would have been creating a record of an event that never actually took place. Because God does not lie, I cannot believe that he would do this. When talking about the appearance of age, we must be careful to make the distinction between God creating something in a mature state and God creating a false historical record.

volcano erupting

It is easy when confronted with evidence that indicates an old earth to simply claim that the earth was created that way. For example, some may say that God made Antarctica with many of the annual layers of ice already in place. However, some of these layers contain volcanic ash. God creating a layer of ice with trapped volcanic ash would mean God creating a false historical record. (Yes, I know of the other interpretations of these layers, and I will address that at another time.)

The phrase “appearance of age” is something that I have frequently heard. However, we must be very careful with this phrase. If we mean that God created something in a mature state, that is consistent with the character of God. But if we mean that God has created a record of events that did not take place, then we are calling God a liar. Anyone who uses this phrase or who suggests that the earth may have been created with certain characteristics should carefully evaluate the implications of this statement.