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.

Animal Death

I often hear people ask, “How could God have called his creation ‘very good’ if there were millions of years of animal death before the fall?” I, on the other hand, ask the question, “How could God have called his creation ‘very good’ unless there were animal death?”

Just think about what the world would be like without animal death. How long could it have taken before 100% of the planet’s land area was covered with rabbits? (With typical rabbit reproductive rates and zero mortality rate, it would take about 10 years.) I don’t think this would be very good. If flying insects could multiply without limit and never die off, then the air would always be thick with swarms of insects.

Why do lions eat other animals if God has not created them with this instinct? And why do vultures eat nothing but dead animals unless this is the purpose for which they were created? The natural order is totally dependent on animal death. Is it possible that God created the world to support stable populations only if Adam sinned?

If you want to claim that the way the world works is a consequence of the fall, please give me some evidence or explanation. How would this be related to the fall? Our sinful natures are a consequence of the fall, but I’m not sure what that has to do with lions eating zebras.

Does the Bible say that there was no death before the fall? Genesis certainly says that Adam’s death was a result of his sin, but it says nothing about animals dying or not dying. Romans 5 says that just as death came through Adam, life came through Christ. If the reference to death in this passage includes animal death, then it follows that the redemptive work of Christ extends to animals as well. There is no support for this idea elsewhere in scripture, so I have a hard time believing that Romans 5 is talking about animals.

Humans were created in the image of God. Animals were not. I think this alone implies that there is a big difference between the death of a human and the death of an animal.

In short, the Bible never says that there was no animal death before the fall. And a world with no animal death would not remain good for very long. Perhaps the common perception of all death being bad is an artifact of our depraved moral sense—and that is a result of the fall.