I recently had a discussion with a few friends where the question of creation and how to read Genesis 1 came up. Some think this kind of discussion is always unhelpful, saying something like “It’s not a fundamental doctrine for Christians”. I agree in spirit, if not in detail. For one thing, how we think about creation is an inescapable question for any Christian today. American culture, generally, has a warped understanding of science and the kinds of questions Scripture is supposed to even answer. So having some sort of response to how we think of Genesis is simply what we should do in obedience to 1 Peter 3:15, and even more so in our context. Secondly, in the middle of the discussion, it was clear that, for some, how you understand Genesis 1 does affect how you word other beliefs. Beliefs which most Christians do think are pretty fundamental. I do not think this is wrong, it’s simply the nature of knowledge. Truths build upon each other, they are connected, one sentence implies many other sentences. A belief that you are trustworthy inevitably implies a hundred other things about what I think of you and how I act towards you. So, that being the case, I wanted to pose what I see as the most fundamental problem for believers who believe that God created the world (as Genesis 1 claims), and also that evolutionary theory is in some respect correct about how living organisms like ourselves came to be (and just to be up-front, I am one who believes this). The best way to pose the problem could be by citing several passages that highlight it: So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned -Romans 5:12
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! –1 Corinthians 15:56-57
For the payoffof sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 6:23 For since death came through a man,the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. -1 Corinthians 15:21
The obvious implication is that somehow mankind bears responsibility for the reality of death. Many Christians would think that this “death” includes animal death. Many Christians believe that, because of passages like Genesis 3:17-19, not just death, but all suffering in the world is the direct result of humanity’s orientation against God.
The obvious problem this poses for theistic evolution is that evolution, no matter the specific mechanisms involved, requires death, eons of death. What’s more, the standard model requires suffering, intense suffering. Most Christians have a reading of Genesis 1 (and the rest of scripture really) which makes this totally unacceptable.
A brief look online yielded tons of articles about this subject, and only skimming a few I decided to simply think about the problem more myself before delving into the intricacies of the debate. Because I’d like to break this up into several posts I only want to first say that, for me, this question did not cause a faith crisis, even though it did trouble me that I couldn’t reconcile it all. I knew that there was an inconsistency in my thinking, I’ve simply always prayed when it came up; knowing that what is required of those who follow Jesus is not “correctness”, but “faithfulness”. So, my re-emergence of interest came as I was reading a book with no intention of re-thinking this particular topic. But, the perspective presented fit all the pieces together in a such a way that it brought the Christian scriptures to life in a brighter, more clear, cohesive, and really just beautiful way. Inevitably, I get excited about that kind of thing.
That being said, a primary reason that many of the religious of Jesus’ day were unable to believe in him was because the perspective shift required was too radical. The “Messiah” was supposed to conquer, be a reputable member of the religious elite perhaps, not insult the teachers of the day, not break racial taboos. It crumbled so many other things about their worldview (again, this is simply how truth works) that the insecurity was unbearable. I pray we aren’t the same. Whatever your thoughts are on Genesis, the origin of evil, the difficulty of believing in God with such intense pain in the world, if these posts don’t actually help you open up to thinking seriously about God, or, if you’re already a Jesus follower, if they don’t push you to love Him more, to want to obey Him more, then leave them by the wayside.