Can we believe Genesis and evolution? Did God guide an evolutionary process? What did Jesus and the apostles believe about the Genesis account of creation?
Did God use evolution to create life?
If we examine the most reliable evidence, the answer is no, God did not use evolution to create life. The Bible is clear that God made Adam directly from dirt, and he only came to life after God breathed on him: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). In fact, “out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast” (Genesis 2:19).
Further, notice that Adam was alone—none of the animals were comparable to him. (This would have been unlikely if Adam had been produced by gradual changes over generations from other animals.) God created the first woman directly from a rib taken from the man’s side (Genesis 2:18-23).
Notice also that all kinds of fish and birds were created in one day, and all kinds of land creatures were created on the next (Genesis 1:20-26).
The biblical description of the creation has been disputed by many scientists in the last 200 years. So can we rely on the Scriptures to explain the existence of humanity? Can we believe in the Genesis account of creation, or is evolution the only viable option? Can a Christian believe in both?
In recent years some have taken a fresh look at how the ordered and often symbiotic environment in the world came about. New evidence from scientific research at the molecular and atomic level has reignited interest in whether the natural world was designed and put together by a superior intelligence.
Terms like “irreducible complexity” and “intelligent design” reflect the new scientific movement.
Deeply embedded ideas
However, the sheer weight of assumptions found in science textbooks for all levels of education can put fair-minded Christian readers at a disadvantage. When discussing the origin of man, these books often make statements that are dogmatic and avoid the so-called “religious” option. Yet discoveries of scientists on the cutting edge of biological and genetic research have led a sizable group of professors and researchers to believe that the world we see around us is no accident.
Many were surprised when, in 2004, the then 81-year-old Professor Antony Flew of Reading University, England, decided that the whole physical world “looks to me like the work of intelligence.” This was striking because until then Professor Flew had been one of the foremost proponents of atheism, having debated his ideas with the famed Christian author C.S. Lewis.
Now he decided that the biological discoveries and integrated complexity of DNA, RNA and the symbiosis in nature pointed to an intelligence responsible for what he saw.
Albert Einstein, although not a proponent of a personal God, also believed that the many and consistent laws that regulate the universe were evidence of design.
Many scientists today, considering the amazing advances in all branches of science, are concluding that the beautiful, orderly universe and the complexity of life point to an intelligent designer. Yet many religious leaders seem to have accepted evolution as a given.
Can Christians believe in evolution? What does the Bible really teach about the origin of life?
Let’s consider what Jesus and the apostles understood about the beginning of mankind and the account in Genesis.
Did Jesus believe Genesis?
In a verbal exchange with the Pharisees about marriage, Jesus confirmed His support for the Genesis account of creation: “From the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female’” (Mark 10:6, quoting Genesis 1:27).
Did the apostles believe Genesis?
John Mark penned the passage in Mark 10:6. Would he or the apostle Matthew (see Matthew 19:5) have included it in their biographies of Jesus if they knew it to be a false statement? Would Luke, a fastidious writer, include Adam in Jesus’ genealogy if he knew Adam to be fictitious (Luke 3:38)?
Jude, one of Jesus’ half-brothers, refers to Enoch, “the seventh from Adam” (Jude 1:14). The converted Pharisee Paul, trained under the renowned teacher Gamaliel, tells us Adam was “formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13) and that Adam was the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45).
The choice comes again. Do we cherry-pick what we wish to believe—thinking of the writers as ignorant and unaware of our real origins? Or do we accept that they walked and talked with Jesus—the Creator, the God of the Holy Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament), the Word who was made flesh (John 1:14; 1 Corinthians 10:4), the One who had made Adam and Eve?
Many other people and places from Genesis are included in the New Testament. They include names such as Abel, Cain, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Joseph, Moses and many more. That they were mentioned by men taught by Christ confirms that the book of Genesis was authoritative and not a collection of myths from dark days of ignorance.
Simon Peter, before his death, encouraged those looking for the return of Jesus Christ to “be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:1-4).
This warning from Peter mentions the idea of uniform global conditions continuing for millennia. The discovery of impact craters around the earth and the evidence of major upheavals in the geologic strata have exposed this false concept of steady development. The disappearance of dinosaurs in a short span shows the earth was not always as we know it today—relatively stable.
Science can only theorize about how such conditions occurred on the evidence available to them. We have the recorded history from God, who viewed these events as they happened.
How should we approach Genesis and the creation?
Obviously the apostle Peter thought we should believe what is recorded in Genesis!
He continues, “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:5-9).
There was no doubt in Peter’s mind that by choice (“willfully”), evidence has been ignored that shows God’s design and creation of the universe, including His sustaining the laws of the universe (“upholding all things by the word of His power,” Hebrews 1:3).
The apostle Paul also realized that those who experience nature’s order and design should know that God created it all—that He is expressing Himself through its perfection:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:18-21).
When we examine the incredible creation, we can see more about the invisible Creator!
It can also be helpful to examine the details of how God transformed the earth to make it ready for mankind. Read our article “How Long Were ‘Days’ in Genesis 1?” It will help explain that the details given in Genesis are accurate, not allegorical or poetic, and are supported by true science.
Can Christians believe in evolution?
When we look at the biblical account of creation in Genesis, we see order and purpose. Compared to the explanation God gives, much more faith is required to believe the theory of evolution, which depends on random chemicals reacting by chance to produce the incredibly complex chemical systems in all life, from single-celled creatures to the enormously intricate human body.
Many scientists also continue to seek the holy grail of paleontology, the many “missing links” in the fossil record, so that they can finally say, “You see, there is no God.” Yet if evolution works by the process of natural selection weeding out failed mutations, then where are the billions of fossils of failed attempts? Instead we find the fossil remains of complete and functioning creatures.
Macro-evolutionary thinking can’t explain away the intricately balanced world that God prepared for humanity. Any changes that do occur are limited in range, and any interpretation of the fossil record to show some kind of complete and orderly development is fanciful.
We can be grateful for the purposeful plan God is implementing. All mankind will eventually acknowledge the design and beauty of His creation, culminating in the spiritual elevation of man from physical to spirit children of God, living happily without end.
This is in stark contrast to the no-God alternative option—dying for evermore with no hope.
Yes, Genesis is accurate! Christians have no need to believe in evolution.
Read more about the Creator God in the other articles in this section on “Is There a God?”