1. Young-earth vs. progressive vs. evolutionary creation: how do you decide what to think? Do you even need to decide?
--You can decide not to decide -- not all Christians are called to work through the details of these issues, and it's not an essential doctrine of the Christian faith
--You can put off deciding until later.
--If you want to decide, give yourself time, information, and discussion with others.
2. What should be taught about origins in the public schools?
--The science of microevolution should be taught, and distinguished from macroevolution.
--The science of macroevolution should be taught, since it is an important and useful scientific theory.
--Both the weaknesses and strengths of macroevolution should be taught.
--Evolutionism should not be taught in the science class. (Discuss evolutionism and other worldview interpretations in philosophy or religion classes.)
For teachers and parents: Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy, published by the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA).
For pastors and churches: God Did It, But How?, also published by ASA.
3. Why would God use such a long, indirect process to create modern plants and animals? Why not just say the word and have them come into being (creation by fiat)?
Here's some possibilities:
-- God likes process. Consider the slow development of each new human being, each of our spiritual lives, the long history of the church, the long history of the nation of Israel, etc.
-- God fixes our sinfulness not by instantly changing us (like we were a machine), or starting over (like we were a mistake), but by patiently teaching us (like a parent with a child).
4. An old earth requires animal death before humans sinned. Is this in conflict with the Bible?
Even before modern science, many theologians wrote that animal death was a normal part of creation:
--Genesis 3:17-18 and Romans 8:18-23 talk about the negative effect of human sin on the creation, but they do not specifically refer to animal death. (They do refer to human death and spiritual death).
--Worship passages (in Psalms and elsewhere) include reference to predators (lions, etc.)
--Does "animal death" include low-level life like insects and bacteria? Even in a 6-day creation, these would have died before human sin.
--Animals, like plants, are finite, with a temporal beginning and end. Death makes room for new animals to appear.
Then what is the "groaning of creation"? Here's some ideas:
--We abuse creation sinfully. We mis-use it and destroy parts of it.
--Creation was supposed to be a place for humans to love and glorify God, but it can't do what it was created to do because we aren't doing what we're supposed to do.
--All of creation is supposed to glorify its Creator, and we are in some sense the personal voice for the rest of creation. We're not doing our job properly.
5. Are natural disasters, harmful mutations, disease, and parasitism a result of human sinfulness, or part of God's original creative plan? (see also questions 7 and 13)
--Some argue that nature is too "ugly" for a loving God to have created it:
Man, her last work, who seem'd so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll'd the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law--
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed--
(Excerpted from "'So Careful of the Type?' But No" by Alfred Lord Tennyson.)
--There are many examples in science of something which looks awkward/ugly at first, but looks sensible/beautiful in the big picture.
6. Doesn't evolution reward selfishness? How could God use a selfish system to create something good?
--Sometimes "selfish" behavior is rewarded in evolution, but sometimes "altruistic" behavior is rewarded. (e.g. risking life to protect young, or warning the herd of a nearby predator)
--Some biological instincts are unambiguous (e.g. revulsion to spoiled food). But for complex social behaviors, animals display competing behavior options. (e.g. immediate pleasure-seeking vs. working for long-term survival; indiscriminant mating vs. pair-mating for life) Perhaps these competing behavior options in social animal groups formed "raw material" for moral choice in humans -- moral choice made possible by increased intelligence, self-awareness, and social awareness.
--Christians have always said
7. Doesn't the Bible teach that humans were originally immortal, living in a pain-free Eden?
Immortal? If Adam & Eve were already immortal, why was a "Tree of Life" needed? (Gen 3:22). The punishment for disobeying God was spiritual death, not immediate physical death.
Pain-free? If there was no pain in Eden, why does God curse Eve by saying "I will increase your pains with childbearing." (Gen 3:16). Pain is an important tool for survival, health, and safety.
Work-free? God worked during creation. Humans are commanded to subdue and rule the earth (Gen 2:28), which takes hard work. Work was a good part of creation even before sin.
As Christians in a sinful world, we know that death is not the end for us, that pain warns us about physical danger, that pain can turn us towards God instead of away from God, and that work is good.
8. If humans evolved by the same process as apes, how can humans be more significant?
This is similar to questions of significance raised in week 4. Even though humans are vastly smaller and younger than the universe, we are significant because: God chose to speak to us, God himself became human in the person of Jesus, and Jesus died to restore humanity to himself. All of the same reasons apply here. Our significance is based not on how humans came into being, but how God has related to use since then.
9. Could the human soul have been formed by evolutionary mechanisms?
In what sense are we "made in the image of God"?
--Some "soul" qualities could have been created through evolutionary processes:
verbal ability, tool-making ability, complex inter-personal interactions, perhaps even self-awareness and empathy. Some other mammals have these to a much lesser extent. With human babies, we see the gradual development of these abilities over time.
--Other "soul" qualities require God's supernatural intervention:
the establishment of a personal relationship between creature and Creator; moral accountability; life after death. God decided when, in human history, to begin such relationships and accountability.
10. Why not just believe that God miraculously intervened to create humans with souls?
That's theologically and scientifically possible, but there is some data to consider:
11. Were Adam and Eve actual historical persons? How did sin spread through the human race?
--There are scriptural reasons which have long suggested to some theologians that Adam and Eve were not the only human beings at the time:
--You may not need to decide personally which of these is best. Each one seeks to preserve the essential teachings of Original Sin. If you do need to decide, give yourself time, information, and discussion with others.
12. What about other events in Genesis 3-11? Are these actual historical events or not?
We don't know. These chapters do appear to be a different literary genre from later chapters. There is a bit of other literature from Mesopotamia at that time (e.g. The Epic of Gilgamesh) with some similar features (kings who live for thousands of years, a global flood). We don't know of strong reasons either to insist upon the historical accuracy of these chapter or to deny their historical accuracy. Consult with Old Testament scholars.
13. Isn't the whole picture of evolutionary creation just too messy and painful for God to use? How could God declare such a system "good"?
Philip Yancey addresses the theological "problem of pain" in his book, Where is God When it Hurts?
--Pain is a useful signal that our body is injured/diseased. (It's a good thing "in the big picture.")
--God can use painful incidents to point us back to Him (sometimes better than anything else could).
--God listens to our cries of suffering (e.g. the book of Job).
--God allies himself with the poor and suffering in society.
--God participated personally in our suffering through Jesus' Incarnation and Crucifixion
--God calls on his church to relieve the suffering of others.
--God will set all things right in the end, in the new creation.
I Corinthians 13 say that when all other things pass away, "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love." What does that imply about our future life in the new creation that faith, hope, and love will remain? This "painful" world seems to be a good place to learn those characteristics.
"The image Jesus left with the world, the cross, ... is proof that God cares about our suffering and pain. He died of it. ... And thus the cross, an eternal stumbling block to some, became the cornerstone of our faith. Any discussion of how pain and suffering fit into God's system ultimately leads back to the cross."
Philip Yancey, Where is God When it Hurts?
14. How do I worship a Creator who used a long, indirect process rather than a miracle to make each lifeform?
If you are used to worshiping with the mental image of God specially creating each animal in 6 days, but then decide on an intellectual level that God used progressive creation or evolutionary creation, you may need to revise your worship attitudes. Here's some suggestions:
--Praise God for