Early in my walk with Jesus I struggled with this question and over the years I have learned that others have asked themselves the same question or similar ones such as, “ I don’t understand why we need to be at odds with other Christians or evolutionists?” or “Why does it matter if God used evolution?” or “Shouldn’t we just focus on the gospel?”
They are all good questions! As I have struggled with these questions the Lord has helped me to appreciate that the issue of evolution is actually inseparable from the gospel, because of the problem of death.
Before we get too far into it, I want to go over some of the core concepts behind the theory of the evolution of man.
Mutations and natural selection are the two most important principles behind evolutionary theory. As mutations occur, natural selection ‘decides’ which mutations live on and which ones will eventually die out. The idea is that over millions of years, through natural selection, simple animals are refined and developed, becoming more complex and ending up higher on the evolutionary tree of life.
So every complex animal on the higher limbs of this tree is the result of a multitude of simpler animals dying. Far from a perfect journey, it is a slow meandering path, fraught with errors that are course-corrected through death, eventually resulting in the dominant species, homo sapiens or human beings.
As you can see from this brief overview of evolutionary theory, death is a driving force behind evolution and this is why we cannot overlook or ignore evolution when it comes to defending the faith. You see the Bible has revealed to us how death originated and it actually has nothing to do with improving or refining any species.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
Therefore a plain reading of the Bible tells us that death comes after sin, not the other way around.
Some theistic evolutionists explain that this refers to a spiritual death and not a physical death, but if that is the case why would Jesus need to die a physical death in our place? Why could He not just preach forgiveness of sins by believing in His name, and then die of natural causes and return to heaven safe and sound?
The reality is Christ had to suffer, being “put to death in the flesh” in order to “bring us to God”¹.
Shouldn’t a spiritual death only require a spiritual solution? The Bible clearly tells us that sin requires a physical death payment and that salvation brings not only spiritual life, but eternal physical life when our physical bodies are raised and transformed into bodies that will never die.
“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” (Romans 5:18)
This is why the issue of death is inseparable from the gospel. Undermining the consequences of sin ultimately undermines Jesus’ tremendous sacrifice on the cross. It is also important to remember that it was never God’s intention for death, suffering and pain to be part of the paradise of His “very good”² original creation nor the paradise of His kingdom that is coming.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
He is also not a God who makes mistakes and through trial and error eventually comes out with the intended product. As Christians we don’t have the luxury of separating the created world from the plain reading of the Word of God. Considering ‘why this matters’ doesn’t just affect our understanding of the first chapters in Genesis but the entire Bible and the gospel itself.
¹1 Peter 3:18 – For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.
²Genesis 1:31 – Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.