How Can There be Sin After Evolution?

If God created the world in its present state of corruption, subject to the relentless violence that is required by natural selection and survival of the fittest, why should we accept the blame for it? Why should we be accused of sin, and why do we need salvation?

If evolution was proved to be true, it would throw up many problems for Christianity, which is why theologians have tried to work out all sorts of compromise solutions, suggesting that the six days of creation could represent millions of years, or that God was somewhere in the background, establishing the laws of the universe and allowing it to run its natural course, and then intervening when the process of evolution ran into difficulties. There are many variations of the theme, collectively known as "theistic evolution", but they all have one thing in common. They diminish the authority of God and suggest that he was only indirectly involved in the creation of the world, and the moral consequence is that he has no absolute right to expect our loyalty and obedience.

Most notably, there is the question of "death before sin", which suggests that death has got nothing to do with sin because it was already in the world for millions of years of evolution, before Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit. This presents a direct challenge to the Gospel, because if Adam did not bring death, then Jesus Christ, the second Adam, did not bring eternal life, a matter that I have dealt with in detail in my Impossible Theology.

In addition to the problem of "death before sin", there is also the problem of "sin after evolution". If God created the world in its present state, with death and destruction as the means of progress, we should have every reason to be proud of all our warfare and violence, and should not have any inhibitions about killing each other in pusuit of wealth, prosperity and expanding the boundaries of our habitation. Evolution demands that new species should develop, over long periods of time, by mutation, natural selection and survival of the fittest, and we should not be denounced as "sinners", just because we participate in the processes that lead to our future development. Nature is red in tooth and claw, and we are part of it, and if this is how God has created the world, he should not turn round and blame us, as if we are doing something wrong when we are only doing what is natural.

However, the Bible does not teach anything about the creation of a violent world. It says that God made the world in a state that could be described as "good". It was a peaceful place where Adam and Eve could live in perfect harmony with nature, without any need for violence and struggle. They lived on a diet of vegetables that grew in abundance, and gave names to all the animals. After they had sinned, nature was disrupted and they had to work to cultivate crops in an environment that was stifled by unproductive weeds. In the process of time, things got worse and worse, and eventually there was the Flood that wiped out all humanity, and all air-breathing life, except Noah and his family and the animals that he took with him in the ark. When the waters subsided and the animals had left the ark, they were given an instinctive fear of man, who would be their predator, hunting and killing them for food. Now we have a world that is very different from the idyllic Garden of Eden, and it's not God's fault, it's our fault, because of our sin, and we need Jesus to save us and eventually restore us to the newly-created world that is described in Revelation 21 and 22.

If we put the Bible aside and say that God did not make the "good" world described in Genesis, and instead he made the "bad" world described by evolution, then we cannot be held accountable for sin, because the world was messed up already and it's not our fault. Of course God has done nothing wrong either, because he is the creator of the world and he can make it however he likes. He can make a good world or a bad world, at his pleasure. But if he has made a bad world and then blames us for it, he is being unjust, and we should not accept the accusation that we are sinners in need of salvation. Instead, we are good people making the best of the bad hand that God has dealt us.

The question of "sin after evolution" is a seemingly intractable problem for Christian evolutionists. I have raised this question on Baptist Board and have found that Christian evolutionists who are normally quite vocal on other issues tend to go quiet on this one. If they get involved at all, they tend to be evasive, dodging the issue and not making any serious attempt to answer it. For details see the topic: Why do we need salvation?.

The outcome of this should lead us to the concusion that the creation/evolution debate within the church should have a strong focus on theology, in addition to science and history. People need to be confronted with the issue of whether it's possible to be a Christian and an evolutionist at the same time. The scientific problems of evolution are unlikely to be resolved, because it's an untestable reconstruction of the past, based on observations in the present time that can be interpreted in different ways. The historical problems have received relatively little attention, although I have attempted to show, in my Forgotten History, that the earliest accounts lead back to Genesis, not to ape-like hominids.

For the church, the biggest issue is neither science nor history, but theology, and so far, no-one has been able to tell me how I am a sinner in need of salvation, in a world that was created by evolution.

Copyright 2005

Mike Gascoigne
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