ho are we?
Are we the result of a lightning strike in a rich prebiotic soup that formed in ancient tidal pools? Did we evolve from there to self-replicating nucleic acids, then to a primitive cell, on to chimpanzees, and finally to humans? Are we here because the principle of the survival of the fittest guided our proud ancestry? Are we explained and defined by the theory of evolution?
If so, what does that tell us about God, ourselves, and the future?
If our origin is to be explained on the basis of evolutionary process, what does that say for God and His role and influence in the universe? What part, if any, would He play in history and in our lives? Does He know or care that we exist? Is He simply an inanimate powerful force, or a computer-like mastermind? Is He also a person? If so, how does He relate to us?
If He exists, did He initiate the first spark of life and then somehow guide the process of evolution to its intermediary and currently the highest stage of life—called human (a hypothesis called theistic evolution)? If so, why did it take Him billions of years of “tooth and claw” to bring evolution to its current stage of human development? Is His problem one of limited love, limited power, or limited intelligence? If He is a God of love, why did He use the cruel process of the survival of the fittest to create humanity? Could it be that He is a God of love doing the best that He can with finite power? Or is it that He is a God of power and of love, but just not very smart—a little slow, but doing the best He can? And if He is a personal God, a God of love, why did it take Him so many millions and billions of years to get around to telling us about His love?
Maybe God Himself is in a process of evolution! He was first of all a great power and got things going. Then He began to develop a mind, so that He could guide the process of evolution more skillfully. Next He evolved into a personal being, so that now, in the past several thousand years, He has shared Himself with His creation. If He has evolved into a person, how would we get to know Him so that we could enter a relationship with Him?
What implication does theistic evolution have for the way God acts in the world? If God either cannot or does not behave in the way that the Genesis Creation account describes, then what does that say for other reports of His activities in the rest of the Bible? Did God bring about a worldwide flood and guide Noah’s ark to safety? Did God, Sinai, and Moses actually cross paths? If we have a problem with the miracle of the biblical Creation account, why would we not also question the miracle of the bodily Resurrection, the literal, visible Second Coming, and the creation of the new earth? And if we struggle with miracles, how do we account for the supposed evolution of the human race from the animal kingdom to our ability to think and make moral decisions? The infusion of mind and morality at some point in the history of evolution would itself be a miracle. Why not therefore accept the miracle of Creation recorded in Genesis?
A god who is molded to fit the evolutionary theory is no more than a “designer god” of our own making—clay in our hands, an image that fits the sophistication of modern society.
Evolution, Sin, and Salvation
Suppose God did bring about life on our planet by the process of theistic evolution, developing it through the survival of the fittest from simple life forms to the complexity of a moral and intelligent creature called Homo sapiens. What then would be the meaning of sin and salvation? Is sin simply a lack of progress? At what point could humans be considered to be created in the image of God and therefore morally responsible?
If we are simply in the process of evolutionary development, we would have no need of the substitutionary death of Christ since we did not fall from the image of God in the first place. And who then is Christ? Is He simply the peak of evolutionary development? Did He somehow become an example for us in order to speed up the process of human evolution? If so, is Christianity no more than the current peak of religious development?
Evolution and the Bible
What would the theory of theistic evolution say for the nature of the Bible? In what sense, if any, could the Bible be considered the Word of God?
Maybe, some suggest, the Bible is only the history of the evolution of human spirituality—the history of individuals and communities who passed their religious concepts from generation to generation. Spirituality matured through the process of evolution, they say, and finally reached an evolutionary peak in Jesus. The role of Jesus is simply to be a catalyst for our own spiritual development. In their view, the Bible is valuable because it records that spiritual development, not because it is the Word of God.
If we do not accept the biblical account of Creation, we are left with many, many questions, a few guesses, and no answers. We have an uncertain identity. The nature and even the existence of God are called into question. Our future is in limbo. Ellen White reminds us: “Those who question the reliability of the Scripture records have let go their anchor and are left to beat about upon the rocks of infidelity. When they find themselves incapable of measuring the Creator and His works by their own imperfect knowledge of science, they question the existence of God and attribute infinite power to nature.”1
“God has permitted a flood of light to be poured upon the world in discoveries in science and art; but when professedly scientific men lecture and write upon these subjects from a merely human standpoint, they will assuredly come to wrong conclusions. The greatest minds, if not guided by the Word of God in their research, become bewildered in their attempts to investigate the relations of science and revelation. The Creator and His works are beyond their comprehension; and because they cannot explain these by natural laws, Bible history is considered unreliable. Those who doubt the reliability of the records of the Old and New Testaments will be led to go a step farther and doubt the existence of God; and then, having let go their anchor, they are left to beat about upon the rocks of infidelity. Moses wrote under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and a correct theory of geology will never claim discoveries that cannot be reconciled with his statements.”2
The biblical concept of the origin of life and of the history of humanity is completely opposite from the evolutionary concept. The Bible declares that God created life and its habitable environment in six literal, consecutive, 24-hour days (Gen. 1). Exodus 20:11 and 31:17 confirm Creation in six days. God gives the six-day Creation as the reason for the fourth commandment. Instead of creating us over a period of billions of years, He “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7*; cf. Mark 10:6).
While the theory of evolution envisions the formation of life during millions and billions of years, the Bible declares that Creation took place by the word of God. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. . . . For He spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:6-9; cf. Ps. 148:5, 6; Isa. 45:12).
Some try to discount the historicity of Genesis 1–11 by saying that these chapters are not trying to relate what actually happened—they are poetry, not history. Their purpose consists of nothing more than conveying the message that in the beginning, God created. They do not give the how of Creation, merely the fact of Creation. However, whether Genesis 1–11 is historical narrative or poetry really does not alter the outcome, for the Bible often uses poetry to present history.
Scripture Confirms the Historicity of Genesis
When we look at the whole of Scripture, however, we find that biblical authors—and Christ Himself—took these chapters seriously as history. Paul confirms that “Adam [not some bit of slime in the water] was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13; cf. Luke 3:38; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45). Christ referred to the creation of the first couple: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’?” (Matt. 19:4). The Savior uses the Genesis account rather than evolutionary theory as ground for morality based upon the original design of God: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (verse 5). Also, Christ took at face value the Genesis story of Noah and the Flood: “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away” (Matt. 24:38, 39; cf. 2 Peter 2:5).
The agent in Creation, according to the Bible, was not evolution driven by the survival of the fittest, but rather God’s Son, Jesus Christ Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3; cf. verse 10; Col. 1:16, 17; 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:9; Heb. 1:1, 2).
Our concept of Creation also affects our understanding of God and how we relate to Him. The fact that God is Creator provides the foundation of our respect (Isa. 17:7, 8) and our worship of Him: “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other’” (Isa. 45:18). “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11; cf. Neh. 9:6; Acts 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:6). Creation distinguishes God from designer deities (1 Chron. 16:26).
In addition, Creation forms the basis of our relationship with Him, for in the beginning He made us for fellowship (Eph. 3:9). He who first commanded light to beam out of darkness also shines into our hearts the light of the knowledge of God’s glory revealed through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). By virtue of His creative power, He is the basis of our strength (Ps. 121:2; 124:8). Our acceptance of the account of Creation rests upon faith: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3).
The biblical account of humanity differs greatly from that offered by evolution. We are not sons and daughters of primates, but sons and daughters of God! Adam’s genealogy does not trace back to a primitive cell. He was the son of God (Luke 3:38). We are not created in the image of some beast, but the image and likeness of God Himself (Gen. 1:26-28; 5:1, 2).
Ellen White warned many years ago: “The conclusions which learned men have reached as the result of their scientific investigations are carefully taught and fully explained; while the impression is distinctly given that if these learned men are correct, the Bible cannot be. These philosophers would make us believe that man, the crowning work of creation, came by slow degrees from the savage state, and that farther back, he was evolved from the race of brutes. They are so intent upon excluding God from the sovereignty of the universe, that they demean man, and defraud him of the dignity of his origin. Nature is exalted above the God of nature; she is idolized, while her Creator is buried up and concealed from sight by science falsely so-called.”3
Creation and the Second Coming
The Bible links the historical accounts of Creation, the Flood, and the Second Coming. “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.’ 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” (2 Peter 3:3-7).
Christ made that same connection: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37-39). Thus Scripture uses the historical conditions of humanity at the time of Noah as an analogy to the times just before the coming of Christ. Furthermore, the same word that brought about Creation and the Flood will bring about the destruction at the Second Coming.
Theistic evolution finds it necessary to reinterpret the biblical concept of the Second Coming and the new earth. If God did not break into history in Creation, then surely He will not do so in a literal, visible Second Coming. If He does not create by the word of His mouth, He will not re-create in the Resurrection. And if He did not originally create the Garden of Eden, He will not re-create the new earth. For the theistic evolutionist, eschatology is not a decisive entrance of God into history at the Second Coming. It is the continuing evolution of a better life, a process that humanity accelerates by bringing about a moral and just society through such activities as revolt, rebellion, redistribution of wealth, education, etc. Thank God, though, we can have hope in the future Second Coming because God is our Creator and Redeemer!
The Integrity of Our Message
Adventism will not be Adventism if it accepts theistic evolution. The active God who created by the word of His mouth, who communicated through the prophets, who lived among us, died in our place, was resurrected, and ascended to minister for us, who will return the second time to take us home with Himself, who will bring about the resurrection of the dead and the re-creation of the new earth, and who will finally destroy sin—we cannot worship such a God if He does not exist.
Adventists do not worship a god who dragged his creatures through the slime of evolution, but the God of Creation, a personal God who desires to fellowship with us and to dwell among us. We worship Him because He created us. It is that act that distinguishes Him from the designer gods of this age.
Christianity is a relationship with God and Jesus Christ. It is not an imaginary, contentless relationship, but one based upon knowledge of the “only true God” (John 17:3). If our relationship is with any other deity, it is idolatry. Whether in its Darwinian form that rejects the existence of God, or in its theistic manifestation that claims God as influencer of the evolutionary process, the theory of evolution denies the biblical doctrine of God. It builds another concept of divinity based upon science, history, and philosophy that denies the God who has revealed Himself in His Word. Relying upon human ability to discover “truth,” such approaches follow the same path Satan did. They set us up as independent of God, capable ourselves of defining or creating a god out of our own imagination.
Evolutionary theory requires that we rewrite the history of God, and therefore redefine His nature. In so doing, it leads us to enter a relationship with a false god, an idol. When Christ appears the second time, He desires to return to a people who are waiting for Him, not for some “designer god.” He will come to a people who are like Him in character, not like our “designer gods” that are the creation of our own imagination. Christ wants a people who are not in the dark about who He is. Therefore, He is calling forth a people who will accept and proclaim the fullness of the biblical message—the everlasting gospel—part of which is “worship Him who made heaven and earth” (Rev. 14:7).
*All Scripture texts quoted in this article are from the New King James Version. Copyright ” 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 258.
2Ellen G. White, Lift Him Up, p. 60.
3Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, Mar. 20, 1884.
E. Edward Zinke, a theologian and businessman, was a member of the staff of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference from 1971 to 1986. He served as president of Ann’s House of Nuts, an international food company, until 2008, when he and his wife sold the company. He serves on the Board of Trustees of Andrews University, on the Biblical Research Committee, on the Sabbath School Lesson Committee, the Faith and Science Council, and is Vice Chair of the Ellen G. White Estate. He was cofounder, past president, and IS current treasurer of the Adventist Theological Society. He is also active at Spencerville Adventist Church, teaching an adult Sabbath School class.