Barred spiral galaxy NGC1672 [Courtesy NASA] Spires on west facade of La Sagrada Familia cathedral, Barcelona, Spain [Photo by DHB, (c) 2011]

Does the Bible allow for creation via an evolutionary process?

David H. Bailey
1 Jan 2017 (c) 2017

Introduction

Many religious fundamentalists reject the notion (adopted by many scientists as well as theologians) that God accomplished the creation of the earth or even the entire universe indirectly through natural processes. More to the point, these fundamentalists deny that God accomplished the creation of life on earth via an evolutionary process.

Typical of those in this camp is Steve Lemke, who recently wrote [Lemke2012]:

The Darwinian account removes God from being directly involved in much of creation by utilizing natural processes instead, while the biblical account presents God as directly involved in the details of creation, both in the beginning and throughout history through his providential care.
Ken Ham of Answers in Evolution is even more emphatic [Ham2009]:
The real issue is one of authority -- is God's Word the authority, or is man's word the authority? So, couldn't God have used evolution to create? The answer is No. A belief in millions of years of evolution not only contradicts the clear teaching of Genesis and the rest of Scripture but also impugns the character of God. He told us in the book of Genesis that He created the whole universe and everything in it in six days by His word: "Then God said ... ." His Word is the evidence of how and when God created, and His Word is incredibly clear.
Regardless of whether or not one accepts the Darwinian view of the formation of life on earth, or, more generally, whether or not one believes in a Deity that in some sense initiated or guided the creative process, is the assessment of biblical scripture inferred by Kempe and Ham correct? In particular, does the biblical text rule out the possibility that an evolutionary process was employed for the creation?

Recent study by Joshua Moritz

Recently (February 2013), Joshua Moritz published an analysis of biblical scripture in the journal Theology and Science. Moritz compared the description of the creation in Genesis with descriptions of God's creation found in other books of the Bible (mostly focusing on the Old Testament, i.e., the Jewish Bible) [Moritz2013]. Moritz finds that there are numerous passages of biblical scripture that depict God creating, using language similar to that used in Genesis, but describing items of creation that few, if any, reasonable persons would regard as the result of means that are both instantaneous and utterly beyond the realm of natural law:
  1. Lightning, wind and rain. Psalms 135:7 declares that God "creates (Hebrew asah) lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses".
  2. Snow and frost. Psalms 147:16 declares that God "makes snow like wool" and "scatters the frost like ashes."
  3. Formation of human babies in the womb. Psalm 139:13-16 declares that God "knit me together in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (asah)... My bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made (asah) in secret." Isaiah 44:24 describes God as "the one who formed (yatsar) you from the womb." Isaiah 49:5 says: "And now says the Lord, who formed (yatsar) me from the womb to be His Servant." Similarly, Isaiah 44:2 declares, "Thus says the Lord who made (asah) you and formed (yatsar) you from the womb."
Moritz further observes that the Hebrew words asah and yatsar used in Isaiah and in the Psalms to describe the process of God creating babies in the womb are the same words that are used in Genesis to describe God's creation of the sun, stars and animals. He then quips:
[D]oes God really directly create babies and form them in the womb? Do we really believe that God directly created each of us in our mother's womb?
What's more, Moritz observes that the formation of humans in the womb is not an instantaneous creation, but instead is a nine-month long process of growth, differentiation and specialized development, a process that is entirely analogous to the evolutionary process that scientists have hypothesized (and very strongly confirmed) for the formation and proliferation of life on earth.

Summary

In short, the Bible itself, in describing the wonders of creation, clearly uses metaphorical language of creation for processes that people even in biblical times recognized were largely, if not exclusively natural. In other words, the specific claim by fundamentalists that a largely natural, evolutionary process goes against the model of creation described in the Bible is refuted by the biblical text itself.

In a larger sense, however, it is abundantly clear that the Bible was never even intended by its ancient authors to be a scientific text. One can search in vain for even a single passage that is in the highly precise, quantitative, data-driven style of a modern scientific research paper. Not one. The prophets and scribes who wrote the early biblical texts had far grander themes in mind -- the purpose of creation, morality, sin and atonement, and principles for rearing of families and conduct in society. These are precisely the themes that great religion should be about. Technical questions about the processes that were followed over the eons of the creative process are better left to the world of modern scientific research.

For additional details, see Bible-inerrant, Bible science, Creation and Creationism.

References

[See Bibliography].