This article is an amended version of a paper the AACE requested the authors to prepare for possible distribution to ecclesias. The authors acknowledge with thanks the input of others who were consulted in the process of preparing this version for publication.

The Genesis record of creation

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This opening line of Genesis is majestic in power and brevity. God says what we need to know, but additional details about the days of creation follow. Light on day one; the heavens on day two; waters, land and vegetation on day three; lights in the heavens on day four; all living creatures on days five and six, culminating with the creation of man on day six.

Some other information is provided (all quotations from ESV):

  • the LORD God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen 2:7)
  • …and the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (Gen 2:22)
  • God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
  • God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28)

The Genesis description of creation has, for millennia, been received as God’s definitive statement on what occurred. It is easily understood and requires no further explanation; precise detail of each creating activity is not essential to an understanding of the outcome.

In November 2013 the AACE issued a Discussion Paper (number 13) entitled The Bible’s Teaching on Creation. That paper accurately summarises Bible teaching on this subject.

In relatively recent times, some Bible readers have suggested alternative ideas on the origin and development of life upon the earth. Bible believers must determine if these alternatives are in accord with the Bible record.

The teaching of Theistic Evolution/God Directed Evolution/Evolutionary Creationism

These three titles are variants of essentially the same teaching, namely that life evolved over billions of years. They are like Darwinian or atheistic evolution but differ in that the process of evolution is stated to have been under the direction of God. (For the purpose of this paper we will use the expression Theistic Evolution, abbreviated to TE.) Supporters of this teaching consider that TE is not contrary to Scripture because Genesis does not provide the ‘how’ of creation. That this is an over-simplification becomes apparent when the full ramifications of TE are considered.

TE is not simply about whether God created in six days of 24 hours each or over billions of years. In this regard it should be appreciated that questions about the age of the earth are irrelevant. TE presupposes the existence of human-like beings (sometimes called hominids) that evolved prior to Adam. Some supporters of TE acknowledge that Adam was created specifically by God, but with exactly the same nature as that of other human beings which had evolved over time. Other supporters of TE contend that Adam was not created specifically by God but was selected from these evolved humans, given an understanding of God, and deemed to be the first ‘representative’ human. Both these views are contrary to the creation of Adam as described in Genesis. Under TE reasoning, the Genesis record of creation is regarded as being metaphorical or poetic.

An evolutionary process over billions of years requires the death of humans prior to Adam, a concept contrary to Bible teaching about death being instituted as a consequence of Adam’s sin (Rom 5:12-14). Several New Testament passages endorse the Genesis record of creation and the entry of sin and death. All these passages require significant reinterpretation to be accommodated by TE.

When did TE originate?

Shortly after the publication of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory in On the Origin of Species in 1859 some theologians, rather than joining the majority in opposition to Darwin’s ideas, decided to meet evolution half-way by declaring God to be the instigator and controller of the evolutionary process. For almost a century the concept of TE gained little traction, but it developed some profile through the 1960s and 1970s and has gained more prominence in recent years. TE is now the accepted position of the Catholic Church and many Protestant churches.

In the 1960s a brother at the Watford, UK ecclesia promoted TE. This caused much concern at the time. After extensive review by the ecclesia’s arranging committee, which included several highly regarded Bible students, the ecclesia declared TE to be unscriptural, culminating in the disfellowship of the brother promoting it. The brother concerned conceded that his views were incompatible with his ecclesia’s understanding of relevant Bible passages.

Impact of TE teaching

It is acknowledged that some feel confused or overwhelmed by categorical statements made about evolution whether secular or theistic. It is challenging to hold an alternative opinion to ideas accepted as a ‘given.’ Evolution is widely accepted as fact despite a majority being quite uninformed about the details. Schools and universities teach evolutionary theory as factual. Academics who oppose evolution struggle to have their ideas recognised because scientific journals often will not publish opinions deemed to be religiously biased.

Nature presentations on television and other media often include remarkable footage of the complexity of birds, insects and animals—all categorically declared to be evidence of evolutionary adaptation. This remarkable complexity could, equally, be declared to be solid evidence of creation by intelligent design.

TE and scriptural interpretation

Supporters of evolution, either secular or theistic, recognise that it does not accord with what, in the Christadelphian community, has been the commonly accepted interpretation of the Genesis record. Secular thought simply dismisses the biblical record; TE supporters are obliged to reinterpret Scripture to establish their case.

A key plank of TE teaching is the view that Genesis 1 and 2 is poetic or metaphorical. It is claimed that God provided a ‘story’ about creation because early humans would not have the ability to understand the methodology used. It is true that the detailed ‘how’ of creation is not provided to us in Genesis 1 and 2, however, when the Genesis creation record is cited or alluded to elsewhere in Scripture, there is no indication that it was regarded as other than a factual account by those who make these references. One example is Matthew 19:4, “He answered, Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female…”

Early man would surely have had the capacity to comprehend the concept of a long-term creation if, indeed, that had been the process God used. It is improbable that God caused humans to believe in a short-term creation rather than simply stating that it occurred over a long period of time. Many reputable Hebrew scholars, including the late Professor Cassuto of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, see no evidence for the literary structure of the Genesis creation account being poetic or metaphorical.

Creation and the New Testament

Jesus and the New Testament writers endorsed the creation account as recorded in Genesis. TE teaching dismisses this by advocating interpretations at variance with conventional interpretations of certain verses. Two examples are:

Romans 5:12-14

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.”

The clear statement that by Adam sin entered the world and that death came about because of sin does not reconcile with TE teaching that Adam descended from evolved man (or hominids) because, by necessity, countless generations of evolving man must have lived and died prior to Adam. The TE reinterpretation that the Genesis record commences from the time Adam was selected from evolved man (or hominids), with death prior thereto not being relevant to the record, lacks evidence and is at odds with a normal reading of those words.

1 Corinthians 15:45-47

“Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.”

Paul again confirms the Genesis record. This clear statement is reinterpreted under TE teaching with the contention that Adam was not the “first man” but a ‘representative man’ selected from the hominids. This reinterpretation is at variance with the BASF (in particular, Clauses V and X), the Cooper-Carter Addendum and 1958 Unity Agreement.

Statements declaring evolution as fact

This is not the place for an extensive analysis of the broad span of evolutionary opinion. Without extensive study in a specific field, we will be unfamiliar with the complexities of that field, but we do not need a scientific background to readily follow the logic (or lack thereof) in the conclusions drawn as in the following examples:

Genome (DNA) Similarities:

Knowledge about human cells and DNA has expanded exponentially since the days of Darwin. TE supporters often refer to genome studies as evidence of evolution. For example, it is asserted that, because the human genome (DNA) exhibits similarities with the genomes of apes and chimpanzees, this proves there was a common ancestor and hence that evolution occurred. However, as a process of logical reasoning, similarities in the genomes could equally be because God used a common genetic approach in various creatures, including human beings, during creation.

Fossils:

Fossils of creatures that existed thousands of years ago have been found. The reasons for these creatures becoming extinct are unknown and the timeframes allocated to them are debatable. The fact that creatures which no longer exist were once on the earth does not prove that they were part of an evolutionary chain. There are clearly ‘unknowns’ about fossils, and significant gaps in the fossil record mean there is considerable doubt about the fossil ‘evidence’.

Two telling observations about fossils are:

(a) if creation by evolution took place over hundreds of millions of years, countless numbers of fossils should exist; and

(b) there should be numerous fossils of the transitional forms of all creatures.

Symbiosis:

Certain living things need other different living things to survive (e.g. flowers need bees to pollinate them). All must be in existence at the same time and fully functional for the creatures or plants dependant on them to survive.

Experimental Evidence:

It is sometimes suggested that there is experimental evidence to support the theory of evolution. Here it is important to note the significant difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Micro-evolution is readily observable and able to be repeated experimentally. Bacterial adaptation to antibiotics is a good example of this, leading to penicillin-resistant bacteria, so-called ‘super-bugs’. Macro-evolution is the concept of gradual change in one species to form a new species. This type of evolution is unable to be reproduced experimentally. It is this concept which is at variance with God’s account of creation.

Concluding statement

The foregoing points to the conclusion that creation took place as described in Genesis and that TE and variants thereof are incompatible with Scripture and consequently with the BASF, the Cooper-Carter Addendum and the 1958 Unity Agreement. It is, of course, the responsibility of individual ecclesias to handle the promulgation of alternative views in accordance with the Ecclesial Guide and the Fellowship Clauses of the 1958 Unity Agreement.