Yesterday I wrote about the significance of the theory of evolution for the view of evil, particularly whether physical death is the result of human evil. Understanding Christian views on this topic requires some knowledge of the doctrines of creation and the fall, and secondarily of redemption.
One of the most contentious issues in the creation-evolution controversy amongst Christians involves specifically the creation of human beings. When surveys ask whether humans were specially created by God recently (6-10 thousand years), they may get skewed results because of this. There are a number of Christians who believe the universe and the earth are old, and that life on earth is old and may well have developed via evolutionary processes, but believe that human beings are specially created. Thus, they would affirm that all life is related except for human beings.
This may seem very odd from a scientific point of view, but I’m dealing here with theological objections to evolution. While I’m primarily presenting this material as background for understanding the previous objection, there is also the simple objection that because of their special place in God’s plan, human beings must be a special creation. This objection is often misunderstood, and is also often misstated. The major theological problem is not whether the first human was directly formed from dust rather than developed from a prior form, but more that the development must be special and a direct intervention of God. (Note that this is not my view, but rather I’m trying to represent a range of views that require a separate, special creation.)
There are three elements here. First is the creation of human beings, however accomplished. What was the moral state of these creatures, and how did they attain “the image of God?” Second is the fall. Assuming that humanity original carried God’s image and was on good terms with God (as presented in Genesis), what happened and when? Finally, these two elements will combine to impact one’s view of redemption. The result of redemption depends on what the original state actually was.
I’m not going to try to name these views. I’m going to describe them and present them in three columns. These views range from a fairly literal one (but not necessarily young earth), to a completely evolutionary view.
|Element||View 1||View 2||View 3|
|Creation||Human beings are specially created, either separately or individually, or on a plan similar to existing apes. They are formed precisely according to a detailed, divine plan.||Human beings evolve physical, but receive or become a soul through action of God at a specific point. At that point they are morally innocent and what God would want them to be, even though their bodies are the result of evolutionary processes.||Any self-aware, intelligent creature should be regarded as “in the image of God.” The means of forming such a creature are irrelevant. Such a creature would be innocent, but also morally limited based on heredity and environment.|
|Fall||The fall resulted from a specific violation of a specific, known command of God. Eating the fruit may be symbolic, but it is symbolic of a particular event that occurred chronologically after the creation of human beings, i.e. it is not a part of their state as physical creatures.||As a general rule, similar to the first view, though the specific nature of the rebellion may not be specified so precisely.||The fall expresses something inherent in the state of a finite creature. There may be a moment of stepping away from innocence, but this is more a matter of recognizing and consciously making moral choices than specifically violating a specific command or even rebelling generally against divine authority.|
|Results||Physical death resulted from the fall. Young earthers will generally hold that all physical death results from this act. Old earthers may believe simply that human beings suffer death because of the rebellion.||Physical death is simply part of the state of being a physical creature. Creatures die; humans are creatures. There is inherent in our condition a separation from our spiritual home with God.|
|Redemption||Involves return to the originally created state via God’s creative power. (The first two views will overlap here.||Involves a return to the original state, only better, with a spiritual body.||Redemption allows the spiritual side of humanity to connect with the creator in eternal life, which is a gift given by God. What is meant by “eternal life” varies in how it will be interpreted and what that state of being will be.|
I believe that almost any actual theologian will vary from any single column. My hope is that you will think of a continuum starting with the first view and ending with the third for each element and realize that some mixing and matching will occur. These are just summaries of some of the possibilities. I’m trying to keep this short and thus have not provided all the Biblical support for each position.
If I generate enough interest in my own mind or on the blog, I may write some more on the Biblical and theological implications of each of these points.