Having considered both the improper and appropriate ways to approach interpreting Genesis 1 a good supplemental question is – does the text of Genesis 1 allow for Theistic Evolution? It has become increasingly popular to merge the scientific tenets of naturalistic evolution (while dropping at least some of its philosophical assumptions) with the opening chapter (or chapters) of Bible. The problem is – the merge doesn’t work. It epitomizes trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. To demonstrate that let us consider some of the contrasts between Genesis 1’s revelation and evolutionary assumptions.
In Genesis 1, God is seen as being actively involved in the creation process not deistically distant. If one affirms theistic evolution he or she is essentially affirming a deistic perspective of God in the creative process. They affirm God as the originator who set the wheels of theistic evolution in motion, but then left the mechanisms He instituted to simply run its course. Genesis 1 reveals something entirely different. When God first created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1) the earth was without form and void (vs.2a) but it was not left to ‘natural processes’; rather, the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters (vs.2b). From the very beginning of the creative process God is depicted as being closely involved and not deistically distant. This idea is reinforced throughout the chapter with each and every expression and action attributed to God. Take verses three through five for instance. There we read that: “God said” (vs.3a), “God saw” (vs.4a)”, “God divided” (vs.4b), and “God called” (vs.5a). Those kinds of actions and expressions are found throughout the entirety of Genesis 1. It all speaks to God’s active involvement in the work of creation rather than an initial implementation of mechanisms that ran their course over millions and millions of years.
In Genesis 1, evenings and mornings comprise days. If one tries to import the theory of evolution into the opening chapter of Genesis, it becomes absolutely necessary to draw the conclusion that God didn’t mean what He said over and over again. Repeatedly we are told, “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (1:5b) or “…the second day” (1:8b) and so on. In fact, on the first day God said, “Let there be light” for the purpose of separating light from darkness so that the light could be called Day and the darkness could be called Night, resulting in evening and the morning being called the first day (1:3-5). Furthermore, two additional observations at this point, one of which comes in the form of a question, include: (a) why choose to describe each of the days of creation in terms of evenings and mornings, giving them specific and relatable time designations, if that wasn’t in fact the case? And (b) each and every time the Hebrew word for “day” is used alongside of a specific time in the Old Testament it refers to a twenty-four hour period. And there is no reason, either inside or outside of Genesis 1, to see this chapter as the exception.
In Genesis 1, there are repetitive descriptions of immediate creative fulfillment. God said, “Let there be light” and “there was light” (vs.3b); God said, “Let there be a firmament” and “thus God made the firmament” (vs.7a). God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear” and “it was so” (vs.9b). The same thing happened when God called for the earth to bring forth grass and vegetation, or when He created the celestial bodies, or the land animals, He did, “and it was so” (vs. 11b, 15b, 24b). In each and every creative instance of Genesis 1, either the expression “and it was so” was present or, if not, the immediate context demonstrated that coterminous with ‘God’s saying’ was ‘God’s creating’. All of which stands in stark contrast to an evolutionary timeline that argues for a creative process that took millions of years as opposed to instantaneous events strewn across six days.
In Genesis 1, God created creatures after their own kinds. A mechanism that God did institute during the days of creation was that created things were to reproduce after their own kinds. The phrase “according to its kind” is used over and over again throughout the chapter. The herb brings seed and the fruit tree yields fruit, “according to its kind” (vs.12b); sea creatures and birds were both distinctively created, “according to their own kind” (vs.21); likewise, cattle, creeping things, and beasts were all created, “according to their own kind.” There isn’t room in Genesis 1 for an evolutionary worldview that suggests that from one species eventually immerged another species. Created things are only capable of reproducing after their own kind. This doesn’t’ mean that there cannot be genetic mutations or different breeds within species. Microevolution happens. But macroevolution, the development of say, human beings from monkeys, does not. The only ‘common source’ from which these created things came was the omnipotent Creator God.
In Genesis 1, God defined His creative work as “good”. The evolutionary timeline demands an extended series of life and death, before life as we know it came about. For example, according to evolutionary theory, before the first fully formed human beings came into existence, hominid after hominid came and died only to move the needle a tiny bit closer to fully formed human life. Besides contradicting what’s depicted in Genesis 1, it also contradicts what we see in Genesis 3 and read in Romans 5:12 – by one man sin entered the world and death through sin. God did not define His creative work as “good” only to watch it go through repeated cycles of impotence and death until it finally came to a place of completion. When He created, it was complete and good.
In Genesis 1, God created with the appearance of maturity. If you happened to show up on Day 7 with an understanding of life solely based upon experiential living in the 21st century (interesting scenario, right?), you would think that the world had been around for quite a few years. After all, you would not only see fully developed birds and cattle but you would also see a mature man and woman walking around, not two babies or two children. According to the text of Genesis 1 these fully formed, mature-looking creations were the results of God’s instantaneous creation ex-nihilo (out of nothing) or creation ex-materia (out of material). The evolutionary timeline contradicts this, saying that fully formed things were not the immediate result of God’s creative work; rather, they were the result of millions and millions of years of life and death.
Jesus identified the events of Genesis 1 and 2 as the “beginning of the creation”. In the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, when responding to a question from the Pharisees concerning divorce, Jesus said that Moses allowed a certificate of divorce to be written because of the hardness of their hearts (Mk. 10:5), but then He immediately appealed to God’s creational design and intention. He said, “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’” (vs.6), quoting Genesis 1:27, and then He continued saying, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (vs.7-8a), quoting Genesis 2:24. When coupled alongside of what Genesis 1 says about itself, Jesus’ words stand as an affirmation to the reality that human beings were not Johnny-come-lately’s to the cosmos. They did not appear billions of years after earth’s origin. According to Jesus they came at “the beginning of the creation”, specifically, day six of God’s creative work (Gen. 1:26-27).