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Reconciling evolution & Christianity

(34 Posts)
Aftereightsaremine Sun 11-Sep-11 20:03:34

Am not sure if this has been done before but, i have been watching The Incredible Human Journey on Eden (sky) this week & though I accept scientific discoveries & the evidence that we came out of Africa I am finding it hard to reconcile that with my Christian faith & what the Bible says.

I feel I am being torn in two by different yet equally compelling camps. Having said that I think that evolution is also a miracle....

How do other Christians deal with this?

DeepLeafEverything Sun 11-Sep-11 20:12:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Pakdooik Mon 12-Sep-11 12:26:36

God created us. Evolution says how it was done

AMumInScotland Mon 12-Sep-11 12:42:20

It's only tricky if you believe that the Bible describes the start of the world, and life on it, in literal terms. If you view the start of Genesis as a poetic story which says "God caused everything to come into being, and sustains it now" then it is quite easy to say that life as we know it has developed through evolution rather than each species being created individually, and still believe in God as creator and sustainer.

madhairday Mon 12-Sep-11 12:44:55

God is huge and awesome and powerful. The creation story was written to allegorise creation and the fall. Nowhere does it say 'how' things came into being, apart from by God's hand. In my mind there is no conflict.

Aftereightsaremine Mon 12-Sep-11 17:21:35

Thanks to all that replied I think it's something I have to try & see the way you all say.

So do any of you believe literally in the garden if Eden? Am I wrong to feel so naive about this.

AMumInScotland Mon 12-Sep-11 19:56:37

I don't believe in the Garden of Eden - I think it is intended as an allegory, a story to try to explain why the world is the way it is.

Don't worry about feeling naive - many churches don't really teach about this kind of thing, either because they are very much Biblical in their teaching and don't believe in evolution, or because they are happy for their members to believe one way or another and don't want to make a big deal about it.

PrettyCandles Mon 12-Sep-11 20:08:34

Just Christianity? No other faiths believe in the Garden of Eden etc? hmm

Anyway, even the bible doesn't take itself literally:

"And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should smite him. And Cain ... dwelt in the land of Nod ... and knew his wife..."

If Adam and Eve were the first people, and everyone is descended from them, who could have been around to harm Cain, and where did his wife come from?

The Bible is there to give inform and guide our relationships with god and with each other.

PrettyCandles Mon 12-Sep-11 20:09:28

Redundant "give".

Riveninabingle Thu 15-Sep-11 16:48:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

olddog Thu 15-Sep-11 19:36:15

One of my fave bits in the bible is that Cain's wife came from the Land of Nod. I don't know any Christians who don't believe in evolution. I don't believe the bible to be the literal truth and I don't think you can measure a persons humanity in a fragment of bone.

Riveninabingle Fri 16-Sep-11 10:52:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PrettyCandles Fri 16-Sep-11 11:10:28

I have known both fundamentalist Christians and Jews who believed implicitly in creation. The less knowledgeable claimed that the fossil remains of dinosaurs had been placed there by god at the time of creation precisely to test our faith. The more knowledgeable claimed that the fossils were the Leviathan and Behemoth remains, and that they were no older than 5000 or so years, ie the age of the world according to creationists.

WillowFae Sat 24-Sep-11 22:53:42

It was a big issue for me when I went back to the church and recommitted myself at the end of last year. I basically see the Genesis account as a myth (or rather two myths as there are two accounts) written by people to explain something that they couldn't. It is not meant to be taken literally. If you look at the way it is written, it is very lyrical and poetic. Very different style of writing from historical accounts in the Bible. There are also many issues with the order that things are created which are only a problem to us now because of what we know about how nature works. Back then they didn't know so it wasn't an issue.

Does that put my belief in a creator God in doubt? Absolutely not. I believe there was a Big Bang, and it was God's way of doing it. As for evolution, again, God's method. The Bible even supports the fact that it may have taken a LONG time.

The Hebrew word that is translated into 'day' in the creation account is 'yom'. It can mean 24 hours, but it can mean much more. In various places in the Old Testament it is translated as 'year' 'age' 'season' 'ago' 'time' 'ever' 'evermore' 'chronicles'.

olddog there would seem to be many at my church who don't believe in evolution. I discovered on Thursday that many are in fact young earth creationists. I just kept quiet!

WillowFae Sat 24-Sep-11 22:55:24

Oh, and my dad is absolutely fine with evolution except for the human bit. He believes that humans were created specially in God's image and so he is uncomfortable with the idea that we came from primates.

timidviper Sat 24-Sep-11 23:06:46

I agree with you all on the biblical allegory bit.

My own feeling is that God is the guiding hand behind evolution which is why science can explain what happened but not why. Somebody once told me that if you took every part that went into a watch, put them into a bag and shook it repeatedly the pieces would never fall together to make a working timepiece. God is the hand that puts the watch together

Himalaya Sun 25-Sep-11 11:58:18

I am not at all religious, so I don't struggle to reconcile evolution and supernatural belief. But I do struggle to understand how religious people do it.

To say that biblical creation is an allegory, but that god had a hand in evolution seems to be too easy a 'get out of jail free card'. The whole amazing point of evolution when you understand it (and not like timidviper think it involved something akin to shaking a whole lot of cogs together and hoping for a watch) is that it explains how life, species, consciousness evolved without involving the intervention of an intelligent being.

It does away with the idea that humans are special, that they were created with a purpose and that human life is animated by an immortal soul. You can't reconcile these facts with religious teachings just by saying that 'day's' meant 'eons' in the bible.

WillowFae Sun 25-Sep-11 22:27:11

Himalaya - I'm not saying that you can. However it is a fact that we cannot assume that the six days are six literal days and that is PART of the argument. Young earth creationists are VERY keen on the literal day interpretation and I mentioned the translation issue as that had been discussed earlier in the thread.

I used to think it would be a big contradiction (science and religion) but as I've grown more comfortable in my Christian beliefs I've realised that it isn't.

Himalaya Mon 26-Sep-11 07:38:08

Willowfae - sure I understand why people say that the biblical creation story is myth or allegory, and 'day's' could stand in for 'eras' or whatever - it puts some distance between you and the young earthers who clearly have no regard for evidence.

But surely most Christians, apart from the purely cultural ones, have some supernatural beliefs that are not just allegorical. How do you reconcile those beliefs with understanding evolution (not to mention biology and physics)?

The belief in an immortal (conscious?) soul able to experience some version of heaven/hell/everlasting life seems to be a fairly basic belief, not just one for the fundamentalists.

Yet science tells us that consciousness is a property of living brains and that it evolved slowly with no 'first human being' identifiable. Did the soul evolve? (by what mechanism does supernatural stuff evolve?) or did god insert it into evolving humans (how and when?).

Those are the kind of questions that would bug me if I was a believer with an understanding of biology, but the discussion never seems to go much further than the 'day's' question as if there are no other problems between evolution and religion.

AMumInScotland Mon 26-Sep-11 13:42:42

To me "the soul" is merely a shorthand description for consciousness, self-awareness, and moral capacity. And yes it's a property which comes from the evolution of the brain, so it doesn't need any separate development.

The difference for me as a Christian is that I would say that self-awareness (which we all have, and may have evolved in earlier species of human too) makes it possible for us to be aware of the possibility of God.

So the "soul" is something which has religious meaning, but from the opposite direction IYSWIM? Its just a part of our ordinary evolution, which makes us aware of spiritual possibilities. God didn't put it there, but God set up the universe in a way that made it likely that sooner or later it would develop, and we would then develop a relationship with God.

onagar Mon 26-Sep-11 13:59:08

Himalaya as an atheist I pretty much dismissed the 'god made evolution' thing anyway, but now you mention it there are logical holes aren't there. Including the one that if god created evolution and sat back he might never have got any humans (or any thinking beings) out of it.

AMumInScotland Mon 26-Sep-11 14:23:13

I think it's reasonable to assume that intelligence would evolve, because it gives an advantage. And if self-awareness is a result of a certain variety of intelligence, then it's reasonable to expect it to evolve too. Being capable of abstract thought gives a benefit from the point of view of evolution - if you can understand the possibility of seasons and weather patterns, or imagine how another animal might behave in different circumstances, then you are more likely to survive and thrive.

So, thinking self-aware creatures of some sort would be likely to turn up eventually. Though they didn't have to have two legs and two arms of course.

onagar Mon 26-Sep-11 14:36:16

I think you're probably right that it's a good bet - that some kind of intelligence would arise eventually. Interesting though to think of it being a gamble that could have failed.

I think there must be other consequences to the 'god made evolution' idea, but I can only think of trivial ones right now. I mean like it invalidating that thing about child birth being eve's punishment.

I suppose if we were intelligent squid-like creatures that laid 1000s of eggs there'd have been no "honor thy father and mother".

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Sep-11 14:36:47

When I was a christian I had no problem with accepting that evolution was how God had populated the earth, Genesis is a myth - and pretty much left it at that. No-one ever challenged me to think beyond that, so until I lost faith, that was that.

The logical (not to mention, factual!) holes in that position pale into insignificance versus creationism.

I did come across an explanation for where Cain's wife came from, from a creationist in an online discussion. Its a humdinger: OK, Genesis is the literal truth, but its not the whole truth - it doesn't document everything. So, it doesn't mention Adam and Eve's daughters - which is who Cain and Seth married. !!!!

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Sep-11 14:41:22

AMum - yes, intelligence has huge advantage. Like eyesight, which has evolved more than once, by completely separate routes, in different species. I don't know how sentient squid are right now but in a few million years time who knows?

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