Does Evolution Diminish the Majesty of God?

First off, my disclaimer - I hope I’m not posting about a topic that has been tirelessly rehashed and beaten to death on this forum in the past. I did some searching for similar past topics and nothing really stood out, so I figured I’d go ahead and post. My sincerest apologies to everyone if this has been a previously belabored subject.

So some of you know I recently “converted” from the YEC camp a couple months ago. Overall, the transition has not shaken my faith at all, though I can’t say it didn’t cause some stress, to say the least! The scientist in me fully embraced my newfound acceptance of evolution and rejoiced in not having to ignore biological and geological evidence that contradicted my religious convictions. However, I was less than enthusiastic about accepting I had so dogmatically clung to such illogical and sometimes frankly silly explanations to consolidate scientific evidence with my YEC beliefs (I’m not pointing any fingers, AiG!). Fortunately, I am becoming more comfortable with accepting evolution and God’s creative providence as time has passed.

This brings me to the point of my post. A few days ago, a thought occurred to me I found to be rather unsettling. I’ve been wrestling around with it since then and figured if anyone could give me some good direction and encouragement, it would be the fine folks here on the forum. So here’s the question - does the acceptance of the Big Bang and evolution diminish God’s majesty? So here was my troublesome thought - in YEC theory, God specifically formed and created humans, the universe, the water cycle, life, the intricate human eye, the delicate balance of the ecosystem, etc. This shows God as the Designer of all creation and demonstrates His limitless knowledge and wisdom. In accepting EC, I can’t help but feel like I am “robbing” God of that majesty and power - He may have set the entire process in motion, but it then seems to me that everything was formed or “created” according to it’s own natural course and not by the hand of God. It’s now hard for me to see God when I look at a leaf on a tree, imagining the microscopic celluar structure and how photosynthesis is converting sunlight into sustenance for that tree…instead of seeing my Creator, I just see a structure that evolved in response to biological selection pressures. So to come back to my initial point, how does evolution not detract from God’s power? Thank you for your patience with the skewed thoughts of a 37-year-old former YEC!

It also occurs to me this is another big reason YEC’s cling to a literal interperetation of Genesis and demonize evolution. It’s so much easier to avoid these seeming contradictions…

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No, @MattReam, evolution doesn’t diminish the majesty of God. In my view it brings it out even more in the sense that God has such a large amount of creativity and imagination with the design of all things both living and extinct.

While this may be the view of some, there are others like me who take the view that God was directly involved in all creation and guided everything little aspect of creation with deep intimacy and joy all for His glory. So, when I look at creation I see how God has been involved in making everything big and small and is still making and sustaining creation to this very day. Hope this helps , God bless.

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That’s a good question, Matt, and I understand where you’re coming from. Even when you change your views, many old ways of thinking remain, and I think this is one of them.

I can see how this is possible, especially when you’ve only changed views recently. One example I like to use is the water cycle – something we often encounter in an “atheistic” way – the meteorologists tell us “it’s going to rain” or “there’s a cold front coming in,” completely devoid of any mention of God, and yet the Bible makes several references to God bringing the rain – so we’re able to hold these two truths in hand simultaneously, that God brings rain (on the evil and the good), but that natural mechanisms like evaporation, wind, precipitation, and other things work together in ways that can be scientifically described, even if not accurately predicted. Probably we’re so used to doing this that we don’t see it as contradictory, but when faced with a shift in how we view biological evolution, that can seem different and stand out more starkly.

No matter how that leaf or thunderstorm got there, it started in the mind of God, and came about either through rules he also established or through an instantaneous creation. I love that he sometimes allows us the gift of discovering just a few of the inner workings of his processes.

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Good topic! (We do a fair amount of rehashing on a daily basis, so no worries.)

As Quinn mentioned many people who accept evolution as one of God’s creative mechanisms think he is intimately involved in creation in an on-going basis, even if science can’t describe how. That would be my take on it. I find it hard to reconcile the ideas that God is actively working things out for good for those who love him, actively providing and caring for his creatures like a Father, taking credit as the artist and architect of it all, and moving creation toward complete shalom in the Eschaton with the idea that God just pushed a start button and watched it all unfold.

For me personally, when I consider why God is majestic, yes mountains and galaxies and developing embryos are part of it, but even more important is the evidence I see in my life and others’lives of God transforming messed up people with his grace and making individual lives into his creative masterpieces. Nothing in evolution or Big Bang touches that element.

I think what has been hardest hit for me is not my view of God, but my view of the Bible. I think coming to terms with scientific realities does force you to re-evaluate how “majestic” the Bible is, and I have come to see the process of God inspiring Scripture and the process of getting truth out of it in less black and white terms. This has resulted in less awe for the Bible. But I think this was probably a necessary correction that redirects the focus away from a book and our imperfect interpretation of it back to the God who revealed himself in it and the Son he sent to reconcile us all to himself.

One thing I think I have gained as I have explored the evolutionary perspective is the idea that God dwelling in his creation was maybe not the plan B because humans ruined everything. Before I thought the world and humanity were created perfect, Adam and Eve sinned and screwed it up, and God has been scrambling in a way ever since to fix what got messed up and bring things back to his original intent. I think it fits better with the actual message of Scripture, with the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, to see creation as a work in progress that God has always been directing toward perfection, toward an ultimate consummation. When God became a human to bring humanity back to right relationship with himself, it was not purely a salvage mission, though it served that purpose, but rather it fit in with his original plan to bring creation to completion by uniting himself with it and coming to dwell and rule permanently in his “cosmic temple” with his adopted children. The Son has never un-incarnated; he rose again, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God ruling the world, and will come again in glory to judge and reign in the New Creation, as a human–as God permanently united with Creation. This is all very amazing to me, and does more to elevate humanity and set them apart from the rest of creation than any of my prior ideas about them being specially created on the sixth day. And I think the Resurrection and the New Creation (not the inerrancy of the Bible or a return to a perfect Eden) that is to be the focus of our hope as Christians, what fuels our faith and motivates us to live lives of service and righteousness.

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Nope.
image image

Thank you evolution. And thank you God for creating a dynamic planet like earth where animals like these can evolve.

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I think I understand what you’re saying. Looking at the leaf as having been made by the hand of God would be akin to looking at a drawing made for you by the hand of your child. A big part of what makes that drawing precious is the thought of her drawing it from her child’s point of view just for you. You feel you get a glimpse into who she is when you see the drawing, and into who He is when you behold the leaf. I wonder if that isn’t sadly but unavoidably a casualty of your change of perspective? Maybe it is right to at least mourn that loss a little.

But even if you see the leaf or a sunset as more indirectly reflecting creation I don’t see why it would entirely erase the wonder of either one. What you lose by giving up the thought that it was his direct handiwork might be heightened in another sense when you realize the long processes that led up to its being as it is and consider it might not yet be finished, that creation is constantly unfolding.

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Do you feel this way when looking at a newborn baby? We can describe how that baby came into existence in great detail. But I think everyone here still sees the hand of God in it.

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I’m much more awe struck by a dynamic cosmos rather than one populated by directly created static objects. To me, the kaleidoscope of possibility that emerges from parsimonious, simple principles at the base of nature is astonishing and speaks to an unbounded Creator who endued purpose to the universe. God is almighty over the process, not just entities.

I like to hike in the Rockies. The mountains are majestic, but to me they would be diminished if they were created as such. When I am in the mountains I see the power of the earth’s restless interior, the carving glaciers polishing and scraping at stone, the quiet erosion of ice and rain, the sudden yielding to gravity. The tapestry of time is what makes the alpine alive, and I would be sorry were that missing.

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Let me push back on that just a bit [I’m so glad you included the qualifier: “seeming” in your observation], and suggest that there isn’t so much any successful avoidance of contradiction so much as acclimating oneself to it. The YEC has not avoided any such “contradictions” in the slightest if they already accept scientific explanations for things such as rainfall or snowflakes. These provisions too, are every bit as much from God as everything else is, and the YEC (just like all the rest of us) has always been acclimated toward being able to thank God for a much-needed rain or food on the table, all the while seeing no contradiction between that and the also-valid understandings we have of the mechanics behind all those blessings. So I suggest that any such confident understandings we hold are not a denial of God’s power (or don’t have to be); but are instead an explication of it that in no way differs from what YECs or anybody else has always done despite the YEC proclivity to forget or ignore this fact.

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Hi @MattReam. Thanks for posting and thank you for being so honest about your doubts. You are asking an important question, in Scripture God is supremely concerned about his own glory so we want to make sure that we are not adopting theological interpretations which intentionally or unintentionally rob God of the glory due to his name.

I know that many people talk about EC as God essentially front-loading the process and then set the thing in motion (a gross oversimplification, but hopefully you get the gist). Personally, I’m off the view that God is providentially involved in every aspect of his creation. So that the process unfolds and is guided according to his perfect will. Perhaps, a better way of thinking about it is like this, EC is not like a set of dominoes where God flicks over the first tile and the rest tumble down whilst he watches. EC is a symphony. During a symphony each instrument is able to express itself, but all are ultimately under the direction of the conductor. If the conductor says to speed up, slow down, louder, quieter, that is what they do.

EC, all creation, in fact, is God’s great symphony in which everything from atoms to aardvarks, zygotes and zebras are all caught up in a dynamic and unfolding masterpiece in praise of God’s glorious, imaginative, creative power. So “when I look at a leaf on a tree, imagining the microscopic celluar structure and how photosynthesis is converting sunlight into sustenance for that tree”, I too see “a structure that evolved in response to biological selection pressures.” But I also see an instrument that God is ‘conducting’ to his own purpose and glory. And through that leaf, the Holy Spirit calls me to join that symphony. After all, humans are his crowning creative achievement; his great crescendo; the bank of Stradivarius wielding violin virtuosos!

As the Hillsong track ‘So will I (100 Bilion Times)’ puts it so well:

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I

So in short, do I think EC robs God of his majesty, no I don’t. I think it calls us to expand our horizons of what it means to worship a God who is Creator.:slight_smile: Praying for you brother.

Every blessing, Liam

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And I believe that EC would agree with this. It is just the question of how God chose to accomplish these things, and whether it was instant or a process over time. It is amazing either way.

Thanks for your post, Quinn. I truly appreciated your response and would love to learn more about your view of God’s role in “directing” evolution. I can honestly say I never considered it from that perspective - I saw it more from the point of God started evolutoin off and then let it follow its own course. It reminds me how new to this line of thinking I am and I’m admittedly ignorant of the subject. There haven’t been many Christians in my life who combined faith and science to spur such considerations, so I am thankful for your insight!

Does Evolution Diminish the majesty of God?

For me this is a pretty weird question. We can pick another random adjective used on God such as wrathful and then all we ask “does evolution diminish the wrathful character of God?” If it did, then wouldn’t that be a good thing?

What about majesty? Should I care one way or another?

maj·es·ty

/ˈmajəstē/

noun

  1. impressive stateliness, dignity, or beauty.

  2. royal power.

For those whom religion is all about power and control, and that is what they care about and worship then I think it very possible that evolution diminishes this and I would definitely see that as a good thing.

But how about something I would actually care about…

Does evolution diminish or magnify the greatness of God?
Does evolution diminish or magnify the love of God?

I think the answer is magnify in both cases.

Greatness in particular seems very relevant because God seems to have a very different idea about what makes one great rather than this power and dignity crap.

Matthew 23

11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Evolution is all about the creation of life and thus choosing love and freedom over power and control. If all you want are tools and servants then there is no point in creating life. It is better to have machines which just do their job and nothing else. Why would you want them to do something other than the job for which they were created. There is only one reason that makes any sense. What you want is a relationship with those who have a life and purpose of their own choosing, because you value love and freedom more than power and control.

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Still while it fine for you to have this reaction to the “majesty” word, it is also fine for people to feel wistful about the loss of something. Feelings are what they are, not what we decide they should be.

I doubt if it is God’s royal power or impressive stateliness which would have engendered this thread’s title. What if he’d just called it Does Evolution Diminish the Grandeur We Associate with God? I suspect that is really the issue.

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In my understanding, God is sovereign over creation and He made everything according to His good pleasure and glory. What always get me is what type of crazy imagination God had with the creatures He made during the Cambrian era. I often am amazed at the sheer and wild imagination of our God.
Example of the cute little critters God made.

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It seems to me that many people have given thanks to God for the destruction of their enemies when God had nothing whatsoever to do with it. What shall they do when they find out they were mistaken? Is God thereby diminished by the collapse of our own delusions?

Obviously not. The reality is that the only thing diminished is our inflated opinion of ourselves and delusions that we know God and that God works for us. Clearly when we understand better what God has truly done, then and only then, will we really understand the greatness of God. This is what has happened with science as we have discovered just how big the universe really is. Clearly God has not been diminished by that but only ourselves.

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I can’t argue with that.

I don’t want to get too caught up in the semantics of the title of my question, but the word “majesty” as I utilized it is a noun, not an adjective. :wink: Sorry, just poking some fun… Seriously though, I very intentionally used the word “majesty,” as it perfectly describes what I meant it to - if one looks deeper into the definition of the word, past the first Google result, one will see it also means “the quality or state of a person or thing which inspires awe or reverence in the eye of the beholder.” It is in this sense that I used the term, as @MarkD correctly intuited. I thank you for your understanding and patience, @MarkD. The simple fact of the matter is I maintained a very specific “awe and reverence” for God’s creation based on a flawed paradigm that was taught to me from childhood. Shifting that long-held paradigm away from a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 has proven to be quite radical for me.

We COULD choose another noun to describe God’s character, but I’m not interested in a discussion about God’s wrath being affected by evolution. I’m specifically interested in God’s majesty being affected by evolution.

If nothing else I’ve posted here, let me be clear on this. Delusional as I very well may have been, I have never prescribed to know God’s plan or believe He works solely for my insignificant, petty human desires. Who am I, that God should shed His grace on me? (Thank you for doing so anyway, Lord!)

My purpose in positing this subject was not to debate against evolution on the merits of theology, but purely to accomplish exactly what you stated - to better understand the greatness of God. Please forgive me if I was unclear in my intentions for posting, for I surely did meant only to gain clarity and understanding.

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Hang in there. Change can be hard but we can survive a lot, sometimes getting to a place we like better than the one we missed so much at first.

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My purpose was not to defend evolution on the merits of theology or to launch an attack on you in any way. I was simply trying to make the following points.

  1. Evolution is very likely to change our understanding of God, but I think there is plenty of reason to welcome those changes. I have frequently explained that I personally couldn’t believe in Christianity without evolution.
  2. A superb designer isn’t the greatest role to which God can aspire because power and control are not the ultimate value we should be looking for in God. By creating life, I think God is choosing to value love and freedom more.

What we create and accomplish is not independent of the methods we use. In particular I believe that life is the antithesis of design. We are on the brink of technological mastery over the machinery of biological organisms. And thus we will be creating things with that machinery, but I do not believe the result should be called alive, because the very essence of life is the fact that it created itself in a process of self-organization, growth, and learning. That is the difference between a living organism and a biological machine – how it came into being. Thus to be a creator of life means that you are not a designer but a participant in quite a different way like farmer, shepherd, or teacher, helping them to live, grow, and learn. That is what I think evolution means for the role of God in the creation of life.