Ethical implications of God using Evolution

Great questions and discussion, guys. One thing to realize is the emotional baggage placed on the word evolution in some areas od society. To me, it helps put things into perspective to insert other science topics in the question rather than evolution. Why did not God make heliocentrism clear in the the Bible? Why did he not not make clear the role of germs in disease? What do storehouses of hail have to with meteorology?
Perhaps it would be good to split your questions off into several threads, but I am on vacation and stuck with phone or iPad and spotty internet. Anyway, welcome to our little corner of the internet.

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Thank you. I accept that general premise that God was speaking to ancient Israelites but, do still feel it is generally limiting - there was another answer though I found intriguing suggesting God had actually put clues in the Bible.

What I haven’t felt has yet been engaged with though - and fair enough I guess as it is such a terribly confronting topic - is the ethical implications of a God who chose to use evolution and yet who is presented in the Bible as having such caring characteristics so opposed to what the use of evolution would imply …

I do believe that there are clues in the Bible pointing towards the creation account as being an ahistorical tale soaked in mythology. Fiction does not mean not true. It just means not literal. I don’t see any evidence that evolution is hidden within.

I don’t believe that evolution is a sign of a uncaring God at all. I believe that it indicated it a God who cares a lot. A God who is alpha and omega and knew that science, including evolution, will become a story to be pursued.

I feel that it’s simply a paradigm.

Take a rock in a river. A tiny smooth rock. Some could see that as a beautiful little stone smooth from the current reshaping it. They may see it and ponder about how despite the stone being being so much tougher than water, that the water is the one winning the race.

Another may see the same stone and only see the fact that what once use to be a large boulder over the ages has broken apart. One piece, a medium sized rock landed in the stream. It use to be the size of a basketball. Now it’s the size of a blueberry. It’s slowly disappearing. In another century it will just be mineral dust deposited like sand not noticeable to anyone.

When I see evolution, I see more than just the survival and random chance. I see beautiful new beings being created . I see how throughout history we can see a insect becoming many species. A single species becoming the parent of a genus. I can see that genus becoming an order. I can see how throughout time eventually you now have these fuzzy bees whose wings generate static electricity allowing the pollen of flowers to stick to it. You can see the thin wasted smooth yellow eyed wasps flying around stinging animals that got to close and disturbed it.

I have cats. They are a domesticated species. They have feral ancestors. If you keep going back eventually there will be a time when one of the first felines came into existence. You can see how that diverged and diverged into lions, tigers, cheetahs, and even my cute little kitten Uhyre who is 2 months old. If evolution is ugly then so is selective breeding which means the cultivars or roses and the domesticated pets are ugly. I strongly disagree. I think it’s extremely beautiful.

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For me, evolution while in many ways creating beauty - creates such immense suffering. Like the baby monkey in my first (long!) post - it matters not if it’s mother dies in the morning and, if the baby monkey cries and whines by its dead mother’s side all day, ends up being eaten - torn apart even - by predators - it’s all part of the system. Just survive, at all costs. If we believe God used evolution, by extension we have to believe God used this system ‘red in tooth and claw‘ to create. Yes, there can be beauty - there is … but to see the whole picture is also to see suffering and death to an immense degree. The rivers of blood in the Nile are but a 1 litre bucket compared to the innumerable giga litres spilt in the red ocean of evolution. The individual life means nothing in the evolutionary cycle, it is but a mere stepping stone. Do we really believe in a God who used that method??

So, obviously I’m posturing that there are significant ethical implications about a God who would use evolution … implications that I feel maybe haven’t been tackled head on yet in this thread. And I’m not saying I don’t believe it - I’m confused and in a bad spot about it all. Ask yourself, does God care about the suffering of creatures if he used evolution? Why did God use a system feuled by death (really, how is evolution not) and yet say death is the final enemy in scripture? How are we to understand the reliability/trustworthiness/special abilities of a God who gives no clear clues about evolution - our actual origin story (kinda important I’d say) but provides another story (Adam&Eve, serpent and fall)? Analogises and all … it’s hard to get away from how this isn’t like a parent having told their children something like the stork story because that was the ‘story on the street’ at the time … but who never got around to telling us how it actually happened until we figured it out ourselves. Cool, thanks for the heads up on that one God - would’ve been nice to hear from you first but I’ll just have to reverse engineer now my whole concept of who you are and what matters and what is and isn’t true - noooo problemos. It feels disrespectful to say that and I want to apologise to God, but then I kinda don’t - the point remains. God sent no prophets in the 1700s before evolution was discovered. He really as far as I know prepared us in virtually no way. How is that not sad?

Since God’s plan was a two-creation model to begin with,* it occurs to me that maybe what we should learn from death and suffering – the entirety of which is of no comparison to that of Jesus’ – is the horror of our sinning against the immeasurable purity of our God.
 


*”Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’" Matthew 25:34

Sorry, I might be missing something about the two creations thing? To me - another line of thinking I’ve had about evolution and sin … if we evolved - if God used evolution to create us … we have deeply embedded into the very fibre of our being strong impulses - to fight, to run, to procreate etc etc. These strong impulses helped us survive for so long. And they majorly contribute to the occurrence of “sin”. It feels a little unfair almost for sin to be so ‘serious and terrible’ if by sinning in the past - say smashing a competitor with a rock to the head for trying to take food or sleeping with multiple mates to spread your seed - is the means by which we survived when the chips were down… I’m just laying it all out here pretty much with no filter. Would be very interested to hear someone tackle the issue of how we understand sin within the paradigm of evolution.

I’ll take this opportunity also to thank everyone for their comments, thoughts etc so far - I appreciate virtually all of it. Feels good to try and ‘talk it out’ with y’all :wink:

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…is about why God created us in the first place. He is joyful within his Trinitarian self and wants to increase his joy by expanding his family and adopting loving siblings into it. The loving part necessitates allowing evil and death to exist – if we were forced, that would negate love. So we have to be redeemed and this creation has to come to an end. (That was excessively abbreviated, no doubt. :slightly_smiling_face:)

You seem to be focused on evolution being associated with death and suffering, when in fact you can make a better case that it is based on life and improved coping with the environment. Dying does nothing to advance evolution, it is only a healthier life that results in more progeny bearing those genes that helps a species evolve. Yes, death seems to an integral to our existence on earth, but it contributes nothing to evolution.

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Sin is not complicated at all.

Sin is nothing more than rejecting Gods commands.

Is it a sin for a snake to eat another snake? No. Why? Because God has never told it not too.

Romans 5
I 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Let’s break that down.

  1. Sin entered the world through one man. Many believes that means Adams choice brought sin into the world and that it never existed before that. But that’s not true and that’s not what is being said in context.

How do we know? It says before the Law, sin was already in the world but people were not guilty of it. They were not held accountable to it?

What is the law here? Many try to force the Torah as the law. Well if that’s the case, then it would mean sin was in world but no one was held accountable to it until the Torah was given. The Torah was given when Moses wrote it. That would mean Cain never sinned and neither did Lot and all those in Sodom and so on. But we know that’s not true. We know Cain sinned. Cain was held accountable for it. That means whatever the law was existed in the world at that time. But what about stepping back further. Adam and Eve were both held accountable for sin. So that would imply the law being spoken about included the law about not touching the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and bad.

If that’s the law being included, and sin was already present before that, then it means before Adam sinned, sin was already in the world but no one was held accountable to it.

But when God gave a law to Adam, it opened up the doorway for Adam to become accountable for sinning if he broke it. When he broke it, it officially brought sin into the world, and over time that sin spread to all as everyone learned Gods standard.

So that explains sin easily and scripturally.

Then next hurdle seems to be death. That can also be reasoned through fairly easily in my opinion.

Genesis 2:17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

God said on the day you eat of it you will surely die. He did not say you might die, or death will start and last hundreds of years. He said on that day you’ll die.

So Adam died on that day. That death was not physical because he went on to have kids and get married. So what died about Adam on that day.

I would say he spiritually died. That death was not physical death. God said you will surely die on that day. Adam surely did. It was not physical.

We can also tell Adam was not immortal even prior to winning because there was a tree of life there. A immortal being who can’t die won’t need a tree that gives immortality. a tree that gives immortality but can’t be eaten after sin is also useless.

I think our scriptural [mis-]understanding of death has contributed to at least some of the cognitive dissonance that modern westerners agonize about. There is an impression that death is an enemy to be eradicated (to exist no more), whereas this is different than what Jesus and Paul both teach as death being subdued … denied its status of finality - its “sting” as Paul says. There are different ways an enemy can be “destroyed”. The simple way - as a child would think about that word - is that destruction would just make something cease to exist entirely. But an even higher, more satisfying form of destruction is to turn your enemy into your friend. By destroying the fear and hatred of separation, one has destroyed the enmity, and now has gained a friend. Without death we do not get resurrection. Unless a kernel falls the ground and dies, there will be no new life. Not that we easily embrace suffering, pain, and certainly not death; all of that is rather the point. It’s hard. But it’s not useless, and certainly not useless in God’s hands. Now … would I push all this with somebody who is freshly grieving the loss of a dear one? Certainly not. So I apologize if that is the case for you. There is a time and a place, and I need only to weep with those who are weeping, as I hope they too are willing to do with me. There are times and seasons for rejoicing too that should not be kept hostage to the continued existence of death in this world. Death is hard enough to face when it is forced upon us - no need to turn all the rest of life into any premature death of joy as well. I should think that a significant part of our endurance of suffering is fueled by the hope that we will one day rejoice again. That is why weeping is not left alone as the only side of existence. We can morbidly focus on only the ‘red-in-tooth-and-claw’ side if we wish, choosing only to see the mangled raccoon on the highway, the squealing prey having life drained out of it by a merciless predator; but there is also much new life and beginnings that some of those same organisms may well have participated in too - and to make their final suffering moments the one and only defining characteristic of their existence is to miss a significant picture of life with all its God-praising existence. And I maintain that even those final moments that are so horrifying to us - that we do not wish on anything or anyone, that even those will in the end be seen by our transformed spiritual eyes as a necessary doorway toward yet more life and renewal - even transformed life, we hope.

That won’t answer all difficulties people feel about evolution, of course; but understanding scripture more accurately about this may help us move in that direction.

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Sometimes - dare I say - explaining things ‘easily’ using only scripture misses certain aspects of the picture. For example, that we evolved. I‘ve been in the church for a long time - I’ve heard many times everything you’re saying. But I’ve never heard anyone talk about the interaction between sin and our evolutionary history. With respect, it wasn’t with the hope of hearing ‘more of the same’ that I came on this forum but to hear and try and understand the interaction of science and faith specifically… isn’t that what this forum is meant to be all about?

@Mervin_Bitikofer Thank you for your response and engagement in the discussion. I’m trying to understand what you’re implying above … I think I get it but I’m not sure. It sounds as though the implication is that all living beings may participate in as aspect of resurrection or new life? This sounds lovely and may even be true in an extremely broad sense … but I imagine would be akin (bad analogy warning) to a new car company’s enormous factory which pumped out millions of cars of all different models getting shut down and then rebuilt to build new cars with some special, amazing technology that made them far, far superior to all previous ones. The previous cars are not somehow “recalled” and the new technology built in. I cannot see how all the animals that have died and suffered in the evolutionary cycle are resurrected (imagine that) within the framework of any ‘curse in the world’ being broken/lifted scenario. The suffering of those animals - the squealing of the young and old to pain and poison etc - means, sadly, nothing as I’m seeing it at the moment. It’s a horrible but seemingly inescapable thought. The only real meaning we could give their combined suffering would be as a (sick in my opinion) means to chug the system of evolution ever so slightly forward. And God has “used” this system?? Animals don’t have a spiritual death - they just experience death. I suppose to not recoil at a God who would use evolution we need to get numb to animal death, animal suffering and explain it as part of the system - a mere 0.05% experience of an animal’s life “focus on the 99.05% will ya”. I guess that is a fair (theoretical) comment in many ways … but then imagine applying that logic in the modern world “it was only tortured by the heat for 2 days - it lived 18 years, so yeah whatever” (of a dog or something). We grieve at the thought of a poor dog dying in extreme heat. Does God? Take the non human caused collective suffering of animals in the world at any one point and combine it into one force - it would be an absolute tsunami. Is this tsunami a meaningless one?

Not even to clear the way for new iterations to discover which is currently best adapted? If living beings never died, where would the young go. Would there even be young? Surely there needs to be death for there to be new life. I’m pretty sure I’m missing your point.

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“Dying does nothing to advance evolution, it is only a healthier life that results in more progeny bearing those genes that helps a species evolve”
(Didn’t copy in properly?)
I guess what I’m getting at is what I’d call the “Hunger Game effect”, hunger games being the movie where a bunch of teens needed to survive in some forest environment killing each other by being the last person standing. Evolution to my mind very much works on death - if you’re weak, you’re dead and your competitor advances. I mean, there is something satisfying I suppose about it in that sense - nothing weak gets through. But it smacks of cold heartedness to a great degree -
“oh, poor randomly created animal - I see you suffering there, shivering to death in the cold? Poor fella, well … you missed out on the generic lottery didn’t you? Your pal a couple of miles away though, he’s suffering through what you are too - but has a 1% advantage on you and so while he’ll almost die tonight as well - he’ll just scape through while you won’t. And so he’ll eat the limited food in this forest that you won’t. The strong survive, the weak will die! All the best, buddy.
Sincerely, Evolution [promo voice over “this message is sponsored by the God of the universe”).

How is it not a cold heart that would create a system based on that scenario occurring over and over and over and over again. Or … am I missing something? Or do we just develop a kind of distant magnanimity to the whole idea of death and suffering?

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@Dale Interesting. Could you expand more on this? Why do you think evil and death needed to exist and what are your thoughts about all that - it seems you are suggesting the ‘ends justifies the means’ in terms of whatever atrocities evil and death would unleash - they’d drive us to God? How do you think an environment where evil and death rule - or at least have large power - influences love? And what to speak of ‘love’ being an evolutionary developed emotion to promote the survival of species (not saying I believe that, just playing devil’s advocate)

My point is that everything dies, but death is not the mechanism that passes advantage to the next generation. Yeas death is necessary if you have reproduction, or otherwise we would be waist deep in mice and roaches, but that is a part of existence on earth. Death does not pass anything to the next generation to make life better, just makes space.
My point is a bit of reductio ad absurdum, as death being part of life is involved in the big picture, but the point being that the argument of evolution being cruel and “red in tooth and nail” is more appeal to emotion than fact, and it is not appropriate to focus all the attention on. After all,evolution is the means by which life flourishes in new conditions, by pushing death away a bit.

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To me it seems like all of questions are being answered from both a scientific and scriptural side. It just seems like you perhaps don’t like the answers. You want more science in your scripture and more scriptural implications with your science.

What are you wanting? A scientific answer to why sin exists? There is not one because sin is breaking the commands that god gave.

Evolution is a creation that keeps on creating. Without evolution, you have no new creations.

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Not at all. God is life, absence from God = death.

It makes us appreciate it more?

I don’t know when or how personhood and agency were infused into us, but I cannot agree with the devil. :slightly_smiling_face:

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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