Evolution, the origin of death and its conflict with God's morality, the problem of imperfection


(Jose D) #1

If evolution happened (which it probably did), how can you answer the problem of imperfection? If we have a perfect creator, the creation its self must be perfect (except for matters pertaining to free will). But then why do we have death?
Christians who take the Bible literally would point to Genesis 3: 17-18 to answer this question saying that this imperfection came because of sin infecting our once perfect world. But what about someone who believes in evolution?

1.Can you say that God created everything perfect?

  1. If he did, then it must’ve been ruined by human sin, but how could that be if human consciousness supposedly appeared millions of years after imperfections like death were already happening?

  2. If the entrance of sin came before these events, than who was/were the first conscious human(s) to sin if there was supposedly no person there?

  3. Anything that isn’t eternal is imperfect. In heaven everything is ever lasting, that’s why heaven is perfect. But if death isn’t an imperfection, then it would also happen in heaven. And if that’s the case, what would be the difference between heaven and earth?
    Why wouldn’t God just make Earth the way he ultimately wanted it to be from the beginning?

Is there a chance that humans somehow already existed in the begging, and de-evolved because of the entrance of sin, and then evolved again? That’s the only solution I can find to this problem, I would like to know what you think about it, and if you have any other alternatives.


(Christy Hemphill) #2

I don’t see how the conclusion necessarily follows from the premise here.

(I’m going to cut and paste some things I’ve written elsewhere on other threads to save myself some time here)

The Bible never actually claims creation was ever perfect. So, I would say, no, we can’t say that.

I would say the questions and problems are different when you get rid of this idea we have imposed on Scripture that God created the world perfect and sin (i.e. human choice) completely corrupted God’s perfect creation. I have lots of theological problems with this concept.

In the YEC scenario you have a ‘perfect’ world, but somehow Satan is on the loose, actively trying to ruin God’s creation. You have an entirely different creation than the one we have now, if there is no animal death and no animal predation or carnivory. (Leaving aside that such a world would be unsustainable and quickly become “imperfect” since the life cycles that keep nature healthy and population levels in ecosystems in harmony depend on death and decay as part of the cycle.) You possibly have no tectonic plate activity and a different weather system, since there would be no ‘natural evils’ like volcanoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes, which cause death. To get from that hypothetical ‘perfect’ world to what we see now, essentially, you have to posit a second, unrecorded, creation event where God recreates or un-creates many of the herbivores into carnivores and scavengers and invents crop blight and stinging nettles and malaria, just to punish humans and make their lives difficult. You have God instituting new natural cycles, changing the weather and geology, fundamentally altering the biology of creatures (carnivores have different teeth, jaws, and digestive systems than herbivores), and creating diseases, pests, and genetic defects.

In that scenario God is proactively creating every way the world is currently imperfect or contributes to death, and you have him going about the act of special creation in an apparently degenerate way, motivated not by love and holiness and artistry, but by the need to curse his fallen human children for their sin.

Theologically this sounds much more problematic to me than the idea that God declared ‘good’ a world that included death and disease as part of its natural order.

Some people make it out like God did not actively create these imperfect things, they just “happened” as a result of sin, but that in untenable in my book. God is the source of all creation. Evil and sin are not creators. When creationists insist that when Adam and Eve ate fruit there was this “change” that radically impacted the structure and function of all creation, either they are saying sin has “magical” creative powers (like in the Disney movies where the princess pricks her finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel and everything gets scary) or God himself purposely changed and redesigned his creation.

I affirm that God is the creator of all that is. I don’t know how anyone ascribes creative power to “sin.” Sin is a state of rebellion, not a personal entity with agency. Sin affects how created things interact, it doesn’t create new things. Thorns, malaria carrying mosquitoes, Ebola, poisonous snakes, these are all part of God’s creation. Sin did not design them or bring them into existence.

So that leaves us with God proactively re-doing creation to make it cursed. This brings in problems with the character of God. If natural evil is something God allows to exist in his creation, that is one thing. It has its theological and philosophical problems. (That’s why we call it “the problem of evil”) But if natural evil is something God did not intend for creation, but puts there on purpose, because he is forced to or because he wants to, all based on a human choice, that means either God’s hand is forced by humans or God created all bad things as a punishment. That is more problematic theologically and philosophically. That’s saying God imagined and purposely created Ebola, because …sin.


(Christy Hemphill) #3

I’m curious where do you get this understanding from the Bible?

I would say the perfection of heaven is centered on the culmination of God’s righteous justice and the fact that everyone lives with no rebellion (no sin) under God’s rule, not on the elimination of all physical death. It is only humans who are promised new, incorruptible, immortal physical bodies in the New Creation, I don’t think we know how things will work out for the rest of nature. The destruction of death that Scripture has in view when discussing Christ’s victory over it is usually spiritual death. It is the reality of spiritual death that makes physical death for humans bad.

I would say nothing in science points to this as an option. If you’re going to accept evolution, just accept it as it is and figure out how to understand Scripture in light of the facts of natural history, don’t try to imagine a hypothetical natural history that does exist to rescue an interpretation of Scripture. There are other interpretive options out there that fit with what science says happened.


(George Brooks) #4

@jdd8910

Eusebius believed that the burden of sin helped “perfect” or “improve” humanity into better creatures than they would have become if they lived in a sinless world.

He felt “sin” was partly created by God, and with good intentions, and good results.

It was Augustine who rejected Eusebeus’ assessment, and made sin (and the resulting imperfection) the fault of humanity, and only humanity’s fault.

I’ve never found that view very persuasive.


(Albert Leo) #5

Like Original Blessing --the option that God sees evolution as “Good” even tho it does involve death, predation, destructive geological forces, etc.–things humans see as “natural Evil” Good because evolution did produce life in magnificent variety and complexity, and eventually produced a Consciousness that could appreciate its Creator.

@jdd
"Anything that isn’t eternal is imperfect. In heaven everything is ever lasting, that’s why heaven is perfect."
[/quote]
That kind of heaven is, perforce, static, & unchanging, since any change would make it imperfect. To me, that is unattractive. The ultimate beauty of life is the challenges that must be met. As a creative tool, evolution has a strong selfish component. God has given us a Mind and Conscience that shows us how we can rise above this instinctual nature to become the hybrid of body/spirit He envisioned since the Big Bang. That can be seen as Original Blessing.
Al Leo


(Albert Leo) #6

If Eusebius were presented with the scientific evidence for evolution, I’m sure he would have approved of my use of the term Original Blessing.
Al Leo


(Jose D) #7
  1. Population levels could have been kept stable by animals themselves if they stopped mating.

  2. Those ‘natural evils’ could still coexist with a perfect world, they aren’t bad if they occur in ways that don’t
    hurt animals, this might’ve been possible in such a world. But it could be said that their effect is different now because of the fall. They could’ve happened while animals were not around.

  3. I don’t understand why things can’t just “happen”. There are malevolent thoughts that just ‘happen’ in people’s minds all the time. There are certain circumstances that just ‘happen’ that give people the opportunity to rape children. It may be true that God is ultimately under control of every event that happens on Earth, but that doesn’t mean that he commands everything to happen. If that was the case, then that would mean that God commands evil, and it would mean that there is evil in God, and like the Bible says in 1 John 1:5, “In him there is no darkness at all”. When someone creates a video game, the creator isn’t there commanding everything in the game to happen, sure he may program a script, but once the game is set, everything just ‘happens’. Quantum physics studies also say that the quantum level moves in an indeterministic manner, so the universe is random. I don’t see any conflict here.

  4. Another creation isn’t necessary. With everything happening according reality’s ‘script’, nature would have to intelligently seek a way to solve the ‘bugs’ in our reality. So these dangerous traits that animals evolved wouldn’t be an ‘act of God trying to punish his creation’, they would simply be a natural mechanism for survival, a response to current imperfection.

  5. Sin wouldn’t have to ‘create’ anything. Nothing was really ‘created’ after God’s creation. Evolving is not the same as creating, one takes a conscious effort, and the other is an intelligent mechanism just like our digestive system. It could’ve simply been an intelligent response from nature to sin. Sin might not be able to create, but it can definitely affect. Why do you equate these two things? It doesn’t sound like magic to me, it seems perfectly logical.

  6. If sin couldn’t have any effects on creation, why does this bible verse exist?

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field. Genesis 3:17-18

notice that God does’t curse the ground, God just says that it is cursed. The plants certainly didn’t have any thorns before that moment.

I believe that a lot of these arguments against original perfection stem form uniformitarianism. We must remember that we cannot simply assume that everything was just the way it is now before the fall.


(Jose D) #8

It is true that God didn’t have to create everything perfect, (eg. He didn’t give us perfect knowledge of everything) but there are certain things that would’ve had to be created ‘perfect’ for his creation to be consistent with His perfect morality. For example, God couldn’t have created a world with sin/evil, he would’ve had to create a world that is ‘perfectly’ sinless, or else his actions would conflict with the qualities that he describes himself, and that would make him unholy. I think that a world with no death is one of those things. Look at the premises below, they seem perfectly logical to me, but I want other people’s feedback, I may be wrong:

  1. Every conscious action that causes living beings to be involuntarily hurt is evil unless the effects are the consequence of their own conscious actions.

  2. God created animals and made them kill each other and hurt each other to survive

  3. They are hurt Involuntarily and it isn’t the consequence of conscious actions

Conclusion: God acted in an evil manner

This right here is the reason why it seems to me that this theory raises some very serious theological issues with the identity of YHWH. While I can provide a defense for the other theory, this right here seems truly untenable to me. i can’t think of any excuse for God to do such a thing.

Well, this is just a theory. It’s certainty not a scientific theory as it isn’t backed up by proof or evidence. However, it certainly seems to be possible. It doesn’t really conflict with our current knowledge of evolution. I can’t affirm that this happened, but I can’t affirm that it didn’t happen either. It could be that the original humans that sinned were created as advanced humans in the beginning, but then sin led to earth becoming inhabitable , and that later God let nature take it’s own course and that evolution eventually gave rise to primitive humans, and God then gave them human consciousness once again.


(Christy Hemphill) #9

You don’t understand how herbivores don’t just happen to become carnivores tomorrow? A tiger cannot survive on broccoli. We are talking about major structural changes to organisms and the earth because of the fall. Those structural changes could not have just happened instantaneously by any natural mechanism, they require an agent. If God is not commanding these changes, who is?

I have never seen a compelling creationist model for how all of these major changes actually came about naturally. Saying “it could have happened” or “it doesn’t sound implausible” is not a model.

My simple answer is, it’s literature not science. In the narrative, sin brought a curse, and part of that curse was expulsion from God’s protected sacred space where things were easier.

I believe pain in childbirth is caused by the shape of the human pelvis relative to the size of our newborns since we started walking upright and sitting in chairs instead of squatting. I don’t think it is caused by someone’s choice to eat fruit.


(Christy Hemphill) #10

Well, God can’t create sin, because sin is not a creation. It’s a state of rebellion that results from human will. A creation without sin (without humans) could still have physical death and natural catastrophes.

I vaccinated my children against their will and they were hurt by the shots. Evil?
I eat meat. So did Jesus. Evil?
God instituted an entire sacrificial system based on the slaughter of animals. Evil?

I think you should follow your conscience. But I’m just noting that “it certainly seems possible” is not at all compelling to me and many other people. When I hear scientists have heaps and heaps of evidence that natural history proceeded in X way, I take that seriously and try to figure out how to understand the Bible in light of those facts. I understand other people approach the Bible differently.


#11

It could be that God created the universe last Thursday. He is certainly capable of doing so.


(Matthew Pevarnik) #12

Unlikely that he would do it on Thor’s day. I therefore reject Last Thursdayism and teach Last Sundayism.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #13

God did create a universe without sin. It took humans to create sin and mess the universe up. God did create a universe where humans were free to die and free to sin, because unfree humans are not perfect beings. Therefore the problem is that a perfect universe needed to be potentially a sinful universe.

Humans did sin and in a sense the human universe devolved so it became unfree. Jesus came so that humans might be free of sin and free to be free People of God. I would not call this an evolutionary event because salvation is the result of a choice, not something that happens to us.


(Jose D) #14

Now that you’ve pointed this out, it’s clear to me that these changes couldn’t have happened instantaneously by any natural process, and would require God to actively make these changes himself. However, the theory that I proposed wouldn’t require such a thing to happen. The event of sin coming into the world would’ve happened very early on, and it would’ve allowed sufficient time for the changes to happen, moreover, I think it’s pretty safe to say that due to evolution, the organisms that God originally created are not the same ones as the ones in the beginning, there are probably a lot more species of animals and plants. So I don’t know if the exact diet of the earliest forms of life can be known (I certainly don’t know lol).

This is where I am confused (I am new to this ‘evolutionary creation’ thing). My current take on this interpretation problem is this: Genesis is metaphorical, but the metaphors must still be of some value. Therefore, even if science isn’t compatible with the literal interpretation of these metaphors, the message embedded in the metaphors must be true, and they must be compatible with reality. I don’t know if this stance is a correct one, but it seems logical to me (I would really like to hear what method others use to interpret Genesis). This is why in my view it doesn’t seem correct to simply label these verses as literature, without much thought, and brush away the potential meaning(s) contained in this metaphor. This is why it seems to me that the bible does say that sin infected creation. Your example of childbirth is true, but I don’t see how that explanation contradicts the other explanation, they seem to be compatible.


(Jose D) #15

Maybe I didn’t explain myself well. Let’s say that God created the first humans to specifically be evil beings. He would’ve had to create them with no sin, otherwise, that would make him unholy.

I see where I went wrong, let me rephrase my argument:

1.Every unnecessary conscious action that causes living beings to be involuntarily hurt is evil unless the effects are the consequence of their own conscious actions.

  1. God created animals and made them kill each other and hurt each other to survive

  2. They are hurt Involuntarily and it isn’t the consequence of conscious actions

conclusion: God acted in an evil manner

Now, your first statement is not an accurate response to this argument because of the context of the situation. Why do you vaccinate your children? Is it to hurt them? Or is it because your’re doing it for a greater good and it’s the best alternative you have?(preventing illness). However, if you were to just inject your child with a needle for no reason, that would definitely be a sin, and therefore, an evil action.

I don’t believe that eating meat can currently be classified as a sin. Because of our current biological state and the state of nature, it would be incorrect to label it as something sinful. So it doesn’t seem to me that this situation fits premise 1.

As for the sacrificial system, well, the whole point of it was for the people to sacrifice something of value to them, so they were pretty much sacrificing their food. It might’ve been the only thing they could sacrifice for them to feel the punishment, or the best thing. Furthermore, the whole point of the Law was to give Israel a taste of the dreadfulness of sin. They also stoned people for committing adultery, but outside of the covenant law, that would be immoral, wouldn’t you agree? It’s the same for the sacrificing of animals.

I understand, it’s not very compelling for me either, but unfortunately, as of now I can’t think of a better response to this problem. But I really appreciate your feedback :slight_smile:


(Christy Hemphill) #16

Let me just see if I understand what you are proposing. God specially created humans and other animals at the very beginning of time. They sinned and brought death into the world and so God destroyed that creation and all trace of it in the fossil record. Then one celled life emerged on the post-apocalypse planet and proceeded to evolve as we see in the fossil record to humans who again sinned, but this was not “the fall” because death already existed. Which story is Genesis telling, the story of the humans in the first destroyed creation? If that is so, than how is Adam in the genealogy of Jesus? Clearly the Bible speaks of continuity between the people described in Genesis and the Israelites. If it is the second human story that is described in Genesis, aren’t we just right back where we started with death before the fall?

Plus, we have scientific evidence about what the seas and land and temperatures were like on earth when the very first life forms appeared and as I understand it, it would not have been hospitable to plant and animal life. The atmosphere was totally different, the oxygen-rich environment that supports animal life was produced by early cyanobacteria. But in your scenario, modern plants and animals were specially created to live in a modern-like earth, and then at the destruction event (that is never mentioned in the Bible, which is as disconcerting to me as not mentioning a second creation event to create a fallen world) the world reverts back to a different world so evolution can proceed the way the evidence says it did.

Absolutely. It must have more than some value, I’d say it’s foundationally important to Christianity. I wouldn’t even say Genesis is metaphorical. I think it is a mythologized history. I think the meaning we are supposed to get out of it has to do with who God his and how he relates to his creation, especially people. There’s piles of articles on the BioLogos website about Genesis interpretation from a range of perspectives compatible with science.

I actually agree that sin infected creation in the sense that sin impacts and distresses and harms the natural world. Human selfishness and exploitation and war cause damage to nature. Sin damages human society (which I consider part of creation, in that humans being social creatures is natural) in ways that go beyond personal sin. Racism, sexism, colonial imperialism, materialism all “infect” society in ways that go beyond the individual. I just don’t think sin changes biology or geology or meteorology in some magic way.

By the way, I think it took me about six years to shift paradigms on creation/Genesis and I still don’t have answers I like on a few issues, so don’t feel like you need to be at all apologetic about taking your time investigating different views and trying them on for size. That’s what most people are doing around here. It’s a process. :slight_smile:


(Jose D) #17

Well he certainly was capable of doing so, so it was a possibility. But the current evidence that we have shows that it certainly didn’t happen. So we can assert that this theory is downright impossible, and that it wasn’t God’s desire. However, the same cannot be correctly said about the theory I proposed.


(Jose D) #18

I guess that this sums it up pretty well, but I didn’t state that God destroyed the earth, more like that sin caused its destruction, but I don’t know lol. I don’t quite understand what you mean by ‘modern plants and animals were created to live in a modern type Earth’, I don’t know how the plants and animals were back then, but they most likely were nothing like they are now. About Adam… Well, I don’t know if I should take those genealogies literally, Iv’e heard a couple of theories, and some even say that they are wrong and that they differ from each other. But that was gonna be a question for another post lol. For now, I don’t really have much to say about that topic, but for the moment, I’m not very compelled to take them very seriously.


#19

I always have to chuckle when a human states something is or isn’t what God desired. Who are we to know the mind of God?

Running back up to your theory to refresh my memory I would say the evidence we have says that likewise your theory didn’t happen.

By understanding what was meant by perfection. It doesn’t mean perfect in the current sense of the word. It means “fit for use.” Which means physical death is not a problem. If there was no physical death before the fall what was the purpose of the tree of life?


(Christy Hemphill) #20

There are fossils of microbial life dating to 3,700 million years ago.

At 3.7 billion years ago, most scientists hypothesize that the atmosphere was different than it is now and plants and animals would not have been able to survive. There is a timeline modeled from the formation of the earth to the present and conditions are more or less understood as the earth developed. The formation of earth and the evolutionary history of life on earth is progressive and things trigger other things, which make the next step possible. So positing higher animals, humans, and plants on the very early earth, before this fossil history, means you either have to ignore what scientists say the early earth was like then, or you have to say God specially created an earth much like the one we see today but then somehow it all started over with the earth scientists describe and evolution proceeded as they describe it and all evidence of the prior special created earth was destroyed. If you are going to go that far, why bother trying to fit the scientific picture in at all? Just be a YEC.

Plus, I still don’t really get what good an Adam and Eve that have no continuity with current humans does you. (Even if we are not literally descended from Adam and Eve. They are still representative of us and our human condition) Original sin is an important theological concept because of what it means for humans today, the descendants or heritage receivers of sinful humanity. Why should we care about Christ as the second Adam if the first Adam and his entire world are long gone and replaced. We believe Christ came and died for the sin of this humanity not some other humanity that is over and done with.

It is much less convoluted to figure out how it could be scripturally acceptable that death exists in the world before human sin than to figure out how humans could have sinned before time began to allow for death.