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

(Phil) #61

That seems a reasonable concern. I have listened to the talks about slippery slopes and perhaps ther is some validity there, if faith is based on the wrong thing, it can be washed away just as surely. What has helped me with doubt is the realization the the opposite of faith is not doubt, but rather is certainty. The literalist view seems to emphasize certainty in their approach, and if questioned, just doubles down. However, the danger is that in desiring certainty, we cease to live by faith. That is just a bare bones summary, but there it is for what it is worth.
One good thing about looking at Genesis as the story of God revealing himself, rather than God describing creation, is that you can be more open to deeper truths. Also, you are freed from being conflicted with the cognitive dissonance that arises between that the literalist interpretation and observed physical reality, as they are not longer in conflict. At least that is the way it is for me. Unfortunately, relationships do cause pain if rejection and fear of rejection occurs, which is not uncommon.


Cognitive dissonance is not doubt.
Faith is different from certainty.
Thank you, that does help put things into perspective.

(John Warren) #63

There’s an easy answer to this. The Genesis account is correct, that God created everything very good, and then sin entered in and screwed everything up. What’s good about ~10^9 years of death?

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #64

That it’s true?

(John Warren) #65

Sounds like a depressing Pink Floyd version of Creation to me. I wouldn’t call it very good. Parts of it sure.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #66

I would call it “very good.” It all depends on perspective.

My answer was an honest one, fwiw. What’s good about a billion years of death? What’s good is that when I honestly search for truth using God’s books of nature and scripture to guide me, this is the conclusion it leads me to. And truth is good — much better than lies. So “what’s good about it?” Well, the fact that it’s true! That’s something good.

(Laura) #67

I’d even argue that the world is still “very good.” The evil in it is not. But creation is just as much a product of God’s design now as it was then, and there are so many things about the world that are still amazing and beautiful. I don’t think we should conflate “very good” with “perfect” – that would be heaven.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #68

Well that’s calling the glass 1% empty! Let’s talk about the other 99%: you don’t get a billion years of death without a billion years of life! YECs may make human origins sound a bit trivial - Deity mucks around in the mud for a while and then calls it a day. But spend some time here listening to scientists delve into the detail of what all must have been involved to bring life about, and you’ll have a new appreciation for just how awesome God is.

You, I, and all of us will die some day. After our time is gone would you want others after us to conclude: “well, what good was all that history to any of them? They all died! - so much death!” But we could rightly respond: “Wait a minute - yes, we died, but we got to live too!”

(John Warren) #69

1%? I think you underestimate the misery that has existed for 100s of millions of years, if evolution were true. And optimism vs. pessimism aren’t the point. The point is that after God created, God called it very good. He didn’t say, wow what tragic beauty I’ve created.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #70

Does “very good” mean “completely perfect and without anything negative” to you?

If so, I would submit that that’s not anywhere in the text itself. You’re reading that into the text. That’s not an accusation, just an observation.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #71

Perhaps so. At the same time, I think you underestimate the goodness in it.

You are right, though - about the tragedy. And so much tragedy in it now still. Because of sin you would say, which again is partly but not entirely true. God never revoked his observation about creation. Never do we hear the words …“well, it was good until you all came along and ruined it.” Even with a devil on the prowl, it was good. Even with death in it, it is good still. So I can’t go along with the notion that God suddenly remade creation into some sort of sub-par form the moment a couple decided to rebel in a garden. Because that is a lot of extra-biblical assumptions (and even flies in the face of much that we read in the Bible) all in order to prop up what one modern tradition tells us about what Genesis is allegedly supposed to be teaching.


Agreed–that would be the easiest answer. But that doesn’t mean this interpretation best harmonizes scripture with the book of God’s works in nature. Why should we think that God is at all threatened by discoveries we can make in his created universe? Is not all truth God’s truth?

(Albert Leo) #73

Christy, you and other thoughtful responders to this thread are further evidence that the human mind may never succeed in solving the riddles natural evils and moral evils as they relate to a Creator that we believe to be the essence of goodness. I don’t pretend to have solved the riddle where so many wiser minds have failed, but in testing out an unusual paradigm, I get the ‘gut feeling’ that I am seeing a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

The paradigm switch I’m suggesting replaces Fall with Rise. Thus in your quote above, the paradigm I am proposing would state: “Humans appear at the end of a long evolutionary process…to get to the part of history where they realize that God is inviting them to rise above their evolutionary-dictated selfish instincts.” Instead of Sin being a Fall from grace, we should see sin as the refusal to Rise from our animal natures.

If one accepts the reality of evolution as the mechanism of creating life forms “so varied and beautiful” literally from “the slime of the earth”, then one must accept death as necessary, not something evil to be dreaded. The suffering which sometimes precedes death is another matter. A faun struggling against the lion’s jaws gripping its throat arouses our pity, and we deem predation to be evil. Even more so when an illness such as cancer slowly robs the life of a person we love. We see these as Natural Evils, and, perforce, must be part of God’s plan of creation. When did these appear in the evolutionary history of Life on this earth?

Pain seems to be a necessary component of natural evil, and this must have appeared as nervous systems evolved. While multicellular organisms existed some 600 million years ago (in the Ediacaran era), pain and predation as a ‘necessary’ component in evolution (and constituting evil) probably began with the Cambrian (~550 M yrs BP). We cannot know “the Mind of God” in this instance, but perhaps he considered it as “collateral damage” necessary for the beauty his plan would produce.

As for moral evil, that first appeared when Homo sapiens brain became Mind and was endowed with conscience. Evidence points strongly to that being hundreds of thousands of years after the physical form of our species appeared. I like to think that this was concurrent with the GLF, some 50K yrs. BP when Homo sapiens created beautiful cave art and buried their dead with valuable tools for an afterlife.

God’s overall plan must have allowed for these two types of ‘evil’. Perfection may only be a human concept. He could not have created an everlastingly Perfect World in time. Time is a measure of change, and any world which changed is either no longer perfect, or was not perfect to begin with.

We might not find much to admire in the NT account of Pontius Pilate, but the question he put to Jesus is one I would like to ask him also: “What Is Truth?”
Al Leo


In Holmes Rolston’s 1994 essay, “Does Nature Need To Be Redeemed?,” he expresses this in a similar fashion:

When biology finds within humans an innate “selfishness,” this concurs with what the classical religions have been teaching for millennia. In this genesis of spirit, humans do have to break out of their animal natures. When animals act “like beasts,” as nonmoral beings, nothing is amiss, evil, or ungodly. To the contrary, spectacular values have been achieved, coded, used for coping over the millennia of evolutionary time. But if humans go no farther, something is amiss; indeed, in theological terms, something is ungodly. They “fall back” into evil, rather than rise up to their destiny. Stagnating in animal nature, “the natural man [who] does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 2:14) is not so much “fallen” as nonrisen, failing rather than falling, failing to rise to the destiny of a child of God, languishing in animal nature.

(Albert Leo) #75

Thanks a lot for the Rolston quotation. I always like to find others who have come to the same worldview as I have–especially when they can express their view better than I can.
Al Leo

(John Warren) #76

Very good might allow for, for example, the sky to not be pronounced “good”, and follow where that might lead. But I don’t consider “nature red in tooth and claw” to be “very good”. Tragically beautiful, “battered and abused and lovely”, yes, but not simply “very good”. God knows how to put in extra words to convey the tragic and painful part. But He didn’t. Until chapter 3.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #77

I do understand that this is your particular interpretation of the Hebrew, of its English translation, and of your understanding of natural history according to evolutionary theory, and I respect that. Have a blessed day, my brother!

(George Brooks) #78


Your scenario requires meat-eating marine creatures to somehow live off of plants. This is a fantasy. The same has been said about land-based carnivores.

I am currently focusing on the marine creatures because the one thing we know is that there was no ocean in the Garden of Eden.

(Randy) #79

Mr Warren,

I’m a bit of a fan of Randal Rauser, a Canadian Baptist Bible college prof, who had this to say about what was very good–a less-than-10-minute soliloquy which was interestingly very even handed about “good” and “not good” in 3 different Creation scenarios. I’d be interested in reading what you think.