Grudem's 12 Objections to Theistic Evolution

To clarify fundamentalist objections to theistic evolution, here is Wayne Grudem’s list of “12 Ideas You Must Embrace to Affirm Theistic Evolution.” He reiterated and clarified them in an address with Ann Gauger, Stephen Meyer, and JP Moreland at an address to Biola recently. I wonder what comments people have for this.

Edit: In his address to Biola, Dr Grudem started by saying that Francis Collins and Lamoureux were evangelical Christians and that he does not question their faith. He just doesn’t think that their belief about Genesis can hold up to orthodox scrutiny.

In Romans 14, Paul encourages Christians not to pass judgment on each other for EITHER being excessively or less rule conscious. :So, in posting this, I need to “Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” (13). However, maybe this is a good place to ask for various interpretations. Lamoureux believes that science and Scripture are nonconcordant, and I am fairly comfortable with this. However, are there other ways of discussing this?

The Accuracy of Genesis 1-3

Theistic evolution is a viewpoint that God created matter and after that, God didn’t guide, intervene, or act directly to cause any empirically detectable change in the natural behavior of matter until all living things had evolved by purely natural processes.

But, what that belief implies is that there are actually twelve details in Genesis 1-3 that simply didn’t happen. If you hold to theistic evolution (in the most common form in which it is held today), you would say:

1.Adam and Eve were not the first human beings, and perhaps Adam and Eve never even existed.

2.Adam and Eve were born from human parents.

3.God didn’t act directly or specially to create Adam out of dust from the ground.

4.God didn’t act directly to create Eve from a rib taken from Adam’s side.

5.Adam and Eve were never sinless human beings.

6.Adam and Eve did not commit the first human sins because human beings were doing morally evil things long before Adam and Eve existed.

7.Human death did not begin as a result of Adam’s sin because human beings existed long before Adam and Eve and they were always subject to death.

8.Not all human beings have descended from Adam and Eve for there were thousands of other human beings on the earth at the time that God chose two of them and called them Adam and Eve.

9.God did not directly act in the natural world to create different kinds of fish, birds, and land animals.

10.God did not rest from his work of creation or stop any special creative activity after plants, animals, and human beings appeared on the earth.

11.God never created an originally very good natural world—a safe environment, free of thorns, thistles, and other harmful things.

12.After Adam and Eve sinned, God did not place any curse on the world that changed the workings of the natural world, making it more hostile to mankind.

My takeaway is that “accuracy” is not the best lens to use when reading Genesis 1-3.


Well, you can pretty much save a lot of words by just saying “If you embrace theistic evolution, you must not interpret Genesis 1-3 the way I do.” And that would pretty much cover it.


Unless the bible purports to be an empirical reference book I’m not sure why anyone would immediately jump to taking Genesis literally.

Well, many fundamentalists think that it has to be completely correct; otherwise, our foundation for salvation is uncertain. The Qur’an has many followers in this way too.

Lamoureux says it would be silly for God to side track everyone with a lesson on heliocentrism and evolution, so He spoke in the terms of myth to explain things to people who had no other experience of science.


IMO The concept of Theistic Evolution can only be justified if we allow a slightly different definition of the term “Human” for theological purposes than the definition commonly used by science (anthropologists). The fossil record provides the evidence for evolution, and the development of new animal species over time relies on the change seen in their skeletons which in turn depend on their changing genomes (via mutation) that result in sufficient reproductive isolation to qualify as a new species. In studying the evolution of ‘humans’, the fossil evidence suggests that Homo sapiens, as a separate species, appeared ~200K yrs ago, and science accepts this as the origin of humankind; i.e., this satisfies the definition of ‘human’ accepted by anthropologists. After about 150K yrs, during which these Homo sapiens behaved very much like their contemporary hominids, the Neanderthals and Denisovans, they suddenly (in what has been described as a Great Leap Forward) expressed artistic appreciation (admirable painting & sculpture) and belief in an afterlife (valuable grave goods). Whatever caused this GLF (Dawkins: as if the circuity of the exapted Homo sapiens brain was ‘programmed’), it can be used to mark the onset of ‘theistical humans’–humankind with a conscience.

Using the theistic definition for the word ‘human’, it seems quite possible that a relatively few Homo sapiens (poetically Adam & Eve) received the 'gift of conscience’ epigeneticly, and it was then culturally passed on to the others of their kind. This has important implications for all 12 ‘points of objection’ Randy listed where the simple reading of Genesis seems faulty. For example in points 5 & 6, (i.e., prior to the GLF and before Homo sapiens acquired a conscience), they were amoral & thus incapable of sinning; after that, as A&E’s progeny, they could sin and did.

I will readily admit that scientists will not (and should not) give full credence to the above scenario which uses the GLF as justification for a separate definition of the word, Human–at least until some biological evidence supports an epigenetic mechanism for “brain programming”. Yet it IS a reasonable postulate, and it does serve to rationally explain the current problems concerning the 12 objections TE would have with Genesis. In my case, I have Faith that science will soon fill this Gap.
Al Leo

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Grudem followed a standard academic procedure, which is to construct a precise definition of the term to be analyzed. Unfortunately for him, the term “theistic evolution” describes a category of beliefs, not a single belief. The definition that Grudem has created is so limited that it applies only to a thin slice of the pie called “theistic evolution.”

On the link you supplied for “12 Ideas …”, Grudem follows his list with this statement: “Those are twelve events in Genesis 1-3 that the Bible records as historically accurate, truthful events, but that are denied by advocates of theistic evolution.” (Emphasis added.)

Grudem’s error is assuming that Genesis 1-3 is a record of “historically accurate” events. (He throws in the superfluous adjective “truthful” just to make it seem that disagreeing with his interpretation is akin to calling God a liar.) He appears to believe that the genre of Genesis 1-3 is historical narrative, which it obviously is not.

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One would understand his concern, though, as the perception that the selection for evolution involves death and destruction (it is not the entire mechanism by any means). Implying that naturalistic processes (similar to the pool table player analogy) do most of the work does seem to run counter to the idea that “horrid natural realities” like death are not “evil” as many of us feel in our gut, and fits in the YEC paradigm.

It was indeed a difficult jump for me to accept horrid natural realities as not evil–but I do feel more comfortable with that after taking Lamoureux’s course. I do think that if Dr Grudem took the course, he’d understand better (or read other books similar to that)

Just for fun, here are my replies to Grudem’s “12 Ideas Heretics Must Embrace to Affirm Heretical Evolution”:

  1. The personal names “Adam” and “Eve” appear nowhere in Genesis 1-3. (“Adam” is not used as a name until Genesis 4:25.) “The man” and “the woman” are literary archetypes, not literal individuals, which the author indicated by using titles for them rather than personal names.

  2. “The man” and “the woman” are literary devices. Such things are born in the author’s imagination and, in this case, God’s inspiration. (Random thought: If we can accept the idea of God’s unseen guidance [“inspiration”] of the process of “inscripturation,” why can’t we accept the same unseen guidance in the process of evolution? Perhaps the analogy is closer to reality than we imagine.)

  3. Genesis 2:7 merely teaches that mankind, like the animals (Gen. 1:24), was made from earth and endowed with life (breath) by God, our Creator. It is also a deliberate contrast to an ANE myth of mankind’s creation from clay mixed with the blood of a defeated, evil god, but that’s getting into territory that Grudem would prefer not to discuss.

  4. Eve’s creation from a rib is not a historical event. See 1 & 2 above.

5-7. I lump all these together because they simply express Grudem’s presupposition that “the fall” of mankind into sin is impossible without two sinless individuals named Adam & Eve to blame it on. It’s obvious that he’s on the wrong track, as far as “historical accuracy” goes, from his statement about human death beginning as a result of Adam’s sin. Grudem clearly intends “physical death,” but even the vast majority of conservative commentators agree that “spiritual death” is the likely meaning, given that “Adam” did not literally die “on the day” that he ate of it.

  1. Just to go ahead and state the obvious, if “the man” is regarded as a figurative reference to “mankind” in general, then all human beings actually are physically descended from ha’adam.

  2. God created everything through the power of his Word. Is that direct or indirect action? Can God act in the natural world through secondary means? What does it mean for the Lord to say, “Let the earth bring forth …”, or “Let the waters abound …”? Grudem is letting his preconceptions show again.

10-12. Of course God “rested” – on his throne in the temple of his creation. Grudem’s literalism is getting the best of him here. The last two are hardly even worthy of response.

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Well we need to look at the “plain reading” of Genesis, except of course for that unfortunate phrase “on the day you eat of it you shall surely die,” since they didn’t physically die on the very day of their transgression. Perhaps they began a process of cellular death that very day, only to culminate in death several hundred years later. “On the day” of their sin, their immortality was revoked. :thinking:

I like and respect Dr. Grudem and actually appreciate much from his Systematic Theology book though not all. But he’s sadly off the mark here. Please excuse my sarcasm above.


I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Grudem. Almost 25 years ago, I volunteered to teach a prison Bible study, and I quickly learned that I was far more ignorant than I realized. I bought Grudem’s systematic theology just to answer the men’s questions, and before I knew what had happened, I had read it from cover to cover. I haven’t stopped reading theology since, and I will always be grateful to Grudem for awakening that thirst in me. I was greatly disappointed to discover years later that he was just another neo-Fundamentalist culture warrior, but in that regard, he has plenty of company these days.

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I am going to edit the opening paragraph to note that in his address to Biola, Dr Grudem started by saying that Francis Collins and Lamoureux were evangelical Christians and that he does not question their faith. He just doesn’t think that their belief about Genesis can hold up to orthodox scrutiny, for the 12 reasons he outlined.

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