LCMS Lutherans and Evolution


As a parish pastor I very much agree with you that the key here is gentleness.

(Jonathan) #62

Indeed. I greatly appreciate how he avoids speaking where scripture is silent, yet still affirming what the scriptures do say. For instance, the article talks about how arguments for the word “yom” in Genesis 1 meaning something other than a day are “exegetically unconvincing” and also raises some interesting points which seem problematic for the idea of animal death before the fall. At any rate, I don’t know if “struggle” is the word I would use to describe the authors’ approach (although I would certainly be interested in hearing your perspective on that choice of wording :wink: ).

God’s blessings to you as well, @EvolvingLutheran!

Greetings to @mlkluther as well! I think I’ve seen you before over at the Peaceful Science forum.


You’re probably right. I may be reading into it, or perhaps struggle wasn’t quite the right word to use regarding the article. I think what I’m getting at is that there’s a real effort to thread the needle. There seems to be an acknowledgement that there are other linguistic and metaphorical elements at play in the text and a willingness to explore that. At the same time there seems to be a real effort to assure readers that just because there are other layers of meaning that doesn’t mean to suggest Genesis is not literal history. I think there is an effort to not rock the boat too much. But maybe that’s me.


That’s fantastic! And now I’m curious as to your path here. Did this arise from an internal question or from working with parishioners? And do you see a best path forward within our body?


Over the last couple years I’ve been giving a lot of thought to these issues. Coming from a confessional Lutheran perspective has helped me see that some of what I had held to be true is really more in line with a fundamentalist approach to the Scriptures than a Lutheran and Christ centred approach.

The way in which the article in the Concordia Journal Summer 2017 was dealt with set off alarms for me. We don’t have room for the conversation because the ghosts of seminex keep haunting us. To fight off radical liberalism we adopted fundamentalism as our defence…that has only become clear to me in the last year or so.

I think with regard to Genesis 1-3 the discussion needs to be about genre. I think when we read Gen 1-3 literalistically we are misreading it in much the same way fundamentalist dispensationalists misread Revelation. If you approach Revelation and interpret it literalisitcally as fundamentalists do, you get some strange stuff that takes you way out of the catholic tradition. Lutherans approach Revelation understanding the genre and therefore do not interpret it literalistically. So, the issue isn’t the inspiration of Scripture. It’s getting the genre correct and the proper hermeneutics. I think John Walton and Denis Lamoureux are helpful here.


It certainly does seem to. And I think there are a lot of parallels between the creation/evolution discussion and the historical criticism issue that fueled the Seminex schism. It doesn’t help to have either side condemning the other of heresy. I understand the concerns of the slippery slope, but…

If we could just do away with the conflict framework and not view each other as compromised or deficient in doctrine. We still hold to the formal principle of sola scriptura.

Yes, it’s interesting because there’s a nice little video series done by Lutheran Hour speaker Ken Klaus “Explaining All the Scary Stuff in Revelation” that does a good job presenting that. Viewing Genesis in such a fashion may be more problematic because of the tie in that it has to Original Sin, Romans 5, the protoevangelium, even complementarianism of male and female that may be perceived as being at risk without a literal interpretation.

For me personally, I’d digested nearly 30 years of YEC and ID, Johnson, Behe, AiG et al. And my interests had been primarily in the area of theology, not science. Until recently. Hearing Hugh Ross interviewed one day on our station opened my mind to other possibilities. During the following year I’d grown comfortable with OEC while reviewing our confessions. And from there to EC was relatively easy. I found BioLogos trying to answer questions of death before the Fall and maintaining biblical authority.


Have you read or watched any of John Walton or Denis Lamoureux?


No but given your recommendation, I would like to and Intend to follow up on it.


This is Denis Lamoureux’s University course that is free through Coursera. I highly recommend it. I don’t agree with all his conclusions - but I think it is very helpful. The hermeneutical approach he gives is very similar to the way in which I was trained in hermeneutics in my confessional Lutheran seminary. You can also find a fair bit of his stuff on Youtube.

I also find John Walton’s stuff on Youtube very helpful. He is looking at things from the textual perspective and taking into consideration the ANE context…which seems to me to be very important!

I also really recommend James Voelz’s videos that go through his course on Biblical Hermeneutics that takes you through his book What Does This Mean? that you can find on iTunes U for free. The class doesn’t deal with the evolution issue directly - but I think his approach to hermeneutics is very helpful.

(Randy) #70

Just to say–on top of Lutherans’ many accomplishments and contributions to society, my family and I have always enjoyed “Davey and Goliath” video series.

We watched them as kids (my parents liked them better than Superman comics for us when we were home on furlough), and bought them for our own kids as videos :slight_smile:

(Christy Hemphill) #71

Yes! I still think of it every time I hear A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.

(Jonathan) #72

Greetings once again, @mlkluther, and I wish you a (belated) blessed Ash Wednesday! How do you think Genesis 1 should be read?

A blessed (belated) Ash Wednesday to you also, @EvolvingLutheran! I’m pretty sure Seminex is something our church body definitely doesn’t want to deal with again, so parallels to that dark time in LCMS history put us ill at ease (with good reason :confounded:). This is, of course, a discussion that the LCMS needs to have (ignoring evolution won’t make it go away), but we need to make sure to ultimately stand on the truths of Scripture regardless of what others may say (as, I think, we always have).

In the end, I have not been very impressed by the attempts I have witnessed to reconcile evolution and the Scriptures, but I would nonetheless be interested in hearing more about your position! :wink:


A blessed Lententide to you as well. I always find it a rather poignant moment as I make the sign of the cross with ash upon my children’s foreheads every year. “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.” However, even in Lent, we Christians never lose sight of the empty tomb and the victory our Lord Jesus has won over death and the grave that we share in by grace through faith. End of sermon :slight_smile:

Well, that is the question! And a good one!

To be honest, I am still working that out, especially in the details. The broad strokes I have come to some conclusions that I think fall in line with the Evolutionary Creation perspective. I believe that EC is certainly compatible with a faithful reading of Genesis, and I believe, more faithful than a literalistic fundamentalist approach…just as I believe (and all confessional Lutherans with me) that a literalistic fundamentalist approach to Revelation is not a faithful reading of the text. I think John Walton’s work really sheds light on how a fundamentalist approach to Genesis is not a faithful reading of the text (even if you quibble with a few details here and there with his positions…the overall work is helpful).

The fear, I believe, is that in not reading Genesis in a literalistic fundamentalist approach the entire Christian Faith will fall (much as Ken Ham seems to say). The problem with that is it is making the Creation account the foundation of Faith rather than our Lord’s resurrection. The reliability and trustworthiness of the account of our Lord’s resurrection is not contingent upon Genesis. Or, to put it another way, I don’t trust Jesus because I trust the Bible…I trust the Bible because I trust Jesus. That order is very important.


And a happy belated right back at you, @J.E.S (and @mlkluther) from another who is “but dust”. Terrific service last night.

Isn’t it fascinating when you consider what it is to be created out of the “dust of the earth” given our topic of discussion? Other creation narratives use “clay” but “dust” seems distinct and rather prescient. Fits so well we the idea we are fearfully and wonderfully “knit together”. Makes me think of the double helix!

I totally agree. The key I think is for all sides within our synod to realize we all have the goal of ultimately standing on the truths of Scripture. Let’s get out of the conflict framework and stop putting each other on the opposite sides of the table. The real polemic is between theism and atheism, not creation vs. evolution. I believe if we keep it there and give ourselves the permission to explore the idea, we can avoid rending our body. That’s my hope anyway.

Can you help me better understand? Are you referring to more exegetical/theological attempts? Or scientific/evidentiary? Might help to narrow it down a little to a particular sticking point. Mine might be different than yours. Thanks!



I happen to think that the fact that it is not clay and is instead dust that is specifically mentioned is important. “Dust” in the Scriptures, at least arguably, refers to mortality. Now that leaves some things to ponder…

(Phil) #76

I was thinking about that the other day, as I saw this article reprinted on Facebook:

As a child, dust was a part of life in West Texas, and when watching the tiny particles dance in the air currents as sunlight streamed through the glass, I am reminded of how tiny and tossed about those particles were. To early man, surely that seemed to be the atoms, the smallest building blocks of the nature, as well as the eventual fate of all matter.
We now know that those tiny particles consist of skin cells, pollen, insect parts and waste, tiny fibers and who knows what else produced by the wearing down of our world. They are also that of which we are made. I prefer the use of dust rather than clay because it is so transient, no hard to grasp, whereas clay has substance, is something to be molded. Perhaps it is best thought of as a substance once we are created for God to work with.

(Jonathan) #77

I find it interesting how polarized the book of Genesis becomes in the origins debate. People often discuss it as if we must choose between two extremes (my doubtlessly over-generalized summaries of the extremes follow): the EC theological allegory “Genesis is non-literal poetry” approach vs. the literalistic fundamentalist “Genesis is (practically) a scientific textbook” approach. But why not explore some middle ground? In my experience, acknowledging that Genesis is the Bible’s historical narrative of God’s creation of the world in no way undermines my acknowledgement that the historical narrative of Genesis (like the historical narratives in many other parts of the OT) contains truths that are a great blessing to our theology. As such, I can affirm the great theological truths revealed to us in Genesis as well as the historicity of Genesis. In the end, we shouldn’t emphasize the theology of Genesis at the expense of its historicity (and vice versa), especially since we can enjoy the best of both worlds!

To be sure, our Christian faith is firmly grounded in, of course, Christ. However, that is certainly not to say that the other doctrines taught in Scripture are unimportant. I (and I’m sure you also) soundly reject “Gospel Reductionism,” that is, that all that matters is the Gospel (in its narrowest sense).

A thing that I see far more often than I would like in the origins debate is the creation of some sort of hierarchy of Christian doctrine, that is, making one doctrine or Bible passage “more important” or “more foundational” than another. Christianity really isn’t a buffet of doctrines where we can take what we like and leave that which we don’t like. I confess the resurrection of Christ, and I also joyfully confess the doctrines of Creation and Sanctification (etc.).

This question was actually posed to me a few weeks ago, ironically. The first answer that came to my mind was “I trust the Bible because I trust Jesus.” That seemed to be the “correct” answer. However, when I think about it, the answer I would give is “I trust Jesus and I trust the Bible.” To explain myself: I certainly don’t value the Bible above Jesus, but I would know precious little about Jesus if it wasn’t for the holy Scriptures. Thus, I trust and confess Jesus (the Word made Flesh) and I trust and confess the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures…And I am sure that you do as well! :slight_smile:

We can explore the idea, but we must always continue to stand on the truths of Scripture. As long as we confess the doctrine of Creation as taught in the Scriptures, the LCMS should remain in one piece (I hope).

When I wrote that, I was indeed referring to the more exegetical/theological attempts. I’m interested in discussing the science as well, however. :wink:

Blessings to you as well!


Agreed. We must stand on the truths of Scripture. Absolutely. The problem I see is that those who espouse the historical literal 6-day view as the only “plain reading” enter the conversation assuming they are doing that, while those opposed to that idea are not standing on scripture by default. That ends the conversation before it can begin. That’s the fundamentalism at work. “The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.”

I was listening on the way home to Issues Etc. and Todd Wilken was having listeners vote on the best quote of the week. One of those was from Michael Behe against evolution on the grounds that it is bad science based on faulty assumptions. Listeners responded calling evolution a cancer, an evil, etc. This on our flagship station many of our people listen too. I would love to hear Todd Wilken or Pr. Jonathan Fisk, who I also enjoy, interview Francis Collins or Dr. @Swamidass for an articulation of the BioLogos view. Many Christian school principals I work with have the same view. Evolution is consistently viewed as an enemy and is constantly defined only in its most materialistic terms of random chance. This also plays out in our Lutheran education system. It’s a dismissive mischaracterization of both the people practicing the science and of evolution itself. These well-intentioned folks believe they are standing on the truth of a plain reading of Scripture.

(Jonathan) #79

@EvolvingLutheran, I assure you, I certainly don’t intend to end any conversations before they begin! :slight_smile: I firmly believe that these conversations need to happen, but, in past conversations, I must say that I have consistently found TE/EC interpretations of Genesis to be unconvincing. Of course, that’s me being honest about the background I’m bringing to this discussion, and I certainly don’t mean to imply that I am unwilling to have more conversations about this subject (the opposite is true, actually :wink: )!

Ultimately, I am interested in hearing how you reconcile evolution with the Scriptures and I would be delighted to discuss this topic with you (and @mlkluther) further!


I hear what you’re saying - but that’s precisely what Lutherans do. Justification is the article upon which the Church stand or falls. Christ is the centre. Other doctrines are periphery. Not unimportant, by any means, but periphery and dependent on the centre.

The image of a spoked wheel is often used. Christ/Justification is the hub. Other doctrines are the spokes. If a spoke here or there is a little weak or wobbly or bent…the wheel can continue to spin. However, if the hub is broken the wheel collapses.