LCMS Lutherans and Evolution


I have just returned from a conference at where I heard a speaker from the Bible Science Institute essentially say that if you don’t believe in a literal 6, 24 hour day interpretation of the Creation account and a 6000ish old earth…you are attacking the foundations of the Christian Faith. If you can’t trust the Bible in Genesis why can you trust it in the Gospels?

This is what I see as problematic. It’s not a matter of trusting the Bible. It’s not a matter of believing that Genesis is God’s Word. It’s a disagreement over what we are reading in Genesis. It’s an isagogical, hermeneutical, and exegetical issue.


Have you read or watched (YouTube, etc) the work of Denis Lamoureux or John Walton?

(Chris) #83

Could that mean that LCMS Lutherans only reject [Neo-]Darwinian evolution?

(Jonathan) #84

Well, not exactly. In my affirmation of the doctrine of Creation, I don’t undermine the centrality of Christ. What I am mainly criticizing when I speak of this “hierarchy” is when people attempt to leverage the primary importance of the Gospel as a way to diminish other important doctrines (i.e: Creation). I am extremely uncomfortable with this (as it can end up coming dangerously close to what we call “Gospel Reductionism”). I hope that clarifies my previous comment… :slight_smile:

Precisely! I have heard this illustration in the past, and I like it. :slight_smile:

I have not, but I would be interested if you would be so kind as to provide a link to articles etc. that would be a good place to start (I also prefer reading to watching, shockingly enough :wink: ).


Oy. God bless you!


I believe you, friend!

It’s almost the mirror opposite of your situation. For me, I’ve become unconvinced of those interpretations that I once held and that are used most frequently by YEC adherents. And the more I consider them, the less impressive I find them.

We might look at the question the other way around: is there exegetical argument that mandates a literal interpretation as the only proper reading? If the answer is no, then it opens up other possibilities.

I’m no longer impressed by the attempts to limit the understanding of “yom” to a 24 hour day given its variety of usage through Gen 2:7. I’m not convinced that the terms “evening and morning” necessitate a 24 hour period. I find the arguments that stylistically it must read as history rather thin. I find merit to the point that God’s resting on the 7th day an indication of non-literal anthropomorphic language because we know He never slumbers nor sleeps. And when I consider the exegetical work of Augustine, Origen, and even Luther’s commentary on Genesis, it seems that attempts to read it scientifically fall short. And none of these seem to militate the necessity of a strict literal view of the creation days. Luther seemed to respect the boundaries with the scientists (philosophers) of his day allowing them room to function within their sphere of discipline. I thought he’d be far more dogmatic than he is in those writings.

That’s a start. But in truth, it was the scientific evidence and Christians practicing that science that led to a reevaluation of the exegetical rather than the other way round. I tend to run at the mouth, so I’ll stop for now.


(Jonathan) #87

May I ask: what exactly do you mean when you say “literal?” I really can’t answer yes or no to your question unless I know what you mean (for instance, if your definition of literal has to do with authorial intent, I’d say that that Exodus 20:11 strongly indicates a “yes” answer [for one element, at least]. Interpreting Scripture with Scripture… :wink: ). Also, even if the answer is “no,” I’m not sure that would ipso facto render a literal interpretation false.

If I may assume your interpretation is not literal, what do you call it? Is it allegorical? (Just trying to see where you are coming from a bit better :slight_smile: ).

Does God’s resting on the 7th day necessitate sleep or slumber/sleep? That seems like a stretch to me…

What does it mean to read Genesis “scientifically?” I don’t agree with “reading the Bible like a scientific textbook” (well, saying that might be a bit premature, depending on what you mean by that :wink: ). However, I am also against “updating” our interpretations of Scripture based on what science may appear to say.

Anyhow, thanks for taking the time to discuss with me, and I look forward to hearing from you!



It’s interesting you picked Ex 20:11. (Ex 31:17 as well) I was doing a study of the phrase “six days” and where it’s used and in what context. Exodus uses it more than any other book. The argument makes some sense if Moses was describing events as they occurred. However, if the authorial intent of Moses was to implant the importance of the weekly Sabbatical cycle onto the Jewish people, it makes equal sense. In other words, the literary ordering of Genesis 1 may take its cue from the central importance of the Sabbatical cycle. 7 days. 7 years. It also points to the eternal rest achieved for us by Jesus work upon the Cross, done at the end of the Passover week, and the ultimate culmination of His second coming which institutes our permanent corporate rest in Him. Skipping to Revelation we see those cycles of 6 in the plagues, the bowls, and trumpets, are completed in the 7th after a break in the action. It’s an interesting repetition. Like Jesus being transfigured after 6 days on the mountain.

So is it literal, or literary? My jury is still out on that.

When I say literal I’m referring primarily to the video camera recording of a calendar week of 24 hour days like an action film. I’d differentiate that from the literal theological truth being communicated: God is creator. God is a plurality. God creates all things good. God creates an abode fitting for man. God creates Man in his image to rule His creation. Man rebels against God. God is not the source of evil. God has a plan of redemption.

Much like the parables, literal truth in conveyed in literary terms. Parables use fictional stories to illuminate literal truth about the nature of God, man, and redemption.

So while it may not render a literal interpretation false by default, neither do those verses necessitate a literal interpretation of “how” God created.

If I understand the question correctly, I wouldn’t say it does. What I’m referring to is the different usage of the word “day” where YEC arguments (which LCMS employs) insist it is a 24 hour period. It makes more sense if we are talking about God resting in a literary sense as opposed to literal. Consider John 5:17 when Jesus was accused by the Pharisees for healing on the Sabbath, He says “My Father is working until this day and I too am working”. Or as the NIV puts it “is always at work…”. It’s not like God needs to take a breather on the 7th day. He’s setting aside a day of rest which has not only weekly significance to his chosen people, but eternal significance that finds its reality in Jesus now and yet to be.

When I say “scientifically”, I’m referring to the tendency to say “on Day 1 God did x,y,z…etc.” and then at 6pm had to knock off for the night. Augustine, who believed in instantaneous creation, nevertheless said affirms that ordinary 24-hour days “are not at all like the days of Genesis 1, but very, very different”. He balances the literal with the literary. I see value in that.

Back to you, brother.


Well, if this illustration works for you let’s go with it! :slight_smile: It illustrates what I was suggesting when it comes to ordering doctrines, etc.

Here is Lamoureux’s site. The free course through Coursera is well worth taking. He is a PHd in both Theology and Science.

Here’s a good intro to John Walton:


This has been my experience as well.

(Phil) #91

Just started the course. I think even for someone who has been around here, it will teach me something, and remind me of what I forgot!


I’ll be curious to hear what you think!

(Jonathan) #93

I often get those two Bible references mixed up and ultimately go looking for one or the other only to arrive at a completely different passage. It is in these cases that I thank God for Google! :slight_smile:

It seems far more likely (to me, at least) that the Sabbatical cycle came from the creation narrative (rather than the other way around). The verses from Exodus seem to imply this:

Exodus 31:16-17
Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

I would say it can be both! :slight_smile: Genesis can be the narrative of God’s Creation of the world without diminishing the great theological truths imparted to us in the same text.

Are you saying that the Genesis account is fictional? The Gospels are not fictional, yet they definitely illuminate literal truth about the nature of God, man, and redemption.

Thankfully, God is always sustaining His creation!

A point of clarification: are you saying that Genesis doesn’t describe the actual creation event?

@EvolvingLutheran, thanks once again for taking the time to discuss this interesting topic with us! :slight_smile:

@mlkluther, thanks for the links!

Hello, @jpm! It has been a while! I suppose the joy of forgetting is that it gives us the joy of learning something all over again…In addition to the satisfaction of being able to say that we “already knew” that something (when we forget that we forgot it). :wink:


Amen! :grin:

I would say the evidence of the usage through Exodus and the rest of the Law show the opposite. That the intent of Moses, the author of both Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch, is to adopt the creation narrative as further justification and support for the Sabbatical week. We bear in mind that he’s writing this all at the same time. A “week” means nothing to God but it does to the people experiencing time. For example, it’s why the creation of the sun, moon, and stars are for days, seasons, and years. Moses is giving order to their cultural milieux which is based off of the lunar cycle.

I am saying the Genesis account is theological truth, not scientific truth. And certainly the Gospels are not fictional because they make different claims that can be tested as eyewitness accounts. In fact, they beg to be tested in such fashion. Genesis doesn’t make scientific claims. It deals with order and causation, not methodology.

It describes it in a way necessary to provide order and identity in a cultural and theological way. As I said in the previous post, there are certain things we come away with that are absolutely true about the Creator, man, sin, etc. but it’s theological truth as opposed to scientific.


Hey thanks, @mlkluther! Just finished watching this. Very enjoyable and helped clarify some things. One thing I wonder about is what all this means for church authority in church teaching and practice. Particularly in the area of Law and Gospel application and how the church speaks evangelically. For instance: when it deals with calling people to repentance, to walk in newness of life, to “go and sin no more”, etc. For instance, LCMS teaching would point to complementarianism arguments from creation to inform modern positions on women’s ordination, gay marriage and the like. Paul obviously used such arguments in the early ordering of the church. Many today disagree with his positions, say they’re simply cultural, or point out that Jesus doesn’t really address them. This is why the formal principal of the ELCA is the gospel (aka “love”) rather than sola scriptura. Thoughts?


I assume you are referring to the Walton video as it would take you a lot more time to watch through all the Lamoureux course! :slight_smile:I very much appreciate Walton’s approach. I am not sure about everything necessarily - but his overall approach seems to mesh with a Lutheran hermeneutic quite nicely.

I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at - could you clarify this?


Yes. The Walton one posted earlier. Haven’t had a chance to look at the other yet.

Some of synod’s CTCR documents I’ve read seem to refer to the Genesis account’s order of creation as support for positions like the ones I mentioned. For instance, tying in with Pauline passages on women teaching in the church like 1 Tim 2:13-14 in which he quotes the Genesis account. I wonder what becomes of the argument for such positions other than “good order” if the literal understanding is removed. Perhaps I’m simply overthinking it.

(Jonathan) #98

Let’s look at our Exodus verses again…Exodus 20:11 talks about the timescale of creation (in the sense of God’s actual creative act) and then cites it as the reason and justification of the Sabbatical week. Genesis’s justification of the Sabbatical week doesn’t undermine its historicity…

How many types of truth are there? What are the differences between them?

What exactly is a “scientific claim?” I think we should probably define what we mean by that before saying that Genesis doesn’t make such claims…Also, I’m curious what you mean by saying that Genesis deals with “order and causation, not methodology.” It seems to me that those two are not mutually exclusive…

Hmmmm…Perhaps, for instance, that death entered the world through sin? We further see this in the book of Romans:

Romans 5:12-14 (ESV)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

I look forward to reading your responses! :slight_smile: Thanks for your patience with my (almost) endless streams of clarification questions! :wink:


This is a big area of discussion. How are you understanding “death” in this context?


Let’s answer this one because I think the other questions are related to it (e.g. historicity, scientific claims, theological truth etc.).

Your right, truth is truth. However, truth can be packaged in different ways can it not? My young son likes to do magic tricks. When he learns a new one he gets so excited that he wants to explain to me how he’s doing it. I keep telling him not to tell me his secrets because I want to experience it. So there’s the truth of his method. And there’s the truth of his performance and my experience of it.

Take another example. Someone you love cooks you a spectacular meal but in the middle of the dinner they spend all the time telling you the details of how they made it instead of enjoying the moment with you. There’s the truth of the meal and the formative aspect of the relationship itself. The meal doesn’t matter. The truth of the relationship is the point.

Or take teaching and preaching. Teaching tends to pull apart true things and look at them from different angles. Preaching is formative. It’s goal in preaching the truth of Christ crucified is to form faith in the heart.

So with the Genesis account. It’s truth. But it’s not concerned with scientific methodology. The claims it makes and the truth it is communicating are formative, theological, and related to the identity of God and the Jewish people it’s being given to. God created. God created you. God created you to steward creation. But He also created you for more than work. He made rest for you in which to be restored and to relate to your God as a people.