LCMS Lutherans and Evolution


Thanks, Al. It actually makes quite a bit of sense to me. I wasn’t always Lutheran. Though I was baptized and confirmed in a Lutheran church that was part of the newly formed ELCA, they didn’t do a good job of really discipling my parents, so my folks in turn weren’t able to really impart and model faith to me. The church felt really ineffectual and dead spiritually. I left me open to experimenting with other things like new age philosophy and pop-occultism that was popular at the time. I think I was searching for a sense of power I knew must exist but was lacking in the church. It also may be why I was drawn to the performing arts.

It wasn’t until college that God began to reveal himself to me, sending people at various times and inexplicable ways to do so. Through friends in the drama department I wound up in the charismatic Pentecostal church where I heard the gospel powerfully proclaimed, witnessed people really loving each other and wanting to know Jesus. And “got saved” as they say. Complete with what they term the “baptism of the Spirit” and all.

Experience is a powerful thing. The problem with experience I find is that it is so ephemeral and potentially misleading. I had many friends who were “word seekers”, people who followed so-called prophets and apostles who gave personal “words of wisdom” for life-guidance. Much of it generically harmless, but some quite dangerous. Experience was elevated above the Word of God rather than being subject to it.

Took me many years, but beginning to question my experience led me to the LCMS where I’ve been for two decades. Lutherans believe in the Spirit and don’t prohibit that God can speak however and wherever He sovereignly pleases. But we say that He works through Means, the primary one being the Word of God to which everything else must be conformed. That’s why this discussion we’re having on proper hermeneutics and interpretation is so critical to us.

The idea of a Failure to Rise is interesting. But as I think of it, I personally find “rising” impossible. The evidence of a Fall universal in that I see it in myself and ubiquitously in others, regardless of whether Adam was an archetype, a special creation, whatever. Original sin lives in me. Try as I might I can’t rise because of the impossible gap that I need Jesus to fill for me.

Many blessings to you friend!

(Albert Leo) #142

@EvolvingLutheran, I sincerely appreciate your accounting of some of the steps taken in your search for the Truth, both as a baptized Lutheran and later as an evangelical, and finally back to LCMS. I have always been intrigued by the legend of Diogenes, who, we are told, carried a lantern searching for a 'truly human’ person. This was prior to the Incarnation, prior to Paul’s spreading the Words of Life that Jesus preached, and so it not surprising that Diogenes’ lantern led him only to cynicism.

The Good News preached by Paul (and others) certainly sheds some light on what it takes to be considered truly human; i.e. in the Image of God. But my search, and evidently yours too, shows that Christian Scripture alone does not make it a ‘slam dunk’ pathway to the Truth. To their credit, both Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking described their driving passion for expanding the frontiers of science as: “wanting to know the Mind of God”–even though that sort of ‘god’ would be nothing like the personal God of Christian Faith.

For me at least, when the requirements of science are strictly applied to describing the appearance of humankind, the result is the theory of evolution, which new data is constantly reconfirming. Many millennia ago, in the ANE, thoughtful people judged much of the predation in Nature as ‘evil’ (“red in tooth and claw”), which indicates that Homo sapiens sapiens was evolving a sense of Morality–that humans were concluding that a good Creaator-God could not look upon such actions as totally and intrinsically Good.

As Hunter-Gatherers, humans were predators, but, almost without exception, they developed rituals that thanked their slain prey for providing them sustenance. This behavior was enriched when humans raised animals for food, eventually culminating in the symbol of the crucified Jesus as a Lamb slain as sacrifice.

So evolution is consistent with a humankind, when gifted with a Mind/Conscience, could choose to rise above the rest of animal life, even if that meant forming moral societies and forgoing many of the selfish pleasures that could be enjoyed as individuals. To answer the question: “Who is Truly Human?” Jesus responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan: “Who is my Neighbor?” Mother Theresa understood this and ministered to the homeless beggars on the streets of Calcutta. We need to keep this in mind when we deal with those seeking asylum at our southern border, or those homeless (and possibly mentally ill) on the streets of L.A.

No, Rising is NOT impossible. It’s just that, for me at least, it’s too comfortable to leave it to others. What my worldview fails to explain is how easy it seems to recruit evolved humans to become 'suicidal sacrifices’ to kill others who have done them no harm in the belief they are doing God’s Will. Evolution would not predict that. It seems that only the proposal of a personified Satan would suffice, and that just defies reason, IMHO.
Can anyone help me out of this conundrum?
Al Leo


Yes, I agree it’s not a slam dunk. Scripture is a closed book without the “hearing of faith”. Human reason cannot receive it’s message, but sees it as foolishness. That’s why I don’t think evolution can ever naturally arrive at it. So, I think you’re correct that Einstein and Hawking would arrive at a different idea of divinity.

Reason only carries us so far, which is kind of what I’m intimating when I say I can’t rise. I can rise only so far and only in relation to other human beings. I need the extra nos revelation of the Gospel to do that, to go where I need and want to be. On the other hand, being re-created in Christ we do indeed rise as He himself is risen to the right hand of God. But we can’t evolve to it naturally. It’s after all NOT natural. We can only be carried in His person.

So I think we can agree that evolution IS consistent with humankind. However I’d build on that by saying that Jesus is not consistent with humankind. He’s a God/Man kind. He didn’t come to give us a behavioral ideal to model, but to grant forgiveness and eternal life by virtue of a resurrected life. And that’s the message human reason can’t receive. Our mind/conscience is darkened where it really counts, until He turns on the light for us.

Your mention of Paul brings up an interesting example, especially in light of the bombings in Sri Lanka in which the church was specifically targeted. Paul, in his unregenerate state, called himself a “blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man”. Acts recounts he was “breathing out murderous threats against the church” and pursuing them from city to city. Jesus had said there would be those like him who would “kill you thinking they are offering a service unto God” (John 16:2). So here’s Paul (Saul), a really smart, dare I say educated, individual, terrorizing the church out of zeal for God. His human reason couldn’t accept the message…couldn’t reason the mind of God…until He was knocked off his horse by an encounter with the resurrected Jesus.

I can’t understand all the complexities that go into the mind and heart of a “suicidal sacrifice”, aside from it being demonic. But I do think that Paul’s case provides some interesting insight. I can’t though explain it from a purely evolutionary standpoint, unless perhaps to see it as an example of survival of the fittest. The “fittest” being those who impose their will by eradicating the “weak”.

The Body of Christ however still exists in such a world and modern-day Sauls still persecute Him, and He suffers it. One can only pray they’ll get knocked off their horse soon, too, because I don’t think evil listens to reason either.

Thanks, Al.

(Albert Leo) #144

Having been strongly influenced by both Darwin and by Teilhard, I have built a worldview based on some of their insights (and terminology) in the attempt to merge the science of evolution with my Faith which is essentially Christian (I hope). The result does require some modification of the Apostle’s Creed which I profess.

As I matured, I realized that, in referring to Jesus Christ, I should not continue to consider ‘Christ’ as Jesus’ surname. I think that ‘Christ’ is another name for ‘Messiah’ and is the title (the Christ) which is given to the ‘essential nature’ of our Creator which desires a part of his creation to succeed in becoming a true Image of Him. The Christ existed before there was anything like time or space. (“Before Abraham was, I am.”). Jesus, of course, was the totally human son of Mary. (I would be be comfortable if it were true that Joseph was his biological father. Scripture has Jesus referring to the temple as ‘my Father’s house’, but he would be referring to his spiritual Father.)

I do not claim to totally understand the mystery of the Incarnation, but I am comfortable with the belief that when Homo sapiens evolved to the point that their brains could support language and other abstract ideas, they possessed the potential to become Images of their Creator, but only potentially. Biological evolution had endowed them with so many selfish genes that these (most often) overrode those that would promote empathy, love, and self-sacrifice. I’d like to believe that Jesus, however He was conceived, was conceived with the genetic endowment of a Homo sapiens; or more specifically, Homo sapiens sapiens, since many generations before him had benefited from the ability for abstract thought; had entered into the Noosphere.

Jesus possessed one enormous difference, however: He not only had the potential to become the Image of God, He was destined for that role. He was the Christ, the Messiah promised before there was Time. He truly was the Son of God as well as Son of Man. He was the product of both Biosphere and Noosphere, and was God’s way of leading humankind on the road from Alpha to Omega, from a ‘good’ but ‘faulty’ earthly life to the (spiritual) Promised Kingdom.

IMHO what my worldview needs for completion, philosophically, is the reason why true creation requires sacrifice. A possible example of this is “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, the story of Michelangelo’s misery while painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But the essential case involves how each of us are called to cast off our old selves to enter a new life. Jesus expressed it as: “Take up your cross and follow me.” And, almost beyond belief, God himself (as Jesus) accepted the suffering on the Cross to lead the way. To me at least, this is the point where I must admit that Reason will take me no further; I must rely on Faith.

So…each day I awake and find out that I am still alive, I look forward to trying to understand what God has in store for me. God must have a sense of humor to value our simplistic attempts to understand the UN-understandable.
All best wishes,

(Jonathan) #145

Greetings to all! (@EvolvingLutheran and @mlkLuther especially :wink: ).

In case you had not already ascertained, I have been (and will be) extremely busy (and thus unable to respond to comments) for a time. I think we are getting into some very interesting points, so I hope I will get time to respond soon!

Thank you both for an interesting discussion so far!



:grin: Been there!

I don’t think there’s a problem with that. It’s consistent with his ‘taking on flesh’, ‘being found in appearance as a man’, and necessary to be ‘tempted in every way’ as we all are. The only distinction being that unlike us He was without sin. His ‘flesh’ had to be real flesh in order for our humanity to be assumed into His divinity.

And I don’t personally see difficulty with the idea of Homo sapiens evolving to the point where language and abstract thought could be supported. I think care probably should be taken with potential in relation to Jesus, as it could convey the idea that He lacked something of divinity or humanity from conception, but I see what you’re getting at.

We might say He is the true image bearer that Adam was intended to be but lost. And that as we are re-created in Him, we regain the image that had been lost.

Assuming we mean that Jesus is ‘true creation’, then I think it’s because it’s the only way He can impart eternal life to sinful people. Not just be one man’s death, but by a unique God/Man’s death in order that He can become a living hope that secures those promises for us in a way we can rely upon.

Good thoughts, Al! Stay curious! We could all use a little more of that.


@mlkluther and @J.E.S

Hi Gents! It’s been a while since we’ve hooked up. Hope you’re both well. In the meantime I’ve been reviewing a lot of material from CTS St. Louis on Seminex given how the whole higher criticism issue factors into it. There’s a good video series with theological history profs Gerhard Bode and Erik Hermann. Lengthy but really lays it out well.

The workbook for the 2019 Convention is out as well.
2019 Convention Workbook

Please note the 14 Overtures on Creation on pages 432-438. Two request further examination of all positions, which I think would be worthwhile. But the rest are all calls to re-affirm both Age of the Earth in terms of thousands of years as well as 6 24 hour calendar week creation. One requests that only this position be taught in all institutions across the board. That would really hamper our ability for scientific inquiry at the high school and university level in preparing students for work in these fields.

Would love to know your thoughts.
Blessings to you!


I tried to take a look at the overtures…but the large PDF and my iPad didn’t like each other. I’ll have to take a look again.

In a discussion yesterday The Brief Statement was brought up as a trump card on this issue…essentially saying that the issue of the 6 24 hours days has been already made LCMS official teaching.

The status of the Brief Statement in LCC is unclear to me, and I’m see, I’m seeking clarification.


Let me know what you find. Since I posted last, I discovered something fascinating. If you look at the overtures, the most hopeful and measured one was presented by the Concordia Faculty.

Here’s the kicker…

In addition to the terrific series on Seminex, Dr. Herrmann also worked on a series of videos on The History of Science which I’m presently working my way through. Bear in mind this is on the CSL website. His guests? @TedDavis , Joshua @Swamidass and others. I’m happily floored!

Theological History of Science Videos - Concordia Seminary St. Louis

What I can’t wrap my head around is this issue over the Brief Statement of 1932 and A Statement from 1973. Both take a hard stance on 6 day creation. Yet, this video series clearly says they’re thinking this through which I take as a VERY positive and hopeful sign.

To your point about the “trump card”, I think some would like us all to think its settled. But it’s in violation of Article 2 of our Constitution which holds the Scripture as the ONLY rule and norm and the Confessions as the true exposition of the Scriptures. There is NO THIRD RAIL.

In my opinion we should be adopting a Two Kingdoms approach to Theology and Science just as we articulate in Article 7 on Church and State.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

(Jonathan) #150

Thank you for resurrecting the conversation, @EvolvingLutheran! I think I will comment on your thoughts here (and then respond to some posts from the misty reaches of the distant past…:wink: )

Thanks for sharing the convention workbook! I looked at some of the resolutions you mentioned, and I was happy to see that the LCMS is continuing to give thought to the issue of origins.

Are you referring to this one?

Resolved, That we memorialize the Synod in convention to
reaffirm that all who teach in congregations, schools, colleges,
universities and seminaries of Synod are to teach and use doctrinally
sound materials that are available regarding the creation of the
universe (the cosmos or heavens and the earth in English) and the
fall of man, specifically that the universe (the cosmos or heavens
and the earth in English) was created in six solar days by God’s
command and that all death is a result of sin; and be it further
Resolved, That we memorialize the Synod in convention to direct
the LCMS President’s office to conduct a review and report within
the next triennium of how the theory of evolution is being addressed
at each of our colleges, universities and seminaries; and be it finally
Resolved, That we memorialize the Synod to direct each district
president to review and report within the next triennium how the
theory of evolution is being addressed in the respective
congregations and schools of his district

Ultimately, I think it would be pretty exciting if the our LCMS schools (especially our universities) would teach Creation (Note: I have heard that some of them actually do within the status quo). That would really allow Lutherans to take the lead in much of the Creation science of the future (as opposed what we have seen in the past [I appreciated the overture from South Wisconsin district on page 433 concerning that :wink: ]). That would be a huge blessing to our church body (and probably to Christians in general).

However, I must also add the caveat that I would not advocate a resolution seeking to completely stamp out the teaching of Evolution in our synodical schools. As the mainstream scientific position, I think that students at LCMS universities should be educated about the theory of (macro)evolution (the theorized workings of it, the evidence for and against, and why it is in conflict with the Scriptures). In almost every instance, it is important to understand both sides of an issue (the scientific world is a place where this is even more critical). If educating (as opposed to indoctrinating) our students about opposing viewpoints (or non-Lutheran viewpoints) is wrong, then we would have the moral obligation to take any professor that teaches a world religions class and have him burned at the stake. :wink: (Just kidding, but I think that serves to illustrate the point).

And now we shall travel back in time…

That is true. However, the perspicuity of Scripture also applies to other matters (i.e. since the Scriptures are clear enough to bring someone to faith in Christ, it would logically follow that they are clear in other matters as well). Concerning this point, it is also important to note that the Scriptures are historically accurate and that the historical events recorded in them (the Resurrection of Christ is, of course, the prime example) can be important or critical to our theology (or, at least, contain implications which are important to our theology).

What exactly do you mean by self-interpreting? Many things are clearly stated by the Scriptures (and do not seem to require interpretation). If interpretive questions arise, other Bible passages may be applicable to the question at hand (for instance, the verses from Exodus we have discussed helpfully interpret Genesis 1).

This could be an interesting discussion to have…What Scriptural arguments for the Baptist’s version of Baptism do you find plausible/valid/compelling?

This sums up one of my problems with TE interpretations of Genesis: on the most basic level, they are almost completely driven by extraneous considerations rather than issues within the text itself.

The Jonah reference isn’t even the most challenging aspect of that passage when it comes to interpretation. :wink:

This is a very interesting discussion that has implications far beyond the origins debate! Ultimately, (when it comes to the interpretation discussion) I have found it more profitable to look at specific instances of difficult passages and our interpretation(s) of them rather than discuss the underlying epistemology of the authority debate. Not to say that the epistemology discussion isn’t important (it certainly is!) but sometimes we find some of the more ethereal epistemological truths we’re looking for when we look at concrete Scriptural examples. Lutheranism has a very rich exegetical tradition, so we can have some fun putting that to good use! :slight_smile:

I have come down rather negatively on postmodernism in the past (although I should note that the above-linked article focuses more on the relativistic aspects of postmodern philosophies and that these philosophical eras are extremely multi-faced constructions). I hope you find it interesting, at any rate :wink: !

I don’t think I will contest any of this. I acknowledge that the Bible contains some difficult passages, and I most certainly don’t deny that the Bible is an ancient book (if I did, that would result in some rather hilarious contradictions within my position :wink: ). However, I should probably note that the Holy Spirit does work in and through the Word of God…God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

Blessings to you both (@EvolvingLutheran and @mlkluther)!


Yes, however to my rather jaundiced eye this appears more a means to control and curtail any contrary debate, such as what occurred with Mr. Jurchen in 2017 at Concordia Nebraska. That would not be a blessing to either us or Christians in general. And I’d take issue with framing the issue as “educating students about opposing viewpoints” in relation to evolution as Science and Faith are not in conflict.

Historically accurate is one thing. Scientifically accurate is something else. God’s Word is not a book of science and it uses accommodating language when discussing matters beyond its audiences comprehension. It is perspicacious in matters it speaks of when understood as intended.

That it requires a certain amount of skill even when applying principles like Scripture interprets Scripture to get at the real meaning. I mentioned Baptists but any credo-baptist believer will not accept our understanding of the same texts (like 1Pet 21-22 or John 3) because they begin from a different starting point. Haven’t you had such discussions?

I don’t agree. There’s the textual side, but one can’t deal with the scientific side from the textual. And that’s what I see most YEC arguments try and do, assert textual authority over scientific matters which require a different language…mathematics. Do check out the first video in that History of Science series with Ted Davis and let me know what you think.

@mlkluther I’d like a better understanding of the authority quote. I’m not sure I get it.

Blessings my brothers!