Evolution and the Image of God

Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: God and Creation For many good reasons, solid Christian theologians have sharply criticized and rejected Darwinian macro-evolution as an unchristian and unbiblical teaching.  Darwinism doesn’t square with the biblical record nor does it mesh with biblical doctrine.  I bring up this topic because a friend pointed me to a recent article on evolution by a retired Christian Reformed Church pastor.  His argument was thus: since evolution is true (the scientists say so!), we have to reformulate all our key doctrines to fit the evolutionary paradigm – from sin to salvation to eschatology.  You can find the article online by searching “Tomorrow’s Theology” and “evolution.”

Suffice it to say the article is extremely problematic and even outside the bounds of Christian and Reformed orthodoxy.  To say that Paul was wrong about Adam being the “first man” is not in line with historical Christian doctrine!  To say that Christ’s human nature evolved from fish and monkeys certainly isn’t a Christian teaching!  If we would reformulate all our doctrines to harmonize with evolution, we would be left with something other than Christianity.

In light of this article, I found it helpful to go back and see what some older Reformed teachers have written about evolution.  Here’s good section on this topic in volume 2 of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics (p. 519-520).  In this section, Bavinck wrote about the theory of evolution and the image of God in man (Gen. 9:6 & James 3:9).  Especially pay attention to the last paragraph.

“Darwinism above all fails to provide an explanation of humanness in terms of its psychic dimension.  Darwin began with the attempt to derive all the mental phenomena to be found in humans (consciousness, language, religion, morality, etc.) from phenomena occurring in animals, and many others have followed him in this regard.  But up until now these attempts have not been successful either.  Like the essence of energy and matter, the origin of movement, the origination of life, and teleology, so also human consciousness, language, freedom of the will, religion, and morality still belong to the enigmas of the world that await resolution.  Ideas, which are entirely mental, relate to the brain in a very different way from the way bile relates to the liver and urine to the kidneys.  In the words of Max Muller, language is and remains the Rubicon between us and the animal world.”

“The psychological explanation of religion is untenable.  And the derivation of morality from human social instincts fails to do justice to the authority of the moral law, to the categorical character of the moral imperative, to the ‘imperatives’ of the good, to conscience, responsibility, the sense of sin, repentance, remorse, and punishment.  Indeed, although Darwinism as such is not wholly identical with materialism, it nevertheless tends in that direction, finds there its most significant support, and thus also paves the way for the subversion of religion and morality and the destruction of our humanness.  There is no advantage for people to say that it is better to be a highly developed animal than a fallen human.  The theory of the animal ancestry of humans violates the image of God in man and degrades the human into an image of the orangutan and chimpanzee.  From the standpoint of evolution humanity as the image of God cannot be maintained.  The theory of evolution forces us to return to creation as Scripture presents it to us.”

True, Christians might be called idiots and dolts for firmly rejecting Darwinism.  But it won’t be the first time we’ve been called names for holding tightly to biblical truth and rejecting what is false.  And it won’t be the last!  Our duty is to stand firm and hold to the traditions taught by the apostles (2 Thess. 2:14) – even when it is unpopular and counter-cultural.

rev shane lems

6 thoughts on “Evolution and the Image of God”

  1. I am increasingly embarrassed to admit I belong to the denomination that published this retired minister’s drivel. To the author’s credit, at least he maintains consistency between his scientific and theological conclusions. Although he certainly didn’t intend it, he does a marvelous job at demonstrating why marcro-evolution and orthodox Christianity are mutually exclusive.

    His premise is built on the same flawed theology that has formed the basis for the numerous poor decisions the CRC has made over the last 25+ years: that general and special revelation are on par with each other, rather than the Calvinistic teaching that God’s creative revelation must be understood through the lens of Scripture.

    Heresy like this is not born as the result of deviations in the nuanced details of theological systems, but rather because people fail to understand or flat out reject the simple but mighty pillars that hold up everything we believe – the stuff that should be taught early in the Christian life.

    Maybe you should provide a link to this article, if only so that the preachers / elders / teachers who read this blog will see just how slippery the slope is and redouble their efforts to provide solid Confessional catechesis to hungry Christians.


  2. I can’t believe I used to follow Biologos for awhile.
    Thanks for publishing the article!


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