The Threat of Evolution
As someone who has been a progressive, mainline Protestant most of his life, I have never had a problem with evolution. I just figured that it was God’s mechanism for creation and never saw a contradiction between my Christian faith and the truth of evolution. So I have always been puzzled by the antipathy of evangelicals towards evolution and by their obsession with “intelligent design” and “creation science,” which is not scientific at all. After all, doesn’t the Bible itself admit the relativity of time from the perspective of the Deity? “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:4)–a theme that gets picked up again in the New Testament in 2 Peter 3:8. It seems that not even the Bible requires one to believe that the creation happened in six 24-hour days.
I guess I am a slow learner, but now I finally realize the real threat of evolution to the evangelicals. And it really has nothing to do with the days of creation. Darwinian natural selection shows us that species emerge through a painfully slow process of incremental change. There is, therefore, no “first’ example of any species at all–no “first” dog, or “first” giraffe, and certainly no “first” homo sapiens. The transition from predecessor hominids was almost imperceptible.
So, if there was no “first” human, there was no version of Adam or Eve. There was no pristine state of original paradise from which humanity “fell” into sin. And if there was no fall into sin, then there is also no need for redemption. The role of Christ as the “Second Adam” is at the heart of the New Testament’s argument about his salvific significance: “Therefore, just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.” (Romans 5:18)
No original human being–no “Adam”–then no fall, no original sin and no redemption. Thus, Jesus’ redemptive and sacrificial death on the cross is pointless. The whole raison d’etre of Christianity ceases to exist.
So, in some respects I think I have to give some points to the evangelicals for recognizing the threat of evolution to the Christian world-view. Say what you will about their theology, at least they’re consistent!