I have a good friend who is a deist who made a remark today that seemed to indicate to me that one of the hurdles he has in coming to Christ is that someone had told him that you can’t be a real Christian as long as you believe in evolution. Now this isn’t going to be a blog about the truth or falsehood of macroevolutionary theory. This is going to be asking if it’s incompatible with Christianity.
My first thought on hearing this was anger. I really don’t like it when people make something an essential of the faith that isn’t. I figure Alister McGrath, Francis Collins, Dinesh D’Souza, and C.S. Lewis would be shocked at this. (For the record, Lewis later did abandon evolutionary theory.)
In fact, there were several devout Christians who defended Darwinism when it came out. Asa Gray wrote a book called “Darwiniana.” In “A Devil’s Chaplain”, Richard Dawkins talks about an excellent educator named Sanderson who apparently was a Darwinian and a devout Christian as well. There are many such people out there.
I do not believe macroevolutionary theory in itself entails atheism. Contrary to what some atheists may think, one can legitimately view evolution as the instrument whereby God brought about life on this planet. It is only contrary to Christian theism when it is naturalistic evolution and being used as an argument for atheism. Writers like McGrath would say evolution alone cannot tell you whether God exists or not.
Christian faith is not rested on what your view of creation is. I have brothers and sisters who are theistic evolutionists. I have brothers and sisters who are old-earth creationists. I have brothers and sisters who are young-earth creationists. Here’s what we all have in common. We all affirm that Jesus is our Lord and God who died, was buried, and rose again.
So if I want to know if someone is a Christian, I do not ask their views on creation. I ask them their views on Jesus. Is he God? Did he die and rise again? Is he the second person of the Trinity? If they affirm all of those and affirm Christ as their Lord and savior, who am I to tell them that they do not belong to the body?
This needs to be said also. It is quite aggravating to see people make secondary doctrines primary doctrines. In doing so, you are shutting a door in the face of people who could come to Christ. We need to remember that in the essentials, we do have unity. In the non-essentials, we have liberty. In all things though, we have charity. Jehovah’s Witnesses are strident opponents of evolution, but I do not consider them my brothers and sisters. They agree with me on the secondary, but they disagree on the essential.
To my friend, I hope this has cleared up doubt in this area at least. Rest assured, I will consider you my brother in Christ if you join the fold despite our differences on how creation came about.