Theistic Evolution Versus Fiat Creationism

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 KJV), these opening words of the book of Genesis have sparked great controversy within our society today. Many view the debate as simply a choice between evolution and Divine creation. Proponents of theistic evolution will tell you that they hold to a belief that is in harmony with the Bible and science’s theory of evolution with regards to the origins of man. As Norman Geisler notes, “Broadly speaking, theistic evolution is the belief that God used evolution as His means of producing the various forms of physical life on this planet, including human life.” [1] Ultimately the committed Christian must evaluate all proposals about the origin of man against the testimony of the Bible as J. Barton Payne wrote, “all ideas must be subordinated to Scripture, for the word of God is the ultimate wisdom and the only finally legitimate helmsmen of life.” [2] It will be demonstrated that theistic evolution is inferior to fiat creationism when examined in the light of a Scriptural evaluation based on a literal reading of the Bible and a theological examination of Biblical doctrines impacted by one’s view of creation. 

Some proponents of theistic evolution like Michael J. Gruenthaner argue that evolutionary processes were responsible for the shaping of the human body but that God did a direct creative act in placing the soul of man in that human body.[3] This position conflicts with the Scripture in at least two key ways.

First, it presumes that the dust from which Adam was formed was not literal dust but rather lower animal forms.[4]  Augustus Strong an advocate of theistic evolution wrote:

But, on the other hand, the Scriptures do not disclose the method of man’s creation. Whether man’s physical system is or is not derived, by natural descent, from the lower animals, the record of creation does not inform us. As the command “Let the earth bring forth living creatures” (Gen. 1:24) does not exclude the idea of mediate creation, through natural generation, so the forming of man “of the dust of the ground” (Gen. 2:7) does not in itself determine whether the creation of man’s body was mediate or immediate.[5]

Is Strong right? Does the Scripture allow for a figurative interpretation of dust to represent lower life forms? The answer to the above questions is, no.   

Conclusive proof that Adam was formed out of literal dust is found in Genesis 3:19 where it is noted that man would return to dust because of his sin. Ryrie’s comments on this subject are particularly poignant, “Furthermore, the dust of the ground out of which man’s body was made cannot be an allegorical reference to some animal form because God said man will return to dust when he dies, and man does not return to an animal state at death (3:19).” [6]

Second, by making man a product of an evolutionary process, theistic evolutionists are placing him far away from the start of creation. Yet, notice the testimony of Jesus concerning the creation of man in Mark 10:6 “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.”(KJV)  David A. Dewitt argues that this passage precludes evolution because it does not allow for millions of years between the dawn of creation and the formation of man.[7]  Given the above arguments it would appear that theistic evolution not only runs contrary to the testimony of Genesis, but also the testimony of Jesus as well.

Howard Van Till would perhaps counter that the text of Genesis and the Scripture in general were only for our instruction in righteous living and are thus not intended to give us the how of creation just the who of creation.[8] Van Till might go on to say that he believes in the historical doctrine of creation by God and that the how of creation is not theologically significant but rather scientifically significant.[9] Even if one were to concede that the Scriptures did not intend to give humanity the how of creation (and this writer does not concede that point), there are still major theological difficulties with the position of theistic evolution and core theological positions declared elsewhere in the Bible.

Consider the impact of theistic evolution on the gospel. If one makes the early chapters of Genesis a myth or allegory as theistic evolutionists must, then one makes Adam and Eve fictional characters. This transformation has serious implications concerning the doctrine of sin and salvation as conveyed by the Scriptures.  Paul Enns writes convincingly concerning the difficulties raised by theistic evolution and the Bible’s teaching regarding salvation when he noted, “If the human race has evolved then Adam was not a historical person and the analogy between Christ and Adam in Romans 5:12–21 breaks down.” [10] Certainly it is hard to see how this passage which talks about the impact of Adam’s sin can have any relevance if Adam is not a real person who really sinned and thus impacted all of humanity by his sin. And, what possible benefit can be gained by comparing the actual sacrificial death of Jesus with a myth?

Romans 5:12 reminds us that death entered the world through Adam’s sin. This is a major problem for the proponents of theistic evolution. The evolutionary process is one that involves the death of the weak as well as the survival of the fittest. It was this very argument concerning death before the fall of man into sin that motivated David A. DeWitt to set aside his earlier belief in theistic evolution. [11]

The truth of the matter is that theistic evolutionists find themselves not only at odds with the clear literal reading of the Bible, but with major theological positions concerning sin and death as well. Assuming that God is an orderly and rational being (and He is), the fact theistic evolution conflicts with both the natural reading of the Scripture and other key doctrines of the Bible is ample ground for Christians to reject this unwarranted and unscriptural compromise with Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Moving to the examination of fiat creationism one should note that Enns defines fiat creationism as, “The view that God created in twenty-four hour days is also called fiat creation—God created directly and instantaneously.”[12] Fiat creationism accepts that the dust from which Adam was formed was literal dust from the ground. So there is no difficulty in harmonizing the creation of Adam with the decomposing of man’s body back to the dust after he dies as predicted in Genesis 3:19.

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female”, (Mark 10:6 KJV) this statement of Jesus concerning the creation of Adam and Eve harmonizes with the position of fiat creation. After all if one accepts the creative days as literal days and man was made on the sixth day, then Mark 10:6 is clearly understandable. [13]

As was demonstrated earlier, theistic evolution is in serious conflicts with other theological assertions made by the Bible, but what about fiat creationism? Does fiat creationism fare any better? Is fiat creationism in harmony with the major theological salvation and sin? The answer is, yes, fiat creationism is in harmony with key theological assertions made by the Bible.

Fiat creationism has no difficulty with Romans 5:12-21, because fiat creationists recognize Adam as a real historical figure. Thus the analogy of Romans 5:12-21 makes sense, because Adam was a real person whose sinful act had real consequences. Paul was not comparing the real sacrificial death of Jesus to a myth, but to a real person.

Fiat creationism is based not on the process of death like theistic evolution but rather the direct creative fiat of God. Therefore, Fiat creationism is not in conflict with the Biblical assertion that death is the product of Adam’s sin Romans 5:12.

Theistic evolution has been demonstrated to be inferior to fiat creationism both from a literal reading of the Scripture and by an examination of the theological positions impacted by one’s view of creation. Christians would be much better off just accepting the Biblical account of creation rather than trying to harmonize it with evolution. As Charles Ryrie once wrote, “theistic evolution tries to ride two horses (evolution and Creation), which are going in opposite directions.” [14] 

[1]Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two (Bloomington, MN.: Bethany House, 2003), 469.

[2] J. Barton Payne. 1965. “Theistic evolution and the Hebrew of Genesis 1-2.” Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 8, no. 2: 85-90. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 3, 2010), 90.

[3] Michael J. Gruenthaner,  “Evolution and the Scriptures.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 13, no. 1: 21-27. 1951,  ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 14, 2010) 22.

[4] Ibid. 22.

[5]Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology, “The Present Work Is a Revision and Enlargement of My ‘Systematic Theology,’ First Published in 1886.”–Pref. (Bellingham, Wa.: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 465.

[6]Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology : A Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1999), 216.

[7] David A. Dewitt, Unraveling the Origins Controversy (Lynchburg, VA: Creation Curriculum, 2007), 122.

[8]J. P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds ed., Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999),208.

[9] Ibid. 166;194.

[10]Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989), 302.

[11] David A. DeWitt, Unraveling the Origins Controversy (Lynchburg, VA: Creation Curriculum, 2007), 57.

[12]Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989), 303.

[13] David A. Dewitt, Unraveling the Origins Controversy (Lynchburg, VA: Creation Curriculum, 2007), 122.

[14]Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology : A Popular Systemic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1999), 196.

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