The Search for Common Ground on Genesis: Thoughts on God and Evolution

(system) #1

In this series I have attempted to address several issues, one, of which, acknowledges the clear reality of evolution. Regardless of whether you have found this discussion convincing, let’s assume for the moment the general accuracy of the model as I have outlined it. If we make this assumption the question looms in the background as to how such a reality could be incorporated into our understanding of a loving God?

Some propose a model of theistic evolution, yet this approach seems sufficiently problematic that it really begs for being challenged. For one thing, it is difficult to conceive of a loving God who would create a predatory order marked by a values system where self-interest assumes a natural dominance in the interest of survival.

In fact, the philosophical framework of the divine order of things and the divine character can be summed up as quite the opposite. Consider, for example, “. . .the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” Consider also that humanity is invited to live life by a framework of “treating others as we ourselves would wish to be treated;” to “love our neighbor as ourselves;” and to “turn to the other cheek.”

These are not predatory qualities!

This New Testament view of the moral universe in which the energy flow is intended to focus outward is one of the compelling themes of the Decalogue, with its essence being defined in terms of the centering of the ego towards the larger universal interest. Every principle of the Decalogue⎯principles that address property rights, security interests, and proper respect for the Creator and for each other⎯has the capacity to enhance community interest. In short, this is not a survival-of-the-fittest model either.

This, then, is the rub— the thorn has a place in an ecosystem designed around the self-interest of the plant because it has survival value. So also, the lion’s teeth, speed and power can be viewed to serve the self-interest of the lion very well, as does the snake’s venom. All these features can be understood as adaptations that have survival value in a predatory order of things.

If revelation is to be taken seriously, then we must find a way to reconcile the divine order represented in scripture with our ontological reality. One way this can be accomplished is by fully embracing the Adventist cosmic conflict model as an explanation of the human condition, thereby permitting some of the biological actuality for being understood as sourced outside of God. It is part of the biblical theme of a dualistic moral order, governed by God on the one hand, and a universe-class force at work in the world on the other. Taken to its logical conclusion, it is possible to respect the evidences for evolution without attributing it to God.

As a part of that original description of creation, it is difficult to conceive that God would do other than instill the divine value system into his creation, such that they would have been designed to naturally play a supportive role toward all other biology—that did not exploit, or demonstrate wanton disregard of the boundaries that can otherwise result in the predatory. In fact there are numerous Scriptural hints that intelligent beings were part of an original design that naturally focused outward, emptying forth, as opposed to The post-Fall human nature we know so well to be inwardly focused and self-centered (1).

Indeed, when we look at the essential message of revelation—that we should ideally center our lives outside of self—it seems clear that the evolutionary model cannot be of divine origin, for at its core is egocentrism where survival is frequently predicated upon predatory and destructive behavior—a principle that runs counter to that of the divine will for the world. Thus, if we are to incorporate the evolutionary realities into our theological thinking, then it seems that we are required to understand that a fundamental part of its essence is sourced outside of God (2). In fact, this is the only way I know that we can reconcile a loving God with the ontological reality of this world.

When we consider the cosmic conflict theme, Adventists are well positioned to address the predatory nature of reality, given its dualistic understanding of the moral order, marked by a universe class player who has attempted to establish an alternative system. It has the capacity to act as a coherent philosophical framework for understanding the problem of evil generally, and the reality of evolution specifically, as coexisting with a benevolent God—it not being sourced in God.

If we approach this subject from this angle, I recognize that there are problems that remain. Yet it seems to be one way to think about the biological realities that we confront. This can be the basis for common ground. ________________________ Jan M. Long, J.D., M.H.A., works for the County of Riverside, California.

Read all the previous articles in this series: The Search for Common Ground on Genesis.


1. We can make this inference from the details of Scripture, which tell of a creation that God called very good; about subsequent events that suggest a occurrence that marred that “good creation,” and sometimes referred to as The Fall. One reading of the Decalogue is in terms of a divine moral order that is further developed in the so-called Gospel revelation of God to humans.

2. I first heard this proposal suggested by the late, Jack Provonsha, a long time professor in the Division of Religion at Loma Linda University. I fully recognize that it brings with it, its own set of problems, yet it does solve the problem of God being the author of evolution.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at