Theistic evolution, generally defined, is the belief that natural processes sustained by God’s ordinary providence were the means by which he brought about life and humanity. It often entails a common ancestry for all living things, macro-evolution, and some version of polygenesis.
William Dembski explains:
For young-earth and old-earth creationists, humans bearing the divine image were created from scratch. In other words, God did something radically new when he created us–we didn’t emerge from pre-existing organisms. On this view, fully functioning hominids having fully human bodies but lacking the divine image never existed. For most theistic evolutions, by contrast, primate ancestors evolved over several million years into hominids with fully human bodies. (God and Evolution, 91)
According to some proponents of theistic evolution Genesis 2:7 is a reference to God’s work in history whereby he made Adam into a spiritual being in the image of God, instead of the lesser sort of being he was before. This approach still insists on the historicity of Adam and Eve and their real fall in the Garden. But, on this view, Adam may not have been the first human:
According to [Denis] Alexander’s preferred model, anatomically modern humans emerged some 200,000 years ago, with language in place by 50,000 years ago. Then, around 6,000-8,000 years ago, God chose a couple of Neolithic farmers, and then he revealed himself for the first time, so constituting them as Homo divinus, the first humans to know God and be spiritually alive. (Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, 47)
And what’s wrong with this approach? Why can’t we say Adam was a real person and the first person to know God, but not the only human on the planet? Aren’t we still in the realm of historic orthodoxy even if Adam evolved from other beings and may not have been the physical father of all living persons? I am raising these questions not to suggest a single blog post and a few quotations obliterates evolution. The point rather is to examine whether full-blown evolution can be reconciled with complete allegiance to biblical authority.
Listed below are eight problems Wayne Grudem finds with theistic evolution. I realize he may not be an authority on these matters, but in typical fashion he distills the main points nicely and explain succinctly what unbiblical conclusions we must reach for theistic evolution to be true.
(1) Adam and Eve were not the first human beings, but they were just two Neolithic farmers among about ten million other human beings on earth at that time, and God just chose to reveal himself to them in a personal way.
(2) Those other human beings had already been seeking to worship and serve God or gods in their own ways.
(3) Adam was not specially formed by God of ‘dust from the ground’ (Gen. 2:7) but had two human parents.
(4) Eve was not directly made by God of a ‘rib that the Lord God had taken from the man’ (Gen. 2:22), but she also had two human parents.
(5) Many human beings both then and now are not descended from Adam and Eve.
(6) Adam and Eve’s sin was not the first sin.
(7) Human physical death had occurred for thousands of years before Adam and Eve’s sin–it was part of the way living things had always existed.
(8) God did not impose any alteration in the natural world when he cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin. (Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, 9)
These are other questions theistic evolution raises for the Bible believing Christian. How can we uphold the special dignity and majesty the Bible accords human beings when we are only qualitatively different from other life forms and continuous with the rest of the animal world? How can God impute sin and guilt to all humans along the lines of federal headship when some of us have no physical connection with Adam? Likewise, if we are not all descended literally from one pair, how can we all have an ontological connection with Christ who only assumed the flesh of Adam’s race?
Of course, these problems are no problems at all (conceptually) without the Bible to account for. But theistic evolution purports to bring together the evolutionary consensus and a faithful doctrine of creation. That’s the whole appeal. And yet, I don’t see how the two are compatible, whether Adam really existed or not.