Can God use Evolution?

by Tim Barnett

God_and_evolutionLet me ask you a question, "Can God use evolution?"

You don’t have to be in the evangelical world very long to realize that this is one of the questions that is at the forefront of conversations. And these conversations can get very heated. In fact, in some circles, the way you answer this question may get you labeled as a fundamentalist or a heretic.

It turns out that before you can even begin to answer my question, you must first answer the question, “What do you mean by evolution?" It makes no sense to ask if God can use evolution when we haven’t first agreed on how the term evolution is used.

As it turns out, the word ‘evolution’ is equivocal. What this means is that it has multiple meanings. So the definition I’m thinking of might be completely different than the definition you have in mind.

In a thought-provoking article called The Meanings of Evolution, Stephen Meyer and Michael Keas identify six different ways the word ‘evolution’ is used:

  1. Change over time; history of nature; any sequence of events in nature.
  2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population.
  3. Limited common descent: the idea that particular groups of organisms have descended from a common ancestor.
  4. The mechanisms responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with modification, chiefly natural selection acting on random variations or mutations.
  5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor.
  6. "Blind watchmaker" thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.

Of the six different meanings, numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 are virtually accepted by everyone. Even the most staunch young-earth creationist would agree that God could use evolution, if these are the meanings one has in mind.

Meaning number 5 is much more controversial and is debated on scientific and theological grounds…

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