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My Take: Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you
The most compelling evidence for evolution comes from the study of genes.
April 10th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you

Editor's Note: Karl W. Giberson, Ph.D., is vice president of The BioLogos Foundation and is the author or coauthor of seven books, including The Language of Science and Faith.

By Karl W. Giberson, Special to CNN

Jesus once famously said, “I am the Truth.”

Christianity at its best embodies this provocative idea and has long been committed to preserving, expanding and sharing truth. Most of the great universities of the world were founded by Christians committed to the truth—in all its forms—and to training new generations to carry it forward.

When science began in the 17th century, Christians eagerly applied the new knowledge to alleviate suffering and improve living conditions.

But when it comes to the truth of evolution, many Christians feel compelled to look the other way. They hold on to a particular interpretation of an ancient story in Genesis that they have fashioned into a modern account of origins - a story that began as an oral tradition for a wandering tribe of Jews thousands of years ago.

This is the view on display in a $27 million dollar Creation Museum in Kentucky. It inspired the Institute for Creation Research, which purports to offer scientific support for creationism.

And it’s hardly a fringe view. A 2010 Gallup poll indicated that 4 in 10 Americans think that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” (http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/four-americans-believe-strict-creationism.aspx)

While Genesis contains wonderful insights into the relationship between God and the creation, it simply does not contain scientific ideas about the origin of the universe, the age of the earth or the development of life.

For more than two centuries, careful scientific research, much of it done by Christians, has demonstrated clearly that the earth is billions years old, not mere thousands, as many creationists argue. We now know that the human race began millions of years ago in Africa - not thousands of years ago in the Middle East, as the story in Genesis suggests.

And all life forms are related to each other though evolution. These are important truths that science has discovered through careful research. They are not “opinions” that can be set aside if you don’t like them.

Anyone who values truth must take these ideas seriously, for they have been established as true beyond any reasonable doubt.

There is much evidence for evolution. The most compelling comes from the study of genes, especially now that the Human Genome Project has been completed and the genomes of many other species being constantly mapped.

In particular, humans share an unfortunate “broken gene” with many other primates, including chimpanzees, orangutans, and macaques. This gene, which works fine in most mammals, enables the production of Vitamin C. Species with broken versions of the gene can’t make Vitamin C and must get it from foods like oranges and lemons.

Thousands of hapless sailors died painful deaths scurvy during the age of exploration because their “Vitamin C” gene was broken.

How can different species have identical broken genes? The only reasonable explanation is that they inherited it from a common ancestor.

Not surprisingly, evolution since the time of Darwin has claimed that humans, orangutans, chimpanzees, and macaques evolved recently from a common ancestor. The new evidence from genetics corroborates this.

Such evidence proves common ancestry with a level of certainty comparable to the evidence that the earth goes around the sun.

This is but one of many, many evidences that support the truth of evolution - that make it a “sacred fact” that Christians must embrace in the name of truth. And they should embrace this truth with enthusiasm, for this is the world that God created.

Christians must come to welcome - rather than fear - the ideas of evolution. Truths about Nature are sacred, for they speak of our Creator. Such truths constitute “God’s second book” for Christians to read alongside the Bible.

In the 17th century, Galileo used the metaphor of the “two books” to help Christians of his generation understand the sacred truth that the earth moves about the sun. “The Bible,” he liked to say, “tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens ago.”

To understand how the heavens go we must read the book of Nature, not the Bible.

The Book of nature reveals the truth that God created the world through gradual processes over billions of years, rather than over the course of six days, as many creationists believe.

Evolution does not contradict the Bible unless you force an unreasonable interpretation on that ancient book.

To suppose, as the so-called young earth creationists do, that God dictated modern scientific ideas to ancient and uncomprehending scribes is to distort the biblical message beyond recognition. Modern science was not in the worldview of the biblical authors and it is not in the Bible.

Science is not a sinister enterprise aimed at destroying faith. It’s an honest exploration of the wonderful world that God created.

We are often asked to think about what Jesus would do, if he lived among us today. Who would Jesus vote for? What car would he drive?

To these questions we should add “What would Jesus believe about origins?”

And the answer? Jesus would believe evolution, of course. He cares for the Truth.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karl W. Giberson.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Culture & Science • Culture wars • Opinion • Science

soundoff (3,562 Responses)
  1. stonedwhitetrash

    If Jesus is God he already knows all. He told me just last night in our daily conversation that cable news and Fox news in particular was not speaking in his behalf.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Wisdom4u2

      Ha-ha!!
      Well, Jesus is God; therefore what He told you was the TRUTH!!
      Plus, it's always obvious that CNN doesn't take kindly to true believers.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  2. SgtSerge

    Good read, I hope the gap between God and Reality will be bridged. More people need to be forward thinkers like this.

    Organized Religion is the devil...... Because it is tainted by man.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  3. Obvious

    "Macroevolution" is most certainly not a 'sacred fact', it is a weak theory. Of course microevolution/natural selection has occurred. But there is no proof in the fossil record of one species evolving into an entirely different species (macroevolution). Jesus believes in scripture, which says mankind was created distinctly by God in his image at once in a perfect form before the fall.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Ann

      I agree.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  4. Ron Clouzet

    What Dr Gibberson proposes reveals lack of knowledge in the Bible. Jesus would definitely NOT believe in evolution. Two biblical pieces of evidence will suffice. One, Jesus believed Moses was the author of Genesis (Mark 10:3-8) and Moses clearly indicated that life began as the fiat creation of God (Gen 1:1-31). Jesus even quoted Moses from Genesis chapter 2. Two, the Bible clearly indicates that not only God created "heavens and earth" but that it was Jesus, the Son, who was the agency of creation from the Godhead. "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth . . . He is also the head of the body, the church; . . . For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him" (Col 1:16-19; see also John 1:1-3).

    April 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  5. Darrell Barker

    Back just 40 years you'd never hear a Christian "authority" say that God put evolution into play. Today, with all the undeniable evidence of evolution, Christians can no longer deny this, so they put on their religious "God did it" spin and continue their "johnny come lately" embracement of things scientific.
    a few seconds ago · Like

    April 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  6. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Anna2
    Wrong. We are talking about allegedly millions of years when according to the evolutionists people never thought of making more complicated tools
    --------–

    Gee, what a brilliant contribution!

    You are as dumb as a post.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  7. Charles

    Why do people ask this dumb question all of the time? "What would Jesus do?" Does it really matter? It's like asking if your dead great, great, grandfather would believe in evolution. It is all nonsensical speculation. Evolution exists with or without your ability to understand it or believe it. There are more important things in this world to concern ourselves with. Obviously some of us evolve more slowly than others.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  8. Ann

    Evolution is a theory postulated by Darwin. No one has explained how the number of chromosomes can change when one species evolved into another species. Here's a radical theory: Scientific Creation followed by natural evolution. The original life on this planet was 'created' by an advanced group of genetic engineers (extraterrestrials/ gods) and left to evolve into what we see today. Maybe that's what Jesus would say. Maybe his father was an alien coming back to visit his creation. Just a thought so we don't get carried away with only two possible viewpoints.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Gen Mal

      Anna2 – Chromosomes replicate during s-phase of interphase. Extra chromosomes happen all the time. Look at a person with Trisomy 13. Also look up single nucleotide polymorphisms. You people love to argue yet you don't even know what you're taliking about.
      I also love when people tout their IQ online. You must not understand the nature of the internet. If not then you must be a seven foot tall purple people eater as well.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Ann

      By the way, I'm not Anna2.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  9. Peggy

    Creationism and evolution do not have to be mutually exclusive. Creationism, as described by Genesis, is story that was passed down through many generations, before the availability of paper and ink. It is written in a language no longer spoken and has many words and phrases that have no easy translations into modern languages, making a literal translation impossible.

    What would God believe? The truth, facts that only He knows. None of us were there, He was. The fact that humans share on "broken gene" with other species is a compelling but not absolute argument. What about environmental factors such as some sort catastophic climatological event that affected all species with a similar genetic structure?

    I have always thought of the Book of Genesis as more of a story of man's fall from grace. I believe that Genesis suggests there was a protected place for God's created family to live safely and that we need to care for the earth or we will be forced to live with the results of our own follies.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  10. james

    Why wouldn't Jesus believe in evolution? He created it.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  11. Ben

    This article is absurd. It is clear this guy is just trying to win over good Christians into the nonsense theory of evolution. This article here was a nice rebuttal:

    http://www.revelation.co/2011/04/10/karl-giberson-cnn-article-and-the-biologos-false-gospel-of-evolution/

    April 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • M-kell

      It's not a theory it's a proven fact! Get over it! The guys running around in the sand and living in buildings made of piles of mudbricks are not the one to look to the final say in science!

      April 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • mike

      Ben, I went to the link you posted and it was filled with utter nonsense. The author complains that the writer of this story did not quote the bible, but then goes on to only quote the Bible as if it were fact. He doesn't acknowledge the Bible was translated from another language and accepts it word for word as the truth. I believe Jesus existed and led a good life, but I don't believe in a book written by MAN, edited by MAN, translated and interpreted by MAN, used to justify the killing of thousands if not millions of people. The author also complains about the article mentioning the 27 million dollar price tag for the fictional theme park but yet doesn't acknowledge that churches do not pay taxes like every other BUSINESS does, and believe me, the churches in this country are a BUSINESS. They are more predatory to the poorest and week people than Walmart (at least you get something from Walmart). They provide false hope while gladly taking your money. By the way, every Church I have been in would have you believe Jesus was a white man with brown hair when, based on the region, would be almost impossible. I guess Mary was a nice virgin white girl (the only one living in the middle east at that time?). Most religious people pick and choose what they want from the bible. They leave out the bad stuff like stoning someone for working on the Sabbath. I guess every priest in the world should be stoned since they all WORK on Sunday at their JOB of taking people's money. In closing, if the Bible is so direct and easy to understand, why are there so many religions out there that claim their interpretation of the book is the correct one. Which religion is right? Jewish? Christian? Catholic? Baptist? Presbyterian? You believers in the bible need to get together and agree on what the Bible says so you can explain it the rest of us (oh, I guess the Church and at least one King already did that). How are we to believe if you guys can't even agree on what the book says.

      April 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  12. Yarrrr

    Jesus, if alive today, would be really really old. Since old people are cranky and usually crazy, he'd also have a huge militia, armed to the teeth, and he'd rule with an iron fist. Peace be with you, OR ELSE!1!!

    April 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  13. Bald

    This article is a desperate attempt to unite two opposing theories.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  14. Common Sense

    Right on Canuck79 !! I do thank you.

    1600 years after Constantine and people still believe in this fictional character whose poorly written "story" has been re-written multiple times. And if that isn't pathetic enough, the Arabs had to invent another one several hundred years later. And then the British invented version of the savior and re-wrote the bible. And then Americans had to invent their own version of the American Jesus with the Garden of Eden in Missouri. And then it was Jesus on a spaceship so L.Ron Hubbard could make a fortune because he sci-fi books were rubbish.

    It's still easy to manipulate and control people with the promise that they won't die like every other earthly organism. Believe in ancient myths, it's so much easier than thinking for yourself!

    April 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • dmorgan310

      I have yet to meet a christian who can adequately explain why they choose to believe that Jesus is the son of God born of a virgin and yet choose NOT to believe in Mithras, Horus or Hercules who were also historical beings that were born of a virgin impregnated by God. The selective choices of what ancient myths to believe as ‘truth’ are always interesting...
      However, for the best explanation of evolution vs creation debate the book Genesis and the Big Bang by Dr. Gerald Schroeder is a must read. What most people who engage in the debate fail to recognize is that time is relative. Einstein proved that the effect of gravity will affect the experience of time in both perception and reality.
      Given the immense gravitational pull of all matter in the universe shortly after the big bang, billions of years would seem like a day. As the universe expanded the effects of gravity slowed the perception of time.
      The end result is that it’s not out of the question to believe that the universe is both billions of years old and thousands of years old, it just a matter of what perspective one had when determining the passage of time.

      April 10, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  15. Cletus

    As much as I believe in evolution, after reading most of the posts I now have doubts.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  16. Horace V

    I never believed in evolution until I read this artcile. The author explains it so clearly to me that I will now abandon the beliefs that were impartted to me decades ago by my illiterate parents. Wish I had read this earlier.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  17. Alert Citizen

    The problem with we Americans and our nation as a whole is trying to tell others, "You should believe in what I believe".....Dude...its a land of freedom, if you want to believe in god, don't.............if someone wants to let them............do something useful work of helping people rather than finding if Jesus was there! Morons!

    April 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  18. rene

    Excellent point Saty. It makes one think deeply. You made one of the best points, if not the best point here, "Would evolution believe in Jesus?" For the statement Jesus believes in evolution to hold water, evolution would have to believe in Jesus. If there is a disagreement, we have a major problem. Either Jesus is a fable or evolution as presented by evolutionists is a fable. Evolution does not agree w/ the bible according to Genesis. It says God created every animal AND made them reproduce ACCORDING to what they are. Evolution says one life form gave rise to all others.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  19. Ed

    @Justin – No, Apes came from Apes...but evolution proves over millennia we all share the same common ancestor. Something less evolved than an Ape. Genetic Mutation + Reproduction + Environment + Time (repeated Billions of times) = Evolution. And it hasn’t ended. Imagine in a Billion years, our distant genetic ancestors saying “No way I came from a human!”

    April 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  20. Samuel Prime

    What would Jesus have said? Caution: the answer may depend on what you believe. Jesus could have said something like: "to what domain does evolution belong?" And they answered him, "to science." And He said, "Then give unto science that which is science, and give to God that which is God's."

    April 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.