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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. Jerry

    The age of the Earth and evolution are two different things. The evidence for the age of the Earth being very old (billions of years) is overwhelming. Either the Earth is very old, or God has created all this consistent scientific evidence to make it appear old. Evolution is the best scientific model for explaining the vast body of knowledge about genetics, etc. Belief in creation is fine, but it is not a scientific theory in that it provides no model for understanding the genetic change that we see. You can always fall back on miracles to explain any phenomena, but that's not science. For people who follow a religion that espouses that faith is the key to salvation, creation scientists sure spend a lot of effort trying to prove God and the Bible. Act as if you have faith, and faith will be given to you. I've never read,"ask me for proof that I exist, and I will demonstrate it to you".

    April 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  2. DeAguaDulce

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

    The author fails to mention that there are many types of passerine (perching) birds that cannot produce their own vitamin C and yet are unrelated, or for which no relationship can be made. Obviously his statement that it has to have been inherited from a common ancestor is wrong. It could have have happened independentlt.

    April 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  3. chvinson10

    i dont believe he would believe in evolution! evolution is a big pile of crap! god created us and thats final!

    April 10, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  4. Bill

    To reconcile the Bible with evolution is known as compromise and not the good kind. The modern day church is very good at this. Read Revelation ch. 2 and try to guess which church we are in here in America.

    Personally, I get tired of hearing all these so-called experts (men and women ...HUMANS) trying to tell me how everything was and life came to be, blah, blah, blah. Then 20-50 years down the road, everything changes again, more theories, etc. I don't care about any of it. I'm a believer in God. I'm a Christian and I'm going to believe the natural reading of that book, the Bible, including the 1st part of it in Genesis. We will all die and then we will know. Let some scientists stop this from happening.

    April 10, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  5. SkinnyJeans

    Well, I liked this article but I am turned off by the impression that this article gives – that Science somehow trumps Christian belief and that you are simply an idiot for questioning science. I am a Christian. I believe in evloution – in the gradual development of nature (even if not all questions have been answered). However, I am not a big proponent of the "scientific method" and the uwavering belief in it. Somehow, that has become the infalible method of "salvation" for scientists. Science is never questioned by its own reputable peers. It takes years of battering to get valuable reexamination of scientific "facts." If scientists were not so conceited and convinced of their "method", there might actually be some progress in official reconciling of this belief to the Christian Doctrine. After all, we are only products of our environment. We cannot completely remove ourselves from our environment to be objective enough to "know" all the facts – Creationist or Evolutionist.

    April 10, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  6. Andy

    Evidence cannot create truths. Evidence will be interpreted based on your starting assumptions and will affirm or contradict a hypothesis.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • Concept

      @Andy – You're not supposed to start with any assumptions, Andy. You might have missed that small requirement somewhere.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  7. DeAguaDulce

    As I read through these comments, it is quite apparent to me how many liars there are in the world. It doesn't matter what your religion (or lack thereof) is, whether you believe in science or faith, people just do not seem to be able to be completely truthful. As a Christian, I am sometimes annoyed by those who feel a need to reject anything they hear that comes from the secular world, but am completely aware that science is not above the same. It was scientists, after all, who created Piltdown man and Piltdown Chicken to further their agenda at the expense of truth. It is scientists who look at the brain of T. Rex and declare that it was a hunter, in spite of the fact that its brain is identical in structure to that of a vulture. Conversely, my fellow Christians will go to seemingly any length to try to make science fit the Bible, no matter how extreme.

    The long and the short of it is that both sides of the argument seem to have an axe to grind and are not above simply lying to make their cases. I know that my salvaion is not contingent upon my acceptance or rejection of evolution. God is the only one who tells the truth, so, in the end, all I can say is, "Let God be true and all men liars."

    April 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Concept

      @DeAguaDulce
      If all men are liars then what of your man-made "god"?
      If you toss your Bible because it was written by lying men (and it was), then what makes you think there is any sort of "god" watching you use the bathroom and judging you on every wobble of your lying heart?
      How can you be a Christian while saying all men are liars? Jesus was, if he even existed, one of those lying men.
      The cross-eyed mental processes that it would take to hold such opposing views must hurt your brain.

      April 11, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  8. Phil

    I find it interesting that thousands of years before the 15th century when it was widely accepted that the earth was flat, accurate descriptions of the earth were found throughout the Bible. This includes the book of Job which is believed to be the oldest book in the Bible:

    Job 26:7 God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing.

    Here the author of Job proclaims God's awesome power in the fact that the earth "hangs on nothing" but empty space.

    Isaiah 40:22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

    How did they know the earth was round centuries before it was accepted scientifically?

    The Bible is truth!

    April 10, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Yep, no matter how far man's science takes him, he'll always find himself staring at the countenance of God!

      April 11, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  9. larvadog

    After reading some of these comments I must say I'm appalled for what passes as "information" and "facts" in some people's mind. I find it interesting when people try to use science or logic to disprove God and others try to use faith and religion to disprove science. People will label as false facts that are proven, misuse labels to "prove" their "argument", and generally attempt to pass off opinion as fact. I prefer to look at it this way – anything not proven as fact remains possible until disproven. Some things are more probable than others. Some things have a certain probability, but for many things the probability cannot be known.

    I don't claim to have all the answers, so as for the existence of God I'm willing to go only as far as a tautology can take me – God either exists or He does not. Anything else anyone posits as "proof" of his existence or nonexistence is on shakey ground. God's nature is not something that can be known, at this time. And what we have to say about God's existence has no bearing on the fact of His existence (or not). For the faithful, they are confusing their faith with proof. Faith requires that there be no proof, otherwise what need would there be for faith? As for atheists, until and unless God (should He exist) shows himself to you in a way that forces you to accept Him, you will be offered no proof of His existence. What I cannot figure out is why you feel compelled to convince others of that which cannot be proven or disproven, or why absence of evidence equals evidence of absence. Same goes with the faithful.

    For those who dispute the facts of evolution, you must realize that just as God's existence is independent of what we have to say about it, evolution works in a way that disregards your disbelief. You have no more impact on evolution than an atheist has on God. I would offer one caveat though – if you can accept the possibility that God created the universe then you must accept the possibility that He could have crafted it in such a way as to create evolution. To us, there would be no difference between an evolution that appeared independently as a system and an evolution that was created by an all-powerful God. If two things are identical in every way then they are the same thing.

    Some of you are confusing a lack of complete understanding about a process, system, or physical force with it not being "proven". Physicists do not have a complete understanding of the nature of gravity. So what? Does that mean that if you throw a ball into the air enough times eventually one of those times it won't come back down? Some of you are confusing your own lack of understanding as others'. Nothing could be further from the truth. You simply must read more, and I don't mean just the books written by apologists. Much of science can be understood by the layperson if that person has an open mind to possibility and a wish to remove ignorance.

    I think it should be apparent that, although science can prove facts about our universe, it cannot claim to prove everything. For everything in the universe that can be explained though, science has the upper hand. The rest belongs to the realm of metaphysics and religion, each of which has its place.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Concept

      @larvadog – That was a good post.
      Too bad you refuse to question your faith and to test it for accuracy and reliability where actual facts are concerned.
      You cannot judge your faith from the inside of it and expect an accurate and objective opinion at the same time, either.
      Define your "god" and simply compare that definition with reality.
      Or better yet, go in the other direction and take what you know about reality and then define what sort of "god" could possibly exist with these sorts of results in the real world?
      Well, you might want to think about it, because your "soul" is pretty important to you, right?
      Why not make sure you understand how your "soul" works and how important it is to protect it against liars and frauds?

      April 11, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • larvadog

      Concept – Thank you. I wish I had seen your post earlier, as I risk you not seeing my reply this late in the day.

      As for testing my faith, it is in fact something I have been doing and continue to do. One conclusion I have arrived at is that irrespective of what science tells me, there will always be an element of faith that cannot be touched by it. This is because science cannot describe everything that exists in the universe. I will use my faith to describe what science cannot, where appropriate. If science fails to explain something then by definition there is no objective, rational explanation for it, and therefore nothing to test.

      I try to judge my faith from both outside and inside to determine its nature, realizing again that what it says about the universe has no actual bearing on reality. Only science has domain over facts. My faith cannot work within that domain.

      You have brought up some excellent points and they are ones I (and of course many others) have been wrestling with for a long time. The root of faith (whether faith in science or in God) is something that I wrestle with daily. I know what it means to have faith in God (at least I think I do). I also think I know what it means to have faith in science.

      For the record, I believe in God but deny that man can know the true nature of God. I accept that there are things about our universe that science cannot explain. I believe that metaphysics can provide some answers for those things science cannot, but that there still remains some aspect(s) of reality whose nature (or character, if one prefers) is unknowable using reason.

      April 11, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  10. Jesusfreakazoid

    WWJB?

    What would Jesus believe?

    He wouldn't have believed in evolution because he was uneducated. God should have sent his son to school rather than on a suicide mission. Then maybe people wouldn't go to church and sing songs about bathing in blood or simulate the cannibalistic act of eating human flesh or drinking human blood. Move on. It's the 21st century already.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  11. Tony

    Finds it funny that CNN chooses to moderate me and not post my messages. Just proves MY theory that Evolutionists are afraid to be proven wrong.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  12. Anna2

    Science is too complicated. I like it when I can sit in a pew and somebody can tell me what to think and if I ask why the reply will be "read the bible". There is no bible in science. There's just a bunch of explanations that people think are backed up with facts but really, wouldn't it be much simpler to say "god did it".

    April 10, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  13. gogogopher

    Abrahamic God a myth. Jesus answers prayers and mauls 42 children...children...correct translation.... with two bears. 2nd kings... no garden..... no magical trees.... no invisible beings having boom boom with humans and creating a master race of giants....

    WAKE UP..... I did and a weight was lifted....

    April 10, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  14. Greg Surrett

    You, sir, are presuming that evolution is truth. Evolution is a historical theory, and thus just as unprovable as creation. It is not established as truth, so you can stop casting Christians as "avoiding truth" in this area.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  15. LukeTheGuy

    You see, for Christians, it doesn't matter if you believe in biblistic evolution or immediate creation. It really doesn't change a thing what you think, as long as you believe that God created everything in some way or another. Is God going to kick someone out of heaven for being wrong?
    "You thought you really microevolved over billions of years? To Hell with you!"
    As long as we follow God, worship Him, and believe in Him, what does it matter? God didn't create us to learn every law and thing about His world. His purpose is for us to worship Him and love Him. I'm sure He wants us to know about His world, but He doesn't want us to argue over every little theory and thought.

    As for atheistic evolutionists, I hope that you can one day find that God did put humans into being, if by evolution or creation. In the end, none of our knowledge matters, none of it will last. God's truth will be revealed in time.

    "So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known."
    Matt. 10:26

    April 10, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
  16. Lee

    Frankly, being so egotistical as to think we have already figured out the truth that we need to know is the very failing of scientists for the entire history of humanity. So why would Jesus believe the truth of evolution, when he would know the truth of human scientific history?

    April 10, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  17. JORGE

    The God that created heaven and earth still around us, he is the eternal everlasting and by the power of his word he created the entire universe From somewhere and somehow all the atoms that are the building blocks of all material needed for the creation of the universe has to come from somewhere but yet in genesis the word that describes the act of creation is bara that means creating something out of nothing. That is why for me to believe that this wonderful world came to be with out a supreme being is the most crazy idea I ever heard.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @Jorge

      A M E N !

      April 10, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Phil

      It didn't come from nowhere, it came from God. If God didn't create it all from nothing, that means every atom in this universe is eternal, which we know isn't true because this universe is expanding and losing energy, decaying, dying. Where else would all of this finite stuff come from if not from God?

      April 10, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • Brian

      Jorge:: Do you mean to imply that to believe in evolution is necessarily to believe in a world without God?

      April 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  18. Biochemist

    First of all, everyone needs to stop slamming Catholics and/or Christians. As it's been posted, the Vatican has accepted evolution as a viable possibility for the current genetic state of man. It's a few headstrong people who refuse to open a biology book or view both sides of the argument that believe strictly in creationism still. If they were such devout Catholics, they'd listen to the Vatican.

    As a biochemist and a spiritual person, I easily can see evolution coexisting with the presence of God. Evolution is fact, God is truth. Something had to create the particles necessary for the Big Bang. I also love the Bible, but I view it as many allegorical tales- clearly God didn't create the earth in seven days. Taking the Bible literally just doesn't make sense. It's the most powerful book ever written, and many of its lessons on morality resonate even today.

    Really, who wants a God that purposely created all these horrors in the world? I see God as the sort of divine watchmaker, the creator of the harmony in this world; as a scientist, the more I learn the more I believe in God. And the less I understand how people have yet to accept evolution, especially when it is so easily reconciled with religion.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • OldCliches

      Absolutely Vatican accepts Evolution because vatican never comply with the bible. what blasphemous act!

      April 11, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • larvadog

      Biochemist – while you are correct that the Vatican accepts evolution, this fact holds no sway over Protestants. It might give them more ammunition, so to speak, to deny it.

      April 11, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • Biochemist

      Oh, I realize the Vatican's beliefs have nothing to do with Protestantism- but it shows it not as a fundamentally Christian belief to discount evolution. Even we CATHOLICS (with whom I only loosely identify) are with the times, and we don't even have women priests!

      April 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  19. Pondering

    I enjoyed this article, but feel that some people may have missed an important point by the author. He has two goals, one is to reconcile evolution to Christians and the other point is to reconcile Christianity to non-Christian evolutionists. I think it is difficult for people who have often studied science in-depth to accept many of the claims made by young-earth creationists and this is a major deterrence to considering Christianity. For Christians, what is more important, converting non-Christians to Christians? Or trying to convince everyone that evolution is incompatible with Christianity? If the message really is about Jesus, why does it matter if people believe in evolution? Especially if they are told that they have to stop believing in evolution to become a Christian.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • LukeTheGuy

      Exactly. It doesn't matter what we believe, as long as we believe that God is Creator.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • MikeTheInfidel

      And even that doesn't matter.

      April 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • OldCliches

      Does it really matter?...misleading...still misleading...and again misleading.

      April 11, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  20. Lee

    Science, religion, and politics. If you are not open minded and willing to recognize a better idea in any of these, then history will likely show that you were on the wrong side.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
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