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. dwp

    After a period of wrestling with the concept of evolution being the method of creation, I have read and reread the creation accounts in Genesis. I have found that Genesis supports this idea. Probably the most striking point me was that after God created man, he moved him east to the Garden of Eden. While I do not know the exact location man was created or how the land masses looked at that point, it is commonly held the Garden of Eden was in modern day Iraq. Iraq is east of Africa and perhaps this man was more directly west at that point in time. Also, I have learned that there was a point in human development known as the Great Leap Forward where humans began using advanced tools and made cave paintings. Could this not point to the moment God breathed into man the breath of life?
    I admit I have doubts I previously didn't have due to this current conviction of mine. However, I believe He would prefer me to have doubts and believe anyway than to be someone with a mind closed to what could be the truth simply because it is easier to believe in the old concept. The point of it all is God and not me or my interpretation of Him.

    April 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • cb

      This is an interesting approach dwp. I just don't understand why other species of primates use tools as well. Maybe God breathed into them too?

      April 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • ED t Man

      Cb, who cares if monkey's use tools, so do some species of birds. I have seen German Shepherds that display more intelligence than some humans I know. The intelligence of an Ape doesn't make them Human. But even if Evolution is true cb, can it explain the existence? It really can't. You see the deepest question I want answered is where do things exist at all. Why does the Universe have laws. How did something so complex as life, even in the single cell form come to be. You see my friend Evolution and the Big Bang doesn't and can't provide those answers. People who believe in The Big Bang obviously never think of how long billions of years actually is. Do you really think you can look at the stars from one set location and explain how this Universe began? Because if you do, you should really think for a second and realize that there is no possible way you can know that for sure. And even if we could, where did the matter come from that created The Big Bang? God is not so unbelievable a concept, you choose not to believe in Him and that is your right. But, you are far, far from disproving that there is a Creator. Faith does a lot of good for people who use it wisely, I certainly do believe in God. And in this lifetime you will never prove I'm an uneducated idiot for doing so.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  2. ED t Man

    I am a Christian, and I really don't know if the Biblical Account of Creation is true, or if it is more of a over view. But one thing iis for sure. Evolution attempts to answer one thing, where we came from. It does not answer why we exist. Everything came from somewhere. Even if the Big Bang occurred, it didn't happen on it's own and matter wasn't just always there. No, there had to be a beginning. Evolution and The Big Bang, they attempt to answer something they really cannot answer, where did all this matter come from, and how in the world did life just fall into place. Basically even Evolution would be impossible without a Master's hand. DNA is too sophisticated to create itself. Even single cell organisms are beyond the scope of, oh it just happened that way. Maybe we are so closely related because the same artist painted all of us (in other words they had the same designer), has anyone ever thought of that? I mean why completely write new code if you can just alter it in some fashions to create new things. I believe in micro-evolution, but I really don't believe in macro because, well I see the variations in Humans and really can't look at a monkey's skull and think there wasn't variations with them as well. I realize I am not as intelligent (or at least as educated) about these things a the scientist are, but to me people range from 4'7" to over 7' tall and there faces come in many shapes and sizes. A new monkey skull really means nothing. I don't believe I'm wrong about my faith, but even if I could take a time machine back to witness for myself that Christ's life was not what the Bible says it is, I would still believe in God (as most people do). If we are just the sum of a bunch of non guided interactions between chemicals, why do we resist so heavily to give up our belief in God even when pressured to do so? Why not toss the belief aside and just live our lives. It's because deep down man knows he is more.

    I am not a crazy religious nut. If you met me you would find I am a likable person who holds fast to some sensible morals about life, and despite what he's told, still believes there is a God. Why? Because we exist. Plain and simple, I don't need anymore proof than that. The Big Bang and Evolution Theories may or may not explain a portion of what happened to make that existence occur, but they do not explain why. They do not explain why the Universe has laws. They do not explain where matter came from. They do not explain the complexity of design that goes into DNA (which is basically like genetic programming). They do not explain why people want and desire purpose in life. They do not explain why men and women can turn to "God" and find power to go on, sometimes even power to heal diseases science CANNOT. My friends, there is evidence of God, whether the Christian, or just a malevolent being or beings. Human's design things everyday. They have blue prints and tools and they create wonderful things. Yet they want to believe the most complex of all creation, life, was just a random act in a vast Universe. I don't have all the answers, but listen to me scientist, don't be so arrogant to think you do either. There is more than just a sum of chemical reactions that created humans, no matter how it happened.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  3. awaysaway

    Evolution doesn't disprove God but it does disprove the creation myths of ancient tribes. If in order to believe in your deity of choice you also feel that you have to hang on to your version of the creation myth then you end up in a lot of trouble intellectually – but swinging hard because of the (somewhat self imposed) implications. And this is what the author of the article is really saying. Although in this case he is providing the intellectual escape route only for Christians and not for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Pagans, etc – since he used the "what would Jesus say" argument (knowing the mind of God does seem a tad arrogant even to a skeptic and atheist like myself)

    April 10, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  4. Phil

    This is quite possible the most ignorant and arrogant article I've ever read. There is absolutely no evidence of macro evolution. Micro evolution, however, is true because it's not really evolution in the Darwinian sense, it's more of a change within a species, a change that God already had written in the DNA. There is ZERO evidence of Darwinian Evolution. Darwin himself even said that if there aren't numerous findings in the fossil record verifying his theory, it is false and should be discarded. Guess what happened? After finding millions of fossils since Darwin's time, we've yet to find ONE solid transitional fossil...not one.

    Just because nearly every modern day American, since kindergarten, has been indoctrinated with the belief that the earth is billions of years old doesn't make it true. In the same way most Germans fell for the lie that Jews were genetically inferior to whites, we've accepted this old earth lie without questioning it. It's based purely on the flawed carbon 14 dating, but even more powerful than their flawed science, is the simple knowledge that if the earth is in fact young, they would have to accept and be accountable to the Creator of that young earth. I hear a great analogy once...so imagine you find a very old shipwreck on the bottom of the ocean, in the ship there is a chest of gold coins. If you want to find out when the ship sank, do you look at the oldest coin in the chest or do you look at the newest? You look at the newest coins! In the same way, the signs that point to an old earth are cherry picked while the young earth evidence is ignored or denied. There is a lot of young earth evidence that would make the old earth theory impossible...but you won't find it in a science book because unbiased "science" doesn't exist.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • cb

      Phil Phil Phil, please tell me how microevolution is not Darwinian? Could you also explain how microevolution was "written" in the DNA. If I'm not mistaken, lateral gene transfer is a process by which an organism incorporates genetic material from another organism. Bacteria do this all the time, becoming resistant to various antibiotics. These bacteria are not the same species at all; mind you there are various different definitions of species not just a biological species concept.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Phil

      cb: My point is that with microevolution there is not "new data" being written from scratch, which is what would be required for macro evolution. Adaptation is the mark of an intelligent creator, not a creation recreating itself.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  5. SDC in NS

    Jesus already gave his opinion on this subject. In Matthew 19:4 he said, "“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female." Jesus believed the creation account of Genesis.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  6. J K Mark

    Isn't it sad how confused these creationists are? They insist on a very strict literal interpretation of the first part of genesis, and yet if that same standard were applied to the rest of the bible, you have numerous errors, and even two places where Jesus misquotes scripture. Their faith isn't based on Jesus, but rather on the bible, their own strict literal interpretation of the bible, an interpretation that also must ignore certain parts of the bible that contradict other parts (i.e. the contradicting stories of David and Goliath). The bottom line is this: 1) they are calling evolutionists non-Christians, and that is a lie, and 2) they are also stealing the good name of Christians who, like C.S. Lewis, believed in the truth of evolution. They are lying and stealing. The last time I looked those are against two of the Ten Commandments God gave us. So next time you hear a "Christian" go off on creationism, like those above, know that they are doing what Satan wants, they are lying and they are stealing, and most importantly, they are dividing the Christian community as Satan so desires to. And they do it with a self-righteous pride, as evidenced by their self-righteous statements, and the last time I looked, pride was the worst of the sins. The lowest part of hell is reserved for them. The words and misinformation they have posted here will haunt them for eternity. Remember, C.S. Lewis knew the truth, he also know that God created everything, just not the perverted way the creationists want to force down our throats.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  7. Idiots

    Christianity breeds stupidity and ignorance which is clearly evident on this comment board.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      Look in the mirror.... Look deep into your eyes..... they are the mirror of your inner man ! There is NOTHING there because you have denied your own soul!

      God calls you a FOOL! Your comment proves it!

      P.S. One thing you can do for sure, is pick a perfect name for yourself ! "s" on the end must have been a typo!

      April 11, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Spencer

      "God calls you a FOOL! Your comment proves it!"

      Well guess what you just proved your an idiot too. Prove that God actually called this person an fool. You are a fool for speaking and making a judgment for God!

      April 11, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • PRISM 1234

      You obviously don't know who God is! Or else you would be agreeing with Him. As it is you are in the same cathegory with idiot!

      April 11, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Spencer

      Prism you are the idiot, you continue to show you are not a true Christian. You are such a troll.

      April 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  8. kishore

    There is an undeniable intelligence behind the formation of DNA. DNA is a code and it's mathematically impossible for DNA to have come about randomly. 'nuff said.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  9. CMW

    Since the question is in regard to what Jesus would believe, why don't we let Him speak on the matter? Jesus said in John 5:45-47 (New American Standard Bible)- 45"Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46"For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47"But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"

    Since Moses wrote Genesis, It would seem that according to verse 47, Jesus is a proponent of the creation event...or does that make too much sense? Not accepting what Moses wrote as was given him by God would seem to preclude one from accepting anything Jesus said, does it not? In which case, I doubt very much if the proponents of evolution would care very much about Jesus' views on the matter.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  10. Patrick

    I cannot believe that there is anyone who even thinks there can be a debate on this subject. Evidence vs. the myths of a nomadic tribe of more than 2,000 years ago. If the American public can't see the obvious, it's no wonder they can be fooled into voting for crooks who are only interested in lining their own pockets and serving their corporate masters. The Jesus of America is as grotesque a caricature as is American "Democracy".

    April 10, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  11. Anna2

    I am a member of mensa... all must bow to me

    April 10, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  12. Steve

    This op-ed was published on the wrong day. It was supposed to have been published on April 1.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  13. Darren

    The books contained in the canonical bible were written hundreds of years before the age of reason. Reading Genesis as if it were a modern history textbook results in the ridiculous idea that the earth is 10,000 years old. Besides that, no one knows exactly what these books said because there is no original of any of them, not to mention the problems with translation. As for the Apocalypse of John, which has been cited extensively on this board, let's face it, it didn't happen. It's been 1,900 years now and safe to assume that John of Patmos was incorrect in his predictions. It is a wonderful masterpiece of literature that has influenced art and music over the centuries. It is not about the end of the world.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  14. Charles H. Root, III

    I'm not sure when Dr. Giberson received his PhD, but he may want to consider hitting the books again.

    To say that science started in the 17th century is a narrow, Euro-centric view that downplays human learning and technological advances prior to the 1600's.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  15. sanjosemike

    I am an atheist. However, atheists like myself can't use "evolution" as the reason they are atheists. A god certainly could have "created" evolution as a logical sysem to transfer energy between species. So...if you are religious, fine. If you are an atheist, fine. But nobody can use the obvious truth of evolution as an "excuse" not to believe in a god. Atheists (like myself) have to "pick" other reasons. And I do....

    April 10, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • MP

      Yeah. God sure could have done this. In fact, not just ANY God...the God from the Bible. Sure. Why not? Evidence is what allows us to explain things, it's what prevents us from, say, falling down a flight of stairs. Ordinary claims require ordinary evidence. Extraordinary require extraordinary evidence. Theists can't even find ordinary claims for their extraordinary evidence. Theists: I get it....If it makes you a good person that's fine, but don't go around saying that it's objectively true.

      April 10, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  16. jefff

    Atheism is a non prophet organization.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  17. Brady

    What a lively debate.

    Although I haven't made up my mind on the theory of evolution, I will disagree with the author of this article.

    In the Bible, Jesus is described as 'the Word made Flesh', (John 1:1, John 1:14) a perfect being, the son of God. Jesus cannot deny himself, and if Jesus is God's Word incarnate, I highly doubt that he would disregard the teachings of Genesis.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • dcb

      "The Word 'became' flesh". The Greek word is "ginomai". I love how scientists speak of a "Theory" as fact or "truth". First there is a hypothesis, then the hypothesis becomes a theory and only after enough evidence is established to support the theory it becomes law. There is very little evidence at the micro biological level supporting evolution. The evidence is stacked against evolution especially considering we have only mapped about 10% of the primate DNA when we have mapped nearly all of the human DNA. It is terribly inconclusive and pure subjectivitey to claim there is a match in the DNA of primates and humans.

      April 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Phil

      Very true Brady, Jesus quoted Genesis numerous times. Jesus wouldn't accept this false "truth"

      April 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  18. jefff

    Jesus did not believe in evolution and Darwin himself only introduced evolution very timidly. If one wants to go on line for free at http://www.falundafa.org, one can find some wonderful answers. Thank you.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  19. Nick

    For me, there is no greater and more beautiful evidence of God then evolution. It is sheer brilliance.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • MP

      I love it! Evolution doesn't even imply a prime mover, and people like you artificially add one to the equation. Ignorance is only as great as one's imagination.

      April 10, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  20. Jon

    "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."

    As well said as the author's article was, it was still biased. The Book of nature does not reveal the truth that God created the world through a slow process, it reveals that Evolution was indeed gradual and took a very long time. Nowhere in the Science does God's signature appear. That is a matter of faith, not fact. I see the same evidence and in no way do I see the patterns of God's work...I see something much more profound.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Gsj77

      There is ample scientific evidence cited by highly credentialed and respected scientists that call in to question the entire evolutionary theory based on evidence of science itself, having nothing to do with faith. Much of this evidence comes directly from the study of genetics and DNA itself. To suggest that evolution is a proven theory is a fallacy that science itself cannot support (e.g. Dr. Michael Denton's land mark book "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" and many other similar works which make it clear that this theory is anything but proven). This discussion is no longer a discussion between science and faith but rather between science and science.

      April 10, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Phil

      The big bang and evolution theories require more faith than Christianity. How? Well if you break it down very simply....something has existed for eternity. Either God has existed forever with no beginning, or everything else has existed forever with no beginning. We know that "stuff" didn't exist forever because we can observe the universe expanding and degrading by the second. The energy that drives this universe is running out. Therefore we know that the universe isn't eternal, so that means something else is eternal. The Bible says that God had no beginning, he has always been. I know it sounds crazy that God had no beginning but before you discard that thought, remember that you're stating that the atoms that make up the computer have existed for eternity with no beginning..even though we know the things that make up this universe are finite and are breaking down.

      April 10, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
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