Love for the Bible Led Me to Evolution [Part 4: Consequences]

This is the final post in a four part series on evolution and Christianity.
Part 1: Fundamentals

Part 2: Scripture 
Part 3: Science
Part 4: Consequences


Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men.

-Thomas Huxley (English biologist 1825 – 1895)

The last three posts have hopefully demonstrated how loving the Bible led me from belief in Young Earth Creationism to embracing evolution.  If you’ve reached this post without reading the others, I suggest taking a quick look at them (it’s ok, I’ll wait).

So what now?  What changes for me?

Certainly some things (and maybe quite a lot, depending upon your perspective).  Here are four consequences connected to the discussion.  If you can think of more, feel free to leave a comment.:

1. Trading Inerrancy for Infallability.


Considering the fact that reading the Bible differently is the very thing that led me here might make this point seem circular, because reading differently is both cause and consequence.

If Christians accept the tenets of evolution, then they accept that Genesis cannot be literally true.

Who imposed this category of “must be true in the literal sense for God to work in it” anyway?  If Jesus can use parables and the prophets can employ metaphors, why can’t God speak, really speak, within ancient story-telling?

To deny that God could work through ancient story seems hopelessly biased to me.  I realize that contemporary humans are smarter, prettier, and undeniably better than every other human that has ever lived… in every way… without question… but to say that we have unique access to God, whereas the ancients did not, feels like it takes us one step too close to the enchanted land of egotism.

Those people telling you that Genesis only matters if it’s “literally true” might be placing your God, and your Bible, in a box.  This conviction leads to the kind of readings which elevate literal statements about “what happened” while missing the actual points that God appears to make in the text.  “Just accepting it” becomes dangerously more important than truly understanding it.

This is the difference between inerrancy and infallibility.

Inerrancy was famously defined by the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy as the following:

Holy Scripture… is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches.. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history….

The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited of disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.

Inerrancy affirms that there are no historical inaccuracies in the Bible, including the story of Genesis:  God literally made Man before God made Woman.  A snake literally spoke to Eve.  Jubal literally was the father of all those who play stringed instruments and pipes (Gen 4:21).

Infallibility, on the other hand, affirms that the Bible is completely trustworthy in regards to salvation, life, and faith… and that it will not fail to accomplish the things which it sets out to do.  A scientific portrayal of creation is simply not one of those things.

The kind of reading that I do “post-evolution”  is freeing.  I believe I am much more free to read, question, think, and entertain ideas which I might otherwise shut myself off to.  I am free to listen to the points which Scripture makes instead of working to make it fit the things I need to believe.

2. Rethinking “The Fall.”

If Genesis isn’t scientifically true, then death did not enter the natural order through a great Fall brought about by the sin of the first humans.

Wooddut by Hans Brosamer of the Fall of Man from the 1550 Wittenberg Bible of Martin Luther
Wooddut by Hans Brosamer of the Fall of Man from the 1550 Wittenberg Bible of Martin Luther


3. Rethinking “God’s Image.”

Biological science tells us that we have far more in common with other animals than we have ever known.  Neuroscience tells us that (probably) everything we “do” in our minds is attached to a physical process in the brain.  We can no longer locate the divine-image-bearing aspect of humanity in the traditional, categorical differences between our biological makeup and everything else in creation.

I believe being made in the “image of God”, Trinitarian that I am, means that humans are created in (and physically from!) relationships.  We belong to each other and to God by virtue of who we are as people, just as the members of the Trinity have belonged to each other from eternity.

4. Disagreeing with many, many other Christians.

A slightly more practical consequence of accepting evolution is that I’ve fallen into disagreement with many of my brothers and sisters (over 75% of evangelical ones in the U.S.).  This is particularly difficult in the realm of professional ministry and it can be a taxing thing on close personal relationships as well.

Still, I am not discouraged- not in the least.  Difference and disagreement in the Family of God does not make it any less of a family.

In fact, it kind of does the opposite.

Did I miss anything?  What do you think are the logical consequences of accepting evolution as a Christian?

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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  • Scripture doesn’t mention evolution—meaning it doesn’t deny it. It doesn’t mention dinosaurs—but it doesn’t deny it. So who’s really to say that these aren’t true when scripture doesn’t specifically deny them?

    As far as Biblical inerrancy goes; most mainline Christians allow for a certain latitude of symbolism in the Bible, especially in the creation story. Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, so who’s to say God doesn’t look like an ape…He never reveals Himself in the Bible. Just food for thought.

    I’m with you, I actually believe in evolution but I still believe in an Intelligent Creator; i.e. God as the root of all.

    My point is, pay attention to what the scripture does say and don’t worry so much about what it leaves out.

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  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading your 4 posts. You handle complex arguments clearly and sensitively. I, too, love the Bible and believe that to read it with an open and questioning mind is a deeply rewarding exercise. Of course, one great consequence of accepting the truth that God has worked through evolution is that the completely artificial barriers between science and “religion” can be dismantled. If God creates through evolution, he also does so through all the scientific laws that have been discovered over the last 400 years. God is much bigger and more awesome than even the God of Genesis, He is the God of space and time, of the Big Bang and the Higgs boson. And yet he is the God who “so loved the world that he . . .” Thank you.

    • Put so very well, I couldn’t agree more.

      • Sending old ideas from Christianity down the road is a wonderful thing. We can cebalrete a religion that does not claim to know it all.I agree with the first sentence, it has been happening for the life of the church, took nearly five hundred years to reach an agreement and get rid of all the other varieties (almost rid of).As for the second sentence, well, as they become established then you will find that they know it all, they are the only true religion. Actually even before that, as part of the reasoning given for the change and the establishment of the new order is that the others are wrong, and the emerging (pun intended) group is actually a correction of past errors.

  • Scott McD

    Allen! I realize i am probably super late in the game here.. but i just finished reading through your series. (i think I skimmed it before….). Curiosity: What are you views on the fall? What did the fall do if it didn’t usher in death? That section was pretty short. (also congratulations.. this is officially the first comment i have ever made on a blog! I have been off work for 2 weeks and have gotten extra ready… I love you bro)
    Scott McD

    • Scott McD

      by “ready” i mean in the sense of reading alot… not the sense that i needed to have two weeks off to be prepared to read your blog. (there is a reason i am normally legally prohibited from writing on the internet! ha)

    • Welcome to the unique club of those “who have ever commented on a blog” – you’ve joined an exquisite, handsome sort of people known widely for their reasonableness, attention to etiquette, and commendably-polite discourse. The bar is high my friend, so don’t lower it or you can gtfo.

      (I’m stoked you’ve joined the conversation)

      Regardless of the way I choose to understand the concept of a Fall, if the rise of humans includes evolutionary processes, then death would necessarily play a huge role in pre-human history. I think for me it is enough to say that the first humans to develop God-consciousness (and their responsibility toward others) were quick to sin against it.

      Obviously this changes traditional ideas about imputed original sin and the severe stunting of human capabilities that were powerful throughout church history (especially with Augustine).

      I felt at first this was a massive paradigm shift for me, but the things I believed are still largely intact. It could be, however, that I simply haven’t fully worked out the theological ramifications.

      • Scott McD

        Bummer.. I am neither exquisite nor handsome… oh well. Also.. it took me like 5 minutes to figure our what “gtfo” means. ha.

        Yeah, I asked the question because it seemed to me to be a pretty big consequence. I believe in creation, so its not one I personally have to deal with.

        Question: Would you consider death unnatural (or anti-God)?

        Something I was thinking about: The Bible talks about how death itself was swallowed up through the death and resurrection of Christ. However, if death was before sin, and therefore is not unnatural, then why would it be so important that Jesus conquered it?

        As is always the case, I admit there might be something I am missing in your argument.

      • Death seems pretty natural to me – especially given the physical laws dealing with entropy. Even so, it’s still something that the atonement absorbed and overcame (which won’t fully be realized until our resurrection).

        The problem that most people have with this is that God is then understood as setting up a less-than-perfect universe because limitations are a part of it. I, however, like to remember that the very rules of physics that limit our lives also make them possible.

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