Evolution Diagram

Answer by John Mackay and Diane Eager

This question relates to an article by Time Keller on the Gospel Coalition website.  Tim Keller (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, chairman of Redeemer City to City, and founder of The Gospel Coalition.

Tim Keller was asked: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve, how can we know where sin and suffering came from?

His brief answer was: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in a historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve. There are many unanswered questions around this issue.


Keller followed this statement with a detailed article, which is mainly the opinions of theologians about the style of literature in Genesis followed by Keller’s own interpretation of Romans 5 and I Corinthians 15. 

Keller states he believes in an historical Adam and Eve but does not explain how this is compatible with evolution, since Darwin himself described evolution as the “war of nature” and claimed that long ages of famine and death brought about “the production of higher animals”.  (Darwin, Origin of Species, 1859)  This is the exact opposite of God’s description of the original created world as “very good”(Genesis 1:31).

So we wonder if has ever bothered to compare such processes to what God said in Genesis 1 and 2, or if Keller really understands evolution, and the processes claimed to bring it about,  so let us do that.

Modern day evolutionists use less emotive terms than Darwin, such as “selective advantage” but the process is still the same.  This is a flat denial of Genesis 1, which culminates with God looking at all that He had made and declaring it to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  Darwin and his successors also regard human beings as simply “higher animals,” which is another complete denial of Genesis.  Human beings are unique creations made in the image of God.

Keller tries to avoid the issue by referring to various theologians who clearly do not believe Genesis 1 and 2.  For example Keller refers to Bruce Waltke who claims that forming Adam from dust of the ground could mean “the author might be speaking figuratively in the same way, meaning that God brought man into being through normal biological processes.” 

Keller and Waltke (and their followers) should take note: there are no normal biological processes that turn dust into people.  It works the other way around, i.e. people turn to dust – it is happening all the time, but that is a destructive death process and the opposite of a creative process. 

Keller spends a lot of time naming names such as C. S. Lewis and hiding behind their opinions. After meandering through the opinions of such theologians Keller summarises his section on Genesis: “In summary, it looks like a responsible way of reading the text is to interpret Genesis 2-3 as the account of an historical event that really happened.”  If that is what Keller really believes, he should say so straight away and affirm what the text actually states. 

So let us clearly state what the Biblical text does says.  The first thing we are told about the creation of human beings is they were special creations made in the image God (Genesis 1:27-28).  We are then given details of how God did this in Genesis 2.  Adam was made from “dust of the ground,” i.e. raw materials, not some pre-existing animal, and Eve was created from tissue taken from Adam.  This is either an accurate description of what God actually did or it is a fairy tale.  If it is a fairy tale it has no authority, and sceptics, liberal theologians and other unbelievers are justified in scoffing at it.

There is a theory promoted by John Stott and others that God somehow “stamped His image” on a pair of the evolving hominins that had come into being by evolutionary processes, but this cannot be reconciled with the description of the creation and man and woman in Genesis.  For more a more detailed critique of this theory see the question: HUMAN EVOLUTION? Does it create any problems for Christians who believe it?  Answer here.

Anyone reading Genesis 1 and 2 will straight away see that it is not compatible with the evolutionary story of how human beings arrived on the planet, and what a ‘non-good’ state the world was in if evolution was true.

Keller claims he believes in a historical Fall of Man but does not go into details concerning  Genesis 3 or the chapters that follow, so let us  provide them.  After judging the serpent and promising a Saviour who would defeat the serpent, God sentenced Adam and Eve to death and cursed the ground.  From then on the living world degenerated into violence, disease and general degradation – all things that are not good.  If death, disease and struggle had already been in the world, these would not be punishments.  Again, there is a clear incompatibility between Genesis and evolution. 

Rather than dealing with the actual events of the Fall of Man, Keller goes straight to Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 and correctly states that Paul believed in a literal Adam and we should too.  However, Keller reveals his own “pick and mix” attitude to the Bible when he states:
“The key for interpretation is the Bible itself. I don’t think the author of Genesis 1 wants us to take the “days” literally, but it is clear that Paul definitely does want readers to take Adam and Eve literally. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of biblical authority.”  (word “days” in inverted commas in original)

What Keller really means is that he doesn’t want to take the days of Genesis 1 literally, presumably so as not to upset those who believe in an old earth and millions of years of evolution. 

If Keller wants to use the Bible as the key to interpreting itself, let’s see what it says about the days in Genesis.  In Exodus we are told that God spoke and wrote down the Ten Commandments, which include this statement:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

It is clear from the context God is speaking about real days, not some vague long periods or symbolic times.  We would also remind Keller that the Creator who spoke and wrote down these words is Christ, who made all things (John 1:3).

For further details see the question: CREATION DAYS: Were the days of creation, as described in Genesis 1, real 24 hour days?  Answer here.

Keller goes on to explain how we can benefit from Christ’s death.  He states: “We are in covenant with him, not because we are related biologically but through faith.” 

This is half-truth. Yes, we are in a covenantal relationship with Christ through faith, but it is only effective because we are biologically related, and Christ is our Kinsman Redeemer.  Only a relative can be a Kinsman Redeemer.  If we go back through the generations, the entire human race can be subsumed into Adam.  All human beings, including Christ in His incarnate form, are descendants of Adam, so we are biologically related to both Adam and Christ, and that is why the covenant applies to us. 

Keller skips over the real link between Adam, Christ and us, and completely ignores how death really came into the world.  Paul makes it very clear that Adam’s sin brought death into this world, and Christ’s death and resurrection brings eternal life in the next.  This is the real basis of Paul’s “one man” principle in Romans 5.  One man, Adam, brought sin and death into the world; one man, Christ, paid the penalty, which made forgiveness and new life freely available for all people.

Finally, we have a challenge for Keller and all evangelical Christians who believe that Christ’s death and resurrection will bring them eternal life in a New Heaven and Earth. Think carefully about this question: What will that new world be like?  If God created the first earth through a long process of struggle and death, and declared that to be “very good” can we trust Him to keep those things out of the New Heaven and Earth that Christ’s death and resurrection enables us to live in for eternity?  Sadly the Gospel Coalition is increasingly characterised by such half truths concerning the gospel. Wake up guys!

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