For God so loved the world… that He let it evolve?

I am doing some work on a sermon I will be preaching in a few weeks time, and at the same time reading Peter Ennis’ excellent book, “The Evolution of Adam“. A half-thought has jumped into my mind, and I want to capture it, give it air, and hear your views on it.

One of the reasons that God created human beings was to have beings that would love him. To ensure that this was genuine love, God had to give us freedom of choice – or freedom to choose to not love him. Anything less than this would have meant that our feelings were prescribed and scripted, and not true love. It is this free choice that allows us to choose our spiritual path. So far so good.

But what if this is a pattern for the whole of creation? What if God needed the entire natural world to develop “on its own”, freely choosing its own path of development and growth?

Just as God provides a framework in which, given all the variables of our lives, we will have opportunity to choose to follow Him, so too God set in motion a natural framework, complete with energy potential and physical laws that had every opportunity of giving rise to sentient life. Maybe there are many such places that God has “experimented” in this way. This allows creation to be truly “free” to choose to either love or reject God, just as it is truly “free” to even develop life capable of such love in the first place.

Just as God creating human beings with free will makes Him a bigger God, not a smaller one, so a God who exists as the ultimate cause of an evolved universe makes Him bigger and not smaller.

Your thoughts?

6 thoughts on “For God so loved the world… that He let it evolve?”

  1. Hi Graeme,
    Interesting thought, but two issues immediately come to mind:

    1. Humans have the unique capability of direct communication with God through speech, thought etc. We have volition, which allows us to consciously make the choice to love/follow God or not. What Scriptural (or other) evidence is there that the rest of Creation has the ability to make a ‘choice’ in which path to follow, as opposed to deterministically following instinct and laws of nature?

    2. If Creation were allowed to ‘freely’ take it’s own course then we could have ended up being a completely different type of being, and would not have been made ‘in the image of God’, unless that’s only referring to a spiritual image. How would God have allowed this without intervening along the way?

    I agree, however, that allowing freedom in nature wouldn’t make God smaller, but maybe your idea just needs to be expanded on further, as it could explain the apparent randomness evident in nature and natural history.

  2. If God can do all things, why didn’t He just create us with perfect character? In other words, what is the purpose of this difficult and trying physical life? Couldn’t our heartache and suffering have been avoided? Why must I sit in a wheelchair paralised from the neck down, suffering from neuropathic pain day-in day-out?

    Of course God could have done all of that—if He had been willing to create us without the personal character we need for making personal choices. It all gets back to our free will, our freedom of choice. God Himself had a choice about how man would be created. He could have made us automatons, functioning like programmed robots whose only course of action is to carry out the instructions of their maker. But He chose to create us like Him, capable of making choices that are limited only by our knowledge and character. This requires that we learn right from wrong and that our character develop gradually by our decisions under God’s guidance and assistance.

    We have the “freedom of choice” (good heading for a talk … hmmm) God provides the wind but it is ultimately our choice whether to set our sails or not. As long as we are human, our character is not firm; it is not permanent. We can change our minds and behavior. We can make mistakes and learn from them. We can learn from the fruits of our right and wrong choices.

    If there are choices surely there can only be two right-wrong, and since there are two choice there must be two endings or rewards to the choices we make, else what would it matter what you choose.

    I believe that when we face difficult choices, God can see how committed to Him we are. Only when we obey Him under duress is the depth of our character fully evident.

    Hope you enjoyed the V-Ball

  3. Thought-provoking idea for sure.

    1. if one carefully reads the Genesis account, plants, animals are often “brought forth”, while Adam (‘s body) is directly “formed” by God from raw materials.

    2. Man’s “spritual evolution” to loving and obeying God is a different process from natural selection / biological evolution. We learn it from trials and letting God correct us – Heb 5:8 states that even Jesus as a man had to undergo this to be perfected.

  4. Thank you for your thoughts Graeme.

    As a Christian who believes that God created (and is creating) through evolutionary processes, I am beginning to see just how destructive to faith, the traditional view is. Every year millions of Christian children enter high school and university and are confronted with good scientific teaching on evolution. Unfortunately Christian parents and leaders who are stuck in young earth/ intelligent design mode, force these young adults to make a terrible and false choice. Choose between science or faith. Sadly, many give up on faith. Even sadder, the rest adopt a dumb faith; thinking that rejection of scientific excellence and truth is somehow a virtue.

    The majority of Christian leaders are in fact ambiguous/ double minded when it comes to science. They trust science to power their highly advanced transport around the world; to enable their instant global communication and learning, and to heal their illnesses. But the same scientific techniques that we routinely put our “faith” in (hypothesis testing, retesting, peer review etc. within incredibly strict accountability structures) tell us with weighty confidence and overwhelming evidence that evolution is the way all life is shaped.

    Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins quote Conway Morris in their excellent book, “The Language of Science & Faith”;

    “The prevailing view of evolution is that life has no direction – no goals, no predictable outcomes. Hedged in by circumstances and coincidence, the course of life lurches from one point to another. It is pure chance that 3 billion years of evolution on Earth have produced a peculiarly clever ape. We may find distant echoes of our aptitude for tool making and language and our relentless curiosity in other animals, but intelligence like ours is very special, right?
    Wrong! The history of life on Earth appears impossibly complex and unpredictable, but take a closer look and you’ll find a deep structure. Physics and chemistry dictate that many things are not possible, and these constraints extend to biology. The solution to a particular biological problem can often only be handled in one of a few ways, which is why when you examine the tapestry of evolution you see the same pattern emerging time and time again”.

    In other words; God set up the universe to run and evolve within certain constraints. Although it appears very open and free, the openness and freedom is in fact still limited to the natural laws that govern everything. All life on earth has evolved within these boundaries and constraints. Therefore if God provided the essential ingredients of life and if he set the boundaries it is impossible for man not to have evolved as we have; in the image of God. It was as He intended. It may have taken a while for man to evolve within the freedom of our constraints, but here we are.

    The sooner Christians can come to terms with the fact that most scientists have no other agenda than truth, the sooner we will have something to agree on. God’s revelation of himself and his work in nature is truth. He delights when we “stumble” upon the confluence of his majestic complexity and awesome order. To hold things in tension is to bear the image of God most truly. I believe in evolution, I am a Christian.

  5. I like this a lot, Donovan: “The sooner Christians can come to terms with the fact that most scientists have no other agenda than truth, the sooner we will have something to agree on. “

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.