After completing a degree at Christ’s College, Cambridge, preparing to become a minister, Charles Darwin sailed in 1831 as a passenger aboard the H.M.S. Beagle, setting off on a path that was destined to impact the world.
His five-year voyage took him to the western coast of South America, where he observed various kinds of exotic and formerly unknown animals. One set of creatures in particular, the Galapagos finches, caught Darwin’s attention. He studied the birds, collected samples and observed that they had various beak sizes and shapes. It was his observations of these variations that inspired his theory of origins.
Darwin returned to England in 1836, and in 1842 he began drafting his book, On the “Origin of Species” by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (often referred to simply as “Origin of Species”), eventually published in 1859.
Shortly after the book’s publication, Darwin carried on a long correspondence with his friend and colleague Asa Gray, sharing his doubts and his sense of confusion about the end and ultimate directions of evolution. “I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle,” he confessed. “I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of design.”
The confusion Darwin expressed came as he tried to connect all the wonders of the natural world that he observed with all the harsh things he saw existing alongside that beauty. Because of all the destructive forces he witnessed, he chose to reject God rather than seek a biblical interpretation of those distortions within the created world.
We face the same dilemma as we struggle to understand origins. We cannot help asking questions such as, “Where did I come from?”, “How did I get here?” and “How do I ascribe meaning to my existence?”
Darwin ultimately adopted an atheistic theory of origins. In other words, he left God out of the picture altogether. Theism, on the other hand, offers an explanation of origins that takes God into consideration. Because none of us were actually there to personally witness how everything began, we have to examine the available evidence and make up our own minds.
Assumptions of Evolution
Evolution is based on certain assumptions, outlined as follows by the late G. A. Kerkut of the University of Southampton in England (Implications of Evolution [Pergamon, 1960]):
- Nonliving things gave rise to living material.
- This spontaneous generation occurred only once.
- Viruses, bacteria, plants, and animals are all interrelated.
- The one-celled organisms gave rise to many-celled organisms.
- All the organisms without vertebrae are interrelated.
- Those organisms without vertebrae gave rise to ones with vertebrae.
- Fish gave rise to amphibia, then reptiles, then birds, and finally mammals.
I leave readers to make their own conclusions about the probability of these assumptions actually occurring. The Bible, however, gives us compelling evidence to help us draw other conclusions concerning our origins.
The apostle Paul rightly says that all human beings know something about God through nature, even when they have no knowledge of Scripture: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).
We may not know everything about God from studying nature, Paul says, but there are two things we can know about His invisible qualities. The first is that He is eternally powerful and the other is that He is divine. Darwin may not have chosen to align the power governing his “natural selection” with the God of the Bible, but he still describes it as eternal and in terms equivalent, in essence, to divinity. His deity was, in some sense, unknown.
The Bible declares the real nature of that “unknown” God without apology: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth…. He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth…. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ … For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:24-31).
Creative Power in Jesus
The question of origins is decided by whether or not we accept the resurrection of Jesus and His claims to be the Creator of everything that exists and, as such, our Lord (see John 1:13, 14).When in the Gospel of John, Jesus is called the “Word” who has never had a beginning, the One who is just as much God as the Father, and who made everything that existed, we have to decide whether that is authentic or a delusion.
The Genesis story of Creation describes the Word speaking things into existence—in the oft-repeated statement: “And God said….” And it claims that that which did not previously exist suddenly came into existence.
There is an intangible quality in the nature of Christ’s spoken words that intrinsically brought life. In the presence of a man who’d been dead for four days and whose body was decomposing, Jesus called in a loud voice, “‘Lazarus, come out!’ [and] the dead man came out” full of life again (John 11:43, 44). Someone said that if Jesus hadn’t limited that command to Lazarus alone, every dead person in the grave would have come forth at His words.
What Darwin Saw Wasn’t Always So
Even a casual reading of the Genesis account of Creation reveals the heart of God for His creatures and His creation: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). There was nothing in all of creation that reflected the destruction that confused Darwin. Every animal, every plant, every aspect of that freshly created planet reflected the glory of God and His benevolent purpose for His creatures. It is not until humanity rejected that life-giving word of Jesus, their Creator, that the earth brought forth thistles and everything else was cursed (see Gen. 3:1-16).
This understanding helps us make sense of the current state of the earth and everything in it. But the same creative Lord who originally spoke the world into being says, “I will create new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17).
Until then, the apostle Paul writes, the creation “waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” The whole creation groans, he says, “as in the pains of childbirth,” waiting “eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:19-23).
And Jesus is as good as His word.
All scriptural passages are from the NIV.
This is an adapted version of an article that first appeared in Signs of the Times Australia in 2005.
This article first appeared in Adventist World in the February, 2008 issue.