I have, on occasion, made the statement that I believe in evolution. My purpose for saying that is to get people to think. What does “evolution” mean? For many people, the statement means “man from monkey,” and that is as far as they go. There are at least five ways in which people use the word” evolution.” None of them have anything to do with the existence of God. Think about the ways people use the word “evolution.”
#1. ANY CHANGE OVER TIME. We talk about stars evolving from blue hot stars to red dwarfs. We speak about an athletic program evolving. This is simply change over time and has no relevance to our faith.
#2. CULTURAL EVOLUTION. A cultural group may change radically over time due to many things. America has evolved from a country made mostly of immigrants to a country made of people born in this country. Our nation has evolved, and even our vocabulary recognizes this. When I was a kid, America was perceived as a “melting pot” where we could all be one and leave our ethnicity behind. That has evolved into a pluralistic society where people determine their ancestry and try to retain it. That evolution has brought enormous political implications,
#3. PROGRESSIVE EVOLUTIONARY REVELATION. Our understanding of the atom has evolved in my lifetime. My chemistry class in high school and college taught me that the atom had a nucleus with electrons orbiting it in concentric circles around that core. Now, when I teach chemistry, I talk about orbitals and electrons moving in figure eights and cloverleaf patterns in various numbers. Knowledge can change understanding, and that is evolutionary revelation. The Bible uses evolutionary revelation, with the Old Testament introducing the nature and operation of God and progressively revealing the nature of Jesus Christ and the future of believers.
So, when I say that I believe in evolution, you must know what I mean by that. If anyone says they do or don’t believe in evolution, ask them to define what they mean by “evolution.” The truth is that everyone believes in some form of evolution. Tomorrow, we will look at the two remaining primary uses of the word.
— John N. Clayton © 2022