No contemporary teaching is more antithetical to Scripture, or more overtly contrary to Christianity, than evolution—the assumption that about 4 billion years ago a simple life form started on earth and then, through the unguided and nondirected process of random mutation and natural selection, all life, from bacteria to Bostonians, arose.
The scientific establishment, however, says that evolution is true. And because so many Christians have bought into the great myth of our era, that scientific truth takes precedence over all rival claims (“scientism”), many Christians have accepted evolution, even though the teaching destroys every Christian doctrine.
Take the resurrection of the dead. In any evolutionary paradigm, even one in which God somehow is involved, how does one make sense of the promised resurrection of the saints at the end of time? One doesn’t, because the resurrection, as depicted in Scripture, becomes farcical if evolution is to be believed.
When Billy Graham died in early 2018, in pulpits worldwide preachers proclaimed that he had “received his final reward,” or that he had “gone to his glory.” Billy Graham and any Christian who dies, it is believed, ascends straightway to eternal heavenly bliss.
Many Christian scholars of varied theological persuasions, however, understand things differently. Talking about the end-time resurrection of the dead as the great Christian hope, N. T. Wright wrote: “This is actually the official view of all mainstream orthodox theologians, Catholic and Protestant, except for those who think that after death we pass at once into an eternity . . . a quite popular view but one which contains many serious difficulties.”
Meanwhile, theologians expound numerous postulations regarding the states of the dead before the resurrection. Some believe that the saints are in heaven, at least temporarily; others that they’re in a shadowy existence somewhere; some believe that the dead sleep unconscious until the resurrection; others grant that they don’t know what happens immediately after death.
Whatever the diversity of thought, the idea of a disembodied soul ascending into heaven at death as their final reward is closer to ancient Greek philosophy than to sound Christian theology. And Christian thinkers know it. The great hope of the Christian isn’t found, they know, in what happens immediately after death, but instead in the promised resurrection of the dead at the end time.
No serious attempt to understand New Testament theology, including the resurrection, can deny how central a sinless Adam, who brought death to the world, was to Paul’s theology. In other words, Paul interpreted Genesis 1-3 as a “fundamentalist” would today.
A half a dozen times in Romans 5 Paul makes a one-to-one correspondence from Adam to Jesus. In Romans 5:17-19 alone he makes a direct link between the two men three times: “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteousness act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
Adam brought death; Jesus brought life. Period.
One slight problem, however. In any evolutionary model there’s no way that one man, Adam, could have brought death into the world. The opposite is true: in the theory of evolution death, billions of years of it, brought Adam into the world instead. The idea of a holy, sinless human being who, through his own action, caused death makes any evolutionary model of human origins impossible.
Theistic evolutionist Denis Lamoureux wrote: “First, Adam never existed. . . . Second, Adam never actually sinned, because he never existed. Consequently, sin did not enter the world on account of Adam. Third, Adam was never judged by God to suffer and die.”
2 Though not all theistic evolutionists are so dogmatic, by taking this stance Lamoureux spares himself the pain and embarrassment of trying to make billions of years of evolution fit with a sinless Adam who, according to the New Testament, brought death to the world.
The problem multiplies because Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, makes a clear link between Adam’s fall and Christ’s death and resurrection, as well as our death (because of Adam’s fall) and our resurrection (because of Christ’s resurrection).
“But now,” Paul wrote, “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:20-22, NKJV).3
Adam brought death (“for in Adam all die”), but Christ will bring life (“in Christ all shall be made alive”), and this happens at the resurrection of the dead. However, once an Adam who caused death is rejected, the sequence falls apart even before it starts. In the standard evolutionary model no Adam brought death into existence. How could he, when it was death itself that brought Adam into existence instead?
Thus evolution as the source of our origins destroys any hope of the resurrection, at least if Paul is to be taken seriously.
Also, how quickly, and by what process, does this promised resurrection of the dead at the end of time occur? Here, too, Paul is unambiguous: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16, NKJV). And: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51-53, NKJV).
The dead rise, incorruptible, immortal. This transformation from death to life, eternal life, happens in a moment, in “the twinkling of an eye.” People who have been dead millennia—their bodies long disintegrated into atoms and scattered over the globe— are instantly brought back to life. We are talking about a manifestation of supernatural power not seen since, perhaps, the creation of the world itself, at least the creation depicted in Scripture.
This re-creation of humanity is a radically different process from what theistic evolution proposes. God took billions of years of predation, violence, death, extinction, catastrophe, the survival of the fittest, and so forth, until finally getting something in the “image of God.” Certainly no Christian would actually think that God would use that same process, again, only now to re-create us. On the other hand, if the six days of Genesis 1 can be allegorized away to mean billions of years, then perhaps the “twinkling of an eye” can be, too—though that doesn’t seem to be a move theistic evolutionists are making (at least not yet).
The question is: Why would the Lord use billions of years of natural processes, such as random mutation and natural selection, to create humanity in the first place, when, in a second, He does it quickly and supernaturally? If this quick and supernatural creation is good enough for the second time, why not the first—just as depicted in Genesis?
Creation, how we first got here; and resurrection, how we ultimately end up—are inseparably connected in Scripture. The six-day Genesis account, in which a sinless Adam is formed in a world without death, is connected directly to Jesus. In fact, Jesus is sometimes called “the Second Adam” because, according to Paul, this Second Adam undid the death that this first Adam, through disobedience, brought to the world. This undoing occurs, ultimately, at the end-time resurrection of the dead (see 1 Cor. 15:26).
Adam, Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, the connection between them in the biblical account of creation, fits seamlessly. In the account of origins that science now promotes, and that is dogmatically accepted by so many Christians, this connection degenerates into broken strands that make the New Testament justification for the resurrection, at least in any serious reading of the apostle Paul, unintelligible, even farcical.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.