C.S. Lewis on Creation, Fall, & Evolution – Quote to Ponder (5/15/08)

The following is a repost from the very early days of this blog.  This was about 4 months after the question of evolution and the Christian faith had been raised as a possiblity rather than an obvious antithesis.  I now hold to what is popularly (well, not that popular in Christian circles, yet) called: theistic evolution or Creational evolution or biologos.

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The following is a quote from CS Lewis about the creation of humanity. Most will be surprised by how he viewed the beginning of Genesis (most likely as Hebrew poetry rather than an exact detailed explanation). How does this raise questions about the current science wars for you?

For long centuries, God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. he gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all of the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed in this state for ages before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say “I” and “me,” which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past…. We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become as gods…. They wanted some corner in this universe of which they could say to God, “This is our business, not yours.” But there is no such corner. They wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives. We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory, impossible wish found expression. For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, the the question is of no consequence. (C.S. Lewis, Problem of Pain, 68-71)

Can the Bible and some form of creational evolution exist together?

  • Conrad

    Hmmm so how do you explain death before sin?

    • http://twitter.com/wikitrails Andrew Stringer

      Spiritual death is what results from sin, not physical death.

  • Josh Wise

    This is good stuff. I’ve been working through some of these ideas as well. I grew up in a creationist church and household. I guess I was never really comfortable with throwing out a whole branch of science because we wanted to read the Gen 1 literally. I’m not saying reading the bible literally is bad I’m just saying lets be reasonable and take everything into consideration. I think that evolution is true. I think God created the world and used evolution to bring life into existence.
    I was talking to a friend of mine who does photography and he said the reason he loves it is becuase it forces him to slow down and take his time manipulating colors and hues and light levels. He said the process was enjoyable and fun to watch something come into being. He and I wondered if that’s what God did through evolution. Taking his time enjoying the process of creation.
    If we think about this in this light than it opens up some new ideas for us like creation may not be done yet. There could be more creation yet to come. Is it that hard to accept that a creative, creator God like ours may not be done? I don’t know. I’m still working this out in my head.
    Greg Boyd has some interesting ideas on this in his “God at War” and also lookup Biologos.org. They’ve got some really great stuff.
    Peace

  • Jon Carl Lewis

    In the first century after Christ, Origen did not believe in literally interpreting Genesis and wrote explicitly on the topic. He chided (as gently as Origen could) those who thought that God as a farmer planting an actual garden with his hands in a literal seven days – some of that time before there was even a sun to mark the days.

    Origen is one of the great theologians of the church who focused on Christ, Our Lord, and not the bible as God.

    From Wikipedia: Origen (Greek: Ὠριγένης Ōrigénēs, or Origen Adamantius, c. 185–254[1]) was an early Christian scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Christian Church despite not being a Church father.[2]

  • http://n/a ray sanchez

    that sound likely but i don’t think the bible is wrong in its teachings i am a big fan of c.s lewis but thestic evelovtion is somthing i can’t wrap my mind around.

  • Jason Derr

    Is this from ‘early’ or conservative Lewis or from ‘late’ or ‘liberal’ Lewis?

  • Richard Wendt

    Lewis’ comments do not surprise me. In fact I would expect no less from somone like him who truly was a thinking Christian. What does surprise me are the Christians who on the one hand claim that God is sovereign and omnipotent yet put constraints on God’s divine power. Scripture in clear that we are made in the Image of God but that does not mean applying anthropomorphic or anthropopathic images to God.

    If we look closely at all of creation, not just among mammals, the similarities among the species, both plant and animal, is amazing and there is no denying that there is a divine creator or designer.

    If we as the church truly wish to reach out to the world with the Gospel we need to stop creating division amongst ourselves and the world. By admitting that the scientific community has something to say to us and that we are willing to dialogue with them will allow us to reach out to them with the hope and joy that is found in Jesus. And that my brothers and sisters is truly the message we need to be concentrating on.

    • Jon Carl Lewis

      I loe your idea of keeping the focus on reaching out to those who need the hope and joy which is foudn in Jesus. However, please do not make the mistake that scientists are non-religious. Many, many scientists are people of faith, drawn to understanding the world as God’s beautiful and precious creation. That is certainly why I earned my degree in Biology, and I am sure it is why my fellow Evangelical Fellowship friends pursued careers in engineering, medicine and pure research.

      • Richard Wendt

        Jon, I too have a degree in biology (mammalian physiology with a minor in biochemistry) and am fully aware that many scientists are Christian. In fact it was during my pursuit of my biology degree that I became more convinced that there was in fact a God that was the great designer. My point above is more directed to those who put forth the idea that if a person believes in evolution or in an old earth perspective they (a) cannot be a Christian (b) do not believe in God and (c) are irredeemable if they continue believing in evloution and scientific discovery.

        In response to Conrad (on facebook) who was disappointed in Lewis why is it disappointing? Because he leaves open the idea that some form of evolution was used by God in developing the multiple species,yet keeping the same basic framework? Or is it because Lewis does not fall back on the idea that being made in the image of God means that we have some physiological specialness to us?

        Jason you asked if this was a “conservative” of “liberal” Lewis I would first ask what do you mean by those two terms. It is exactly this form of divisive labeling I was getting at in my earlier post. When we label someone “liberal” or “conservative ” we have already set up a false dichotomy without knowing what the parameters are. How you mat view a “liberal” may differ greatly from how I or others may view it. It also automatically sets up an “us of them” mentality.

        • Conrad

          It disappoints me because I like Lewis, but I do not believe evolution fits either the Bible or science itself. I also have faith that God actually had deeper meanings for the first few chapters of Genesis than just simply a poem that you can interpret however you please.. but thats just me….

          • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

            Conrad,

            I can sympathize with your desire for more grounding in the first few chapters of Genesis. I’ve been struggling with that for quite a few years. While I recognize the poetic nature and metaphorical meanings, I think we have to look at those chapters as having a basis in real historical fact.

            But just because I want grounding doesn’t mean I’m willing to throw out scientific evidence for evolution. I believe that evolution supports a Christian world view much, much better than a materialistic atheistic view. It makes certain scriptures come to light so much better.

            And I take issue with C.S. Lewis when he says “We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory, impossible wish found expression. For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, the the question is of no consequence.” I think it is important for us to delve into what is behind the symbolism that is described in these stories. I think to not do so leaves us with a very shallow thinking.

        • http://www.facebook.com/joncarl.lewis Jon

          Let’s be facebook friends! Nice to meet someone with whom I have several superficial things in common. http://www.facebook.com/joncarl.lewis

  • Ben Bajarin

    nice re-post Kurt. Timely subject for me and I really like C.S Lewis’ quote. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff over at biologos.org and really enjoy their take on the historical Adam and how to read Genesis non-literally / historically. I’ve definitely landed on the non-historical reading of Genesis and more on the story being told to subvert and transcend the existing creation narratives from other God’s being told at the time.

    Holding to a theistic evolutionary view I actually find creation that much more fascinating and wonderful. Also how big and infinitely wise is a God who created non only a self duplicating world world but also a self perfecting one.

    “And He saw it and said it was GOOD!”

  • Richard Wendt

    Ben,
    What do you mean by self perfecting? We as biological creatures are far from self perfecting. Each time we, or any animal, reproduces we allow a little more recessive genes to enter into our genetic pool. Also each time a cell reproduces there is a chance of an error to enter the sequence which is what leads to illness’ like cancer, ALS, HIV etc.

    If by self perfecting you mean in a spiritual sense then does that not preclude the work of the Holy Spirit and the Grace and Mercy of God?

    • Mike Hershberger

      Richard,
      When I read Ben’s description of the world as “self perfecting” I also cringed. We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world which is wholly unable to perfect itself. Whether he is referring to biological perfection or spiritual perfection it doesn’t matter. Neither are possible. The explanation you stated against the idea of biological perfection I completely agree with and would add in there the law of entropy. As a holder of a biology degree I’m sure you embrace these sound scientific principles, but in earlier comments you seem to strongly consider a theistic evolutionary model and its macro-evolutionary element as a strong possibility. (You don’t come out directly making that claim, but I’m making that assumption based on your total collection of comments.) I’ve never heard from macro-evolutionists a good explanation of the problems that are presented by entropy and genetic mutations. How do they explain it?

      You also brought up the work of the Holy Spirit and the grace and mercy of God when referring to spiritual perfection. Amen to that insightful reply because “self” is what caused the problem in the first place. That got me thinking, though, about how the Bible relates the creative work of God to the RE-creative work of God in those He saves. The regeneration of a sinner is such a miraculous and immediate work of God’s RE-creative power that the bible must draw upon the closest comparison there is – that of the original creation of the world. It seems to me that this biblical analogy loses its teeth under an old earth and/or theistic evolutionary scheme. Might this be considered evidence for a literal view of Genesis?

      I’d appreciate your thoughts.

      • Josh Wise

        While entropy exists; it doesn’t really apply here. The second law of theremodynamics says that energy will always seek equlibrium. Energy will flow to areas where there is no energy. Heat will dissipate. Rocks will roll down hill. Ice will melt etc. Entropy, on its face, doesn’t have anything to do with genetic mutations and evolution. The argument I often here is that entropy says everything must become more chaotic and lose order unless something is providing energy to maintian order. I contend that we do have something that is providing energy. The sun. The sun is a giant thermonuclear explosion that is in the process of breaking down just like entropy says it should. While its in the process of breaking down and losing heat, the earth is able to absorb a tiny fraction of that dissipating energy. That tiny bit is what drives our planet. Every bit of energy we have from the calories you got from your breakfast cereal to the gas that drives your car came from the sun. I contend that the suns energy is also what drives our evolutionary processes.

        Entropy exists, but too often its thrown out as though it somehow disproves evolution. It doesn’t. Its the sun breaking down or entropy that allows life on earth to exist.

  • Conrad

    ok since my first question didnt get answered… what do you do with Genesis 1:24-25? how does that not contradict evolution?

    24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

    • Richard Wendt

      Evolution as a process of animals changing and adapting to environmental changes, including large scale habitat change, does not in any way contradict scripture. Neither does many aspects of Macro-evolution in which there is large scale changes in the overall species diversification within an environment.

      But we have to be very careful using scriptural passages as proof texts for or against scientific theories. Scripture does not tell us what happened to the dinosaurs, of which there can be no denying, nor does it explain how animals became domesticated or became extinct. The Bible also does not explain the various dramatic climate changes that the earth has gone through. That is because the Bible is not intended to explain the how of things but the who and the why. Our interpersonal relationships, especially marriage, are to be reflective of God’s relationship with us.

      I think we do more injury to scripture when we try to warp it to fit some theological construct that it was not meant to fit. Genesis clearly states that God created humans to be image bearers of Him, not in an anthropomorphic way but as bearers of Hid mutable attributes.
      God created humans for relationship with Him, each other, and with all of creation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joncarl.lewis Jon

      You might also look to the Book of Job for your answers.

      Where were you, creature when God created the great Leviathan?

      Seriously?

      Our God (at least my God) contains multitudes of wisdom which humans could never understand even if they were ALL written down.

      And you’re saying that there couldn’t possibly be anything between v. 24 and v.25? Think, man. Think!

      Isn’t it in John’s Gospel that the Spirit breathes the wisdom that there were many miracles which Jesus did which were not included and would fill many books?

      The Bible doesn’t answer the question of “Can God create a stone too big for God to lift?” either, but we do know the foolishness and the complete waste of time it is to search the Bible for an answer.

      Have some humility before God if you will have no humility before the scripture!

      Have the decency to say before God, I am a creation and I don’t have to be right or know-it-all in order to serve you and my neighbor as myself.

      Remember the wisdom of “on these hang ALL the law and the prophets” and encourage your brethren with acts of charity, mercy and cheerfulness rather than spending your time trying to tear down or build up the very body of Christ you are called to love.

      I Corinthians 13 says it much better than I could. Especially at the end. I’m sure you have your Bible at hand, so I won’t presume to have the last word. I believe the last word belongs Jesus – unless, perhaps it’s followed by a “Hallelujah”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/joncarl.lewis Jon

        The preceding response was pretty much for Conrad, but it had lessons in it for me, as well.

    • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

      Conrad,

      People used to believe that flies came from molding bread. So the idea that animals (or people) were made from the ground fit with their scientific understanding. In many ways they were correct, since we decompose into ground, it is logical to assume that the process could be reversed. Certainly all the elements that make us who we are come from the ground.

      If you look at the whole chapter, you have creatures forming in the sea before forming on the land. That is what we find in evolutionary history. Mammals, the present day dominant land animal, were the last to evolve.

  • Ashley Reynolds

    “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” -Albert Einstein

  • brambonius

    Interesting discussion here… I would call myself more or less a post-modern origins agnostic on the subject, and agnostic in the sense of ‘we canNOT know’. I believe the creation story to be just a poem to explain what we are not able to understands with the brains we have, withe the liguistical context we have, with the concepts we have living in the Creation itself. The visible is made out of what can not be percieved, and not named…

    So I’d see the creation poem as an accomodation (in theological lingo) or just something God speaking baby-talk to us (since we would never be ablle to understand grown-up God-tlak) and lets remember that it was written in the context of the old israelites too…

    We are like ants in a cereal box in an apartment somewhere in NYC. what do we know about the maize where cornflakes are made from? what do we know about the tree where paper is made from?

    So while I believe that science will more or less be able to recover the material dimension of the history of planet earth (which to my eyes looks like old earth and evolving creatures) whatever we find digging in the ground of this little planet will be the whole story, not even of the material part of this world…

    Creation is bigger than we can understand. the Creator is bigger tha we can understand. If the litteral creation poem is not how it happened, the truth is even bigger! Too big to put human words on…

    If a child would be born instantly, would it be of more value than after 9 months pregnancy? why would a world created in a process be a problem?

    (and oh, I hate the term theistic evolution. I’d go for evolutional creation)

    peace

    Bram

    • Tmann088

       Saying “We cannot know”  is an inaccuracy! We can know!! If you are truly interested in answering that question try reading “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” By Norman Giesler and Frank Turek or “The case for the Creator” by Lee Strobel. Both of these ooks provide some very strong evidence that We CAN know!

  • Pingback: C.S. Lewis – Theistic Evolutionist? | Till We Have Faces

  • Grace

    Hello!
    I accidentaly stumbled upon this blog and was very interested in not only the article, but also the comments. It was enlightening to see the different point of views of many Christians. Because of the questions raised here, I decided to do my own research into theistic evolution. I found that, unfortunately, though a seemingly harmless belief, theistic evolution has many pitfalls and inconstancies.
    Here are a few below:

    1.The Basis of Jesus’ Work of Redemption is Mythologized.
    Theistic evolutionists believe that the week of Creation was nothing more than an
    allegory or myth which may have some spiritual content to it, but certainly no
    scientific or historical value. However, in Romans 5:16-18, Adam and Jesus Christ are actually linked together. Adam’s act of sin that enslaved the world was reversed by Christ’s act of sacrifice. “…Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.” Without the legitimacy of the Creation account, Jesus’ purpose for coming to the earth was based on falsehood.

    2.Theistic Evolution encourages a Denial of Central Biblical Teachings.
    According to 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” and John 17:17 “… your word is truth.” Neither of these passages, as far as I can tell,
    says “your word is truth… except for anything referring to Creation week; that
    part you can just ignore.” So, at least according to biblical standards, God’s
    word is TOTALLY accurate. However, theistic evolutionists once again call this
    belief into question through their denial of God’s creation of the universe. In
    Matthew 19:4-5 Jesus, who was the Son of God, discusses creation as a real
    event. (“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female…”) In addition to this, in Exodus 20 as God gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments, He requires them to work six days, but rest on the seventh. Why? Because this is the number of days that Genesis records God created, and then rested on the seventh day. It appears that either theistic evolution is false, or the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God of the universe got His facts wrong.

    3. Leads to a Loss of Biblical Chronology.
    This problem piggy-backs on the previous paragraph in that, because theistic evolution leads to a dissolution of biblical teachings, it can accomplish the same end in regard to essential biblical chronology. Theistic evolutionary timelines completely undermine a biblical understanding of Scripture. For example, theistic evolutionists do not believe that man was created intelligent, but sloooooooooowly got smarter and smarter, with God popping in every once in a while to accomplish the things that science cannot explain. This is in direct conflict with the
    Bible, which claims that men were creating musical instruments and building
    cities just a few generations after Creation! Theistic evolutionists are forced
    to disregard entire chunks of the Bible, which are in both the Old and New Testaments, in order to jam millions of years into the mix. And this begs the question, if certain parts of the Bible aren’t trustworthy, than what makes us think that the rest of it is?

    In conclusion, Theistic Evolution attempts to marry purposefulness with non-purposefulness, which is in itself a contradiction. In short, reconciliation between creationism and evolutionism is impossible. Modern science claims that the Bible is not relevant, however Hebrews 4:12 clearly tells us that “the word of God is living and active.” These claims are completely contrary, and one must be wrong. This sought-after syncretism reduces Biblical authority in daily life to where it is insignificant. Isaiah 29:16 puts this issue in even better words: “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’?” Theistic evolution, though a comfortable seat between two hotly controversial topics, is not at all biblical or even logical.

    If you are interested, my comments were based on
    this article: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cm/v17/n4/theistic-evolution

    Thanks you so much for
    your time. God bless you in your search for truth!!!

  • Grace

    Hello! I stumbled upon this blog accidentally and was very interested in not only the article, but also the comments. It was enlightening to see the different point of views of many Christians. Because of the questions raised here, I decided to do my own research into theistic evolution. I found that, unfortunately, though a seemingly harmless belief, theistic evolution has many pitfalls and inconsistencies. Here are a few below:

    1.The Basis of Jesus’ Work of Redemption is Mythologized.

    Theistic evolutionists believe that the week of Creation was nothing more than an allegory or myth which may have some spiritual content to it, but certainly no
    scientific or historical value. However, in Romans 5:16-18, Adam and Jesus Christ are actually linked together. Adam’s act of sin that enslaved the world was reversed by Christ’s act of sacrifice. “…Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in
    justification and life for all people.” Without the legitimacy of the Creation account, Jesus’ purpose for coming to the earth was based on falsehood.

    2.Theistic Evolution encourages a Denial of Central Biblical Teachings.

    According to 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” and John 17:17 “… your word is truth.” Neither of these passages, as far as I can tell, says “your word is truth… except for anything referring to Creation week; that part you can just ignore.” So, at least according to biblical standards, God’s word is TOTALLY accurate. However, theistic evolutionists once again call this belief into question through their denial of God’s creation of the universe. In Matthew 19:4-5 Jesus, who was the Son of God, discusses creation as a real event. “Haven’t you
    read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female…” In addition to this, in Exodus 20 as God gives the Israelites the Ten
    Commandments, He requires them to work six days, but rest on the seventh. Why? Because this is the number of days that Genesis records God created, and then rested on the seventh day. It appears that either theistic evolution is false, or the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God of the universe got His facts wrong.

    3.Leads to a Loss of Biblical Chronology.

    This problem piggy-backs on the previous paragraph in that, because theistic evolution leads to a dissolution of biblical teachings, it can accomplish the same end in regard to essential biblical chronology. Theistic evolutionary timelines
    completely undermine a biblical understanding of Scripture. For example,
    theistic evolutionists do not believe that man was created intelligent, but
    sloooooooooowly got smarter and smarter, with God popping in every once in a
    while to accomplish the things that science cannot explain. This is in direct conflict with the Bible, which claims that men were creating musical instruments and building cities just a few generations after Creation! Theistic evolutionists are forced to disregard entire chunks of the Bible, which are in both the Old and New Testaments, in order to jam millions of years into the mix. And this begs the question, if certain parts of the Bible aren’t trustworthy, than what makes us think that the rest of it is?

    In conclusion, Theistic Evolution attempts to marry purposefulness with non-purposefulness, which is in itself a contradiction. In short, reconciliation between creationism and evolutionism is impossible. Modern science claims that the Bible is not relevant, however Hebrews 4:12 clearly tells us that “the word of God is living and active.” These claims are completely contrary, and one must be wrong. This sought-after syncretism reduces Biblical authority in daily life to where it is insignificant. Isaiah 29:16 puts this issue in even better words: “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’?” Theistic evolution, though a comfortable seat between two hotly controversial topics, is not at all biblical or even logical.

    If you are interested, my comments were based on
    this article: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cm/v17/n4/theistic-evolution

    Thanks you so much for your time. God bless you in your search for truth!


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