Why Biblical Christians need Biological Evolution

Over the last few years in educational ministry, I have continually had questions asked about, discussions over, and even debates because of the topic evolution and faith. Can one believe in the Bible AND in evolution? Is it possible for a faithful Christian to have an evolutionary worldview? And even if it is possible, is it permissible within the limits of classic Christian orthodoxy? And after all of this, I think it is finally time to move beyond asking whether it is merely permissible for faithful, Biblical, Christ-loving Christians to have an evolutionary view of how God is at work in creation.

Biblical Christians need to think in evolutionary terms to be faithful to Christ.

It is not only possible for evolutionary thought to fit within classic Christian orthodoxy. Evolution makes better sense out of classic Christian claims about the nature of God, creation, Christ, salvation, and consummation than other theories of how the Universe was created.

I know for many these are radical statements. It is radical for Christians who have grown up with the teaching that evolution is anathema to a faithful reading of Scripture. It is also radical for non-Christians, or anti-Christians, or ex-Christians who assume that "literal creationism" is the only Christian worldview option out there.

And I want to move beyond merely saying that some (or most) Christians may believe in literal creationism, while some (or few) Christians believe in God-guided evolution of some sort. I want to say that, if you want to be most consistent with the broad themes found in Scripture and Christian orthodoxy, then you are going to have to accept a broadly evolutionary view of how God is at work in History.


Now that I have made such a broad and controversial statement, let me paint in broad brush strokes the argument as I see it. To start with, it seems to me that the anti-evolutionary worldview is based on one central emotional premise, and one central worldview premise.

The emotional premise is that change is scary. It is scary because change posits that the future is unknowable, and hence unpredictable, and hence uncontrollable. Change could bring harm to us, especially if it is chaotic or malevolent change. So, in a nutshell, change causes fear. And fear causes frustration and anger. And I know Yoda said that, but any pastor or therapist will agree: Fear is a root of anger and hostility and prejudice. Fear colors how we see the world, and whether we are able to embrace change.

And since the basis of evolutionary thought is "things change over time", then evolution is bound to trigger fear in people.

The worldview premise of anti-evolutionism is "the static universe". This is the broad idea- expressed differently in Neo-Platonism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.- that Reality does not actually change. It stays the same always, and there are organized hierarchies, systems, and keys to both understanding the world, and assuring future outcomes (from the prosperity of crops to future life in heaven). The static universe is soothing balm to comfort the conflicted conscience of those who fear change. The static universe assures us that we do have the world under control (or at least we know WHO does), and thus there is nothing to fear.

And by the way, I'm not lumping those who "fear change" into a category of "the other". I fear change myself. I just think there is another way to deal with it.

And we can easily see how the "static universe" gets a Christian paint job. We assume a static universe. Then we read this static once-for-all world into the first and second creation stories in Genesis 1-2 (while ignoring how they contradict each other if taken literally; more on that later). Then we take our view of an "Eternal Creator", in which God is unchanging perfection, and impose that divine image onto the created universe. Then we posit that humans fell from a sort of "Neo-Platonic perfection" into sin, and it is now our job to return BACKWARDS to the original perfection postulated in our static view of the universe via literalist interpretation of Biblical texts.

Then we make that return to perfection a project of memorization and repetition of correct knowledge about the static universe through hierarchies of realms and angels and created beings and men and women. If we can just rehearse, and perform, the correct static pattern of Reality, under the tutelage of Jesus, then we can be saved. If, however, we persist in ordering our world in a different way, we will come under divine wrath and social sanction for questioning the "natural law" of Divine Providence.

And it is easy to see how evolutionary thought runs almost entirely counter to this Christianized static view of Creation. And thus it generates fear. Which in turn generates anger and hostility, rather than Love and compassion.

Yet, I think the static view is deeply contradictory to many of the broad themes of the Bible, and also conflicts with the type of character necessary to follow Jesus Christ. Let me explain:


I will begin by looking at the Name and Nature of the Biblical God. In the "Old Testament" the personal Name of God- YHWH- is a verbal form in Hebrew, not a static noun. YHWH is an activity, dynamic pulsating being, meaning "I AM who I AM". God is a Person who is an energy, a force, a power that comes from beyond the universe to work throughout the universe. This Dynamic Personal Energy walks with his people, calls them into covenant relationship, empowers them to follow his commands, and disciplines them when they go astray.

In the "New Testament" how do we most clearly see God? As a human person, who acts and does signs and wonders and miracles, to liberate and heal and save. That is what the name Jesus means: YHWH who saves. When God becomes embodied, he becomes embodied in a person who grows and develops from fetus to baby to child to adolescent to adult. As Luke 2.52 states: "Jesus increased [προκόπτω, prokopto - literally to advance, grow, progress]
 in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor." So even Jesus evolved and changed to grow into his own divine calling as the embodiment of God's presence.

The classic Christian view of God combines the data of the Old and New Testaments to posit an Ultimate Reality that is, in essence, a dynamic relationship of distinct Persons who dwell IN each other eternally as One God. This is described as the Trinity: One God in Three Persons of Father, Son, and Spirit. But this is not a static God of three thrones sitting side by side by side, but as a dynamic, pulsating, self-giving Love. The Father constantly giving Himself to the Son, through the Spirit. And the Son, constantly sharing Himself with the Father, through the same dynamic Spirit. This dynamic Love overflows from the depths of Godself to create a whole universe of endless possibilities, made so that free, intelligent, sentient beings could emerge and evolve and learn to share in this Divine Life.

In the language of the Eastern Church Fathers who created this Trinitarian language to describe the God revealed in Christ, this is called the "perichoresis" of God's inner life. Perichoresis is the "circle dance" of ancient Greek theater, in which the actors circled in and out of each other in a beautifully self-giving, self-sharing intimacy. The Triune God is not static Being, but a dynamic dance, inviting all of the Universe to dance within God's dance. This is the perfection of Love and Justice and Compassion and Truth and Beauty that draws all beings to evolve into better and better incarnations of themselves over time.

So this seems to be the picture of God that fulfills the trajectory of the Scriptures: A dynamic, energetic, active Creator, not a passive Being ruling over a static universe. Now, let us talk about the picture of the creation presented to us in Scripture itself.


The first theme I would pick out of Scripture is the idea of "the Journey". We start in the garden of Eden, when YHWH walked (not sat!) with humans in the garden, and then gave us the task of naming the creatures (notice that means God did NOT assign names, but gave us freedom to). We then notice the stories of the Fathers and Mothers of Faith: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah. They were all called on a journey, a pilgrimage with God, into the Promised Land. The Exodus story is a story of journey FROM a worse place TO a better place, FROM slavery TO freedom. Once the nation of Israel was settled, and God's people began an agrarian economy, pilgrimage and journey to holy sites were key to their spirituality. Even in exile and return, we find the theme of journeying away, and coming back.

The New Testament is literally nothing but a journey. God's Eternal Son journeys from the Divine Presence to become incarnate in a baby, who grows and develops on his life journey. After Jesus is baptized, he goes on a journey through the wilderness. When Jesus begins ministry he journeys from place to place to place. When Jesus calls disciples, he has them journey with them, then he sends them out as Apostles on their own journeys. The word Apostle is in fact a version of a verb, meaning "one sent forth on a journey". After Jesus' journey to the cross, and descent into death, and return in resurrection, Jesus gathers his followers together. And what does he do? He sends them on a journey to share his Good News to "the ends of the earth". And the rest of the Christian Scriptures are written in the midst of missionary journeys, as the Apostles instruct the growing communities they have founded who follow the Way of Jesus.

Now, I'm not saying that "journey = evolution" as an exact equation. But I am saying that, IF most of the Bible functions within the motif of "journey", THEN the journey motif sits much better with the idea that the entire cosmos is on a journey with God, rather than the idea that the entire cosmos is a static entity that has been defaced, and now must be restored to Neo-Platonic perfection.

And I am saying that evolution is ONE way of talking about a cosmic journey, where the whole cosmos grows and develops and travels in the direction of greater and greater complexity, greater and greater community. Organic molecules develop into single cell creatures. Single cell creatures develop into multi-cell creatures in which the cells actually work together and give of themselves for the sake of the whole organism. Multi-cell creatures develop into multi-organ creatures, which in turn grow and diversify. Some species fail to adapt and reach a dead end. Others attain greater and greater adaptation, until some of these creatures become rational and conscious and creative. They become "persons" able to connect with the Source of Transcendent Love from which they ultimately come, and toward which they ultimately journey.


In fact, this idea of the cosmos growing and developing into the fullness of God seems to be an elaboration of some of the key words within the original Genesis creation narratives themselves. To get to these words, I must say a bit about what these stories are, and are not, trying to accomplish.

This, again, is NOT to say that there is something like a theory of evolution presupposed by these texts. There is neither a theory of evolution in these texts, nor a static vision of the universe in these texts. These texts were not meant to provide a theory of cosmology nor cosmogony, but rather to steer the ancient Hebrews away from viewing cosmic entities as gods, and steer them toward seeing the cosmos as a good creation from the One Source of all else: The God identified as YHWH.

At their most basic, these texts tell us:
- There is one true God, who is the Source of all else;
- The material universe is good, and is an intentional product of God;
- The entities within the universe (stars, forces, powers, creatures) are not gods, but are contingent and not worthy of worship;
- Humans have a special place in creation as cognitive, creative, communicative, communal, conscious persons who manage and direct creation on God's behalf, in ways no other creature can.

These messages are embedded within poetic and mythical literature that was common in style to many other stories in the ancient world, but with a distinctly monotheist twist to the story. The first Creation story is more like a poem than most other types of literature. It has rhythms and rhymes and numeric structures and much symbolic meaning. This seven day creation poem takes the common motif of the Sumerian-Babylonian 7 day week, and uses that as the poetic framework to deliver a monotheistic message that undermines the greatness of ancient near Eastern polytheistic pantheons.

The second Creation Story in Genesis 2-3 takes the form of a fantastic fictional story, complete with talking snakes and magic trees. If taken literally, then the second Creation Story literally contradicts the ordering of the first story. Water and rivers and vegetation come along at different times. Male and female are made separately (in the second story), and not together (as in the first). Many other points of comparison could be made, which would be extremely problematic if these texts are interpreted as literal history or science. But, if interpreted symbolically and allegorically, the second creation story shows us both a close and compassionate God who walks with humanity throughout their earthly journey, as well as a deeply symbolic exposé on the dynamics of temptation, sin, and their horrible consequences of pain and alienation.

This is the form and purpose behind these stories. Yet, from the standpoint of "journey" and evolutionary thought, what I find interesting are several of the specific words and phrases which are used in regard to creation in these stories.

First we notice the jussive form of the verb "to be" used several times in Genesis 1, when God says "let there be". It seems to imply that God is not only bringing things into existence, but also letting them have the freedom to become what they are: Let them be what they are!

Second, there is an interesting use of the verb "bring forth" [Hebrew Yatzah - to go out from, go forth from]. In Genesis 1.12 and 1.24, both plant life and animal life is said to have been "brought forth" from the Earth itself. It is as if the ancient poet had an intuition that the building blocks for organic life were somehow contained in the earth, and that an active process, enabled by God, somehow brought forth these latent potentialities.

Third, there is all of the language of God's creation bearing fruit, and being fruitful, and multiplying, and filling the earth. This implies that God is giving real freedom to God's own creation be creative on their own. In a gracious gift, God has placed the resources and potentiality for creativity within the creatures themselves.

Fourth, there is the fact that God allows his creation to re-create themselves "after their own kind". This seems to imply that there is a kind of potentiality within creatures that makes them the "kind" of thing they are, but which also allows them to adapt and develop within the potentiality they possess. This potentiality we might now isolate within the genetic inheritance of our DNA, which allows us to grow and develop as individuals and as a species.

And fifth, when we look at the creation of humans in the second Creation Story, we note that the first human was brought about by a gradual process. YHWH gathered earth, shaped the Earth like a potter, until that Earth-creature was ready to receive the Divine Breath. In symbolic form, this is not very different from saying that humans are the result of a process whereby the organic potential inherent in the Earth has been shaped over time, through billions of successive generations and life forms, into sentient persons capable of receiving the Divine Life of rationality and creativity and Love.

So it seems to me that the Biblical texts themselves, when read outside of a worldview that presupposes a static universe of fixed hierarchies, actually opens up multiple areas of fruitful interaction with evolutionary thought. And this is just the tip of the Iceberg.


The fact is that almost all concepts of "static being" and "hierarchy of being" have to be read INTO the text from other sources. It is hard to read them OUT of the text. This is not to say that there is not rampant SOCIAL patriarchalism and hierarchy that is implied in the text. There is. And that is another conversation entirely.

Yet, Scripture nowhere details an elaborate "chain of being" which justifies the oppressive prejudices inherited in Biblical culture. In fact, these inherited prejudices are explicitly struck down in the latter parts of the Bible, as God's self-revelation developed more fully (cf. Galatians 3.26-28 where Paul says "there is no Jew or Greek, Slave or Free, Male or Female in Christ"). This is a great contrast to other ancient societies, in which social structures were rooted in some type of cosmic structure in God (or the gods). For instance, in Hinduism the Rigveda 10.90 clearly delineates four social castes AS the structure of God's Body (called Purusha):

"When they divided Purusha how many portions did they make? What do they call his mouth, his arms? What do they call his thighs and feet? The Priestly caste was his mouth, of both his arms the caste of Rulers was made. His thighs became the Merchant caste , from his feet the caste of Laborers was produced." [Rigveda 10.90]

This embeds social hierarchy within God's own very essence. In similar ways, the social structures of many ancient societies- Sumerian, Babylonian, Egyptian, and even Greek- was rooted in the Pantheon of the gods and goddesses. The static structure of Earthly society was said to mirror the static structure of the ranks of Divine beings. This static cosmology that posited such ideas as:
- Men are ontologically superior to women, and adults are ontologically superior to children;
- "Our" race is ontologically superior to other races (usually due to "us" being descended from the gods);
- The ruler is ontologically superior to those he rules, because he is a god or demigod, and they are just mortals;
- There is a distinct ordering of gods, angelic beings, heavens, hells, and types of human beings (lords, merchants, priests, slaves, etc.).

No where in the Bible do you find anything like a complete social theory or a hierarchy of ranks of angels or anything else like that. Even in the case of the calling of Israel by God, it was always made clear that Israel did not differ ontologically one whit from other humans. They were simply called out of the overflow of Divine compassion for them [cf. Deut. 7].

It was mainly AFTER interaction with certain strains of Ancient Polytheism and Neo-Platonic Greek thought that extra-Biblical writings began to develop elaborate theories of how the static creation was ordered with myriad ranks of angels and demons and heavens and hells [cf. Pseudo-Dionysus' works on Celestial Hierarchy from the 300's or even Dante's Inferno from the Middle Ages].

Now, I am painting in broad strokes. And certainly one could pull out notions of static cosmology and cosmic hierarchy in SOME parts of the Bible (although never in a systematic, descriptive way, as the other religious examples mentioned above). But, overall, the Biblical inheritance is not interested in mapping out the terrain of some type of unchanging divinely ordained perfection. The Biblical material trends toward an open and free Creation, that is changing and journeying toward final union with God in joy and peace and love.


Yet, there is one main locus of fixed expectations in our Biblical inheritance, and that is in the concept of "Law". However, Biblical Law does not set down a fixed ontology of being. Rather, Law is specifically to guide our actions and activities AS we journey. In other words, Law does not give us a place to stay. It gives us "road rules" for the journey with God.

And these road rules tend to change in emphasis and implementation at different points in the journey. Certainly Law functioned differently during the Davidic Kingdom, in the Exile, and in the early Christian Church. How the Law evolves and changes over time is the subject of a few hundred other books. But the fact is that the Law does in fact change and adapt over time, with new cultural situations, as God's self-disclosure increases. And this is very appropriate to this discussion about evolution.

Any cursory reading of the Bible and Judeo-Christian history will show that religious "Law" has developed through the Old Testament to the New Testament, in post-Biblical Jewish culture, and in the Christian Church. It has evolved. And it seems like the process of the evolution of religious Law is based on the idea that over time, certain key universal values deconstruct old ways of acting, to reconstruct them to better adapt to a later stage of the Journey.

By "key universal values" I mean axioms such as this: God is seen as both the Source of Life and Love, as well as the Goal or Summum Bonum toward which we journey. The Creation, as made by God, is inherently good, and worthy of caretaking, but never to be confused with the Creator who made it. Sentient Persons, who bear the image of God, are most worthy of respect and honor and Love, never to be used as "means", but always treated as "ends". To respect, honor, and Love sentient persons means to protect and care for them physically, socially, and emotionally, never using them as means for pleasure, or power, or pride. Thus, certain forms of behavior- whether physical, economic, sexual, or social- when done without the consent of sentient persons, are inherently abusive and degrading and must be avoided.

These axiomatic values are then embodied in certain types of concrete behavior and expectation, depending on the development and needs of the society they are implemented within. For instance, ancient societies needed laws about controlling the animals upon which we travelled, whereas modern societies need traffic laws regarding automobiles. Both sets of laws will be based on the fundamental axioms of loving and honoring our fellow humans, but they will look very different in implementation over time.

All of this is to say that not even religious Law leads us to a fixed, static creation. It gives us a set of rules for the Journey, which will be adapted at different points on the Journey. Religious Law is given to help us know HOW to Journey, but it does not tell us WHERE we will end up Journeying to. It tells us we are Journeying toward, and with, and in, the God who is revealed in Jesus. But this God is infinite and transcendent, so the Journey Godward will be infinite and surprising, constantly revolutionary and evolutionary.

This is not unlike the role of the "laws of physics" themselves in the process of evolution. The laws of physics give the fundamental ground rules of how matter and energy interact, which in turn gives rise to a panoply of potentiality along which energetic systems can develop and evolve.  As these systems develop and evolve, they generally trend toward greater complexity and intelligence (i.e. the ability of systems and organisms to adapt). But while complexity and intelligence is a general direction or trend, it in no way specifies HOW systems will become complex or intelligent, because complexity and intelligence are nearly infinite in potentiality.

Notice the parallel: Both religious laws and physical laws point us in a general direction of infinite positive potentiality, without determining exactly where the ending point will be for the Journey into this infinity.

And there is another parallel: Both religious and physical laws can be used to create systems of destruction, which speed the world toward chaos and entropy and death. The same laws of physics that allow for nuclear power also allow for a nuclear bomb. The same biological principles that give rise to anti-viral drugs can also create biological weapons. The same religious laws and moral axioms that can be used to create powerful social movements for equality, freedom, and social justice, can also be used to create ideological prisons to hold us captive to terrorism, theocracy, jihads and crusades.

It all depends on whether we will use our fundamental moral and physical laws to enhance life and potentiality, or to diminish life and potentiality. And it is my opinion that versions of theology that hold to a static view of the world actually wind up diminishing human life and potentiality by falsely limiting the positive potential that people can perceive, and poorly equipping them to deal with a reality that constantly changes. These static views need to be opened up to process, growth, and change, to help humans evolve into who and what our potentiality entails.

This is implicit in the words of the Christian Theologian Irenaeus, who held a more process-oriented view of God's work in the world, and wisely said "The Glory of God is humanity fully alive". To be "fully alive" is to grow and thrive by actualizing the positive, life-giving potentialities inherent in our lives (a.k.a. "grow in Christlikeness"). And the only type of worldview that is open to such radical growth and change is an evolutionary, process based view of reality.


What is most ironic about this discussion of "static" versus "evolutionary" ontology is that many of these ideas are not new in the history of Christian thought. They may be under-represented, but definitely not new. In the 4th century Gregory of Nyssa came up with a concept which describes this infinite, limitless, Christward growth into the fullness of God which I describe above. That concept is "epektasis". This word is derived from a concept found in the writings of Saint Paul:

[12] Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and striving toward [ἐπεκτεινόμενος, epekteinomenos - the participle from which the noun epektasis comes] what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3.12–14]

In commenting on this passage, and describing the evolutionary journey of the soul in epektasis, Saint Gregory says:

"If nothing comes from above to hinder its upward thrust (for the nature of the Good attracts to itself those who look to it), the soul rises ever higher and will always make its flight yet higher - by its desire of the heavenly things "straining ahead for what is still to come", as the Apostle says. Made to desire and not to abandon the transcendent height by the things already attained, it makes its way upward without ceasing, ever through its prior accomplishments renewing its intensity for the flight. Activity directed towards virtue causes its capacity to grow through exertion; this kind of activity alone does not slacken its intensity by the effort, but increases it." [Life of Moses 2.225-30]

Saint Gregory wrote this in the mid-to-late 300's. And although he was one of the first to fully elaborate this idea, he was only echoing earlier voices of people like Origen and Irenaeus and even Paul himself. Throughout the early Church- especially in the East- we find the idea of continual infinite growth in a Christward direction as we live into the transcendent fullness of God's life.

A further elaboration of an evolutionary concept of epektasis might look like this:

First, God made the world to strive toward God's infinite Love in epektasis. Creatures are thus made free to evolve, so that Creation trends toward actualizing its positive potentiality in beings who possess Wisdom, Love, and Beauty. Because of the inherent freedom of this project, some species and some individuals will choose to negatively actualize potential leading to death and extinction. This means that inherent in the world is a problem of suffering and evil. God desires ultimate bliss and joy with God's creation actualizing infinite potential, but in fact God's creation is also shot through with pain and destruction. Yet part of the Christian answer to this "problem of evil" is that God has entered into this creation in a personal way to bear the consequences of the world, and to transform and resurrect the pain we experience. More on this in a moment.

Second, epektasis touches on the asymmetrical nature of good and evil. What I am defining as "good" here is a positive direction into greater and greater potential to explore and fulfill. Positive potential is a path of choices that leads to creatures who embody more life, more wisdom, more beauty, more love. Because each positive choice opens up even more possible options, this positive direction unfolds infinitely, ever transcending itself, into ever greater potentiality. "Evil", on the contrary, is a path of potentiality that contracts, and shrinks, and takes away potential until only one outcome is left: Death. Thus, evil is finite. Evil has a stopping point at zero potential, which is death. Goodness is an infinite progress or evolution outward into the fullness of Godself, while evil is a finite regress away from life and potential into death. Evil seeks stasis and zero change. Goodness seeks evolution and growth.

Third, the hinge point of Christian Story of epektasis is that Archetype of Goodness has entered into History as Jesus of Nazareth to exemplify what a truly Good life could look like, to embody the consequences of evil in his own suffering, and to inject his resurrected life- his Holy Spirit- into humanity to empower us to more fully evolve and live into his Archetype. This "Archetype" language is used of Christ in several places in Scripture to designate him as the embodiment of Ultimate Reality, the perfect Image of God the Father, and the Message, Purpose, and Plan of Creation (the Word or Logos) who is the complete self-expression of God, made human [cf. John 1.1–18; Acts 5.15; Rom 5.14; Col 2.17; Heb 1.1–4; 8.5; 9.24]. These are all different ways of affirming that the Second Person of the Eternal Triune God- the Son- is embodied in Jesus of Nazareth such that Jesus is God Incarnate.

Another way of saying this in evolutionary terms is this: The final Goal of Cosmic Evolution was made fully manifest in Jesus, to guide and empower us to actualize our potential in the direction of his moral character and spiritual power. In Him, God forgives us of all our sins and evil. Christ does this because to forgive someone else means to take upon yourself the consequences of their wrongdoing without revisiting it upon them, or punishing them with their own evil. Thus, in Christ's sacrificial death God takes responsibility for potential of pain and suffering God caused by making the world free, as well as taking responsibility for our own evil choices. This frees us to repent and reject that evil way of life, and clears the path for an evolutionary Journey in a Christward direction.

Thus, evolution can be seen as a modern way of affirming the ancient idea of epektasis: Cosmic epektasis is expressed in a universe that evolves over time to bring about sentient persons who become more and more Christlike.


All of this leads to the final question of what will the end of this all look like? If anything like this is true, where will biological, spiritual, and moral evolution take us?

The first answer is simply to say that there will be no end. It will be an eternal journey of surprise and joy as we delve deeper and deeper into the Love of God. And God will take us from wherever we are at on the Journey now, and if we will let God, God will lead us beyond. But God always gives us freedom to choose whether or not to Journey Christward.

The second answer is to say we simply do not and cannot know what we (or the cosmos) will be like, other than to say we will be in accordance with Christlikeness. As Saint John says: "Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, WE WILL BE LIKE HIM, for we will see him as he is. " [1 John 3.2, emphasis mine]

Does this mean we will literally be Jesus-clones, morphing into Middle Eastern men from 2000 years ago, who all report an identical set of experiences, feelings, and thoughts? By no means! What it means is that we will be LIKE Christ in the sense of becoming beings of perfect Love, Compassion, Justice, Wisdom, and Beauty. Like the Risen Christ, we will be able to make full use of all of our potentiality whenever we desire it. We will be able to harness all the dimensions of reality and be in perfect harmony with the Energy of the Holy Spirit that sustains all of existence. We will be aware of our own personal history and experiences and how we have been formed to be who we are, but we will also be fully aware of the Mind of God (i.e. share in universal consciousness), and know how cosmic History has evolved to bring us to where we are at on the Journey.

And this is really all I want to say about our "future destiny", because when Saint Paul got into a deep discussion of this very topic (i.e. what our resurrected selves will be like), even he became flummoxed and tongue tied. You can read all about it in 1Corinthians 15.

It is a bit like asking a 4 year old what he or she will be like when they grow up. They have hints and hunches and wishes, but they have no real idea how their character and vocation will shape up when they are 30 or 40 or 50. In fact, God's interaction with our personal growth and development is a very helpful analogy to God's interaction with cosmic growth and evolution.

It is a central point of Christian theology that God journeys with us through the changes and stages of our individual lives. God knits us together in the womb as our bodies change from one cell, to something that resembles a fish, to something that resembles a mammal, to actualize our DNA's potential as a human being. God helps us grow in grace and wisdom from the cradle to the preschool to the elementary to the high school. God calls us and walks with us through the phases of our adulthood. God leads us through the valley of the shadow of death as we transition from this life to another form of life in God's presence.

If God is the type of God that journeys with us through these phases and stages in our individual lives, then what is most rational to believe about God's interaction with the cosmos as a whole? Is it more rational and Biblical to assume that God made everything as a static perfection, allowed it to fall into disrepair, and now calls us to go backward into a previous static perfection? Or is it more rational and Biblical to posit that God is not only our original source, but also the transcendent goal at the end of History, cheering us onward through growth and development and evolution, as God is also our fellow traveller walking the Way with us through the pain and suffering that change and growth entails?

Obviously, I am advocating the latter.


Christians who consider themselves to be rigorously "Biblical" not only can, not only should, but NEED TO ditch concepts of the universe which imply stasis, conformity to unchangeable static ontology, and some sort of return to "original perfection" in a Neo-Platonic sense.

To return back to Genesis 1 for a moment. In that poem, God declared seven times that Creation is "good". Many throughout Christian history have interpreted that in Neo-Platonic terms as God saying "It is perfect". And everything after that point was a departure from original perfection.

But I think it is much more helpful to look at this passage through the lens of what we know and experience in child development. I have three children. At the birth of each of them, I thought to myself: "This is good! This child is so very good! I love this child!" But this did NOT mean "This child is perfect and will never have any problems or cause myself or others any pain!" I know that, as they develop and grow, each of my children will cost me immeasurably in time, effort, heartache, even in money. That is the cost of love. That is the cost of relationship. That is the Journey of parenthood and childhood.

So what did I mean when I said "This child is good"? It meant that this child is the type of being- the kind of person- I am capable of sharing love with. I get to share myself with this person and see them grow into fullness. This person is an expression of the love of my wife and I, and we will some day offer this child as a gift of love to the wider world to actualize their potential (hopefully) in a life of Love and Compassion and Wisdom.

I think something like this is the theological affirmation behind God saying "it is good". This creation is not perfect. In fact, it is quite painful and messy. But it is the type of free creation that can grow and develop and evolve into the kind of people that God can share Godself with.

And thus, Biblical Christians NEED to embrace a universe of development, change, and evolution, both because that is what the trajectory of Scripture points us to, but also because growth, change, development, and evolution are clearly part of our personal experience, and the public evidence of the sciences.

To repeat: Biological evolution best fits the facts of (a) the overarching themes of Scripture; (b) the implicit themes of thoughtful Christian theology across the ages; (c) the nature of Christ's Incarnation and our journey into Christlikeness; (d) our own personal experience of growth and development from womb to tomb and beyond; (e) the public evidence supplied by our best scientists researching the nature of our biological origins and current development.

I know this is scary, and I know it is uncertain, and I know it does not offer us and neat, tidy, everything-in-the-box answer to what the future holds. But that is OK. Because the One who holds the future, indeed who IS the future, also walks with us on our Journey and gives us His Spirit to guide and empower us.

And in the Gospel according to John, he tells us:

[12] “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. [13] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." [John 16.12–13]

We cannot bear all the truth now, because we cannot conceive of the beauty of what God has planned for us to become. Just as the 4 year old cannot conceive life as a 40 year old, so also after 10,000 years of history, humans cannot conceive of what humanity will look like at 100,000 years, or at 1 million years, or at 1 billion years, or what God has in store after this universe has ceased to exist. We cannot conceive it, but we can follow in the spiritual and moral footsteps of Jesus, listening to the guidance of his Spirit, to help us grow in a Christward direction on our infinite journey.

And if we do this- if we submit ourselves to follow the Way of Love that Jesus guides us on- this Way will lead us to progressively actualizing the positive potentiality God has embedded within human nature. We will evolve to do things as individuals, and as a species, we could not have dreamed of at this stage of our development. For Jesus also tells us this:

[12] Very truly, I tell you, the one who trusts in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. [13] I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. [John 14.12–13]

If we are Biblical Christians, we stand upon these promises, and these promises point us forward to the future God is inviting us into, as we pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, who fully embodies the potential God has placed within us, as you embody God in human form: Help us, as individuals and as a species, to grow, to develop, to evolve, into the fullness of who you made us to be, that we may ever Journey on your Way, be filled with your Spirit, and embody your Love. Amen.
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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.