The problem of evil is believed by many to pose the greatest challenge to the claims of theism, and specifically, to Christianity. The Christian claim of an omnipotent and good God seems ill reconciled to the evidence of overwhelming and unrelenting evil in the world. Theistic evolution (TE) proponents agree that evil exists. As theistic evolutionist Karl Giberson notes, “The natural world has some terrible creatures in it, and it is hard to imagine God intentionally designing such nasty things.” But many theistic evolutionists, including Giberson, assert their Christian faith fits well with the evolutionary model. Denis Alexander, for example, does not view his Christian faith as antithetical to belief in evolution, “as long as ‘evolution’ refers not to some secular philosophy, but to the biological theory describing how God has created all living things.”  Giberson, as do many other TE proponents, argues that TE answers the problem of evil since, rather than acting as primary cause of evil, God employed natural secondary causes to create, which resulted in evil that God did not directly produce. Thus, they assert, both God’s goodness and omnipotence, can be preserved in the face of the charge of causing evil.
TE, however, as we will show, not only fails to mitigate the problem of evil for theists who hold to this view, it also presents its own problems, some intractable. This discussion will begin with brief definitions of terminology. Descriptions of the various types of origins views, including distinguishing categories of major theistic evolutionary models will follow. A critical analysis of the various types of TE and their approaches to the problem of evil will round out the discussion.
Defining Theistic Evolution
In general, theistic evolution is the view that God used evolution (i.e. common descent and natural selection acting on random mutations over long periods of time) to produce diverse life forms, culminating in the most highly developed sentient creation, humans. Though this general description suffices for generic discussion, theistic evolution is not a monolithic view; rather, proponents exhibit a range of views regarding the level of intervention by the Creator in the process. At one end of the spectrum are theistic evolutionists who argue that God supervised every moment of the process, while at the other end are those who eschew any involvement by the Creator beyond the establishment of initial conditions, even insisting that He had no plan or purpose in creating.
In Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything, author Gerald Rau divides origins models into six categories. These categories prove particularly helpful in understanding the various TE models. Two of the six views hold that God engaged in creation by fiat. Old Earth Creation (OE) “accepts that the earth is billions of years old, but says God created in distinct creative events, in the order recorded in Genesis.” Young Earth Creation (YE) “holds that God created in six 24-hour days within the last 10,000 years.”
Beyond YE and OE views (and we should note there are several versions of OE), Rau delineates four evolutionary views: Naturalistic Evolution (NE), Nonteleological Evolution (NTE), Planned Evolution (PE), and Directed Evolution (DE). Naturalistic Evolution (NE) posits no supernatural cause, no purpose, and common descent, and thus, is an atheistic view. The remaining three evolutionary models hold to the existence of a Creator, with the distinguishing factor among them being the level of involvement of God in the creation process. These are the views that impact the present discussion.
Nonteleological Evolution (NTE) asserts that while the Creator established initial conditions of the universe, this God, whether best described as a being or as a force, “has no plan for the universe and therefore does not intervene in it.” Instead, he (or it) passively sits back, “simply watching the unfolding of events as they happen.” Rau rightly notes that this view in the strictest sense is not theistic, but deistic. NTE proponent John Haught expresses the view this way: “It is more helpful to think of God as the infinitely generous ground of new possibilities for world-becoming than as a ‘designer’ or ‘planner’ who has mapped out the world in every detail from some indefinitely remote point in the past. God whose very essence is to be the world’s open future is not a planner or designer but an infinitely liberating source of new possibilities and new life.” God’s relation to the universe and its evil are derived from his understanding of God as part of the process of becoming.
Planned Evolution (PE) (also called “fully gifted creation” or “evolutionary creation”) says that “God created the universe with a plan and created it perfectly to bring that plan to fruition without further intervention.” As Rau notes, “Since this model also seeks only natural causes after the moment of creation, the scientific inferences made are in many cases indistinguishable from NE and NTE.” Associate Professor of Science and Religion Denis Lamoureux holds a view that aligns most closely with Rau’s PE model. Lamoureux says this version of TE frees the Christian from positing a God-of-the-Gaps, a view that sees the Creator “as a tinkering meddler who intervened sporadically into the world to add creatures and/or missing parts. From this perspective, God made the original creation incomplete. But instead of looking for ‘gaps’ where He purportedly entered to create, evolutionary creationists assert that His divine power is apparent in the robust self-assembling character of the evolutionary continuum of life, from the first molecules to human beings.”
Karl Giberson and Francis Collins also hold to this model as verified by the fact that they argue that humans came about solely by naturally developing properties that God instilled anticipatorily in initial creation. Giberson asserts that “every one of our remarkable capacities must have appeared gradually and been present in some partial, anticipatory way in our primate ancestors.” Thus, for PE proponents humans arise from solely natural processes, just as they would in NTE and NE. The difference is that God in the initial stages planned and embued all creation with the inherent ability to self-assemble and increase in complexity via natural selection.
Directed Evolution (DE) “claims that just as God is continually involved in human history to bring about his plan, in the same way he is continually involved in natural history, whether this is scientifically detectable or not.” DE is distinguished from NTE and PE most significantly by the fact that DE asserts a specific point in time when God acted on “one pair of individuals from an evolving population of pre-humans and imparted to them his image,” or to a large group of pre-humans. Denis Alexander holds, for instance, that God imprinted His image on “representative Homo sapiens.”
Defining the Problem of Evil
For the purpose of this analysis evil will be defined along traditional Augustinian lines as the lack or privation of good. The problem of evil will be characterized as the argument raised against the probability that a good, omnipotent God exists due to the presence of both natural and moral evil in the world. Moral evil is the kind of evil which results from the exercise of individuals with free will. Natural evil is evil resulting from events in the natural world such as natural disasters or via non-moral agents such as animals. We will now turn to discussion of the unique claims made by various versions of TE in answer to the problem of evil.
TE Mitigates God’s Culpability for Evil
Cornelius Hunter, author of Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil, notes that Darwin himself was troubled by the inherent evil and suffering integral to the process of natural selection. For example, Darwin observed that parasites feed off living victims, and some do so in such a way as to extend the victim’s life as long as possible. Hunter framed Darwin’s question: “How could divine creation be reconciled with such evils? It was questions like these that, for Darwin, seemed to confirm that life is formed by blind natural forces. He was motivated toward evolution not by direct evidence in favor of his new theory but by problems with the common notion of divine creation. Creation, it seemed, does not always reflect the goodness of God, so Darwin advocated a naturalistic explanation to describe how creation came about.”
Theistic evolutionists seek to reconcile the existence of a loving, all-powerful God with these evidences. Yet, one of the paradoxes of theistic evolutionist thinking is that they take the very reason Darwin sought to excommunicate God from natural processes—because it did not seem possible to him that a “beneficent . . . God” would have created in such a brutal way—and argue that this is the very reason TE makes sense.
For example, Russian geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975) disparaged a God who would “fabricate a multitude of species ex nihilo and then let most of them die out.” Conversely, he believed that the evolutionary process as a secondary cause provided a more satisfying explanation for the dying out of species. Dobzhansky’s God instigated the initial conditions and yet was “off the hook” in terms of responsibility for the waste of life since He vacated the position of primary cause and thus, had nothing to do with the process.
Karl Giberson and his evolutionary ally Francis Collins, of BioLogos Foundation, assert that while the problem of evil “has no simple answer,” TE actually provides some solutions to the seminal issue that has perennially plagued theism. Specifically, says Giberson, TE explains evil that cannot be explained by immediate creation. “There are too many things that don’t fit into the standard creationist scenario—bad design, instinctual cruelty, pointless waste.” To mitigate God’s culpability, they remove him as far as possible away from direct involvement in the development of living things. Giberson words it this way: “I side with Darwin in rejecting the idea that God is responsible for the details.”
One of the most significant “details” in which God is not involved and for which He is not responsible is the immediate creation of Adam and Eve. It should be noted that TE models characteristically deny the historicity of the Genesis accounts. As Giberson argues, “Clearly the historicity of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace are hard to reconcile with natural history.” Thus, in the Planned Evolution (PE) version of TE held by Giberson, Falk, and Collins, to suggest God selected two individuals from the group of evolving pre-humans and imprinted them with his image is “artificial, devoid of historical evidential support, and does not reflect the intent of the Genesis writer.” Instead, God planned from the beginning that humans would arise solely from a mechanistic chain of events as monistic beings in which the soul (including all immaterial aspects of humanness) is a product of progressive complexity.
Apart from the problems presented by the version of humans as monistic beings with immaterial attributes arising from material causes, one wonders how the PE mechanism of evolution set in motion by God differs from naturalistic form of evolution? True, God jumpstarts the process, but, as Callie Joubert of South African Theological Seminary notes, “If proponents of theistic evolution adhere to the same worldview as advocates of scientism, naturalism, and physicalism, why is God necessary to explain the origin of the world? If atoms and the evolutionary process serve as the answer to the question, as . . . members of BioLogos believe it does, then God has certainly become an unnecessary extra to explain the realities that exist.” If God does not dirty His hands with the details, then how can one invoke a God that plans details at the start so intricately that all living things intrinsically possess the ability to self-assemble and increase in complexity in fulfillment of their originally designed purpose? Theistic evolutionists cannot have both a God who plans from the outset so meticulously that all created things can be characterized as “fully gifted,” while maintaining that God does not get involved in the dirty details, whether at the start or during the process.
Giberson’s colleague and co-president of BioLogos Darrel Falk agrees that natural selection is a gruesome mechanism for bringing about life’s diversity. Speaking of the microorganism E. coli bacteria, he says, “So as a Christian, what do I think is the origin of these little pathological killing-machines? They are produced by natural selection, a process that the science of biology shows really does explain how the machinery inside cells is built.” Giberson employs a similar vernacular when talking about lethal microorganisms.
Notice that Falk argues that the means by which natural selection can account for development of these bad bugs while keeping the process tethered (with an interminably long rope) to God is by God granting “freedom to creation just as God grants freedom in our own lives.” In other words, freedom as pertains to non-sentient things refers to their ability to act one way or another, and some do act one way and others another. Falk distinguishes the freedom granted to humans from that granted to nature by the fact that “our freedom comes with a moral responsibility to use it properly.” Auschwitz’s gas chambers, says Falk, serve as evidence of the moral aspect of human freedom exercised in an evil way. Yet, he adds, no one holds God directly responsible for creating the gas chambers. Giberson takes this reasoning to its logical conclusion: “In exactly the same way, less the moral dimension, when nature’s freedom leads to the evolution of a pernicious killing machine, God is ‘off the hook.’”
There are several problems with Falk and Giberson’s hypothesis. Falk for some reason completely ignores the fact that many people do hold God directly responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust. In fact, this historical atrocity alone accounts for a significant number of people who reject the existence of a good, all-powerful Creator God.
Further, though Falk insists that nature’s freedom is identical, minus the moral aspect, to human freedom, the moral aspect is the very point that distinguishes truly free humans from creatures that act on instinct or from non-living things. The term freedom applied to sentient moral creatures entails the ability to choose to do otherwise: the exercise of free will. Non-living things and even microscopic living organisms possess no will from which to choose to do anything. When Giberson calls a microorganism a “pernicious killing machine,” he can only make this value judgment because he is a morally aware being. Nature itself makes no such judgments; it is a blind machine, and therefore there is nothing pernicious about anything that happens via nature. This kind of attribution of human-like abilities to nature is reminiscent of Darwin’s personification of nature in his writings. If nature is amoral then freedom cannot be univocally applied to molecules, microbes, and man.
Not only is the concept of freedom unjustifiably applied to non-sentient products of the blind, deterministic, materialistic process of natural selection, but also sentient but amoral beings such as animals are not faulted for what natural selection bred into them genetically. No one holds a wolf morally culpable for dismembering a terrified baby rabbit, and the reason is that the wolf is not endowed with a moral nature. Therefore, though the act could be characterized as a natural evil, the wolf does not commit a moral evil. Would not God be indicted and creatures be exonerated for a situation in which the creatures acted only on instinct to kill each other which God embedded in them from the beginning? Ultimately, how can even humans be viewed as free since, they, too, simply dance to the DNA instilled in them by the blind, mechanistic process of natural selection, a process which God initiated but then failed to monitor? Whether God started the process or not, if Giberson and Falk are right, natural selection is absolutely mechanistic.
While Giberson and Falk construe God’s role in the process as one of endowing creation with freedom analogous to that which He has given humans, the PE version of TE does not mitigate God’s causal role in evil because since there is no free will for non-sentient things and animals. For PE, God Himself determined ahead of time to embue creation with the very characteristics that produce evil.
TE Provides an Explanation for Evil as a Necessary Aspect of Progress
Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) also endeavored to exonerate God of charges of causing evil, and he did so in a unique way. Teilhard believed that TE provided the best explanation for physical and moral disorder since all creation was still developing. “It is abundantly clear that the origin of evil does not raise the same difficulties (nor call for the same explanations) in a universe which is evolutive in structure, as it does in a static universe, fully formed from the outset. There is no longer any need, rationally speaking, to suspect or to look for a ‘culprit’. Physical and moral disorder, of one sort or another, must necessarily be produced spontaneously in a system which is developing its organic character, so long as the system is incompletely organized.”
It is the end—utopia—that makes the means justifiable: “The application of the idea of evolution to the present species of man leads by itself to the expectation of a man of the future who will be nobler, better, greater, and more highly developed. Such a perfect, or super, man can be expected with a far degree of certainty—as these particular thinkers suppose—if present humanity continues to develop according to the laws which led it to its present heights.”
Ernst Benz, author of Evolution and Christian Hope, analyzed Teilhard’s utopic vision attained via TE. He notes that Teilhard was even able to put a positive spin on the horrors of Hiroshima. Benz says that for Teilhard, “The dead and wounded of Hiroshima are unavoidable sacrifices on the road toward fulfilling the duty of pushing evolution forward.”
Teilhard’s proposal that man’s sophisticated current state can only be expanded to greater horizons in the future, eventually yielding a world in which humans, if they can still be called that, are altruistic, fulfilling the pinnacle aspirations of well-being for themselves and others, is untenable for several reasons. The machine of natural selection preserves those who are most selfish, most driven by the necessary attribute of self-preservation, not only in a generic sense, but in a radical cutthroat, at-all-costs sense. Thus, those who are benevolent, gentle, merciful, kind, humble, self-effacing, and altruistic do not possess the characteristics necessary for survival, and will be summarily extinguished, leaving the world populated with the most aggressive, narcissistic humans.
Why should we think this uber-human race of “more highly developed” humans, will not choose to use their intelligence to refine their potential for evil actions that would preserve themselves at the expense of the weaker? In fact, does not history actually confirm that this is exactly what occurs? If Einstein’s intelligence brought the world insights into the origins of the universe, it also opened the door for the crafting the first atomic bomb used to murder millions.
Further, the method God willfully chose to attain the highest good for mankind—survival of the fittest—is the very method that presupposes rampant death and destruction in order to arrive at that glorious state. The full-blown contradiction in this model is hard to ignore. This kind of God, who could have created things “very good” by fiat, instead elected to use a horrific process to attain His goal.
John Haught makes a similar argument. “Evil and suffering could be thought of as the dark side of the word’s ongoing creation.” In other words, evil can best be explained as a normal (and good?) characteristic of a universe that is still in process of becoming. Since the universe is not finished, we should not expect it to be perfect. Instead, imperfection presupposes that we can reasonably expect evil and suffering as reflections of that immature processing state. Thus, even moral evil is more of an expression of immaturity than an outright rebellion against the holy Almighty.
Not only is evil a natural part of the development toward more lofty horizons, Haught’s God is himself fully engaged in the process of becoming along with the world. “The data of evolutionary science, rather than fitting into a materialistic framework, can be more intelligibly situated within a theological metaphysical framework centered around the biblical picture of the ‘the humility of God.”
But what does Haught mean by “humility of God”? Haught’s God is “vulnerable, defenseless, and humble,” caught in the web of “contingency, randomness, and struggle in evolution.” In other words, Haught’s God is as much in process as is the universe. This is a defining characteristic of what Rau describes as Nonteleological Evolution (NTE), the version of TE that most clearly aligns at crucial points with process theology. “It is more helpful to think of God as the infinitely generous ground of new possibilities for world-becoming than as a ‘designer’ or ‘planner’ who has mapped out the world in every detail from some indefinitely remote point in the past. . . .God whose very essence is to be the world’s open future is not a planner or designer but an infinitely liberating source of new possibilities and new life.”
Although Haught clings tenaciously to the thought that “God’s humility does not imply weakness or powerlessness,” and he criticizes “some process theologians, [who] in their effort to avoid crude notions of divine omnipotent, also speak of a powerless God,” it seems to me that Haught has succumbed to the very error for which he criticizes others. He seeks to do an end-run around the inevitable implications of his own view; that is, a God who plans nothing but rather is fully engaged moment by moment in the process of learning as the future unfolds anew for him as well as for his creation is as dependent on the process as is the creation. Creationist Joubert rightly asks, “Is God metaphysically ‘in’ the evolutionary process? If so, how can we distinguish between God, who is not a process, but a substance, from the process itself?”
Haught says, “I am looking for an explanation that’s robust enough to account for the kind of universe that is able, from within itself, to develop and unfold in this ongoing process of complexification. So the idea that some sort of providential presence is accompanying this process seems not at all irrational. And I like to think of God in these terms.” In utter self-contradiction, Haught also argues that for an explanation to be robust, it must include the tenet that the universe, not from any external cause such as God, but from “within itself,” produces increasingly complex organisms, while simultaneously insisting that “some sort of providential presence accompanying this process” makes sense in the model. Note the logical conclusion of this line of thinking: The universe is able to develop from lesser to greater complexity from within, or on its own. Providence “accompanies” this process. Therefore, providence must be part of the universe itself.
Further, he argues that “God can be best understood not as coming from above but from ahead.” (42) What he means by this statement is unclear. How can God come from ahead if he is subject to the process of becoming? He adds that “God even might withdraw so as to let the world develop on its own.” (43) What does he mean by “on its own?” How can a God to whom all things owe their existence, not merely as first cause, but as moment-by-moment sustaining cause, leave the world “on its own”? Haught argues He does so out of ‘loving kindness’ toward creation that causes him to avoid any “obtrusive presence that might suppress the autonomy of the beloved,” but would not this withdrawal mean the extinction of creation? In Romans chapter one, Paul explains what happens when humans resist God’s good plan. In this case, God does not leave mankind to develop on its own, but He does withdraw His protective guidance from those who persist in resisting His good will for their good purpose. Still, He sustains every moment of life and breath of every rebellious, God-hating contingent being called a human.
TE Enables God to Identify with Human Suffering
Haught also believes that the suffering inherent in natural selection—“red in tooth and claw,” as poet Tennyson put it,—pointed to the suffering of Christ. “Reflection on the Darwinian world can lead us to contemplate more explicitly the mystery of God as it is made manifest in the story of life’s suffering, the epitome of which lies for Christians in the crucifixion of Jesus. In the symbol of the cross Christian belief discovers a God who participates fully in the world’s struggle and pain.”
Unfortunately, Haught completely misconstrues the purpose of Christ’s suffering. The Savior suffered, not to recapitulate the suffering which He Himself caused by His choice to create via the gory process of natural selection. Instead, He suffered as the only acceptable sacrificial substitute for human sin against holy God. According to Scripture, suffering is due to the Fall, resulting in a curse that infected all of creation as a result of sin, rather than reflecting God’s original, perfect plan.
TE Avoids a Deceptive God
As an admirer of Teilhard’s view that evolution was “a general postulate to which all theories . . . must . . . bow,” Dobzhansky believed that evolution, corroborated by science, avoided the less preferable conclusion that God created by fiat a world with the appearance much older than it actually was. To Dobzhansky the idea of creation by fiat (rather than evolution) was evil since that mode of creation presupposed a deceptive Creator: “What if there was no evolution and every one of the millions of species were created by separate fiat? However offensive the notion may be to religious feeling and to reason, the antievolutionists must . . . accuse the Creator of cheating. They must insist that He deliberately arranged things exactly as if his method of creation was evolution, intentionally to mislead sincere seekers of truth.” (dobz)
Dobzhansky’s view proposed a God who does not engage in even minimal intervention in the development of life or diversity of life, and thus, seems to best fit within Rau’s NTE category. As he says, “There is . . . nothing conscious or intentional in the action of natural selection.” As relates to human evolution, according to Hunter, Dobzhansky believed there was “no purpose behind the evolution of humans.” Still, he wanted to keep God in the picture, though it is hard to say why. He insisted that God “created the living world not by caprice but by evolution propelled by natural selection.”
In response, we could ask if there might be other reasons that the universe may appear much older than it is than that an evil God intentionally tried to deceive us. Young Earth (YE) creationists might argue that instead of creating with the appearance of age to deceive us, living things were created in mature states, as were Adam and Eve, in order that they may be able to immediately reproduce. Another possibility that has also been raised by YE creationists is that we are simply in error in our dating methods. Moreover, without going into detail due to space constraints, it should be said that many Christians believe that the bulk of fossil evidence, as well as other lines of evidence fail to support evolution. In fact, hundreds of scientists, both Christian and non-Christian, have raised questions about the explanatory value of the Darwinian model of evolution for the origin and diversity of life.
Further, as we have noted, in Dobzhansky’s NTE view God is merely a pawn in the natural development of the universe. If Dobzhansky wants a God who has no plan, no intention, and acts from within the developing universe, he does so at great cost. For the God Dobzhansky is left with the God of process theology, not the God of orthodox Christianity. Lastly, if the God of Dobzhansky has no purpose or plan then not only is He not responsible for the evil of the developmental process called natural selection, but also He gets no credit since He cannot account for the crowning glory of natural selection: humans. How, then, can this kind of God be described as “better” than the God who creates by fiat?
Claims that TE Prevents the Evil of Overcrowding the Planet
In an optimistic approach, Rev. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Genetics at the Catholic university Providence College lauds the God of TE: “Once God had chosen to create through his creatures, it was fitting that he used evolution to create rather than another means, because evolution is the most efficient way for divine providence to use non-personal instrumental causes to generate novel and adaptive life forms on a dynamic and ever-changing planet.” Ignoring the implications negative aspects of the process, Austriaco also argues that evolution is the only means to produce novelty and further, prevented planet overcrowding.
It was also fitting that God created via evolution rather than via special creation because in doing so he was able to create more species to reflect his glory: With evolution, he created four billion species over a three billion year period, which is significantly greater than the mere eight million extant species today. In fact, it would have been ecologically impossible for all four billion species to co-exist on our planet, because there are only a limited number of ecological niches on the planet at a given moment in time.
Why God could create more species via evolutionary process than by fiat is not explained. Against the charge that the means of evolution works at the expense of wasting life, he argues, “No one thinks that Michelangelo ‘wasted’ marble because there were leftover marble pieces after he had completed sculpting his masterpiece, David. There is no waste when the agent fittingly attains his end.” Thomas Aquinas and the Fittingness of Evolutionary Creation, Part 2 Austriaco)
The main error Austriaco makes in his version of PE is in failing to draw the obvious distinction between the significance of wasted marble and that of wasted life. His argument from efficiency does not seem compelling given the fact that the production of the plethora of animal kinds at, say, the family taxonomic level, which could have happened in moments by God’s fiat intervention, instead required billions of torturous years with an astronomical cost of life. Further, as for overcrowding the planet, if God provided means (not to mention a command) to reproduce for every species, we can surmise that He is not concerned about the planet’s overcrowding and could certainly provide means by which the planet could sustain all the designed species by controlling reproduction or that He would provide other means of sustaining life for all creatures.
TE Maintains God’s Transcendence
Haught describes another aspect of his TE view that answers the problem of evil: “Evolution has allowed theology to acknowledge at last that the notion of an originally and instantaneously completed creation is theologically unthinkable.” A perfect creation he contends “could not be a creation truly distinct from its creations”; rather, it would be a mere “appendage of God” and “God could not transcend such a world.” Thus, evil within creation from the beginning actually is the characteristic that distinguishes the created order from the creator. If creation were perfect, it would be God.
Space permits only a brief comment here. Haught does not explain why or how this is so, nor does he address the fact that his assertions contradict the biblical record regarding not only the original state of creation but also the eschatological restoration of the state of perfection made possible only through the God-man’s substitutionary atonement and resurrection.
TE Preserves a God who Intimately Guides the Creation Process
Molecular biologist Denis R. Alexander, whose view seems to align most closely with that of Rau’s Directed Evolution (DE), asserts that “some Christians think belief in evolution undermines the uniqueness of humankind and the reality of evil and the fall. Not so. The Genesis account portrays Adam and Eve as Neolithic farmers. It is perfectly feasible that God bestowed His image on representative Homo sapiens already living in the Near East to generate what John Stott has called Homo divinus, those who first enjoyed personal fellowship with God but who then fell most terribly from their close walk with God.”
Alexander’s motif appears to release God from the charge of causing evil because it maintains natural selection as a secondary cause of all things up to the point of humans, at which point God instilled the soul/spirit. But unlike NTE and PE versions of TE, for DE proponents God proctored and intimately guided the entire process to accomplish His purposes. “Taken overall, this is a tightly regulated process, as far from the idea of random chance as can be imagined.”
At first glance it would seem that God’s vigilant watchcare over the process is praiseworthy. But DE not only succumbs to the same charge as other versions of TE in that it embraces the brutal natural process by which evolution to higher, more complex organisms obtain, it presents an even more difficult problem. DE credits God with meticulous and loving oversight of the entire process.
Rather than distancing God from the barbaric operation by arguing that God created via secondary causes, DE brings God right into the slaughterhouse and then praises Him for the wonder of it all. DE proponents, then, are left with a pressing question: How a good and loving God who sees every sparrow that falls and sends His Son to suffer and die for man’s sins, choose from the beginning to create through an inherently evil process the creatures He described as “very good”? While DE the only version of TE that leaves us scratching our heads, it certainly does not solve the dilemmas that Alexander seems to think it does.
This paper has examined several claims made by TE proponents suggesting that TE solves the problem of evil. Using Gerald Rau’s categorization of types of TE: NTE, PE, and DE, we have examined claims that TE proponents make that their view mitigates the problem of evil and found that the various models make claims informed by the type of TE to which they are committed.
A paper of this brief length cannot present a thorough treatment of the issues arising from such an expansive topic as TE’s handling of the problem of evil. Nevertheless, my hope is that this cursory discussion will contribute to the current dialogue on the implications of theistic evolutionary thought for the problem of evil and spawn further research.
I have attempted to show that none of the TE models—NTE, PE, or DE—solves the problem of God’s employing a horrific and deadly mechanism by which all living animals came to be. NTE asserts that God had no plan or purpose, and though He started the process, He has no influence whatsoever on the process of natural selection. In fact, the God of NTE is subservient to the process Himself. Thus, NTE poses the additional problem of positing a version of God that is incompatible with historic orthodox Christianity and better fits within the camp of process theology.
PE for all practical purposes appears identical to NTE in terms of how the natural selection process works. However, on this view God did plan from the beginning and did so with purpose. In the initial stage of creation He embued creation with self-assembling ability. Unfortunately, what sounds like an elegant mechanism in reality replicates the same brutal process of natural selection as does NTE. For PE proponents the additional problem is the inherent contradiction in asserting the God planned with purpose how all creatures would come to be, even wiring them to self-assemble and increase in complexity, while at the same time arguing that God was not involved in the details.
DE seeks to mitigate the problem of evil by invoking a God who actively and intimately controls the process of evolution to the point of humans’ arrival on the earth’s scene, at which time He endows either humans or pre-humans with a soul. Unfortunately, at least up to the point of human creation the same problems plague DE also hamstring NTE and PE. Further, God’s goodness is impugned by suggesting that not only does God create via natural causes but that those causes are inherently evil.
While the focus of this analysis was TE’s relation to the problem of evil, other significant issues warrant analyses of their own. I would like to see more research on issues such as how TE explicates the nature of man given the fact that the NTE and PE evince a monistic view and DE a dualistic view. While it has been argued that a hylomorphic view is possible with TE, a deeper analysis of Thomistic hylmorphism is likely to reveal divergent views on this issue. The nature of man has critical implications for theological issues such as original sin, redemption, the nature of Christ’s propitiatory atonement, and the eschatalogical hope He has offered to mankind.
*Footnote information available upon request.
Alexander, Denis “Is It Possible to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.” BeThinking. http://www.bethinking.org/does-evolution-disprove-creation/is-it-possible-to-be-a-christian-and-believe-in-evolutionsed December 8, 2014).
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