If God used a long evolution to create the world as we know it with all its various creatures, why did He do so?
I do not mean here to ask whether God used evolution or not. I have discussed creation and evolution in a number of previous posts (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here; I told you there were a lot, and technically that series of posts is not finished though I haven’t worked on it in a while). My question is really if God chose to use evolution, if He allowed many species to die out before man was even born (including, of course, dinosaurs), why did He do so? I don’t want to oversimplify anyone’s position; I know there are a lot of reasons young earth creationists believe as they do. But I wonder if part of the reasons that some Christians are so resistant to the idea of evolution is that it seems to take the focus off the human race. If the earth is billions of years old and we are relative newcomers on it, well, that seems to make it all less about us, doesn’t it?
This must be how Copernicus’ contemporaries felt when he said that the earth was not the center of the universe. He argued that the universe doesn’t revolve around us. But does it? Theologically does it? I think the Bible tends to tell us that it does. Of course it tells us nothing about other worlds that might be peopled with other races (not that I believe in such things, but I don’t think the Bible rules them out). But in our own world, God places man at the head. He names and rules over the animals. He subdues the earth. In time, he will even judge angels. It’s a pretty important position.
So if man is the pinnacle of God’s creation, why would He waste billions of years getting there?
One possible answer is that God was getting the earth just right for us. I am thinking now of its geological layers. He knew we would need oil and coal and gold and other metals. So He took the time to lay these down deep in the earth for us to mine out. Fossil fuels require living things to have died and been buried long ago. So the great age of the earth (if one accepts such theories) would give Him time to get everything right for us. It is rather a nice picture, I think, of a God who is planning ahead, like a mother preparing a nursery, to get everything in place which will be needed.
Of course, God being God, He could have just made the earth with all these things in it. The earth could have an apparent rather than an actual history. Switch the other preparing the nursery image above for Samantha from Bewtiched snapping her fingers and everything that is needed appears in its proper place in an instant. This is, I will admit, much closer to the picture the Bible gives us of a very quick creation in which as soon as God speaks a thing it is done. But the first picture has something the second doesn’t — love. The instantaneous snap leaves no room for pondering and considering the loved one. No room for consideration and savoring. Perhaps the mother in the first scenario could have paid someone to come in and stock her nursery in a day. But she enjoys the process. She treasures each minute of fingering the little onesies and imaging how they will be used. It is a joy to do it herself and to take her time over it because she does it for the one she loves (already! though he or she is not there yet).
A slightly different picture takes us out of the picture. God is creative. Maybe like an artist, He enjoys the process. Maybe He felt no need to rush it and even before we, His people, were there He savored the process. He delights in His creation; maybe He delighted in the dinosaurs and everything else that existed before people did.
Finally (and these explanations are by no means mutually exclusive), maybe God is trying to tell us something.We were watching a Great Courses video on geology recently and one thing that came out is that there was a constant process of death and new life throughout the earth’s history. For example, when the large reptiles die out in a relatively short span of time, this allowed the larger mammals to surge to prominence. They became both larger and much more abundant very quickly (geologically speaking). This is perhaps one of the better known examples but it is not the only one. One of the points being made was that this sequence of events has happened over and over again. And it struck me that this is just how God communicates to us. He likes to repeat a theme. In Bible studies we call them types and antitypes. Think of all the things in the Bible which take three days. Or all the times water is parted. Or all the times God chooses the younger son, the one no one expects. The list could go on and on. And not only God does repeat Himself (presumably to get things into our thick heads), even the nature of the message here is His sort of thing — death brings forth new life.
Did God use any sort of evolution? I don’t know. But rather than reading about evolution and being repulsed and thinking that this whole theory removes God from the process and is anathema, I get a different picture — of a God who savors and delights in His creation and in preparing a place for His children and even of a God who is setting up the patterns He will continue to follow of death and new life.
I realize this is a touchy-feely type argument and I am not usually a touchy-feely person. But I also think that a lot of our discussions about evolution (and other things) are influenced more than we realize by our own preconceived notions and feelings. I don’t mean to discount the biblical evidence. My point here is simply that evolution need not preclude God and that I can even see ways in which it seems to fit with the character of the God I know. Honestly, when I read scientific descriptions of how the earth was formed or how its many creatures, past and present, came to be, I find myself more in awe of creation and therefore of its Creator, not less.