A Contrast of Worldviews
The Bible has much to say about ancient history, cultural differences, and human commonalities—all of it accurate. Unfortunately, evolutionary assumptions hold great sway in modern thinking. Those assumptions shape the worldview espoused by textbooks, teachers, and television specials concerning our origin, early history, identity, and destiny. God’s Word reveals our true identity, protecting us from such errors.
Shame, Clothing, and Climate
Clothing, according to evolutionary theory, is a cultural adaptation to cold climates. Evolutionists speculate a three-stage history: first came a cold climate, then came clothing, then came the shame of nakedness. When European winters became intolerable to Neanderthals, they made clothing from animal skins. People who felt ashamed to be naked were more likely to clothe themselves, which aided their survival in colder climates. Thus, morality evolved to favor modesty.
Scripture reveals that the opposite is true. First came shame, for after Adam and Eve sinned, they no longer could look upon each other’s nakedness innocently (Genesis 2:25, 3:10). Then came clothing—initially from fig leaves and later from animal skins (Genesis 3:7, 21). Finally, Adam and Eve left the comfort of Eden for other climates (v. 24). Their descendants in the Near East experienced frost, ice, and snow (Genesis 31:40; Exodus 4:6, 16:14; 2 Samuel 23:20; Job 6:16, 37:10, 38:29; Psalms 78:47, 147:16; Jeremiah 36:30).
Violence and Warfare
Lord Tennyson poetically summarized the evolutionary worldview as millions of years of “nature red in tooth and claw.” Evolutionary anthropologists theorize that an ape-like creature named Homo habilis began to use tools 2.5 million years ago, evolving later into Homo sapiens. They say it was only natural for Homo to wield his tools in violence, which eventually led to warfare among the ancient civilizations that evolved from his tribe. According to Karl Marx’s theory of social evolution, war erupts because two groups compete for the same scarce resources.
Scripture teaches quite the opposite. First, animals did not precede humans by millions of years, but by less than one day. Both kinds were created on Day 6 of creation (Genesis 1:24-31). Second, violence in the animal kingdom, as well as among humans, resulted from sin. Violence never was “natural” in the sense of God’s original creation, which God called “very good” (v. 31). Violence now is “natural” only in the perverted sense of a fallen human nature, in which the holy image of God has been corrupted.
The first recorded instance of violence between men did not result from competition over scarce resources, but rather from jealousy concerning God’s favor—the most abundant resource ever. Specifically, Cain and Abel each presented offerings to the LORD, Abel in faith, but Cain with an impure heart (Hebrews 11:4). When God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s, Cain slew his brother Abel (Genesis 4:3-8). Jesus referred to this as the first case of religious persecution by a hypocrite against a believer (Matthew 23:35).
An evolutionary view of history suggests a long-term trend toward improvement: People are smarter, healthier, and longer living than ever before. Modern medical science has eradicated many diseases and found ways to alleviate many others. The average lifespan for a person living in Rome during the time of Christ was about thirty years. Today most Americans live twice that long.
Behind this appearance of progress, however, lies the biblically revealed reality of decline. Recall that Adam was created to live forever (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12). His life was cut short by the “wages of sin” when he died 930 years after creation (Romans 6:23; Genesis 5:5). After the Flood, human lifespans declined to about 120 years by the time of Moses (Genesis 6:3, Deuteronomy 34:7). In King David’s day, people typically lived into their 70s (Psalm 90:10). The Prophetess Anna was in her 80s when she greeted the Christ Child (Luke 2:37).
Even if recent improvements to medical care or food supply have extended the average lifespan, the brute fact remains: “dust [we] are, and to dust [we] shall return” (Genesis 3:19). The wages of sin is still death. No amount of “evolutionary progress” can escape divine judgment. Our best hopes are hopeless, unless we hope in Christ.
Racial Unity and Equality
Evolutionary theory demeans “inferior” races and ultimately dehumanizes all people. From Darwin’s day (the mid 1800s) through World War II (the mid 1900s), it was fashionable to rank the races according to supposed evolutionary advancement. Scientists usually placed their own race at the top and other races at the bottom. Nazis applied this framework when asserting that Aryans were superior to Jews.
The Nuremberg trials condemned Nazi leaders for the Jewish holocaust, and the American civil rights movement similarly judged white supremacists for their racism against African Americans. Trends in evolutionary theories tend to adapt with changing politics. The new fashion is to emphasize genetic similarities for all races. But evolutionary theory exaggerates the case by also asserting a fundamental unity between humans and apes. Philosopher Peter Singer has gone so far as to claim that fish have a right to life on par with human rights.
The Bible can restore our sanity. Scripture teaches that God created humans distinctly, not as part of the animal kingdom. Humans of all ethnicities are to exercise dominion over animals (Genesis 1:24-28). Everyone’s ancestry ultimately comes from one race: Noah’s (Genesis 10:32-11:9; Acts 17:26). All humans were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27).
A careful study of Scripture clears up common misconceptions, such as that Africans were cursed with black skin as punishment for Ham’s disrespect toward Noah (Genesis 9:20-27). Ham’s descendants included not only Africans, but also Canaanites and other Near Eastern tribes (10:6-20). Noah cursed only Ham’s son Canaan, not Ham’s children who settled in Africa (9:25, 27). Nothing in Scripture suggests that the curse had anything to do with skin pigmentation.
Scripture consistently communicates God’s love for all people. Baptism and the teaching of salvation in Jesus’ name are for “all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Having been baptized, believers are “neither Jew nor Greek,” but all part of one family of faith (Galatians 3:27–28). This New Testament inclusion of all ethnicities into one and the same church began already in Old Testament times. God told Moses how to incorporate foreigners into the Passover celebration (Numbers 9:14). Rahab of Jericho and Ruth the Moabitess, like so many other Gentiles, were grafted into the family of Abraham (Romans 4:17–18).
Modern racial theories, reinforced by the false teachings of Darwin and Marx, pit one group of people against another, but John’s vision of heaven witnessed believers from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” restored to the unity of God’s creation by the grace of His salvation, even while continuing to enjoy their God-given diversity (Revelation 7:9).
Providence or Purposelessness?
Evolution knows no purpose aside from survival for survival’s sake. Bestselling author Richard Dawkins, a leading proponent of both atheism and evolutionism, says we have “selfish genes” that want to reproduce themselves. He speculates that biological survival of the fittest drives cultural evolution as kingdoms rise and fall in competition with one another. If this theory holds true, then Joshua conquered the Promised Land, Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah, Cyrus conquered Babylon, and Alexander the Great conquered Persia simply because the victorious party had better weapons, better soldiers, better food, or some other survival advantage.
But God’s Word reveals clearly that the LORD directed the affairs of those nations (Genesis 15:13-21; Jeremiah 25:8-14; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Daniel 8). Through the rise and fall of civilizations, God’s work of redemption has taken place. Ancient history was not a random series of happenstances, but God’s own stage for salvation history, culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Luke and Acts).
Dr. Ryan MacPherson, a member of Norseland Lutheran Church, serves as Director of the Center for Apologetics and Worldviews and professor of history at Bethany Lutheran College.