The Church and Evolution

John Kanis is a graduate of Pella (Iowa) Christian High School. He is now a senior pre-medical student at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. This article was a prize-winning contribution in the 1975 essay contest open to the young people of the First Christian Reformed Church of Pella. In February, ’77 THE OUTLOOK published John‘s prize-winning contribution submitted in the contest of ’76 on “Double Predestination – Election and Reprobation.” Generous monetary awards from a member of the First Pella CRC encourages participation by the young people. In view of today’s widespread propagation and acceptance of the theory of evolution. Also this article is relevant for our time and should be read with interest and profit. Parents will also do well to encourage their children to read and give careful consideration to it.

Science and religion should fit together for the Christian. The revelation of God‘s Word and that of God’s world must agree.

It seems that belief in the Bible and literal creation did serve a useful and necessary purpose at a particular age in the history of Western civilization. However to hold such beliefs nowadays is often deemed anti-intellectual and harmful if not somewhat backward. This raises some important questions. Questions such as: What is our Church‘s CRC stand on creation? Is the creation record literal or not? Does creation allow any room for any kind of evolutionism? Can the findings of science and the creation account be harmonized? All these questions point to one key issue. The issue is creation versus evolution. The Christian solution to the issue can be found by delving into a yet deeper question: What does the Bible say?

Creation – What is creation? “Creation may be defined as that act of the almighty will of God whereby He, through His Word and by His Spirit, gave to the entire universe and to all the individual creatures of that universe, (things as they eternally exist in God‘s eternal thoughts, in His counsel) existence in distinction from Himself and His own Being.”1 When God created “the heavens, the earth and all that in them is” (Ex. 20:11) He did so without any preexistent materials whatsoever. Theologians have called this creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing).

The Church‘s Stand – What has been the Church‘s CRC stand on creation in the past? “We believe that the Father by the Word, that is by His Son has created of nothing the heavens, the earth and all creatures, when it seemed good unto Him, giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator; that He also still upholds and governs them by His eternal providence and infinite power for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God.”13

Our Church stand comes of course directly from the Bible. In the familiar first chapter of John we read, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:13).

The Church has stated its belief in God as the Creator of heaven and earth in both the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed. This belief is also dealt with in the Heidelberg Catechism (Question and Answer 26). “Q. What do you believe when you say: I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth? A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of nothing made heaven and earth with all that is in them, who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence . . .”13

In the Acts of Synod of 1951 a short and concise decision is recorded as adopted. The Church said Genesis 1 and 2 are historical and they define God’s divine act of creation adequately even if not fully. It also proclaimed that the Church rejected aU evolutionary teaching which rules God out entirely, makes Him dependent upon a process or limits His activity. In the Acts of Synod of 1959 a report is made on “General Principles in Connection with Creation and Evolution.” The committee lightly reviewed some principles of 1949 and came up with a report similar to that of 1951. The report repudiated three types of evolution. The first being the classical materialistic evolution, the second being an evolution which conceives of God as dependent on a process of so called creative evolution, and a third concept of evolution which postulates that God only incidentally intervenes in the course of evolution.

In 1966 a request was made at Synod for action regarding study matter on the problem of origins. A committee was appointed and it gave Synod advice as to the selection of another committee in 1967. Then in 1967 it was recommended that Synod withhold action and thereby not implement the decision of Synod of 1966. In 1968 the withholding action was not to be reversed.

It seems to me that a simple general statement was made in 1949 and somewhat restated in 1951. Since then Synod has been reluctant to delve further into the problem or make any additional statements because of the complexity and magnitude of the problem.

Evolution – Evolution stands diametrically over against the truth of creation. Evolution is the view, the theory, that maintains first of all that the world somehow began of itself. Secondly, it holds that from this unexplained beginningthe whole universe evolved, developed gradually. This development allegedly took place first of all as far as the inorganic, nonliving, creature is concerned. It evolved and developed from the less refined and less definite to the more refined and more definite. Then somehow the principle of life came into being and all the forms of living creatures came from that one cell. They developed from the lower to the higher forms and from the simpler to the more complex. Thirdly, evolutionism holds that this all developed over a period of billions of years until the world and the human race as we know it came into existence.

Evolutionists have tried. to explain the evolving of life (both plants and animals) with a number of different hypotheses.

1. One of the first of these hypotheses was that of Lamarck. Lamarck believed that environmental influences were the chief causes of evolutionary change. According to him when an animal’s environment changes, it needs to change and this leads to special demands on certain organs. Conversely, an organ or organs no longer used would degenerate and atrophy. For example, Lamarck believed the giraffe used to be a short-necked animal, but when its environment changed so that the only food it could find was on trees, the giraffe adapted. It used its neck so much that it eventually became longer. Lamarck postulated that such changed characteristics could be transmitted to offspring. Lamarck’s theory then was based on the idea of use and disuse and inheritance of acquired traits.

The greatest deficiency in the Lamarckian theory was the assumption of the hereditary transmission of acquired traits. When put to the test the Lamarckian theory did not stand up. A German worker, Weismann, tried cutting tails off mice for many successive generations. At the end of the experiment the last generation grew tails as long as the mice of the first generation. Many workers have devised experiments to test the hypothesis since Weismann‘s time but the result was always the same. Actually experiments were not necessary. The Chinese bound the feet of their women for many generations, yet this has not resulted in any modification of the feet of present day Chinese women. The Israelites circumcised their men for thousands of years but it did not result in any tendency toward reduction of the prepuce in their group. Now Lamarck’s theory has been abandoned by all modern biologists.

2. Charles Darwin was the originator of the theory of natural selection. Darwin made two deductions. a. Because the great reproductive potential of different organisms is not realized in nature—that is because all the individuals that are produced do not survive—there must be a struggle for existence. b. In the struggle for existence, those individuals that have favorable variation will survive in proportionately greater numbers and therefore produce a greater proportion of the next generation.

This is natural selection of “survival of the fittest.” Natural selection results in the survival of those forms that are best integrated with all of the factors of the environment in which they live.

Darwin‘s theory had one great weakness: it did not explain how variations could be transmitted. According to his hypothesis the parts of the body give off tiny particles (which he called. pangenes) into the body fluids and these collected in the eggs and sperms. Later when the fertilized egg undergoes development, according to the concept, the pangenes present are responsible for the particular features of the new individual. The hypothesis has since been proven untenable by biologists.

3. The modern theory of evolution is called Neo-Darwinianism. It is a combination of mutations and natural selection. Modern evolutionists believe that mutations are the raw materials of evolution. These changes in genes and chromosome configurations, together with the recombinations that result from sexual reproduction are the only known inheritable changes that occur in organisms. Natural selection does not cause these changes but plays an important role in determining which of them will survive. Evolutionists claim that “when a mutation occurs that is beneficial—that gives some survival advantages to its possessor—it will appear with increasing frequency in subsequent generations. The rate at which the new gene replaces the old one in the population will be determined by a number of factors: whether the new mutation is dominant or recessive; the intensity of selection; the rate of which the mutation occurs in the population; the rate of reverse evolution; and the size of the population.”7 Evolutionists admit that most mutations are deleterious in their effects and thus are not of survival value. How can you get good mutations then? Time. Evolutionists believe that anything can happen given enough time.

Ecological Problem – Neo-Darwinians are correct only up to a certain point. First there is an ecological problem. Nature does not work quite like Darwin said. Actually it is the “unsurvival of the unfittest” rather than the “survival of the fittest.” Darwin had really found the “brake” that keeps a species from falling apart, not the “accelerator” that causes a species to get better. Even with this “brake,” human beings have deteriorated terribly since Adam and Eve.

Loss of Adaptive Traits – The fact that so called adaptive traits are lost also makes evolution look false. For example, hemoglobin, which is essential to carry oxygen in the blood, exists in us and in worms of various kinds but not in any of the intermediate species. How could hemoglobin, which is so complex, have evolved once in worms then have been lost in the evolution chain but evolved again in us?

Trait Sets – A whole series of genes that work together are called trait sets. The platypus, for example, with its sonar needs not only a way to make echo location sounds but also a receiving and interpreting device. To have these sets you must have hundreds of thousands of genes working together. How could these genes just evolve to work together? There is definitely an omnipotent Designer behind these wonders.

Transition Forms – Transition forms such as those between the reptile and mammal in the evolution theory would have been very unfit to survive. Of course the evolutionist says that is why we do not find them today. The way these links came about, says the evolutionist, is either by genetic drift (chance) or selection. Real major changes occur in small population by genetic drift. However, small populations tend to keep around bad traits rather than good ones. Note, for example, the sixth finger which is common among the Amish.

Reverse Evolution – Sometimes evolution calls for a reverse evolving such as the pig being heir to the whale. The pig however, would have to have gone back into the water from which it was to have evolved out of. It would have to go back to the sea which would have been teeming with life that was well adapted to it. The chances of a pig surviving are very slim.

Mutualism – Evolutionists would be hard put to explain mutualism in nature. Certain things in nature are totally dependent on each other. For example, the Yucca plant is totally dependent on the Yucca moth for reproduction and the moth is totally dependent on the plant for food. How could the moth have evolved to be able to eat only one thing? How could the plant have evolved to depend solely on the moth for reproduction?

Math – I have stated before the evolutionist’s claim that mutations are the raw materials for evolution. It is true that mutations produce small changes. It may seem that if you waited long enough for these small changes to summate, you could get a major change, but this is not the case. Math challenges evolution. It has been tried through a computer. There are 999 harmful mutations to every good mutation. Mutations drag a species down and natural selection is only a “brake” in the downhill slide. So you see mutations are only a change in an already existing trait. Mutation presupposes creation.

So to summarize mutation selection in a Christian perspective, I will say first: It really works, but it works for some traits, in some populations, in some places, at some times; and, if you say that, there is no evidence. Secondly, I tend to believe mutation-selection was a product of the Fall. The creation was subjected to futility by mutations and natural selection acts primarily as a “brake” on this futility.

I have presented various aspects of evolution with their “explanations” and I have also presented evidences against these “explanations.” Some may think it is wrong to rebut in such a way the arguments of evolutionists. You may say it is beneath the dignity of a Christian to enter into any sort of scientific debate with an evolutionist. I do not think so. Of course we carry the Bible and our faith as the best defense. But if this theory is wrong—and we know by faith it is—may we not also be investigating God’s world for evidences that it is wrong?

The Evolutionism that I have presented is a rather easy one for the Christian to reject. Other theories contain a God-and-evolution combination in an attempt to satisfy natural man. Three other theories of the origin of the world are these: The Gap theory, Theistic evolution, and Progressive Creation.

1. Gap Theory – The gap or restitution theory is common among premillennial dispensationalists. The theory is that there is a huge gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.

The reasoning behind this is that in Genesis 1:1 it says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” They call this the first creation. In Genesis 1: 2 they believe it should read “And the earth became (rather than was) without form and void.” After this they believe there is a second creation of which we are part. The theory is that the earth was first created but then became chaotic when Satan fell from heaven. So then God destroyed the earth (which they say accounts for the fossils) and created again.

Objections to this theory are first; it is difficult to accept their translation of the Hebrew word as “became” instead of  “was.” They also seem to be reading a lot into what is not there. A second objection is that the life forms today are very similar to that of the fossils. On the whole, this theory is not too widely accepted.

2. Theistic Evolution – Theistic evolution is a compromising theory. It says evolutionism is correct, but then it also adds God to evolution. The theory holds the view that God worked behind the scenes. They get this from passages such as “Let the earth bring forth vegetation;” or, “Let the waters bring forth the moving creatures” (Genesis 1:11,20).

The theistic evolutionist maintains that the Bible may tell us that God created but science tells us how He did it. This theory uses God to get over the humps in the evolutionary process. You cannot say that evolution is a means of creation. Evolution is a design without a Designer. Besides, having all the problems of regular evolution, the theory is inconsistent with God’s whole nature.

3. Progressive Creation – Progressive creation is a lot like theistic evolution. Its proponents stress an old earth and the geological column (order of fossils) much like theistic evolution. Progressive creationists believe in the supernatural creation of mature beings rather than gradual evolution. This theory is rather synonymous with the day/age theory—where the days of Genesis 1 are referred to as periods of indefinite length. At the beginning of each period God created a mature form(s); However this view draws a sharp line between geology created mature and biology created mature.

According to this theory, man was not created until millions of years after the dinosaur age. However, there is now proof that man and dinosaurs existed at the same time. With this theory it would also be difficult to say when God saw that “it was very good.” Progressive creationists generally de-emphasize the Fall because it would have to come after all their many long periods. They also place all the fossils before the Fall. This denotes that death and destruction was present in what was seen by God as “very good.”

Literal Days? – “It is often stated that the Bible is to be taken literally and that therefore ‘day’ in Genesis refers to either a 24-hour day or something very close to that. The Bible is indeed to be taken literally, but the literal meaning of a passage is sometimes difficult to obtain. Understanding ‘day’ in Genesis 1 is not easy, even though the word is to be taken literally.”2

Dr. Russell Maatman explores the possibilities of the interpretation of the word “day” in Genesis to some depth. Being very objective, Dr. Maatman goes into many aspects, but lack of space prohibits me from listing them all. He shows that the Bible uses “day” for either solar days or long periods. Maatman concludes “that the creation days were not necessarily solar days, and that it is possible that at least some of them were long periods.”2

On the other hand is the traditional creationist view, namely; “that God created the universe in six successive days, limited by morning and evening, six real ordinary days, like our days of twenty-four hours.”1

Rev. Homer Hoeksema says the periods theory may claim to be an interpretation of the term “day” in Genesis but he will deny they are indeed interpretations or that they are a legitimate exegesis of the text of Scripture. One of the passages Hoeksema cites comes from the Law. “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord thy God . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and on the seventh day He rested” (Exodus 20:9–11). Dr. Maatman recognizes this passage too and says it would be permissible to conclude that God’s Sabbath and the creation days were solar days if you looked at this passage alone. Dr. Maatman then points out the passages where the Sabbath of the Lord is referred to as a year or long periods of time (the year of Jubilee Lev. 25:2–11). Also in the passage are six periods of work and one of rest. This again is the six-one pattern. Thus Maatman says there is not necessarily a time analogy involved but a pattern, so the creation days could have been long periods.

Dr. Edward J. Young in his important work entitled Studies in Genesis One has shown that the early chapters of Genesis bear none of the marks of poetry or saga or myth, but must be interpreted as literally as any other “straightforward, trustworthy history” recorded in Scripture.

Reading extensively on the day/age theory, I have found a constant seesaw of opinions. The same Scripture passages are interpreted in two different ways. Dr. Maatman’s explanation was very convincing but so were the views of others. I would not be able to say “this is definitely proven correct.” There is a lack of strong evidence either way. All I can say is what I believe. I believe in the six solar days. How can I believe this?—only by faith.


For my report I have reviewed creation and our church‘s CRC stand on it. I have studied in depth the various aspects of evolution and presented a number of theories. Reflecting now on what I have studied and read as a Christian r can do but one thing -tum again to the Bible. Over all the theories, ideas, and guesses of natural man the infallible Word of God plainly states, “In the beginning God created.” I understand this creation to have been sudden and out of nothing. “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth . . . for He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6–9).

Looking at modern Darwinian Palaeontologists it can be pointed out that they, just like their predecessors and Darwin are obliged to water down the facts with subsidiary hypotheses, which however plausible are in the nature of things unverifiable. Nor can we accept a hypothesis which shows God as a behind-the-scenes operator. The tendency of all such thinking is the same—the elevation of man. Our judgment of all such must be God’s judgment as expressed by Paul in speaking of men “who changed the truth of God into a lie and worshipped the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen” (Romans 1:25). As Christians we have faith in God‘s Word-Revelation and understand that it must and does coincide with God’s world-revelation. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14).


1. “In the Beginning God . . .” by Homer C. Hoeksema, Published by Mission Board of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1966.

2. The Bible, Natural Science and Evolution, by Russell W. Maatman, published by Reformed Fellowship, Inc. Grand Rapids, Mich. 1970.

3. Creation According to God’s Word, by John C. Whitcomb Jr., published by the Reformed Fellowship, Inc. Grand Rapids, Mich. 1966.

4. “Will the Real Intellectual Please Stand Up,” by Harold W. Clark, pp. 7-9, Signs of the Times, November, 1974.

5. “Genesis Is Unique-2”, by Gerhard F. HasH PhD., pp. 22–25, Signs of the Times, July, 1975.

6. The Mythology of Science, by R. J. Rushdooney, Craig Press, 1967, 1968.

7. Principles of Zoology, by Willis H. Johnson, Louis E. Delanney, Eliot C. Williams, and Thomas A. Cole, Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, Inc. . 1969.

8. Acts of Synod 1951 of CRC, Christian Reformed Publishing House, p. 45.

9. Ibid. 1959. pp. 251–256.

10. Ibid. 1966. pp. 75–78. 103.

11. Ibid. 1967. pp. 76. 335–338.

12. Ibid. 1968. pp. 17.

13. Belgic Confession, Article XII.

14. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord‘s Day IX Question and Answer 26.

15. God Does Good Work, by Harold W. Clark, pp. 24–26. Signs of the Times, January 1975.

16. Lecture Notes of Dr. Gary Parker, Zoology, Dordt College, 1974–75.

17. The Holy Bible, Genesis, Psalms, Romans, John, I Corinthians.