(This post is a follow-up to an earlier post titled Evolution's Allure of Disbelief)

In this post we consider whether unguided theistic evolution (TE) is compatible with Christian principles. As we shall see, unguided TE deviates greatly from revealed principles on the Creation. It grossly distorts divine creative power.  
Unguided TE claims that in the beginning the Lord established all the conditions necessary for life to flourish. After setting everything in motion, He let the undirected forces of evolution run their course. And so, over millions of years, single-celled organisms evolved into complex life forms like humans, without divine influence. The Lord merely “watched” as the evolutionary process unfolded. 

Unguided theistic evolution is popular with those who want to embrace every aspect of evolution without abandoning their faith. As a belief system, it serves this purpose quite well. It enables one to accept that evolution operates through blind and undirected processes, while at the same time preserving belief in a supreme, albeit uninvolved, creator. Unguided TE it appeals to those who, along with Darwin, would “give absolutely nothing for the theory of natural selection if it required miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.”

Unguided theistic evolution is awash with theological problems. As mentioned previously, after setting up the initial conditions under which evolution could flourish, the creator’s active involvement supposedly came to an end. From that point onward events merely unfolded according to natural laws. This view suggests that not only was the creator uninvolved in the creation of human beings, he never intended to create humans. Humans could not have been planned because all life supposedly evolved by blind and undirected processes. The current state of humanity was just one outcome among countless possibilities. In the words of one unguided theistic evolutionist, “mankind’s appearance on this planet was not preordained, . . . [T]hat we are here . . . is an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.” He added that if we let the creation scenario play out again, “events might come out differently at every turn.”[1]

If our present human form is just one of many possibilities, we could have looked much different if evolution had taken a different turn at any one of the countless stages throughout history. In fact, if evolution were allowed to run its course again, in all likelihood we would look much different. As one unguided theistic evolutionist put it, our spirits could have just as easily been put into the body of a sentient dinosaur or a super intelligent mollusk (e.g., a slug)[2]. Physical shape does not matter as long as the body has the capacity to house a spirit. Presumably God would have been equally pleased with another physical form as long as it was capable of self-awareness and of knowing and loving Him.[3]   

An obvious problem with being a dinosaur or mollusk is that these are not created in the image of God. We know from the Prophet Joseph Smith’s description of the First Vision that the Father has a body of flesh and bone similar to ours. Being created in His image is not limited to abstract notions like being capable of self-reflection and love. It literally means that we are made in His image. Natural selection acting on random mutations would never have produced physical bodies in the image of God. Only a directed and purposeful creation could have resulted in the proper physical form. There was one intended physical form to house the spirits that God sent to earth. That form was a bipedal structure with two arms, one head, two eyes, and no antennae. The Lord never intended for us to stomp around like a Tyrannosaurus Rex or slither around like a slug, no matter how much fun those activities might have been.

Author John G. West pointed out another major theological concern with unguided TE. West identified a disconcerting similarity between unguided TE and an ancient religion known as Gnosticism.[4] Gnosticism was a first century Christian religion. Because it arose when the apostasy was coming into full force, many of its members ended up embracing heretical beliefs.

Gnosticism got its name from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge.” Gnosticism is used to describe this religion because many of its followers believed that in order to get to heaven, one needed special knowledge. They believed that this special knowledge came from Jesus. With knowledge as the key to salvation, Gnostics tended to downplay the role of Jesus’ ministry and Atonement. Apparently this misleading view of redemption spread rapidly throughout gentile Christian communities. We see evidence of its influence in a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. Paul warned: “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge [gnosis], for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20–21).

Another heretical belief in Gnosticism was that all matter, including human flesh, is corrupt; therefore the material world is evil and to be shunned. Because they believed that the physical world was evil, many Gnostics thought that it could not have been created by God. It was inconceivable that the Lord would leave a perfect heaven and come down to an evil sphere just to create our world. Who, then, created the world in which we now live? To answer this question, the Gnostics borrowed the concept of the Demiurge from classical Greek philosophy.

In ancient Greek philosophy, the Demiurge is a craftsman-like figure who created the world. The Demiurge acted independent of God and blind to His purposes, much in the same way that evolution is believed to have created life in a blind and undirected fashion. The similarities between the Gnostic Demiurge and unguided TE are readily apparent in a description of the Demiurge by Hippolytus of Rome, a third century Christian theologian. Having observed Gnosticism teachings, Hippolytus wrote, “For the Demiurge, they say, knows nothing at all, but is, according to them, devoid of understanding, and silly, and is not conscious of what he is doing or working at. . . . [He] himself imagines that he evolves the creation of the world out of himself.”[5]

And so, like the ancient Gnostics who accepted the Demiurge, unguided theistic evolutionists do not accept the Lord as the Creator of all living things. Unguided theistic evolutionists also do not recognize that the creation of our physical bodies was too important to be left to chance.

​The Lord did not leave the crowning achievement of His creation up to the vicissitudes of natural selection acting on random mutations. The creation of humankind was a purposeful and directed event. By the power of His Spirit the Lord orchestrated the creation of all living things, and by the same power He gives continued life and sustenance to all things. His influence that was present throughout the creation continues to this day.   
In the next post we'll consider to what extent guided TE is consistent with revealed truth on the Creation. Guided TE is embraced by many LDS evolutionists.


[1] Kenneth R. Miller, Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for the Common Ground between God and Evolution (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 272.
[2] Miller, Finding Darwin’s God, 252.
[3] Miller, Finding Darwin’s God, 252.
[4] John G. West, “Nothing New Under the Sun,” in God and Evolution, edited by Jay Richards (Seattle: Discovery Institute Press, 2010), Chapter 1.
[5] Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies, Book VI, Chapter XXVVIII.

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