4 Reasons Christians Can Believe in Evolution

Nearly 60 percent of Americans overall think faith and science conflict with one another, but a new book argues that Christians can believe in the theory of evolution. It may be surprising to hear, but a large percentage of self-identified Christians in various denominations do accept the idea, and PJ Media reached out to scholars to understand how and why.

"We don't think God's 'two books' (the book of God's Word and the book of God's world) ultimately contradict each other," Jim Stump, co-editor of the recent book How I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science, told PJ Media. "But there have certainly been times when our understanding of science contradicts our understanding of the Christian faith." In such circumstances, Stump said, we need humility about our own views, and an unshakeable faith that God is the author of both creation and the Bible.

"I'd encourage folks to read C.S. Lewis, John Stott, B.B. Warfield, Billy Graham," Kathryn Applegate, the book's other editor, said. "All of them are heroes of the Christian faith who knew and loved their Bibles, but who were also open to evolution. If there's one take-away, it's this: the Gospel is centered on the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, not on being on the correct side of the creation/evolution culture wars."

Both Stump and Applegate allege that many corners of the Christian church are openly hostile to evolution and even to committed Christians who are willing to accept the theory. Nevertheless, two evolution skeptics with a background in faith and science both said it was possible for a committed Christian to believe in a limited kind of evolution without contradicting the Christian faith.

Jay Richards, author of God and Evolution and assistant research professor at the Catholic University of America, emphasized that there are multiple perspectives about human origins that do not conflict with Christian theology. Stephen C. Meyer, author of Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, argued that the scientific consensus on evolution is starting to fall apart, so while Christians can believe in evolution, they may not want to.

This position is not without its critics, however. PJ Media also spoke with Daniel J. Phillips, pastor of Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, TX, and author of The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Holding on Tight, who flatly declared that the Bible's text excludes acceptance of a few widely-accepted scientific theories, especially evolution. Nevertheless, he also insisted that "true science will always accord with God's Word."

While Christians may disagree on the specifics of the biblical account of creation, they all agree that science and faith -- while they may seem to be in conflict at times -- ultimately will harmonize as humans understand God's truth more fully.

Despite the skepticism of pastors like Phillips, a surprisingly large portion of the Christian population also accepts a version of evolution when it comes to human origins. According to a religious landscape study from 2014, a full 66 percent of Roman Catholics and 65 percent of Mainline Protestants believed that humans "evolved over time," either due to natural processes or guided by God.

Even 38 percent of evangelical Protestants held this view, along with a full 50 percent of Protestants in historically black churches and 49 percent of Orthodox Christians. These numbers raise the question of how a committed Christian, regardless of denomination, can embrace evolution.

This is the question this article seeks to answer, and to do so, it is necessary to lay out specific arguments, first about the very definition of evolution itself.

Credit: Pew Research Center. Chart breaking down belief in human origins by religion. Credit: Pew Research Center. Chart breaking down belief in human origins by religion.

Next Page: Why it matters how you define "evolution."