John Murray on Evolution and Adam

There have been significant discussions recently on-line and elsewhere over the validity of “theistic evolution” in Reformed theology – sparked by recent comments from a Reformed Old Testament scholar.  As is usually the case these matters are not new and light from past reflection is readily available.  Here are some words of wisdom on this topic from the late great theologian of Westminster Seminary, Prof. John Murray:

The crux of the question as it is posed for us by the theory of evolution is: can the portrayal given us in the Bible, and particularly in Genesis 1 and 2, be interpreted as compatible with a theory that man as we know him and, for that matter, man as represented in Genesis, came to be by a process of evolution from lower forms of animate life?  It matters not which particular form of evolutionary theory is in view, and it would be extraneous to this study to deal with the various evolutionary theories, even with those of most recent vintage.  The issue is the same.  As applied to man, is an evolutionary view of his origin compatible with the biblical representation?  There are several considerations that demand a negative answer.

1. Man’s identity consists in the image and likeness of God.  This is man’s differentia from the beginning (Ges. 1:26; 5:1; cf. 9:6); he was made in this image and likeness and therefore cannot be conceived of on any lower level.  When we ponder the stupendous import of this characterization and of the implications for the cleavage between man and all other orders of being in this world, then we are compelled to conclude that no actions or processes such as would account for other forms of life would be sufficient for the order to which man belongs.  It is only when we fail to assess the significance of the image and likeness of God that we could offer entertainment to a theory that posits continuity with other orders or species of animate life in this world.  In other words, to suppose that a process of evolution by forces resident in an order of things incalculably lower in the scale of being could account for man’s origin, involves an incongruity once we appreciate the identity of likeness to God.

2. Genesis 2:7 cannot be reconciled with the evolutionary hypothesis, and it confirms the conclusions derived from Genesis 1:26; 5:1; 9:6.  It was by ab extra impartration, communication from God described as inbreathing, that man became animate creature as well as man in his specific identity.  In no respect, therefore, could man be regarded as animate being by evolutionary process.  The postulate of evolutionary theory is to the opposite effect.  It must maintain that the ancestors of homo-sapiens were animate.  So in the one text which delineates for us the mode of God’s action in making man there is explicit contradiction of the evolutionary postulate.  From this contradiction there is no escape, unless we do violence to the elementary requirements of biblical interpretation.

3. Genesis 2:7, as we found, shows man has affinity with the material stuff of the earth, and with the animate creation as well.  There is likeness and for that reason congruity.  So we should expect resemblances of various kinds.  If there were complete disparity, how incongruous would be man’s habitat and vocation.  We see the wisdom and goodness of the Creator in these likenesses.  No evolutionary hypothesis is necessary to explain them; they are required by the relationship man sustains to his environment.

John Murray, Works, 2:12-13.

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3 Responses to “John Murray on Evolution and Adam”

  1. Leslie Says:

    Well I hope John Murray is wrong about that, because if he isn’t, it would mean Christianity is untrue (evolution being incontestably true).

  2. Donald John MacLean Says:

    Hi Leslie

    John Murray was not wrong about much 😉 Seriously, whilst Murray’s is not the only take on this debate (hence the post) it is (to me) the most exegetically convincing.

  3. Arthus Says:

    Evolution is incontestably untrue. There is not a shred of evidence for the theory of evolution. Evolution is not science but a cultic religion.

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