Today I'm going to be talking about the first three chapters of Genesis. I'll be talking about what it means and why I don't think it contradicts the theory of evolution.
The first three chapters of Genesis are about God and his relationship with nature and his relationship with humanity. The core message of these chapters is that there is only one God who created everything. He created everything that we perceive with our senses. He made people to rule the earth and they lived with God in paradise. But a deceiver tricked humanity into rebelling against God. As punishment, humanity was banished from paradise, but God promised that humanity would one day have victory over the deceiver.
The rest of the scripture follows from here. It is the story of God working through humanity to give us victory over evil and brings us back into paradise and back into relationship with Him. I know I'm only talking about Genesis 1-3, but I want to emphasize that this scripture is a vital part of God's message for humanity.
People who read this scripture often get hung up on the many details that seem implausible to us. Some people use them as an excuse to disregard the message of the bible altogether. Others insist that we must believe that creation unfolded exactly as Genesis describes, no matter how unlikely it seems. I believe that so long as we understand the core message of scripture, whether we believe that creation took seven days or several billion years isn't terribly important.
A lot of Christians will insist that it's important that we read these early chapters of Genesis literally. What most people don't realize is that ever since the beginning Christians have been interpreting these passages figuratively. For example, most Christians agree that the serpent in Genesis 3 is actually Satan in disguise (hence the reference in Revelation to "That ancient serpent".) A merely literal reading of Genesis 1-3 provides no evidence for that conclusion, yet it is a pivotal element of Christian theology. To give another example, the opening verses in the Gospel of John are a figurative reinterpretation of Genesis 1. John equates the "light" in Genesis 1 with the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Having said that, I'd like to address the question I posed at the beginning. Can Genesis 1-3 be reconciled with the theory of evolution? The main issue, as I see it, is the claim that people, plants and animals were made by God. However, this claim is not a problem if we believe that God worked through natural means, like evolution, to form each of these things. This idea isn't contrary to scripture in any way. Indeed God tells Jeshurun that He made him and formed him in his mothers womb. Here we see that God can work through completely natural means to bring about His desired end and I personally believe that that is what he did when he made Adam and Eve.
Why do I interpret the Bible this way? There are two reasons. The first reason is because I believe that God is not a deceiver. When we try to understand the natural world we should go where the evidence takes us. If it appears as though all life has a common ancestor, then either all life has a common ancestor or God is playing a practical joke on us. I chose to believe the former.
The second reason has to do with my view on the nature of scripture. I believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, but I also believe that that divinely inspired message was written for people of a particular time and place. As such it was written in terms that they would understand and accept. All of the strange details of early Genesis that confuse us are things that made perfect sense to the people that the book was originally written for. God was gracious to give them the message in terms that they could understand, and I believe that we have the right to interpret the scriptures and apply its message in terms that we can understand.
I hope you found my explanation satisfying or at least interesting. Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. I welcome any criticism or compliments you may have.