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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Evolution and the End of the World


The debate over evolutionary science has been resurfacing here and there, and I recently found myself wondering about its relation to eschatology, that is, to the end of the world. To wit, if, as evolutionary scientists like to maintain, the world is millions of years old, then why should we believe in a literal coming of Judgment Day any more than in a literal six-day creation? Why should we believe, if we must succumb to the notion that the world has been here millions of years, that it won’t be here for millions more years, notwithstanding Jesus’ own words about the imminence of his return? Or perhaps all of his eschatological preaching must be re-examined, much as they tell us to re-examine Genesis 1 and the days of creation? Among theistic evolutionists we have people arguing for the day-age interpretation of Genesis 1 that reinterprets ‘day’ as an ‘age’ within the scheme of millions of years, so we might well wonder what might be said among them about the ‘day of the Lord’ that comes as a thief in the night (I Thess. 5:1-4).

The end of the church year and the season of Advent share the theme of the imminence of Judgment Day. But how a theistic evolutionist might interpret that would likely include such a re-examination, at least if he is consistent.

Predictably, there are those who insist that our planet’s environmental leadership and our own habits must change or there will be a collapse of civilization, and we ourselves could cause a kind of eschaton, always an amusing read. But what about theistic evolutionists who want to look at eschatology from at least a semblance of a Biblical perspective?

In short, it seems a bit incongruous somehow to believe that we are on the very cusp of the day when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible if the earth has stood here for millions of years as it is. The position can be sustained, I suppose, but there is a strange discordance in holding both views at once. Put another way, here’s another reason it is important to reject the day-age theory: Jesus clearly meant a regular calendar day when he spoke of the day of his return as well. And this must constitute a critical part of our preaching, especially during the end of the church year and Advent.

Burnell Eckardt2 Comments