Evolution is the theory pioneered by Charles Darwin that says over vast amounts of time, natural selection (in which the strong survive and produce successful offspring) and genetic modification (the imperfect transmission of genes from generation to generation) gradually helped organisms adapt to their physical environments, resulting in the diversity of biological species we see today.
In the mainstream scientific community, evolution means both microevolution (evolution within species or among closely related species) and macroevolution (evolution of new species arising from less-complex life forms). Over the past 150 years, evolution has become the master theory dominating the biological sciences.
Many Christians see Darwin’s theory as incompatible with the Bible, God, and the special place humans have as created “in the image of God” (Gn 1:27; 9:6). Darwin, a former theology student who initially aimed to enter ministry, and whose wife was an evangelical Christian, apparently lost his faith because he could find no room in his theory for God as Designer.
Christians have responded to evolution in four major ways. Each starts with the idea of God as Maker of heaven and earth (Gn 1:1), but they vigorously disagree about what methods and timeframes God used in creating the world. The differences hinge on how to interpret Scripture, how to interpret science, and how the two come together.
The first three views accept microevolution, which they reconcile with the idea that God created the living organisms “according to their kinds” (Gn 1:11,12,21,24-25). They reject macroevolution, however, because they say it contradicts Scripture and sound science.
Young Earth Creationists describe themselves as taking the Bible literally. They say creation took six 24-hour days and that earth is, at most, only a few tens of thousands of years old.
Old Earth Creationists teach that God miraculously created the various forms of life instantaneously and completely, but that a reasonable interpretation of Genesis 1 can accommodate a universe that began with the Big Bang perhaps 12 to 15 billion years ago.
Intelligent Design says the complexity and diversity we find in biological systems could not have arisen by chance and that the scientific evidence points to an Intelligent Designer/Creator. Intelligent Design proponents include people from non- Christian religions as well as agnostics. Most Intelligent Design proponents reject macroevolution, though a minority adopt common descent but reject unguided natural selection as the mechanism.
Theistic Evolution says God designed and created the world in such a way that evolution was destined to happen as God’s plan unfolded. Theistic evolutionists say Darwinism poses no real threat to the biblical message since God is still seen as Creator and Designer, though in a way that differs from traditional views. Not surprisingly, the three anti-evolutionist positions claim that Theistic Evolution is incompatible with a proper reading of the Bible and that it does not make sense to fuse God’s design (which is intentional) with chance (which is unintentional).
It is important to emphasize that each of these four views confronts Naturalism and holds that God is the Maker of all: “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Gn 1:31). Ultimately, the merits of each view depend on how faithfully they’ve handled the testimonies in Scripture and nature.