“By some estimates, over 99% of the species that have ever lived have gone extinct.” -Dennis Venema
What is the Theology?
The role of death in evolution raises important questions for Christians who believe in evolutionary theory. What does it mean if competition and death are essential parts of the natural processes God uses to create? This has caused some Christians to reject evolutionary theory entirely while others continue to wrestle with the theological implications. Consequently, one of the most important roles is for pastors to create a safe space for truth-telling and dialogue where tough questions about science and religion can be asked. Pastors can also connect these discussions of life and death to the creation narratives, God’s role as sustainer of creation, and the new creation.
What to Consider
- What is the relationship between the way we read the Bible and the way we conduct scientific research? More specifically, is evolution a viable choice for Christians to believe?
- How could God be present in, or use, evolution as part of his process?
- What are the theological implications of evolution if death is an important part of the process? What might it say about God if death is an essential part of the mechanism for creation and the flourishing of life?
- What does it say about the ability of creation to promote life if, according to some estimates, 99% of the species that have ever existed are now extinct?
How to go Deeper
- Invite a biologist to discuss the pros and cons of nonnative species. Make sure to identify nonnative species in your area and how they positively and negatively affect the ecosystem.
- Discuss the basic tenets of evolution, highlighting survival of the fittest and natural selection. Follow up with a time to explore where God is at work in the competition and cooperation between species.
- Form a small group for those interested in exploring deeper issues about science and religion. Try the Test of Faith curriculum or use these resources from Scientists in Congregations.
Did Death Occur Before the Fall? – BioLogos
Losing and Recovering Faith – Institute for Youth Ministry
Southern Baptist Voices: Evolution and Death – BioLogos
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Death and Rebirth: The Role of Extinction in Evolution
Article by Dennis Venema (2012)
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5 Tips for ‘Going Public’ as an Evolutionary Creationist
Article by Mario A. Russo (2017)
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