In a previous post, I described the idea of using evolution to reach people for Christ in a way similar to Paul using idolatry, when he brought up the alter to an “unknown god”. In this post, we will see how this could work. This approach does not suggest that evolution is valid, any more than Paul’s approach suggested that idols were real, but it allows people to be addressed in familiar terms. Despite the fact that Paul’s spirit was provoked by the level of idolatry he saw, he approached the Areopagus with a gentle spirit regarding their idols. I think the key to doing something like this is recognize God’s heart for bringing people to Him.
To explore such approaches for today, we need to start by understanding the basics of what others believe. In Paul’s case, he knew Greek poetry, and recognized the presence of the altars. He used those things to point to Christ. In our case we need to understand the basic principles about evolution, in order to use them to communicate God’s love.
A basic component of evolution is the principle of “natural selection”. The idea is that, in any group of animals, the ones who are most likely to survive and reproduce are those who are best able to deal with the environment. Over time, the groups get better and better adapted. As environments change, the adaptations can go in different directions, and the result is diversity of life. The reason some individuals survive better than others is that there are stresses in the environment, such as competition for limited resources, and some individuals are better able to handle those stresses. Then, cycles of birth and death provide the mechanism for species to change over time. The secular belief is that these natural cycles work to produce something better and better. Over long stretches of time, simple forms of life, like slime, evolve into something more advanced, like butterflies.
So in a sense, it’s as if the world’s bad is used to produce something good. Sound familiar? Think about Joseph, who although abused by his brothers, eventually went on to be God’s agent of salvation for both them and many others. What his brothers meant for evil, God used for good. (Genesis 50:20) On a larger scale, God even turned the destructive nature of the Assyrians into a purifying force for His chosen people. When finally released from captivity, they were finally cleansed from idolatry.
On a personal level, we have the promise of Romans 8:28, that in all things (including what seems bad in our lives), God works for the good of His children. This is as true in our own lives as it was in the lives of Joseph and the Israelites. God frees us, He saves us, from the evil in the world, by bringing us through it and using it to perfect us. This is a key aspect of God’s divine nature, so scripture abounds with such examples. He takes slime in our lives, and turns it into butterflies.
This secular idea, that negative forces can be used to produce good, becomes a picture of God’s divine nature. Just as the forces of evolution worked to bring forth complex beauty from simple forms of life, God works to bring forth blessings from the corruption of the world.
So now if we encounter someone who believes in evolution, we can use that belief to introduce them to God’s love. Explain to them how evolution pictures the way He works in an imperfect world to bring about that which is more perfect. Tell them of His love, what Jesus did for them, and what that means for them today. I bet many people have slime in their lives that they’d like changed into butterflies. They just need to know about the Savior who can do this for them eternally.