Over at BioLogos, Dr. Dennis Venema has written an article on how death is both a destructive and creative force in evolutionary history. In “Death and Rebirth: The Role of Extinction in Evolution,” Dr. Venema addresses what he sees as a stumbling block for many Christians in accepting evolution as the way in which God creates:
When they imagine evolution, many Christians picture novelty: new species arising over time, or speciation events. But as the most recent Southern Baptist Voices exchange makes clear, many Christians also focus on the role of death in evolution—something that can be a stumbling block to seeing it as a means by which a good God creates. This is especially true when we imagine the death of individual creatures in fierce competition for limited resources, whether such struggle takes place on the savanna or elsewhere.
Dr. Venema goes on to explain that humans have extinction to thank for our existence now:
For mammals at the KPg boundary, small body size and an omnivorous diet (including the ability to scavenge detritus) were the “winning” combination of traits that allowed them to survive where larger, more specialized animals (think Tyrannosaurus rex) could not. From this rather humble station, mammals would come to dominate the world’s ecosystems over the coming eons – including a lineage that would someday lead to our own species. Far from only a destructive force, extinction is a powerful mechanism to allow evolutionary innovation, and one that was of significant importance to us.
While I can certainly appreciate Dr. Venema’s attempt to help remove a perceived “stumbling block,” his view of death and extinction as beneficial and creative forces just doesn’t fit with what Scripture teaches about death. Death is the last enemy. Death is the wages of sin. Death is to be mourned. Even our Savior wept when told of the death of Lazarus, and He knew what He was about to do. Only a need to accept evolution as the “way God creates” would drive Christians to reject the clear teachings of Scripture on death.
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:12-28