Evolution and the Creation Story

I actually finished reading Karl Barth Letters: 1961-1968 (translated by Geoffrey W Bromiley) a few weeks ago, but find myself returning to it to reflect on his take on certain topics. Much of it reads like an extended Q&A, so you get clarification on some things that aren’t as accessible in his other writings. You can read other excerpts I’ve shared here, here and here. Better yet, find a copy of the book and dig in! (I believe my used copy was delivered to my door for less than $4, and well worth it!)

Below is from a letter written to Christine Barth (his grandniece), dated February 18, 1965, in response to a letter written to him in December (the delay was because of some health problems he had).

Has no one explained to you in your seminar that one can as little compare the biblical creation story with a scientific theory like that of evolution as one can compare, shall we say, an organ and a vacuum-cleaner — that there can be as little question of harmony between them as of contradiction?
The creation story is a witness to the beginning or becoming of all reality distinct from God in the light of God’s later acts and words relating to his people Israel — naturally in the form of a saga or poem. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain the same reality in its inner nexus — naturally in the form of a scientific hypothesis.
The creation story deals only with the becoming of all things, and therefore with the revelation of God, which is inaccessible to science as such. The theory of evolution deals with that which has become, as it appear to human observation and research and as it invites human interpretation. Thus one’s attitude to the creation story and the theory of evolution can take the form of an either/or only if one shuts oneself off completely either from faith in God’s revelation or from the mind (or opportunity) for scientific understanding.

Geoffrey Bromily (trans.), Karl Barth Letters: 1961-1968, #181 (p. 184) 

So apparently Karl Barth can be added to the long list of great theological thinkers who see no reason to look for conflict (or concord for that matter) between the account of creation in Genesis 1-3 and the theory of evolution.

OK, I’m not sure if anyone is keeping such a list, but maybe we should! 🙂

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