Evolution and the Bible: The Hermeneutical Question


  • Gregory W. Dawes University of Otago




Darwinism, evolution, hermeneutics, Genesis


Theistic evolutionists suggest that evolutionary theory is not necessarily in conflict with biblical teaching. But in fact conflict is avoided only by reinterpreting Genesis 1–3. Is such a reinterpretation justified? There exists a hermeneutical tradition that dates back to St Augustine which offers guidelines regarding apparent conflicts between biblical teaching and natural philosophy (or ‘science’). These state that the literal meaning of the text may be abandoned only if the natural-philosophical conclusions are established beyond doubt. But no large-scale scientific theory, such as Darwin’s, can claim this degree of certainty. It follows that to justify their reinterpretation of Genesis 1–3, Christians must either argue that the literal sense of the biblical text can be maintained or accept that this view of biblical authority is untenable. Three alternative views are discussed: a first that limits the scope of biblical authority, a second that distinguishes between the Bible and the Word of God, and a third that abandons the idea that religious faith offers certain knowledge. While the third view seems the most defensible, it comes at a cost: the recognition that, as John Locke put it, “reason must be our last judge and guide in everything.”

Author Biography

Gregory W. Dawes, University of Otago

Associate Professor

Department of Philosophy

University of Otago




How to Cite

Dawes, G. W. (2012). Evolution and the Bible: The Hermeneutical Question. Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception, 2(1), 37–63. https://doi.org/10.11157/rsrr2-1-439