February 4, 2009

Religious Groups’ Views on Evolution

Updated February 3, 2014

Buddhism

Many Buddhists see no inherent conflict between their religious teachings and evolutionary theory. Indeed, according to some Buddhist thinkers, certain aspects of Darwin’s theory are consistent with some of the religion’s core teachings, such as the notion that all life is impermanent.

Catholicism

The Catholic Church generally accepts evolutionary theory as the scientific explanation for the development of all life. However, this acceptance comes with the understanding that natural selection is a God-directed mechanism of biological development and that man’s soul is the divine creation of God.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ first public statement on human origins was issued in 1909 and echoed in 1925, when the church’s highest governing body stated, “Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes.” However, several high-ranking officials have suggested that Darwin’s theory does not directly contradict church teachings.

Episcopal Church

In 1982, the Episcopal Church passed a resolution to “affirm its belief in the glorious ability of God to create in any manner, and in this affirmation reject the rigid dogmatism of the ‘Creationist’ movement.” The church has also expressed skepticism toward the intelligent design movement.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

While the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has not issued a definitive statement on evolution, it does contend that “God created the universe and all that is therein, only not necessarily in six 24-hour days, and that God actually may have used evolution in the process of creation.”

Hinduism

While there is no single Hindu teaching on the origins of life, many Hindus believe that the universe is a manifestation of Brahman, Hinduism’s highest god and the force behind all creation. However, many Hindus today do not find their beliefs to be incompatible with the theory of evolution.

Islam

While the Koran teaches that Allah created human beings as they appear today, Islamic scholars and followers are divided on the theory of evolution. Theologically conservative Muslims who ascribe to literal interpretations of the Koran generally denounce the evolutionary argument for natural selection, whereas many theologically liberal Muslims believe that while man is divinely created, evolution is not necessarily incompatible with Islamic principles.

Judaism

While all of the major movements of American Judaism – including the Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox branches – teach that God is the creator of the universe and all life, Jewish teachings generally do not find an inherent conflict between evolutionary theory and faith.

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod teaches that “the Genesis account of Creation is true and factual, not merely a ‘myth’ or ‘story’ made up to explain the origin of all things.” The church rejects evolution or any theory that “denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture.”

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

In 1969, the Presbyterian Church’s governing body amended its previous position on evolution, which was originally drafted in the 19th century, to affirm that evolution and the Bible do not contradict each other. Still, the church has stated that it “should carefully refrain from either affirming or denying the theory of evolution,” and church doctrine continues to hold that man is a unique creation of God, “made in His own image.”

Southern Baptist Convention

In 1982, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution rejecting the theory of evolution and stating that creation science “can be presented solely in terms of scientific evidence without any religious doctrines or concepts.” Some Southern Baptist leaders have spoken out in favor of the intelligent design movement.

United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ finds evolutionary theory and Christian faith to be compatible, embracing evolution as a means “to see our faith in a new way.”

United Methodist Church

In 2008, the church’s highest legislative body passed a resolution saying that “science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with [the church's] theology.” Moreover, the church states that “many apparent scientific references in [the] Bible … are intended to be metaphorical [and] were included to help understand the religious principles, but not to teach science.”

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