A good approach to this topic would start at a the foundational level, laying down firm underlying principles first.
The two major issues here, to my understanding, will be this:
1. Philosophically, what evolutionary theories are compatible with reason in the first place. By “compatible with reason” I mean we must establish that, for instance, effects do not exceed their cause, etc. Now, as God is the cause of all being, as long as nothing is self-contradictory, the effect will never exceed its principle cause; God. However, I believe we should stick to more proximate causes, and only ask about miracles, when defending evolution (if we choose to do so), when necessary and directly mentioned in Biblical text explicitly.
2. A proper interpretation of what Scripture is saying, given the purpose of God in revealing it, to the people He was revealing it to, in the time and place He was revealing it. This will be of extreme importance so that we do not make one of two errors:
- erring on the side of making Genesis into a pure allegory or metaphor and
- forcing contemporary questions upon a text and having the text say more than it intended.
I bring these two principle points up, not to ignore the wealth of other topics that are available, to to both avoid having to write a book to answer them all at once and also to limit the field to manageable principles, to which the rest of the questions must refer back.
I will say in brief what I think the proper view of “life” must be, and if it cannot be agreed upon, we will have to go back further and establish this principle as well. I accept a hylomorphic view of reality, meaning all material things are made of matter and form. The matter is the primary “stuff” out of which it is made, and the form is that which makes it “what it is.” The wood alone wood not make a chair, nor would “chairness” without the wood. It takes both.
In living things, the form is the soul. All living things have a soul, for that is the unifying principle of the living being. Only humans, among material living things (we aren’t speaking of angels) have a spiritual soul, a rational soul. So the reason, by example, that a car can be taken apart and put back together and a frog cannot (and still function as if nothing happened) is because of the destruction of the unifying form of that frog when it is “disassembled.”
In any theory of evolution, then, one must understand a living being, composed of matter and form, developing over time and perhaps even being differentiated enough for new species to emerge.
Here, the biggest two leaps would be not that of, say, lizard to bird, but rather:
1) Of non-living to living (how would this jump take place?)
2) From living being to living rational being (again, in the material universe, this is only man)
In the genesis account, I think we can see each of these possibilities. God made the animals, he made living things to be living things. He also made man in a special way: He breathed life into him. Now, whether these accounts in Genesis and the two “leaps” as I have called them above are reconcilable will be at the heart of our discussion.
Another major principle is that of time. Certainly, the “six days” problem will come in when discussing millions of years of evolution and reconciling it to the Bible. I will not state any long arguments here as to a possible reconciliation of the two. However, it is possible to lay down a few basic principles that can be vastly expanded upon when I do take up the subject again.
As to the philosophical possibility of life coming from non-life, the lack of a rational soul in plants and animals but only a unifying form could possibly be explained by the fact that, in them, the form is “derived from the potency of the matter.” This is by no means the final explanation, but offers a real possibilty of a way in which the effect (living being) may not exceed its cause (non-living matter). Looking at the “virus” and deciding if it is actually alive or not may help to make advances in answering this question. We will not do so here.
Time is relative to the movement of material objects, or at least to movement of some kind (possibly the thinking process of an angel would be an example here). God is not subject to time, and creation “in time” is a very interesting topic of its own. It isn’t like God was sitting around with nothing to do and finally got around to creating. In fact, “My Father in Heaven is working still” says Jesus. He may have “rested” on the seventh day “to us” but He didn’t created the world (in six days or six billion) and leave it to itself. All existence is “at once” to God and creation includes His holding it in existence at all moments. The difference between our experience of time and in time and God’s creation of the universe from “outside of time” so to speak cannot be ignored in any discussion of the creation of the world and its “age” (after all, how old is the world to God?)