I would be very grateful for your advice, opinion or any information concerning the matter of the origin of hominids as modern anthropology sees it in contrast to the Biblical story. I decided to ask for your help because I have been translating your book From Shadow to Reality for Moscow Church of Christ (with great interest and respect) recently. I hope you can lead me to understanding or to the necessary sources to understand the relationship between anthropology and the Bible. The point is that it has recently become very important for me to give an answer to the question of difference between the Biblical story of the creation of Man and the theory of evolution. The Bible says that Man was created at a certain point of time by God to be like Himself, separately from animals from the very start. Anthropology knows about creatures like Australopithecus or Pithecantropus. Were they people or animals or a transitional stage of Man’s evolution? Where is the place of these creatures in the Bible?
I will make some comments here, but it may be more helpful for you to get a copy of my book Is There a God (available at www.ipiboos.com), which addresses in more detail the question of organic evolution. Of course, there are two “stories” of the origins of human beings–the one from scientific evidence and theory, and the one from the Bible. The biblical story was never meant to be a detailed, scientific account of origins. Genesis 1 and 2 are a theological, not a scientific treatise, and they are a polemic against the pagan/polytheistic explanations of origins of the ancient Near East. To attempt to analyze the two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 by looking at them through Western, scientific eyes is a mistake.
Having said that, I believe there is nothing in these accounts which directly contradicts what we are able to conclude from the scientific evidence.
So, what does the scientific evidence point toward? The evidence from the fossils is spotty at best and is not nearly as helpful as the genetic evidence, Nevertheless, even the fossil evidence does tell somewhat of a story. The evidence points to the conclusion that there were ape-like but relatively intelligent upright walking hominids one or two million years ago, such as Australepithicus or homo erectus. By two or three hundred thousand years ago, Neanderthal and a species which appears to be very similar to modern humans both show up on the scene. In order to know how these fossil species relate to the biblical account, we will need to answer a few questions. Did these creatures have a soul? Were they in the image of God? Did they have rational thought and self-awareness? Did they have an ingrained knowledge of good and evil? Did they have consciences in the sense that we have them? Did they have sufficient abstract thinking capability to understand the concept of an invisible God? The answer is that we do not know. Did these earliest human-like creatures have the image of God? We do not know and we do not have the ability to know. What we do know is that modern humans have all these qualities, and we cannot explain the existence of soul, self-awareness, a sense of morality, the existence of conscience through random evolution. Evolution can explain the arrival of physical humans, perhaps, but it cannot explain our God-image. The qualities that make us to be in God’s image are supernaturally created.
The genetic evidence of common descent of modern humans and the other “great” apes is quite strong (unlike the fossil evidence, which is spotty). From things like viral insertions and common mutations (such as the one which causes Orangutans, Gorillas, Chimps, Bonobos and modern humans to not produce vitamin C), the fact that modern humans have a common ancestor with the great apes. That there is a common ancestor, genetically, is virtually established.
What does the Bible say about the origin of humans? It does not say much. It does say that God created all species by special creation. Does this preclude God using the process of organic evolution to produce some of those species? Quite simply, no it does not (unless we assume that the earth is only a few thousand years old). Might Neanderthal and even early modern humans evolved from lower species? The Bible does not say what the creation process was. What it does say is that God put his image into Adam and Eve and they became “man” (ie human, which includes the image of God). Did this creation involve an ex nihilo creation, or was God-image imparted to intelligent evolved hominids? The answer is we do not know, and neither the scientific, nor the biblical evidence are able to give us a definitive answer.
To summarize, if we do not impose unwarranted presuppositions on the biblical account, then it can be seen as consistent with scientific information. If we do not impose unwarranted assumptions from the biblical testimony on scientific observations, the science can be seen as consistent with the biblical picture. I see no clear and obvious contradiction here. I see no obvious contradiction between these two pictures, unless we force a biblical assumption on the science or an atheistic/naturalist assumption on the Bible. Neither is justified.
I could say more, but I am going on a prayer walk.