Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Creation and Evolution?

One of the great things about still being in school (I never thought I'd say that!) is that every week my world gets rocked- in a good way- by the things I'm learning. If I could blog after every lecture, I would. Here's one thing that recently blew me up.

Christians believe God created the world, right? Well I grew up in a certain climate where "God created" meant "God spoke everything into existence in six 24 hour days." It was sort of presented as your only option if you wanted to be considered a "Bible believing Christian." Then going to college in a certain different
(very different!) climate, "God created" meant "well, maybe...but of course we know that evolution has been proven true by science. So 6 day creation is out of the question." It was sort of presented as your only option if you wanted to be considered a respectable, intelligent person.

So I, and many of my Christian friends, were led to believe in some sense that Christians must choose between the Bible and science- if they're so obviously in contradiction to each other, then it must be one or the other! For a number of years I resigned to saying, "I believe God created the world, and He could have done it however He wanted to." For the record, that's still my view- but a few different classes have helped shed light on both of these ultimatums in a way that makes them much more compatible with each other than I thought possible.

I'll start with science, and I'll start by saying I'm not a scientist. (Phew, glad I cleared that up for everyone!) So I don't know all the arguments for evolution, but I do know that some forms of it are basically uncontested among scientists at this point. And lately I've been reading a lot about the fall- the effects of sin on our whole world and how it literally made everything broken- and honestly, evolution makes sense in light of that. One example: reading Genesis, it seems that humans and animals were all vegetarians before the fall. (Yes, I'm saying even lions craved carrots and hummus before things went bad because of sin!) The point though, is that there was no death and no shedding of blood before sin marred the way we relate. But now, it's very clear to see that certain animals (including humans, some would argue!) need meat to survive. Their bodies are made for it. Interesting. Another gruesome example (I'll spare the details- but yes, I really did read about this in seminary) is how praying mantises literally eat their mates after they...you-know-what. That's just sick. What kind of world is a world where women eat their baby's daddies? The answer is a broken world. So...could all of these changes happened slowly over time after the fall? Yes. Could scientists rightly be observing evolutionary activity in creation? Yes. Does that necessarily negate that there is a Creator? No!

Secondly (and this is the more exciting point, in my opinion)- there is a whole lot more meaning in "and God said let there be light" than I thought at first. I'll explain. Genesis 1 and 2 are written as poetic narrative, not as scientific expostulation. That means Moses is telling the story of creation basically in the form of a poem. How many science books describe the innards of a frog in poetry form? Not many. Now that doesn't mean we read it and say "ok, it's an untrue fairy tale." But it does mean that the words chosen could have more meaning (not less!) than we might first think. (If you've ever taken a poetry class, you know what I'm talking about.) So what's the poem pointing to?

What Genesis 1 says about creation: "God said, 'let there be light.'"

What John 1 says about Jesus: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

What Colossians 1 says about Jesus: "By Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth...all things were created through Him and for Him."

What does that mean? It means that "God said, 'let there be..." is not primarily scientific, but theological. It means that the main thing that should make us marvel about creation is not the how, but the Who. And it means that even from the opening chapter the Bible, Jesus is holding all things together. He is the One through whom all things are made, and His name is being whispered even at the beginning of time.


Anonymous said...

The only problem is you would have to have the fall before humans if evolution is based on the fall. Evolution being based on survival of the fittest with about 9 billion years of death, extinction, and suffering before homo-sapiens develop. Perhaps it would be appropriate to think that there was no spiritual death before the fall, but certainly there was death. Did cells in our bodies not die before the fall? That would seem to imply that human beings and other animals couldn't grow or develop. The idea that there was a time with NO death is pretty inconceivable.
Where,however, does our specific understanding of the fall come from in the West? St. Augustine primarily. You have to recognize that in the Eastern Church the fall is understood pretty differently than it is in the west, no original sin etc. In fact, the tradition that denies original sin predates the doctrine of original sin. Original sin is a development in Catholic doctrine that ultimately leads to Church wide infant baptism, limbo etc. Now I believe in original sin as a Catholic, but it is hard to conceive of why only the Roman Catholic definitions and explanations of the fall should be binding on the Protestant conscience. (Protestantism being a splinter Catholic group not withstanding) It seems to me that if Catholics are starting to, and have bee,n modifying their language and understanding of the fall in response to new information about the origins of our species it is strange that Protestants would cling to tradition more severely than the Traditionalists of the Roman Church. In other words, those opening chapters of Genesis have been understood a lot of different ways in historic Christianity and Judaism, why do evangelical Protestants insist on holding to one Roman Catholic interpretation of the fall and deny all others as heretical?

(side note: literal scientific interpretations of those chapters began at Princeton Theological Seminary in the late 19th and early 20th century. Led to the split of Presbyterianism ultimately. Pretty interesting history. Check it out. Marsden's "Fundamentalism and American Culture" covers it pretty well.)

Anonymous said...

This is your brother Josh by the way. Also I just want to say that I am really happy that you are attending an institution that is trying to interact and approach truth rather than define and package it. Too many Christian and secular institutions fall into one of those two categories you described at the beginning. At either extreme is a group of people shivering around the dying embers of a false certainty rather than pushing through the darkness with doubt and mystery side by side.

Hannah said...

Of course I knew it was you from the minute I saw such a long post from "anonymous!" I think you bring up a really good point about no death at all before the fall, it would be an interesting thing to look into! I was mainly marveling at the realization that all scientific observation is of a fallen creation, so who knows how much of the science we see is based on a new, marred/broken reality? And thinking about how, according to the Reformed view, all of creation- not just people- will be restored and reconciled to God, all of creation will be loosed from the effects of sin and how many things (that we take as givens) will change, including, for example, what praying mantises eat? :) And yea, I appreciate the distinction between confidence and certainty that Redeemer strives to explain and actually that's part of what I loved about my most recent class on epistemology, and the book I recommended to you! She of course blames a lot of our confusion between "knowing" and "certainty/facts" on Descartes and actually Kant. It's right up your alley. Very...philosophical :)

How are you doing? Send me an email because I've texted you/searched for you on fbook lately and I wonder if I have the wrong number again! Love you, thanks for reading my blog.

Anonymous said...

haha... I was reading "anonymous" thinking.. "wow, we really share the same thoughts!" then i saw it was josh... go figure.

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