A quick look at evolutionary biology and whether it conflicts with christianity. This is an issue many christians have a problem with and this presents one way of reconciling the two and some other thoughts as well. A bit of a ramble I`m afraid but does have some of my `key points` that I will rework in other stuff ;-)
Christianity and Evolutionary Biology
Subject: [voidspace] Evolutionary Biology
From: Michael Foord
Date: Tue, 07 Jan 2003 13:39:49 +0000
Heres an interesting one I thought up whilst thinking about evolution.
Evolution is pretty `established science` these days but many christians still have a problem with it - mainly because on a literal interpretation of genesis it disagrees with christianity. On an empirical spiritual level Christianity `works` (i.e. it is true) yet the events described in the bible contradict established science. Many christians never resolve these issues or prefer to stick to a literal interpretation of genesis.
Interesting discussions of evolution can be found on talkorigins website and a creationist answer on trueorigins. These links can be found in the links section under science and research if you want to have a look.
The reason I started looking was because my exploration of spirituality and human consciousness was more and more leading me to a point of view where evolution was central to my understanding of God - and I felt I needed to have some understanding of the process and to resolve `compatibility` issues between the two systems.
Is this of interest to a non-christian?? Well, christianity is a set of beliefs about God and his relationship to man. It is also a spiritual system - with an understanding of the human spirit and the divine spirit (the holy spirit) central to its beliefs and its outworking (living as a christian not just having christian beliefs). The human spirit (surprisingly enough) is common to all people not just christians !! There are many spiritual systems and many people have an interest in spirituality - in more common language your spirit is who you really are, your essence, your life. (Some people `materialistic scientists`) believe we have no spirit and our character and sense of personality is merely the consequence of the physical operation of the biological organ called a brain - but in that sense spirituality is merely the understanding of the operation of that organ !! Many of these systems have explored this operation for aeons predating western science (e.g. chinese systems of acupuncture etc). There are possibly many valid conclusions that these systems have come to (which is why they can be shown to work - acupuncture is almost accepted science these days) - meditation is very similar. This is not the same as saying the philosophies behind these systems are true. What it does mean is that christians and non christians share a common interest in the workings of the human spirit and can share experiences. I would go further and say that from an examination of the evolution of the human soul (evolutionary biology has normally focussed on the evolution of the body) you can come to the conclusion that there must be a God and possibly even conclude that Jesus must be that God. Jung the psychologist partially examined this although he more focussed on looking at the end result rather than looking at the process of the evolution of soul itself. So even the material scientist has an interest in an exploration of the psyche. The following little discussion is part of a foundation for my beliefs about spirit - and my belief that even from an examination of material science principles (the incremental evolution of psyche) one can come to the conclusion that God exists !!! For those who already have an interest in spirituality it forms part of my spiritual system - which in itself is probably more interesting than this `plank` of the whole building.
My current conclusion on the `genesis issue` is something as follows :
Whether or not you take the genesis version of events regarding the creation of the earth and life, including the story of Adam and Eve, as literal events or symbolic is IRRELEVANT to any understanding of them.
Even as literal events the meaning of the events is symbolic. The eating of the forbidden fruit represents mans conscious decision (under the influence of the already fallen Lucifer) to pursue knowledge away from his creator. The truth of this story is in the symbolic truth about the choice that faces every individual - whether to eat from the tree of life or the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (c.f. proverbs - knowledge puffs up whereas love builds up).
Therefore whether you see them as purely symbolic descriptions of the fall of mankind (bearing in mind that Satan was already fallen - so in that sense creation was already imperfect) or as literal events is irrelevant - since all understanding is to be gained on a symbolic level anyway. The fact that they are symbols mean they are no less the truth - a symbol is a visible sign that points us to invisible truth. God often works through symbols - for example the death of christ (and the life of the cross that we are called to live in consequence) is a symbolic event with a real power.
Hmmm... anyway helped me.
This still begs the question of how did a perfect God create or allow an imperfect world ? I know of no complete answer to this question - the only vaguely satisfactory one kind of leaves the question open - sin must have been within the sovereign will of God. All I know is that Gods two best quality are his faithfulness (he never breaks his promises/he stays totally true to us) and his justice - the oppressed will be avenged, the wrongs will be righted.... Hmmmmm......
Interesting side point which resolves the issue of timing of `the fall`. If evolution is true then creatures would have grown adapted to kill and live off each other. A traditional reading of genesis would say that creatures would have been herbivores until the fall when death and destruction entered.
If that is the case (this is an alternative version of the `gap theory` that theologians may be familiar with) why was Adam placed in a garden - a secluded paradise ? Why not merely roam the earth. The answer may be in the fact I mentioned earlier. Created life includes the angelic realms and hierarchies - and the fall of the angels (Lucifer and his cohorts) occurred prior to the fall of man. In this case creation itself was already fallen prior to the fall of man. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God they were thrown out of the garden - implying that outside the garden was a worse place to be !! Of course this is conjecture and to some extent irrelevant - but it does suggest one method of reconciling evolution with a genesis type sequence of events. It is worth noting that creation includes the `spiritual realms` which includes the angelic hosts. The physical and spiritual realms are not `seperate` but part of a wider reality. That we don`t perceive all of reality is an obvious statement and the spiritual reality is part of what we are not normally aware. (To avoid difficulties for non-christians you could substitute psychological reality for spiritual reality and the statement becomes clear!!).
This has got more convoluted than I anticipated - sorry. Perhaps to help we could examine psychological reality briefly. Are our relationships part of reality ? But can you perceive them ? - so to talk about a psychological reality is not just mumbo-jumbo. Much of the depths of our own soul are hidden from us - fortunate is the man who truly understands himself. My contention is that according to the theory of evolution our psyche is formed by the world around us - so what is present in the human psyche has evolved in response to the outside world - so they are not detached and seperate things but part of one larger whole. To divide the world into physical and spiritual is unhelpful and misleading. (Mundane and super-mundane is perhaps more accurate but equally confusing).
This is the foundation of my belief that from an examination of human psyche you can tell much about the outside world (the outer landscape formed the inner landscape - so they must resemble each other - the inner landscape is *nothing* more than the functioning of the outer landscape, a classic scientist must believe that absolutely - even the human consciousness can be nothing more than the firing of neurons etc). Therefore any elements of human psyche (Jung identified many, including common elements independent of race, place of birth that spanned aeons - he looked at myths and dreams of many races and civilizations) must be caused by relationship to the outer world. If there are elements of the human psyche common to many - and these have been formed by relationship with the universe then to talk of the universe containing spiritual entities (angelic and demonic) is no longer fantastical - particularly if they move within the life of God who is the ultimate life of all life. The psychological life, the spiritual life, is the deeper workings of the human soul - the hidden motives, the basic desires etc. But as soon as you acknowledge that these forces have corollorary in the outside world you admit them an objective existence. As soon as you acknowledge a commonality of all life - a common living source of our life you acknowledge the reality of God.
My aim is to further work out the details of this in a simpler and step by step method explaining as I go. This won`t just be a `theoretical` document but has practical consequences for how we live and approach our spirituality. Where it is not applicable it is little more than a curiosity. Anyway this is very much a long term aim and a work in progress !! I`m aware that the major weakness in the chain of argument is contained in the phrase `so what is present in the human psyche has evolved in response to the outside world ` - which needs much looking into...... Hmmm... great fun. I`ll try and lose the complicated sentence structures, overlong words and overuse of ( ) parentheses as I`m going !!!
Sorry to impose all this on you - if you`ve reached this far its too late to just hit delete without reading it.......
-- Michael Foord
TBS Builders Merchants Ltd
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