Thank God for Evolution

November 24, 2017

Thank God for evolution! It disheartens me to see many Christians today reject evolution because of a straw-man depiction that it's a meaningless mechanistic process. However, the cutting-edge of evolutionary thinking today points to a very different understanding of the cosmos. We now see a universe of nested creativity (atoms within molecules within cells within organisms within planets within galaxies) perfectly suited for life and sentient consciousness (the concept of nephesh and Imago Dei in Genesis 1). Is this just happenstance? I doubt it. Scientists themselves are thus moving out of a mechanistic way of thinking to an organic worldview. Evolution, from this perspective, can be embraced as God glorifying, Christ edifying, and scripture honoring.

 

Thus, careful Christian thinkers like Thomas Aquinas have offered us a glorious path to follow: As our understanding of the cosmos expands, so does our view of God and our appreciation of the meaning and significance of the gospel. Seen as a sacred story of nested creativity and emergent complexity (life becoming more complex, more aware, and more intimate with itself over time), the epic story of evolution can inspire faith in God and revitalize the meaning and magnitude of our faith.

 

The disciples and early Church leaders, reflecting on Jesus' ministry within the context of their own political, judicial, religious, and cosmological understandings, formulated creeds and doctrines about him and the significance of his life and mission. Since then, our view of reality has grown enormously. Whereas those alive in biblical times (and well into the Middle Ages) believed the world was flat, stationary, and at the center of the universe, and that stars were holes in the solid dome of the heavens that allowed God's glory to shine through, we today know that planet Earth orbits a star in an outer spiral arm of the Milky Way, a galaxy of ~100 billion stars, which in itself is one of 200+ billion other galaxies in a cosmos ~13.7 billion years old. If the Christian message is correct, if Jesus truly did incarnate God's great news for humanity, then the meaning, grandeur, and world relevance of the gospel today must reach far beyond what any previous generation, including the biblical writers themselves, could have possibly known!

 

As well as strengthening our faith in God, our understanding of evolution offers a renewed passion for honoring and preserving the sacredness of all life. To think that you can love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, without cherishing your environment, is to deny the very immanence and omnipresence of God. Who is your neighbor? The Samaritan? The outcast? The enemy? Yes, of course. But it is also the frog, the whale, and the forests. Your neighbor is the entire community of life, the entire universe.

 

As we Christians open our hearts to embrace a sacred, God-glorifying way of understanding evolution, we will in the decades to come prove to be an enormously positive force on behalf of all life, human and non-human. Our destiny (as a species and as individuals) is to further God's evolutionary creativity in Christlike ways that bless the entire community of Earth. The role of the Church includes spreading the great news of the gospel to all the nations, and thus ushering the entire human family through a process of cultural death and resurrection, to the glory of God! In this way, like Jesus, the Church becomes a vessel of God's saving grace. We no longer passively wait for Christ's return; we fully participate in it. This is our mission, our calling, our "greater work" (John 14:12). And it is why, I believe, the scriptures refer to the Church as both the body and bride of Christ.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

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