Bosco's post focuses on the non-necessity of conflict between science and faith, but he raises this challenging point:
"What I think we also need to see more of is not simply a dialogue between science and faith within the beginning-of-the-universe-and-life framework, but also in the framework of redemption. In Romans 5, as just one example, St Paul writes:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned…For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.
If Adam, and Adam’s sin is not historical, how does this affect our understanding of Christ’s redemption? If death is not the result of sin, but simply a part of nature present billions of years before humans (in fact a required driver of evolution), how does that affect our theology?
These early chapters of Genesis form the foundations, and often the unexamined presuppositions, of so much of our culture and civilisation. All these are opened up to re-examination: attitudes to gender, work, death, the environment and nature, sexuality, marriage, and so on and so forth…"
Joe Bennett provokes with a line which I am using as the title of this post:
"How any of them persist post-Darwin I have no idea."
"them" equals religious organisations, whether cults or established faiths.
His argument is that if we understand the full implications of "Darwin" (a catch all theme which includes the role of continental drift and earthquakes in shaping life on earth) then we would understand the simple truth: there is no God, there is only the natural world, and we understand everything in that world by science.
So, between the two posts Christians confront two Darwinian-shaped conclusions:
A. We need to rethink our understanding of God as creator AND as redeemer.
B. We should cease to believe in God because all evidence apparently pointing towards God existing can be explained without recourse to proposing that God exists.
I have been doing a bit of reading about Darwin lately. Something that has struck me is that, in a very loose engagement with Darwin and his theory until now, I have managed, through my life, to avoid asking hard questions about the full potential of the Darwinian revolution in scientific knowledge.
That is, I am beginning to reckon with something I think many of us Christians manage to avoid, that it is possible that if we manage to kick B for touch then we really, really ought to tackle A and rethink pretty much everything in our understanding of God and the gospel.
Conversely, if we tackle A before B and think that there is nothing we can do to rethink our theology, then we really, really ought to consider whether that unrevised theology is trumped by Darwin, that Joe Bennett is correct and Sunday mornings would be better spent surfing.
It is that bleak ... or exciting, if we allow ourselves to feel the full force of the Darwinian revolution in knowledge! (And, just before certain critiques are launched in the comments, let's ask how many people have either wandered away from Christianity or never thought it worth bothering about because the Christianity of their experience has seemed utterly inadequate in the face of Darwin's impact on human understanding?)
I think it is exciting to confront challenges in the pursuit of truth.
I am working my way through A.N. Wilson's The Victorians (London: Arrow, 2003) and he has a pertinent paragraph at the end of a chapter which discusses, variously, Charles Kingsley and his famous book The Water Babies, John Newman's conversions from evangelicalism to Anglo-Catholicism to Roman Catholicism and his famous book Apologia Pro Vita Sua, with mention of theologian F.D. Maurice, scientist Charles Darwin and others relevant to that period of the Victorian era.
Wilson writes (with my paragraphing of his single paragraph),
"The Apologia made many readers think more kindly of the Oxford converts to Rome. Within a year of the publication of The Water Babies, Parliament had banned pushing little boys up chimneys. But Kingsley's is more than a social gospel. Newman came to believe that there were but two alternatives, the way to Rome and the way to Atheism. Not only does Kingsley's religion seem altogether more humane: he would seem to be thinking about larger issues.*
The journey of little Tom the sweep to his watery paradise engages mind as well as heart rather more than the crotchety Oxford don's - Newman's - journey from the Oriel Common Room to the Birmingham Oratory. Speaking of Huxley, Darwin and the others, Kingsley wrote to Maurice,
'They find that now they have got rid of an interfering God - a master-magician, as I call it - they have to choose between the absolute empire of accident, and a living, immanent, ever-working God.' " [p. 304]
In other words, Kingsley is charting a direction in theology which - in my experience - is underdone by both Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism. These two great forces in global Christianity place great store on the transcendence of God. Oh, yes, God is also immanent: orthodoxy is at work in both forces! But when emphasis is placed, by both, on interventionist miracles, dramatic conversions through direct encounters with the risen Christ, and direct disclosure of God's will through inspired text, the lean is towards a Christianity which is difficult to wean off ideas of "an interfering God" or "a master-magician" and thus one which is susceptible to Darwin's persuasions that nature is an "absolute empire of accident."
Is it time to re-look at the immanence of God? To look at what it means that God (according to our time) does nothing about creating life as we know it on Earth, for billions of years, and then creates it but presides over a development which is (again, by our time) very slow, according to a process of adaptation and thus of experimentation (some species survive, some do not). Is God - for example - more associated with the being of the universe and its unfolding life than we seem to give credit for when we are biased towards the transcendance of God?
This photo captures something of the issue, though it is not a reliable depiction of theism!
Who is God? I find for myself that often the actual God I worship and pray to is a super-duper version of the best human being imaginable: amazing; very, very intelligent; also hard to fathom on matters of suffering; but worth trusting because he has a masterplan. Of course it is easy to be angry with that "God", even to walk away from that "God" because much of life is disappointing relative to what I think that "God" ought to be doing in the church and in the world.
Conversely, we would not be having this discussion if the unfolding life of the universe were not punctuated by God speaking into the world (the Old Testament) and the God who speaks into the world entering the world in human flesh (the New Testament).
Thoughts? (Mainly because I am at the edge of my ability to think theo-logically and about to fall off the edge without help!)
*Nothing in particular to do with this post but Wilson on Newman, in words which precede the paragraph above, is worth reading - at least if one enjoys demolition jobs on revered figures!
"Never once in the whole book [Apologia] do we get a sense of the world outside Newman's college walls - or come to that outside his own head. It is something of a shock at the end to be told, 'I have never seen Oxford since, excepting its spires as they are seen by the railway. The reader is jolted into recognition that the debates [between High Church and Low Church divines in the 1830s leading to the Tractarian movement] happened not in the time of St. Augustine, but in the Railway Age. Never once does Newman's quest for a perfect orthodoxy, a pure belief in the Incarnate God, appear to prompt him to consider that if God tool flesh, then this has social implications, that the Church should be engaged with the lives and plight of the poor." [pp. 303-04]