Monday, July 24, 2017

evolution and religion

I was thinking about Evolution/evolution and religion the other day...

I think it's reasonably plausible-- as another story/narrative within the Evolution narrative-- that religion could have evolved. People (especially early in human history) might easily imagine forces and gods/God greater than themselves-- to "explain" (really, to provide a narrative for) the mysteries of life. From there, one might reasonably expect religion to evolve into two competing camps-- interestingly, the camps we see today. 

1.) One can approach God through sufficient good works-- very common in explicit and implicit religious beliefs. This view would have the appeal of consistency with human relationships: you behave yourself to encourage business and personal relationship with others. You earn your relationships as one earns wages (Romans 4). As a parent, it's a useful meme to encourage obedience in children. It could be harnessed by religious and political leaders for their self-interests. It encourages social cohesion and efficient outcomes. And so on.

2.) One cannot approach God through good works, but it requires God's grace instead. Christianity teaches this explicitly and I have met adherents of other faiths who also believe that they will be "saved" exclusively by God's grace. The illogic (or inconsistencies) of the "works" religion could lead to a grace-based religion. It would be attractive to people since the grace is free rather than earned. And so on.

The sociological literature has indicated that the most vibrant religious communities have rigor in theology and practice. Among Protestants, groups with more rigorous (conservative) theology and more stringent (legalistic or conservative) practice are thriving. So, the strongest form of religion might be grace-based, with expectations of conduct after experiencing God's grace-- Ephesians 2:10 after 2:8-9; church discipline a la I Cor 5:9-13; and so on. 

In any case, let's assume that an evolutionary narrative is sufficient to tell a good story about the origins and continuance of human religion. Why not embrace this story in faith? Three reasons-- all of which happen to be mentioned in Romans. First, nature testifies to God's existence (Rom 1:20). How on earth did all of this get here without a Creator God? Someday, Evolution may extend far beyond its current narrative; at present, it provides only an infinitesimal proportion of what would be required for an explanation. Moreover, its difficult to imagine it overcoming its biggest conundrums--e.g., evolution through vital and reproductive organs....over and over and over again. So, the narrative requires far too much faith to embrace confidently.

Second, conscience and spirit testify (Rom 2:14-15). We know internally that there is are standards of right and wrong. Even the relativists embrace and absolute standard. CS Lewis uses this to great effect in Mere Christianity. If people try to explain this away, it's easy enough to ask them about various violations of right/wrong-- at least as it impacts marginal people or themselves. 
Third, the subjective experience of the Christian-- who has the Spirit of God living in him (Rom 8:9)-- serves as subjective-direct and objective-indirect evidence. When a Christian walks faithfully with Jesus, the Spirit indwells and dominates human/sinful nature, providing evidence to the disciple of Jesus and to those around him.


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