Thursday, January 17, 2019

Is Evolution the end of Christianity. . .

What I couldn't really resolve was this evolution issue. When I arrived on campus at Princeton, I was still a young-earth creationist. I believed that if one ceased to be a young-earth creationist, one would cease to be a Christian. It had always been presented to me that way: Believe this or cease to believe at all. Slowly I began to let go of that.  So records the doubts, fears, and movement of one evangelical into Rome.  Rome solved the problem of Scripture and of evolution.  Scripture was true because Rome said it was (except where Rome determined it never intended to present fact) and evolution could be compatible with Christian faith (perhaps to be seen in relation to the previous parenthesis).

The problem with hitching the reliability of Scripture to a church, council, or pope, is that it elevates whoever guarantees Scripture above Scripture.  This is the inherent issue underlying the whole of the Reformation -- the problem of authority.  I struggle to see how the reliability (infallibility) of Scripture, one of the most ancient orthodox Christian truths and dogmas, can be hinged upon such recognition either by a church structure or by individual reason or any other thing.  Scripture is true and reliable and without error because it is the Word of God and it claims for itself that which cannot be claimed for any other -- not even the Pope (at least in the early Church and from Scripture itself).

The problem with evolution is tied to the reliability of Scripture.  While some make it out to be a simple exegetical problem dealing with the meaning of day, it is not quite that neat and clean.  The problem also lies with Jesus and St. Paul who refer to Adam not in some symbolic way but as a real man, in time, in history.  It is not a Genesis problem but a Scripture problem.  If creation is a symbolic account in Scripture and not a historical one, then how is it that Jesus references Adam as an historic person -- and St. Paul as well?  It is also a problem because one has to wait until more modern times before it is possible to find much justification for anything but a historical understanding of the Genesis account of creation.  No one in their right mind is saying that there are not symbolic overtones to what took place OR that the Genesis account is full and complete (and therefore satisfactory for the curious mind).  That does not translate into the fact that Genesis, indeed, the whole of the Old Testament, and the words of Jesus and St. Paul are merely mythological.  There is plenty of symbolism to factual things -- from the Temple and its sacrificial center to Calvary and Christ's once for all suffering and death.

While I am not at all ready to say that evolution is a disqualifier for heaven -- only God will decide who enters and who does not and it will be solely because of the merits and mercies of Christ alone -- the idea that evolution can exist quite comfortably within the framework of a reliable Scripture is a step too far.  The Church cannot speak where she has no authority and yet she must speak and contend for that which has been revealed.  That God created, that the creation account of Genesis is history (if not complete in every detail), that Jesus witnessed to the existence of Adam as historical man, and that St. Paul did as well, cannot be ignored or set aside in favor of some scientific view of history (one which remains a theory since nothing in evolutionary thought has been seen or replicated or witnessed except the changes within species themselves).  We have a mess of archeological evidence and though science may have put its best guess as to how to read it all, even this is not unequivocal and does not end the conflict between our estimation of what we see and what God has said.

But that is the issue.  If council, teaching magisterium, and pope sit above Scripture, then there is no need to hold on to Scripture's reliability.  It is nice enough but not essential if God has placed others above the Word.  In a sense, this goes back to Erasmus and Luther.  Luther held that the doctrine of Scripture was plain enough to be known and believed (that is not to say there is no need of theologian) but Erasmus believed the Scripture (at least the doctrinal part of it) was too confused and dark to be known easily or clearly and that was why the moral level was the realm at which most people encountered the Word of God.  That is perhaps simplistic but not far from the truth.  Luther had some admiration for Erasmus that man but could not be reconciled to his thought.  While some thought that Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched, it is perhaps the other way around.  Erasmus was the one who pushed past Scripture as revealer of doctrinal truth and it was Luther who was more akin to medieval theologians who saw Scripture as a Word to be preached and that Word preached was about nothing less than doctrine and truth.  That is where we end.  Scripture is reliable not simply as ethical lamp to light the feet but as the beacon Light of God who speaks truth, revelation, doctrine, and moral guidance to the Church and the world.  Those who find it easy to pass up creation and Adam as less than historical tend to emphasize morality above all.  As a Lutheran, true to form, that is not a place where we can go -- our DNA and the DNA of our Symbols is doctrine and truth or nothing.

2 comments:

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Anonymous said...

You said here: "one which remains a theory since nothing in evolutionary thought has been seen or replicated or witnessed except the changes within species themselves"

I would propose to you that even the "changes within species themselves" is being challenged - see here