Sunday, 21 April 2013

The End of the Line?

"At its very heart, Christianity is about facing the real world. It’s not about fanciful illusions, where we just accept ourselves as a slightly evolved species, essentially just here for a good time, but a faith which drags us before the deepest longings and understanding in our souls – that the beauty we know in love, the majesty we view in creation, the passion we encounter in life, resonates with the fact that there is much, much more going on than the oft vaunted facile/popular escapism (philosophically and practically) often tagged ‘life’".  From a review I wrote in 2008.

Over a decade ago, after watching Richard Dawkins taunt a group of theologians on television, I recall conversing with friends about the dangers of Christians seeking to hold to a theistic evolutionary view of our origins (he was making the argument that if you hold to Darwin's theory, you make the need for God redundant). The response at the time, of course, was that there was room for both - God used the evolutionary process to bring about the development of life, whilst the origins and purpose of this were clearly still His domain.

It's been interesting, then, to see how over the last few years, the 'progress' of naturalistic views of our origins have, essentially, removed the need for our first parents, and recently, how thestic theologians have, again, followed such reasoning, advocating the need to do away with any concept of a historical Adam.

The actual conclusion, which clearly illudes such thinking, is that you may as well throw in your faith and be done with it. 
If there was, in fact, no Adam, no Eden, no Fall, then there is essentially no design to what has transpired, no paradise lost, no true purpose to the incarnation and to the cross - Christianity (and, in essence, all monotheistic religion which aspires to a form of redemption from this present age) is no more than a grand illusion. If our history is in fact concluded in our consciousness deriving from a pool of randomly- developed hominoid genes which, of themselves, were a result of chance processes forming life, then the very notion that sin, death, pain and suffering are spawned from something entirely alien to the cosmos - evil - is indeed fanciful and absurd, and we are, without question, locked into a cycle of meaningless futility. Our 'natural' estate is to merely exist, briefly, amidst a cold universe which itself is no more than a fluke, probably in the throws of a long but inevitable death. Nietzsche was right when he argued that once we have 'killed' God, we are only left with despair.

Christian optimism is the backdrop which has informed our culture for centuries, but if Christianity itself is now stripped from our world-view, if that sense of destiny defined by an order beyond our own with regards to existence is lost, what replaces this, when soberly comprehended, will be terrifying indeed. Modernity is a brutal force which leaves us without hope, empty and alone - orphans in a freak event termed existence. The reality, as Dawkins himself notes, is entirely bleak and pessimistic, especially if the grand intentions of scientism fail to deliver us from our present growing fragility in a world teetering on the eve of disconnection from enormous troubles.

It flies in the face of popular thinking to believe there is an alternative, but, beyond our ability to 'speed' data around, there is nothing new here. In the 1920's and 30's, as European thought continued to shape our society to the beat of man's ambitions being the true determining factor of the age (with dark and heinously tragic results), some theologians began to realize that the only solution was to return once again to the Word revealed through the message of scripture, and to affirm the validity of that message in the face of massive opposition. We are faced with the very same choice. Do we submit to the consensus which surrounds us today, and see the principal truths of faith dissolve, or do we reject this and affirm the rightness of what scripture reveals?

In the second epistle of Peter, we are warned of the dangers of the message of false teachers. They will speak with an air of authority, with the promise of liberation, but they seek to merely tie men to the immediate and the material, negating any reference to the divine in relation to us or the work of creation. Such 'works', says the Apostle, will be found wanting, exposed and removed on the day when the new is seen.

Christ's incarnation was for the primary purpose of rescuing those who stemmed from Adam (Luke 3). If we are to find aid and meaning in this broken world, it must be here, for no where else can our kind find deliverance from the prison of our short but alienated existence.

The choice is, as it always been, entirely clear - meaning or oblivion?

"Therefore, beloved, as you wait for what is coming, be diligent  in standing in Christ, and thereby be at peace.
 Count upon the patience of God in these troubles - for there is the surety of our salvation. Do not be carried away by the
folly of those who are unstable in what they know and teach, but mature in the goodness and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory, now and forever".

Further reading:
Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, Edited by Norman Nevin (IVP).
Moral Darwinism by Benjamin Wiker (IVP).

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...

Wonderful piece, Howard!

"Do you also want to leave?"

"Lord, you have the words of eternal life. To whom would we go?"