Monday, 9 November 2009

Why Darwin is no threat to Christians

According to some, Darwin and his followers represent a significant threat to Christianity, that somehow it removes the foundation for faith and jeopardises the very existence of God. In this, the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, I didn't want to let the year pass without making some kind of comment[1] on the issue.

First of all, it seems that there is an assumption within some debates about evolution, that somehow the human being of today is the pinnacle of evolution, that everything that has led up to the development of humans and has now stopped. This seems to be a contradiction. If evolution is a slow process that is facilitated through successful breeding, and breeding continues as much as it does, then evolution can't have stopped. So we can't assume that humans of today are the pinnacle. This is not a problem for the whole of Christianity, it's only a problem for the imago dei section of theology. Although I'm not well read in this area, I know enough to know that the definition of human is not described at a biological level. Although the discussions of capacities and so forth are all supervenient on the biological, I don't think this is an immovable object.

More important than the consequences of human breeding is the use of the origin of species (created or evolved) as the foundation for Biblical authority, or lack thereof. In other words, if God created humans as is then human religious endeavour has some definite intersection with the divine and is therefore a certainty on which faith can be established. It follows that if the foundation can be rocked, perhaps by insisting that evolution is correct, then everything on that foundation is also in trouble. The problem is that Christianity is not founded on the origin of humanity. Rather, Christianity is founded on Christ. Christ called his followers to hear his words and put them into action so that they are like a man who builds his house on a firm foundation, and not a sandy foundation. In this way, the biological origins of humanity have no influence on Christian foundation. Creation... evolution... neither of them make a difference.

The astute logicians in the audience will probably object by asking about the authority of Jesus. But this is the point of faith. There is no rational ground to it. We can't start with quantum physics and derive our way to "Jesus is lord" and nor should we. It is a leap of faith that takes us from one ground to another. To use biological origins is a misdirection.

This leads to the most significant point that I want to make. It's a distraction. Arguments about creationism and evolution do nothing to help the Christian mission. Christ told his followers to do lots of things, including preach the gospel and to live the gospel. Arguing about the origins of the universe was not, as I recall, on the agenda. Spending our time on it does nothing other than take our time away from more pressing matters of discipleship.

It seems to me, then, that the most Christian response to the question of Creationism and Evolution (and all the variants between the two poles) is to ignore it. It makes no difference to faith and no difference to Christian mission.

1. This post is not an exercise in apologetics. It's merely a couple of observations and thoughts on the issue.

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