Creation Talk Four: Salvation not Evolution
Christians talk of salvation. They believe that when Christ came, he came to save us. This, of course, implies that we needed saving in the first place. There are those who persist in believing that human beings are fundamentally good, but even the most optimistic of us must admit that as human beings we frequently make a mess of things at best, and, at worst, are capable of acts which can only be described as evil.
The theory of evolution is receiving much attention this year as it is both the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book, On the Origin of the Species. This didn’t just change how people understood how the world came in to being, it changed how they thought about themselves. They came to see human beings in a different light to how they had been viewed when Christianity provided the dominating world-view.
Darwin’s theory of evolution suggested that we had arrived where we were by a complex process of evolution. Life since its inception had adapted and changed until it emerged in the form and forms we now knew. Human beings as the most intelligent life form on the planet was the greatest result of this process: its crowning achievement. From very primitive beginnings human beings had emerged supreme. And if we had evolved to this state getting better and knowing more at each stage wasn’t there every reason to believe that this was how it would continue?
A theory that described a physical process was applied to the area of human moral and spiritual development. There was no necessary and logical connection, but no matter: it all made sense. As humans had evolved physically so too they had evolved morally and as they had left behind previous physical states so too they should leave behind previous moral and spiritual ones.
For many, religion came into this category. Religion belonged to a previous stage in our evolution, useful perhaps in the past when we thought the earth was flat and at the centre of the universe, but we knew better now. We did not need the crutch of religion, we could manage perfectly well on our own. Things could only get better. Now we understood where we came from, we could see where we were going and we certainly did not need religion to get there. Religion if anything would only hold us back.
Religion insulted human intelligence and, with its talk of human sin and weakness, it failed to see the glory of the human species. Human beings would leave behind superstition and animal like behaviour and enter a brave new world confirming their moral dominance of it. Human beings were fundamentally good and, as they continued to evolve, society would only improve.
This myth still exists. It has survived the trenches of the first world war, the concentration camps of the second, the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cruelty of dictatorships and millions of other daily examples of human cruelty and wickedness. We can’t seem to bring ourselves to admit that whatever may or may not be the case in our evolving physical state, morally and spiritually we are no different now to how we have ever been.
But admitting this suggests that religion, and even worse, Christianity, may have been right all along. That no matter what our achievements, and they are many. No matter how advanced our scientific and technological accomplishments, and they are great. We remain weak, helpless, selfish, and, very often, just plain evil.
Christianity seeks to explain this contradiction. It does so by telling us that God created us originally to know him and worship him, but in a drama that each age and individual repeats, we reject him and choose instead to go our own way regardless of the harm and damage that it is does to both ourselves and to others.
The situation would be hopeless were it not for the love of the Creator for his creation. A love, which led him to become one of the created and live with them in their world, taking their nature and as one of them revealing himself to them. In Christ, God offers us the chance to leave the past behind and become what we always were meant to be. This won’t happen by a process of evolution, it will only happen through the salvation we find in Christ.