Last week a good friend of mine visited the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY as part of a road trip with members of her church, and she found it really informative and, I think it's safe to say, she believes in creationism even more after visiting.
Now, I believe in evolution. 100%. I recognize that it's technically a theory and not a particularly popular one in some Christian circles but it seems to make sense and I trust the consensus of the scientific community that it's by far the best explanation available of how we are here (not why). Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a true religious conservative, said in 2007 that evolution was not contradictory to faith, and that's good enough for me.
The more interesting part of the whole creationism v. evolution debate for me isn't the arguments but the premises. What are our starting points and what do we think is at stake?
On one side is the sovereignty of God and the Bible with evolution being viewed as threatening both. On the other side is a belief that man can know through the natural world our origins and and that humanity is older than the 5000 years claimed by Scripture and many years of Christian tradition. And if you believe that the Bible isn't literal in the creation story, does that open up a Pandora's box for subjective biblical interpretation?
I can only speak from my own perspective here but I grew up in an unhealthy Pentecostal church that imposed all kinds of boundaries and barriers on God. God was a giant put inside a cigar box. The rules, hard-line stances, and simplicity I'm now sure were what we all do - ego games that help us feel in control and powerful. It's a much easier existence when you have absolute certainty that you know.
So many times denominations and individuals (including yours truly) simply have to know. How could we live with uncertainty or with ambiguity otherwise? Outside of the most simplistic forms of Christianity we at least recognize that faith takes an acceptance of Mystery. And faith takes not knowing, not in the sense of "believe what we tell you because you'll never understand it" but in the sense that life and struggle and purity necessarily mean a lack of certitude.
Christianity talks about the "root sin" being Pride. It was Pride that made Lucifer and 1/3 of the heavenly hosts fall. And we even label Adam & Eve's fall as the sin of pride: they wanted to be like God. But do we stop to ask, "How exactly were they trying to be like God?" They ate the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In essence, they committed the sin of wanting to know! They wanted God-like minds, adult minds. Fascinating that Christ implores us to be like children if we want to inherit The Kingdom, isn't it?
We have a closed fist. We need an open palm.
I'm starting to believe that when we can accept an air of mystery and are able to not know (again, not in a heady sense but in a controlling and dualistic sense), then we are really on the right path. And we're open to the infinite possibilities of our Infinite God.
Franciscan Richard Rohr uses the image of the Buddha's hands in his enneagram material. Often one of the hands is literally grounded and the other is a flat palm, raised up, and open to infinity. Grounded and yet infinite, what Rohr calls God as both "abyss" and "utter foundation".
Buddhists say the open palm isn't a symbol of being swallowed into infinity but rather of fearlessness - Abhaya - and of deep security and peace.
I think this kind of expansive God who goes beyond our cultural and human borders is what I stumbled upon in my own spiritual awakening in college. And what I think we keep stumbling upon when we embrace more and more of the Divine Mystery.
I see God in evolution. I don't think there's anything spiritually wrong with believing in a 6 day creation or in a 10,000 year old Earth. But for my part, those categories didn't help me. I found a much more expansive God without them.
If you accept popular scientific consensus that the universe is 14.5 billion years old, our solar system is 4.5 billion, life on earth 4 billion, multi-celled life about 700 million, earth after the dinosaurs about 65 million, and actual human history 200,000 years old, then isn't God even more of an infinite mystery? If you take all of this history, Christ-as-man appears at the last possible moment in the last possible second, in the last scene of the last act of an incredibly elaborate, seemingly infinite story.
That God makes himself/herself known in only the last 5,000 years of this timeline would indeed be a problem. But if we believe that Christ is the Word and that all matter and form were made through him, then Christ is a revelation not 5,000 years in the making but 14.5 billion! Our knowing of God is evolving. If anyone can even begin to wrap their head around that, they should instantly be proclaimed a saint because such knowledge would be absolutely transformative.
I don't hold that everyone needs to believe in evolution. Those either/or categories of "doing it right" just aren't that helpful at the end of the day. It's really about an expansive view of God and God being more than we can ever know and bulging beyond our cigar box. "He's not a tame lion" as C. S. Lewis put it and we need to stop pretending that because we've fashioned a whip, God will jump through our hoops and never stray outside.
Whatever you believe, let's have an expanding view of God and find more room than we can ever hope for in that Vastness.
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