In his book ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ Dawkins argues a point of view that accepting evolution does not come easy because we are programmed into what has been called ‘essentialism.’ In other words we see species as being immutable. For example a rabbit is a rabbit and has always been a rabbit and that there is in our heads what essentially makes a rabbit a rabbit. But if we could work a thought experiment and look back over many generations of rabbits we will notice how much they alter and the further back we go eventually we come to a ‘hairpin’ in the path where the ancestor of a rabbit is also the ancestor of a leopard or some other modern animal. When we compare wild rabbits with domesticated rabbits of many shades and sizes it is easy so see how they have evolved, through artificial selection. Given a long enough timescale we would see the same is true with wild rabbits but by natural selection as described by Darwin.
Thought experiments are useful. Applying a similar thought process to the evolution of religion or more particularly Christianity might therefore be applied.
For me the starting point in belief in God is with the question, who has he sent for us here and now? For example, one of the biggest challenges the world is faced with is climate change due to global warming. So who has God sent to pull us back from the brink? There would seem to be many.
. This Guardian article :
lists the top 100 environmentalists with Britain’s Johnathan Porrit 3rd and David Attenborough 4th. I wonder how much one episode of Blue Planet 2 presented by David Attenborough will save our oceans polluted with plastic waste. Is David Attenborough unwittingly – one sent by God?
I certainly believe that God does send or inspire individuals to bring us through all sorts of crises whether they are physical, social, political or spiritual. Within the spiritual realm, walking the timeline back generation after generation will take us to many hairpin bends that turn us forward in time to our modern day faith communities. For me Joseph Smith was just such a pivotal figure. Christianity to me made no sense at all until I was introduced to Joseph Smith which has led me to one person, his life, teachings and mission, he being Jesus Christ.
To my mind it is a fact that Jesus Christ was a real person as much as any Roman Emperor. Some may deny the New Testament as being a reliable historical record, but thanks to other ancient writers living soon after Jesus Christ we have corroboration. The early fathers of the church were very careful and selective in compiling the books of the New Testament. I believe they are as reliable as any other historical record of the day. So what has my belief in him got to do with accepting evolution and other modern explanations for the creation of the universe?
As well as his birth, ministry, death and the beginnings of the church there is also recorded in both Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts a genealogical record that stretches back to Adam and Eve where we come to the sticky bit.
Many regard Adam and Eve as pure fantasy, others as real persons essential to our acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. But there is no problem if we look at the narrative contained in the Old Testament differently. The Old Testament is simply not the history of the world, it is a one sided record of a single family. It establishes the genealogical record of those who came before it, its infancy, adolescence, maturity, divisions and dispersion. It is about the family of Jacob otherwise known as the Tribe of Israel. Genesis is not the history of the world before Moses. Adam and Eve were not the first man and woman on Earth some 6000 years ago. They were simply the first parents of those who would establish the tribe of Israel through who Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would be born. For our faith in Jesus Christ and a loving God to thrive does not depend on the whether the Garden of Eden was an actual place and that the drama that took place there is history.
Minds Above Our Own
The prophet Isaiah wrote:
55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Lorenzo Snow was a leader and teacher famed for setting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on a sound economic path at the turn of the 19th century. But as a younger man he is also famed for sharing this couplet with Joseph Smith.
‘Man is as God once was, God is as man may become.’ In one of the quotes above Brigham Young mentions the ‘Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fullness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods (DBY, 3)’
Joseph Smith in his last public sermon said,
‘God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.’
In the hymn ‘If you could hie to Kolob,’ we sing:
1. If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?
While in modern times the doctrine of plurality of gods is not openly discussed it once used to be. Our scriptures plainly indicate that God did not reveal the creation of all things as he would to an astrophysicist; he revealed what Moses was capable of understanding;
‘And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.
34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.
35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.’
The precise meaning of v34 is open to speculation but what is enlightening in relation to modern understanding is that the life of planets is finite, as is ours, that new worlds are being born and old ones are dying. Also that Adam is not one person.
In conclusion let me spell out where my mind now is. My hope is that with a free mind I can fully embrace the science of how the universe, this planet and every living thing upon it came to be and how it will develop in the future including the timescales involved and the processes of evolution by natural selection, but still maintain a full and deepening faith in Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Jesus Christ was born, lived, died, was resurrected and ascended to a place we label Heaven. All truth comes from God to the minds of those who seek it, by whatever methods they use. We believe there is much more God has to reveal to us regarding all things both in Heaven and in the Earth. Therefore I will now avidly read and to the best of my ability try to understand the evidence for evolution that is now available that Richard Dawkins and others declare to be fact.