Chapter 7: Jesus Christ and Darwinism
In my introduction I suggested that “Why Darwin Matters to Christians” should be required reading for every theistic evolutionist who believes that the message of Christianity is not changed if one holds to Darwin’s theory and rejects the historical accuracy of Genesis. If you are one of those people but do not have the time to work your way through the whole book, then please read this chapter at the very least. I say this because this chapter illustrates emphatically how it is necessary to distort the Gospel of Jesus Christ if it is to accommodate Darwinism. In committing his arguments and beliefs to print, Adrian has gone further than most Christian evolutionists and for that he is to be commended. Unlike most of the others, he is not prepared to gloss over the theological implications of the claim that “God used evolution”. Most who promote that view minimise the effect of trying to embrace both, but this chapter identifies clearly the issues which must be addressed by anyone seeking to do so. Adrian has already correctly identified the questions raised about the character of any god who initiated the creation of life through the mechanisms of evolution. He rightly rejects the notion that a god who claims to be good would choose to use such a violent process over millions of years. Nor is he prepared to accept a god who wound up the mechanism of the universe and then walked away – this because he still holds on to Jesus as the incarnate god. In this chapter he puts forward a third option – one which may be unique to himself.
In the opening paragraphs Adrian repeats his claims from earlier chapters. A literal Eden is not an option, even in the future; “Whilst humanity might yearn for Eden, once you think through the practical implications of an Eden, it becomes at best, a mixed blessing and at worse a poisoned chalice.” (p.48) Here again Adrian is convinced that he knows better than the God of the Bible – an arrogance which I have already addressed here. The alternative story which Adrian offers his readers is this: “If creation of an Eden is not an option, then God becoming part of his creation, experiencing at first hand what it is like, and helping creation through its ‘groaning in travail’ might be a good option instead.” (p.48) Ruling out incarnation as a rat, a dinosaur or a tree, his conclusion is that the superior size of the human brain meant, “Becoming a human being was the only realistic option, because only a human had tools to make a real difference.” (p.48) Citing John 1:1-5, Adrian argues that this presents a problem for those like me who believe in a literal Garden of Eden, but the problem he describes is one which I have already discussed, for it is his mistake of portraying the God and Father of Jesus Christ as one who punishes rather than as one who rescues. This perceived problem also however leads him to a solution which I suspect almost every other theistic evolutionist would denounce:
“But a Darwinian explanation of life on earth removes many of these difficulties: as already explored, the universe and life could not realistically exist in another way, so becoming part of humanity to bring life and light to it (John 1:4-5) somewhat extricated God from moral criticism for life’s cruelty and waste, and shows that there is a good side to his nature after all. (p.48) Emphasis mine.
Still offended by the amount of suffering which his god has done little to address since Christ was on earth, and confused about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, Adrian reasserts his view that this was the only option available to this god:
“But Darwinism and the arguments employed in Chapter 2, help us understand that God could realistically have done little else than create the universe as we find it.” (p.49)
In response to this, the reader is encouraged to lower their “expectations of who God and Jesus are and how they behave”. (p.49) Doing this, Adrian reasons, helps us to understand that Jesus was not really without sin. In fact he argues that without having “a brain shaped by natural selection, a brain built for survival, with all the advantages and disadvantages this brings,” (p.49) it would have been impossible for Jesus to be fully human. To which he adds, “To be fully human means that one sometimes exhibits undesirable or sinful behaviours, experiences the emotion of letting God and neighbours down, yet you pick yourself up again and try harder next time.” (p.49) Thus he sees Jesus as making “the best job of being a human being that anyone could reasonably expect.” (p.49) Remarkably, this causes Adrian to think that because Jesus did this, we can now “assert that God has some goodness in him, even if he isn’t perfect”. (p.49) Thus he argues:
“In this sense, then, Christ’s mission was not just about making atonement to restore our relationship with God. It was arguably about God making atonement with us by sharing our humanity in all its harshness.” (p.49) Emphasis mine.
After insisting that Jesus must have had a full set of human genes in order to be fully human (and with them have been programmed for survival of the fittest) and suggesting that god on the other hand “is not, as far as we know, encumbered by morality, and genes…” (p.50) Adrian considers the nature of Christ’s atonement. Atonement, he acknowledges, is central to the four gospels, but what did it achieve? He discusses the two better known doctrines of ‘penal substitution’ and ‘Christus victor’, but finds neither of these satisfactory in the light of Darwin’s doctrines. Putting forward his own version of the atonement, he writes:
“I therefore prefer to look at the incarnation and the atonement as a single package by which we find our way to God and he to us. The incarnation was in part God’s apology to us for having created us, and his answer to the howls of protest found in Ecclesiastes and Job that it would have been better for us not to have been born.” (p.51) Emphasis mine in all instances.
In this light Adrian considers salvation to be not from sin, but to a way of life which results in better people and a better world. He argues that his view is not entirely new, seeking to align himself with a third view of the atonement which “has always held that Jesus was a moral influence for a better humanity.” (p.51) Following the example set by Christ is to Adrian a better path than being led by genes shaped by natural selection – though he offers no insights as to how the dominance of these aggressive genes might be arrested so that men and women could be free to follow Jesus’ example. He does however acknowledge that Paul describes death as the last enemy which Christ will defeat. To Adrian, “Death is the blunt instrument of natural selection,” (p.51) not the wages of sin as Paul also taught (see here). Disease is the agent of death in Adrian’s world view, and he mistakenly believes, “Over the eons of human existence, only one thing has saved us from such catastrophic epidemics: evolution’s twins forces of of mutation and natural selection.” I have discussed the complete absence of any beneficial mutations previously, so I will not repeat those arguments here. However, Adrian does express total faith that given enough time, the processes of evolution could and would overcome such sicknesses as AIDS and Dutch Elm disease.
Finally, in this chapter Adrian questions the benefits of Christ’s resurrection. Again, he acknowledges Paul’s teaching that it is the guarantee that Jesus overcame death, but he really is not sure what it achieved:
“Arguably Jesus didn’t need to die and be raised again for us to raised ourselves, despite St. Paul’s linkage of the two. God could have just declared that resurrection was available. There are no objective enemies called ‘sin’ and ‘death’. Darwinism exposes these to be the by-products of the process of natural selection.” (p.52) Emphasis mine.
Clinging to arguments in favour of the resurrection, Adrian sees it as giving humans the confidence that “life after death is possible” (p.52). He ponders whether it might give hope of a spiritual Eden “free from the constraints of physical existence,” and as in all good serials, indicates that he will discuss this further in the next chapter.
Readers may have noticed that in this section I have so far simply highlighted the essential features of Adrian’s beliefs with very little comment of my own. This has been because I wanted my readers to appreciate the nature of the Jesus in which Adrian believes. Let me say again that I appreciate his honesty, for he has made a serious attempt to reconcile his faith in evolution with his understanding of God. Few have attempted this before. However, I cannot but draw attention to the very different Jesus who emerges from a theology which bows before Darwin. Here is a summary of the Jesus described in this chapter:
- A god who is weak, being limited by natural laws;
- Not without sin;
- Did his best, given his limitations;
- Died to make atonement with us;
- His incarnation was god’s apology to us;
- He did not die to overcome ‘sin’ and ‘death’ because they are not our enemies;
- Whilst it was not necessary for him to die and be resurrected, he did both.
There can be no questioning Adrian’s view that accepting evolution changes not only the nature of the Gospel which Christians believe, but also what one believes about the character and ministry of Jesus Christ. The above list makes the point and needs no further explanation for anyone who is familiar with the Biblical Christ and the good news of the salvation which He makes available to mankind. (Those who are not familiar with these may find my study “Journey Into New Life” helpful.)
In the course of writing this review, I shared Adrian’s central point that the incarnation was God’s apology to us with a friend who is far more familiar with church history than I am. After thinking for a while, he responded with a comment to the effect that this was a completely new heresy. He could not recall any other instance of this teaching being put forward by anyone else over the centuries. My friend then thought for a little longer, before coming up with a similar concept from the popular series of books “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. In Chapter 40 of Douglas Adams’ third book in the series, “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”, his characters discover God’s final message to His creation. Here is a description of the episode concerned, taken from the internet.
God’s Final Message To His Creation is written in fire in letters thirty feet high on the far side of the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains in the land of Sevorbeupstry on the planet of Preliumtarn, which orbits the star Zarss, which is located in the Grey Binding Fiefdoms of Saxaquine. The long path to the message is lined with souvenir stands at spaced-out intervals. When Marvin reads the message, it says, “We apologise for the inconvenience.” (Source)
Now I am not suggesting that Adrian borrowed his theology from Douglas Adams, but I am saying that apart from Adams, there seems to be no known precedent for it. This therefore brings us to a very crucial issue. Adrian has alluded several times to the writings of the apostle Paul in the New Testament. On most occasions he has rejected Paul’s teaching, preferring to re-invent Jesus in his own image. There can be little doubt that Adrian’s Jesus, and the gospel which he attaches to him, is significantly different from the Messiah in which Paul believed. How did Paul respond when he encountered teaching which was seriously different from his own, and yet claimed to be Christian truth? This is not a new situation, for in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 he expressed his concern for the Christians living in that city:
“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted – you may well put up with it!”
But Paul and the Holy Spirit were far stronger in Galatians 1:6-9, and their warning needs no further comment from me:
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”