“In the beginning, God filled the heavens and the land. The land was an empty wilderness, and darkness covered the abyss. The breath of God brooded over the waters.”
It was into a chaos that God spoke and ordered creation. And of course, there was a “fall” of sorts. But the idea that the wasteland preceded the order, but not creation is fascinating to me. It appears that the writers wanted us to see, more than creation ex-nihilo, but that God works order from disorder. Contrasted to the contemporary Babylonian creation myths, it seems that God wants us to take it a step further. At the best, God creates order from disorder, without using violence.
Now, on its face, I think nature is a good thing. However, like Barth, I am somewhat skeptical of what we can learn about God from nature, beyond that there is a creator. I don’t think it is wise to glean too much from mother nature about God’s nature, because nature is still in the midst of tohu-wabohu, and has been since the beginning.
When I was a very conservative Christian, I was told that I couldn’t believe in evolution and still be a Christian. After a while, I was able to think my way out of that trap. But many aren’t. They are still told that young earth creationism is the only Biblical way to think. I try not to discount anyone’s held faith, but I draw the line at judging the Christian heart of others based on a relatively minor bit of theologizing. Nevertheless, Evolution is demonized by these on the theological right.
But there might be a problem with the other side of this religious equation as well. Have liberal Christians been too quick to embrace evolution? I don’t mean that perhaps they should reject the ideas behind the theory or suggest that they move back to creationism. But what if evolution itself is not a “good” process? What if, in the words of Paul, it is responsible for our very sinful nature?
According to what I understand about evolution, it is a “selfish” process. Altruism in its ultimate form goes against evolutionary biology. The idea is for a creature to pass on its DNA at all costs, and the creatures with the DNA that is best suited for this task are the ones that live on and grow more numerous. If you are the strongest fighter, you can take the best mate. But… what if you are the strongest fighter, but don’t like fighting? What if you are opposed to it? Then someone else can take the best mate, and you won’t stop them. Your DNA will not be passed on. Therefore, over millions of years, the DNA that we have inherited is the DNA of the most efficient killers. The DNA of the most efficient sexual dominators/rapers. The DNA of the tribes that killed the other tribes. The DNA of those who put family and kin and self above the rest of the world. The DNA of those who exploit and have been bred to do so.
What I envision, as a loose interpretation of Genesis, is that once God ordered the world, God perhaps taught humankind how to exist in harmony. But once humans rejected harmony, complete equality, and equity, evolution kicked in, and all of those who might have still had the genes for kindness, compassion, and sacrificial living were marginalized, and pressed ever further into the recessive genes of humankind.
Thus, our environment, and yes, our very DNA is sinful. What can be done about it? Don’t we all get excited when our heroes win glorious violent victories? Don’t we all lust, after some fashion, for sexual appetites unfulfilled? Don’t we want the best for ourselves and our tribe, regardless of the impact on others? As Paul says, that was our old lives. Jesus has taught us a new way. But it means dying to our evolutionary selves, and embracing the way of the light. Stepping out of darkness, reaching for a disciplined and ordered life, rather than the wasteland of empty evolutionary meaning that we have always existed in.
If you find it difficult, you are in good company. You are fighting against your very biology. Some would say that this in itself is wrong. But if you struggle, and even if you fail, you are more like the apostle Paul, who said, “the good that I want to do I don’t to, but the evil I don’t want to do – that is what I find myself doing.” It isn’t the perfection that God seeks, but perhaps an alternate form of evolution, where the selfish genes aren’t the driving force, but calling on the recessive genes of goodness, and the inefficient traits of holiness.
Good luck. The world and your very body is stacked against you.