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Sunday, February 18, 2007

guess the author

The following is a quote from a well-known Christian thinker of the 20th century. This is probably the best articulation I've seen of the view known as "theistic evolution".

For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say "I" and "me," which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past. This new consciousness ruled and illuminated the whole organism, flooding every part of it with light, and was not, like ours, limited to a selection of the movements going on in one part of the organism, namely the brain. Man was then all consciousness... Wholly commanding himself, he commanded all lower lives with which he came into contact. Even now we meet rare individuals who have a mysterious power of taming beasts. This power the Paradisal man enjoyed in eminence. The old picture of the brutes sporting before Adam and fawning upon him may not be wholly symbolical. Even now more animals than you might expect are ready to adore man if they are given a reasonable opportunity: for man was made to be the priest and even, in one sense, the Christ, of the animals--the mediator through whom they apprehend so much of the Divine splendour as their irrational nature allows.

The same author considers the meaning of the Fall within the theistic evolution paradigm:

I do not doubt that if the Paradisal man could now appear among us, we should regard him as an utter savage, a creature to be exploited or, at best, patronised. Only one or two, and those the holiest among us, would glance a second time at the naked, shaggy-bearded, slow-spoken creature: but they, after a few minutes, would fall at his feet.

We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become as gods--that they could cease directing their lives to their Creator and taking all their delights as uncovenanted mercies, as "accidents" (in the logical sense) which arose in the course of a life directed not to those delights but to the adoration of God.
We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory wish found expression. For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, but the question is of no consequence.

This act of self-will on the part of the creature, which constitutes an utter falseness to its true creaturely position, is the only sin that can be conceived as the Fall.

Any guesses as to who wrote those words?

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At 2/19/2007 6:29 AM, Blogger John B. said...

I had to cheat, so mine would not be a guess. I did suspect it was this person, though, so maybe I get partial credit.

Consciousness does seem to be the key to bridging that gap between the creation and evolution narratives, does it not?

Thank you for sharing this.

At 2/21/2007 1:33 PM, Blogger John said...

Knowing Bruce and the Lewis, I'd say that it's probably C.S. Lewis.

I accepted evolution before I became a Christian and I never really doubted it afterwards. But I married a six-day young earth creationist, so I generally keep my mouth shut on the subject.

But it's amazing how many Christians insist that if you accept evolution that you're going straight to Hell. The debate is so overheated.

At 2/22/2007 12:05 PM, Blogger BruceA said...

We have a winner. It was indeed C.S. Lewis who wrote these words about evolution in The Problem of Pain.

At 2/24/2007 6:38 AM, Blogger truevyne said...

I'd have never guessed!


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