Christians have spent a lot of time and energy over the last 150 years debating the issue of evolution. In some parts of the world, notably the USA, there are fundamentalists who still believe the ‘young earth’ theory, that the earth is actually only a few thousand years old. They also believe that God created mankind as a unique act, not as the result of millions of years of evolution.
Most Christians, however, accept the theory of evolution and do not see it as conflicting with their faith. Often they believe that God could be at work even through the random forces that we often see, with our limited insight. Some take on board the tenets of the most modern science, quantum mechanics for example, and suggest ways in which God’s creativity and natural law could be complementary descriptions of the phenomena we see around us.
The strange thing is, though, that few in this second group seem to grasp the nettle and ask what evolution – and modern cosmology for that matter – tell us about God. The result is that we do not press forward to a more comprehensive understanding. Let me explain.
If we imagine God contemplating the creation of the Universe, including mankind, it is far from obvious that the best way of achieving this is to create a set of natural laws, set them all going with a Big Bang, and then allow fourteen billion years or so to pass – at the end of which there is the earth, complete with humanity and human civilisations. It is a good question to ask, therefore, what this method tells us about God.
It seems to me that there must be a divine purpose in the use of randomness, as distinct from simply causing a complete earth and set of humans to appear in a flash. My theory is that the underlying randomness is essential to our free will. This opens up a lot of questions, of course, about the human self. Most obviously, if God acted by simple command, the resulting universe would probably be completely determined – including us.
Going down the randomness route, however, may be a way of creating a human mind which can have real freedom, and can therefore express love – or not. A robot cannot be moral, whereas human beings can, and love is at the heart of morality. Perhaps those aeons of time and the enormity of space are the necessary conditions for such a creation.
Worth thinking about!