Creation and Evolution

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Creation and Evolution

I have never been able to understand why so many people seem to think there is a
conflict between the theory of creation and the theory of evolution.. Ever since I was a
very young philosophy student in the Jesuits it has seemed simple and obvious to me that
God creates evolution. (Recently I seem to find in the thinking of Stephen Hawking some
mathematics that would support that.) I mean, isn’t that pretty obvious? Creation is about
Being. It is the answer to the question, “Why is there anything and not simply
nothing at all?” Evolution is about what happens after things are.

Well, I guess you do have to have an insight into Being in order to get that point, but
doesn’t everybody have the ability to have that? After all, everybody is.
I mean, does anyone really think that he or she causes himself or herself to be?

As long as we are on this point, we might as well follow it out. Once you get it that
everything that is, is because it is made to be by a source outside itself, then you get
it that creation is totally gratuitous. And once you get it that creation is totally
gratuitous, then there is no need for some ontological extra called “the
supernatural.”

However, traditional Christian theologians use the concept of the supernatural, as in
“the supernaturnal order”, which they think of as “the order of grace“,
which is a “higher” order than the order of nature, an order to which human
beings need to be “elevated”. But it seems to me that if you look at the history
of Christian theology, you will see very clearly that this whole business about a
“supernatural order”, as well as the whole business of “original sin”,
is based on a very serious instrospective misundertanding that took place in the time of
Augustine.

Now certainly Paul and the early Christians are very clear about an experiential
aspect of their lives, which is the difference in their control of their impulses — such
as sex and greed — after their conversion to Christianity compared to before their
conversion. And they certainly take a very dim view of the pagans of their time and of the
jews who did not convert to Christianity. However, I do not think they ever actually
ontologize this experience. It would never even have occurred to most of them to talk in
that language. Paul in particular was not one to use the ideas of Plato and Aristotle.
Paul talked about experience.

It remained then for Augustine and his generation to ontologize the experience of
Christian conversion, and to turn the xaris of grace from a mere
gift to a whole new order of being. It was an understandable error because given the level
of introspective competence of the culture of the time, it was natural for them to mistake
emotional forces residing in the unconscious and attributable to child-rearing practices
for fixed aspects of being. But it was a mistake, and only Pelagius came even close to
getting it right.

So I like to observe that in the argument between Pelagius and Augustine, Pelagius was
right philosophically, scientifically and exegetically, but Augustine was right
developmentally.

So I think it is about time that we re-visited Pelagius to see what a Christian
theology would look like that did not split the psyche into ontologically distinct
components, and did not split the world in this way either.