A few nights ago we watched a movie called “Creation” which focused on the life of Charles Darwin in the years leading up to his epic book. If the portrayal was accurate, Darwin agonized over writing the book, in part because he knew it would be seen by some as a direct challenge to God’s existence.
Darwin himself was unsure of what his findings meant. He was tortured by the possibility that it did indeed mean, as some of his more “enlightened” friends suggested, the “death of God.” This played heavily on his mind since his wife was a firm believer whose sensibilities he had no desire to harm.
Obviously we know that he did write “Origins of Life” and it did set off the firestorm he expected.
What is ironic to me is that as I watched, I once again realized that the atheist and the fundamentalist are but two sides of the same coin.
The atheist says, my senses and mind cannot betray me. The bible is untrue, God is dead. The fundamentalist says, my bible is true, God is true, my senses and mind betray me.
I find both positions utter hubris. Both claim man’s stellar reasoning to be the apex of existence. The atheist does this quite openly, proclaiming that the universe is utterly knowable by the human mind, and indeed all things are knowable. There is thus no need for a supreme being who guides and orchestrates life. We came to be quite naturally, and the “sky is the limit” in so far as the future is concerned.
The fundamentalist hides her hubris. Although giving lip service to a superior being, it is one that is defined by the fundamentalist. It is infamously contained within the pages of a book, and is self-defined by that fundamentalist.
Both agree, that both evolution and God cannot be true. Both, in utter arrogance chose one side or the other because they, in their superior believing minds, believe that their constructs of God are unquestionably right.
Yet there is another way, and a way that I would argue is the way of the true believer. Confronted with Darwin’s findings, this person recognizes that we must be willing to trust in our senses and the abilities of our minds, otherwise life is simply chaos. There is no meaning at all if life is reduced to haphazard occurences that follow no “rules.”
Yet, learning is an ongoing proposition. We learn and adapt. We learn and we change. We learn and we discard, replace, and revise. That is the way of human history.
So no learning is sacrosanct. And the true believer quickly realizes that this must apply to both the bible and her conceptions regarding God. Confronted with the apparent paradox of Darwin and the Bible, she recognizes that she must delve more deeply into the mystery of sacred text. She must learn of its human origin and the circumstances. She must place the book against the ongoing discoveries of history and find the points of mesh and tension.
Most assuredly, the true believer realizes that if God is God, then we are in a process of learning to understand that God, and that perhaps it is not possible to do so fully in life. The Bible becomes then a text of others efforts to understand God and the reflections of their meditations. Those are our guides as we pursue God in our own ways.
The true believer thus concludes that whenever there is an apparent confrontation between God and science, that it is only appearances. It only goes to show us that we still have not uncovered the glory of God in its fullness. For there is nothing in human experience that can be in conflict with God.
Recognizing our own fallible powers of reasoning is the first step in truly beginning to see our Creator. For only by being totally open to all the possibilities, are we available to be guided by God’s grace. The atheist and fundamentalist are never open, they have already tied God up in a nice box with appropriate ribbons and bows—turning the Godhead into either a child’s toy or an individual caricature of their own making.
I always find it so ironic. Those two groups, whose greatest vitriol is reserved for each other, have more in common that all the rest.