Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Evolution and Sin (Part II)

So, from Part I we've established the theory that God always intended Adam and Eve to sin. Free will requires an exploring of options, even those that aren't ideal for the world as God intends. Perhaps that first sin wasn't what John Wesley would call sin (even if they knew it was disobedient, they really couldn't have understood the consequences and implications), but in any event it created a rift in God's purposes and in the relationship between Creation and Creator. The tragic problem arises as these humans reject the reconciliation God has waiting for them, thus expanding the rift and the consequences of their sin.

I came to this belief (and when I say "belief" I don't mean so much a necessary tenet of reality so much as perhaps my best explanation for things we may never truly or fully understand) mostly as an attempt to avoid explaining the incarnation of Jesus Christ as a response to human sin; I don't think it should be seen as an afterthought and this better keeps that from being the case.

But, as I've gone through life, it really seems this fits better with what we experience. I've come to view the message of scripture concerning our eternal destiny a bit differently that it was explained to me as a child. I don't see our purpose here on Earth as escaping the world. Whatever heaven awaits us will most certainly be here, on Earth, when it's remade as God intended - or perhaps, when it's become all God intends.

Our experience as people is one of growth and development. As Christians we believe God works in our lives and through our lives to make us into something more than we once were. Our process of spiritual development and discipline brings real change in our lives - but it's not a reclamation of something we lost, but a growing into something to which we're destined.

There is a lot of debate these days about how judgment and eternal life work. The traditional view held our development to end at the end of the world - those worthy at this point would move on to heaven, those unworthy to hell. There's been a recent re-emergence of the notion that those who choose not to be a part of heaven (however it's defined) may simply be vanished, disappeared, eliminated - they might simply cease to exists, since a loving God couldn't rightly torture anyone for life (and also that torture might not be the most God-appropriate way to "encourage" someone towards repentance.

This last point hints of a notion that I tend to believe is best, even though it works against our traditional theology and reading of scripture. What if our chance to follow God, be holy, become the people we're intended to be doesn't end when our "regular" life ends. Someone once asked me, "What if the world to come is the same for everyone, but for those who've been touched and changed by the love of God find it heavenly, while to those who remain in their selfishness, it's hell?" I don't know the specifics of such a world - and I wouldn't want to venture a guess - but the idea that life will continue after resurrection much the way it does now (but with a the full reign of God's love in and through the world) makes a lot of sense to me.

It also brings with it, though, the notion that people might have eternity to come around to God's way of love. People might get forever to be rebellious and chance after chance after chance to reconcile. If it really is an eternity, then there's plenty of time for God's love to win over everybody. I still believe strongly in those scripture passages that seem to indicate not everyone will be saved (so maybe annihilation is the best option), but I'm also willing to admit I don't quite get the ramifications of eternity. An eternal world, ruled and infused with God's holy love and going on without end sure seems like the kind of place that will eventually win over everyone.

I'm not sure that isn't the best way to look at the world.

What this means, really, if we put both Part I and Part II together, is that God created a world in which people would choose selfishness as part of their inherent nature, but would, over time, given eternity, eventually learn to embrace the reconciliation offered by God, fully realized in Jesus Christ, and eventually become the kind of people who reject selfishness for an ongoing life of mutual, interdependent love. That's certainly a faithful, coherent, beautiful description of life that both maintains God's non-coercive love and human freedom.

That's a little shorter than Part I, but it seems a good place to stop for now (I promise, we'll really, actually talk about evolution in Part III).

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