This Lent, we’ve been going through a series meditating on some of the implications of the fact that we worship a God who was “slain before the foundations of the world”–in eternity past–and therefore has some aspect of “slain-ness” to his very nature.
In the last couple of posts, we’ve been focusing on what this means for the many references in which the Bible says that the world was created “through Jesus”. What might it mean that the world came into being through a suffering and slain Lord? What might it mean for our own suffering?
This got me thinking about Evolution.
Obviously, the main vehicle driving Natural Selection is death and dying. This is one of the biggest hindrances that Christians have to the idea of Evolution. If our usual categories are correct of a “good” creation “falling”, and only then ushering “death” into the world, how does the thoughtful Christian deal with the realities of Evolution?
I think this Lenten idea of God’s “slain-ness” can help.
Few would argue with the idea that Evolution is one of the most dominant strands in all of Creation. But, there is another quite-dominant strand woven through and through this tapestry of our existence: the nature of a slain and suffering Lord through whom the world was made.
And if this world was made through a dying and suffering Lord, that Creation would bear some of the marks of its Maker. One of the most fundamental strands woven into the tapestry of its “pre-fallen” (if we must use that category) existence is that of suffering and death.
And so, first, a simple application of this: if the “Good” Nature of our “Good” God can bear the essence of Death and Suffering in His Person from Eternity Past, then death and suffering can exist in a “good” world before morally culpable creatures can make this world in need of that Cross.
But I don’t want to stop there. There a few deeper and more mysterious applications of this.
I would argue that this principle doesn’t just create a mere “allowance” for Evolution in a Christian view of the world, but it actually makes Evolution by Natural Selection a more beautiful, more explanatory, and more logical filter through which to view Redemptive history, the world, the Gospel, and the Cross.
Our hope in the fact that this world was created through a slain Lord is that this is not the end of the Story. After “slain-ness” comes the real point–the goal: Resurrection and New Creation.
God bears within Himself a Story: it’s always how he reveals Himself. In his Creation, his Church, his Word, and his Son, God’s revealing of Himself always unfolds in time and progress. Or, you could say, evolutionarily.
The Gospel, at its heart, is life by way of death; Story completed by way of suffering.
Science, in its testing of Evolution, holds that, from the perspective of the observable realm, there appears to be no “goal” inherent in Natural Selection; it’s a passive process, rather than an active one. From our theological perspective, however, we would hold that there is a divine goal to God’s work in the world through Evolution.
This goal is New Creation, but it’s forerunner and personification is Jesus Christ Himself, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. In his own self, Jesus holds the coming Kingdom of God.
And so, if Evolution, from a mysterious divine perspective is heading toward New Creation, this eventual goal first reached its climax in Jesus. This is what was meant by French paleontologist and Jesuit Priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s famous quote: Christ is realized in Evolution.
Jesus then becomes a foretaste of the highest of human progress in Human Evolution (the Alpha and Omega, if you will).
I’ve said before that when Jesus died, he held in his own body the entire Evolutionary history of the world that led to him. But here, I want to take that further and point out that Jesus on the Cross does not just contain the temporal death and suffering of the Story of the world, but the eternal death and suffering of the Story of his own self from eternity past.
And then he completes the Story, ushering in both Eternal Resurrection for the Body of the Eternally-Slain Lord (and those that would be joined to him), and New Creation for the World of the Eternally-Slain Lord.
May we join ourselves to this Lord all the more, that we might share in the death and dying of him and his Evolving world, so that we too–and the world around us–might taste of the Resurrection and New Creation to come.