Evolution and Human Participation in Creation
There is much that science can tell us about the world, but it doesn't exhaust the possibilities. There is room for other layers of explanation. Albert Einstein didn't believe in a personal God, but he did have a sense that there might be something deeper, below the surface that gave guidance or mindfulness to the process of creation.
In Krista Tippett's new book Einstein's God, which I've just started reading, she discusses Einstein's views of theology and science with physicists Freeman Dyson and Paul Davies. As part of this discussion, she offers a quote from Einstein's autobiography, in which he writes of his own sense of religiousness. It is, for Einstein the sense of mystery and amazement. He's not a believer in a God of rewards and punishments (but then neither do I) nor does he believe in a God with a will like ours (in this I differ from him, for I believe our will is a reflection of God's). Then he writes:
Enough for me, the mystery of the eternity of life and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature (p. 23) [emphasis mine].
For Einstein there is something there, the universe is not mindless. What that entails, well that's another discussion.
But, if we're open to the idea that evolution and faith are not incompatible, then perhaps there is a way of developing a theology of evolution that respects the integrity of science and the integrity of faith. John F. Haught, whose book Making Sense of Evolution (WJK, 2010), I've been commenting upon, suggests that "evolution allows us to realize that human beings are invited to participate in the great work of creation" (p. 148). We are, he suggests co-creators, and evolution as a theory allows us to understand the role we play.
He goes on to write:
If we fail to keep this evolutionary perspective alive, our sense of ethical obligation -- and for the Christian, the following of Christ -- is in danger of being reduced to blind obedience to arbitrary imperatives and divine commands, or perhaps simply to seeking a reward in the hereafter. In that case, ethical life becomes, Teilhard's words, a matter of "killing time," and redemption becomes a matter of "harvesting souls" from a pointless universe. (pg. 148)
In other words, there is something bigger out there for us to participate in. Evolution becomes then a gift from Darwin to the church, so that it can better understand its calling. He concludes the book:
After Darwin, Christian theology can do better than this. Even though Darwin himself seemed oblivious to the potential his discoveries have to stimulate theological, spiritual, and ethical renewal. his theory of evolution is a great gift to Christian theology and spirituality as they seek to interpret Jesus' revolutionary understanding of God for our own age and future generations. (p. 148)
Rather than being the death nail of faith, as Dawkins and his friends suggest, Darwin's theories offer an opportunity for Christians to reclaim their calling to be a blessing to the world through participating in the creation of the universe. I think that's a pretty good gift!