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Why Didn't I Read This 10 Years Ago?
on May 24, 2004
Wow. Now this is the kind of evolutionary theory I'm talking about. For me, I've gone through the process of rejecting literalism and non-allegoricalism for the first 10 chapters of Genesis. I've gone through the acceptance of the scientific validity of evolution. I've worked through ideas on how I can accept Biblical Truth from Genesis, and also evolution. But I want to further clarify that in my mind, understand how both can be true. This book significantly helps in that regard.
I found Edwards' understanding of the Trinity immensely helpful. He writes that "'God' has no ontological content without communion. Nothing is conceivable as existing only by itself. There is no true being without communion." That is a conception I can relate to. From this premise, Edwards explores how a communal Trinitarian God would create, patterning life after Themself, as a internetworking of communities. And in my studies of biology, this is certainly what I see. I have long accepted Bonhoeffer's idea that God is Trinity, for God is perfect, and perfect in all things. He is therefore perfect in Love, and Love requires a lover and beloved. But lest we say that God needed us, He needed to be perfect in Love long before He created anything- which means He needed to have a beloved and lover within Himself, hence the Trinity. But then, how explain three, and not two? Edwards answers this, discussing how perfect Love requires a lover, a beloved, and then sharing the love with each other, as they love another. It is through evolutionary theory that we can better understand the Trinity; more than that, Trinitarian theology necessitates an evolutionary viewpoint.
From here Edwards looks at the way God limits Himself in creation, arguing from an Arminianist approach. Not being Arminianist myself, I found these particular arguments less helpful. But I did appreciate Edwards' discussion of how chance, natural selection, and imperfections are actually necessary in a perfect creation- for without random mutation, it would not be possible for an organism to perfectly adapt to new situations. Hence the seeming imperfection is actually part of a perfectly formed creation.
One of the greatest quandaries in accepting an evolutionary position as well as a Biblical worldview is the problem of original sin. Edwards does a wonderful job of illustrating how both philosophies blend. Our genetic code is morally neutral, but allows for the opportunity of far greater violence and destruction when it is combined with our cognitive abilities and moral awareness- something very similar to the eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Indeed, the argument could be made that the enigmatic aspects of that passage are greatly illuminated when understood within the developing awareness of our species.
In the last few chapters Edwards analyzes how we can understand the various facets of the Godhead through evolution. How the Spirit has been present throughout creation, as has the Son, and their presences inherent within all of creation. So therefore, we can look at any of our fellow creatures, and see that of God in them- not that they are God of course, but that God is present within them, as He is present everywhere. Indeed, the Spirit and Wisdom become the motivating forces of all evolution, in a continuous creation that takes place at one time as one event. (For is not God outside of time?) Edwards comes from a Roman Catholic perspective, and so he displays the standard Western focus (neither good nor bad) on the Persons of the Trinity rather than the Unity of the Godhead- I found it helpful to consider what he said of the different parts of the Trinity as simply representative of all of the Trinity.
Throughout the text, I appreciate that Edwards presents not only his view, but that of many other theologians and biologists, along with a coherent synthesis of his beliefs on the matters. This allows me to follow his thinking, and also integrate aspects of other beliefs that might fall outside of Edwards' own. I also liked his support for the understanding of God as not only male, but also female, relying strongly on scriptures for this support, such as showing the clear line of female Wisdom being the same as the male Jesus in the Bible and Patristic authors. Edwards writes in a clear manner, but tremendously deep, illuminating, and encouraging. I am grateful to God for finding this book, and having the chance to read Edwards, for I now feel that I have a much better grasp on the integration of evolution and Biblical theology.