Saturday, 27 February 2016

Adam and Eve and Evolution | Act One


Using a video book approach for young people moving from secondary to tertiary study. The late John Morton, Professor Emeritus, The University of Auckland, wrote in the preface to the second edition, the following description. The video series of the three Acts of the play follows the same method of how to get the most from the resource

Rev Dr. David Bell’s In the Beginning ... Adam and Eve and Evolution 

is a deeply engrossing study of the opening chapters of Genesis. Original in arrangement, it is set out at two levels that can be read separately. The first is a dialogue between three members in a youth group. It is enriched with imaginative pen illustrations by Melissa Martyn.

The dialogue is likely to be read straight through without putting down. But interleaved with it, on accompanying right hand pages, is a deeper material that may not be so easy to read; - it would be inadequate if it were. But in a cross-reading with the dialogue to which it applies different age and intellectual groups will enjoy tackling both together.

The book draws close in many ways to what cosmic science has been revealing today. It is devised in a way that well-educated secondary school pupils should find stimulating. The value of the world-beginnings as brought to light in Genesis would be disastrously lost if these early chapters were insisted on as literally historic or cast aside as of little use to modern intelligence. It will be important to regard them as “true myth”,- however much the fundamentalist would want to discredit this. For what can come clearly to scholastics and to ordinary church people is a new understanding of fuller truths. Science and humanity constantly need each other, lest one should be left blind, and the other rendered lame.

Arthur Eddington - himself a scientist - was able to point to two realities that had to be known on their own terms. The first, which he saw by comparison as trivial, was the materialistic reality revealed by science. The other and all-important was the human reality of ordinary experience. So while earth would remain for science as a speck of matter adrift among a billion stellar objects, it is the human reality that must remain at the centre of the universe. The life it contains is the only thing that exists for us. And this emerges in the mythology - and yet part of supreme truth - in the opening of Genesis.

Humanity is thus to be seen as central. It can never be accounted as something peripheral or late appearing - turning up by chance, as it were, when evolution stumbled on a particular course. Monod and Dawkins and the modern Neo-Darwinists to the contrary - evolving life necessarily must still disclose the wonder of intelligent plan.

The creative action, by which God brought life and humanity into being had to proceed through evolution. What may be called a “co creation”, in Bergson’s words l'evolution creatrice, has been able to continue constantly towards its own fulfilment.

The first character Adam virtually never afterwards appears in the Old Testament. Where he may again be glimpsed is with Paul’s letters in the New Testament. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Such a new Adam is now a quickening spirit: “A second Adam to the fight, and to the rescue came”.

Dr. Bell now takes up the complex meanings revealed in biblical time by drawing on mathematical metaphors. The figurative first six days are all to lead to the seventh, which is the day of rest. This day is the supreme centre which is the focal point of Genesis. From that great burst of energy that has been thought of as the “big bang” of 16 billion years ago, the universe must be shown to have expanded out of an incredibly compressed beginning. As in Teilhard de Chardin’s inspired account, the production of man must be seen to run axially from Alpha to Omega.

Evolving humanity was indeed to aspire towards God. Something close to such evolution is to be implied in Paul’s whole creation groaning and travailing. Humanity’s onward thrusting was to bring with it to Adam the opportunity and privilege of wonder in the world that its Creator had held to be very good. Yet there was also to come a jealous grasping of that ultimate knowledge Adam was not ready to have.

The first Adam need not be conceived as the solitary human being of his time. Instead, out of a whole humanity the universal would be seen as individual, particular, representative. To that one human being, therefore, it was first given to understand and find delight and wonder in the natural world. He was one of a race that through aeons of time had launched into the world this human to whom it was given to revel in a fullness of nature, with the joyous capacity to give names to all its creatures. He was to experience a closeness with God and a love to fellow humanity. He took Eve as wife with a love that was not blemished nor covered up with shame.

Yet this was also a world, a paradise, where Adam was to seek for a knowledge humanity was not intended to have. In the dialogues, the Genesis concepts are explicated - how in Adam’s temptation, from the serpent through Eve, that Fall happened by which sin was loaded upon the world. How then could sin in fact have arisen in paradise? It is clear that the making of ourselves even potentially in the Creator’s own image must involve risks and hazards.

As Genesis might imply, this very conferring of freedom could seem a curtailment of God’s own powers over that creation. So much would God love his created humanity  that it must be given the responsibility of full being. Accorded such destiny there was the possibility of real sinning. And in early course, Adam was in fact to sin.

The true humanoid line, emerging - it is thought - around 2.5 million years ago, was to involve that notion of a Fall that brings us closest to the question of “sin”. By its origin sin has been called “the shadow on the world, thrown by the world, standing in its own light, which light God is”. While still described as “innocent”, humanity now has its measure of freedom and self-direction.

Instinct, at first without individual self-consciousness, was - with human emergence - to become rational, intellectual, and also divisive. Left alone, the fault of a self-conscious, intellectual mind is to become aggressive, competitive and selfish. Here would be the instinctive mind and conscience, that Adam was in the same way to lose or let go. Still to be achieved is for accepted ideals to become again cooperative, loving and self-less. Such a newly balanced human mind would be able to control the world’s changes and advances and thus to intercept its decay. Thus, the thoughts of man could work beneficently or destructively according to our choice.

The only humanity finally able to survive today must be a species deepening into a greater harmony within itself and with creation at large. A drive for a wider science and a deeper spirituality could find for us the place we had come so near to losing: here is the part that should be ours in a true world of living and understanding.