Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Moltmann's Evolution: Dissonance

Well, to start with Moltmann has the problem that, unless he or Christ were speaking analogically, Jesus directly contradicts Moltmann’s assertion that Sabbath is the crowning of creation. That the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath seems resoundingly straightforward, and would in fact undo Moltmann’s procession-as-priority schema, no matter how interesting an idea it seems. By the scriptural accounts, it is humanity and not the Sabbath that is the culmination of creation, and humanity and not the Sabbath that is the foundation of the kingdom of redemption.

This doesn’t, of course, erase the procession of the creation of history, but it does leave us with an intriguing tension between the genesis account of creation and the account, presumably, of the one who did it. That much isn’t Moltmann’s fault, but Moltmann does do an altogether too vague job of placing humanity within an evolution/creation schema. Perhaps Moltmann relies too heavily on a single creation tradition here to do this bit of reconciling?

At any rate, Moltmann fails here to construe that other claim of Christ, that the kingdom is at hand. Christ’s eschatology was rather more immediate, not in fact solely the consummation of all things at the end of all time but the consummation of all things with Christ himself. The specifics of re-creation in sacramental redemption seem lacking, a continuing thin spot in Moltmann.

Still, one agrees with creation being both open and closed, both free and determined – this models, of course, the temporal process by which we make choices; we can never make just any choice, but do choose from a menu of options, our selection of which must exceed the merits of any option itself (we don’t just choose by our reasons) – but one must disagree that creation and evolution are discussing the same goal.

For evolution as such the goal of humanity is, possibly, to survive until the heat death of the universe or alternatively, to have speciated into a form of life that will. Christianity as such posits the goal of humanity quite plainly as the death of the self for the glorification and fulfillment of the kingdom of God. These are not the same goals. However similar in structure the processes may be, their divergent ends implies that they are themselves different histories of the same temporal events. They make competing ultimate claims about the purpose of the universe and about the purpose of humanity.

That our two languages have similar sounds and structures does not and cannot escape the contradictions of the two cultures from whence they come. This is not to be anti-evolution or to be anti-scriptural. But it is to suggest that the metaphysical synthesis Moltmann seems to want to work toward presents itself as an essentially flawed endeavor. At least, it does if we assume what Moltmann does, and what Christian thought traditionally does: that God is necessary.

By the terms of evolution, we really can go slouching of toward a Kelvinist Bethlehem where what is born is not new life but simply the ceasing of all molecular motion as the energies of the universe irreducibly dissipate. By the terms of creation, this is one thing we simply cannot do. Moltmann opens up the possibilities but hedges his bet by assuming God’s ungoing creation of the universe, which makes God metaphysically necessary again, even as it makes evolution ultimately superfluous, one option among many.

What would be more interesting would be if one were to take evolution at its word and accept that God is, in fact, not necessary from a human perspective. What if we didn’t hedge our metaphysical bets and just let God be simply a gift, that most superfluous of metaphysical things? This, to me, is the benefit of the two-languages paradigm of evolution and creation: that it lets evolution be evolution as such.

Yes, the gift of God asserts: it really all could end with the heat death of the universe. There’s no guarantee that it won’t, and all the rational evidence does seem to lead this way. And yet, we have this hope. We have other sorts of evidence, not that this world requires God, but that God desires the world regardless of requirement. This, this is grace. Here, here, is our wager. Let the tensions be.

No comments: