Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Evolution as Theology, Part 3; Calvinism's Twin?

(I contrast Calvinism with evolution in this post...but any religious belief with a strong emphasis on a God who uses nature and events for some greater purpose could be interchanged with Calvinism.)

One of the most basic presuppositions of Calvinism is that God is sovereign and nothing ever happens without His direct knowledge and will causing it to happen. Whatever happens was meant to happen.  The appearance of "free will" is just that, an appearance, not a reality.  This applies to not only people but also nature. Earthquakes have a reason.  Premature death has a reason. Coincidences have a reason.

Somehow, someway, everything works together to bring about what God wants and we are powerless to resist it, or exert our will upon it.

Taken at face value, this can be a comforting idea. If one surrenders to the idea, then every bad event has a good purpose.

Because a Calvinistic God is a constantly active God, guiding history and nature, there is a connection in how Calvinists use nature to uphold their doctrinal beliefs. Paying close attention to how Calvinism handles gender differences, it's possible to see how, besides Scriptural input on the matter, much is made of the nature of men and women.  Arguments will frequently veer into the biology of men and women, emphasizing the hard wiring of traits and tendencies into the physical body/mind.  Men are the way they are because God created them that way and set a universal pattern for them to be that way. Women are the way they are because God made them to be that way.

This is why conservative Calvinists get up in arms about masculinity, femininity, and gender roles.  Stepping outside those roles is not only going against God's will, but it is denying the inescapable nature of biology. In Calvinist theology, one could say that we know God has fixed roles for men and women because historically, and naturalistically, those roles have existed for millennia.

In other words....If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The interesting thing about this framework is how it could be tied to evolution.  We are the way we are because we could be no other way.  We were formed by our world and selection pressures to develop into what we are. The environment, food sources, and our relationship/interaction with other competing animals formed us. Different pressures would have caused different results.

In this case, Nature made us and there is no resisting Nature.

In reality, Calvinists could readily incorporate evolution into their theology because it would allow for a portrayal of evolution as God's sovereign, guiding hand. They usually don't, not because it couldn't be done, but because it would have implications for how they read and interpret Scripture.

In Calvinism, everything has a reason.  In evolution, everything has a result.

Calvinism assumes a purpose moving forward according to plan.  Evolution assumes a purpose discovered through the past. Calvinism assumes an intentional progression towards a finite, determined end.  Evolution assumes an infinite progression without an end, sprouting from a finite beginning.

They are mirror images of each other in a strange way.

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