I find Christianity (and Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc.) perplexing. I suppose Kierkegaard would want me to embrace this feeling (as regards Christianity). I admit my perplexity because I do not want to come across as angry or hostile in these essays. I really want to understand religion and humankind’s possible relationship with the divine better.
One of the things that troubles me with Christianity is the claim that it is only through Christ that one can achieve salvation, which I take to mean primarily that it is only through Christ that you’ll be with God, etc. This would seem to leave A LOT of people in the lurch through no fault of their own, simply because they never heard of Christ and Christianity. And it would leave those in the lurch for whom, again through no real fault of their own, Christianity is not a live option (in William James’s sense). A student of mine kindly pointed me to one of the Catholic catechisms that seems to address this concern (Thank you Mr. Shapland). It is here and reads:
1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
That doesn’t completely allay my concern, but it goes some way toward it. But that is merely, at this point, an illustration of one issue I have, it is not the main topic here.
I am currently reading God is Red: A Native View of Religion by Vine Deloria, Jr. One of his goals is to compare Christianity with Native American religious traditions. He writes:
The major thesis of the Christian religion is … contained in its creation story, because it is for the redemption of man that the atonement of Jesus of Nazareth is considered to make sense. (Locations 1428-35 on my Kindle)
Deloria, Jr. takes issue with this, but not for the reason I wish to. If we start with the point that the fallenness of humans is required to make sense of Jesus as redeemer, then we are lead to a dilemma.
If the fallenness is only metaphorical, in the sense that we are simply imperfect from the get go, then God is responsible for our state, not us, even if God has given us free will to choose our actions. Our reasons for action are too complex and convoluted to say that every actual choice made is purely free or not (even if we were to be libertarians about free will). The point here is that it is an odd story, to say the least, that God, who is perfect, creates an imperfect world from the start only to try to make up for it in the end by having Jesus come into the world as redeemer. Again, this point really depends on the free will problem, which I have only gestured at.
Assuming it’s not supposed to be merely metaphorical, what evidence do we have that any such fall occurred in human history? None, it seems to me. The evidence for evolution of humans from simpler organisms is very, very strong. The evidence for a Garden of Eden scenario with God creating whole two humans is nonexistent. It is only the word of some people who were understandably trying to make sense of how we got here, why we are so often cruel, selfish, and greedy, and why the world is so full of pain and suffering.
Aside from contradicting a literal interpretation of parts of the Judeo-Christian Bible, I’ve wondered why Christians need to be so worried about evolution of humans from simpler organisms. It seems clear to me now, given the above considerations, that the possibility of our evolution from simpler organisms pushes the Christian into the uncomfortable situation of either denying humans are fallen, which removes much of the raison d’être of Jesus, or denying that evolution occurred. And given what I’ve said above, it’s clear which part of the dilemma I think is false. Any thoughts?