Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Evolution: The Real Issue Revisited

Traditional Christian arguments against human evolution are unnecessary. As far as I can tell, human evolution poses no threat to traditional Christianity (except for literalistic and inerrantist scriptural interpretations, but there are plenty of other things that are at least as threatening to them as is evolution). The classic traditional Christian theological argument against human evolution, made popular in the Church by Joseph Fielding Smith, is “No Adam, no Fall; no Fall, no Atonement.” In other words, if there was no literal Adam as described by the Biblical account, who brought death into the world for the first time with the Fall, there is no need for Christ's atonement.

But I think this is a weak argument. All of us are mortal and all of us are sinners, regardless of whether this fact came about by a historical Fall or not. I need an atonement even if there was no historical Adam and Eve. This and other Christian arguments against human evolution have been thoroughly addressed and can be reconciled fairly easily, in my view. These are the kinds of questions that have been discussed in Mormon venues for the past few decades.

But what has not been addressed well at all, to my knowledge, is how human evolution seems to challenge uniquely Mormon doctrines. At Times & Seasons, Nate Oman correctly pointed out that the pinnacle of Mormon salvation is divine fecundity. Exaltation is fecundity: the “continuation of the seeds”. And this is where the really Mormon questions about human evolution arise.

Mormonism believes in an exalted human God, consisting of man and woman united in eternal marriage. As Erastus Snow put it:

There can be no God except he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, nor ever will be, a God in any other way. I have another description: There never was a God, and there never will be in all eternities, except they are made of these two component parts; a man and a woman; the male and the female.

(Journal of Discourses, 19:270-271.)

If this is the case, and if these exalted beings are capable of procreation, then the uniquely Mormon question regarding human evolution seems to be: Why would a God capable of procreating to create bodies in his own likeness and image for his spirit children resort to the long, involved, and messy process of evolution to provide bodies? Why not give birth to their bodies?

I think it is no coincidence that Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith, and others taught that Adam was literally the son of God. This fits perfectly with Mormon teachings about exaltation, but it seems difficult to reconcile with human evolution. Is there a good reconciliation of this question? I've never really even seen it addressed.

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