Friday, October 14, 2011

The Evolution of God

It is dangerous to take a theory that works in one area of knowledge and apply it to another without basis. I question whether the theory of evolution really works in biology. There are serious problems with the theory. But applying it without proof or mechanism to another area of study is illegitimate.One place where this is done is in the area of theology. It is claimed that the idea of God has evolved along certain lines from the simpler to the more complex. But is there any real evidence for this? It is clear that people's concepts of God can change, and we see certain basic ideas recurring. But is there a discernible direction or pattern or some hidden mechanism at work here?

One basis for saying there is such a process is an examination of primitive people.   But "primitive people" have been around just as long as civilized people. It may even be argued that they once had a higher  technological development and lost it through isolation and disuse. It is not surprising that those who have a similar technological environment would have similar theological beliefs. But in general, in theology you have a number of concepts of God that continuously reappear and trace back either to antiquity or to a particular individual or group that originated them. In theology, as in many other disciplines, it is the rare case when you come across a truly original idea.

Another approach to proving this point is to try to find passages in the Old Testament that show the Jewish people once had a more primitive idea of God. One argument is to take references to the gods, which in the context can be most simply taken as hypothetical, and use them to prove the Hebrews believed in more than one god (Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 8:19; Psalms 95:3). We ourselves frequently speak the same way when we speak of the Greek gods or the Babylonian gods. Paul uses the same kind of language in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 8:5). Also, they are forced to invent complicated theories to explain the composition of the Old Testament because other verses that say there is one God are found in the same contexts  (Exodus 34:13-17; Deuteronomy 6:4; 4:32-39). The fact that such complicated maneuvers are needed to maintain a point calls it into question. There is also the attempt to interpret, "You shall have no gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3) to mean that you can have other gods as long as you put God first. There are rare cases where "before" in Hebrew means this, but its normal meaning is "in the presence of," speaking of the presence of God with His people. This whole approach depends on reading things into the passages that are not found there in the most straightforward meaning in context. The whole idea that God evolved seems to be speculation, rather than anything that can be demonstrated.     

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