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THEOLOGY > Man > Question of Evolution > Man's Religious Life 


Acceptance of the evolution of man implies the acceptance of the evolution of religion. As man progressed from lower life forms, he progressed in his religious needs and in the development of beliefs to satisfy those needs. Religion, therefore, is a reflection of man’s search for meaning where there is no Absolute Meaning. From the evolutionary perspective religion is interpreted naturalistically and humanistically.

Questions arose in the mind of primitive man: what or who controls the cycles of nature, what is responsible for the movement of the heavenly bodies, why is there the repetition of the seasons, what about the weather cycle, what is the cause of fertility, and is there life after death? In this scenario religion became a search for security in the midst of uncertainty.

Ancient rituals—such as offerings to perceived deities, nature dances, fertility rites, and burial practices—that arose are claimed to reflect this evolutionary progress of religion. With the rituals there developed a rudimentary priesthood that had oversight of the rituals, maintained them, and passed them on to the next generation. Thus elementary religion began.

Coupled with the evolution of religious belief is the evolution of ethics, a sense of morality that is supposed to be glimpsed in such primitive activities as bonding, cooperation, and by the attachment of a fish, bird, or animal to similar life forms establishing a group, the beginning of community. Maintenance and development of the group dictated that some order be established.

Advancement in religious beliefs and ethical norms increased, claim the evolutionist, in proportion to the supposed development of the brain that allowed for more complex thought and reflective capability on the ways of nature.

Thus religion is the culmination of the same forces involved in the struggle and survival of the humanoid species, and joined to the evolving intellectual contemplation of the humanoid. Some even suggest a God gene (VMAT2) that predisposes the individual to religious belief and acceptance of a higher power, but the word “God” does not refer to the Christian God—it is merely a religious word for any religious experience, some sort of spiritual state.

Viewed from the evolutionary perspective, the Bible is an evolved composition, that borrowed from the growing consensus of a God, coupled with insights gained from surrounding cultures. The Bible, therefore, is a literary work that must be critiqued and treated like all other works of men; it has no supernatural quality nor normative value.

In terms of Christianity, according to the evolutionist, the progression was from the God of the Old Testament who was fearful and at times tyrannical to the God who is a Father figure in the New Testament. Again, the message is evolving and is totally dependent on emerging human deliberation. There is no room for the idea that religion may be related to revealed Truth, or that religion is a search for the Truth that exists because God exists.

Belief that monotheism was a late arrival is not a new idea, but it has become popular since Darwin popularized the evolutionary theory in the 1800’s. Celsus (AD 178), according to Origen, claimed that the monotheism of the Jews initially was polytheism.

Contrary to the above thinking is the Christian teaching, that is predicated on God and His creation of man in His own image and likeness. Associated with the image was an original knowledge of the one and only God, and a knowledge of His precepts. This was possible because man was created with full intellectual ability that gave to him the capacity for knowledge of and communication with God (see: Innate Knowledge of God and Innate Knowledge).

Originally, therefore, man was decidedly monotheistic. The one God that man believed in was known in the Old Testament as Yahweh and known in the New Testament as the Father of the Lord Jesus. Belief was not in two or more separate gods, but in one and the same God. And the God who man initially believed in was the God who is revealed in Scripture.

Man’s knowledge of God was the result of God, not man; this is to affirm that the basis for true religion is Revelation not imagination. The God-concept originated with God, meaning that man’s belief in God originates with God’s Self-revelation, not with man’s creative grasp for psychological support. At the point of his creation, man knew God and felt the need to worship God; so religion is anchored in the deed of God not the supposed evolutionary thinking of man.

Following the Fall in Eden, religion deteriorated into henotheism (belief in a main god among many gods), polytheism (belief in many gods), pantheism (belief that god is the world), and animism (worship of spirit beings in nature). The religions of man, therefore, are a reflection of corruption not evolution; initially there was monotheism, followed by deformed and deteriorating expressions of that core and initial belief.

True religion is vertical in its origination and in its focus;
false religion is horizontal in its origination, development, and focus.

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