The God of Love v. Nature red in tooth and claw.
Posted on 19 September 2015, 16:19
“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small..The Lord God made them all” we sang in Sunday School. Put that alongside the slaughterhouse of war, the constant suffering both in humans and animals, and ask whether there is a God of love to whom we can pray. I believe there is, but we do need to look realities in the face. I have been reading a book by Nicola Hoggard Creegan: Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil. OUP 2013.
She preserves faith in a God of love, by questioning some of the assumptions of orthodoxy: that there is some “omni” God external to creation, omni-present, omni-potent, omni-scient. But in All That Is, a God of love is to be found, as if in a field where there are wheat growing as intended, and tares or weeds that are not. Nicola is referring to a parable Jesus told about a farmer whose wheat field is filled with wheat and tares, and who is asked whether the tares should be removed. The farmer said, no, because if you pull up the tares you will pull up the wheat. I can’t do justice to Nicola’s very insightful book here. But it is an important point: if the farmer (God) wants any harvest, he has to let the tares remain. Furthermore if there is merit in the Genesis story of the Fall, it will be as a parable of our spiritual separation from this God of love. Evolutionary theory of any kind precludes any period of primeval innocence in the past. Nature, red in tooth and claw, has always been a fact.
God is not Father Christmas. He, Creative Spirit or Mind, is in all, through all and above all. God is the God of the Gospel of John, or the Christ who embraces all creation. And in that creation are the wheat and the tares. And, if we are gardeners, we know that it is often hard to distinguish the weeds from the plants that we want to keep.
If we keep such a God in mind, when we think about the evolutionary process, and the innumerable species of living beings that are to be found, is it conceivable that an external God should suddenly get it into his head to create an anteater, or a poisonous snake. I dont even bother to write a question mark.
In considering the evolutionary process, we can note that most of it occurred in a comparatively short time, namely the Cambrian period; that even if we can agree about the order in which various species came into being, we should be very doubtful that the species arose through random mutation. Mutations are nearly always harmful to an organism, so how could it be that a multitude of them will produce a new perfectly functioning and viable species? We do not find “missing links” between one species and the next. This is where materialist Darwinism is bankrupt.
So how might evolution occur?
We need to keep reminding ourselves that our thoughts can be governed by two world views: the first that there is nothing but the physical world as presented to us by our senses; everything has come about by chance, and is meaningless, purposeless. The only way that evolution can come about is by random, chance mutatations of the genes. The second world view is that mind and consciousness create all things, that the physical world is a phenomenon of mind in the first place, and is the projection of Creative Mind. Call this “God”, “Word” whatever you will. This is the view of quantum physicist David Bohm and many others. With all that comes the idea of quantum entanglement, everything being connected to all else in all dimensions. So the suggestion is that evolution comes about through a kind of dialogue between a particular organism and Mind at large. Somehow Mind at large holds the memory of the flight path that migratory birds have followed over the ages. Each bird refers to Mind at large as it flies. The suggestion is that one species evolves into another in creative dialogue with Mind at large. Should there be a permanent supply of large quantities of ants, then a species will begin to specialise and eventually develop a snout specifically designed to scoop up lots of ants. It is hardly likely that the ant eating snout developed, and then the animal looked around for food suited to that snout. The idea that it comes about through random mutations doesn’t make sense. Creative Mind in general interacts with itself in the particular, and an anteater comes into being. We could say that creation comes about “within God” so to speak. The suggestion makes sense, but the process has probably never been caught in the act of formation. But neither has “the missing link”, and that is the weak point with materialist Darwinism. The idea that new species come into being within Creative Mind, makes much better sense than random mutations, because when an organism develops a specific feature, we can usually ask what function that feature serves, and the answer will be plain. The multiplicity of species fits in best with the idea that a species changes in creative interplay with Mind at large.
So to come back to the problem of suffering and what we call evil: the only God we need to consider is the one that is in all through all and above all. But let us not assume that we really know what we are talking about, since All that Is must for ever be beyond the reach of our questing minds. Let us agree that there has been some process of evolution, and that there has been a creative interplay between the parts and the whole. In this creative interplay things will come into being which we may want to label as being good or evil. When we see the antelope suffering as the lion bites into it neck, we feel for the animal and are horrified. We say “evil”. But when we consider that the lion kills more often the sick and the weak, and the less perfect, then we could say the lion is performing a service to the antelopes, helping them to become as a species the more perfect. Then we are inclined to use the word “good”. Sometimes human beings go through great mental and spiritual suffering - “not good” - but sometimes through suffering the person grows spiritually – then we call it ”good”.
Often come the true evil obscenities of war, damage is done which will have ill effects for generations. Not good.
We recall the ruthless brutalities that the Romans inflicted in the nations they conquered over several centuries, the slaughter and the genocides. Evil certainly. But Roman law is developed, a universal language, Latin is used to unite many countries and play a role in their civilisation. Do we now regret that Rome existed? Perhaps not.
Almost always we find the Farmer’s field of wheat full of tares. But the wheat is harvested. And if we put the whole of life together, however much we may have suffered, we will probably echo Tevye’s song in The Fiddler on the Roof, L’haim, l’haim, to life! To Life! With full heart. In the big picture, wheat and tares, but the harvest is life.
The really big picture is the realm of eternal life the purposes of which are being served in this temporary life in the physical.
For the eye of faith, the Father-Mother God is eternally with us, enclosing us, nurturing us, holding us close. I do like the words quoted in the Anglican funeral service, “Neither death nor life, principalities and powers, can ever separate us from the love of God.” Whether we experience what we consider to be good or evil, we are conscious participants in this great indivisible whole, for eternity. There is most certainly evil in this world, and there are countless loveless, suffering, psychotic and degrading lives. With the eye of faith we see this in temporary physical incarnations, while affirming that Mind is not divided, and that at least after death, sufferers will rediscover that they part and parcel of that Love.
The reader may like to look again at my previous blog when I dealt with the question of good and evil from another point of view.
Michael Cocks edits the journal, The Ground of Faith.
Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr by Michael Cocks is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.
His latest book, Into the Wider Dream: Synchronicity in the Witness Box is published by White Crow Books.