We live in a modern world that no longer thinks of little gods in the sky. The only reason for creation that makes sense in the context of the modern world and of the love we see in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is that a God outside time began a process 13.7 billion years ago with a big bang and a mechanism called evolution in the hope/belief/knowledge that ‘in time’ sentient species – maybe just one or perhaps millions – would develop that were capable of loving each other. In that sense the traditional description of ‘man being made in the image of God’ is correct because Jesus tells us that the most important reality in the universe is ‘love’.
The key point to get over in this section is an alternative perspective on what the point of creation is; first however, because Christian thought has become contaminated with the extremes of fundamentalist thinking in the eyes of the agnostic public who are not really sure what to believe, it may help to distinguish between fundamental truth and mechanism. The fundamental truth that all the great monotheistic religions share is that an entity/being we describe as God created the universe and all things that are. For 99% of human history (religious belief is traced back to c.9000BCE) creation has been attributed to the divine. As human thought developed in the age of enlightenment and reacted against the enforced caricatures of The Church (the enlightenment being a thing of the Christian West) the need for a God to make the world turn disappeared and an atheist viewpoint developed; however, the response of the many scientists of profound faith throughout recent history is to understand the distinct separation between ‘creation as a truth’ and ‘evolution as a mechanism for how the world/creation/humankind/animals got to be the way they are’.
This alternative perspective builds both on the scientific understanding on which our thinking is based and on the revelation of God that we see in the person of Jesus of Nazareth: it postulates that the rational for creation involves a Creator God outside time beginning a process 13.7 billion years ago with a Big Bang and with a mechanism called evolution in the hope/aspiration/plan that would see the development of one, two, a thousand, or an infinity of sentient species capable of loving each other. Technically of course if you are outside time then you see both the beginning and the end end simultaneously so what begins as hope, aspiration & intention is both a plan and an actuality at the same time.
Those who hold out against current scientific thinking tend to do so as a way of ‘holding the line’ against a modern world that changes at speeds beyond our comprehension at times. At the same time you might ask “is there any proof for any of this?” No there isn’t. Depending on your own psychological make up you may say that you KNOW that God exists – the killer punch in the argument – or you might either believe in the conventional manner which rationalizes your understanding to some extent. The particular two elements of rationalizing that appeal to me are: first the 17C philosopher Pascal arguing that the risks of not believing in God and being proved wrong far outweighed the risks the other way around; and second the C S Lewis passage in The Silver Chair (Narnia series) where Puddleglum the marshwiggle tries to contradicts the Green Witch whilst fighting the hallucinogenic effect of her scented fire:
“One word, Ma’am” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.What I have described above is a model in the sense of scientific understanding, where an explanation attempts to describe/explain the way something works is postulated and tested. In time it is either superseded by a better explanation, i.e. it’s ‘shot down’ as not explaining the facts properly, or it stands the test of time and continues to present a valid picture. In the case of this attempt to describe the fundamental truth of the world the model might become out of date as new facts/insights arise, but, in the now, it gives us a way of engaging the religious and the ‘real world’ sides of our brain without the kind of conflict that most people avoid by denying the truth of a God-centered understanding or a scientific understanding.