Many theologians have become interested in the implications of Darwinism for Christianity and religion in general. Within our church the debates about evolution have often been centered on figuring out just what the church’s position on evolution actually is. It’s confused because there are abundant negative statements by general authorities, including church presidents, who believed that evolution has its roots in the devil himself. Darwinism in this view is completely incompatible with Mormonism. These debates, I believe, have distracted us from thinking deeply about the implications of Darwinism for our unique and powerful teachings. I’m sure these debates about evolution will continue. Too many people have invested too much time in defending one side or the other. However, Darwinism is winning and I believe the idea that a strict literalism is necessary for our theology is dangerous and mistaken. Christian thinkers and scholars are actively pursuing new theological insights which are informed by evolutionary biology and its implications. Wonderful things are appearing that are both insightful and meaningful. This, I think is an important and proactive approach, rather than retreating into the dark corners of the God of the Gaps, which seems to inform the fundamentalist (Christian, not FLDS) creationists. So as a thought experiment, whether you believe evolution is mistaken, or if you, like me, believe that evolution is true in its broad outlines, let’s try and work out what it would mean for our beliefs if it is true. So assume for the sake of argument that evolution is true. Humans evolved just like science says they did. The Earth is 4.5 odd Billion years old, life appeared 3.5 billion years ago, humans came out of ape-like ancestors like Lucy about 3.5 million years ago. Assume all this is true. Can we answer the following questions in new ways? Can we fit our stories, our beliefs, and our doctrine within this framework? Remember we are stipulating that Darwinism is true, so don’t argue about the truth of these things, only explore: IF they are true, how can we understand the following? Specifically,
Who were Adam and Eve?
What does it mean that they fell?
How do we understand the Fall?
What is the nature of the Natural Man?
What is the nature of Evil?
What does it mean that there was no death before the Fall?
How can we understand the Atonement?
Are there implications for the Resurrection?
What does it mean for understanding of a physical God?
What are the implications of God’s hand in Creation?
Can we still talk about McConkie’s three pillars Creation, Fall, Atonement? How can we understand these?
So got that? Assume evolution is true. Pick one, or more, of the above and explore how we can understand the topic in light of the assumption of evolution’s reality. No arguing about the truth of evolution. We are assuming it. We may find in this exercise that our deepest and most important doctrines are friendlier to the possibility evolution than we thought.