NT Wright: If Creation is Through Christ, Evolution is What You Would Expect
A clip from N.T. Wright’s talk, "Christ and Creation: Exploring the Paradox," which opened the 2017 BioLogos conference.
Before You Read
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When we say that all things are made in and through and for Jesus the Messiah, this is the Jesus we must be talking about. There is no other. He is the same yesterday and today and forever. This means we should at least try to think what it might mean to say that this Jesus and this vision of the Kingdom is the lens through which we might understand creation itself. Instead of starting with a great act of creation, however we can conceive it, and then fitting Jesus somehow into it; saying he was somehow fit into it; saying he was somehow involved in it. We must somehow start with what we know of Jesus’ own vision of truth and the kingdom and power and ask what that might mean for creation itself. The results, I think, are striking.
To begin with, if creation comes through the kingdom bringing Jesus, we ought to expect it be like a seed growing secretly. That it would involve seed being sown in a prodigal fashion in which a lot went to waste, apparently, but other seed producing a great crop. We ought to expect that it be like a strange, slow process which might suddenly reach some kind of harvest. We ought to expect that it would involve some kind of overcoming of chaos. Above all, we ought to expect that it would be a work of utter, self-giving love. That the power which made the world, like the power which ultimately rescued the world, would be the power not of brute force, but of radical, outpoured generosity. We ought to expect, in other words, that the creation would not look like an oriental despot deciding to build a palace, and just throwing it up at speed, with his architects and builders cowering before him.
We ought to have anticipated that the Deists’ models of creation, conceived on the analogies of the early industrial successes, in the 17th and 18th centuries, might in fact be misleading. And that they would need correcting in the light of either of a better picture of the one through whom creation was accomplished—the Deists were keen to getting Jesus out of the picture—or in the light of fresh scientific research. No one in the late 18th or early 19th centuries was doing the kind of fresh work on Jesus and the gospels that would lead to this picture. But various scientists (not least the Darwin family a century before Charles Darwin), motivated by quite a different worldview—namely, Epicureanism—nonetheless come up with a picture of Origins that looks remarkably like Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom: some seeds go to waste, others bear remarkable fruit; some projects start tiny and take forever, but ultimately produce a great crop; some false starts are wonderfully rescued, others are forgotten. Chaos is astonishingly overcome.
This says nothing about generosity, since that word only makes sense in terms of a personal creator. Which the Epicureans, like Erasmus Darwin, Charles’s grandfather, had ruled out. That’s one of the major differences, but the evolutionists were driven again and again to speak of the prodigality of the natural world. The theologian can pick that up and say, “Yes! Precisely what you would expect if there was a God of boundless, generous love behind it all. The prodigal father. The God we know in and as Jesus the Messiah.”