Creation: The Missing Ingredient in Religious Studies
When secular experts talk about the evolution of religion, they make gods of themselves.
It’s one thing to study the history of religions and to compare their similarities and differences; that’s a matter of scholarly research using historical materials. It’s a totally different thing to speak of religions emerging and evolving over time, as if religion emerged in our hominid past and has been evolving on a line of progress. Scholars who do that are donning the Yoda Complex costume and pretending to be gods themselves, knowing good and evil.
What led to the emergence of monotheism? (Live Science). In this piece, Isobel Whitcomb and her chosen experts come just shy of stating that religion is a product of evolution. They speak of religions emerging and changing over time. One expert speaks of “evolutionary monotheism,” but another warns that such terms oversimplify the history. Matthew Chalmers, a theorist of religion at Northwestern University, gets the punch line:
“I don’t think there is a transition to monotheism,” Chalmers said…. Instead, the distinction between polytheism and monotheism is one we’ve made in retrospect to try and make sense of our own history.
“It’s a modern imposition,” Haines said, “It allows us to map monotheism as a move towards progress.“
But what if it is, instead, a move towards regress? Biblical Christianity (and Judaism) begins with perfect knowledge of God. The first pair walked with God. But when sin entered, so did deception and confusion. The perfect knowledge of God was lost. Humans turned to evil, pride and selfishness – and yet they had innate knowledge of God from what has been made, Paul says (Romans 1:18-22). The apostle John says that Christ is the true light that enlightens every man who enters the world. Pagan religions, then, are human attempts to fill the “God-shaped vacuum” in their hearts with inventions from their own imaginations. Many of these have been corrupt and evil (see 13 Dec 2020).
This is a polar opposite position from the evolutionary “progress” view. The Bible further teaches that false religion and evil will get worse and worse toward the end. Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
The Creator Is Known, but Denied
According to the Biblical view, consequently, Whitcomb, Chalmers and all the other so-called experts on religion are denying what they know and promoting false views of history. From their Yoda perch as experts who presume to speak about ultimate reality, they twist and distort the knowledge of God they have and know. They compare and contrast all the corrupted religions with an underlying assumption that all religions are false, because science has proved that humans evolved. If that were not the case, would they not write about pure knowledge of God based on creation, and speak of everything else as corruption and degradation of the truth? Instead of arguing that polytheistic religions all lead to the same God as those in the monotheistic religions, wouldn’t they speak of the innate knowledge of a universal Creator God in the human heart as the true worldview that has been corrupted and defiled into pagan religions?
In his book Eternity in Their Hearts, missionary Don Richardson spoke from his personal experience on the mission field, describing members of native tribes having a deep, often unexpressed inner sense of a single, universal Creator God who is over all. That knowledge would be manifest sometimes in times of distress, when the polytheist or animist would cry out to the “unknown God,” like the Romans did, who built an altar “to the unknown God” during a particular crisis in their history. Paul used that altar to point them to the true God – the Creator:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…. (Acts 17:24-27).
When Yoda-like experts on the evolution of religion deny their Creator, nothing they say about religion or faith (other than historical facts about what particular people groups believed at the time) can have any authority or provide any benefit to their readers, because it is a denial of reality at its very source.
Experts in the “evolution of religion” are most often Darwinists, who believe in the Stuff Happens Law. They are usually materialists as well, which makes them genetic determinists, too. This eliminates them from the competition for knowledge at square one, because they have to admit that their words are matters of survival, not truth or morality. Their heavy talk becomes glorified ape screeches. Their writings become strategies for passing on their genes in the endless game of “fitness” (whatever that is).
Those with Yoda complexes need to take off their costumes, get down on the playing field with ordinary human beings, study the beauty and complexity of creation, then listen to their consciences, and do what the Creator God commands them to do: repent and believe the gospel. Then they will receive forgiveness of sin and become a new creation, with the Spirit of God within them to guide them into the truth. From then on, to the extent their words are in accord with what the Creator has revealed about himself, they might have worthwhile things to say. It all starts with acknowledging creation.