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About Human Origins And Human Nature

In the book of Daniel it is prophesied that "knowledge shall increase" until the time of the end, and indeed it has. Unlike those who lived during Biblical times, we now know that the earth is spherical in shape; that it, along with the other planets, revolves around the sun; that our solar system is just a very small part of an immense universe; and that both the universe and the earth are extremely old. We also know more about our own biological origins. The scientific evidence indicating that we, along with the other life forms which inhabit the earth, have all evolved from a common ancestor and are biological relatives is compelling. Scientists refer to the 'fact' of evolution, and I believe that there is justification for this.

Many religious people (not just fundamentalist Christians) cannot accept this. Perhaps this is because it conflicts with the explanation of our origins found in their sacred writings, or perhaps it is because the idea that we are, in the physical sense, a part of the animal kingdom is abhorrent to them, or perhaps it is for both of these reasons. But the evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that if one wanted to believe, for example, that God created life on earth in a semi-instantaneous fashion several thousand years ago then it would also have to be believed that He did so in such a way as to make it appear that evolution had occurred.

On the other hand, there are those who accept evolution but fail to appreciate the spiritual significance of it. If humans are a part of the animal kingdom, then human nature is essentially no different from the basic nature of other animals. And what is an animal's nature? Selfish. This is readily apparent to anyone who has ever observed animal behavior. Throw a piece of bread to a flock of pigeons and watch them fight over it- it's every pigeon for him/herself. This selfishness is an intrinsic biological characteristic- it is rooted in our genes- and is a logical consequence of the evolutionary process (see, for example, "The Selfish Gene" by zoologist Richard Dawkins, as well as other works).

Of course, being highly intelligent social animals, human selfishness (egoism) tends to be more subtle and more difficult to discern than that of pigeons. We are higher primates, and we share basic behavioral traits with our close relatives the apes. In a recent book, anthropologist Meredith F. Small made the following observation:

"As near relatives, what they [other primates] do and how they act often echo what we do and how we act, and vice versa. At the most basic behavioral level, all primates, including humans, are highly social animals. We live in groups of various sizes and, by definition, must manipulate our social companions through competition or cooperation."
That is, we must manipulate our fellow humans in order to achieve our self-centered desires. Moreover, from the standpoint of self-interest, when living within a social context it can be a successful behavioral strategy to be nice, kind, helpful and, to a certain extent, to share. This is especially true for humans because we are so heavily dependent upon our social companions for even our most basic needs. Also, it can confer a competitive advantage upon individuals to form various sorts of alliances, both large (e.g. nations) and small (e.g. friendships), with others.

This view of human nature as being fundamentally selfish does not conflict with the tenets of Christianity, but rather is in good accord with them. By this I mean that the Christian view of human nature is that it is evil; that this evil is rooted in our flesh; and what defines behavior as evil is the quality of selfishness. But the message of Christianity is that we have the potential, spiritually, to overcome this evil nature and become one with God and partake of His nature, which is good. We can be born of the Spirit, through Christ, and not live according to the dictates of our flesh. But this involves a radical departure from even what would be considered as 'good' behavior by human standards. Christ told his disciples that they would be "hated by all" (Mt 10:22), and, though it may seem somewhat paradoxical, this is to be expected if one does not pursue self-interest, even in a socially acceptable manner.


About Love

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the New Testament is that which states that "God is love" (1Jn 4:8). The world has latched on to this statement and assimilated it into its collective consciousness. It is a popular sentiment. But there is a problem. The problem is that God's love is qualitatively different from what the world understands and refers to as love. It is a fundamental position of Christianity that the world does not know God (nor has it ever or will it ever know Him). Consequently, if God is love, the world cannot know what true love is. The 'love' that belongs to the world is something which is basically a product of our biological nature and therefore is grounded in our natural egoism. In all of its various forms, it is really just a manifestation of self-love.

God's love, on the other hand, "seeks not its own" (1Cor 13:5) but the good of the one who is loved- it has the inherent quality of self-sacrifice, and is not concerned about the possibility of gaining rewards or avoiding punishments, either here or hereafter. Neither is it partial. It applies to strangers and enemies as well as friends and relatives. And it is definitely not a transitory emotion. It is something which a person can only comprehend and experience if they have become spiritually united with God and have taken on His nature, in which case it becomes the prime mover of all thoughts and actions.


About Sexuality

Some time ago, I read a book about the films of Ingmar Bergman. In it there was a commentary about the film "The Virgin Spring", which is set in the Middle Ages and involves the story of a young girl journeying to a church who is raped and murdered by some goatherds she encounters along the way. According to the author, she was partly responsible for her own undoing because she had flirted with her assailants prior to the crime. "She has no awareness of the darker passions underlying sexuality", he asserted. I don't know if the author fully appreciated the significance of that statement (probably not), but I certainly did. It is something that I have a deep, unwavering conviction about- namely, that there are dark passions which underlie sexuality.

The world commonly refers to having sex as 'making love', and to those who have sex with each other as 'lovers'. I consider this to be a terrible lie. In order for it to be referred to as love, it would have to be an act of selfless generosity rather than one of selfish, carnal, desire. Sex is a part of our animal nature- we are driven by our inner biology to pass on our 'selfish genes'. Certainly, animals are incapable of being motivated by true love (i.e. God's love), and having sex is integral to their behavior. There is no reason to expect that human motives, at the deepest level and simply insofar as the physical act of sex itself is concerned, are fundamentally different. One simple corroboration of the negative, unloving quality of basic sexual urges is the fact that psychologists seem to agree that when suppressed these urges can find an alternative outlet in the form of violent, destructive, sadistic, and even murderous behavior.

But there is an added dimension to sexuality for humans which results from our higher intelligence and consciousness. For me, it is easy to see that pride plays a very considerable and distinctive role in human sexuality. This is true not only in relation to the behavior that is both directly and indirectly connected with the physical act of sex, but also in relation to the desire to produce offspring. This latter aspect sets us apart from other animals- as far as we can tell even the more intelligent species do not have a conscious awareness of the reproductive function of sex- and can be an additional and important motive for us to have sex.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with God or His Spirit. In terms of spiritual purification, it is, in fact, something to be overcome. And when I say overcome, I mean that in the fullest sense of the word. The attitude towards sexuality which is expressed in the New Testament is overwhelmingly negative, and celibacy is clearly the ideal state for a Christian (although marriage is also considered acceptable for those who cannot attain to celibacy). The emphasis is definitely not upon romance, marriage, procreation, family life, etc., as seems to be the case among professing Christians today. I sincerely doubt that anyone would ever consider reading the whole of the seventh chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians out loud at a contemporary Christian wedding ceremony because it would be certain to cast a pall over the festivities. If you are interested in reading it yourself, I have created a special page containing it which you can visit by clicking HERE.


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