A reader from Memphis writes:
I found Annie Cee’s comment about Andrew Sullivan’s posting on evolution thought provoking. Though somewhat off topic, Annie argues the Shroud of Turin is evidence that “Christ really died, He really suffered, and He laid down all He had for this one purpose.” I agree insofar as its provenance is established and recognized. For me, that is true. But the Shroud is a wonderful example of a workable intersection of science and religion. And then again that is what this blog is supposed to be about.
I can see where Annie or any of us might think that Andrew Sullivan is attributing the words, “To Victory I am born,” to Jesus. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote: “As long as I am weak, I shall talk of Fate; whenever the God fills me with his fullness, I shall see the disappearance of Fate. I am defeated all the time; yet to Victory I am born." (emphasis mine: drp)
Annie does quote John’s Gospel: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life." That is in fact victory, victory over death. But Sullivan I think was also thinking about Christ’s victory over mankind’s earlier defeat in the garden of Eden; man’s original condition. Sullivan, a Catholic, is being metaphorical, of course, and he is on firm ground, theologically. But perhaps he goes too far in expanding the metaphor into a defense of evolution. Poor analogy, good science. I think he is right about evolution. I think most orthodox Christians would agree.
Alex Knapp recently wrote something in Forbes that I think goes to the heart of the matter:
I personally find the way that religion engages with the changing of cultural technology to be fascinating. Particularly because the differences in which different religions approach modern technology and science can sometimes be stark. Heck, even within different Christian denominations, the difference is stark. Many Christian denominations have no problem reconciling science, reason and faith — heeding St. Paul’s words to “test everything” and “hold on to the good.” The Catholic Church, for example, has embraced modern science and technology to a very broad extent. The Vatican has its own Observatory, is exploring an open source ethos, accepts evolution, and on the whole has rejected its stereotypical medieval anti-science stereotype. As Pope Leo XIII wrote in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus:
The unshrinking defence of the Holy Scripture, however, does not require that we should equally uphold all the opinions which each of the Fathers or the more recent interpreters have put forth in explaining it; for it may be that, in commenting on passages where physical matters occur, they have sometimes expressed the ideas of their own times, and thus made statements which in these days have been abandoned as incorrect.
That’s a very simple and logical way of looking at it. Unfortunately, there’s another large strain of Christianity that rejects large portions of modern science, technology and even the Internet. Famous Christian apologist Josh McDowell recently railed against the internet, calling it a great threat to Christians. The unintentionally hilarious evangelical movie Fireproof has a scene where Kirk Cameron’s character destroys his computer in order to remove the temptation of internet porn. And of course, there’s no shortage of Christian organizations devoted to denying evolutionary theory. (Or even, in fringe cases, some that deny heliocentrism.)
Of course, this tension between religion and science exists not only among Christian sects, but also between sects of many different religions. As someone who’s fascinated by both science and religion, I think that’s a shame. Especially when you consider that many of the great scientists in history didn’t see a conflict between religion and science. The great Muslim scientist Ibn Rushd was also an Imam. Isaac Newton wrote more about the Bible than he wrote about physics.
Getting back to the shroud, earlier this year, the Catholic News Agency reported:
[T]he Pope recalled the suffering of Christ he saw in the image of the Shroud of Turin during his 2010 visit to the city. The image, he said, "invites us to reflect on he who took upon himself the passion of man, of every time and place, even our sufferings, our difficulties, our sins."
As Annie said, CNA continues:
The wounds present from his passion and death, "become the sign of our redemption, of forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father" gained by his resurrection, the Pope explained. The wounds were a test for the first disciple’s faith and for Christians today, he pointed out.
Just as it was for the disciples, suffering is still full of mystery and difficult to bear, he wrote.
But, said the Pope, "it is precisely through the wounds of Christ that we are able to see with eyes of hope, all the evils that afflict humanity. In rising again, the Lord did not remove suffering and evil from the world, but he defeated them at their root."
And that is Victory. With Christ, evolution is also God’s victory, as I see it. Annie won’t agree but that is the way I see it.