Adapted To Eternity
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mat 16:24-26)
Fitness is a handy concept because it lumps everything that matters to natural selection (survival, mate-finding, reproduction) into one idea. The fittest individual is not necessarily the strongest, fastest, or biggest. A genotype's fitness includes its ability to survive, find a mate, produce offspring-and ultimately leave its genes in the next generation.
I chose this quote from a site on evolution as a good contrast with what Jesus said, not because I'm not interested in arguing about evolution, but because so many people today simply accept scientific statements as the basis of truth. As a theory to explain variation within the species "natural selection" is OK, but doesn't really say all that much when you think about it. It just says that those individuals that have traits suited to their environment are more likely to survive in that environment. Yawn. But wait - a lot of people want to take this fairly self-evident statement and build a whole metaphysics around it. That's a problem. Good science is not necessarily valid moral philosophy and we have to examine those "a priori assumptions" when we do philosophy.
The idea of "natural selection" starts with an assumption that most people never even think about. It seems so obvious, so "natural" that most people don't even see the assumption. The assumption is embedded in the statement I quoted above: "ability to survive." The basic metaphysical assumption of the theory of evolution is that everything is driven by a desire to survive. Period. No questions are asked or allowed about that; you are just supposed to ignore the fact they made that assumption and go on and do your lessons. Fine for science class, but it is BAD PHILOSOPY to do that.
First of all, the idea that life is "adapted" for survival is misleading. It is not. Here's a clue: everything dies. So, what they really mean by "ability to survive" is really "ability to reproduce and leave similar offspring." Get the point? It's not the survival of the individual that the theory of evolution is concerned with; it's the survival of the species. Any trait that allows the species to continue from generation to generation is considered an advantage. So, that's why I "yawn" at the whole thing. It may be interesting to some, but it tells me nothing of what I need to do as an individual. Worse, if you try and build moral philosophy on that assumption you end up with the conclusion that you are nothing more than a cog on a wheel, a bit player in the larger movement of the species called "human." You don't survive, but the species does, and thus the group is more important than the individual. Better hook up with the right group then, go along to get along, compromise to gain a survival advantage, etc. So, it's easy to understand why the elitists, socialists and communists love the theory of evolution.
The teaching of Jesus concerns itself with individual moral choice, and the survival of the individual soul, not group association or species survival. The question He raises is, "What are you to do with your life?" The answer for most, unfortunately, is to have lots of physical comforts, and the better you are at getting "stuff" the more successful you are considered to be. That was the situation Jesus described in this parable.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luk 12:16-21)
It's so obvious, yet so many people seem to ignore the fact that "you can't take it with you." Once you accept the materialistic philosophy that there is no existence beyond this physical existence, you are pretty much doomed to a life like the man in the story. Just when you think you got it made, some irritating thing (like dying) comes along and it's all over. Your life was spent seeking a goal you can never attain. You desired to survive and failed.
Once we realize that the physical state of existence is temporary, we have to face and answer the question, "What's the point?" This troubles many people, it seems, and they can't quite grasp the Christian idea of "dying to self" because it appears contradictory. Why should I be born, struggle to survive, and then die? How you answer the question determines your course in this life and eternity.
Unfortunately, Christian teaching often diminishes this question to something trivial. Life, they will tell you, is about survival. But since you don't survive, you better get to Heaven so that you can survive. Ok, fine, that's true, but...
WHAT AM I TO DO IN THE MEANTIME? I got my "salvation" and I'm all set for eternity, so just live it up here and now? Nope. This life does have a point beyond physical comforts, beyond getting God's approval so that you get to heaven. Life is more than just slogging through to get to heaven when you die. If that's all life was, I would conclude life's just a cruel joke played on us by a malicious deity. So, what is it? What's it all about?
What it's ALL ABOUT is God's glory.
God's infinite being is manifested through His creation. Time and space and causality shows His nature. The physical laws of the universe give it a remarkable stability, an expression of God's reason. No matter what happens, things eventually will balance back out, and the universe keeps chugging along, doing its thing. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." In other words, the physical universe inherently seeks "justice."
So, stop thinking "physical" for a moment and look at God's nature as "moral." His moral nature is hinted at in the structure of all things, but is not made truly manifest through inanimate things or the animals. They act on instinct, not moral choice. Morality, to be truly expressed, requires a choice. You can do what is moral, or not. We humans are the ones faced with moral choice, and thus we can manifest God's moral nature in a limited, physical, space-time existence. We are the "image and likeness" of the creator because we can do that. OK? We are not "adapted" to a physical existence as the rocks, and animals and plants are. Our consciousness and moral sense lifts us up from that level. We are "adapted" to expressing the eternal things of God - reason, intelligence, creativity, moral choice, and above all - love.
Love in it's full understanding is not "you-make-me-feel-good-so-I-love-you" kind of thing. That's a selfish idea of love. Love as God talks about is a denial of self for the benefit of another's need. That's not exactly what the evolutionist thinks motivates our actions is it? Obviously, the theory needs some work, but we are motivated by moral concerns, not just physical survival or survival of the species.
Truly, those of a spiritual, eternal nature, are not always well adapted to this world. We don't seem to fit in anywhere. That's because we are adapted to something else. We are adapted to eternity and eternal existence with God. We are here for a time to make that nature of God manifest in limited form. And, when men stop obsessing over physical things and physical survival, and begin to concentrate on the things of eternity, amazing stuff can happen. Life is not a terrible thing. It is not a struggle-to-survive-and-then-you-die thing. It is a wonderful opportunity to express the nature of God. All you have to do is lose YOUR life and let HIS life flow through you. That's what happens when you LOVE GOD and His glory is more important to you than anything else. His promise is that if we will LOVE HIM, not the physical self, He will see to our physical needs.
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. ... If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Luk 12:22-31)
Did you catch that part about "ye of little faith?" Living this way requires something called "faith."
And the result is called "righteousness."
"The just shall live by faith."