Who Made Us?
My 3 year old boy loves dinosaurs. What boy doesn't, right? I mean, big, scary
monsters that are completely safe appeals to them. We've spent many a day
going through our collection of books with him naming the dinosaurs he knows:
stegasaurus, celophysis, ankylosaurus. And him asking what the names are
of the ones he doesn't remember: beipiaosaurus, deinonychus and
those other Chinese dinosaurs that I can never pronounce like huayangosaurus.
My daughter, who's favorite dinosaur is maiasaura, asked who made the
dinosaurs. Now, you probably know how you would answer, but at the moment I was
going to answer, a second idea came to me, and I feel they both deserve attention.
The dinosaurs, like all creatures, make themselves. Each baby starts as
a collection of tiny parts, but grow more interesting bits … likes arms,
hearts and heads.
Nature made them, for every now and then, a baby
is born that is a little different. Sometimes those differences are good,
and the baby gets to grow up and make more babies that look like him.
So while a lizard didn't lay a dinosaur egg, over a long process of time
(and a lot of eggs), she did.
You can't really separate these two ideas, for it really is a literal chicken and egg
problem. Nature provides the environment and incentive for a creature, but it
is the creature that mutates to exploit and survive. DNA may be the building
block for all complex organisms, but it was simple organisms that put those
A few weeks later, the kids and I were watching a documentary on early
hominids (okay, only part of it… they don't have that much patience with daddy's shows). My daughter
made the mental link between apes and humans. She thought the idea
of human evolution intriguing and even humorous-- though she still doesn't
comprehend it entirely.
But the answer to who made the dinosaurs, is surely the same answer as to
who made us… we made ourselves as well as nature. I present this familial
story as merely a preface to an essay I recently ran across.
John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal Bishop, wrote an editorial for the
Washington Post (you can read a copy here), were he claims that we need
to come up with a new definition of God. He says:
Atheism, technically, does not mean a denial of the existence of God. It
means literally a denial of the theistic definition of God. That is to say,
theism is not what God is; it is what human beings have decided that God is.
Human definitions of God can die without God dying. Theism means that we
perceive of God as "a being, supernatural in power, dwelling somewhere
external to this world (usually conceived of as above the sky), who
periodically invades this world in miraculous ways."
The theological question that needs to be explored in both church
and state is this: Can God be understood in some way other than
through these infantile and tribal images? Can Jesus be seen in some
way other than as the divinely appointed sacrificial victim who paid
the price owed to God for our sinfulness? Because I believe that
both God and Jesus are so much more than these distorting images
suggest, I am confident that a dialogue with those who call
themselves 'atheists' would not only be good for the church but it
would also allow deep and profound truth to emerge.
A very interesting idea. But what definition of "God" could we come up with
that an atheist, an agnostic, and a religious person could agree upon?
If God is the creative force of the world and the life within, then I guess
my two ideas of who made the dinosaurs would be my answer…
that is, us†† Keep in mind that according to the Gospel of John, Jesus quoted the Psalmist when he said, "You are gods", and seemed to mean it. and nature.
But the idea of "nature" (or the world) as the genesis and creator of life
seems logical, and even helpful given our drive to environmental short-sightedness.
A respect or worship of nature would certainly make the pagans in the audience
The fear of such a suggestion to most religionists is the lack of personal meaning.
As I've said before, there is plenty of wonder, beauty and awe in such
an evolutionary viewpoint, but I suppose that won't be good enough.
It seems that claiming a belief in "reality" or "nature" is little more than a
tautology. Could we go beyond this simple fact to find the purpose and
meaning-- dare I say the spirituality-- within the materialistic structures
that make this world?
This idea sounds very much like the "Way" of the Taoist. For this "Way" is
posited as both the creator, and the model for how humans and all other
creations should behave.
The Tao gives birth to one
One gives birth to two
Two gives birth to three
Three gives birth to ten thousand things
Ten thousand things with yin at their backs
And yang in their embrace
And breath between for harmony‡‡from verse 42 of the Tao Te Ching as translated by Red Pine
According to the Tao, every creature that follows its natural path (its
inner tao) lives in balance and harmony. It is really only humans that stray
from this path. Wang Wu-Chiu, an eleventh century Taoist scholar, said:
The sage is not interested in deeds or words. He simply follows the
natural pattern of things. Things rise, develop, and reach their end.
This is their order.
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