Darwin & the New Man
As James Hitchcock argues, though Christians may disagree on the scientific status of Darwinism, and most of us are not learned enough in the subject to venture an opinion, Christians must oppose the materialistic philosophy called Darwinism. Much of the conflict arises not because Christians insist on making scientific judgments but because Darwinists insist on hiding their materialistic philosophy under the cover of “science.”
Christians oppose the philosophy generally known as Darwinism because we believe that man is more than matter, at least matter as described by chemists and biologists. Man has a moral and spiritual nature that is not the product of blind, random biological processes. He is Homo sapiens. Man is most truly man when pursuing wisdom, and for the Christian this means following Christ, who is the wisdom of God, the perfect Man, the second Adam.
To materialists, however, such a moral and spiritual dimension is an illusion. Man, a material being in a material cosmos, is at his best as technological man, Homo faber. (Even the materialist cannot, in practice, avoid judgments like “best” and “worst.”)
Thus, the technological prowess of the West is taken as a mark of moral superiority. Unfortunately, many Christians also share this view. Progress for man means industrial and technological development, which is a purely materialistic criterion.
It is ironic that Christians oppose the materialists’ view of the origins of life, yet increasingly embrace the lifestyle of materialists and practice, even if they do not preach, the philosophy of materialism. Christians are as likely as unbelievers to embrace uncritically the values of our technological consumerist economy, which makes material comfort and the satisfaction of our appetite goods to be energetically pursued, and judges our happiness by how much of them we have.
The reduction of life to matter, along with the loss of the notions of sacredness and sacrament, has poisoned our moral universe. We increasingly share with the materialists a utilitarian approach to life, marriage, sex, and children. Christians in the West divorce each other, abort their young, and use contraception as freely and as often as unbelievers, and are increasingly ambivalent about premarital sex and homosexuality. Indeed, on sexual matters the distinguishing mark of Christians is coming to be merely opposition to the approval of homosexuality, which opens us to the world’s charge that we are objecting to the mote in someone else’s eye and ignoring the beam in our own.
Many have adopted the view of sex as primarily a recreational activity for self-gratification. To have children is not one of the God-given duties of marriage but a “lifestyle option,” and questions of material wealth usually dominate the decision whether or not to have children and how many to have. Children are no longer gifts from God but consumers who bring us certain pleasures and satisfactions while degrading our standard of living, and the question most couples ask is how to balance the two.
From conversations with many fairly affluent Christians over the years, I have learned that, like most of the American electorate, many are concerned with their pocketbooks rather than the moral character and formation of their children. The preoccupation with material things is a constant temptation for all of us, as our Lord warned us.
Unless we show them otherwise, our children will follow the example of the culture and become primarily consumers and materialists, rather than virtuous men and women of God, able to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Those footsteps lead, of course, not to obvious material satisfaction but to the loss of all material possessions, even life itself. The Christian life is a very hard sell if the only reasons we can offer for it are material ones.
Darwinist philosophy must be criticized, because materialism destroys the soul. But it is one thing to reject materialist notions in our thinking and quite another to reject the materialist lifestyle—the materialistic philosophy in action—and its habits. It might be possible even to defeat Darwin, but will we defeat the “old man”? We cannot simply wear Christ like the sports jersey of our favorite team. He is not a consumer product.
And we are not fundamentally consumers. We are men, and we must become new men. In the words of an ancient prayer, we are to beseech God “as we are bathed in the new light of Thine incarnate Word, that what shines by faith in our minds may also blaze out in our lives.” Our light should be getting brighter and brighter.
—James M. Kushiner, for the editors
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“Darwin & the New Man” first appeared in the June 2000 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
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