How should we regard the Godhead, or the Trinity as many Christians call it, taking into consideration biological evolution, particularly human evolution, and other modern science?
First is “God the Eternal Father.” In short, God the Father is usually described in the LDS Church’s teachings as a resurrected exalted male human being, with a body of flesh and bones, who is the father of our spirits, directed the creation of the cosmos, and is father to Jesus in the flesh. How is this conception influenced by our modern understanding of evolution?
Evolution brings up many questions about this member of the Godhead. Here are a few we might consider. If he is a human, a Homo sapiens sapiens, similar to us (we being in his “image and likeness”), then where did he evolve? On what planet? Was it on Earth or somewhere else? If on Earth, when? And how could that be reconciled with him creating this same Earth? If he lived a long time ago, even if we consider Brigham Young’s Adam-God theory, then that still creates problems, since a literal Adam is also highly problematic in the light of evolution (see below). Actually, Adam-God doesn’t propose that Adam evolved on Earth into God, but on another planet. So whether it was Adam or not, if not on Earth, then where did God evolve? And how could evolution have taken place there exactly the same way it did here to produce a human body quite similar as ours, even Homo sapiens sapiens?
Evolution by natural selection is guided by adaptation to the environment where life lives, and even the smallest differences in those environments can lead to wide variations in how life evolves over time. If an asteroid had not slammed into the Yucatán and wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, you can be sure that we would not be sitting here now reading these words; things would have probably turned out quite differently for all mammals. So unless we think that the laws of the universe are such that extraterrestrial life on other planets evolve to look exactly like us Homo sapiens sapiens, or that the universe’s laws somehow make biological evolution converge to form humans specifically at all places throughout the cosmos, something which I think most scientists would strongly disagree with, then a belief in this being evolving on another planet in the universe seems not likely.
We would also still need to reconcile how this being evolved there and at the same time created the larger universe, if God created the universe itself (or “directed” it, while the Son did the creating). And this being would have to be able to produce viable offspring with a female human, Mary, who had evolved on this planet, meaning God would have to be nearly the same species as we are for their genes to be compatible. So evolution causes a number of issues for our traditional conception of God the Father, whether he evolved on this planet or any other planet in our universe.
Could God the Father exist outside the universe? I don’t think so. That seems to bring with it a host of other difficulties. We have no way to knowing anything that might exist outside of our universe. For all we know, this universe is all there is. Yes, there are multiverse theories, but I think in most of them all other universes that could come into existence would probably have different physical laws than this one, this one being extremely “fine-tuned” for life, making the evolution of a human in any of those others very improbable. And even if God did evolve in a separate universe, how would a being who evolved in a separate universe create this one? One aspect of having separate universes is that they are entirely separated and isolated from one another, without any information exchange between them whatsoever. I think an extrauniversal God is not likely, particularly one that is a human.
I will share a few thoughts on who/what I think God the Father is, which I think harmonizes with the deeper Christian Gospel, as well as many other spiritual traditions. I perceive that God the Father is the Universe as a whole. I think it is the Natural Law which proceeds forth from the Universe. I think it is the Source from which all things come. I think it is the Power and the Unity that underlies all Being and Existence. This might sound impersonal, and in some ways it is, until we also realize that we are part of this Universe too. We are not only in it, we are it. We come from this Universe, in this Universe. We are not separate from the Universe, but we are aspects of the Universe, manifestations, emanations of this one Universal Being that we call the Universe. God the Father is infinitely personal, because we are made up of this God (Acts 17:28). The flesh and bones of God the Father are our own flesh and bones, the flesh and bones of all of Humanity, even all of Life and Creation in the Universe. I perceive.
Second in the Godhead/Trinity is the “Son Jesus Christ.” In short, Jesus Christ is usually described in LDS Church teachings as a resurrected and exalted male human being, with a body of flesh and bones, who is the spiritual father of us through the Atonement having redeemed our souls from sin, and is the Only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh. How is this influenced by an understanding of biological evolution?
We must remember that President Joseph Fielding Smith and President Boyd K. Packer, and others, have said that if human evolution is true, then the entire plan of salvation is frustrated, and there is “no need for a redemption, and Christ is not the Son of God, and he did not die for… the sins of the world.” We “forsake the Atonement,” as traditionally understood, if we believe that evolution is true.
I agree with them. Evolution brings up many questions about this member of the Godhead, which seem to make it impossible to reconcile. In fact, I think it is impossible to reconcile with the current interpretations of the LDS Church, which is also what these leaders firmly believed. Since nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, we need to adjust our interpretations of the Gospel, perhaps radically re-interpret them, which few seem willing to do. We naturally do not like change. It makes us uncomfortable. But this is the antithesis of progress, learning, and growing.
Here are some of the problems that evolution introduces for the “Son Jesus Christ” member of the Godhead/Trinity. It goes back to Adam and Eve. They were not the first humans. There were no “first” humans on Earth. Evolution is a gradual development of life over many millennia of time, even eons. Homo sapiens sapiens have been “in the works” for billions of years, a step-by-step gradual development from simpler forms of life to what we are today. And that also means that death has been a constant theme in the history of the Earth for billions of years. There were no “first” human parents that were the first to die, or the first to bring death into the world at large as we’ve traditionally come to believe it. Organisms have been living and dying here for a very very long time. There were no two human beings that parented the human race.
So what does that mean for a Redeemer, for a Savior, in the person of Jesus? If there was no “Fall” of “Adam and Eve” as we traditionally know it, then there is no need for a redemption from that Fall. And so Christian doctrine about a Savior must be misinterpreted in some major ways. In addition, was Jesus born of a mortal woman, Mary, and a God human, the Father? I think this brings up many problems by itself. Did God the Father come from a distant place in the cosmos to have sexual relations with Mary and then return to his home far away in the cosmos? It doesn’t seem so to me. It’s far too supernatural and magical to be taken seriously, in my opinion.
I will share a few thoughts on who/what I think the Son Jesus Christ is. I think Jesus was a human male that lived about 2000 years ago, a Homo sapiens sapiens, probably born in Nazareth from two normal mortal human parents, Mary and probably Joseph. They raised a son who they named Jesus. They were a typical Jewish family, participating in the typical Jewish feasts and customs. Jesus was likely taught by his father, Joseph, to be a carpenter.
At around the age of thirty, Jesus had some significant mystical experiences, deep spiritual awakenings, which led him to begin preaching and teaching his perspectives on God which often seemed to be in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Jewish authorities of the day. But Jesus was not condemning Judaism, but revealing the depths of Judaism, and the one and true God at the ground and foundation of their religion. In fact, he came into personal direct intimate first-hand understanding of God the “Father,” and he realized that he proceeded directly from the Father, and was one in the Father, and the Father in him. He came to realize at a very deep level that he was one and the same with the Universe, the result of the Universe’s Natural Laws, even the Creative Power that proceeds from the Cosmos itself, which forms Life of all kinds, and which brings Light to consciousness. This was his true Father.
And the recognition of the God of the Universe which incarnates or materializes into Life and Consciousness is the Christ. Christ is the Incarnation of God in all things that are, it is the light-energy which forms the elements that make up our bodies, which also enlightens our eyes, and the energy that allows our brains to function and comprehend anything and everything (see Holy Ghost below). Jesus realized that he was this Christ, this Pure Being, this Perfect Holy Creation in God, a materialization of the Universe, and so are all people but they often remain blinded to it, blinded by their egos which obscure this Truth of their very own Being from their direct understanding and perception.
Humanity “Fell” from this recognition of our oneness with the cosmos during our evolutionary development, when we developed the capacity for self-awareness. It also happens early in our own childhood development. We Fall when we recognize our selves as separate beings apart from the world. We feel like we are living in the world, but are not one with the world. When we realize that we are not separate beings from the world and Universe, then we are redeemed from this Fall, and we once again perceive our oneness with the Presence of God, even the Universe. This realization can come in many ways; for Jesus it may have come through deep contemplative prayer, meditation, and communion in solitude, or other means of altering consciousness. It is a realization directly within consciousness as the ego psychological self identity is “crucified,” and subsides from conscious awareness. Then one perceives what one truly is, one’s true identity, or Self. This is the Christ (which is also called many other things in other traditions).
It was in the recognition of his true Self as Christ that liberated him from the lies and suffering of his ego, and “resurrected” him to Life during his mortal life. He returned in his mind into conscious Presence with God, this oneness of conscious union with our Source and the Truth of our Organic Life as one with the Universe. This was his “Anointing” and why he was called “Christ” (meaning “Anointed One”).
And his whole mission, his entire teaching, everything he said and did from this point on was pointing all other human beings towards this awakening within their own consciousness to the Truth of their own Being in God, in coming to know God within themselves, as them Selves, the Gods that they are in God, even “taking upon themselves” the name of Christ, and realizing that Christ is who and what they truly are. In other words, we are not who we think we are. This is merely a construction in our minds, an illusion of self. When we come to discover that this is not who we are fundamentally, then our minds are opened to the greater reality of our Being, which is at-one with the Cosmos.
This is Redemption and Salvation. This is Transfiguration. This is the At-one-ment. This is the Resurrection. This is the Second Coming. This is the Messiah that comes to each and all to rescue them from their very own selves, their fragile and broken egoic psychological self identities. When Jesus was crucified, he was laid to rest in the ground, like all other Homo sapiens sapiens, and thus he returned to His Father, the Universe, in absolute. He comes again by our coming to the same exact conscious realization that he did—that we are Christ. We are the Incarnation of the Universe, in the Universe, as the Universe. This is our true Self, our true Identity. It is the true Identity of all of Life and Creation. Jesus’s teachings were changed and corrupted over the centuries into what we see presently in the Christian traditions, and in Mormonism. Joseph helped to restore many of these truths, as do all prophet-mystics in their own day. The flesh and bones of Christ are our own flesh and bones, the flesh and bones of all of Humanity, even all of Life and Creation in the Universe. I perceive.
Third is the “Holy Ghost.” In short, the Holy Ghost is usually described in LDS Church teachings as a “personage of spirit,” without flesh and bones, which testifies of the Truth of all things, even of Jesus Christ, and the Father. It purifies and sanctifies. How is this influenced by an understanding of biological evolution?
Well, evolution can’t tell us much about the Spirit, I think, but other areas of science can. We haven’t been able to detect anything like a spirit or ghost, as we traditionally understand them, with any of our instruments or tools or methods ever. One has never been captured on film, or recorded, or documented in a way that would argue for the real existence of such spirits in the world or the universe. So thinking that there is such a Spirit or Ghost, perhaps a pre-mortal spirit or spirit of a deceased Homo sapiens sapiens, that may come to inhabit our bodies and tell us the truth about things, is a bit of a stretch. It falls into the category of the supernatural and magical thinking.
It does not seem that anything like an ego can survive death. The ego, or psychological self, is made up of all the experiences that one has in the world, beginning in childhood, and culminating on one’s dying day. The memories of these experiences that come to construct our personalities in the world seem to be wholly made up of the neural network structures and modules in our biological organic brains, the patterns and ways the dendrites and synapses have wired together inside our skulls. Our ego is not an ephemeral thing or entity that exists outside of our body and brain. Our psychological self is ultimately and fundamentally tied to our physical bodies. When that body dies, the ego is gone, the psychological self is no more. All those neural networks of the brain disintegrate, decompose and return to the dust of the ground. There are no more action potentials to run along those neurons to make up our thoughts, knowledge, memories, or intentions. So, to think there is an ultimate Spirit-Ego that somehow survived death, or that precedes life, and now lives in a spiritual dimension, I think is not correct.
I will share a few thoughts on what I think the Holy Ghost is, and spirits/ghosts in general. I think the Holy Ghost is the physical sensations and deep emotions that we experience when we begin to transcend our egos and recognize our oneness with the Life that is within us and others, and our identity with all that is in the Universe. When we have experiences that are deeply meaningful to us, that touch our hearts, that show us true Love, these reveal our oneness with Life, our oneness with the Universe, our oneness with our Humanness, and the “Spirit” witnesses to this truth in the physical sensations that we feel, and the emotions that drain the tears from our eyes. The Spirit is not a ghostly thing, but a true reality that is sensed directly by the nerves within our bodies sending impulses to our brains, which then arise within consciousness.
The “Spirit” is not immaterial, but rather it is very much material (D&C 131:7-8). It is our body/mind coming to know itself at a deep level, and this triggers the nerves throughout our biological bodies, it sends shivers down our spines and throughout our limbs, and we feel a burst of energy within us, an aliveness, a Being. This energy is not something strange or alien to our physical forms, but it is the energy of our own being that we are sensing. It is the light-energy that exists within us as ATP molecules, as stored glucose, as the action potentials that scream along our spinal cords and nerves at nearly the speed of Light to and from our extremities and to the wonderous structure of our brains, which then becomes conscious in our mind. We are coming to be aware of these things directly, and feeling them deeply in our bodies. Sometimes it feels as Fire in our bones. We are coming to perceive the Christ within us, even God that dwells within us as the Life-Energy of the Universe in our own Selves. This is not only the Holy Ghost, but it is the Spirit of God. It is God’s Spirit within us. This is our Spirit, God’s Spirit inhabiting our own bodies. It is that universal energy of the Universe that animates our physical bodies, and gives Life to all things.
When people perceive spirits or ghosts, I believe these are projections of our own minds, deep mental constructions of people we once knew or know about, or they may be creative expressions of mind, which come from our subconscious and unconscious mind and bubble up into our conscious awareness. We may even see them in vision, their presence standing directly before our eyes. But it is still our mind that is generating their presence. It may be compared to a dream, or even a lucid dream. I don’t like to use the word “hallucination,” because that has a negative connotation, that somehow these experiences are fake and not meaningful. But I think that is not the case. They can be deeply meaningful to us. I believe it is our deeper mind communicating with our conscious awareness, communicating messages and letting us know things that we may not have been consciously aware of. Usually it is telling us deeper truths about our Selves.
These are a few of my thoughts about the Godhead/Trinity in light of evolution and other modern knowledge. I perceive that this understanding of God is much more aligned with reality, and represents a truer interpretation of the ancient mythologies that are found in Christianity, as well as in Mormonism.
I have not come to believe these things by study alone, but through experience. That does not make them infallible. As I’ve explained elsewhere, all words, ideas, symbols, descriptions are fallible. They always fall short. They are generated by our intellectual rational minds, using only the tools with which the mind is familiar. These words should only be considered as fingers pointing at the moon. Are these fingers better pointers than past fingers? That’s up for each to decide. The only way we can come to know these things truly is through direct personal experience in one’s own Self.