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Creation or Development? Part 3

By Herman Bavinck


      III.

      The third question about the end and aim of things is no less important than the other two. What is the end of the world? What is the issue of the world's history? Whither am I going?

      At this point the insufficiency and unsatisfactory character of the theory of development is especially evident. In a word, it knows nothing of an end; it has no mention of a plan and of any destiny of things; there is no room in its system for any history of the world and of man. It is true that oftentimes life appears more potent than doctrine and practice frequently gains the day over theory. In the writings of evolutionists we meet repeatedly with the mention of a purpose. Haeckel, for instance, declares that "the construction of ear, eye, and hand answers the purpose so wonderfully" as to induce us to accept the errant hypothesis of a "creation after a preconceived plan." But the mention of a purpose occurs in these instances either unconsciously or without ground. The system of the development theory offers no room for a plan or a purpose. Nothing is dominant, then, save the compulsion of fate of the capriciousness of accident. Everything is as it is, without reason and without purpose. The theory of evolution furnishes no answer whatever to the inquiry to what purpose everything serves. On this question it remains silent.

      There is no purpose which the individual man serves. He exists, but why and to what end cannot be told. He is, remains here for a time, and departs. Then it is done, la farce est jouee, death is the end of a pitiful life. Since there is neither soul nor spirit, immortality is folly and faith in it is nothing but egoism, the grave, or better yet, the cremation oven, is man's latest dwelling place.

      There is no purpose for humanity. History is no theater of liberty, but is dominated just like the physical world, and with equal necessity, by mechanical forces and laws. The study of history which reckons with the will, with individuals and persons, and deems the course of history dependent upon these is entirely wrong. And homage is due to the method of physics, which views the only and all dominating factor of history in society, in the masses, in economical relations, and in social conditions, and from this interprets men with their thoughts and wishes, their religion and morality, their art and science. Irrational, planless, purposeless humanity goes forward to meet its ruin.

      There is no purpose for the earth, the present world as a whole. Science teaches that a certain end awaits the whole planetary system of which the earth forms a part. Even as it once proceeded out of the mass of vapors so it shall once return into the same. There are a few who assert that present conditions will continue eternally. But physics disputes this point and deems it untenable. Endless duration together with and endless progress is inconceivable for the earth as well as for man. An end must come. To reckon with millions of years, in the past or in the present, is child's play and unworthy of mature minds, and is at best of no greater value than the gigantic numbers of Indian mythology. All physicists teach that after some millions of years the earth shall come to an end. However rich in provisions, the earth is not inexhaustible. Coal, wood, peat, minerals, etc., decrease gradually in quantity as the human race increases and covers the whole earth. For this reason alone the development of humanity cannot be taken as endlessly progressing. To this is added that gradually a violent disturbance must occur in our whole planetary system. The velocity in the earth's revolution is diminished according to computation by at least one second every six hundred thousand years. This may be ever so little; after billions of years it is bound to bring about a change in the relation of day and night which renders life on earth simply impossible. The only point of difference among physicists is, which of the two will last longer, the sun or the earth. If the sun will be first to consume his provision of warmth, the earth is bound to face death by congealing. If the earth will be the first to be exhausted, it will land in the sun, and finds there its ruin. But whether by freezing or by burning, death is the end of the world as well as of the individual man and of the entire human race.

      And when in view of this future the defenders of the development theory are asked to what purpose all things here have existed and lived, they have nothing to say and leave us without answer. When once it shall have come thus far, says Von Hellwald, then the eternal rest of death shall dominate over the earth. Robbed of its atmosphere and of its living creatures, in eternal moonlike ruin the earth will revolve around the sun, as before; but the human race, is culture, its struggles and efforts, its creations and ideals shall have been. And with the question "to what purpose" unanswered, he closes his history of culture. This is the eschatology, the doctrine of the last things in the dogmatics of the theory of development. It is evident that no one can live by so sad an expectation. The defenders of evolution often say that in science the question is not, What brings comfort? but What is true? And they mock at the first question of the Heidelberger, What is thine only comfort in life and death? But in the end even they cannot afford to go without comfort in life. And since in the far future everything appears deathlike and dark to them, they comfort themselves with the thought that it will take millions of years still before it comes about. The books and writings are not actual, said Professor Haga in his oration referred to above, in which the earth is described as missing all warmth of the sun, and the last human pair is pictured as dying in a cold embrace. It were childish indeed, says Henne am Rhyn, to bemoan the fact that once everything shall have been, and that no one shall then take notice of us and our efforts and labors. For there are still innumerable centuries before us, and it is worth the pains to establish something substantial for our children and our children's children.

      As the latest future becomes darker and sadder, the evolutionists foster a proportionately higher expectation of the future near at hand. Man cannot live without hope. The individual may perish; after millions of years the human race may burn up or be frozen; in the near centuries a blessed and glorious future awaits us all.

      The paradise of the past was a piece of the imagination, according to the prophets of the development theory, in the near future it will be a tangible reality. A heaven above earth is a pious but idle dream, but a heaven upon earth is near at hand. The development theory is made serviceable to this expectation. Behold, how far man has already advanced. He was an animal; he became a man; why should he not also become an angel? His dominion over the earth is extended ever more broadly. All the forces of nature are becoming subject to him. The riddles of creation disappear before his searching gaze. Life is enriched and glorified by his inventions and discoveries. Still a little while and paradise is instituted in the earth. From the mist the day shall break.

      With glowing colors this future state is drawn by many evolutionists. When that day shall have come, says Haeckel, the service of the true, good, and beautiful shall be universal, and displace the old religion. Modern man shall have no more need of a church building. In free nature, wherever he looks out upon the boundless universe, he will find his church in nature itself. Nordau prophecies that in that day humanity shall no longer be an abstraction but a reality. Happy shall be the later born generations to whom it is apportioned to be bathed in the pure air and clear sunshine of this future, to live in the fraternity of humanity, and to be true, wise, free, and good. And Allard Pierson proclaims that, in that future the man who prizes the higher civilization shall love woman as his sister, and the woman who respects herself shall love man as her brother, and the noblest of men shall indeed be children of one and the same family. The young man shall company with the young woman, and nothing shall divert their mind from the study and practice of highest interests; innocence shall have been restored.

      Thus do the defenders of the so-called strictly scientific development theory dream dreams and picture pictures. They abandon themselves to greater illusions than the Chiliasts among Christians, who look for a kingdom of Christ in this present dispensation. For what can science know of the future? Who assures us that the high culture which the nations have attained unto shall endure and not become trodden down underneath threatening revolutions? Where is the culture of the Babylonians and the Assyrians, of the Egyptians and Persians, even the Greeks and the Romans? Has nothing been heard of the black, yellow, and red danger, of social revolutions, which threaten our whole civilization with overthrow and ruin? And what can one build upon a development which in days like the present is made serviceable to the strongest, to the triumph of violence, and to the glorification of the "Wille zur Macht"?

      Anarchism refuses to practice patience any longer and is no more satisfied with the idle promises but distant future. The men of a faithless science have continually reproached the Christians for confronting the comfortless with the promise of a blessed life in the hereafter. Now the complaint comes back upon their own heads; it is cast at their feet by their own spiritual children. What will it benefit us, they say, that thousands of years from now our posterity will taste of peace and plenty and gladness, while in the meantime we and our families must perish of hunger and need? The orthodox take out a draft on heaven, the liberals on a misty future. Both are equally uncertain. Provide us with means this day to live, to eat, and to be merry! And threats are on the increase, that unless this be willingly granted they will obtain the same by violence, with the aid of petroleum and dynamite, of revolution and slaughter. No, truly, the golden age, so eagerly expected by many, has not yet come. Its dawn is not yet seen on the horizon. Watchman, what of the night?

      No wonder that the increase is ever larger of such as wean themselves of expectation of the future and in gloomy despair preach pessimism. It is simple illusion, they say, to hope for better times. Socialistic equality is folly. To a few only it is given, at the price of the life and happiness of thousands, to devote themselves to the beautiful, to live in wealth and luxury, and to make use of the right of the strongest. They are the Ubermenschen (the overmen), the elect, the only blessed, the gods of the earth. But men have been animals and will remain such. Hence what befalls one man befalls humanity. It passes through its periods of infancy, youth, and years of maturity. After that it becomes aged, loses its strength, and desires nothing save rest and quite, the rest of death, the silence of the grave, the eternal sorrowlessness of the nothing.

      Complete bankruptcy, moral and spiritual, is the end of the modern world-view. It confirms the significant word of Paul, that he who is without God and without Christ is also without hope in the world. We Christians, however, thank God, have another hope, and a better founded expectation. We can talk of more glorious things since God has revealed them unto us in his word. The Holy Bible is a wonderful book. It narrates the creation of man after the divine image, and his terrible fall in sin and death. But at once the description follows of how God in infinite grace has appointed in history and prophecy, in psalm and proverb the deliverances which he wrought for his people. And finally it leads us to the manger, places us at the foot of the cross, where the Christ dies, bearing our sin and reconciling the world unto God, and in the end points us to a glorious prospect of a new heaven and earth, in which God will dwell with his people and be all in all.

      This is the development theory, and this is the course of history according to the Scriptures; this is its expectation of the future; and this also the hope and desire of the children of God; they foster this hope without any fear that science can deprived them of it, for what can science know of tomorrow? Foolish are the expectations by which science seeks to displace the hope of Christians. There is indeed no other choice save between the ruin of all existing things as taught by present-day science, and the hope of the glory of the children of God, as preached by the Holy Scripture. And can the choice be doubtful? It is true that this future of the Christ will not be accomplished except by a violent crisis and conflict. Jesus came to the earth, not to bring peace but the sword, and to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. They of a man's own household will be his foes. Nevertheless the future is glorious and the hope certain. The kingdom of heaven, founded by Jesus in the earth, is and abides, and shall nevermore be banished from the earth. The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal: the Lord knoweth them that are his. The gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church. The near future may be the portion of the world and Satan, the later future belongs certainly to Christ. If we had no knowledge except that of an immanent self-development, we would have no ground for this hope. The kingdom of heaven has not once come along the lines of gradual ascent, neither will it come along these lines in the future. Not from beneath but from above do we expect the righteousness and life, the blessedness and glory of God. But Christ who has come down to earth is he who has also ascended above all heavens, that he might fulfill all things. And he is exalted that once every knee to him should bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

      Originally published in Methodist Review (1901). Translated from the Dutch by the Rev. J. Hendrik de Vries, M.A., pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Princeton, NJ, and translator of Dr. Kuyper's Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology, and several other writings.

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See Also:
   Creation or Development? Part 1
   Creation or Development? Part 2
   Creation or Development? Part 3

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