It’s hard to know where to begin with a sadly confused book like ‘The Evolution of God’, by Robert Wright, much less the fawning, theologically ostrich-like, logically sloppy, cleverly arrogant, islam-endorsing NYT Sunday review of it that turns Genesis 1:27 (“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”), completely on its head.
God has mellowed. The God that most Americans worship occasionally gets upset about abortion and gay marriage, but he is a softy compared with the Yahweh of the Hebrew Bible. That was a warrior God, savagely tribal, deeply insecure about his status and willing to commit mass murder to show off his powers. But at least Yahweh had strong moral views, occasionally enlightened ones, about how the Israelites should behave.
In his brilliant new book, “The Evolution of God,” Robert Wright tells the story of how God grew up. He starts with the deities of hunter-gatherer tribes, moves to those of chiefdoms and nations, then on to the polytheism of the early Israelites and the monotheism that followed, and then to the New Testament and the Koran, before finishing off with the modern multinational Gods of Judaism, Christianity and Islam… [this accepts the muslim view that islam is a refinement of Christianity]
In sharp contrast to many contemporary secularists, Wright is bullish about monotheism. In “Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny” (2000), he argued that there is a moral direction to human history, that technological growth and expanding global interconnectedness have moved us toward ever more positive and mutually beneficial relationships with others. [the 20th century would beg to differ]
In “The Evolution of God,” Wright tells a similar story from a religious standpoint, proposing that the increasing goodness of God [!?!] reflects the increasing goodness of our species. “As the scope of social organization grows, God tends to eventually catch up, drawing a larger expanse of humanity under his protection, or at least a larger expanse of humanity under his toleration.” Wright argues that each of the major Abrahamic faiths has been forced toward moral growth as it found itself interacting with other faiths on a multinational level, and that this expansion of the moral imagination reflects “a higher purpose, a transcendent moral order.”
It’s hard to know where to start with something like this without sounding pedantic or shrill because, premise on premise on premise, it has been built up from so many wrong ideas that it would take pages to point out every one. It also seems clear that the writers are determined to avoid accepting, returning to or humbly learning about any God they can’t understand, describe, domesticate and/or force to conform to their instinctive, intuitive quasi-Darwinian, New Age notions of some vague cosmic life force and a corresponding morality (begging the question of where they obtained those notions in the first place, much less why they are authoritative if God changes or bends to their will.)
It’s sort of like the quote apocryphally attributed to Mark Twain to the effect that when he was 18 his father was a dolt but when he turned 21 he was surprised to see how much the old man had learned in three years… except in reverse. The culture seems surprised by how stupid God has gotten in the last 100 years, not realizing that the irony is on them. God never changed. We did.
It’s hard to know where to begin with a piece like the NYT review unless we look to a passage like Hebrews 13;8-9b and remind ourselves that this phenomenon is not new and that the truth is in fact very simple: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace…”.
Or if that isn’t sufficient, let’s allow God the last word here, as recounted via the prophet Malachi (3:6-7c), pointing out that if God were capricious — if He were constrained within time; if He did ‘grow up’ and evolve and change — then it would be very bad news for us all, (“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.”)