The Fall and the Redemption of Man in the Light of Evolution


There is a Christian conception of evolution, and in the light of it, I propose to interpret the fall and the redemption of man. To prevent misunderstanding, I must define what I mean by evolution and what I mean by Christianity. The evolution I have in mind is not an atheistic and unteleological evolution. Evolution is not a cause but a method. God is the cause. He is in his universe, and he is the source of all its activities with the single exception of the evil activity of the human will. When I speak of evolution as the method of God, I imply that the immanent God works by law; that this law is the law of development; that God makes the old the basis of the new, and the new an outgrowth from the old. In all ordinary cases God works from within and not from without. Yet this ordinary method does not confine or limit God. He is transcendent as well as immanent. He is not simply "in all" and "through all," but he is also "above all."

This conception of evolution is that of Lotze. That great philosopher, whose influence is more potent than any other in present thought, does not regard the universe as a plemtm to which nothing can be added in the way of force. He looks upon the universe rather as a

1 A paper read at the Baptist Congress, Buffalo, November 15, 1898.

plastic organism to which new impulses can be imparted from him of whose thought and will it is an expression. These impulses, once imparted, abide in the organism and are thereafter subject to its law. Though these impulses come from within, they come not from the finite mechanism, but from the immanent God. Robert Browning's phrase, "All's love, but all's law," must be interpreted as meaning that the very movements of the planets and all the operations of nature are revelations of a personal and present God, but it must not be interpreted as meaning that God runs in a rut, that he is confined to mechanism, that he is incapable of unique and startling manifestations of power.

The idea that gives to evolution its hold upon thinking minds is the idea of continuity. But absolute continuity is inconsistent with progress. If the future is not simply a reproduction of the past, there must be some new cause of change. In order to progress there must be either a new force, or a new combination of forces, and the new combination of forces can be explained only by some new force that causes the combination. This new force, moreover, must be intelligent force, if the evolution is to be toward the better instead of toward the worse. The continuity must be continuity not of forces but of plan. The forces may increase, nay, they must increase, unless the new is to be a mere repetition of the old. There must be additional energy imparted, new combinations brought about, and all this implies purpose and will. But through all there runs one continuous plan, and upon this plan all the rationality of evolution depends.

A man builds a house. In laying the foundation he EVOLUTION IS THEISTIC


uses stone and mortar, but he makes the walls of wood and the roof of tin. In the superstructure he brings into play different laws from those which apply to the foundation. There is continuity, not of material, but of plan. Progress from cellar to garret requires breaks here and there, and the bringing in of new forces; in fact, without the bringing in of these new forces the evolution of the house would be impossible. Now substitute for the foundation and the superstructure living things like the chrysalis and the butterfly; imagine the power to work from within and not from without; and you see that true continuity does not exclude but involves new beginnings.

Evolution, then, depends on increments of force plus continuity of plan. New creations are possible because the immanent God has not exhausted himself. Miracle is possible because God is not far away, but is at hand to do whatever the needs of his moral universe may require. Regeneration and answers to prayer are possible for the very reason that these are the objects for which the universe was built. Evolution, then, does not exclude Christianity. If we were deists, believing in a distant God and a mechanical universe, evolution and Christianity would be irreconcilable. But since we believe in a dynamical universe, of which the personal and living God is the inner source of energy, evolution is but the basis, foundation, and background of Christianity, the silent and regular working of him who, in the fullness of time, utters his voice in Christ and the cross.

I have explained evolution as theistic and not atheistic evolution. So I must explain Christianity as not simply the story of the Gospels, but rather as the whole revelation of God in Christ. In a true sense, Christianity is as old as the creation. Indeed it antedates creation, for Christ is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. The historic sacrifice on Calvary is the focusing of light that was shining dimly in all the preceding ages. The revelation of God that culminated in the cross began in Eden. And Christ was the organ of this revelation. He is the Eternal Word, the only revealer of God. The preincarnate Logos, Christ before he took human flesh, was the Angel of the Covenant, the leader of the chosen people, the giver of the law on Sinai. The principle of his final sacrifice was already working, when in all the affliction of his people he was afflicted. He suffered for sin before he was born in Palestine.

It is this conception of the larger Christ that is revivifying modern theology. We are digging out the dibris with which scholasticism and deism have half filled the wells of salvation, and are taking seriously the declarations of Paul and John when they assert that in Christ is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, that he upholds all things by the word of his power, that all things consist or hold together in him, that he fills all things with all that they contain, that he is all in all. These wonderful utterances have passed over our heads without producing effect upon us. Now we perceive that Christ is the life of nature, and that all its quivering forces are the revelation of his omniscient mind and the energizing of his omnipotent will. Now we perceive that Christ is the life of humanity and that in him alone, the revealing God, we live and move and MAN THE CREATION OF GOD


have our being, so that he is the Light that lighteth every man, so that conscience even among the heathen is the echo of his voice, so that history, even when we call it secular, is the marshaling of the forces of him who goes forth conquering and to conquer. Now we perceive that Christ is the life of the church, and that he is actually present not only in every individual believer as the soul of his soul and the life of his life, but in the great universal organism of his sacramental host, preserving it from corruption, endowing it with his Spirit, and leading it on to its final triumph.

Think not that this larger conception of Christ will work harm to our common faith. It will only exalt our Redeemer and make it more clear that his is the only name given under heaven among men whereby we can be saved. If it is he who is King of the ages, the only God, the universal life, that became incarnate and suffered on the cross for us, then Christianity is the unique and only system of religion, and the condescension of the Highest in taking our form and nature and in becoming subject to death, even the death of the cross, becomes a motive to holiness unspeakably powerful and affecting.

In the light of these conceptions of evolution on the one hand and of Christianity on the other let us examine anew the doctrine of man's fall and of man's redemption. And the first question is, what is man? Evolution declares that he is the product of resident forces, the outgrowth of previous forms of life, the crown and culmination of a long course of palaeontological history. Scripture declares him to be the creation of God. But if we have grasped the conception that these resident forces are only the manifestation of God's mind and will, then we can see that the biological solution does not exclude the theological. To all intents and purposes, these forces are God; for the will of God is the only real force in nature. That this will of God works so regularly as to seem automatic, not only ought not to obscure for us its divine significance, but rather should be new proof to us of God's unchanging faithfulness. That man is the offspring of the brute creation does not prevent him from being also the offspring of God.

The fault of the development theory as held by many scientific men is that it attributes to mere matter, or force, or law, or evolution, conceived of as blind irrational agencies, what can in right reason be attributed only to purpose and will. Its advocates assume that matter is something impersonal and dead, and out of it they try to get a personal and living being called man. Rut matter is not impersonal and dead,—it is conceivable only as the energizing of an intelligent and personal will. Law and evolution are mere names for a method,—a glove which can do nothing without a hand inside of it. Man's advent upon the scene of life can never be explained by reference simply to that which existed before him. It was due to a new impulse of that divine energy which had been resident in all preceding forms indeed, but which now added to the process a new element from the unexhausted and infinite resources of its own nature.

That pre-existing forms were used as the basis of the new development does not prevent that development, so far as it is new, from being the creation of God. That EVOLUTION COMPATIBLE WITH A FALL l6Q

Christ used water in making wine at Cana does not warrant us in saying that the wine was simply a development from the water. That five loaves and two fishes were used in feeding the five thousand does not prove that Christ's will had nothing to do with the result. The dust from which the body of Adam was made was animate dust; lower forms of life were taken as the foundation upon which to build man's physical frame and man's rational powers; into some animal germ came the breath of a new intellectual and moral life. But the fact that existing material was used so far as it would go does not prevent God's authorship of the result,—it only shows that God in creating man acted in perfect harmony with his ways in other parts of his creation. The wine in the miracle was not water because it had come from water, nor is man a brute simply because he has come from the brute. Indeed, he has not come from the brute in any proper sense,— he has come from the creative hand of God. He is an emanation from that same divine life of which the brute creation was a lower manifestation.

We are now prepared to understand the reality and the method of man's fall. Evolution has been thought to be incompatible with any proper doctrine of a fall. It has been assumed by many that man's immoral course and conduct are simply survivals of his brute inheritance, inevitable remnants of his old animal propensities, yieldings of the weak will to fleshly appetites and passions. This is to deny that sin is truly sin, but it is also to deny that man is truly man. As Doctor Simon has well shown, the principle of evolution requires that when man emerges in the history of life he should be not brute but man, with brute instincts under the control of reason, conscience, and will. Birds are outgrowths of reptilian life, but the reptile does not remain in the bird to drag it down and hinder its flight; when birds appear, they are not reptiles, but birds. The law of evolution would require that when man appeared he should be, not brute, but man. Man is a creature of free-will, able to put beneath his feet the lower impulses and to live for holiness and for God. That man does not, like the bird, fulfill the end of his being and live in the upper air of purity and truth, but rather like the reptile buries himself in the slime of sin, is due to a self-perversion of his powers such as the bird knows nothing of. The long course of depravity and degradation that has been universal in human history points back to a fall of humanity, and this fall is no natural development, but rather a willful departure of the very first representatives of the race from God and from his law.

Sin must be referred to freedom or it is not sin. To explain it as the natural result of weak will overmastered by lower impulses is to make the animal nature, and not the will, the cause of transgression. And that is to say that man at the beginning is not man, but brute. Dr. E. G. Robinson once said that sin explained is sin defended. I might add that sin explained is sin denied. When you can find a good reason for sin you deny its existence, for the very essence of it is irrationality, the senseless and wicked self-perversion of a free personality. Yet just such an initial self-perversion of humanity is required upon scientific principles to account for the failure of man alone, of all the REVOLT OF HUMAN WILL FROM GOD 171

orders of creation, to live according to the law of his being. Science recognizes reversion as well as progress, degeneration as well as development. The fish of the Mammoth Cave once had eyes, or at least their ancestors had. They fled from the light and they lost their sight. So man at the beginning willfully left the light of God and wandered into the darkness. He lost his eyes for holiness and truth, and he transmitted his spiritual blindness to his posterity.

The fall, then, was the revolt of the human will from God. Evolution not only cannot throw doubt upon the fact, but it requires the fact to explain man's subsequent history. The later modifications of Darwinism only confirm the scriptural account. Though Weismann denies the transmission of acquired characters, Wallace is probably far nearer the truth when he maintains that there is "always a tendency to transmit acquired characters, but that only those which affect the blood and nervous system, like drunkenness and syphilis, overcome the fixed habit of the organism and make themselves permanent." But why confine this transmission merely to physical acquisitions? Moral changes are more fundamental. The act of will by which man turned his back upon the life and love of God and set up an independent sovereignty in this universe was an act which not only changed his moral environment but deprived him of all moral sustenance. Here is cause for atrophy, corruption, death. Here is a change which affects the very roots of being. As regeneration is the new creation of man's moral nature by God, so the fall was man's own creation of an evil nature by self-will and disobedience. It was the most tremendous act of independent volition ever put forth by man. It revolutionized his being. It changed the direction of the deepest springs of life. The changed nature was transmitted, for there was no other nature to transmit. Evolution became the evolution of a dwarfed and degraded humanity, or in other words evolution became degradation.

So much with regard to evolution and man's fall. Let me now speak of evolution and man's redemption. And here I must remind you once more of the original and natural relation of the race to Christ. It is in him that the race was created, and he was from the very beginning the constant source of its physical and moral life. When man broke away from moral control and in his moral life became self-centered and independent, he did not, simply because he could not, break away from his natural connection with the indwelling Christ, in whom he lived and moved and had his being. Man can scoff at his Saviour, but he cannot do without him, simply because that Saviour is the source of his life, and doing without him is annihilation. If you could imagine a finger endowed with free-will and trying to sunder its connection with the body by tying a string around itself, you would have a picture of man trying to sunder his connection with Christ. What is the result of such an attempt? Why, pain, decay; possible, nay, incipient death, to the finger. By what law? By the law of the organism, which is so constituted as to maintain itself against its own disruption by the revolt of the members. The pain and death of the finger is the reaction of the whole against the treason of the part. The finger suffers pain. But are there no results Christ's Suffering Is Atoning 173

of pain to the body? Does not the body feel pain also? How plain it is that no such pain can be confined to the single part! The heart feels, aye, the whole organism feels, because all the parts are members one of another. It not only suffers, but that suffering tends to remedy the evil and to remove its cause. The whole body summons its forces, pours new tides of life into the dying member, strives to rid the finger of the ligature that binds it. So, through all the course of history, from the moment of the first sin, Christ, the natural life of the race, has been afflicted in the affliction of humanity and has suffered for human sin. The whole creation that groaneth and travaileth in pain together expresses the struggling of Christ with moral evil, for matter cannot groan, nor can the irrational universe feel. And the groanings of the believer in his prayers for the lost are the expression in man's finite nature of the infinite sorrow of the Holy Spirit, who is himself the Spirit of Christ.

This suffering has been an atoning suffering, since it has been due to righteousness. If God had not been holy, if God had not made all nature express the holiness of his being, if God had not made pain and loss the necessary consequences of sin, then Christ would not have suffered. But since these things are sin's penalty and Christ is the life of the sinful race, it must needs be that Christ should suffer. There is nothing arbitrary in the laying upon him of the iniquities of us all. There is an original grace as well as an original sin. The fact that Christ is our life makes it inevitable that we should derive from him many an impulse and influence that does not belong to our sinful nature. The heart sends its blood into the decaying member, if perchance it may yet be restored. So there are a thousand currents of moral life, flowing into the lives of men, which come from Christ the life of humanity. The virtues of the unregenerate upon which they pride themselves are due not to themselves but to his grace. The light of conscience, of tradition, of parental training, of social ethics, of civilization in general, all proceeds from Christ. No man ever thinks truly, feels rightly, acts nobly, except as Christ works in him. There is no such thing as independent human action, except in the case of sin. It is Christ who works all our good works in us. While it takes only one to do evil, it takes two to do good. This is true everywhere. Christ, the Light of the World, is shining in all lands, among the heathen as well as in Christendom, leading individuals here and there to see their sins and to cast themselves upon God for pardon, and preparing communities and nations to receive the published message of salvation. Yet everywhere and always it is his power and grace, and no works or worthiness of man, that regenerate, justify, and save.

That this spiritual life of the race should be summed up in the historical Christ and should find in him its channel of manifestation and communication to the world is not only in perfect accordance with the method of evolution, but is absolutely required by it. The tendency of all biological inquiry is to trace life in each of its departments back to a single germ. All the human inhabitants of the globe derive their life from a single human ancestor—a fact a priori difficult to predict, and, considering the immense number of so-called chance CHRIST THE SECOND ADAM


variations which had at favorable times to be taken advantage of, a priori almost incredible. Yet the sudden appearance of man, with powers immensely transcending those of the brute, and with a progeny reproducing those same powers, is a fact of biological history. Now if it is consistent with evolution that the physical and natural life of the race should be derived from a single source, then it is equally consistent with evolution that the moral and spiritual life of the race should also be derived from a single source. Scripture is stating only scientific fact when it sets the second Adam, the head of redeemed humanity, over against the first Adam, the head of fallen humanity. We are told that evolution should give us many Christs. We reply that evolution has not given us many Adams. Evolution, as it assigns to the natural head of the race a supreme and unique position, must be consistent with itself, and must assign a supreme and unique position to Jesus Christ, the spiritual head of the race. As there was but one Adam from whom all the natural life of the race was derived, so there can be but one Christ from whom all the spiritual life of the race is derived.

I would pursue this analogy yet further, and would find in the relation of the first Adam to the previous physical life of the world, a type of the relation of the second Adam to the previous spiritual life of the world. The whole process of evolution which preceded man's appearance upon this planet was the manifestation of an intelligence and a will struggling upward through lower forms toward rationality and freedom. To put it in more theological phrase, the preincarnate Logos was exhibiting the divine wisdom and power in successive approximations toward humanity. Psychical man was the result,—a being with spiritual powers, but with these powers as yet unexercised and untried. "That is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; then that which is spiritual." The spiritual was only potential, and it was lost by the exercise of man's power of contrary choice. What might have been an upward evolution and a continual progress in likeness to God became a downward evolution and a continual progress in evil. But now began a new manifestation of the life of Christ. The same immanent Logos whose operation had thus far culminated in rational man now instituted a long process for the evolution of spiritual man. The history of the race became a preparation for the coming of the second Adam, as the history of life before man's appearance had been a preparation for the coming of the first Adam. Out of a prepared nation Christ emerged, as out of the highest forms of pre-existing-life Adam had emerged.

Do you say that the virgin birth of Christ makes his origin unique? I reply that the first advent of man is no less unique. The miraculous conception to which we must hold if we would maintain either the purity of Mary his mother or his own freedom from hereditary taint, was the work of the Spirit of God, no more and no less than the bringing of a free human intelligence out of a race of apelike progenitors was a work of the Spirit of God. In both cases the result was one to which the life of the planet had been tending. In both it was the culmination of an age-long process of development. In both it was the goal to which the immanent Christ had been conducting the evolution of the REVELATION OF RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT 177

world The new science recognizes more than one method of propagation even in one and the same species, and it is no wonder that in the introduction of him who was the crown and summit of the whole system we should see a return to the original method of parthenogenesis.

As the historical Christ was the manifestation of Him who had been ever working as the revealer of God in human history, so the cross of Christ was the historical manifestation and proclamation of the age-long suffering of the Son of God. It was the concrete exhibition of the holiness that required, and of the love that provided, man's redemption. Those six hours of pain could never have procured our salvation if they had not been a revelation of eternal facts in the being of God. The heart of God and the meaning of all previous history were then unveiled. The whole evolution of humanity was there depicted in its essential elements, on the one hand the sin and condemnation of the race, on the other hand the grace and suffering of him who was its life and salvation. As he who hung upon the cross was God, manifest in the flesh, so the suffering of the cross was God's suffering for sin, manifest in the flesh.

The evolution of humanity since the first sin has been a constant revelation of the righteous judgment of God. The natural law which inflicts disease and pain and death upon the sinner and upon his posterity after him is only the biological expression of God's judicial sentence upon iniquity. In the natural course of evolution punishment follows sin, as the cartwheel follows the ox. And this would be the end of it if individualism were the whole truth. Mere individualism brings only suffer


ing and death. But there is a deeper truth than mere individualism, and I now bring this truth to the elucidation of the doctrine of atonement as I previously brought it to elucidate the fall. Once more I remind you that Jesus Christ, the revealer of God, is the life of the race. If he is one with the race, then our sufferings and sorrows become his; he takes upon him our guilt and responsibility; God's judgment upon our transgression falls upon him. Since we are by nature joined to him and the tides of his natural life flow into us, he who is the life of the race cannot separate himself from us even in our condemnation and death.

The atonement of Christ seems foolishness to the socalled philosopher only because he regards it as an external, arbitrary, mechanical transfer of guilt and penalty. Guilt and penalty, he says, are individual and personal, and cannot be thus transferred. There is no justice, he says, in punishing one for the sins of another, and especially in punishing the innocent for the sins of the guilty. But Christ's atonement rests upon a fact of life, which he has not taken account of. We are not simply individuals. We have community with one another, and with Him who created us. More pertinently still, he has community with us, and nothing that belongs to us is foreign to him. He has not committed our sin, but he is so connected with us that he must share the burdens and the sufferings, the shame and the penalty, which sin brings upon us. Not late in human history did he vicariously take our sins upon him, but from the very instant of the fall. The imputation of our sins to him is the result of his natural union with us. Because he is one with us he has been

our substitute from the beginning,—indeed, so inseparable are his fortunes from ours that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews can say that through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot to God.

So a view of the larger Christ enables us to see that the atonement is the very wisdom of God. Christ is not simply the being who lived three and thirty years in Palestine, and his atonement is not simply a six hours' suffering upon the cross. Christ is the upholder of the universe, the life and light of man. His cross is but the concentration and summing up of the work of centuries. Can we quarrel with the doctrine of substitution, when we see that this substitution is but the sharing of our griefs and sorrows by him whose very life pulsates in our veins? Can we object to being saved by another, when we find that he is not another, but one vitally connected with us? It is only our false individualism that prevents us from seeing the wisdom of God in the atonement, and that false individualism is the result of sin. Christ's cross breaks down that self-isolation, and brings us again into sympathy and union with our Saviour, and so with all mankind.

This suffering for sin which Christ endured is the suffering of penal inflictions in our stead, for all suffering is penal in the sense that its existence is due to sin, and that it is the expression of God's moral revulsion from iniquity, the revelation of his self-vindicating holiness. Do you say that Christ was personally pure, and therefore could not suffer penalty? I answer, that precisely because he was personally pure, he could suffer penalty. The frozen limb cannot feel, just because it is frozen. When it begins to thaw, and life courses through its veins, then there is pain. Christ was the only live and healthy member of a dead humanity. He was the heart from which humanity drew its life-blood. He could suffer for sin, as we who are dead in trespasses and sins could not. But the sorrows of the heart brought life to the members. Christ has delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. In him we are reconciled to God. He can bring us to God, because he is himself God, the incarnate, atoning, indwelling God. He is the principle of evolution, the upholder and conductor of the world-process, and the culmination and goal of that evolutionary process is the bringing back of humanity in him to God.