A lot of people seem to have trouble with the concept that the reason for our existence is to develop and grow, and eventually to become as God is. It’s seen as heresy; craziness; hubris. One of my favourite books is The Road Less Travelled, by Dr M. Scott Peck. In it, he writes about love, discipline and what he understands about grace, from his experiences as a psychiatrist and in life. It is an amazing book (published in 1978). Towards the end, he writes a little about evolution and entropy, and then explains what the evidence inevitably points to as the reason for evolution. I’m taking a big chunk out of it here – there’s quite a bit, but the explanations lead to the end conclusion, and it’s good reading.
The most striking feature of the process of physical evolution is that it is a miracle. Given what we understand of the universe, evolution should not occur; the phenomenon should not exist at all. One of the basic natural laws is the second law of thermodynamics, which states that energy naturally flows from a state of higher differentiation to a state of lower differentiation. In other words, the universe is in the process of winding down. The example frequently used to describe this process is that of a stream, which naturally flows downhill. It takes energy or work – pumps, locks, humans carrying buckets, or other means – to get back to the beginning, to put the water back on top of the hill. And this energy has to come from somewhere else. Some other energy system has to be depleted if this one is to be maintained. Ultimately, according to the second law of thermodynamics, in billions and billions of years, the universe will completely wind down until it reaches the lowest point as an amorphous, totally disorganized, totally undifferentiated “blob” in which nothing happens anymore. This state of total disorganization and undifferentiation is termed entropy. The natural downhill flow of energy toward the state of entropy might be termed the force of entropy. [So] the “flow” of evolution is against the force of entropy…. The process of evolution is a miracle because, [as a] process of increasing organization and differentiation, it runs counter to natural law. In the ordinary course of things, we should not exist. [We can also apply this to spiritual growth.] The process of spiritual growth is an effortful and difficult one…because it is conducted against a natural resistance, against a natural inclination to keep things the way they are, to cling to the old maps and old ways of doing things, to take the easy path. As in the case of physical evolution, the miracle is that this resistance is overcome. We do grow. Despite all that resists the process, we do become better human beings. Not all of us. Not easily. But in significant numbers humans somehow manage to improve themselves and their cultures. There is a force that somehow pushes us to choose the more difficult path whereby we can transcend the mire and muck into which we are so often born. But what is this force that pushes us as individuals and as a whole species to grow against the natural resistance of our own lethargy? … It is love. Love was defined as “the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” When we grow, it is because we are working at it, and we are working at it because we love ourselves. It is through love that we elevate ourselves. And it is through our love for others that we assist them to elevate themselves. Love, the extension of the self, is the very act of evolution. … The evolutionary force, present in all of life, manifests itself in mankind as human love. … It is the miraculous force that defies the natural law of entropy.
Isn’t that awesome?
[But] where does love come from? Whence comes the whole force of evolution? Whence comes this “powerful force originating outside of human consciousness which nurtures the spiritual growth of human beings”? [(This is how the author defines grace).] To explain the miracles of grace and evolution we hypothesize the existence of a God who wants us to grow – a God who loves us. To many this hypothesis seems too simple, too easy; too much like fantasy; childlike and naive. But….to ignore the data by using tunnel vision is not an answer. We cannot obtain an answer by not asking the questions. Simple though it may be, no one who has observed the data and asked the questions has been able to produce a better hypothesis or even really a hypothesis at all. [It is either] a loving God or…a theoretical vacuum. If we postulate that our capacity to love, this urge to grow and evolve, is somehow ‘breathed into us’ by God, then we must ask to what end. Why does God want us to grow? What are we growing toward? Where is the end point, the goal of evolution? What is it that God wants of us? …For no matter how we may like to pussyfoot around it, all of us who postulate a loving God and really think about it eventually come to a single terrifying idea: God wants us to become Himself. We are growing toward godhood. God is the goal of evolution. It is God who is the source of the evolutionary force and God who is the destination. This is what we mean when we say that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. When I said that this was a terrifying idea I was speaking mildly. It is a very old idea, but, by the millions, we run away from it in sheer panic. For no idea ever came to the mind of man which places upon us such a burden. It is the single most demanding idea in the history of mankind. Not because it is difficult to conceive; to the contrary, it is the essence of simplicity. But because if we believe it, it then demands from us all that we can possibly give, all that we have. It is one thing to believe in a nice old God who will take good care of us from a lofty position of power which we ourselves could never begin to attain. It is quite another to believe in a God who has it in mind for us precisely that we should attain His position, His power, His wisdom…. Were we to believe it possible for man to become God, this belief by its very nature would place upon us an obligation to attempt to attain the possible. But we do not want this obligation. We don’t want to have to work that hard. We don’t want God’s responsibility. As long as we can believe that godhood is an impossible attainment for ourselves, we don’t have to worry about our spiritual growth, we don’t have to push ourselves to higher and higher levels of consciousness and loving activity; we can relax and just be human. If God’s in his heaven and we’re down here, and never the twain shall meet, we can let Him have all the responsibility for evolution….As soon as we believe it is possible for man to become God, we can never really rest for long. We must constantly push ourselves to greater and greater wisdom, greater and greater effectiveness. God’s responsibility must be our own. It is no wonder that the belief in the possibility of Godhood is repugnant. The idea that God is actively nurturing us so that we might grow up to be like Him brings us face to face with our own laziness.
Oh, I love that ending.