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Our conduct is shaped by the condition of our vision; we are free to choose or to struggle against only what we can see. Our vision, however, is determined by the most important images of the self from which we have fashioned our sense of identity. These furnish us with our perspective upon everything else; they finally legislate not only what we will and what we will not see, but the particular angle or point of view from which the whole of reality will be assessed. How we see ourselves, then, determines how we will conduct ourselves in relation to others, to the world, and even to God — and all this is ultimately a matter of images. If we cannot see ourselves as Christians, we shall scarcely be able to act except in the ways that the fashions of this world legitimate.
Ever since Charles Darwin first published his revolutionary book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, there has been considerable disagreement among Christians concerning both the truth of evolutionary theory and its possible reconciliation with the Bible. Some Christians have taken the so-called ‘fundamentalist creationist’ position believing in a literal interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis. Others have adopted so-called ‘theistic evolutionist’ views accepting to various different degrees Darwinian ideas about origins. One point however on which most Christians (and indeed non-Christians) are agreed, is that an evolutionary process based on blind chance must necessarily conflict with all possible theistic world views and stands irreconcilable with the biblical text. It is this assertion which in this essay I hope to refute, as based on misunderstanding of the meaning of blind chance, of the mechanism of evolution and of the involvement of God in the universe.
In the age of the Enlightenment men were inclined, despite their great confidence in human reason, to invoke the deity in support of ‘the rights of man and of the citizen’1 whereas theologians are nowadays somewhat hesitant in suggesting a possible theological basis for human rights.2 Whatever this may indicate about a more aggressive secularism and a more modest theology and church during much of the twentieth century, it will be the contention of this paper that those who drafted eighteenth century statements and declarations of human rights were closer to the truth about their basis. In support of this contention I shall argue, first, that the doubt which some philosophers have expressed about finding a sure foundation for human rights is quite justified and, second, that the purpose for which some theologians have recently offered a theological basis has therefore been unduly limited. Finally, however, and rather ironically, I shall demonstrate that the bases suggested by these theologians are far too grandiose and all embracing and that what is required is the quite specific teaching of eschatology, the theory of Christian hope.