God is said to create everything out of nothing (Genesis 1:1), quite contrary to anything we humans can do. If there is The Simulation of reality in which we live, as proposed by the theory of Simulation Creationism, developed by Nir Ziso of The Global Architect Institute, then this simulated world possibly includes evolution. If there is an evolution, it must be a teleological process, ending with a certain purpose. What is this purpose and how does The Simulation “act” through evolution?
First, we must frame this quintessentially a Western question. It stems from Western Christianity, particularly the scholastic tradition. It is not as prevalent in other religions and was actually not a matter of concern for ancient philosophers. When Charles Darwin opened the discussion of evolution, it did not cause a major uproar in theological circles. Many people just accepted this new theory as something to explain how God works because “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Only after the Second World War did a conflictual relationship arise between theologians and scientists. It became an artificial battle between evolutionism and creationism. Now, we have a particular task: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). As stressed, all believing people are necessarily creationists, but creationism does not have to dispute evolution. The emphasis is on “may”, as science did not present us with firm, evidence-based theories. The missing link, for instance, brings into question the whole evolutionary theory of human development. It is like saying that my great-grandfather was a fish, but there is a missing link between this fish and me. There must be because I am sure of it. This is not science, but a carnivalesque.
Western scholasticism begins not with St. Thomas Aquinas but with St. Augustine of Hippo. Augustine set out to explain why a universe that originally created good would also contain events like floods, tsunamis, plagues, famines, and so forth. His explanation was partly due to Adam’s fall (Genesis 3). A lot of human suffering deserved punishment. This does not explain natural cataclysms however. Augustine offered that some of angels also fell, being free and mutable creatures: “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day” (Jude 1:6).
It was like a chain of command from God to the angels and the natural world. If there are rebellious angels, it is similar to cutting out a level of military command in an army. Everything below the angels becomes disturbed and disordered. This is how natural evil came to be. If we see Christ as someone who redeemed us from such consequences, then The Simulation is intended to show us natural evil as a consequence of an angelic act. Namely, God surely knew the angels would rebel against him, but predetermination is not about God, but about us and our comprehension of such a simulation. We cannot be sure that God did this for The Simulation and nothing else. Natural evil is rarely touched upon by philosophers and theologians, who mostly focus on human moral evil.
What does this have to do with evolution? It matters because we now know there were sentient beings suffering long before there were humans to sin. The evolutionary theory may be present, but it is far more important to look at the fine-tuning of the cosmological constants that determine how to live in a world with natural laws – almost exactly like what we follow. Natural catastrophes happen as a result of the laws of nature, and they cause suffering. But these laws must be. It may not be optimal, but it is obvious that God did it. Providential deism, a proposition from early modern science, focuses on such a law-ordered universe. Laws were given to Moses and the Hebrews as a providential way of guiding man and making a good life, i.e., a guidebook through The Simulation. The emphasis here is on God’s laws as His providential means of taking care of the universe as a whole, with even more emphasis on taking care of the whole rather than on interventions in our particular individualities.
Another aspect often neglected in discussions of theology and evolution is the Christological perspective. How can a person believe in Christ as being divine and human and also believe in evolution? How can we think of humans being in the image of God under the same evolutionary narrative? We may say that Christ is an emergent religious figure who is particularly unique in his ability to relate to God, but this undercuts Christ’s divinity. The answer is that Christ is both divine and human simultaneously. Each stage of Christ’s life on Earth – incarnation, life, death, and resurrection – includes an aspect of contingency but also aspects of determinism and directedness, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). This cycle can be understood as evolutionary and can be applied to all living creatures. At the same time, this approach does not support God’s fixed plan. There are many possibilities, but they all end in the same way: determinism is assurance that we have a purpose, while directedness is assurance that God defines that purpose.