Are we smarter than our ancestors? Did they worship a God of the gaps? Does human nature ever change?

                Plenty of people will try to prop themselves up on their own intellect by stating they are smarter than our predecessors. I see this idea pop up in multiple ideas, such as the ancient aliens hypothesis, or the ever-so-famous God of the gaps. I also wonder if people find that our nature, and our base desires ever really change. To the latter, I doubt that humans have changed at their core. To the former, I think that humanity has indeed increased their knowledge of the world, and some cultures did deify natural events, but I don’t think any culture is wiser than the other, and that Christianity does not provide a basis for the God of the gaps hypothesis. What I hope to do today is to untangle this series of questions and show that belief in God, specifically Christianity, does not come from a lack of knowledge or intelligence, but rather a lack of ability to save humanity from its own sinful nature. We all have a natural desire for life, and a natural intuition to know that this life is not all there is.
                So we can look at the history of various cultures, and with a few exceptions, we can see that people did the best with what they had to make their civilizations thrive and flourish. The Mayan civilization developed a water system that sustained their cultures, even in the mountainous regions of Central/South America. The Greco/Roman civilizations produced systems of philosophy and government that we still employ to this very day. There are plenty of wonders of the world that were built by civilizations past that stand today, such as the Great Wall, the pyramids of Giza, the wall built around Jerusalem. Scientists of today claim that we stand on the shoulders of giants, namely the fathers of modern science like Newton, Kepler, Schrodinger, Einstein, Pascal, and infinitely more. Many of the fathers of modern science were very religious and prominent writers for the belief in the existence of God, but I digress from my point. If we are really going to be consistent and discount the intelligence of our ancestors, then we should be able to come up with something better, but I think we also apply the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. I think this also is part of our answer to our second question.
                Does human nature ever change? I would say no, because ever since the fall of man in the garden, we have been driven to gain power that we can say is ours alone. We want to be able to do what we want, when we want, and not have to answer to anyone. I think with this definition in mind, we can also answer a secondary question, did we make up God? I don’t think so, because the God of the Bible demands so much and wants us to give him control over our lives, and says that we cannot achieve the perfection we seek without Him, that I think it would be difficult to justify God as a product of human imagination. Coming back to the original question, we still have stories covering the human condition, of good and evil that we are capable of, and the motivations are still the same. J. Warner Wallace, when discussing the motivations of criminal conspiracies, break down to money, power, and sex. The selfish, criminal acts that people commit can be broken down into these three categories. We can look at many of the controversies that are in the news today as verification of this statement. Mr. Wallace also took this methodology in the past and found that there was a uniqueness among the original 12 disciples in that they truly believed in the resurrection of Christ, because they did not have power, they weren’t rich, and as far as we are aware they were not making it around with the ladies as they worked to begin the church. As a contrast to this, we see the Muhammed had plenty of “special revelations” from Allah so that Muhammed could take and bed extra women. I’m sure there are other instances of this, but one I wanted to point out here.
                Now then for the last question, did our ancestors believe in a God of the gaps? To explain, the God of the gaps is the God that people appeal to when they don’t have a natural explanation. For example, “I can’t explain lightning, therefore God did it.” Did our ancestors follow this line of thinking? I don’t think so, and I have a few examples in scripture to help support the case that the people of Israel and the early church recognized that God was not some deification of an aspect of creation. In 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah going out on a mountain to meet with God, before God came to Elijah, and great fire, an earthquake, and a great wind. During all of these, it was noted that God was not in the fire, earthquake, or the wind. After all of these, Elijah heard a gentle whisper that signified the arrival of God, so Elijah covered his face with his cloak and went out to speak with God. I think this verse runs counter to what was present in the cultures surrounding Israel. I have been reading Against the Flow by John Lennox. He mentions that there was a pluralistic religious system in Babylon, with various gods ruling aspects of nature. He also comments that the God of the Israelites is so counter to any other deity in that day, because God does not have a creator, He is the Creator. Every other god of that time came from something, be it another god or the aether. We can also look at the natural skepticism of the people of the time, when Mary came to Joseph pregnant. Mary came to Joseph saying that she was pregnant with the Messiah, given to her by the spirit of God. Joseph knew how the world worked, so he initially wanted to stone her for infidelity to him as his betrothed! It took another intervention by an angel of God to convince Joseph that Mary was telling the truth! So as John Lennox famously quotes, “I don’t believe in a God of the gaps, but a God of the whole show!”

                So are we different than our ancestors? Indeed we are on the exterior with our technology and quality of life, but at our cores, our hearts are in the same condition, capable of great good and terrible evil, and we are in need of outside help to find our salvation. This salvation is offered to us freely through the gift of grace that was bought with the blood of Jesus, who is the son of the living God! If you ever want to talk about this gift of salvation or just need an ear, feel free to reach out to me here or through social media. God bless and have a good rest of your day!

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