Evolution of divine understanding

Charles Darwin by John Collier

The conclusions of Charles Darwin are often portrayed as incompatible with Christianity - but Catholic theologians and scientists beg to differ, seeing Evolution as evidence of God's creative dynamism, writes Fr Daniel O'Leary. 

- The Tablet

St Thomas Aquinas warned us that “if we get Creation wrong we get God wrong.”

Many Christians are astonished at the revelations of twentieth-century science, much of what is now known as the “New Universe Story.” These revelations encourage us to reflect more thoroughly on St Thomas Aquinas’ reminder that God is revealed in both the book of nature and of the Scriptures. 

For too long the two stories have collided with each other. But both the love story revealed in the orthodox theology of Creation, and the emerging stories about our evolving world, reveal a fundamental interconnectedness and integration.  as current conversations between mystic and physicist, theologian and cosmologist, are revealing undreamt-of possibilities for the story of our faith.

“Geologian” Fr Thomas Berry wrote that “we bear the universe in our being as the universe bears us in its being.” In humanity the evolving universe becomes conscious of, and celebrates, itself. These glimpses of mystery both challenge and excite us. Current conversations between mystic and physicist, theologian and cosmologist, are revealing undreamt-of possibilities for the story of our faith. 

Christians are now called to a new level of consciousness about God’s loving energy in the first “flaring forth” nearly 14 billion years ago, and in the subsequent process of evolution. Every particle of Creation is imbued with divine love-energy and is an incarnate expression of God’s own creativity.

A fundamental concept is that we all flow from one source, one relatively simple particle; some will see it as the process of evolution, others the work of the Holy Spirit.

Theologian Sr Elizabeth Johnson’s new book, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of love, seeks an understanding of faith that embraces the remarkable findings of science. She wrote: “Far from being in competition with the laws of nature acting around us, the hand of the God of love empowers the cosmos as it evolves. The world develops in an economy of divine superabundance, gifted with its own freedom, and in and through which the Creator Spirit’s gracious purpose is accomplished.” 

In The Emergent Christ, scientist and Franciscan Sr Ilia Delio also called for a transformation in our consciousness as the Church merges into the framework of a new cosmology. She quoted palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ: “Creation and incarnation are two moments of the one act of God’s self-giving love … There is a deep compatibility between Christianity and evolution.”

Read full article: Divine evolution (The Tablet)

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Fr Daniel O’Leary’s website is www.djoleary.com

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