The Incarnation Is the Meaning and Purpose of Evolution

The Incarnation Is the Meaning and Purpose of Evolution


Q: “It might be time to stop looking for a perfect God and awaken to an imperfect God, a God who is still becoming God precisely because God emptied Godself into human form (Phi. 2:6). God succumbed to the limits of matter so that matter could discover its potential in God. What does a messy God look like, an incomplete God? I think such a God looks like us humans who keep trying to overcome our failings and deficiencies.” What does this mean? Are you saying that God [in your blog “Divine Love In An Imperfect World”] is not perfect, that the God who IS is really only becoming God? How could God be incomplete? I have never read any theologian speak this way. I am being respectfully curious as I love the work you are doing.”

Robert Nicastro: Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin understood the science of evolution as the best explanation for biological and cosmological life. In his estimation, it describes the entirety of nature as one continuous process of unfolding life, an unfinished world desirous of completion. In the Phenomenon of Man, he writes: “Evolution is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforth if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.”[1] As evolution affects every dimension of life, Teilhard believed that it should serve as the fundamental launching pad for all present and future theological speculation.

In contrast to the antiquated notion of God as some prime mover pushing creation from the past, Teilhard conceived of evolution as a forward movement of increasing states of complexity and consciousness. Informed by the new physics of the early twentieth century, particularly Einstein’s discovery of the interconvertibility of matter and energy, Teilhard’s insight demands that we reconceive God as the source of energy empowering, persuading, and summoning the whole cosmic process from up ahead—a future in which God and world are consciously bound together in a dynamic, totalizing union.

While many twentieth-century theologians sought to articulate an integral complementarity between God and nature, Teilhard’s identification of this relationship was unique. It is unique in that the Incarnation serves as the meaning and purpose of evolution, for God is the experiential energy of evolution itself. For Teilhard, consciousness is the inside of matter and the power of attraction responsible for deepening union is the outside of matter. He called the core energy of consciousness and attraction love—and, according to the Christian message of Scripture, God is love.[2] Therefore, he employed the term “theogenesis” to describe God’s ongoing birth in evolution through the converging vitality of love. As our consciousness of unity advances, God progressively becomes God in us and is transformed through the process of unification. Teilhard explains that while “God is entirely self-sufficient, the universe contributes something that is vitally necessary to him[3] and, therefore, without creation, without God’s involvement in evolution, “something would be absolutely lacking to God, considered in the fullness not of his being but of his act of union.”[4] Such is the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation: God plunges into matter and is completed by humankind through the conscious complexification of divinity and materiality, rendering the human an indispensable element of God’s active presence in the world. In The Heart of Matter, Teilhard is unmistakable: “All around us, and within our own selves, God is in process of ‘changing,’ as a result of the coincidence of his magnetic power and our own Thought.”[5]


[1] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, trans. Bernard Wall (New York: Harper and Row, 1959), 219.

[2] John 4:13

[3] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution: Reflections on Science and Religion, trans. Rene Hague (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 182.

[4] Ibid., 77.

[5] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Heart of Matter, trans. Rene Hague (New York: Harcourt, 1978), 53.

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New Creation is the Center for Christogenesis online magazine dedicated to deepening our awareness of God, Cosmos, and Humanity in a scientific age.

Ω Vision and Ω Spirit cover questions of the theology and spirituality of the Center for Christogenesis worldview. Other areas include our What is God Today? video series, the Visio Divina image gallery, a Resources section with videos and PowerPoints, and the latest from Ilia Delio.

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Ilia's ability to translate for the average person, unfamiliar with Teilhard and the primary literature is a gift to the church. Many concepts like axial age, christogenesis, even alternative and more progressive readings of well worn biblical passages is a translational abiliity few have. She is a treasure and I am grateful.
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