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]

Notes:

[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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5 Comments

  1. Joe Masterleo on February 11, 2021 at 10:41 am

    Spirit is both a “it” (substance) and a person (Christ), “in whom all things consist and are held together” (Col. 1:16). As the highest part of matter, “It” works/rises/ evolves from the invisible innermost of things, from the inside of the inside. Like leaven in bread, just as Jesus taught.



  2. Carol Sadosky on February 11, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Thank you for your answer! If I am understanding correctly, evolution is the process whereby God becomes manifest/seeable in matter and in that way is ‘changing’ as matter and consciousness grow in complexity, and the divinization of humanity will be the end, telos, of God’s purpose of creating, leading to the transformation of all creation when finally Christ becomes all in all? I am no philosopher or theologian, but I do try to understand anything that has to do with the manifestation of love because that is just so beautiful!



  3. Maureen Ellis' Blog on February 18, 2021 at 2:08 pm

    What of the linguistic anthropological approach which may see God as the abstract naming, identification of all Go(o)d, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. The rest of life is a matter of linguistic, cultural, geographic, disciplinary multimodal fragmentation, fractioning this Ultimate Power into collective, common, proper, concrete nouns (???)



  4. Sophia on February 23, 2021 at 9:13 pm

    My thoughts about this -which I like- are maybe just semantics. I believe God is perfectly God, and will be even more so when we become God again, and so it could be said that God is imperfect, for now.. Carl Jung said: Humankind is the mirror God holds up to God self.



  5. Alfred Aren. on March 1, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    Theihard was often accused of being pantheistic. I am sure that he wasn’t and somehow he couldn’t defend himself, because the word “panentheism” didn’t seem to have been in his vocabulary. The difference between the terms is that: pantheism means that God is everything; while panentheism means that God is in everything.

    It’s easy when reading Teilhard to fall into the conclusion that he was a pantheist, yet if you accept that in his religious grounding he would have been and subscribed to the idea of God being as both “immanent” and “transcendent”. This would translate that God is very much in the world but at the same time also not a part of its evolving aspect. Teilhard would concede that we are the subjects of evolution, where it’s Creator is its prime mover.

    The Christ was pre existent, whereas we are evolving in Christ to become the image of God we are intended to be. I find the idea that it’s an imperfect God that’s evolving, at odds with Teilhard’s beliefs and this perception smacks of pantheism – not Telihards’s perception.

    Christo-genesis isn’t Christ evolving per se, but that Creation is evolving towards the model that is “The Christ”.



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