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Center for Action and Contemplation
Authentic Transformation
Authentic Transformation

Evolving Faithfully 

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Jesus said, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing.” —Luke 12:49 

Richard Rohr’s faith is strengthened by acknowledging that everything changes: 

The inner process of change and growth is fundamental to everything, even our bodies. Having undergone several surgeries, cancer, and a heart attack, I’ve been consoled by the way my body takes care of itself over time. In religion, however, many people prefer magical, external, one-time transactions instead of this universal pattern of growth and healing—which always includes loss and renewal. This is the way that life perpetuates itself in ever-new forms: through various changes that can feel like death. This pattern disappoints and scares most of us, even many clergy who think death and resurrection is just a doctrinal statement about Jesus.  

Religions tend to idealize and protect the status quo or the supposedly wonderful past, yet what we now recognize is how they often focus on protecting their own power and privilege. God does not need our protecting. We often worship old things as substitutes for eternal things. Jesus strongly rejects this love of the past and one’s private perfection, and he cleverly quotes Isaiah (29:13) to do it: “In vain do they worship me, teaching merely human precepts as if they were doctrines” (Matthew 15:9). Some Christians seem to think that God really is “back there,” in the good ol’ days of old-time religion when God was really God, and everybody was happy and pure. As if that time ever existed! This leaves the present moment empty and hopeless—not to speak of the future.  

God keeps creating things from the inside out, so they are forever yearning, developing, growing, and changing for the good. This is the fire God has cast upon the Earth, the generative force implanted in all living things, which grow both from within—because they are programmed for it—and from without—by taking in sun, food, and water. Picture YHWH breathing into the soil that became Adam (Genesis 2:7). That is the eternal pattern. God is still breathing into soil every moment! [1]  

There is not a single discipline studied today that does not recognize change, development, growth, and some kind of evolving phenomenon: psychology, cultural anthropology, history, physical sciences, philosophy, social studies, art, drama, music, on and on. But in theology’s search for the Real Absolute, it made one fatal mistake. It imagined a static “unmoved mover,” as Aristotelian philosophy called it, a solid substance sitting above somewhere.  

To fight transformative and evolutionary thinking is, for me, to fight the very core concept of faith. I have no certain knowledge of where this life might be fully or finally heading, but I can see what has already been revealed with great clarity—that life and knowledge always build on themselves, are cumulative, and are always moving outward toward ever-greater connection and discovery. There is no stopping this and no returning to a static notion of reality. [2]   

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (New York: Convergent, 2019, 2021), 93, 94, 95. See also “Everything Changes,” Daily Meditations, January 1, 2019. 

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Evolution Is Another Name for Growth,” Oneing 4, no. 2, Evolutionary Thinking (Fall 2016): 111–112, 113. Available as PDF download. 

Image credit and inspiration: Jenna Keiper, web of water (detail), 2020, photo, Washington. Click here to enlarge image. Like this spider’s web, a ray of light can illuminate and transform us

Story from Our Community:  

I have walked several spiritual paths over the years: Sunday school, Anglican boarding school, rejecting religion, becoming a Catholic, and finally moving to the edge and honoring my deep authentic self. Nature has been my church for many years, and I try to honor Divine Love in everyone and everywhere. Thank you, CAC, for your companionship on the journey. 
—Janie D. 

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