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The Christ Project

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Christ in Evolution

The Christ Project
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

I’ve mentioned Pierre Teilhard de Chardin a couple times this week. I credit this Jesuit priest and paleontologist with helping me—and many others—grasp the universal, evolutionary nature of Christianity. He has been quoted by the last three Popes. Teilhard believed that both sin and salvation are corporate concepts, yet while his view is very biblical, many Christians thought of sin and salvation as individual failure and reward.

Theologian Louis Savary is an avid student of Teilhard and makes his teaching accessible. Over the next two days I’ll share excerpts from Savary’s book The New Spiritual Exercises:

First, for Teilhard, because the creation of the universe is a primary act of God’s self-expression and an important part of God’s self-revelation to us, creation’s evolving story must be integrated into any contemporary spirituality. Even the ancient psalmist was aware that all of nature was trying to tell us about God and God’s love for us (see Psalm 19:1-4). In our day, science is increasing our ability to “read” creation’s story.

Second, for Teilhard, to love God requires loving the world as well, since what God brought forth in the evolving cosmos is precisely God’s loving self-expression. For Teilhard, because God loves the totality of creation unconditionally and wants it to evolve to its destined completion, we too should learn to love the cosmos with a passion. Our challenge in spirituality is to realize how totally integrated we humans are with all creation and how best to work toward creation’s divinely desired evolutionary fulfillment.

Third, for Teilhard, this new evolutionary scientific information (less than a century old) allows us to look at all of creation in its multi-billion-year history and give a richer and more concrete meaning to what God is trying to do in the world. Saint Paul described God’s “hidden purpose” (Ephesians 3:9-10) as “building the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:1-6, 13). Jesus expressed it in his prayer “That all may be one as you, Father, are in me and I am in you” (John 17:21). The church’s tradition tries to express this oneness that God is trying to accomplish as “building the Mystical Body of Christ.” Teilhard’s vision of what God is trying to do is what I like to call the “Christ Project.”

God’s Christ Project encompasses the entire evolving universe, and its aim is to bring creation (along with all of us) back to God, fully conscious of our divine origin and divine destiny. . . .

For Teilhard, although each individual soul is intimately known and unconditionally loved by God, in the end the one Person that God wants to “save” and bring to perfection is the cosmic-sized Christ, in whom lives the entire universe that God lovingly created and set into an evolutionary process almost fourteen billion years ago (Ephesians 1:9-10).

References:
Louis M. Savary, The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Paulist Press: 2010), xi-xii, xiv.

Image credit: Gua Tewet Tree of Life (detail), cave painting, Borneo, Indonesia.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth, if this same dynamism brought forth the continents and seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process. —Thomas Berry (1914-2009)
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