After my first post last April, several recipients let me know there was some difficulty with the system that allowed people to respond. When you arrive at the home page, if you click on the blog title or go to “Recent Posts” in the right hand column and click the desired post you will be taken to the actual blog page and once there you will be able to leave a comment or click to follow the blog.
Then summer arrived and passed into fall and I have been stalled. I realized that this was going to be more complicated than just posting what I was thinking. I decided that I needed to show how my life and my thinking are rooted in an Evolutionary Christianity and give some background on what the perspective of Evolutionary Christianity is.
The job I took on was beginning to feel very daunting and I was unsure where to start. This was a place that felt very familiar to me. I had been here several times in my personal and vocational life. In my ministry when I was faced with a decision that could change the course of my life, my strategy was to try to figure it all out before I moved ahead. My decision to come to Canada to serve a Moravian Church in Calgary, my decision to give up my U.S. Citizenship and become a Canadian citizen, my decision to move from the Moravian Church to the United Church of Canada and, last but not least, my decision to begin a community ministry called Spiritual Directions were a just a few of these moments. Each time I spent time in prayer and reflection to determine if this really was a “call” for me. But, even when I did believe it was a call I would still spend time trying to figure out all the details until finally I got the message: “Don’t try to figure it all out, just take the next step. If you believe this new direction is really a call, just say yes and begin”. The decision for me is often about trust and moving ahead in faith.
So…. with a new burst of energy and commitment I begin again!
Science and religion have been in a struggle for hundreds of years, each trying to protect its field of knowledge/belief. However they cannot let go of each other because they are in a tug of war with a common purpose: to understand the nature of reality in the world in which we live. Our current struggle is with how to meld perspectives with two different languages, not two different realities. Evolutionary spirituality is an emerging perspective that explains the reality of life from scientific and Christian spiritual perspectives and they are surprisingly similar. Brian Swimm, PhD in gravitational dynamics and professor of evolutionary cosmology (Canticle to the Cosmos, Disk 1, #4) says that the fundamental order of the universe consists of three characteristics: Subjectivity, Differentiation and Communion. Leave any one of them out and the universe falls apart. These basic patterns apply to the expanding universe as well as to everything in it, including human beings.
The universe seems to love diversity. The movement of evolution tends towards greater depth, diversity and complexity, not toward more similarity. Some used to think that the goal of life was some kind of perfection – defined as reaching the end of a process where one is complete with no further need of change. However, the universe is dynamic, not static. Change is the rule, not the exception. Our experience is that there is constant change. Is this evolution at work? It could be, but not necessarily. Surprise, not boredom, is the characteristic of an evolving universe. Yet there is predictability in the way life evolves. There are laws and rules. Without the rules there would be constant chaos and there would be nothing predictable. Yes, we are constantly being surprised by newness. In Christianity the word often used is transformation.
The universe exists in a state of communion. One of the core beliefs of evolutionary theory is that as different as we are, we are all the same. A verse from John Denver’s song, Season’s Suite, floats through my mind, “Riding on the tapestry of all there is to see, so many ways and oh, so many things. Rejoicing in the differences, there’s no one just like me. Yet as different as we are, we’re still the same.” Communion speaks about the depth of communication that we call intimacy. As we share our experiences we learn about others and we, in turn, learn about ourselves. If there were no communication there would be no community; we would be isolated and each of us, a world unto oneself. Christianity and science are both about relationships, growth and community in the evolution of life.
Subjectivity has been the stretch for science. However, as scientists explore the way the universe works and ask, “What is real?” it has opened the door to the belief that the universe is more than just inanimate physical stuff that has no mind of its own. When we treat the world as just “stuff”, believing we can play around with it as we wish, we can end up with disastrous consequences. To understand our world, we need to be in communion with the energy that is directing the expansion of the universe and is allowing for the transformation of life on our planet. We are unique subjects. We have an inner life and a consciousness that transcends the physical to add meaning and purpose to our lives. It is a stretch to say that the universe also has an inner life we can come to know and that being in relationship with it is to our benefit. However, more and more evidence suggests that there is a directing energy or principle at work in the evolution of the universe. And to deny this is to flirt with disaster for the human race.
Christianity defines God as one God in three aspects/persons (the trinity). The triune God is usually spoken of as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Exploring the meaning of this teaching has been the recent focus of many theologians trying to flesh out the meaning of the trinity for contemporary Christians. Paul Smith in his book, Integral Christianity, explains this more fully in chapter 12, The Three Faces of God. While he speaks about God as Infinite, Intimate and Inner, he is also speaking about the nature of our human life as well.
Jesus spoke about the Infinite face of God the Creator, the divine energy that is a part of everything. This is the big picture of the evolutionary purpose that drives the changes in our universe. Everything is made of the same stuff and all this stuff is connected. There is a unity in all the diversity. Jesus also spoke (prayed) to the intimate face of God. We communicate with the sacred to be a part of the divine life. I see this as very similar to the communion that science is discovering in the universe – the way every action influences everything else just by being present. And thirdly, Jesus spoke as the inner face of God. This is the one face that many Christians have a hard time accepting: that one aspect of human life is as God in the world. We have an inner life (Spirit) and when we are in touch with the “true self” that Richard Rohr and others are speaking about in their recent writings, we are God living in the real world. This is the subjectivity that I spoke of earlier. We are all subjects with an inner life.
These two trinities provide an explanation of the foundation of life anywhere in the universe from an evolutionary standpoint. The implication for me is that any decision I make whether to act or not to act is a communication that affects the whole flow of life either furthering our evolution or hindering it. I will follow this line of thinking in my next post about meaning and purpose and why I should care.
I am looking forward to your comments and hope this blog will spark a conversation about the diverse beliefs we hold on our spiritual path.