Christianity in Evolution

Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Christianity in Evolution
    Book Description:

    Evolution has provided a new understanding of reality, with revolutionary consequences for Christianity. In an evolutionary perspective the incarnation involved God entering the evolving human species to help it imitate the trinitarian altruism in whose image it was created and counter its tendency to self-absorption. Primarily, however, the evolutionary achievement of Jesus was to confront and overcome death in an act of cosmic significance, ushering humanity into the culminating stage of its evolutionary destiny, the full sharing of God's inner life. Previously such doctrines as original sin, the fall, sacrifice, and atonement stemmed from viewing death as the penalty for sin and are shown not only to have serious difficulties in themselves, but also to emerge from a Jewish culture preoccupied with sin and sacrifice that could not otherwise account for death. The death of Jesus on the cross is now seen as saving humanity, not from sin, but from individual extinction and meaninglessness. Death is now seen as a normal process that affect all living things and the religious doctrines connected with explaining it in humans are no longer required or justified. Similar evolutionary implications are explored affecting other subjects of Christian belief, including the Church, the Eucharist, priesthood, and moral behavior.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-799-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    In 1988 pope john paul ii put the following questions to the participants of a conference held in Rome to study the relationships between evolution and religion: “Does an evolutionary perspective bring any light to bear upon theological anthropology, the meaning of the human person as the imago Dei, the problem of Christology—and even upon the development of doctrine itself?” The pope was obviously aware that pursuing these and similar questions raised by the development of evolutionary science could stir the depths of Christian theology and required serious dialogue between theology and science. Engaging in such study, he observed,...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Accepting Evolution
    (pp. 1-17)

    The relationship between science and religion has long been a topic of debate and dispute, and nowhere more markedly in modern times than as it concerns the scientific account of evolution. Considerable attention is regularly given to the question of whether Darwinism and religion are in principle compatible, and in recent times distinguished contributions have been made by Peacocke, Ward, Polkinghorne, McGrath, Pope, Haught, and others that defend religion against polemical attacks in the claimed name of modern evolutionary theory.¹ In a comprehensive article on evolution in the encyclopedic Christianity: The Complete Guide, Gerd Theissen explains and comments on the...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Evolution, Altruism, and the Image of God
    (pp. 18-48)

    As discussed in the last chapter, Pope John Paul II once asked a series of challenging theological questions regarding evolution: “Does an evolutionary perspective bring any light to bear upon theological anthropology, the meaning of the human person as the imago Dei, the problem of Christology—and even upon the development of doctrine itself?”¹ This chapter aims to answer the question whether an evolutionary perspective can throw any new light on the meaning of the Christian doctrine of the imago Dei, or of the human person as created in the image of God. A major puzzle for many sociobiologists in...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Evolutionary Achievement of Jesus
    (pp. 49-70)

    In the previous chapter I offered a response to a question that Pope John Paul II once addressed to evolutionary science, whether an evolutionary perspective would throw any light on Christian beliefs, specifically on the significance of the human person as created in the image of God. In answer, I proposed that human altruism, which puzzles many evolutionary scientists, can provide a theological link between God and his human creature in that altruism originates in the life of the divine Trinity of persons as they interact in self-donation to each other and are operative in the work of creation, and...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Incarnation without the Fall
    (pp. 71-97)

    In chapter 3 I argue that with the acceptance of the evolutionary origin of humanity there is no longer a need or a place in Christian beliefs for the traditional doctrines of original sin, the Fall, and human concupiscence resulting from that sin and, further, that much more positively the evolutionary achievement of Jesus was to communicate the altruism of God to the evolving human species and to lead it through death and individual extinction to a richer experience of life by sharing in the altruistic love of the three-personed God. This approach argues against the mainline Christian tradition that...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Seeking a New Paradigm
    (pp. 98-110)

    Examining the traditional Christian doctrines of original sin, the fall of humanity, and concupiscence reveals that these beliefs have been heavily influenced by a Jewish culture that was preoccupied in ascribing all human sufferings, including death, to divine punishment for human sins. As the acceptance of evolution and closer theological and historical examination make it unnecessary to continue to subscribe to these traditional beliefs, it becomes apparent that another line of explanation is required to account for human ills and tragedies, and for God’s part in these, and this chapter is devoted to exploring what shape such a change of...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Church and the Eucharist in Evolution
    (pp. 111-141)

    As the previous chapters have examined, acknowledging the findings of evolutionary science can highlight and clarify the evolutionary achievement that Jesus brought about for the human race through his leading it through death to a richer life with an altruistic God. It can also enable us to dispense with the traditional beliefs in original sin, the Fall, and redemptive atonement, or propitiatory sacrifice, along with the inherent historical and intellectual difficulties that have been raised by these beliefs. Is it possible that such an exploration of Christian belief in reference to evolution, as this chapter is titled, can expand to...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Theology in Evolution
    (pp. 142-170)

    This book has aimed to explore a theology of evolution that will enable the Christian faith to take constructive and systematic note of the way in which the science of evolution has advanced our knowledge of human origins. Much of it will appear negative to many in terms of arguing to dispense with some traditional Christian beliefs, namely, the interconnected beliefs relating to original sin, the Fall, concupiscence, and the resulting need for human reconciliation and redemption and for a propitiatory sacrifice of atonement to an offended God. Yet my aim has been entirely positive. The work of constructing a...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 171-180)
  12. General Index
    (pp. 181-186)
  13. Scriptural Index
    (pp. 187-188)