Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Brian Holley

Evolutionary Christianity

Recommended Posts

Having seen a couple of postings about Michael Dowd on this forum, I think it's worth bringing to the attention of tcpc subscribers the 28 audio interviews (one each day) which are gradually being released by Michael at EvolutionaryChristianity.com. For me, so far, the highlights have been with Jack Spong, Bruce Sanguin and Brian McClaren. I've downloaded everything to my mp3 player and am really enjoying listening and re-listening to these inspirational speakers.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the link. Read Michael Dowd's "Thank God for Evolution", not one I would recommend but I like the list of contributors at the site you have shared.

 

Take Care

Dutch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Brian, I just registered.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I have downloaded all conversations and listened to the first five and I keep coming back to Bruce Sanguin. I love the language. I see that he has contributed to the TCPC Liturgy project. In creating space for his own project Dowd, and Sanguin, are pushing off from the trivialized gap-god of Intelligent Design and the hollowness of liberal emphasis on framework, context and constructed narrative :) .

 

But . . .words, glorious words! Here are a few.

 

"Evolutionary mysticism."

"Empirical reformation."

"Evolutionary enlightenment"

 

"An evolutionary cosmological view grounded me in truth, not truth with a capital T, truth grounded in empirical data."

The empirical as divine revelation.

 

from Xavier Le Pichon's theology of fragility: The evolutionary purpose of suffering is that it evokes an empathic response; an evolutionary impulse to evolve along the empathic line of intelligence.

 

"Evolutionary unfolding of myself as a mode of being of the universe."

"I am /the presence of/ the universe" (If I am not then who do I think I am?)

"What is the future that needs me to in order to emerge?"

 

I apologize for just the quotes but the Christmas eve service I attended was a train wreck language-wise and Bruce Sanguin's words spurred some mania. I am at least infatuated with it.

 

Excerpts from from his new book "If Darwin Prayed"---

 

"If Darwin Prayed"

 

...

 

I wonder when the push of eros and pull of the possible caused him to close the city of god and leave the dreary seminary to set sail on board his beagle destiny if he ever imagined that he embodied spirit's irrepressible urge to evolve.

 

i wonder when he reflected on the mystery of a flinch's beak and the glories of the galapagos if mr darwin considered his own adaptive brilliance that brought forth the origin of species, his great gift to theology, an occassion of an even deeper mystery: evolution awakening in him.

 

I wonder if hunched long years over beetles and mollusks if he ever considered st pauls self emptying god

touching all with a rising non coercive presence and then going on ahead of us as did the galiliean calling from an undissected future, beckoning this sighing creation toward freedom and fullness of being.

 

I wonder mr darwin if your beloved emma might have worried less over your apostasy if you could have played the prophet and announced with the baptist that evolution was filling every valley and making low the mountains preparing a highway through descartes desert for the advent and not the end of god.

 

...

 

a prayer,

The Bigger Bang of Christmas

 

Creator god,

From your fecund womb a birth explosion of light and matter erupted. You declared it, proud mother, to be good. From the depths of earth you bodied forth Jesus, spirit-filled and fired with holy vision, some say a second creation.

A bigger bang flared forth in him, spirit's expansion in all directions.Love burned in him so that our small and isolated selves might undergo a heat death birthing a supernova soul and the all the elements necessary for a new creation: spiritual knowing, compassion, service and an unambiguous consent to be future shapers. Our souls now see, universe maker, in this Christmas miracle the goodness of both creation stories.

 

Amen

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like Bruce Sanguin’s language a lot also.

 

Brian, thanks for the link – a lot of the names were new to me. At first the term “evolutionary” seemed too narrowly focused on rejecting creationism or interpreting every scientific discovery as a message from God - but now I realize it’s way more far reaching and look forward to reading more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to admit that I am a little disappointed with Evolutionary Christianity that the organizers have appeared not to have considered asking John Cobb Jnr. Process theology has long recognized the place evolution plays in Creation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

John Cobb was the 6th speaker.

 

Well, Cobb would have said all that would have needed to be said I would have thought. Process Theology deals with the evolutionary aspect rather well.

 

I find the whole concept of 'evolutionary Christianity' as something of a gunshot marriage.

 

The unspoken agenda is the none so subtle effort of trying to fit the Christian doctrine into the 21st century. Round pegs into squares holes only go if a lot of hammering is done damaging both the peg and the hole in the process.

 

The simple fact is that Christianity does not accept the whole notion of science despite the rhetoric to the opposite. The reason there is something called PC is largely in response the the inability of Christianity to met the needs of today and those needs are driven by science.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wayseer,

 

With over 30 speakers there are a variety of views. You might want to listen to John Haught for his framing and Bruce Sanguin for his language. Cobb, Haught, Sanguin, Paul -- it is always about language and metaphor. We make the words and the words make us.

 

The simple fact is that Christianity does not accept the whole notion of science despite the rhetoric to the opposite.

 

It is not simple.

It is not fact.

For which Christians have you assumed you can speak for?

If one says they accept a notion, you have no place to stand in the universe where you can say they don't accept the notion. It's not a falsifiable statement.

 

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

 

P.S. Take a look at Sanguin's book, "If Darwin Prayed", worthy for language and new metaphors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From Bruce Sanguin

 

4th stanza of "If Darwin Prayed"

 

I wonder,

when he reflected on the mystery of a finch's beak

and the glories of the Galapagos,

if Mr. Darwin considered his own adaptive brilliance

that brought forth The Origin of Species

(his great gift to theology)

an occasion of an even deeper Mystery --

evolution awakening in him

 

1st and 2nd stanzas of "Save us from the TRUTH"

 

O Holy One,

this search for truth

and its infinitely receding horizon

frustrates our need to nail it down.

Humor us, will you?

Freeze the horizon,

and fix a point that assures us

of truth's location.

 

Or convince us, once and for all,

that we wouldn't know what to do with truth

if we held it in our hands,

and remind us that whenever we try to nail you down,

you always rise up

and go ahead of us --

luring us towards the Mystery

beyond our intellect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The simple fact is that Christianity does not accept the whole notion of science despite the rhetoric to the opposite. The reason there is something called PC is largely in response the the inability of Christianity to met the needs of today and those needs are driven by science.

 

Only if you define Christianity as "Those guys who built the Creation Museum," which leaves out a lot of people, including John Cobb.

 

EDIT: My point is that to suggest that there is a singular definition of Christianity with a uniform view of science as the enemy seems like a bit of a broad brush.

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Only if you define Christianity as "Those guys who built the Creation Museum," which leaves out a lot of people, including John Cobb.

 

EDIT: My point is that to suggest that there is a singular definition of Christianity with a uniform view of science as the enemy seems like a bit of a broad brush.

 

Yes, I take you point. Perhaps I generalize beyond where it safe to proceed.

 

But my point remains that for the many Christianity is not represented by John Cobb Jnr or TCPC or Dr. Spong. The Christian diet fed to the masses is one that is largely fundamentalist - that is the reference point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dutch,

 

Thanks for the quotes you’ve shared. If you’ve listened to a lot of the seminar, have you concluded anything about Evolutionary Christianity -- is it significantly different from PC or only a shift of emphasis in some direction? I haven’t had a chance yet to download any of the audios but plan to when there’s time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rivanna,

 

The 38 interview cover a wide spectrum of people with a connection to "Evolutionary Christianity."

1. a significant impulse from former "evophobic," (my neologism). Michael Dowd is one and that shapes these conversations. They all may not be former but they pushing off of Intelligent Design.

2. Some, especially Michael Dowd, the host are "naturalist", what you see is what there that is, but his enthusiasm seems to exhibit a "metaphysical naturalism." He speaks of "empirical reformation" or "empirical mysticism." "We can from star dust and we return to star dust"

3. Some are involved in a self-improvement approach. "Evolution is getting more complex and "improving" and so should we, as individuals, intentionally evolving our lives. Suggesting silly to profound ways. A little googling again I discovered a whole "spiritual" empowering movement not connected to religion.

3. Evolution as a revelation of God. An empowering vision,

4. I listened to about 30 of the the 42? audios. I think Bruce Sanguin, John Cobb, Jim Burklo, Spong, Ian Lawton, Tom Thresher, John Haught, Ilia Delio are the ones that I remember most at the moment. Googling these speakers does change my evaluation. Tom Thresher pastors a church that I would like to attend. http://suquamishucc.org/action/worship-service-times. Some have contributions on the TCPC site.

5. Those who lead churches have a significant educational emphasis on spiritual development using material such as Dowd's "Thank God for evolutiona" and better.

6. There is an emphasis on unmediated experience, Dowd's bias, -- trust not beliefs. Even if it seems strange just let your self experience and don't explain it. "I felt as if the hand of God ..." is an example of an explanation.

7. EvoChristo (neo-logism) is


  1.  
  2. encouraging people to open themselves to The Great Story of evolution
  3. pushing for care of the planet
  4. provides framework for seeing God's continuing revelation, or
    a resurgent interest in Teihard's ideas,

 

I am late iam late

 

Dutch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your extensive analysis, Dutch. My overall impression is that there is a great deal happening in a lot of places that is helping us move away from doctrinally dogmatic views to views which are, on the one hand empirally led, and on the other, experientially led. Wherever I go I meet people from an enormous spectrum of spiritual backgrounds who express the same spiritual experiences even though their explanations of them differ widely.

 

I've started using the Evolutionary Christianity recordings in a short series of conversations I'm leading at our local Quaker Meeting House. We had people from local Anglican and Catholic churches present at the first one based on the recording of the Bruce Sanguin interview. I mentioned to Michael Dowd that some people found the language rather intellectual and full of jargon and had a reply from Bruce and and Michael. They graciously agreed with my comments and my suggestion that we might benefit from some parables to illustrate the concepts. Having said that, there must be a place for both the intellectual and the simple.

 

After hearing that interview I bought Brian Swimme's The Universe is a Green Dragon and found it really helpful. I feel the world-view being propagated by Michael and the other contributors might spiritually envigorate people in many churches as well as within secular society. What do others think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brian,

 

You're welcome. Your use of outside presenters is an excellent idea.

 

:D I am planning an Lent series based on the conversations.

 

I think part of the problem with the recordings is that one must take notes to understand what one is hearing. Few of this days are solely auditory learners. However, I do agree there are some difficult language and metaphors to get a hold of.

 

I took 6-8 pages of notes when I listened to Sanguin several times. But when I read the liturgical material in Bruce Sanguin's "What if Darwin prayed" it feels clear to me but it isn't an explanation. Spong isn't on the cutting edge, but he speaks clearly and simply; he also has a clear Christology. The wisdom of a warrior who is 80. Ilia Delio has clear language about a complex idea: Evolution as the cosmic cruciform; Christ as the creating Word of Love for the past 13.7 billion years.

 

When Michael is able to make the transcripts available it will be easier I think. Would I be correct in assuming that you will giving feedback for study guides?

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Edited by glintofpewter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brian,

 

You're welcome. Your use of outside presenters is an excellent idea.

 

:D I am planning an Lent series based on the conversations.

 

I think part of the problem with the recordings is that one must take notes to understand what one is hearing. Few of this days are solely auditory learners. However, I do agree there are some difficult language and metaphors to get a hold of.

 

I took 6-8 pages of notes when I listened to Sanguin several times. But when I read the liturgical material in Bruce Sanguin's "What if Darwin prayed" it feels clear to me but it isn't an explanation. Spong isn't on the cutting edge, but he speaks clearly and simply; he also has a clear Christology. The wisdom of a warrior who is 80. Ilia Delio has clear language about a complex idea: Evolution as the cosmic cruciform; Christ as the creating Word of Love for the past 13.7 billion years.

 

When Michael is able to make the transcripts available it will be easier I think. Would I be correct in assuming that you will giving feedback for study guides?

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Good observations, Dutch. Thank you. We found Sanguin a bit heavily intellectual in the group. There were some good bits to pick over though. I split it into two sessions with a conversation after each one, and truncated the last session because of time. For the next session, Brian McLaren's interview will be easier to follow. I've bought A5 clip boards so that people can take notes, which I think will make listening easier. I agree about auditory learners but recognise it's a preference not an exclusive chanel. Everyone can learn auditorily. We just have to moderate the volume of material being provided at one time.

 

I think the transcripts should be ready shortly. Michael says he'll let me know, so I'll pass the information on via this forum.

 

Do you think there would be any interest in getting Michael and Connie over for a short lecture tour?

 

Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it would help to have transcripts.

 

Just listened to Mary Southard’s audio. She’s an artist/sculptor, and ex-Catholic. I didn’t hear anything really new, but liked the way she brought Jesus in occasionally (I had wondered how he fit into this view – Darwin and survival of the fittest seems so at odds with his teaching). She sees the body of Christ as all of creation, and said we need to think of ourselves as part of the earth, and the process of evolution -- we are the universe becoming conscious of itself. She clearly finds the divine and healing power in the natural world. She said expressing our creativity in whatever form beings us closer to God, and mentioned being influenced by Thomas Berry’s poetry, Teilhard de Chardin, and The Universe is a Green Dragon by Brian Swimme --her interviewer Michael Dowd was big on that book as well.

 

What I’ve learned about Evolutionary Christianity has only scratched the surface -- as an intellectual movement it seems like a healthy direction to follow. My main impression is that it shifts emphasis away from the bible and doctrine, toward nature as the revelation of God. Theoretically the focus on ecology has the potential to draw humanity together to save the planet, yet it’s hard not to be cynical about this. Preserving the environment is always on the back burner, politically, and not just in the US.

Edited by rivanna

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it would help to have transcripts.

 

Just listened to Mary Southard’s audio. She’s an artist/sculptor, and ex-Catholic. I didn’t hear anything really new, but liked the way she brought Jesus in occasionally (I had wondered how he fit into this view – Darwin and survival of the fittest seems so at odds with his teaching). She sees the body of Christ as all of creation, and said we need to think of ourselves as part of the earth, and the process of evolution -- we are the universe becoming conscious of itself. She clearly finds the divine and healing power in the natural world. She said expressing our creativity in whatever form beings us closer to God, and mentioned being influenced by Thomas Berry’s poetry, Teilhard de Chardin, and The Universe is a Green Dragon by Brian Swimme --her interviewer Michael Dowd was big on that book as well.

 

What I’ve learned about Evolutionary Christianity has only scratched the surface -- as an intellectual movement it seems like a healthy direction to follow. My main impression is that it shifts emphasis away from the bible and doctrine, toward nature as the revelation of God. Theoretically the focus on ecology has the potential to draw humanity together to save the planet, yet it’s hard not to be cynical about this. Preserving the environment is always on the back burner, politically, and not just in the US.

 

You make some interesting points, Rivanna. I too have wondered how people fit Jesus into evolutionary Christian theology, which doesn't seem to be covered in this series. Richard Rohr is one of the best exponents of this that I know of. He has some good material at www.cacradicalgrace.org I've tried to get to grips with Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point, but clearly haven't got the intellect for that. What I'm interested in exploring further is how we harmonise mythic understanding and evidential understanding. Has anyone got any pointers please?

 

Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I'm interested in exploring further is how we harmonise mythic understanding and evidential understanding. Has anyone got any pointers please?

 

Hi Brian. I don't have any direct pointers, but I do have a wish or dream. I've just now downloaded many of these interviews and I look forward to listening to them. I have, however, listened to almost all of Michael and Connie's podcasts and I admire their traveling all over the country, trying to get out the message that Christianity and evolution are not the enemies that they are often said to be. Anyone who has listened to Michael knows how passionate he is about this message. And while I've enjoyed listening to him quite a bit, I do admit that much of the technical and symbolic language that he uses is either over my head or just too ambiguous for me to clearly understand what he is saying.

 

I remember watching the "Cosmos" series when it came out. Carl Sagan became my hero because he had a gift for taking the technical language and ideas of modern cosmology and putting them right down where even school children could understand. "Cosmos" simply blew me away. Although I am still no expert on science, Sagan helped me to realize that it wasn't a foreign language, that it could be understood. And he didn't shy away from the mythic understandings of the past. He presented them for what they were, the best understandings that humans were capable of at the time.

 

So my wish or dream is that we find or discover another "Sagan" (no disrespect intended, Carl) to translate the technical and symbolic language that Dowd and many of these others are using down to where "people in the pew" or our children can understand. If we have or can find some gifted communicators to do this (and perhaps that might be a fruit of this online conference), it could go a long way in opening up good conversations that would, hopeful, lead to good and further understanding for all of us.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Besides Sagan, I think Einstein also comprehended that the mystical was combined with the scientific at some level -- some quotes by him seem to “harmonize mythic understanding and evidential understanding.”

 

When I listened to the Richard Rohr audio, he said it took a long time for him to combine head and heart. He pointed out how epistemology includes both rational and intuitive knowledge, and expressed gratitude toward science for what they can teach clergy --tolerating ambiguity, uncertainty. An evolutionary perspective means everything is always unfolding, in process, not ultimately knowable. He said the bible is likewise a balance between knowing and not knowing.

 

A few other notes, compressed - His book Falling Upward (in March) is about the 2 halves of life – first building our container, then pondering the contents. He says the principle of Incarnation is that matter and spirit are one. The real birth of Christ was the beginning of the human race. When the veil was torn between the temple and outer world it meant sacred and profane are not separate. God communicates to us through the entire material world. The universe is inside us as well as outside. God not a noun but a verb --a relationship, a circle dance. Instead of focusing on sin and judging, we should honor the divine presence in all people – have a global heart. Just BE Jesus instead of trying to convert others. (a tall order)

 

What stood out for me, was Rohr’s point that there are both conservative and liberal elements of evolution – DNA preserves what worked from the past, and also experiments with new possibilities. (but the biosphere has always been a food chain, predators and prey – that’s my main problem with EC)

Edited by rivanna

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I feel is seen in the cycle of evolution is the same; it is the angle of 'seeing' which differs. The Christian theologians have been describing the first phase of evolution, which is pure consciousness evolving into matter, or the infinite manifesting itself as the finite. On the other hand, the scientists have been describing the second phase of evolution, which is the evolution of matter back to pure consciousness. Therefore, they are both describing evolution, just different phases.." I have a diagram of these cycles on the web page My link

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Brian
What I'm interested in exploring further is how we harmonise mythic understanding and evidential understanding. Has anyone got any pointers please?

 

Brian, I am not sure if you are using Michael's vocabulary or yours. Sometimes I think "evidential understanding" means I didn't use to accept science now I do. It is about awe and wonderful and amazement. It is also, I think about adjusting our theology based on what science tells us. Rivanna notes that Rohr thought the real birth of Christ was the beginning of the human race. That's is a good place to tell a story. We get to weave Christ and human evolution together.

 

For me it is all about making meaning and the power of story: stories as big as the universe. The Garden of Eden story is not just about "Original Sin" so let's tell it all the other ways. The liberal church, seeing that God wasn't male, often went to gender neutral language -- we should use all images, all genders, when we tell our stories. I don't want stories that read like concrete blocks; I want stories and liturgy that read like a butterfly or a newborn or an elder with a wise heart. I am not looking for a systematic theology in these stories, just new language, new stories. Sometimes it means discovering old words.

 

(Peter Abelard, 12th cent) developed a moving rationale for the mystery of the atonement. Christ had been crucified to awaken compassion in us and by doing so became our Savior. -- History of God, Armstrong

 

An image that redirects our thought about what is salvation and how it comes about and what we are to do. As I mentioned earlier, I think Sanguin integrates imagery from both evolution and Christian understandings.

 

The opportunity, I think, is to change the relationship of [religion] and evolution. In the middle of the last century mainstream churches had no problem with evolution. I would suggest that it was a comfortable side by side arrangement. In this series we have some ideas and words to integrate the two.

 

John Haught for example

For John Haught the first theological theme, or motif, of faith is God as promise maker and promise keeper. (don't make it literal now) Promise makers must envision a future so we see that the God who calls Abraham into the future and who led the wandering Israelites into the future is also the God who opens up a future for the whole of the universe - a way to "contextualize .. evolution."

 

The second theme he sees is the self-emptying God, which we see in the Christ story. In a process theology telling of evolution, "God, in a sense, retracts any coercive exercise of power and opens up a space within which something other than God can come into being.... when omnipotence becomes humble, [that] opens up a space for something to become...to come into that space. Just as we might Jesus as showing/leading/ a way to the future.

 

So if we don't get tied down to puzzling out where God is in respect to creation it is a good story which integrates our knowledge of evolution and our faith.

 

More Haught

Evolution implies that the universe is still coming into being. That gives our own lives a significance that they would not have if we thought of creation as being perfectly and fully and instantaneously complete in the beginning.

 

Ilia Delio

I like her Christology-

 

When we speak about Christ, we’re talking about the word of God in love, our word in flesh, the word of love enfleshed. That’s what we mean by Christ—or what I mean by Christ. If we think about love incarnated all along, then from the Big Bang onward, in every quark and every photon in every hydrogen atom and in everything that’s emerging, the whole evolutionary universe is that word of love being incarnated.

 

You can, then, see the whole evolutionary process as a cruciform process ... the struggle upward to the great YES, to greater unity.

 

 

but the biosphere has always been a food chain, predators and prey – that’s my main problem with EC

rivanna

 

Yes, when you hear Michael talk enthusiastically about the necessary role of chaos, death and destruction in evolution, and that there would be a over-population problem if death didn't occur, it is hard to imagine what he would say at a Memorial Service.

 

Anyway I collect bits and pieces. They may not be satisfying for others. I'm on council at church now. I have already signaled that I think we need new language in worship.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What I'm interested in exploring further is how we harmonise mythic understanding and evidential understanding. Has anyone got any pointers please?

 

Thanks for the interesting comments. 'Story' is the word that comes to mind most. The myths were stories which grabbed the imagination and roused emotions. Another Carl Sagan? Maybe. Certainly a way of expressing where we've come from and what we are in a non-technical, interesting and exciting way. Brian Swimme went a little way toward this in his The Universe is a Green Dragon. Even so, I doubt I could share this with the guy who fixes my car or the girl who does my hair (hope that isn't patronising). Maybe we should get Spielberg to tell the story or Geroge Lucas - after all he consulted Joseph Campbell for the mythological bases for Star Wars. How about a modern day Handel - perhaps a Freddie Mercury - to create an oratorio that will blow people's minds? But maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree again. Maybe we should just cut all the intellectual crap and get out there and love people.

 

Brian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...