Basic Evolutionary Christianity[edit | edit source]
Evolutionary Christianity is an integral vision of the Christian faith that honors biblical and traditional understandings, conservative and liberal, while enthusiastically embracing an evolutionary worldview. A passionate and unabashedly all-embracing, ecological, deep-time honoring, and prophetic/evangelistic celebration of the Christian tradition that honors Roman Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox, Anabaptist, Universalist, and New Thought expressions, Evolutionary Christianity sees the entire history of Cosmos and emergent complexity of matter, life, consciousness, culture, and technology in a sacred, God-glorifying way.
From the perspective of Evolutionary Christianity —
The epic of evolution that has emerged out of the last three centuries of modern scientific work is seen in a Christ-edifying, scripture-honoring way — as a sacred story that can expand and strengthen faith, inspire passion and creativity, and empower us as individuals and as a species to fulfill God's will for us.
Biblical insights and traditional understandings of the core of Christianity come alive in a radically new way and can be more fully realized than ever before.
God is honored for having been creating, destroying, loving, communicating, revealing, and reconciling for billion of years. (See here for foundational essay: "Let's Stop Trivializing God, the Universe, and Our Role in Evolution!")
Jesus is honored as a unique expression of divine love, compassion, generosity, forgiveness, and active, nonviolent resistance to evil and injustice — a personification of God's way, gospel truth, and eternal life. Jesus was, among other things, an incarnation of God's will for us personally, collectively, and for Creation as a whole: evolutionary integrity. He embodied God's path to freedom from slavery to sin (self-absorption, addiction, deceit, laziness, pride, anger, arrogance, lust, worry, etc). He also incarnated the values of the kingdom and modeled how to engage unjust social structures.
The Holy Spirit is honored as the in-spiring and lifegiving breath, transforming fire, and guiding Wisdom within and beyond — the enlivening, sustaining, sanctifying, cooperation-building dynamic of ongoing Creative Emergence.
Creation is honored — the entire nested, co-creative Cosmos — as a unique and awe-inspiring revelation of God's will, God's wisdom, and God's unending grace.
Humanity is honored as that part of Creation which allows the Whole of Reality, manifest and unmanifest, immanent and transcendent (i.e., God), to be celebrated in conscious self awareness.
Scripture is honored as a unique and irreplaceable collection of sacred books, poems, gospels, letters, and other writings that reveal some of the practices, beliefs, history, and understandings of the ancient Hebrews and early Christians. While it has been, and will continue to be, rightly regarded as a divine source of wisdom and moral instruction, from the perspective of Evolutionary Christianity the Bible is not seen as the beginning, nor the end, nor even the most important part, of God's self-revelation.
God's timing is honored. Earlier generations cannot be faulted for not knowing what we know, or for not interpreting things as we're now able to do. God reveals truth to each generation in ways that make sense at the time, given the psychological, social, political, economic, and technological realities of the day. In a developmental cosmos there's ultimately no privileged position theologically. God revealed to the biblical writers, early church leaders, reformers, and others down through the ages only what could be revealed then, and no more. The same is true today. Future generations will surely have a larger, more comprehensive understanding of the meaning and magnitude of the Christian tradition than we can possibly imagine.
Conservatives are honored for their passionate commitment to upholding, defending, and preserving that which has been experienced in the past to be healthy, meaningful, lifegiving, or otherwise important.
Liberals are honored for insisting that we expand our circles of care, compassion, and meaningful interpretations of truth, and for embodying the evolutionary impulse to transcend what is in order to co-create what God is calling forth next.
Radicals are honored for periodically upsetting the status quo and forcing both liberals and conservatives to value the importance of chaos and breakdowns in catalyzing creativity and transformation.
The Fruit of the Spirit is honored as both the means and end of the spiritual journey, and as the one true indicator of a person's right relationship with God. As Jesus said, "By your fruit you will be known." What is "the fruit of the Spirit"? The Apostle Paul spoke of it as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." To this list we could also add "compassion, courage, integrity, self-responsibility, generosity, and passion for life." Those who evidence such fruit are right with God, no matter what their beliefs. Those who do not evidence such fruit are not right with God (again, no matter what their beliefs). It's really as simple as that.
In any given moment, how can I go from not being right with God to being right with God? That's basically what the gospel is all about!
The Gospel is honored as "The Great Story" of God's love and saving grace as revealed in the Bible, on the cross, and throughout the entire 14 billion year epic of evolution. The Gospel, as such, is transformative on three levels: personally, relationally, and globally. To ignore or discount any one of these is to utterly miss the meaning and magnitude of them all.
Individually, the Gospel can, if really embraced, free a person from addiction to sin and self-absorption, enabling them to savor the fruit of the Spirit even in the midst of the neverending challenges of life, and empowering them to be a real blessing to the world regardless of their shortcomings. It can also enable a person to know heavenly peace no matter how difficult their situation or life may be.
Relationally, the Christ story shows us exactly how reconciliation is possible with anyone. When I take responsibility, let go of thinking I'm right and the other is wrong, step into their experience, and communicate with love and compassion from that place, miracles naturally occur. Always.
Collectively, the gospel can free us from species pride, arrogance, and self-destructive human-centeredness by revealing God's will for Creation as a whole and how we as a human family can fulfill our role in furthering what God has been up to for billions of years by, re-incarnating the values Jesus lived and taught.
To condemn or curse outright a God-glorifying, Christ-edifying, scripture-honoring way of understanding evolution (or an evolutionary appreciation of the Gospel), can be considered blasphemy. It's taking something sacred and meaningful and calling it evil.
Criticizing, debating, and offering suggestions for improving our ways of thinking about evolution from a God-glorifying perspective, on the other hand, or debating about how to most fruitfully think about the Gospel evolutionarily, is God's will and our collective calling at this time in history. These are among the most vibrant and meaningful conversations the Holy Spirit is leading the church into today.
Condemnation (blasphemy) and constructive criticism (God's will) may sometimes look or sound similar, but they are in fact polar opposites.
Suggested Criteria[edit | edit source]
Anyone who feels led to do so is encouraged to re-interpret the core understandings of the Christian tradition from the perspective of The Great Story. The following criteria are suggested as a useful starting place:
How can this particular doctrine, concept, principle, practice, or theological insight be understood in a way that:
- a) validates pre-evolutionary understandings? (i.e., transcends and includes earlier interpretations)
- b) makes sense naturally and scientifically? (i.e., is this-world realistic and measurable/falsifiable)
- c) is inclusive and universal? (i.e., is true for everyone, everywhere)
- d) is inspiring and empowering? (i.e., strengthens, deepens, and expands trust, and motivates and enables individuals and groups to be a blessing to the larger and smaller holons of their existence.
May the most inclusive, realistic, inspiring, and empowering interpretations prevail and be widely embraced!
Core Concepts[edit | edit source]
- The Gospel / Good News
- God/God-isms/The Trinity
- The Kingdom of Heaven
- God's Will / Our Purpose
- Jesus: God's Way, Truth, Life
- Sin: Original, Personal, Corporate
- Salvation / Redemption
- Faith (Beliefs vs Trust)
- Scripture (OT, NT, Now)
- The Holy Spirit (Gifts / Fruit)
- Satan / The Devil
- Morality / Ethics
- Our Calling / Mission / Great Work
- The Greatest Commandment
- Creation (Cosmos)
- The Church and Its Mission
- Prayer and Meditation
- Heaven & Hell
- Angels & Demons
- Virgin Birth
- The Cross
- End Times
- Christ's Return
- Born Again
- Peace & Justice Making
- Kingdom Building
- Eucharist/Communion/Lord's Supper
- Evangelism / The Great Commission
- Praise & Worship / Glorifying God
- Liturgy / Liturgical Year
- Other Religions
Resources[edit | edit source]
Evolutionary Christianity - website created by Rev. Michael Dowd
"Let's Stop Trivializing God, the Universe, and Our Role in Evolution!" - foundational essay
Gail Worcelo, a Catholic sister, has written a moving essay on how her personal cultivation of a deep and sacred awareness of the evolutionary journey of cosmos and life enriched her Christian Faith. Sister Worcelo's essay is one of a dozen "metareligious essays" posted on The Great Story website. For a PDF version of Sr. Worcelo's essay, click here
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