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Posts Tagged ‘God After Darwin’

How can evolution be both scientific theory and enricher of theology? John Haught explains:

The notion that God creates the world is, of course, central to the faith of millions. Traditionally, Christian theology spoke of three dimensions of God’s creative activity: original creation (creatio originalis), ongoing or continuous creation (creatio continua), and new creation or the fulfillment of creation (creatio nova). Prior to the scientific discoveries of cosmic and biological evolution, however, the latter two notions were usually eclipsed by the first. “Creation” meant primarily something that God did in the beginning. But even in the late nineteenth century a few theologians had already recognized that evolution implicitly liberates the notion of creation from confinement to cosmic origins. And although today discussions between scientists and theologians about God and the big bang often assume that “creation” is only about cosmic beginnings, the idea of evolution forbids such narrowing of so powerful a notion.

Indeed, the fact of evolution now allows theology to apprehend more palpably than ever that creation is not just an “original” but also an ongoing and constantly new reality. In an evolving cosmos, creation is still happening, no less in the present than “in the beginning.” The big bang universe continues to unfold, and so every day is still the “dawn of creation.” As Teilhard de Chardin put it, in an evolving universe “incessantly even if imperceptibly, the world is constantly emerging a little farther above nothingness.”

Moreover, evolution has allowed theology to acknowledge at last that the notion of an originally and instantaneously completed creation is theologically unthinkable in any case. If we could imagine it at all, we would have to conclude that an initial creation, one already finished and perfected from the beginning, could not be a creation truly distinct from its creator. Such a “world” would simply be an appendage of God, and not a world unto itself; nor could God conceivably transcend such a world. It would be a world without internal self-coherence, a world without a future, and, above all, a world devoid of life. By definition, living beings must continually transcend, or go beyond, themselves. As Henri Bergson said long ago, life is really a tendency rather than something rounded off and complete. An unfinished, or evolving, universe is essential to this tendency’s actualization.

(John F. Haught, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution (Westview Press, 2000), p. 37 from chapter 3, “Theology Since Darwin”)

The weight of evidence pointing towards evolution is often a crushing weight for someone, like me, brought up with a literalistic reading of the Bible. Usually one of two choices is made, both involving denial – deny the mountain of evidence for evolution, or deny the soul’s insistent dream of God.

My readings this morning seem to have converged around this point. Before I read the quoted passage above, Nathan and I read this at breakfast together:

In the depths of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

(from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran)

And later, I came across a blog post discussing this type of contrast as seen in a medieval painting:

Pisanello’s animals, tucked in their self-containing spaces, recall to me my scrappy outsider knowledge of the Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime, when all the manifest forms of creation lie sleeping inside the earth, waiting for songs to awaken them, to call them continuously into being. But here the Dream is fading, the song on the cusp of being mocked and forgotten, replaced by the angular, linear, technocratic visions that lie in wait beyond the cross and the promise of Renaissance that the future saint locks his eyes upon.

(from Cat’s blog The Place Between Stories)

I sense a growing polarity between thinking and dreaming in our culture these days. So I am grateful for the insistent thinker-dreamers among us. Open eyes, open minds, and open hearts keep us growing, unfinished, evolving, deeply alive in the continuing dawn of creation.

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Recently I discovered the old news that a songwriter hero of mine had divorced from his wife of 24 years. At concerts, in song lyrics, she had always felt present, even when not physically there or mentioned by name. I had read dozens of interviews with him, and even had a few conversations with the two of them when my nonprofit day job included working with them at a summer music festival. News of their divorce left me feeling duped. I had been hopeful and naïve enough to see them as forever joined.

The aforementioned songwriter hero remarried a woman who also plays music and tours and performs with him. With this bit of observational data, my brain kicked into gear producing a theory about what makes love last, especially for artsy singer/songwriter types like my aspiring self. That brain, desperate to protect my own marriage, noted that just like Songwriter Hero 1, the longish first marriage of another songwriter I admire ended in divorce and sequelled with marriage to a woman who now sings and performs with him.

This led me to posit that love, at least for musicians, works best when the lovers share their life’s work. I thought of Robin and Linda Williams, Buddy and Julie Miller, and young but oh-so-fitted lovers Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte of Pomplamoose.

There it was – my comfort that all would be well for me and my marriage, because my husband Nathan and I make music together, and have been doing so quite happily ever since we met fourteen years ago. I shared the bracing news about my newly-composed theory of happy musician lovers with Nathan, who listened patiently to my list of loving couples and then said simply, “Sonny and Cher.”

Oh yeah, I said, crestfallen, and Sam Phillips and T-Bone Burnett. Oh, and Gene Eugene and Ricki Michele.

There are many more happy musician lovers and many more sadly parted ones who could be added to these lists, but just these were enough to get me off my work towards a grand unified theory of marriage for musicians. As an interesting aside, I learned only recently that Tom Petty was married for 22 years to his high school sweetheart, who he married just before he hit the road and got famous. Who would have believed an international rock star could last so long with one woman? I suppose we could discuss Bono too.

But let’s not. Instead, I’m going to rehash another post of mine. Labels, when it comes to human beings, are mostly unhelpful. No one I have mentioned deserves to be stuffed wholesale into the niche of classification called “musician” or “artist” or even “happily married” or “divorced.” These are descriptors, words we use to talk about what someone does or what has happened in their life or how we perceive things to be going for them at the moment. I don’t want to flatten people under labels.

I also emphatically do not want to flatten anyone, including myself, under the past. The book Nathan and I are currently reading together, God After Darwin by John Haught, is throwing its light all over my thoughts these days, including these thoughts about love and splits. Haught speaks of a metaphysics of the future. The future, he says, is always arriving, always presenting itself. This, he says, is the fundamental spirit of religion – that rather than calling anyone back to a “perfect past” (the mythic but poetically instructive Garden of Eden) God instead is drawing humanity towards a wide-open future.

Long after the adrenaline rush of first love faded in my marriage, the future keeps arriving, every moment. True, someone called Julia has been married to someone called Nathan for twelve years now, but confidentially, new people keep showing up in the house, and they don’t spend much time pining for the old ones.

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