Saturday, November 2, 2013


   The four canonical (accepted) Gospels (and Acts) were written between 70 and 100 
A. D. and truly express our faith, but within the ancient world view.  For example, they are written in the context of a flat world.  Jesus is depicted as "coming down" from heaven and of "ascending" to heaven.  As a result, many Christians today still imagine that heaven is a place "up above" earth, and far away from us "down here."

    Since the Gospels were written, our understanding of Jesus the man, and of Jesus the Messiah-Christ, has evolved 2000 years, along with our understanding of ourselves and the world.  Thanks to modern Biblical studies we can better understand Jesus' culture and psychology, e.g., how he saw and understood himself and his mission.  We can now more closely connect the divine Christ to the human Jesus and thereby bring our faith more effectively and lovingly "down to earth" and into our everyday lives.  

   And thanks to our evolution in the power of Christ's indwelling Spirit, today we can do even greater things than Jesus himself did! (Jn. 14:12).  In the power of our Christ-given, 21st century grace, we can take better, even worldwide, care of the poor, the hungry, and the sick--if we want to.  And we can be more effective agents for peace--if we want to.

   Today, very dramatically and importantly, we can now give our faith new energy, clarity and movement by expressing and living it in terms of evolution.  I would go so far as to say that it is imperative that we make our faith understandable, plausible and acceptable to today's and tomorrow's generations by expressing it in terms of evolution.  In sum, we must create a fifth Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ According to Evolution.

   Cosmologist/mystic Brian Swimme persuasively writes and lectures about the beauty and wonder of our faith when expressed in terms of evolution.  Also, in the, "An Evolution Story" page of this blog, I offer a basic outline of our faith and spirituality in terms of evolution.  And in the page, "The Spiritually Mature Person," I show how our spirituality is alive and in motion as we are called and empowered to evolve by transcending ourselves toward a fuller and more creative, healing and world-transforming, loving relationship with others, nature and God.

   Thanks to evolution, our theology has also evolved.  Before Vatican II, much of our official church theology was based on Aristotle's notion that our human nature is static and unchanging.  In such a mindset, unchanging tradition reigned supreme.  Cardinal Avery Dulles is reported to have once quipped that given the church's obsession with unchanging tradition, it's a wonder we have the second, third and fourth Gospels, since they are different from Mark's (which was the first Gospel written).

   Modern science has shown us that the natural state of things is that they are in motion until stopped, and not still until moved.  This means that our understanding and expression of our human nature can evolve and change, and it has evolved and changed.  Such evolution has resulted in a change in some of our moral judgments.  For example, as our understanding of our human nature evolved, we awoke to the injustice and horror of slavery.  Further, our evolving understanding in science and reason led us to see that the truth of our faith required that we change our teaching on religious liberty, on democracy, freedom of the press, and the separation of the institutions of the state and the church.  

   The commission that studied contraception issued a majority report based on an evolved understanding of married love.  Pope Paul VI's rejection of the commission's conclusion was followed by deep upheaval in the church and the walking away of many Catholics.  Our evolving understanding of sexual orientation is giving us new insights into this vitally important matter. And we are looking more deeply into the morality of war and capital punishment.

   The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a static, once-and-for-all-done matter but an ever-evolving expression of the living truth, beauty, wonder and inexhaustibly overflowing love of God for us and the world.  It's time to move the living Gospel forward and bring it into the 21st century.



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