As you may know, for the past few years, I have been reading books about contemporary science and how that science challenges us to examine our understanding of God and faith. I took a break from posting on this blog over the summer so that I could reflect more deeply on what I have been reading. I’m afraid that my last post may have jumped into the deep end of the pool with few connections to how my reflections went from evolution to Incarnation. Unless your questions about God and faith were similar to mine, my reflections had no grounding for you. Let me back up a bit to give you an idea of how I arrived at this point.
I have been a photographer for more than thirty years – although it took me several years before I would call myself a photographer. Through my images, I developed an appreciation for creation – land and sea, plants, animals, and people – and could easily connect creation with my belief in God. That connection led me to writings about the need to care for God’s creation, and especially Pope Francis’s On the Care of Our Common Home (Laudato Sí). Several of my reflections, as well as the programs at my church are in the area of ecological spirituality.
That love for our common home led me to what contemporary science tells us about how we got here, where we are going, and how my understanding of God might have to change. Hence, my reading in cosmology, quantum physics, biological evolution, the rise of consciousness, and other areas related to our evolving universe. I learned very quickly that my knowledge of contemporary science is woefully inadequate. Still, I find it compelling reading.
I began to question what I could learn about God from contemporary physics, cosmology, and biological evolution. I began to see the importance not only of how the universe arrived at this point in time, but more importantly, how the universe might evolve in the future. I am beginning to connect my growing knowledge of contemporary science with my evolving understanding of God. This has meant rethinking doctrines that I grew up with, including those whose explanations have at times left me with many unanswered questions: One God in Three Persons, Creation, God as Man, Salvation, Resurrection, and others.
What have I been able to put together so far?
- I am learning to live with the questions and let go of the need for certainty.
- I am trying to look at the BIG PICTURE of God and the universe, realizing there’s more to the story than the God of the last 3,000 years, as told essentially from a male-centered point of view.
- With respect to belief in a Triune God, I realize that I have been thinking of God as three gods – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – each with his own specific task: Creation, Redemption, Sanctification. After reading Heidi Russell’s The Source of All Love (Orbis, 2017), I understand God as One.
- I used to think of evolution in terms of the beginnings of life on planet earth – in terms of how human beings got here. Now, I know it’s a much bigger story. Scientists date the beginning of our universe (cosmos) back to about 13.7 billion years, with planet earth coming to be about 4.5 billion years ago. That’s a much bigger picture than the 3,000-year journey in the Bible!
- Some scientists predict that the universe will continue to unfold for at least another 10 billion years! (That was my Wow! #2 when reading Diarmuid O’Murchu’s book.)
- We understand the universe (and God) from our perspective as earthlings, who have evolved over the past 7 million years and who continue to evolve.
I am interested in the science, of course, but my focus is on the implications of contemporary science on my understanding of faith and ways in which I live that faith. Here are a few of the questions that now guide my choice of reading and reflection:
Q. How do we understand creation and incarnation in light of contemporary science?
Q How do we understand Jesus in an evolutionary context?
Q. What is unique about the incarnation of Jesus Christ?
Q. Why do we put more emphasis on the death of Jesus than on his life?