“The words we use should empower the lives we live.” so says Ilia Delio one of the world’s brilliant theologians who is forging a way forward in the world we live in. With that in mind, Delio reminds us that the word catholicity can be used to define a dynamic principle of attraction or ‘whole-making’ as the cosmos moves toward greater complexity. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Ilia Delio, as I was until recently, you can find a brief introduction here. Following an exciting Saturday spent with Ilia Delio this spring, I spent some time this summer revisiting Delio’s book, “The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love” which provides a window into Delio’s brilliant quantum theological leap into the 21st century!!!
In this lecture, recorded at St. Jerome’s University, May 2014, Delio discusses the meaning of Jesus in light of evolution and the relationship between catholicity and Christogenesis through the work of Teilhard de Chardin.
The problem is that the scientific evidence does not support the Lamarckian view of evolution espoused by Teilhard de Chardin.
Does the scientific evidence support the progressive, Lamarckian view of evolution espoused by de Chardin?
Excellent question! From the limited amount of reading which I have done, it seems to me that both Lamarckian and Darwinian theories of evolution can be found in the work of Teilhard de Chardin. All three of these brilliant thinkers developed their theories when the science of evolution was in its infancy. While Lamarck’s ideas about adaption have been challenged by subsequent scientific evidence, so too has Darwin’s notion of natural selection. Current work in the field of epigenetics is yielding some evidence that Lamarck may have been on to something with regard to the ability of species to adapt. That being said, I doubt that a mind like Teilhard’s, given the opportunity, would have failed to keep up with the onslaught of scientific evidence and continued to develop his thinking. What intrigues me about Teilhard and Ilia Delio is their ability to see beyond theological dogma of the institutional church as they seek ways to integrate the various disciplines of theology, science, philosophy etc. Something all serious thinkers must attempt as our knowledge of the cosmos expands.My difficulties with Teilhard are theological. While he and Delio are able to move beyond the institutional notions of salvation that are based upon fall-redemption mythology, they remain trapped in traditional Roman Catholic Christological dogmas. In failing to distance themselves from the mythological, they run the risk of being understood as “believers” rather than explorers. Current science challenges our Christology. But more pressing is the reality of the truths our faithful neighbours have discovered on their various pathways which challenges all Christians to re-think our understandings of the Christ. If we are to follow the teachings of Jesus we may have to give up our Christologies in order to love our neighbours.
Thanks for your interesting and insightful reply. However, while it’s true that the evidence on how evolution affects behaviour is far from conclusive, I am concerned about the issue of genetic determinism, a subject that is practically taboo in the humanities, including theology. If it ever turns out that neo-Darwinism is correct in its assertions about the extent to which human nature is determined, it will be very difficult to maintain belief in the all-good, all-powerful God portrayed by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.