A Blaze of Holy Unease, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin saw creation as dynamic in matter and spirit, and understood the world and specifically human consciousness as continually evolving. He believed creation to be the process of divine incarnation, all of the world perpetually moving toward God. The process was not and could not yet be complete. As a result “nothing is profane here below for those who have eyes to see.” All is sacred.

In Chardin’s Mass of the World, written in the vast expanses of the Inner Mongolian Ordos Desert, he prays: “the offering you really want, the offering you mysteriously need every day to appease your hunger, to slake your thirst is nothing less than the growth of the world borne ever onwards in the stream of universal becoming.”

God is no passive player, as Chardin writes in The Divine Milieu:“God truly waits for us in all things, unless indeed he advances to meet us.”

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” goes the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit in the century before Chardin. I imagine the world is filled with more dimensions and ways to understand it than we could begin to hold in our mind at one time, or even one lifetime.

Chardin saw that grandeur shimmering in every layer of his excavations of Peking Man; each piece he discerned with a worldview which seems increasingly contemporary. He saw in all things a “luminosity and fragrance which suffuse the universe” all moving toward what he called the noosphere, or one ultimate intelligence in God. “Throughout my whole life,” he wrote, “the world has been gradually lighting up and blazing before my eyes until it has come to surround me, entirely lit up from within.”

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A Blaze of Holy Unease, Part 1

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” —Psalm 111:2

As I drove home from the Methow Valley a week ago, I listened to Krista Tippett interview Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. Around me the mountains of the Cascades softened as they declined into the Columbia River Valley, a part of the scablands of eastern Washington scoured by the Missoula flood during the Pleistocene Epoch.

In the interview Brueggemann suggests that the message of the ancient prophets has contemporary relevance and that the most polemic and challenging issues facing the church today have less to do with the issues themselves and more to do with our terror of what we see as the chaos of the world.

Brueggemann’s understanding underscores the hostility of some in religious circles to ideas posited by science (and conversely, by those science-minded toward ideas of faith.) If we become comfortable with—or entrenched in—a static understanding of scripture, and particularly the creation story, it is awfully uncomfortable to think that we might be mistaken. Brueggemann’s work focuses on the prophets, whom he calls poets. They are not afraid to make us squirm.

My description of the scablands won’t sit well with some in its reference to geologic epochs. Some see the idea of evolution as contrary to what they read in Genesis, a conflict between special and general revelation that must cede to scripture. I see opportunity. Discomfort is a vehicle for growth if you believe we can grow.

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