by Fr. Thomas Keating (March 7, 1923 – October 25, 2018)
The striking discoveries of contemporary science are continually telling us new things about how material creation came to be and how it continues to evolve. Although we do not have all the answers, we are clearly going in a direction that transcends the cosmology in which the great world religions came into existence. Our vision, understanding, and our attitudes about God inevitably must change.
With this new information, many people, especially scientists, are uneasy with certain scriptural passages. They were written in a cosmological consciousness that is no longer possible to accept from a scientific viewpoint. This alerts us to the fact that we are living in a period of time that is axiomatic; that is, it is shifting into a state of awareness that will deeply affect our own consciousness and eventually the global community itself.
The new cosmology invites us to perceive evolution as God’s way of carrying out the creative process. Things, events, and all of nature are not happening as a result of this or that particular cause, but by the combination of a wide variety of causes in harmony with each other. Some creatures have natures that are mostly fixed, like plants and animals. They have to compete for life-sustaining resources with other instinctual creatures who are all trying to grow, nourish, and reproduce themselves.
When humans appear on the ladder of evolutionary complexity, God takes an enormously adventurous step. He gives to this one species of animal, evolved on the planet over billions of years, the power of free choice within certain limits. Free choice is not the same as freedom itself, which is who God is, and which in our case, is to give the right response in every situation spontaneously and without reflecting.
God respects our freedom and even lets us think up plans for how creation might be organized to better suit our particular needs and desires.
Another factor in the evolutionary process is chance. With regard to humans, science has proven that the human brain is plastic and that we can change our behaviors, attitudes, and habitual dispositions. If we don’t succeed, it is primarily because we make many poor choices. Why be surprised? God created us knowing that we would be a work in progress aimed at becoming fully human and capable of becoming participants in the divine nature.
“God created us knowing that we would be a work in progress
aimed at becoming fully human
and capable of becoming participants in the divine nature.”
In our present evolutionary development as humans we have become conscious of the entire cosmos and of ourselves as never before. It is a participation in the divine intelligence measured to our limitations. God wills us to enjoy, appreciate, and embrace this life with all its possibilities and potentials and to trust him.
The eyes of faith however, have not yet been sufficiently awakened in us to enable us to perceive the divine presence in everything that exists and that happens. Teilhard de Chardin taught that every subatomic particle is filled with Christ. We consist of trillions of particles put together in a certain order by God or by the natural forces that God created. In either case, we are saturated with the divine.
Creation as we know it today is in a very different state than it was a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. What is to prevent it from being equally new when the evolving human mind has had a chance to assimilate and react to further scientific discoveries?
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