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Evolutionary Spirituality

Jesus: God's Way, Truth, Life

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Jesus: God's Way, Truth, and Life Edit

Our understanding of God's incarnation of love through Jesus, and how that is transformative, will naturally expand in meaning and significance as our understanding of reality expands. Said another way, if our interpretation of Jesus as "the way, the truth, and the life" of God is the same as that of people living hundreds or thousands of years ago, we are seriously missing the magnitude and magnificence of what God has been revealing through science over the last few centuries.

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A fundamental truth about the nature of reality that couldn't have been revealed until electronics and computers had been developed, and around which there is no real disagreement, is that reality is composed of nested "holons" — creative wholes that are part of larger creative wholes that are part of still larger wholes, like nesting dolls — subatomic particles within atoms within molecules within organisms within planets, and so forth. Everything is simultaneously a whole and a part — a holon. "God" is a sacred name for that Ultimate Creativity or Infinite Whole having no other whole of which it is part. "God" is a proper name for that all-embracing Reality which includes, yet transcends, every other level of reality.

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Jesus got it. He was a cell in the body who realized his relationship to The Whole. In so doing, he opened a door of possibility for the rest of us.

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Another truth about the nature of reality that was first noticed a century ago but which has only recently gained wide acceptance is that there is a direction to divine/cosmic creativity. The Universe, expanding within the heart of God, is becoming more complex, self-aware, and capable of expressing and experiencing love over time. An arrow of progress has been moving through Creation since the beginning — albeit slowly for much of history and not without chaos and setbacks which, in fact, are major drivers of transformation. We can relate to this directional process as Creation itself maturing, as expressing greater cooperation, interdependence, and compassion at ever-increasing scale and evolvability. Humanity and our supportive technologies are now integral to this process.

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From a sacred evolutionary perspective, believing (trusting) in "the lordship of Jesus the Christ" is having faith that exactly the kind of self-expansive, self-giving, lovingly confronting love that Jesus enfleshed will, over time, always prevail over sin and evil, no matter how things may appear. Faith in Jesus is trusting the wisdom of agape love. It also means trusting that even the worst things that can happen to us — bad news, breakdowns, and even crucifixions — are not a cosmic mistake. To the degree that we are able trust, any downturn or hardship can be transforming (redemptive).

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We would do well to remember that Jesus was neither liberal nor conservative, but both (or neither) — which is what made him such a radical.

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"Jesus was a dissident on the fringes of the Empire of his day. He stood with everybody who was nobody. He made a beeline (always) to stand with those on the margins, those whose dignity had been denied, the poor and excluded, the easily despised, the demonized, and those whose burdens were more than they could bear. And they killed him for it." — Fr. Gregory Boyle

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"The historical Jesus was ignored by the authorities until 'he went downtown' to challenge the elite." — Fr. Luis Barrios

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Jesus embodied God's direction for humanity. His ways of thinking, acting, loving, and resisting evil reveal our way into a lifegiving future for all.

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Jesus embodied the integrity that is our salvation, individually and collectively. His way of living and telling the truth continue to light our path.

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Jesus embodied the life, the will, and the ways of God. His expansive sense of self, his radically inclusive way of loving, and his active, non-violent way of resisting and confronting unredeemed institutions are all guideposts toward the kingdom of heaven.

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Anyone who thinks they can know the peace that passes all understanding via any other path than the one Jesus incarnated is sadly deluded.

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If you think you can know real freedom and joy without inviting Love to be the primary guiding reality of your life, you're kidding yourself. Not, however, because "the Bible says," but because the nature of reality says — because God says. Try it!

Collectively, our only hope of ushering in a just, healthy, beautiful, and sustainably lifegiving future (God's kingdom "on Earth as it is in heaven") is to re-incarnate Christ-like values at all levels of society. This is our calling, our destiny, as a species. And, amazingly, now that we have a much clearer understanding the direction of God's will than was possible before, it seems likely that this transformation will occur sometime in the mid 21st century.

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The idea that Jesus would reject evolution if he were alive today is absurd. A purely mechanistic, meaningless interpretation of evolution... sure, he'd reject that! But an understanding of evolution that glorifies God and that honors our tradition while challenging us to expand our circles of care, concern, compassion, and commitment? Jesus surely would embrace such a view just as he would embrace you and me. Why? Because it's the gospel truth and it supports what his entire ministry was about!

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To condemn or curse outright a God-glorifying, Christ-edifying, scripture-honoring way of understanding evolution is blasphemy, pure and simple. It's taking something sacred and meaningful and calling it evil.

Criticizing, debating, and offering suggestions for improving our ways of thinking about evolution from a God-glorifying perspective, on the other hand, is God's will and our collective calling at this time in history. It's one of the most fruitful and meaningful activities the Holy Spirit is leading the church into today.

Condemnation (blasphemy) and constructive criticism (God's will) may sometimes look or sound similar, but they are in fact polar opposites.

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There is little to no evidence that Jesus ever intended for us to worship him. Rather, he wanted us to be like him: to trust like him, to think like him, to love like him, to follow in his steps and do greater things than even he did. And to ensure that our natural feelings of devotion would manifest in healthy ways, he said, "Whatever you do to the least of these (the poor, the outcast, the needy, the hungry, etc), you do unto me."

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"Jesus was a finger in the wilderness pointing God's way. But instead of following that way we've been sucking the finger." — Sr. Miriam MacGillis

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From an EC perspective Jesus is honored as a unique and divine expression of infinite love, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness — a personification of God's way, gospel truth, and eternal life. Jesus was, among other things, a model of how to live and love from a basis of deep conviction — reflecting God's will for humanity and for Creation as a whole. He also embodied (incarnated) God's path to freedom from bondage to sin (self-absorption, addiction, deceipt, laziness, pride, anger, arrogance, lust, worry, etc).

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It is the responsibility of each generation to reinterpret the core elements of religious faith in light of the inner and outer realities of its time. Accordingly, in light of our new evolutionary understanding of original sin, personal sin, and corporate sin, does it still make sense to insist that the path to salvation, the road to freedom, individually and collectively, runs through Jesus?

Absolutely!

For all of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, the only way we can move from alienation to wholeness, from denial to recovery, from bondage to freedom, or from guilt to empowerment, is through trust, courage, humility, transparency, self-responsibility, love, compassion, and commitment. (Do you know anyone who has embodied these attributes more perfectly than Jesus? Can you think of any time in your life when you were reconciled to someone or freed from addiction or suffering via any other path? Do you suppose that this is mere coincidence?)

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It's not beliefs about Jesus that will save anyone, or redeem society. It's only faith in him that will do the job. The key to personal and institutional salvation is trusting that the values Jesus incarnated and taught really are our way into the future. It's the person of Jesus (who he was BEING, not merely stories about him) that becomes the difference that makes a difference. "Christian" originally meant "little Christ." When we think, trust, love, befriend the marginalized, confront the unredeemed "powers that be," and sacrifice for the whole like Jesus did, we will know heaven even in the midst of all the chaos and crucifixions of life.

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An evolutionary interpretation of personal salvation will include the following... First: Don't think you can save yourself. Original sin runs too deep. You need others and, in fact, you need the Whole of Reality. Second: If you think the Kingdom of Heaven can be experienced via any path other than the one Jesus embodied, re-incarnating the values he incarnated (trust, courage, humility, transparency, self-responsibility, love, compassion, commitment, etc), you're kidding yourself. And not merely because the Bible says so. Try it; see for yourself.

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To think that "Jesus as God's way, truth, and life" means that only Christians who believe (give mental assent to) certain things about Jesus or the Bible get to go to a place called heaven when they die is to cheapen, belittle, and impoverish the Gospel. What Jesus' life and ministry was all about is far larger and more meaningful and offers more this-world relevance than such a trivialized understanding.

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Young people intuitively get this; they understand that a sacred understanding of evolution enlarges and enlivens their faith — which is why EC is so alluring to those under thirty.

Resources Edit

"Let's Stop Trivializing God, the Universe, and Our Role in Evolution!" - foundational essay

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