THE EMERGENT CHRIST
Disaffected and frustrated Catholics may find new inspiration for faith in Ilia Delio’s new book, The Emergent Christ, in which she places the Christ in the context of the New Book of Creation which some refer to as the New Story, quantum physics and the Big Bang. This book follows on her earlier publication, Christ in Evolution, in which she seems to concentrate more on interpreting Christ and evolution through scripture and the writings of mystics and theologians.
In her latest book she includes more science and discusses the Christ as a part of the evolutionary process of creation with extensive references to the writings of Teilhard.
The word emergent in the title suggests that the Christ is something entirely new and not “reducible to what came before”. The emergence of Christ in the universe is part of the continuous process of evolution becoming conscious of itself.
The New Book of Creation is the story of the birth of the Universe at the Big Band and the evolution of all since that time 14.5 billion years ago. Previously we were taught in terms of salvation history with heavy emphasis on the sin of Adam and Eve. Delio talks about evolution having forward direction, moving toward some final destination, the God Ahead rather than the God of causation.
Delio shows us how completely different an evolutionary approach to Christianity is by saying that trying to fit some old theologies into a quantum understanding of reality is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. She writes “Efforts are made to fit Thomas Aquinas’s God into a post-Einsteinian universe, as if adjusting a few ideas will balance his medieval system in the postmodern period.” It doesn’t work. We’re talking about a radically new approach to God.
So, The Emergent Christ is about a whole new way of thinking about who we are in reference to God. The principles of quantum physics, such as the nature of matter being a wave or a particle, and philosophical notions about the nature of reality are combined in a new theology which recognizes that humans have acquired new knowledge in the very recent past.
This is not a book for those who believe that our understanding of God is complete in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Reading the Emergent Christ requires an openness that is not found in orthodox thinking. Delio cautions about turning religious practice on autopilot and suggests more is required to find a “God who loves to do new things and is always new”.
The main thrust of this book is whether the Church will be stuck in the thinking of the Middle Ages or will it make Christ the Center of a Universe which is evolving toward some new perfection rather than recovering from a fall.
Some Christians do not have a consciousness of evolution and do not appreciate the influence this force has on all of life, and so we cannot understand our role in creation. We have operated on a model which says that humans are to dominate creation and earn salvation through the sweat of their brow to gain some reward after life. An evolutionary theology calls us to find our proper role in nature and our true relationship to the rest of the creatures of the Universe.
Care of the earth will become a spiritual issue rather than a political one when the New Book of Creation is more widely appreciated.