Christianity In Evolution: a book review

Christianity In Evolution: An Exploration by Jack Mahoney is a tough read for two reasons. First, the author’s style consists often of multi-phrase sentences which would delight a seventh grade grammar teacher who is putting pupils through the rigors of diagramming sentences. One almost needs to diagram some sentences to understand what the subject is. It is not a page turner.

Here is an example of his complicated sentences: “When we turn to ask what light an evolutionary perspective sheds on Christology, which was one of the central questions explicitly identified by Pope John Paul II, then a central consideration focuses, I have suggested, not on the constitution of the incarnation, that is, the hypostatic union of humanity and divinity in the person of the Word, which can remain unquestioned, but on the divine purpose of the incarnation and the evolutionary role and significance of Jesus Christ.” Know what I mean?

Secondly, the book calls for an evolutionary reinterpretation of some very basic doctrines including the doctrine of original sin, the Fall, human concupiscence and sacrificial atonement which may challenge orthodox faith.  The preposition “in” in the title is that the author recalls changes in these doctrines over time and suggests the postmodern world expects some development in them to reconcile these doctrines with new knowledge. He relies heavily on the writings of Teilhard and Rahner.

Morgan is trying to answer the 1988 question of Pope John Paul II: “Does an evolutionary perspective bring any light to bear upon theological anthropology, the meaning of the human person as the imago Dei, the problem of Christology—and even upon the development of doctrine itself?” Needless to say, he demonstrates in detail that evolution brings lots of light to this question.

Morgan thinks that failure to reinterpret doctrine in light of evolution puts undue strain on the faith of believers in a postmodern age.  With Rahner he considers it a matter of moral responsibility to critique doctrine as a “better act of faith.”

Morgan’s discussion on a reinterpretation of the Fall is summed up in a quote he uses from J Acker’s article in America: “Christ’s coming to earth was not an afterthought, a Plan B.” God did not have to have a backup plan.

Finally, Morgan tackles the notion of death and sees it not as a punishment for sin but as an opening to the Creator of the Universe, another step in the evolutionary process..

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