In view of an “accusation” by Appasamy (I still need to find the reference) that Chenchiah basically repeats Teilhard de Chardin’s thoughts, I found myself reading more about de Chardin. I used Paul Santmire’s article in Critical Issues in Modern Religion, as an entry point. Honestly, I was biased against evolutionary theology, and yet Santmire’s comments suggested an important gap in traditional theology… and thus for the need for theologians like de Chardin (even if ultimately we may not agree with him).

Santmire points to the problem, something that struck me most (from pages 95-96):

[Today] Many Protestant and Catholic thinkers… have not attempted to attack the scientific theory of evolution… On the contrary, they have accepted the scientific theory of evolution as a fact, at least in broad outline. At the same time, they have distanced themselves… from the issue of evolution. they have followed the strategy of disengagement.

…Sophisticated theologians…, while accepting the theory of evolution as a fact… have argued that theology’s proper concern must focus on human history, not the laws of the cosmos. They have been concerned chiefly with ‘the mighty acts of God in history,’ not with any relation God may or may not have with the processes of nature. Moreover, these theologians have not been interested in human history as a story embedded in the context of the whole universe–a universe with virtually infinite expanses of space and time, including a surprisingly long expanse of evolutionary development on the little planet. They have not approached the human creature as an evolved animal, but as a creature with a spiritual calling and a moral nature. These theologians have been more or less disinterested in asking whether the scientific theory of evolution might have implications for religious thought itself. At most, they have attempted to set limits beyond which the natural sciences cannot probe; in particular, they have cordoned off the intangible moral and spiritual nature of humanity.

…Without any major exception, they have abandoned the traditional idea that the world was created in six days, as portrayed in Genesis. Nevertheless, they have almost exclusively concerned themselves with humans as spiritual and historical creatures. They have emphasized God’s interaction with human beings alone, and the role of Christ as the mediator of salvation for human beings. They have not addressed themselves systematically to the development of a theology of the cosmos. Their concerns have been largely ‘anthropocentric,’ that is, focusing on human history alone. They have either deliberately or unconsciously neglected the religious questions implicit in the scientific theory of evolution.

[yet these] questions will not go away.

Santmire thus goes on to establish the importance of de Chardin as one theologian who does not evade the question. For instance, not unlike Chenchiah after him, de Chardin links Christ as the ultimate reality. And yet, in so far as he adopts the positive eschatology of the postivism of post-enlightenment thinkers, I find myself disagreeing with de Chardin (or at least how Santmire represents him).

Nevertheless I am still struck by the need to understand the significance, especially if we are open to non-6-day-creation narratives, to questions about why it took so long for human beings (as we know them today) to appear. etc etc.

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