Creation or Evolution?

I woke feeling excited this morning. I sat at 06.15 gazing through my east-facing window at a sensational sunrise, the sky ripped open to reveal azure blue through the ruptured clouds, as I ate muesli and drank leaf Darjeeling tea.

The sunrise enhanced my excitement. I know from the various conversations I had yesterday, with members of the LGB&T Anglican Coalition, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Jo Bailey Wells, the Archbishop’s chaplain, David Porter, the Director of Reconciliation, briefly with John Lee, Canon Phil Groves and David Chillingworth, Primus of Scotland, even more briefly on a bus with Chris Smith, and at length with Andrew Goddard, that things are in flux at the moment. There is movement and potential. Change is in the air.

In certain directions, things may look bad – the Men and Women in Marriage report. In other directions, things are moving, conversations are happening, representations are being made. Behind the scenes, in private conversations, far more is happening than breaks the surface into news media. Events (dear boy) will continue to destabilise those who fantasise about being in control of the process of dealing with LGB&T people in the Church and cause ruptures in the most carefully prepared and managed plans. Evolution, in short, continues.

Having been transfixed by the sunrise I lowered my eyes to Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man. I’ve reached page 213, and suddenly, de Chardin’s narrative, which I had found rather plodding to that point erupted into visionary excitement.

I worry a lot, and so do the people who comment on Twitter, Facebook and the CA web site, as to whether the Church ‘get’s it’. Whether the Church even remotely understands my experience and the experience of LGB&T people lay and ordained, who are often at their wits end in reading about and dealing with their experience of Church. Teilhard de Chardin convinced me once again to stop worrying – the Church WILL get it. Of course it will, there’s no escaping the evolutionary processes of God.

And I am blessed, I live and work and move among people who ‘get it’, often at a profound level – people living into the new paradigm, new, passionate visions of God.

Writes de Chardin in 1948:

“It was only in the middle of the nineteenth century that the light dawned at last, revealing the irreversible coherence of all that exists.

“Time and space are organically joined again so as to weave, together, the stuff of the universe.

“One might as well become impatient or lose heart at the sight of so many minds (and not mediocre ones either) remaining today still closed to the idea of evolution, if the whole of history were not there to pledge to us that a truth once see, even by a single mind, always ends up by imposing itself on the totality of human consciousness.

“Blind indeed are those who do not see the sweep of a movement whose orbit infinitely transcends the natural sciences and has successively invaded and conquered the surrounding territory – chemistry, physics, sociology and even mathematics and the history of religions.

“Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.

“In the last century and a half the most prodigious event, perhaps ever recorded by history since the threshold of reflection has been taking place in our minds: the definitive access of consciousness to a scale of new dimensions; and in consequence the birth of an entirely renewed universe, without any change of line or feature by the simple transformation of its intimate substance.

“Almost incurably subject and object tend to become separated from each other in the act of knowing. We continually incline to isolate ourselves from things and events which surround us, as though we were looking at them from outside, from the shelter of an observatory into which they were unable to enter, as though they were spectators, not elements, in what goes on.”

The problem with the members of the House of Bishops who commissioned the Men and Women in Marriage report and for Oliver O’Donovan who I am repeatedly told wrote the report, is that it’s all been done from a conservative evangelical mindset which inhabits the ideas of a world created by God more easily than it inhabits a world in which the evolutionary process is how God works.

There is a lack of mindfulness in the workings of the Church of England at its centre, a lack of visionary awareness, and therefore a failure to include in its working out of ideas and reports, information which is available to those of us working for justice and truth and for a deep, evangelical, passionate connection with God’s actions in history and in our lives and in the universe today.

Thinking ends up being dualistic, or limited in awareness. It isn’t a question of either evolution or creation. It’s a question of how what we know about evolution impacts on what was until a century and a half ago an understanding of creation which has been expanded and transformed.


  1. James H. Blackmore says

    How enlightening to see/hear Theilard de Chardin being quoted and referred to again! When “The Phenomenon of Man” was first published, it was truly revolutionary, so much so that the RC Church sort of put the brakes on it. It was and is both difficult reading but incredibly insightful into God’s present moment, past, and future as we might imagine it. Thank you for your thoughtful contribution to discussion.

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