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Franciscan Spirit Blog

Evolving an Adult Faith

Jun 24, 2022
woman praying in a field | Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash
God’s will for humans—and for all creation—is to exercise an agency of co-creation: to bring about on earth a greater fullness.

Growing into a more adult way of understanding and living my faith did not—in my case—result in many major religious adjustments. It all happened in what seems to have been a gradual, organic process. The evolutionary vision of Teilhard de Chardin was certainly a major influence. It reinforced the integration of the human and the holy that I first encountered in the writings of Ladislaus Boros. More important, Teilhard’s vision enabled me to build bridges across the dualistic split between the sacred and the secular. In a few years that led me into the exploration of quantum physics and the expanded vision of the new cosmology.

Meanwhile, Teilhard’s evolutionary insights led me along a more anthropological route, the unfolding story of the human species across several million years. With hindsight, I can now see that this is where my adult believer came into its own. The Christian notion of incarnation took on a whole new meaning, and while few theologians seemed interested (then or now), something deep within assured me that this was a faith journey worth pursuing. I was beginning to trust adult wisdom coming from within.

Trusting my inner wisdom was never a purely individual pursuit. I began riding the wave of a great story, which fortunately I trusted to a point where it led me ever more deeply into a transformed spiritual consciousness. At this juncture, the distinction between religion and spirituality became all important. It was all too clear that my ancient ancestors, going back some one hundred thousand years were already operating out of an informed spiritual sense of life.

Long before formal religions evolved (about five thousand years ago), members of the human species were exploring spiritual meaning in several contexts of their daily lives. And they were doing so without rabbis, bishops, or imams, and without any of the patriarchal structures adopted by major religions.


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When I began exploring our long human story in the 1970s, the science of human origins (paleontology) had not yet evolved into the rigorous science it is today, as outlined briefly in chapter one. It is when the scholars moved into Ethiopia in the 1980s, and research became more expansive in Kenya, Tanzania, and later Chad, that the momentum gathered to the point of establishing the current date for our human origins, namely, that of seven million years ago.

This is now our sacred story, the expanded horizon of our faith as adult people of God. Africa, and not the land of Israel, is where God first incarnated in our embodied spirits. This is our graced narrative as God’s creatures, and our God has been with us on this long journey every step of the way.

This is the adult coming of age, outgrowing the former codependent relationship of the docile child obeying the patriarchal God-father. We are called to co-create with our God and not merely for “Him.”

In that co-creative process, our engagement is deeply rooted in the soil of planet Earth. As Earthlings, our true God-given home is the living creation itself, in its cosmic and planetary dimensions. In this adult understanding there is no room for the vale of tears from which religion has long told us to escape.

We are birthed into life in the empowering grace of our creative God, and our collaborative responsibility with that God is to birth anew the nature that has birthed us. In this co-creative process, there is no room for patriarchal power or manipulation. It is our sense of belonging that defines our true nature and our God-given identity. That to which we belong defines the very essence of our adult selves.

Therefore, God’s will for humans—and for all creation—is to exercise an agency of co-creation: to bring about on earth a greater fullness. We are meant to be an engaged and involved species, adult people serving an adult God, in the ever-evolving enterprise of our magnificent universe. Seeking to escape to a life hereafter makes no evolutionary sense anymore; in fact, it never did for our ancient ancestors.


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Comments

Arlene B. Muller
Sat, 06/25/2022 - 08:33 AM
Arlene B. Muller
This does not appear to be consistent with Catholic teaching. Incarnation in Africa? Not viewing GOD as Father? Not looking toward heaven? Looking toward pre-Christian (pagan?) forms of spirituality freed from religion? I DON'T THINK SO!
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Sat, 06/25/2022 - 07:55 PM
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Rebecca Watson Kahn
Sat, 06/25/2022 - 10:21 PM
Rebecca Watson Kahn
I had much the same reaction as Arlene. This sounds like humanist rationale rather than Christian theology. I was educated as an astrophysicist and mathematician in the 1970s and encountered these opinions frequently during my career. I am disappointed in Franciscan Media for posting, and apparently supporting, the views of this article.

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