“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and God saw that it was good.” That is how the book of Genesis begins the Hebrew people’s creation story, written down in the 6th century BC.
Homo Sapiens Sapiens (a species that knows that it knows) is a meaning-making creature, a spiritual seeker looking for answers to the ultimate question—why? Where did we come from? Where is it all going? Humans need coherent stories to survive and thrive. Their creation stories give them a secure understanding of their place in the world. Anthropologists have written about archaic societies that have disintegrated or become extinct when the story broke down. When they have a cosmology—a sense of belonging in the big picture—humans can work together to make supportive cultural systems, institutions where life can thrive. They can work together to reform institutions, even the religious institutions that carry the traditions of meaning.
In the 21st century we have global communication and economic systems, and the know-how to globally destroy ourselves, but do we have a shared story, a common meaning system? To what extent do we have a shared meaning system as a nation? What is the creation story of 21st century American Catholics?
Here is one creation story prevalent in the 21st century: Our knowledge of the beginning is by no means certain, but it has about five centuries of cumulative scientific investigation behind it. There was nothing but a pinpoint of energy until it exploded into a universe of matter about 15 billion years ago, the beginning of space/time. Particles of matter joined their energies to form increasingly complex structures till billions of stars, many with orbiting planets, spin ever outward in an expanding universe. And ten billion years later one medium-sized planet formed around one star amid twelve billion other stars in one of 100 billion galaxies. Earth was born.
The conditions on this planet earth are just right for molecules of matter to combine energies to form living cells, and they combined to form organisms, which combined to form ever more complex organisms in billions of species. And then, one species of very complex organisms, walking upright, with a cranium large enough to house an expanded brain, became conscious of itself as experiencing the world. The universe became conscious of itself and saw that it was good.
The evolutionary pattern is that new being emerges from the combined energies of already existing being; for example, hydrogen and oxygen combine and there is water. Looking back at that pattern of new creation emerging, from sub-atomic particles to atoms, then molecules, then cells, we can see that humans too have combined conscious energy to create cultural forms to produce new consciousness. They created increasingly complex or nuanced systems to live in community--governments, economic systems, educational systems—and complex systems to create meaning—religions, art, literature, music, dance. They have become co-creators of the evolving universe that now includes the culture of the species that has covered the face of the earth.
CCCR wants to explore how the above creation story can reveal Jesus’s message of God’s love for the world. Can the Christian religion, growing out of a Middle Eastern and Western cultural combination, fit with the evolutionary view of the universe? How do the concepts of incarnation, redemption, salvation, grace, and human deification fit in? How does Jesus’s vision of the Kingdom of God fit in? Is the call to personal and communal holiness the same as the evolutionary impulse to ever-expanding consciousness? Was Vatican II an evolutionary step forward in the history of the Roman Catholic Church?
We held workshops in the NW and SW quadrants of the Archdiocese during February of 2013 to talk about this shift in perspective. Our keynote speaker for Synod 2013, September 28, is Sister Gail Worcelo who is a practicioner of the evolutionary perspective. Look to the right of this article to register.
If you are interested in helping to set up further workshops on the questions for religion arising from this creation story, call (612) 379-1043 or email us at
Click on Evolutionary Christianity on the Main Menu to find articles, events, and a bibliography.