It’s been too quiet around here for a while, so let’s see if we can’t get back into the swing of things with a few articles of note.
Such praise for Teilhard’s attempt to amalgamate evolutionary thought with theological concepts is justified only to the extent that we see him as a pioneer within a historical context and not as someone whose work has any contemporary relevance. Indeed, there are many approaches that may or may not include evolutionary thought, the majority of which transcend what Teilhard envisioned with respect to the harmony between science, philosophy and theology. For example, the late nuclear physicist and theologian, Ian Barbour, published more recent ground-breaking studies on the relationship between science and religion that stands as a distinct alternative to Teilhard’s own limited, and ultimately outdated, approach. So aside from a relevant historical context, the science and religion interaction has advanced far beyond Teilhard’s thought.
In the words of moral theologian Fr. Richard M.Cormack, SJ (1922–2000):
‘In 1829 Leo XII declared, “Whoever allows himself to be vaccinated ceases to be a child of God. Smallpox is a judgment of God, the vaccination is a challenge toward heaven.”’
This alleged statement was often used to ridicule the Holy See and Catholic faith. It “proved” that Catholics did not use reason but blind faith and trusted rather divine providence than their intellect. Just like papacy rejected the unification of Italy and acted “irrationally,” so it had (according to Godkin) denounced all progress.
How could a man like Leo XII, after successful inoculations in Europe, America, Africa, and Asia, really reject a treatment that saved innumerable lives?
He didn’t. The whole “announcement” was made up to discredit Leo XII. A black legend was born.
There are two things wrong with these notions. First, the science is wrong. That’s bad enough. Worse, for Christians, is that the new geocentrists insist that the Bible (in the case of the Fundamentalists) or the Bible and the Church (in the case of the Catholics) teach infallibly that these scientific theories are true and must be accepted by faithful Christians. They are laying on Christian shoulders burdens that the Bible and the Church don’t really place there.
But the deep reason why the Church has been a friend to natural science is to be found in Genesis and the Gospel of John. For God in the beginning created all things and declared them each to be good, and the whole of the world together, very good. The first created thing was not mud or something else unformed and despicable, but light — the most immaterial thing we know, wholly beautiful in itself and revealing the beauty of all other things. We might say that the first word of creation, “Let there be light,” was like the first word given to Moses on Mount Sinai, “I am the Lord thy God.” It’s God, imparting a measure of his being to all things; his truth, and beauty, and goodness.