Christianity in a World of Both Spirit and Matter

My next series of posts will explore the development of Christianity and various theological orientation within and about it, arising from Judaism, from which it spread throughoutthe Greco-Roman world . We will discuss how it changed with the change of its environment through the years, as it was influenced by Judaism and Islam and by changing political and social circumstances.

All religions arise in a a physical environment in which the adherent either embraces or rejects the value of human life and of our world. I choose to embrace life and to celebrate it as holy in the sense that Teilhard de Chardin described as a “Mass on the World.”

Teilhard de Chardin and his “Mass on the World” are succinctly and effectively described by Philip on his site, titled A-MUSED – SURPRISED DAILY BY THE MAGICAL AND THE AWESOME IN THE EXTRAORDINARY, which may be found at

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 – 1955) was a French Jesuit theologian and scientist renowned for his pioneering field work in paleontology. His visionary writings on the reconciliation of faith and evolutionary theory aroused suspicions of the Vatican and he was forbidden to publish on religious matters during his lifetime. After his death – on April 10, 1955, which happened to be Easter Sunday that year – the publication of his many books marked him as one of the most influential Catholic thinkers of this century – a mystic whose holistic vision speaks with growing reverence of contemporary spirituality.

The Church removed him from the mainstream of Catholic activity to a remote place in China. There are he pursued his interests and skills in paleontology and discovered Peking Man.  Once, while in China, without bread and wine for Mass, he expressed his deep love for the Eucharist in a Mass on the World. It begins with us:

Since once again, Lord – though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia – I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond that these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world.

See Hymn of the Universe by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which may be accessed at The chapters of that book are intriguing:

The Mass on the World

Christ in the World of Matter
The Spiritual Power of Matter
Penses – a collection of short meditations

I very much appreciate de Chardin because he rejects a separation of spirit from matter for a more positive, dynamic relationship of the two: he sees mankind as being created in the image of God and ever evolving toward what he calls “Omega Point.” Omega point is the result of the achievement of maximum consciousness. Consciousness is a function of highly organized and complex matter, permitting matter to become aware of itself. Omega point is transcendent union with God.

I reject a dualism which tends to be a hallmark of all fundamentalism, whatever the faith. As an associate pastor at my church, upon her graduation from seminary, summarized what she had learned their: “What ever you can think God is, God is more.”

In the next series of posts I will be exploring the history of the church and of its main streams of theological interpretations of its shared experiences of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. And I will explore its development in response to an ever-changing world. It is not my intent to persuade the reader to any particular view, but to explore its various responses to its social, scientific and philosophical circumstances over time.

I am sensitive to all persons who are socially excluded or abandoned. I see religious exclusivity as narrow and self-centered. I would agree with Tolstoy: Christianity is an ethic of life. The apostle James said as much: faith without works is dead. The Gospels report that Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.” That is not salvation by “right belief,” but by right living. Right living, the way in which we “live a life of eternal significance,” as my father once described it, is utterly independent of religion or creed. It is an activity motivated and rendered in love.  Indeed, although Paul is cited to reject good works for faith (“saved by faith, not by works), if one reads the whole of the letters attributed to him, one will find statements that affirm that even faith is not as great as love.  1 Corinthians 13 (“the Love Chapter”).

I stated in the beginning of this blog that I am an inclusive Christian. In the public television series of the interviews by Bill Moyers of Joseph Campbell, entitled The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell describes the power of myth:

It is a story that tells us how to live. Christians have no difficulty understanding that Jesus’ parables were not factual statements, but they were stories to show us how to live. Fewer Christians, however, see other parts of the Bible also as myth, not as a factual statement, but guidance in how to live.

I have heard a number of Christians express concern over a person that claims to be an atheist. In the last 20 years, I have come to believe, and I tell them, “Don’t worry about it. Jesus tells us that by their fruits you will know them. Good fruits don’t fall from a bad tree.”

I hope by this blog, and specifically in this section of it, to encourage those who may not fit notions of “right belief” and those who feel marginalized or rejected. The Good News is that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” All are invited to share in it through acts of love, care, and respect. No one is excluded.

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