Kopiec Maksym Adam ,
Recensione: Celia Deane–Drummond, Christ and Evolution, Wonder and Wisdom,
Antonianum, 85/4 (2010) p. 656-660
The Author of this volume earned doctorates in both biology and theology and holds the Chair in Theology and the Biological Sciences at the University of Chester. Certainly such an intellectual formation enabled her to state what constitutes the basic tenet of Christian faith, that is, Christology.
In this work she proves how much it is necessary to take into account the present-day’s context made up by the fast progress of natural sciences in the theological investigation of the mystery of Christ. More precisely, for Deane-Drummond, as an empirical scientist, it is indispensable to assume the evolutionary vision of the world, notwithstanding its many limitations, widely accepted by scientists. Hence, the premise of the book is to reform Christology in the light of current research concerning evolution and to show the importance of philosophical analysis in mediating between faith and science (xii).
The Author begins with charting, in a general way (24-29 pp.) and in particular (33-59), the different routes in mapping the relationship between theology and the evolutionist theory. The latter, first formulated by Darwin, does not rely on any metaphysical explanations; rather, it seeks to ground evolutionary processes in a materialistic philosophy that does not require metaphysical concepts (3). Consequently, such a theory of evolution appears to remove all need for a Creator God as well, to diminish any sense of divine providence in the wake of evolutionary ills and suffering, and to qualify the importance of humans by situating human life as a brief episode in a long and complex evolutionary history (24). This hypothesis brought about different theological reactions, that can be categorized into four main trends.
The first trend (of “separation”) denies the relevance of evolutionary theory to theology, so that while biology talks about evolutionary mechanism, theology talks about the meaning of life and the relationship between God and human history. The second trend (of “conflict”) tends to react against evolutionism as if it were an enemy to religious thought, and attacks it by attempting to replace it by an alternative would-be scientific explanation, where biblical narratives about the universe and its origin are interpreted in particular ways for scientific purposes. The third trend (of “dialogue”) starts from a critical analysis of creationism (Dembski) because of its naive approach to science, and of scientific atheism (Dawkins) because of its naive approach to theology. Then the Author seeks to respond to both these extreme positions, proposing the possibility of a dialogue between them. A fourth trend (of“integration”) is more interesting and worth of a particular mention, since it tries to solve the difficulty by portraying God, in a sense, as the author of evolution. One of the solutions found, which is called “theology of evolution”, put an emphasis on the active presence of God in creation. In this view the interaction between God and nature could be perceived in alignment with known laws of physics, chemistry, and biology, rather than working against these laws through what has traditionally been termed miraculous interventions in nature. However, empirically it is impossible to demonstrate this kind of directionality, since we realize many elements of the usefulness in biological mutation and the natural selection of randomly distributed variants. If randomness remains, then the directionality of God’s influence in the evolutionary process of the world is obscure. Nevertheless, according to the natural sciences, the history of evolution presents two aspects: chance and directionality. Faced with the dilemma between the two opposite principles, an alternative solution is offered by process theology (Whitehead, Haught), which tries to find God in the evolving and directional processes of the natural world as such. In this perspective, the chance and contingency of evolution can be embraced by a total process of becoming of an immanent God involved in the natural history of the universe. Yet theologically such a proposal does not uphold sufficiently the transcendence of God and His ontological distinction from nature, whereas philosophically it runs the risk of determinism; and, what is still more important, in the vision of process theology the classic notion of Christ as God incarnate disappears (36).
In this instance – as compared with the narrative accounts of God’s way with the world (49), and thus with the attempt to find a connection between theology and evolution – Deane-Drummond, following the ideas of Hans Urs von Balthasar, puts forward the theodramatic perspective, that presupposes some elements of drama: subjects (God and creatures), scenario, action, stage and scope. In her opinion, thanks to this approach, we may more adequately, from a philosophic standpoint, express the ontological relation between God and nature, as well as the actual historical interaction between them. Moreover, at the empirical level, theodramatic framework is the most convincing way to bring together both the directionality that is characteristic of evolution as a whole, and the flexibility that is necessary to capture the sense of contingency that is in it (22). Indeed some scientists concede that evolutionary history is metaphorically like a ≪drama≫, with a cast involving living organisms as actors, whereas the environmental ≪stage≫ has itself changed over time (22-23). Ultimately, from a theological point of view drama means that the natural world, inasmuch as interweaved with human history (49), refers to the eschatological, historical and personal event of Christ. In this perspective the natural world is qualified by reference to Him (59), who embraces directionality and chance (empirically) on the one side, and God’s purpose and human freedom (theologically) on the other. In the dramatic – and not just narrative or abstractive – mystery of Christ both the divine and the human coincide in a definitive mode with all creation.
That’s why the category of theodrama seems to be most useful to work out a constructive theology, especially for the Christology that takes into account the evolutionary theory without succumbing to an identification with or to an alienation from it. In other words, the Author offers her readers the opportunity to think creatively and critically about Christ and evolution without pretending that the discourse on the former may be merged with the discourse on the latter (xviii).
With a view to make today’s Christology still more compatible with the evolutionary vision of the universe, Deane-Drummond calls upon two notions of philosophical tradition, that have a theological resonance as well: wisdom and wonder. In fact the divine and eternal Wisdom is hidden and it is only fully revealed in Christ. Such a Wisdom is a principle of the rationality of the universe, as it manifests its mystery and its history as a mystery of being in every thing or otherwise as a mystery of everything. Such a Wisdom is at the origin of philosophy and of the human search for truth, which asks: ≪Why it exists at all rather than nothing≫ (86, 133, 229). In this way the divine Wisdom appeals to the creatural wisdom, that begins with the metaphysical query and pursues natural knowledge (229). Then, the awareness of the mystery revealed by Wisdom leads to the experience of wonder (133, 228), that can be admired in the creation and manifests the divine glory in Christ as a form of beauty (228-240). Therefore Wisdom and Wonder, inasmuch as constituting a part of human and natural experience, ultimately need to be thought of in terms of Christology as a way of highlighting the theodramatic quality of the relationship between God and the cosmos (33).
Undoubtedly, the book of Deane-Drummond represents a great contribution to current theological thinking and it shows its value for modern theologians, especially for those who tackle Christology for the first time. Her work is an attempt to open theological thought towards the present findings and discoveries made by the natural sciences, and it shows the theological capacity to include within its vision both scientific efforts and the explanation of the universe and its history. A very creative and useful aspect for the reader is the Author’s capacity to reflect in a new light, marked by the scientific outcomes, on the basic topics of Christology and other theological themes intrinsically connected with it like redemption, that involves the problems of evolution and its relation with suffering, evil, sin, the atonement of nature.
The other burning issue is the idea of an evolutionary history that includes resurrection as a central point of the theodrama. And after all there emerges the theme of linking the evolutionary theory with the eschatological vision of definitive fulfilment of the universe and of human beings.
Besides, it is woth the while to notice how the Author criticizes the various reductive tendencies that are inclined to reject philosophical and theological statements. Her constructive criticism not only has a philosophical or theological character, but it also develops within the framework of empirical domains such as biology, palaeontology, sociology, and anthropology, illustrating their limits on the one side, and their correct methodology and rules of investigation on the other one. She especially focuses her attention on evolutionary psychology as a trend of empirical reductionism, which erroneously exploits evolution to refuse any transcendent reference to an explanation of nature, human beings and their religious experiences.
Undoubtedly her contribution and her choice of topic can also be very helpful for those who desire to widen their understanding of the Christological research in the context of the present challenges.