There is a very solid teaching in the Christian Church about the inspiration of the holy Bible. Within this teaching there are several different traditions, all of them complementary to one another. In one tradition the emphasis is on the writer himself or herself of the biblical books. Another tradition emphasizes the effect of inspiration on the words themselves as the Bible is considered the word of God. Yet another understanding emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit on the reader or the listener to the holy word. The strongest inclination today is to emphasize the power of the spirit on the reader and the listener. This approach brings the inspired teachings into the present and into our own personal lives. We are not so much concerned with the writers of the books of the Bible or exactly how the words may be inspired but what the Spirit is saying to the churches today. We are the church and so the Spirit speaks to us.
Before we get into that kind of inspiration specifically, I would like to speak about another understanding of the Christian church. We could say that this is a parallel kind of inspiration to the Bible. It is a very real and important way in which God reveals himself or herself to our world and therefore to us today. This parallel inspiration, if you will, is known as evolutionary theology. Evolutionary theology is based on the understanding that evolution is no longer a theory but an established fact, even though there yet remains divergent understandings of the precise process and message of this evolution.
It has always been understood and accepted that God reveals himself in his creation. Apart from pantheism, Christians have always seen vestiges or footprints of God in his creation. Mystics and poets as well as theologians have always shown great enthusiasm for the image of God in the beauties of nature, the power of a storm, the ordered flow of days and seasons and especially in the intelligence, freedom and destiny of the human race.
According to evolutionary theology,God has been revealing himself since the beginning of time in the ordered direction of the movement of the cosmos since it’s very beginning, whenever and however that occurred. This particular imaging of God by its very nature is evolving, is moving forward toward a goal, a destiny to something ever greater and ever newer. The present state of evolution, the circumstances and situation in which we find ourselves in relation to the cosmos, the universe, the planet Earth, our nation, and our personal lives is actually in transition, if you will. There is really no way in which we can state that the presence situation of reality, as we know it, is the summit, the goal, or the final perfection of God’s hidden plan for creation. We are told that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. But this means that he is also the beta,delpha,gamma, epsilon, etc. and everything in between. This in-between is where we are located in the present progress of evolution. It may very well be that we are much closer to the Alpha, the beginning, than we are to the Omega, the end. It seems to me that there is a great deal the human race must do, a vast evolutionary process before we can say that Christ is present in creation in his fullness and that God is all in all. The important thing that we must understand is that this evolutionary process is a revelation of God and God’s plan which is parallel to and of equal importance to God’s plan as revealed in the Bible. It is in the dimension of our evolutionary development that the Holy Spirit whom Christ has sent to be our comforter and who will remind us of all that he has taught us is present and active in our lives, our world, our cosmos.
Well now, let’s return back to the Bible and todays wonderful readings. In the first reading we have heard God say to us through the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am doing something new. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” As God’s inspired word the teachings of the prophet Isaiah are not something that belongs to the Old Testament, to the Jews, to the past. This message is repeated in the book of Revelation where Jesus says to us, “Behold, I make all things new.” This is the very heart and meaning of the progress of evolution. It is not a dead end, it is not something that only belongs to the far off and unforeseen future, it is active, graced, benevolent, providential and very real in our world and in our personal lives. God is alive and well and active in and among us.
In the second reading, from the letter to the Philippians St. Paul says, “Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus.” This really is a statement of our cooperation, yours and mine, with the ongoing process of God’s revelation through evolution. It is a part of our lives and our lives are part of its progression. It is something to put joy in our hearts, enthusiasm in our work, and the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, in every facet of our lives.
In the Gospel reading we hear of the woman taken in adultery and brought to Jesus. His accusers say to him, “The law of Moses commands us to stone such a woman. What do you say?” The response of Jesus is revolutionary, or I should say, evolutionary. It marks a significant step in the moral progression of human understanding in terms of forgiveness. The old law, that out of justice and works, must give way to the new law that of love and faith. In his sermon on the mount ,Jesus repeats this moral evolution many times when he says, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” The human race has a long way to go to understand the real meaning that Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, has in our movement toward our goal.
We have, each one of us, a place and a unique contribution to make to this evolution. In our world, as St. Teresa of Avila tells us, Christ has no hands but ours, no feet but ours, no heart ,no love but ours. We are the evolutionary way in which the Holy Spirit of God now inspires, directs, and accomplishes the fullness of God’s plan.
May you be happy,
May you be free,
May you be loving,
May you be loved.
Father William Meninger