In His Own Words: Teilhard on Hope Matters

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In a previous post I spoke about how too often Christians live a life of hope that tags on a “but” at the end of it. Here are some excerpts on this topic written by Teilhard in a book titled, Hymn of the Universe–an amazing compilation of some of his more poetic writings.

“‘“O ye of little faith,’ why fear the onward march of the world or become distant to it? Why foolishly multiply your prophecies of woe and your prohibitions: “Don’t venture there; don’t attempt that; everything is already known that can be known; the earth is grown old and stale and empty; there is nothing more for us to find. . .On the contrary, we must try everything for Christ; we must hope everything for Christ. Nihil intentatum (to leave nothing un-attempted) that is the true Christian attitude. Divinization means not destruction but super-creation. We can never know all that the Incarnation still asks of the world’s potentialities. We can never hope for too much from the growing unity of mankind.”

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Hope is a necessity if our joy is to be complete. … I want [hope] because I cannot help loving all that your constant help enables me each day to bring into being. A thought, a harmony, the achievement of a perfection in material things, some special nuance in human love, the exquisite complexity of a smile or a glance, every new embodiment of beauty appearing in me or around me on the human face of the earth: I cherish them all like children whose flesh I cannot believe destined to complete extinction. If I believed that these things were to perish forever, would I have given them life? The deeper I look into myself the more clearly I become aware of this psychological truth: that no mm would lift his little finger to attempt the smallest task unless he were spurred on by a more or less obscure conviction that in some infinitesimally tiny way he is contributing, at least indirectly, to the building up of something permanent—in other words, to your own work, Lord.

Teilhard, . C. P. (1965). Hymn of the universe. New York: Harper & Row. p. 114-115, 134-135

A Response to Jim Inhofe: Does God give us power to create change?

Pin_InhofeI have this terrible habit of becoming too accustomed to my own beliefs—I suppose we all do. We too often surround ourselves with like minded people, watch the news channel we deem as the most fair and balanced, and its rare that we willingly challenge our worldviews. The reason we do this is because having your worldview challenged isn’t easy. Changing our worldview is to change our whole of reality. It is scary, emotional, time-consuming, and requires intentionality. And why would anyone want to intentionally seek out new information so they can find out that which they thought was truth wasn’t such a black and white issue after all? I have found that most often people undergo a worldview shift during a traumatic life event (this was me after my late husband’s death), an environmental change (attending college or traveling the world), or by experiencing a revelation (be it religious or not). As difficult a task as it may seem, challenging what we have always believed to be true is what causes us to grow as people. To open our minds and hearts to the ideas and beliefs of those around us, we are in essence creating for ourselves a bigger world to take part in. Too many times in my life, I have been guilty of the same thing. We seek comfort, convenience, and the path of least resistance.

As I have begun to write over the last couple weeks about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with my hopes set on challenging some views about our world to those reading, at times I begin to panic. I am so immersed in my own worldview—in what I believe, how I regard the world, and where I think that is taking humanity—I begin to think everyone is on the same wavelength as me. Things that have become natural to me start to transform into the things I believe are obvious to everyone. This is a dangerous place to put yourself. Not only will you inevitably end up hurting someone at some point with your assumptions, but you will also hold back from helping others to expand their worldviews and potentially see a new possibility (or vice versa). So it is a fine line … don’t assume others believe what you believe, but don’t hold back from engaging others because you think they already see the world the same way you do.

I have feared this is what I’ve been doing in this series. That those things I am desiring to write about are obsolete or obvious. There is no question in my heart that God is leading and directing me in this work, but my fears of stating the obvious are trying to silence me. Then I read about Senator James Inhofe. So much could be said. The environmental issues the world is facing will be a topic I intend to cover in this series, so I want to avoid it until I am able to lay some groundwork for my opinions. Even though I won’t be discussing Inhofe and the environment in particular, I do want to examine the most publicized of his noteworthy quotes from over the last few years that has recently resurfaced as he prepares for his new role in office. It was this quote that reminded me God does have a bigger world for all of us to open our eyes to and my fears of bringing forth a wealth of obsolete ideas couldn’t be further from the truth (and I feel assured that regardless, it is not my concern if I am following a call to do so).

While we all know Inhofe is clearly an extremist when it comes to his views on climate change, I’m afraid his biblical conclusions regarding God and humanities role in creation aren’t quite as uncommon among Christians. The following was taken from an interview Inhofe did in March 2012, he said;

My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

The underlying message Inhofe is conveying is sadly one I believe many Christians would agree with if they were to lay all their cards on the table. As Christians, we do that which we feel called or conditioned to do … for some this means to live as righteously as possible, follow laws, go to church, tithe; for others it means loving your neighbor, ushering in the Kingdom, feeding the poor; for others it means both …. BUT … regardless of what we are called to do, the message we give to the world is Christians do not—in fact, cannot—truly bring change to the kingdom of darkness now enveloping this earth. In my opinion this viewpoint opposes the message Jesus came to bring. The good news is better than do good, love lots, give generously … but don’t expect heaven to come crashing down when you do.

Believing this leads to the way you lead your life, convey the gospel to others, and worse puts the Incarnate Christ in a box! I think we have forgotten the power of the Holy Spirit left behind to help us. I think we have failed to recognize free will is more than just choosing to do one thing or another, it is choosing to create with God, bring about the Kingdom of God, and participate in His gift of giving us the opportunity to cause change! Pray for this, set your hope on it, and ask God to reveal the ways you see the world and your faith in too small of a way.

(Quote taken from: Tashman, Brian (8 March 2012), “James Inhofe Says the Bible Refutes Climate Change“, Right Wing Watch, retrieved on 2012-03-13)

Hope Matters

Pin_HopeMattersThe word “but” is one of those words no one wants to hear right after someone says to you … I love you, I’m sorry, or I think you are a really great person. It is something I like to refer to as a “yes, but” statement. I’m sure you can think of people who have dropped the “yes, but” on you. I’m also sure you can think of a time or two you’ve dropped one on another–I know I can. It is easy to do. It is the having your cake and eating it too of interpersonal communication. We want to make the other person feel better, make ourselves feel better, or ease the tension of a conversation….but we also want to make sure our point is understood, our agenda is being met, or our conscious is left guilt free. The problem is a “yes, but” statement always creates a contradiction regarding the true emotions, feelings, or intentions of the speaker. It devalues the speaker’s credibility and confuses the hearer—who will likely end up unconvinced.

In my experience, I have found there to be a bit of a “yes, but” attitude among Christians today. It is an attitude that we all can be sympathetic towards. The world we live in is broken. We’ve all endured suffering. We’ve all experienced loss. It is tough to look at the evils that take place on this planet and not wish at times to just sink down to the ground and give up on it all. It is an attitude that is bound to wash over everyone once and a while. However, trouble arises when this attitude begins to cling to us, becomes natural to us, or is left unchecked and unconfessed for a long period of time. As our lives pass the fear of suffering, loss, death, evil, and ugliness in humanity slowly becomes the thing we expect. And if even more time passes, in which the incarnational truth and hope found in the New Testament washes away such pessimism, fear becomes the only outcome we will see as possible. Once a person comes to expect that for now fear/death will always prevail on earth, the gospel becomes a story about hoping in heaven, rather than placing our hope in our promised new earth and our coming resurrection.

Pierre Teilhard’s hope is that which continues to amaze me when read his works. This isn’t solely because of what he says or teaches regarding our future hope, it is because of the way he embodies such a hope. He is audacious enough to imagine a future in which humanity unites, loves, and manifests Christ on earth. Sadly, even as I’m writing about his hopeful ideals, I can feel a “yes, but” trying to creep into my preconditioned thoughts.

It sounds something like this: “While, of course I believe that Christians will someday unite, love, and fully manifest Christ on earth …. but it won’t ever fully be realized through us…well, at least not until Jesus comes back and finishes everything he didn’t finish on the cross” That last bit should feel like fingernails on a chalkboard and although you may never have heard a Christian confess such an appalling statement, it is what we are insinuating when we tag on a ‘but’ after speaking about Christ’s message of the Kingdom come, isn’t it? How is this acceptable to us? Christ on the cross is the center, the fulfillment, the reconciliation, the salvation, and the most beautiful act self-sacrificial love that will ever be known. Hope is found when we look at the cross, hear our Lord utter ‘It is finished,’ and then love one another so outlandishly that fear must flee from our presence. The hope Christ came to incarnate, teach, and die for simply cannot exist within a “yes, but” statement. To follow up the hope of the gospel with a “but” is to surrender our faith as hopeless.

I am a far cry from embodying hope the way Teilhard does. I also know that he struggled with this vision of hope after serving in WW1 (a topic I will discuss at a later time). I still struggle everyday to affirm the truth that on the cross it truly was ‘finished.’ I look around my life, the church, the world and find it hard to not to find it an impossible notion that God’s Kingdom could ever fully be realized on this very planet. There are times though, moments of fleeting wonder, in which even just for a few mere seconds I allow hope to overwhelm me. A true sense of hope, a pure and child-like hope, and such beauty has the power to take the breath right out of my lungs. It is akin to trying to imagine the end of the universe, eternity, or infinity. These times or moments most often come to me when reading Teilhard, in fact I’m not certain I had felt such hope ever before discovering him. His hope is contagious and intoxicating. Jesus came, lived, and died for a hope—the hope to see God’s Kingdom come to earth (not the other way around). Teilhard shamelessly mirrors this hope. I would give anything to live in such a state.

As I said earlier, Teilhard’s teaching doesn’t center on the idea of hope—it is more embedded in all his other thoughts. I continue to emphasize it however—especially early on in the series—because without a willingness on our part to try to imagine the incarnational hope of the kingdom come, we will never truly be able to open our minds and learn from what his message to us is. I want Christ-followers to become desperately hungry for such a Christ-like hope. If we say we have hope, but then claim our hope is in a ‘there’ rather than the ‘here’ it seems to me we are failing to preach the gospel.

“I believe that the world will never be converted to Christianity’s hopes of heavens, unless first Christianity is converted to the hopes of the earth.” Teilhard

Teilhard, . C. P. (1968). Science and Christ. New York: Harper & Row.p.127

Chardin: The Matter of Man

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin lays the foundation of his theory regarding the evolutionary process currently happening all around with a poetic description of a new way to view the cosmos. Chardin paints a picture from one end of the materiel universe to the other with the hope of broadening our view of reality. He dares us to expand our preconditioned minds, from seeing only those things directly in front of us that are rooted in scientific fact, to imagine where it is we are going. Chardin challenges us to take the knowledge we have learned through science [in particular through evolution], combine it with the hope we find in the New Testament, and use these tools as a means of envisioning the direction we are driving towards in our eternal state of being. Teilhard wants to not only impart such a vision, but more importantly wants to encourage humanity to work together to help bring about that vision.

This vision begins with a fuller, more integrated view of the universe. Chardin bonds together the various ways we currently see reality, in order that the unified whole is replaced as that which is more naturally seen. As we stare out into the cosmos on any given night there are certain things that naturally arise in each of our minds—other solar systems with their own spinning planets, blazing suns being born and dying, black holes, and our dreams of the unknown. Alternatively, we see things in our mind differently when we glance around the very place we are standing or as we look into the eyes of another human. And then there is still another when we ponder those things on the atomic scale. There is space; there is what we see on the scale of the earth and the human race; and then there is the mysterious atomic and mostly undiscovered quantum scale. Teilhard lays this divided spectrum in front of us and then questions the usefulness of such a division. What if the way we viewed the universe could give us a fuller view of the hope we find in Christ? What difference would it make for Christians to regard the physical universe as a whole, rather than a spectrum of divided realities?

The New Testament declares that we are to be built up together to form the body of Christ. This same church that is being built up into Christ also rests upon Christ who is our cornerstone and from which nothing else can be done apart from. This biblical description is echoed in the very fabric of the universe we find all around us. From the smallest and seemingly infinitely divisible molecules, to the massive and constantly expanding universe, each part is both being multiplying and becoming a unified whole at this very moment and in each that follows. And each of these deriving from and hurling towards a singular point (a point later referred to by Chardin as the Omega point). As we begin to grasp the universe as a unified whole of physical matter, rather than in divided spectrums, we can turn our attention to the next layer of reality Chardin asks us to consider. A reality we must become more cognizant of if we wish to work together to build up the body of Christ—the reality of our consciousness.

I love the way the following quote from Chardin encapsulates the beauty that will arise as humanity begins to see itself beyond itself in hopes to become that which we have been called to become: “To see is really to become more … In such a vision man is seen not as a static center of the world he’s for long believed himself to be – but as the access and leading shoot of evolution, which is something much finer.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: A Hopeful Introduction

A Hopeful Intro Blog ImageI’ve spent the last two years devouring the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. A Jesuit priest who lived from 1881-1955. There is far too much that could be said about his life’s endeavors and experiences to include in one blog post; however, as I hope to continue to flesh out his works on my blog, I can imagine many of these will naturally arise throughout the process. Although there is one aspect of Chardin’s life that is helpful to know right up front. Chardin was both a Jesuit priest, as well as a distinguished paleontologist. His discoveries and contributions to the world are often more well known within the scientific community than they are among the religious (a very unfortunate reality for those in the latter community). This divide in scientific and religious worldviews would be his life’s passion and pain. He received opposition from both sides and struggled on how to best impart the vision he had been given to those around him. His was a vision that didn’t just make a way for scientific and religious realities to co-exist without disagreement, but rather made the two so intertwined and so dependent upon one another that once a person is able to grasp his vision it will soon become the only vision one can see. The problem is the vision Chardin casts is gigantic … and well, it’s also infinitesimal. It describes that which is both innumerably multiplied and simultaneously united into one singular being. Understanding the science behind his theory is doable, although it can still take me a great deal of effort at times. Chardin’s works are more than simply a scientific method laid out in such a way as to deliver facts based on evidence and devoid of beauty or intentionality. Teilhard is one of the most captivating poetic philosophers that I have ever had a chance to read. Reading his works is intellectually stimulating and simultaneously world changing, but at the same time spoken in such a way that I am driven to tears almost every time I hold one of his books in my hands.

My intention for this post was to get myself to a starting point with how to begin discussing his theories and ideas. I’m not sure I can say that has happened, but perhaps a short introduction–combined with a sense of my own admiration for Teilhard–was important to get the ball rolling. His first work was published shortly after he died in 1955 (He never published due to the church having forbid it due to the content). It is called “The Phenomenon of Man” and lays the foundation for his entire theory following after. I’m re-reading the work and my hope is to be able to write out some of my own understandings of what he has already laid out for us. An appropriate quote to end with today displays the beautiful poetic nature of his speech that I spoke of earlier, but also describes one type of person who he calls the enthusiast and in my opinion describes well the type of person Chardin embodied–that of a hopeful person. Hope is one of the things I find most compelling and captivating about Chardin’s qualities. He had an insatiable audacity to have unwavering hope in the truth of who Christ was, who Christ came to be, and who Christ is becoming through His church. Hope to declare a knowledge that the incarnation has truly and mysteriously enmeshed us through grace and brings us right into the midst of this incarnational story. Jesus came and then he invited us … Could it be that we have forgotten that our acceptance of His invitation must be regarded seriously both through the eyes of the spiritual, but also through the eyes of the physical? This quote comes from a lecture he gave 1943. He is describing such a hopeful being as this when he says, “Not only is it better to be than not to be [for the enthusiast], but they are convinced that it is always possible–and the possibility has a unique value–to attain a fuller measure of being. For these conquerors, enamored of the adventurous, being is inexhaustible–not in Gide’s way like a precious stone with innumerable facets which one can never tire of turning round and round–but like a focus of warmth and light to which one always draws closer. We may laugh at such men and say that they are ingenious, or we may find them tiresome; but at the same time it is they who have made us what we are, and it is from them that tomorrow’s earth is going to emerge.” To find such hope in this world and to live it out as it is already true is something humanity could never have too much of. And so, it turns out I did find my starting point for this series after all. We begin with hope, keep moving towards hope, and rest assured it is there we will find love.