Orthodoxy of Teilhard de Chardin: (Part IV) (Christ as the Evolution of Humanity)

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In Part I of our series on the orthodoxy of Teilhard de Chardin, we described how Pope Emeritus Benedict held Teilhard’s theological vision of Christ as a central feature of the Christian liturgical and Eucharistic experience

In Part II of our series, we discussed Pope Emeritus Benedict’s approval of statements made by St. Paul and Teilhard of the cosmos being a living host.

In Part III, we started to discuss the concept of the role of the Cosmic Christ (the pre-existent logos who is the second person of the Trinity) in the creation of the cosmos.

Today, we will continue Pope Emeritus Benedict’s discussion of Teilhard’s ideas in the describing the relationship of Christ to humanity.  In the subchapter titled “Christ, ‘The Last Man'”, of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s masterpiece, Introduction to Christianity, Benedict discusses the “hominization” (a term Teilhard frequently used) of humanity, that is “the step from animal to logos, from mere life to mind.”  Benedict stated that humanity is most fully human, indeed the true human, when they “not only have contact with the infinite-the Infinite Being!-but is one with him: Jesus Christ. In him ‘hominization’ has truly reached its goal.”  Pope Emeritus Benedict went on to explain this relationship between humanity and Christ in the vision of Teilhard de Chardin:

“It must be regarded as an important service of Teilhard de Chardin’s that he rethought these ideas from the angle of the modern view of the world and, in spite of a not entirely unobjectionable tendency toward the biological approach, nevertheless on the whole grasped them correctly and in any case made them accessible once again. Let us listen to his own words: The human monad “can only be absolutely itself by ceasing to be alone”. In the background is the idea that in the cosmos, alongside the two orders or classes of the infinitely small and the infinitely big, there is a third order, which determines the real drift of evolution, namely, the order of the infinitely complex. It is the real goal of the ascending process of growth or becoming; it reaches a first peak in the genesis of living things and then continues to advance to those highly complex creations that give the cosmos a new center: “Imperceptible and accidental as the position they hold may be in the history of the heavenly bodies, in the last analysis the planets are nothing less than the vital points of the universe. It is through them that the axis now runs, on them is henceforth concentrated the main effort of an evolution aiming principally at the production of large molecules.” The examination of the world by the dynamic criterion of complexity thus signifies “a complete inversion of values. A reversal of the perspective.”

But let us return to man. He is so far the maximum in complexity. But even he as mere man-monad cannot represent an end; his growth itself demands a further advance in complexity: “At the same time as he represents an individual centered on himself (that is, a ‘person’), does not Man also represent an element in relation to some new and higher synthesis?” That is to say, man is indeed, on the one hand, already an end that can no longer be reversed, no longer be melted down again; yet in the juxtaposition of individual men he is not yet at the goal but shows himself to be an element, as it were, that longs for a whole that will embrace it without destroying it. Let us look at a further text, in order to see in what direction such ideas lead: “Contrary to the appearances still accepted by Physics, the Great Stability is not below—in the infra-elemental—but above—in the ultra-synthetic.” So it must be discovered that, “If things hold and hold together, it is only by virtue of ‘complexification’, from the top.” I think we are confronted here with a crucial statement; at this point the dynamic view of the world destroys the positivistic conception, which seems so obvious to us, that stability is located only in the “mass”, in hard material. That the world is in the last resort put together and held together “from above” here becomes evident in a way that is particularly striking because we are so little accustomed to it.

This leads to a further passage in Teilhard de Chardin that is worth quoting in order to give at least some indication here, by means of a few fragmentary excerpts, of his general outlook. “The Universal Energy must be a Thinking Energy if it is not to be less highly evolved than the ends animated by its action. And consequently . . . the attributes of cosmic value with which it is surrounded in our modern eyes do not affect in the slightest the necessity obliging us to recognize in it a transcendent form of Personality.” (emphasis added)

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal; Pope Benedict XVI; Benedict; J. R. Foster; Michael J. Miller (2010-06-04). Introduction To Christianity, 2nd Edition (Kindle Locations 2840-2865). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

Next week, we will continue Pope Benedict’s discussion of Teilhard’s vision that the Incarnation of Christ constituted an “evolutionary leap” in the ascent of humanity.

About William Ockham

I am a father of two with eclectic interests in theology, philosophy and sports. I chose the pseudonym William Ockham in honor of his contributions to philosophy, specifically Occam's Razor, and its contributions to modern scientific theory. My blog (www.teilhard.com) explores Ignatian Spirituality and the intersection of faith, science and reason through the life and writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (pictured above).
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3 Responses to Orthodoxy of Teilhard de Chardin: (Part IV) (Christ as the Evolution of Humanity)

  1. Pingback: Orthodoxy of Teilhard de Chardin: (Part V) (Resurrection, Evolution and the Omega Point) | Teilhard de Chardin

  2. Pingback: Orthdoxy of Teilhard de Chardin (Part VI) (Henri De Lubac) | Teilhard de Chardin

  3. Pingback: Orthodoxy of Teilhard de Chardin (Part I): Pope Benedict and Spirit of the Liturgy | Teilhard de Chardin

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