Teilhard de Chardin: A Short Take on His Influence

The following is New York Times columnist’s–Ross Douthat’s–one paragraph take on the theories of Teilhard de Chardin (from Bad Religion, p. 86):

Teilhard de Chardin, the brilliant Jesuit paleontologist-philosopher who died in relative obscurity in 1960, [was] to become a kind of posthumous court theologian to the New Frontier and the Great Society.  His intellectual system was a shotgun marriage of Darwinism and Christianity, floated on a cloud of buzzwords . . . and perfectly tailored for a moment in which the cautious and disillusioned leaders of the World War II generation were giving way to John F. Kennedy’s whiz kids.  (De Chardin was reportedly Robert McNamara’s favority theologian.)  The Jesuit was orthodox in his personal piety, but his arguments were easily turned to more heterodox ends.  His admirers interpreted them as divinizing science and technology, capitalism and globalization:  These were all signs of humanity’s progress toward the second coming of Christ, which was implicitly redefined to mean the moment when God, mankind, and the cosmos all merged into one universal consciousness.  There was no room for a Fall of Man in this narrative, and no original sin–just the steady upward ascent of an ever-improving, ever-evolving species, converging toward the “Omega Point” of unity and harmony with every passing year.

Douthat goes on to speculate about Teilhard’s influence over the Second Vatican Council:

One [person] in particular seemed to enjoy a distinctive influence over the Council’s work.  “Few wanted to be associated with him publicly,” Richard John Neuhaus would note in a late 1980s assessment, but the work of Teilhard de Chardin was a powerful presence in background conversation surrounding Council deliveration.”  From de Chardin’s oeuvre, Neuhaus pointed out, some of the Council’s documents seemed to take the idea of a “unified, developmental, and evolutionary cosmos; new things are happening with ever-accelerating speed, and it is all going somewhere, though it is impossible to say quite where.”  In contrast to traditional Christian teaching, the Council sometimes appeared to locate God and the transcendent “not above us but ahead of us, the future twoard which are are rapidly rushing . . . only rarely in the Council’s hundred thousand words is the distinction between natural and supernatural even implied.” . . .

I really like the observation that the Council seemed to locate God “not above us but ahead of us.”  I think this perfectly describes a God I could believe in.

This entry was posted in Books, catholicism, Personalities, Religion, transhumanism. Bookmark the permalink.

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