Summer 2001

Waiting for a Cosmic Christ in an Uncreated World

Peter Casarella

“The learned dialogue between theologians and scientists comes to nought . . . if there are no practical measures for perceiving the form of Christ as the form of the world.”

“All of creation is groaning in labor pains even unto now.”1 St. Paul’s vision of creation’s transformation is not relegated completely to the future. The pregnant present in this verse represents both an endpoint and the birthpang of a future cosmos. Significantly, his vision of the freedom that will accompany eschatological glory is no less cosmic than anthropological (v. 21). In the verses of The Letter to the Romans that follow these, St. Paul introduces the gift of hope. The expected coming of God’s Spirit reinforces the non-immanence of the transformation, but the “firstfruits of the Spirit,” he states, have already been planted and are taking root in our midst. We wait for adoption “groaning within ourselves,” and this microcosmic transformation has already begun in those who have internalized the news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The object of hope is therefore both universal and personal, both already in view and not yet arrived.

The present essay, a meditation on Christ and the cosmos, takes St. Paul’s eschatology as its starting point. To relate Christ to a modern, evolutionary cosmology, the changes wrought in the present need to be viewed as traces of what God can accomplish in “the fullness of times.” There is neither a theological method nor a scientific technique, in my opinion, that grants an immediate access to this view. The goal of the present essay is not to make yet another plea for the integration of Christian theology and scientific evolution.2 The time for such synthetic efforts has both passed and not yet arrived. I am interested rather in the sapiential conditions for the possibility of dialogue between the science of theology and the natural sciences. Above all, I would like to recognize the inevitably “a-cosmic” world-view of the present age. The learned dialogue between theologians and scientists comes to nought, I think, if there are no practical measures for perceiving the form of Christ as the form of the world.

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1. Rom 8:22.

2. See, for example, Henri de Lubac, S.J., La pensée religieuse de Père Teilhard de Chardin (Aubier, 1962).