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The Meaning of Suffering in an Evolutionary Universe (Think About This)

The issue of suffering has always been one of the great fault lines of the science and religion debate: How can tremendous suffering exist in a universe created by a beneficent God? In Rediscovering Teilhard’s Fire (SJU Press, 2010), a book of collected essays exploring the work of Jesuit priest and pioneer of evolutionary spirituality Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Catholic theologian John F. Haught addresses the complex issue of suffering. Using Teilhard’s writings as context, Haught brings his scholarly brilliance to bear on this hoary issue, explaining how the reality of suffering is better accounted for in a theology that incorporates the scientific truth of an evolutionary universe—a universe that is in a constant state of “becoming.” In the following excerpt from the essay, Haught elucidates the importance of looking to the future for God’s answer to the world’s suffering, rather than to some imagined perfection of the past.

Teilhard proposes an alternative cosmological framework, one that is fully supported by science, to serve as the context for theology’s reflections on the meaning of suffering—and here I am talking about all of life’s suffering and not just our own. In a universe that is still unfinished…the attribute of perfection can be applied only to a future cosmic unity that will occur in the everlasting care of a God who calls the universe into being from up ahead in the future… Evolution places in question all [theologies] that have nourished themselves on nostalgia for a lost paradise. It leaves no legitimate room for resentment that paradise has been lost since creation has never (yet) been a paradise. Both the biblical logic of promise and the pattern of evolution have together barred the door to our ever returning to Eden. Henceforth our attempts at [theology] must…place life’s suffering and sacrifice in the context of hope for future fulfillment.

To read the complete essay, visit the MetaNexus Institute online.

To read EnlightenNext magazine’s interview with John Haught (winner of a Folio Gold “Eddie” award), visit:

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Filed Under: ChristianityConsciousnessEnlightenNext Editors’ BlogEvolutionary EnlightenmentEvolutionary SpiritualityPhilosophyReligionSpiritualityThink About This

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About the Author

Carter Phipps is the Executive Editor of EnlightenNext magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Carter_Phipps.

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