Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I Believe in Evolution and I Don’t Believe in Original Sin

Trinity Sunday
I Believe in Evolution and I Don’t Believe in Original Sin

If I was picking the readings for Trinity Sunday I would start with the first chapter of Genesis.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters. 

 We then go through each of the six days of creation and at the end of each day God sees the work of creation and it is good.

For the New Testament reading I would read from the end of the book of Revelation where the New Jerusalem descends to earth. St John speaks of it saying,

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

We started with the beautiful creation of God and we end with a vision of dwelling in perfect harmony with God, not only for ourselves but for all the nations of the world.

For a gospel reading I would choose the opening of St. John’s gospel.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

This celebrates the eternal reality of the Trinity. The Trinity did not begin with the birth of Jesus and was not completed with the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but it has always been there even before the beginning.

These passages also note the dynamic relationship between the Trinity and creation. The spirit moves over the face of the waters and all things are created though the word. So that leads me to my first confession of the morning.

I am an evolutionist.

Now in the Episcopal Church you don’t have to agree with me and I don’t have to be right. And even if one of us is wrong we only get charged with heresy for things related to the Trinity or the creeds and then pretty much only if you’ve been elected bishop and someone doesn’t like you. So we are safe.

I believe creation began some 14 plus billion years ago. For a reason unknowable to us the Trinity chose to be expressed in the particular of matter and form. And when that happened it does not surprise me that there was a Big Bang. In fact I think Big Bang understates the moment when the infinite and eternal choose to be expressed also in the realm of the finite and the particular.

I believe from that moment on creation has been becoming the fullness of the expression of the reality of God. And as we come to us God has raised up people like Abraham, Moses, the prophets and ultimately Jesus to raise us to new levels of relationship with God and one another. I believe creation  will continue this trajectory until we arrive at that point expressed by the vision of the heavenly city the New Jerusalem where we live in perfect harmony with God and with one another.

Because creation is a manifestation of God it is filled with God’s goodness, therefore all of creation and every person shares in the potential to be a sacramental expression. A sacrament is “the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” So water at baptism is the outward sign of the washing away of sin and of the inpouring of the Spirit of God.  And the bread and wine of communion are the outward and visible signs of our spiritual communion and union with God. All of creation is good. All of creation is an expression of the loving God.

Its time for a second confession. I don’t believe in original sin. Original sin is a doctrine from St Augustine in the fifth century and embraced throughout much of the western world for years to come.  (Note it is not embraced by the eastern or Orthodox Church and it was not embraced by Celtic Christianity, nor by Judaism. Also St. Francis and many of the mystics such as Hildegard and Julian rejected it also. Not to mention many theologians of the modern age.) It is a belief that we are born in sin and cannot escape it. It becomes interpreted that humanity and creation at its foundation is corrupted or fallen. It was a doctrine that was great for church business. Protestant and Catholic alike convinced the people that they didn’t stand a chance apart from the rites and rituals of their church. I just don’t think its true.

When I was around six, I was having lunch at my aunt’s house. She sent me to wash up. When I returned she didn’t think I had done a very good job and she went to scrubbing on me at the kitchen sink until she had to admit that I was just very tan. The truth is, as a child in Texas in the summers I was about as brown as a white boy could be.

Well I think we have spent a lot of time trying to scrub away the stain of original sin, a stain that was never there.

Letting go of both these doctrines is actually bad for the church business because we have used them to bind the people to the church, but in truth letting go of them frees us to discover the real work of the church, the building of communion with one another and God.

Once everything has the potential to be a sacramental expression of the divine then someone can legitimately say, ‘I find God in my garden, or in a walk in the woods, or kayaking down the river’, but what they are missing is what we call the communion of the saints. They miss the ability to go back to a community and share their encounters, the opportunity to strengthen others and be strengthened.  The discipline and habit of returning again and again to seek the divine even when at times it seems absent, and the chance in those times to be reassured by the certainty of others. They miss the chance to grow and learn from the spirituality of those who have gone before and those who seek God now.

In the beginning there was a very big bang as God brought forth the heavens and the Earth. And creation has continued to become and it will continue to become until it is the reality expressed by the vision of the New Jerusalem. A city with no temple, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.