As the Western Church enters the season of Advent just prior to Christmas, this is the perfect time to reflect on the birth and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ.

The Western or Latin Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Protestant churches, have tended to accentuate legalistic reparation theologies to explain the Christian narrative. Presented as a “repairman” for what our original ancestors had distorted in God’s divine plan, much of the traditional Christian story explains that Jesus was born to “pay the debt” for human transgression. According to the Western narrative, the crucifix shows us a tortured human Jesus bleeding and hanging on the cross being punished on our behalf for violating God’s law; however, are we truly content with this image of a punishing Father God?

Perhaps the image served as a projection of our own anger, hostility, and unwillingness to love that we displaced onto God, and in some warped way, perhaps it served as a divine validation of our generalized hate. We must ask, “What kind of an understanding of God the Father does this provide?” A Father who would demand a brutal sacrifice from His Son? Why would someone want to believe in a God like this? It is no wonder that Christian churches are closing and that the “nones” (unchurched and claiming no religious affiliation) are such a fast growing group. 

Let’s try looking at the birth and crucifixion of Jesus in another way. To use the language of a troparion of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the time-honored narrative has been that Jesus was born “to raise the image that fell of old.” In contrast to the Western tradition, the Eastern tradition presents a positive process of evolutionary spiritual growth known as “deification” or “theosis,” an ongoing participation in divine life.

The Eastern tradition firstly acknowledges that God created all things, including human beings in his own image and likeness, and secondly acknowledges that evolution is the best scientific explanation for the diversity of how life on Earth has changed and progressed over time.

Theories of ecological evolution came about much later than the developing roots of the traditional Christian story, Christian scriptures, and Christian theologies. As such, an evolving Christian narrative is called for and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (+1955), the French Jesuit priest, theologian, mystic, and paleontologist, gives us one.

Father Pierre conceived of a trajectory of convergent evolution that involves the progressive spiritualization of matter, including human life. In the final phase of this trajectory, consciousness is seen as folding back upon itself and becoming self-reflective. As a result, the Omega Point of consciousness is able to conceive of and welcome the end of history in glory, in what is termed as Christ’s “Second Coming,” an ever-dawning awareness that reaches its peak in human consciousness.

As we opt for a viewpoint that all of creation is centered on Jesus as the incarnate and risen Christ, we begin to see human beings as mystically united to Him and nourished by Him, attaining full maturity in this union. God becomes as St. Paul says, “all in all.” In the fullness of time, we see Christ become incarnate in the birth and life pattern of Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, the incarnation happens at an appropriate time in human history and consciousness, when we can grasp and become integrated in a new understanding.

Jesus is the Exemplar of an integrated and unified divine-human person, united in awareness to the Father, born of and infused with the Divine Love that flows from the original fountainhead. He is able to witness and take unto Himself the distortion of love poured upon Him in the crucifixion. In this Divine Love, He rises into a newly resurrected life, leading all of Creation beyond evil, death, and corruption to follow Him into an ever-new creation. Jesus was not born to repair the wreck of fallen humanity; rather He is part and parcel of the evolutionary design of Divine Love.

Compare the overall tone and the feeling you get from the Western perspective and the Eastern perspective. As we take time to reflect on the Christian birth and crucifixion this Advent, we are called to develop a far more cosmic perspective of evolutionary theology.

Divine Matter

What would it look like to discover and articulate a new and far more relevant Christian narrative beyond that of the traditional or the tribal?

Developing a new narrative does not mean the historical Christian faith, its writings, and its documents lose value; rather, our understanding must be in sync with science and cosmology as they evolve. Scientists now estimate the universe to have been born 13.8 billion years ago. How does Jesus of just 2000 years ago fit in?

Spirit and matter are generally understood as being different from each other, but from another perspective they can be seen as one. Rain and snow are different, but from another perspective they are both water. If all of creation and its various planes are seen as consisting of the vibrations of consciousness, then when spiritual vibrations become dense they become matter, just as when material vibrations become finer they become spirit.

Consider how two sages of India have expressed the vibrations of consciousness:

“Apart from consciousness, nothing else whatsoever exists.”

–Sri Ramana Maharshi

“Consciousness is the fundamental thing in existence. It is the Energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the Universe and all that is in it. The microcosm and the macrocosm are nothing but consciousness arranging itself.”

–Sri Aurobindo

These expressions are also consistent with what we might find written about the universal field in quantum physics, with Jesus’ expression that “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and with the Nicene Creed of ancient Apostolic Christianity, “We believe in One God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible…”

So then, if we understand that consciousness is primary and evolving through a constant process of birth, form, death, and resurrection, and if we consider this totality of consciousness as Christ (the Son), then we can declare Christ the Son was present and evolving from the origin of all Creation in all forms. 

Moving forward in “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), when the collective consciousness of certain peoples had ripened, Christ was born – incarnated – into the person of Jesus. He was born to reveal through Himself exalted states of consciousness so that we may see, understand, and model them. Jesus truly becomes Lord and Master to all who follow Him. He is the Revealer and Teacher of things Divine. He is the Son incarnate – reaching a pinnacle of human reflective capacity and self-awareness – revealing the union of the “human” and the “Divine.”

In the totality of our individual consciousness, and as we enter into a wondrous and mystic communion with Christ Jesus, we are lifted into the immensity of Divine Love, the origin and sustenance of Creation.

Evolving Christianity

The traditional Christian understanding is that Jesus Christ “paid the price” for the original sin of humanity.

However, we must discover a new relevance for this interpretation. If we want to make an intelligible integration of our Christian faith with the modern world of science and cosmology, we will have to tread a new path.

We have experienced a marked decline in Church attendance and a sharp rise in the number of people claiming they are “nones,” meaning they are unaffiliated with any religion. In fact, “nones” are the fastest growing cohort of young adults in the United States. It’s not as if there is less interest in spirituality; rather, there is less commitment to prior institutional forms and narratives, save perhaps for Christian fundamentalists. Devoted Christians outside of that category find that they must renew their faith in Jesus Christ and in church institutions so it makes more sense to them.

As the interconnectedness of all of Life becomes increasingly apparent, so too does the awareness of an evolutionary trajectory. Changes can be seen in the transformation of our species, and they can be seen in changing and emerging views and understandings of almost all aspects of human life, e.g., medicine, religion, spirituality, education, finance, technology, psychology, etc. For those who have eyes to see, this can be realized as God’s ongoing birthing and sustaining energy, that which is of the Holy Spirit. How this plays out in full vitally depends on how we participate in the process.

A primary task for us to maintain a devotion to Jesus Christ is to form an integration of our devotion and faith, including all of the changes that have occurred as traditional tribal Christianity and formal church institutions have declined. Failing to do so will result in a compartmentalized schizophrenic-like existence where we try to function with a spirituality that is separated from everyday life and that may well be at odds with our deeper morals and values. As the idiom goes, “one cannot ride two horses at the same time.“ Or, as our Lord said, “No one can serve two masters.”

Thousands of years ago, Jesus asked his disciples a timeless question that we can still envision him asking us today, “Who do you say that I am?”

Suggested Reflection: Try deeply contemplating this question and forming a written answer.