“When I have a terrible need of – dare I say, ‘religion’? – then I go outside at night and paint the stars.”
— Vincent Van Gogh
The new DVD Painting the Stars: Science, Religion, and an Evolving Faith brings novel and useful perspectives to the faith-and-science dialogue. I knew that, with contributors like blogger and author Rachel Held Evans, retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, and many more, the DVD was sure to raise some thought-provoking issues. It did not disappoint.
A central premise of the seven-chapter DVD is the notion that evolution is not only a biological reality, but also a cosmological, ecological, psychological, and theological reality. Put simply, the very fabric of the universe is evolutionary. A creative God has created a creative creation, and thus, God’s nature is revealed in all that is. Creation is the Cosmic Christ. “Everything is incarnation,” one contributor contends. [Mind blown.]
From this starting point, we see that we can no longer say “It’s a big universe out there,” as though we are not part of it. After 13.8 billion years, a tiny speck of the universe called homo sapiens has become self-aware. We are literally made from the dust of unfathomably ancient stars. We are the cosmos; the universe, wondering at itself. In response to the 13.8 billion years of evolutionary creation that have brought us to this point, we can respond only in wonder, gratitude, and participation in the creative nature of God revealed in all creative creation. An organic understanding of worship begins to emerge.
This evolutionary theology holds promise for a 21st-century spirituality that is relevant and vibrant. We can let faith and science answer the questions which each is best equipped to answer, whether we do so while retaining a largely traditional Christian worldview and high view of the Bible (as Rachel Held Evans espouses) or we look at science as a sort of more up-to-date divine revelation, a “scripture” in its own right (as co-contributor and ex-young-earth-creationist Michael Dowd urges). Evolutionary theology also has the potential to reshape our approach to timely issues such as climate change and loss of species. And evolution, far from being the curse religious fundamentalists have long feared it is, may in fact be a blessing to a Christianity that is currently undergoing an identity crisis bigger than any since the Protestant Reformation.
This DVD is nothing if not an excellent discussion primer, and, with seven chapters of about 20 minutes each, it could be used in a small group setting. But be warned: it is not for the faint of heart (nor the conservative of heart, I daresay). This is cutting-edge theology, and even some liberal mainline Christians like myself will find parts of it highly destabilizing. But that, I suppose, is the point. After all, if you aren’t uncomfortable, you aren’t evolving.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this DVD free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with 16 C.F.R. 255.