Taylor: Towards an integrated faith

Theologian Sanguin comes to Creekside Theatre March 13, followed the next day by a workshop at the Winfield United Church.

There was a time, I suppose, when religion life and daily life synchronized. Heaven was up there, hell was down there, and in between everything ran according to God’s pre-ordained plan.

Then James Hutton invented modern geology. Darwin discovered evolution. Einstein imagined relativity.

Now religious people have to have spiritual schizophrenia. They have to split their lives into impervious compartments.

The geologist who works with million-year-old rocks through the week has to set aside his professional knowledge when he goes to church on Sunday. His church expects him to telescope those millions of years into six days. He knows that for most of those millions of years, this planet was a most inhospitable place. But he’s told to base his understanding of good and evil on a mythical paradise that never existed, but that humans forfeited through a single act of disobedience.

The biologist who sees daily how animal physiology has evolved from simpler creatures to more complex ones—through different species, also mirrored in the fetal development of each individual—is assured authoritatively that evolution is contrary to the Bible.

The astronomer who can trace the universe back to a single point is asked to believe in a God who existed before there was either space or time to exist in.

The doctor who knows too well that all her patients will die someday dutifully repeats a creed that one man’s death and resurrection frees those same patients from dying.

A few years ago, during an appointment for an operation, a surgeon asked me, “What are you going to write about, when science instead of religion offers eternal life?”

Little wonder that the fastest growing religious group in Canada is the “nones”—those who claim on their census forms to have no religion. It’s the only rational response to apparently contradictory demands—to believe the findings of modern science, or the traditional teachings of religion.

The comic strip Dilbert pokes fun at modern offices as “cube farms”—little squares fenced off by dividers that pretend to offer privacy. Most Christian churches, it seems to me, create mental cube farms.

But it’s not necessary to park one’s brains at the door. Around the turn of the millennium, a few theologians like Bruce Sanguin began asserting that religion and science didn’t have to be separate belief systems.

In his prize-winning book Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos, Sanguin argued that the concept of evolution could integrate religion and science. Plants have evolved. Animals have evolved. The universe has evolved.

Even religion evolves—if we’re willing to accept that beliefs and teachings of former times were a step along the journey to a fuller understanding of God, not a terminal destination.

And so I’m delighted that Bruce Sanguin is coming here. Winfield United Church has scored a coup in bringing a world leader in evolutionary Christian spirituality to little Lake Country.

Sanguin will make a public presentation Friday evening, March 13 in Creekside Theatre, followed on Saturday by a workshop at the church. He’ll also provide leadership for the Sunday morning service.

For more information, call Winfield United Church at 250-766-4458, or visit www.winfieldunitedchurch@shaw.ca.

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