Picture by: Per Arne Gjerdi
Ilia Delio: “The Emergent Christ”.
St. Luke's Church Centre: 6/7 June 2014.
A Report by Vernon Holt
100 people gathered in eager anticipation early on Saturday 6th June for two full days hearing American Theologian Ilia Delio expound her contemporary Theology under the title of one of her books: “The Emergent Christ.” The beautiful space of this modern Church building was brilliantly illuminated through its many large windows by the June sun, creating a wonderful setting for what proved to be two days of illumination at a deep spiritual level also.
As the leading exponent of the paradigm-shifting thinking of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and his best known work “The Phenomenon of Man”, Ilia challenged us right from the start with the need to understand modern Cosmology with the light it sheds on the story of the universe and its origin 13.8 billion years ago in the “Big Bang”. She pointed out that a thorough understanding of our universe and its “creation” is important, for “a mistake about creation is a mistake about God”. During this first morning, we were treated to a lucid presentation of a vast range of scientific findings and insights that have contributed to our contemporary world-view (cosmology).
We heard about chaos theory and how repeated patterns of behaviour emerge. This was illustrated by amazing images of fractals, showing how there is “implicate (enfolded) order” built into the process driving increasing complexification. As one stage emerges in the process so it becomes absorbed into the next – included and transcended – so that every emerging “whole” becomes a “part” of the next stage in the holarchy. It’s “parts and wholes all the way up and all the way down”: the concept of “Holism”. Every whole is made up of parts and is itself a part of a whole at the next level: a founding principle of systems thinking. In this way we observe increasing complexity in the evolution of the universe in which emergent phenomena are characterised by interconnectedness and participation – illustrated by the phenomenon of “quantum entanglement”.
In this way, the evolution of the universe is seen as a process dominated by the interplay of order and spontaneity. Nature is incomplete: consistently oriented toward new and complex life. There are no fixed essences. We are being drawn forward.
Having lucidly outlined a contemporary cosmology, Ilia used the remainder of the two days to demonstrate how the evolutionary processes at work in the cosmos gave birth to life and consciousness. At the higher levels (in humanity) the universe “becomes conscious of itself”. In that consciousness, love emerges as the Divine principle drawing the universe forward to an increasing awareness of Love, an increasing “fullness of Being” in which God finds self expression through the arrival of “The Christ”: the being – Jesus, on planet earth - who models for us the nature of the Divine in human love – self-giving and accepting - demonstrating to us how we too can express the Divine in our own lives. Rather than a remote Being, “God” is “found in all things” and “all things exist in God” (a panentheistic model).
With this realisation, the process “becomes about the evolution, not of a ‘thing’, but of the cosmic personhood of God”. We were treated over the remainder of the two days to a moving account of how our understanding of the Divine and The Christ may be expressed in profound, imaginative, and moving ways to inform our lives as followers of The Christ. We were shown how “God draws creation into unity through consciousness and love, all of which leads to the “Omega Point” – full consciousness with God”.
Ilia’s exposition was delivered in a lucid and engaging style, including delightful humorous touches. Many audience questions arose and unfailingly received lucid and highly informative responses.
Throughout the two days, Nicholas Vesey compèred the programme with his usual energy and enthusiasm, supported by a strong team of helpers who ensured smooth running of the programme. The programme was punctuated by periods of meditation which enriched the days greatly and the whole was brought to a fitting conclusion with the celebration of Holy Communion in the style developed by C3, with Nicholas officiating assisted by Ilia Delio herself.
Delio I. 2008. Christ in Evolution: New York; Orbis.
Delio I. 2011. The Emergent Christ: New York; Orbis.
Delio I. 2013. The Unbearable Wholeness of Being; God, Evolution and the Power of Love. New York; Orbis.