Painting the Stars: Science, Religion and An Evolving Faith Home Edition
This new DVD entitled Painting the Stars put out by Living the Questions is a collection of 20 minute sessions devoted to the connection between science and religion, specifically Christianity and an evolving spirituality. The contributors range from Philip Clayton, Michael Dowd, to Rachel Held Evans and John Shelby Spong. The premise of the sessions is the main point that in order to heal the rift between science and Christianity we must embrace an evolutionary Christian spirituality, one that embraces the cosmos with the ancient Christian practices of meditation, prayer, community, and reading. To progressive believers, these sessions will strengthen your faith and vision of a spiritual life that is inclusive and includes an acceptance of an evolutionary paradigm that describes each stage of life. As an evangelical believer, I found these sessions to be very hard to stomach yet insightful in many cases.
In the session on Getting Genesis Wrong, the contributors mention that Genesis has often been a book swirling with vociferous arguments about days of creation and the meaning of dominion. Yet, these type of arguments have missed the larger picture of the stewardship of creation and the environment. The way that God blesses the created order, including the animals and gives Adam and Eve responsibility to take care of the creation is paramount to our understanding of Christian spirituality today. Taking care of creation is not something for zany secular environmentalists but should be at the heart of the Christian faith. If the Genesis narrative in the beginning is our story as well, then we should take heed to interpret the original creation story with great care concerning environmental issues.
There is a deep resonance we can have with believers of other religious traditions as evidenced in these sessions. Meditation is not something unique to the Christian faith but available in other traditions. At one point, one of the contributors says that if the Christian faith is to maintain its vitality, we must engage in the practices of the faith, for the practices will sustain us and not the dogma. I resonate with this idea because I too believe that Christian practices of meditation, community, worship, and prayer are integral to a robust and healthy spirituality. Lastly, I think that the synthesis of science and religion can be at times helpful in seeing that God has not divorced serious study from the life of the church, and that those who take Christianity seriously shouldn’t be threatened by the wave of evolutionary thought.
With that being said, I was also concerned about the Christian practices of the faith were divorced from theological foundations. There was a keen sense that the contributors desired to get rid of dogmatic or theological foundations in exchange for a more inclusive spirituality. My problem here is that these Christian practices of prayer, community, Scripture, and meditation are squarely based upon a robust theological vision that cannot be swept under the rug for convenience sake. Meditation is key in the Christian life, but the question that is important is what is our meditation based upon? Are we mediating upon Scripture or sources outside of Scripture that control our thinking? I understand that people want to be on guard about theological absolutism, but throwing these tenents out entirely misses the boat.
Lastly, I appreciate the environmental points related to understanding Genesis. Yet, I believe the contributors left out the historical and polemical nature of the Genesis 1-2. It is very hard to understand Genesis without an appreciation for the polemical thrust of the narrative in which the author seeks to understand Israel’s beginnings in the midst of other nations. Now, I know this doesn’t lend well to the evolutionary conversation but it aids in helping us understand the intent of the Genesis narratives.
Overall, I appreciated this DVD as a look at an evolutionary view of spirituality. I think these sessions are geared for someone already on the progressive side of things, but I think it was interesting nonetheless.
Thanks to SpeakEasy and Living the Questions for the copy of this DVD in exchange for review.