Ilia DELIO, O.S.F., Christ in Evolution. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2008. pp. 180. $18.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-57075-777-8.
Reviewed by Daniel E. MARTIN, University of Dayton, Dayton, OH 45469

Ilia Delio’s Christ in Evolution asks what difference Christ makes in an evolving world where the static and hierarchic worldview in which early Christological formulations emerged no longer exists. This work has the dual goal of reaffirming the importance of Christology in our contemporary world while recasting Christology in light of contemporary cosmology. The result is a Christology that emphasizes Christ as the logos that centers and provides a telos to all relationships in an evolving cosmos.

Delio’s Christology mines a rich array of sources to ground her Christology within Tradition. She uses New Testament hymns to present Christ as the agent and goal of creation in whom all things hold together, then turns to the Greek Fathers and Medieval Franciscan sources to argue against a Christology that focuses only on sin and redemption and ignores the cosmic aspect of Christ. Delio uses Ireneaus’ notion that Christ will gather all of creation to himself in the culmination of history. Zachary Hayes’s work is used to highlight St. Bonaventure’s Christological conviction that the incarnation was not solely or primarily a response to sin. Early Franciscan Christology linked the potency to create to the ability to be incarnate and placed the question of who is Jesus Christ into the realm of questions about the nature of God. Bonaventure argued that the incarnation was willed to perfect the divine love for creation. Thusly, the incarnation is thought of as the summit of creation rather than a cure for sin. Delio makes heavy use of Bonaventure’s outlook to give the purpose of the world as becoming Chrisitified in order to more fully reflect the Trinity or a communion of persons in love.

Using scriptural, patristic and medieval sources help Delio’s cause by grounding her project within a specific if often under utilized cosmic view on the incarnation that is useful for Christology in an age of evolution. She moves forward to incorporate Teilhard’s recognition of Christ structuring the cosmos. Teilhard gives a fresh interpretation to the New Testament hymns that emphasize Christ filling all things. Teilhard’s notion of complexity consciousness is used to elucidate how Christ gives purpose to a universe that manifests increasing subjectivity as creation strives toward Omega. This helps diffuse the mind-body split of Cartesian dualism while also changing Christological paradigms.

She turns to Raimon Panikkar’s work to explore Christ in an evolving and pluralistic world. Panikkar’s insistence that world’s faith traditions need one another and are strengthened through cross pollination helps Delio make the case that Christ provides a broad structure to all of creation. She develops her global Christ by employing Panikkar’s notion of “Christophany.” Panikkar contends that Jesus is Christ but that Christ cannot be exclusively identified with Jesus. Pannikar sees the logos of Christ as being accessible at the center of all human persons who are equipped with the inclination for union with God.

Delio uses Thomas Merton and Bede Griffiths as exemplars of people who asserted a strong conviction in the importance of Christ while also dialoguing fruitfully with Eastern religious traditions. Merton’s transcultural understanding that the risen Christ is the center of a unifying cosmos helps Delio’s Christology reach beyond Western boundaries without losing Christ. She explains that losing Christ would mean losing the grounds for religious unity. The themes found in Panikkar’s “Christophany” are expanded with Bede’s recognition that the primary nature of Christ is love. For Bede, entering into the mystery of God occurs at the center of one’s soul and at the heart of the universe due to the telos of love provided by Christ. Cosmic purpose is further revealed because God created for the purposes of love and Christ offers creation the goal of developing toward relational love in an evolving world. In this way, Christ is seen as the sum of God’s self-communication to the world and cosmic purpose is devised as something akin to Rahner’s notion of hominization.

Some of the Christological ideas in this book are provocative. Ongoing conversations are taking place regarding the status of Christological reflections using concepts found in Eastern Religions rather than Greek terminology. Delio’s nuanced use of the term “intelligent design” as a description of a cosmic telos might also lead to confusion. A next step in this project may be bringing Delio’s relational view of Christology into contact with Joseph Bracken’s work on the Trinity in order to further express core themes surrounding a relational creation, the role of love as a cosmic telos, and God’s intention for creating. In sum, Dilio offers a valuable synthesis of multiple strands of Christological thought, connecting them all to a contemporary vision of an evolving universe.

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