Ilia DELIO, ed. From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2014. pp. 263. $30.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-62698-069-3. Reviewed by Calvin MERCER, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858
Jesuit scientist Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) deserves, and Delio and the book’s contributors have provided, continued exploration of his work with a view toward opening up fresh avenues for consideration. The chapters are arranged in four parts: “Theology and Evolution,” “A New Philosophical Vision,” “Spirituality and Ethics for a New Millennium,” and “A New Vision of Science.”
Most of the 13 chapters are by Teilhard experts and fit either specifically or loosely into the robust and growing conversation about religion and science. Teilhard, of course, believed that religion and science were complementary, and these chapters move that model forward, using Teilhard’s insights as a beginning. Because the Holy Office in Rome disallowed official publication of Teilhard’s controversial writings, his ideas did not benefit from the intellectual exchange that typically allows scholars to refine their views. So, volumes like this are particularly needed where Teilhard is concerned.
One of the more interesting, well-written, and thorough chapters is Donald Wayne Viney’s “Teilhard, Medawar, and the New Atheism.” Viney sets Teilhard in the context of the new atheism, which attacks Teilhard, even though he championed evolution. Sir Peter Medawar’s 1961 “classic savaging” (Daniel Dennett) review of Teilhard’s The Phenomenon of Man in the prestigious journal, Mind, seems to be the new atheists’ primary source for the “annihilation” (Richard Dawkins) of Teilhard’s views. Viney carefully revisits Medawar’s review and concludes the case made is “remarkably thin, marred by misrepresentations and elementary philosophical blunders.” (128). Viney charitably notes that these defects are uncharacteristic of Medawar’s other work.
A prolific and respected Teilhard scholar, Kathleen Duffy, provides, in “Sophia: Catalyst for Creative Union and Divine Love,” an examination of Teilhard’s poem, “The Eternal Feminine.” She shows how the image of Sophia can “enliven an appreciation for the richness of the divine presence in matter, offer a more dynamic image of God’s action in an evolutionary world, and focus our attention more fully on the sacred depths of nature.” (25)
Denis Edwards, in “Teilhard’s Vision as Agenda for Rahner’s Christology,” inquires about the extent to which theologian Karl Rahner develops in his own Christology the agenda set by Teilhard’s vision. In “The Integral Visions of Teilhard and Lonergan: Science, the Universe, Humanity, and God,” Patrick H. Byrne shows how the work of Teilhard’s fellow Jesuit, Bernard Lonergan, complements that of Teilhard.
In “The Zest for Life: A Contemporary Exploration of a Generative Theme in Teilhard’s Work,” Ursula King examines a theme in Teilhard’s writings not discussed at any length to date. John C. Haughey, in “Teilhard de Chardin: The Empirical Mystic,” frames Teilhard’s prayer life as the source of his creativity, his “way of wondering.”
There are enough fresh ideas in the collection to make it well worthwhile to Teilhard scholars and to those interested the relationship between religion and science. Helpful “points to ponder” and “questions for discussion” at end of each chapter contribute to making the volume suitable for a graduate or upper level undergraduate seminars.