lenten journal: if darwin prayed


    If you haven’t heard, Rob Bell has written a book.

    I haven’t read it, but he apparently has a lot of nerve claiming God loves everyone. What I have read are any number of blog posts, articles, and straight out rants claiming that Bell’s argument that Hell might not exist is not just wrong but evil or dangerous – or both. A Facebook acquaintance posted a link – without irony – to an article by John McArthur entitled, “Rob Bell: A Brother to Embrace or a Wolf to Avoid?”


    I used McArthur’s own search function on his blog to see if he ever called Fred Phelps into question and found nothing.

    Michael Morrell is a Facebook friend I have never met, but I count him as a friend because he sends me books, thanks to theOoze.com. The latest one will probably make John McArthur invite Rob Bell over for dinner just because of the title: If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics by Bruce Sanguin. The author is a pastor in the United Church of Canada and writes wonderfully about what it means to come to terms both with our ev ever-changing God and our ever-changing universe. Here is an excerpt from the Prologue:

    Within the miracle of a living and evolving universe, our understanding evolves regarding God, the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, what it means to be a faith community, and what it means to be human. There is no final, un- changing form of Christianity. God’s last word was not uttered two thousand years ago in Nazareth. We can detect in the pattern of Jesus’ life, death, and in the stories of His resurrection, the evolutionary bias of an eternal, loving Presence. The failure to update our theological and liturgical models has resulted in modes of worship, spiritual practice, and images of God, that are out of sync with reality (and Reality) as we know it to be.

    I’ve been meaning to write a review for awhile, but reading McArthur’s post – and my acquaintance’s willingness to pass it along – gave me the impetus to pass along some words intended to foster faith and community. Sanguin wonders aloud in his opening poem how Darwin might have responded had faith been framed differently for him. Though the poem is long, I’m posting the whole thing here because I couldn’t figure out what to cut.

    If Darwin Prayed

    I wonder, if Mr. Darwin
    had imagined a God
    bigger than the theist’s puppeteer—
    and less aloof
    from nature’s ways—
    how he might have prayed.

    I wonder,
    if he had viewed the great march of time
    with a mystic’s eye—
    as Spirit’s unhurried play with form and function,
    not creation leaving God in the dust
    and pulling itself up by its own bootstraps—
    if his heart might not have burned with faith.

    I wonder,
    when the push of Eros
    and the pull of the possible
    caused him to close the City of God
    and leave the dreary seminary
    to set sail on board his Beagle destiny,
    if he ever imagined that he embodied Spirit’s
    irrepressible urge to evolve.

    I wonder,
    when he reflected on the mystery of a finch’s beak
    and the glories of the Galapagos,
    if Mr. Darwin considered his own adaptive brilliance
    that brought forth The Origin of Species
    (his great gift to theology)
    an occasion of an even deeper Mystery—
    evolution awakening in him.

    I wonder,
    if, hunched long years
    over beetles and mollusks,
    he ever considered
    St. Paul’s self-emptying God,
    touching all with a rising,
    noncoercive Presence,
    and then going on ahead of us—
    as did the Galilean—
    calling from an undissected future,
    beckoning this sighing creation
    toward freedom and fullness of being.

    I wonder, Mr. Darwin,
    if your beloved Emma might have worried less
    over your apostasy
    if you could have played the prophet
    and announced, with the Baptist,
    evolution was filling every valley
    making low the mountains,
    preparing a highway
    through Descartes’ desert,
    for the advent,
    and not the end,
    of God.

    (If I were God,
    I too would keep my presence hidden,
    an allurement of love that predestines no fixed future,
    conferring maximum dignity upon life,
    as together all that is
    joins in the great procession
    of the formless,
    assuming forms most glorious,
    crowning the human ones
    with a distinctive diadem—
    the capacity to select our own future,

    I wonder
    if Darwin prayed.

    The rest of the book offers prayers that follow the ecclesiastical seasons, each tied to a scripture passage, with most of them having been used in worship at Sanguin’s church. The overarching sense of the prayers is one of wonder and openness. These are not the prayers of people convinced they have the answer, or that they need to protect God, but people thriving on questions and committed to being lost in wonder, love, and praise.

    I want to be dangerous like them.



    1. I came over from Mike Morrell’s facebook (he’s a FB friend I don’t know, as well). I LOVE this poem. A pastor friend in Canada turned me on to Evolutionary Christianity, but I have yet to pick up this wonderful book. I happen to be reading Love Wins right now. Rob Bell is spreading the gospel truth!

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