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Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration

by Jack Mahoney Georgetown Univ Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 208 pages
AU$59.99 NZ$63.47
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Evolution has provided a new understanding of reality, with revolutionary consequences for Christianity. In an evolutionary perspective the incarnation involved God entering the evolving human species to help it imitate the trinitarian altruism in whose image it was created and counter its tendency to self-absorption. Primarily, however, the evolutionary achievement of Jesus was to confront and overcome death in an act of cosmic significance, ushering humanity into the culminating stage of its evolutionary destiny, the full sharing of God's inner life.

Previously such doctrines as original sin, the fall, sacrifice, and atonement stemmed from viewing death as the penalty for sin and are shown not only to have serious difficulties in themselves, but also to emerge from a Jewish culture preoccupied with sin and sacrifice that could not otherwise account for death. The death of Jesus on the cross is now seen as saving humanity, not from sin, but from individual extinction and meaninglessness. Death is now seen as a normal process that affect all living things and the religious doctrines connected with explaining it in humans are no longer required or justified. Similar evolutionary implications are explored affecting other subjects of Christian belief, including the Church, the Eucharist, priesthood, and moral behavior.


1. Accepting Evolution
Catholic Responses to Evolution
Evolution and Christian Ethics
Other Theological Responses to Evolution
Theological Implications of Evolution

2. Evolution, Altruism, and the Image of God
Understanding the Image of God
The Evolutionary Challenge of Altruism
Imaging the Divine Altruism
A Theology of Altruism

3. The Evolutionary Achievement of Jesus
Saving Humanity from Death
Dispensing with Original Sin
Finding a New Explanation
Baffling Death

4. Incarnation without the Fall
What if Adam Had Not Sinned?
Christ as Lord of Creation
''For Our Salvation''
What Kind of God?
A Poor Alternative

5. Seeking a New Paradigm
Process Theology and Kenotic Theology
Accepting the Unavoidable
Moral Evils and Human Freedom

6. The Church and the Eucharist in Evolution
Who Shall Be Saved?
The Evolving Church
''Through Christ Our Lord''
The Eucharist in Evolution
The Evolutionary Community

7. Theology in Evolution
Evolutionary Impact on Other Traditional Beliefs
Evolutionary Ethics
''Development of Doctrine''?
Demythologizing Death
Saving Sacrifice?
Straining Faith
Summing Up


''This challenging and readable book is the work of a scholar who is theologically well-informed, aware of previous and contemporary discussions of the need for theological development in view of evolutionary science, and skillful in suggesting alternatives to traditional formulations of Christian teaching. Mahoney's work should stimulate much fruitful theological discussion. Strongly recommended.'' - John F. Haught, senior fellow in science and religion, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University

''This is a very important work in the challenges it places to the traditional interpretation of Church dogmas, especially those to do with original sin, the image of God, and God's purpose in Creation and in the Incarnation. It provides a very good historical review of various dogmas before reinterpreting each dogma in the light of scientific evolution. I do not know of any other work that does this so thoroughly.'' - George V. Coyne, SJ, president, Vatican Observatory Foundation

Jack Mahoney is emeritus professor of moral and social theology in the University of London and a former principal of Heythrop College, University of London. He is the author of several books, including The Making of Moral Theology: A Study of the Roman Catholic Tradition.