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Evolving Faith: Religion and Science in the Information Age

posted Jul 31, 2017, 8:02 PM by Sue Fried

by Pastor Gary Walpole

"When I have a terrible need of—dare I say, ‘religion’? - then I go outside at night and paint the stars.” 
          --Vincent Van Gogh
“It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”
          --R.E.M “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”

What Christianity has done to form Western Civilization, science is doing today to form a new global culture and civilization.

Over 2,000 years ago, during a time of many religions around the Mediterranean basin, a reform movement within the Jewish religion was started by a Galilean from the village of Nazareth named Jesus. Within 500 years this Jewish reform movement had become the dominant religion in Northern Africa and all of Europe, Christianity. Within another 1,000 years Christianity had become the dominant religion of the dominant culture in the world, Western Civilization.


If we define religion as “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods”1 there are now four large world religions: Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism; all of them with significant cultural influence where they are in the majority, but none have obtained the same cultural and social dominance as Christianity.

What Christianity has done to form Western Civilization, and other world religions have done to form civilizations they have influenced, science is doing today to form a new global culture and civilization. With the addition of the Information Age2 pace of this movement toward a global culture and civilization is significantly increasing. What used to take centuries is now taking less than a decade, what used to take decades is now taking years, what used to take months is now taking hours, what used to happen in days is now taking minutes, what used to happen in hours is now taking seconds.

With the coming of the Information Age the pace of change has become astronomical. My five-year-old nephew knows more about the workings of the human body, the physical dynamics of the world, as well as the age and size of the universe than my grandparents could have ever known. He will grow up in an era which will see the end of religion as we know it and he’ll be fine. While he will be infused with all that is scientific at a pace that will only increase in the Information Age he will still experience wonder and awe that call him to go outside of himself and “paint the stars.” This will remain true for all human-beings.

The key concept to understanding this new perspective of religion within the context of a new global culture and civilization is the scientific theory of evolution. Can we begin to explore an evolving God? An evolving Christ? Can sociocultural evolution3 help us understand the Bible, and all religious sacred writing, more effectively as sacred story relevant today?

We live in an awe-filled, wonderful time to be a people of faith. “In (an evolutionary) Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, italicized phrase added for your reflection.)
 
1 http://learnersdictionary.com/definition/religion
2 The Information Age is a period beginning about 1975 and characterized by the gathering and almost instantaneous transmission of vast amounts of information and by the rise of information-based industries. (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/information-age)
3Sociocultural evolution is the process of change and development in human societies that results from cumulative change in their stores of cultural information. (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/sociocultural+evolution)

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