Welcome, and thank you so much for registering for The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity: Conversations at the Leading Edge of Faith. I’m Michael Dowd, and I was the host of this two-month teleseries (December 2010-January 2011) and continue to serve as host of this website, as I explain briefly here.

UPDATE: The entire set of 38 downloadable audios, transcripts, study guides, topical index, discussion leader manual, and guidelines for reflection and journaling can be found HERE.

NOTE: I wrote a blog post after each interview went live. To comment on any or all of the conversations (please do!), click the “Listen Now” tab on the main menu bar above and scroll down to the interview you would like to comment on (the password is “emerge”). Then click the “right here >>>” beneath that interview.

Check out the amazing lineup of evolutionary Christian thought leaders and their topics. Don’t miss scanning down this list to see them grouped according to affiliation. The fact that such a stunning diversity of Christian evolutionaries hold important values and perspectives in common, such as “deep-time eyes”, “a global heart”, and “realistic hope” grounded in an understanding of scientific, historical, and cross-cultural evidence as divine revelation is extraordinary!

FYI…Here’s some background regarding what motivated me to host these important and much-needed dialogues.

My Story, and What Prompted this Series

I grew up Roman Catholic. As a teenager—like so many of my peers during the 1970s—I struggled with alcohol, drugs, and sexuality. In 1979, while in Berlin, Germany, and serving in the U.S. Army, I had a “born again” experience. Six months later I experienced what Pentecostals call “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” evidenced by speaking in tongues. For the next three years, the people I fellowshipped with, the books I read, the television programs I watched, and the music I listened to all reflected a fundamentalist perspective strongly opposed to evolution.

I was taught that evolution was of the devil and would seduce people away from godly thinking and living. I believed Darwinism was the root of most social problems, and I was deeply concerned for my friends and family—especially those caught in the snares of a secular humanistic worldview. I even distributed anti-evolution tracts and was eager to debate anyone who thought the world was more than six thousand years old. So how was I to make sense of the fact, as I soon discovered at Evangel University, where I went to college after military service, that virtually all evangelical colleges and universities teach evolution in biology classes? (Most evangelicals don’t know this.)

Eventually, things began to shift for me thanks to the inspiring, healing, and bridge-building work of Christian leaders and teachers who saw no conflict between evolution and their Christian faith.

The final shift happened suddenly, in February 1988. I was in Boston for the first session of a course titled “The New Catholic Mysticism,” taught by poet and cultural therapist Albert LaChance. Albert, who had studied extensively with Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, began by telling the scientific story of the Universe in a way that I had never heard it told before—as a sacred epic.

Less than an hour into the evening, with goosebumps up and down both arms and legs, I began to weep. I knew I would spend the rest of my life sharing this perspective as great news.

Too many Christians—millions of them—have never been exposed to a way of thinking about evolution that is soul nourishing, Christ edifying, and scripture honoring.

When they hear the word “evolution” they think of a cold, cruel, random, directionless, and ultimately meaningless process, rather than as the science-based sacred story of everyone and everything—cosmic, Earth, biological, and human history as humanity’s common creation story.

Many devout Christians also pray and read the Bible regularly and have turned their problems, temptations, and “bad habits” over to God time and again, yet they still struggle (sometimes mightily) with their “sinful nature”. Many have even resigned themselves to thinking that real freedom and joy (the peace that passes all understanding) isn’t even possible on this side of death.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

By no longer opposing evolution but wholeheartedly embracing it as The Great Story of 14 billion years of divine grace and creativity (and by appreciating the fact that, if your ancestors didn’t have the very same instincts you sometimes find challenging, you wouldn’t exist), you can have a more intimate relationship with God and a more joyous life than ever before. (See: “Evolution Isn’t About Darwin; It’s About Salvation Before You Die“)

These are not the End Times for humanity, they are just the beginning. We know this from the fossil record and from careful observation of the cosmos. Studying evolution is like following cosmic breadcrumbs home to God. Dinosaur bones and prehistoric artifacts, Hubble space photos and DNA are here to teach us faith, not test it.

If this isn’t good news, I don’t know what is.

God didn’t stop revealing truth vital to human wellbeing back when people believed the world was flat and religious insights were recorded on animal skins. God is still communicating faithfully today, publicly, through the worldwide, self-correcting scientific enterprise. Facts are God’s native tongue! Historical, cross-cultural, and scientific evidence is how God is speaking to humanity as a whole.

Today, when I become aware of new transitional fossil discovery or see a new Hubble image, or when I hear that we are made of stardust, I don’t think to myself, “Oh no, this doesn’t fit with Genesis.” I think, “Wow, look at what God is revealing today! Look how God created us! Isn’t this awesome?!!”

Only by looking at cosmic history through the eyes of faith will the devoutly religious be able to appreciate how omnipresent is ‘God’s guidance’, how natural and real are ‘God’s promises’, how obvious and universal is ‘God’s will’, and how this-world salvific is ‘God’s way’. Only by looking through evolutionary eyes can we see our way out of the current global integrity crisis that is destroying economies and ecosystems around the world.

Until we recognize billions of years (not just thousands of years) of grace and guidance, we will remain stuck with abstract and trivial concepts of God, morally confusing and divisive notions of scripture, and unnatural and competitive understandings of religion.

This is why my wife and I and our team have been working so hard the last couple of months to bring this two-month “event” to you. It’s also why we are so excited to invite you to add your voice to this historic conversation.

Please introduce yourself in the comments section below, and share with other participants why you decided to register for this teleseries and what you hope to gain from the experience of listening to the conversations and participating in the discussion yourself.

Co-evolutionary love and blessings,
In Christ,

~ Michael