Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Ecotheology 10.1 April 2005

Newman and Teilhard: The Challenge of the East

Sion Cowell
Issued Date: 22 Feb 2007


Teilhard greatly admired Newman for whom the Eastern Fathers had been
his first masters. Teilhard himself was nourished on the ideas of the
Fathers, especially the Greek-speaking Fathers, many of whom are present
throughout his writings like Irenæus of Lyon, Origen of Alexandria, this
man with an ‘extraordinary cosmic consciousness,’ or the Cappadocian
Fathers, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus. Faithful to the vision
of the Cosmic Christ in St Paul and St John, Teilhard was inspired by the
evolutionary perspective of the Eastern Fathers. He was always aware of
continuing their ideas within the framework of a universe in movement
towards its final consummation in the Universal Christ. In this respect we
think it important to stress that Teilhard’s reflection on the divinisation of
the cosmos, the doctrine of original sin or apophatic theology, a theology
that is practically unknown to the majority of western Christians today,
comes very close in its broad approach to that of many contemporary
Orthodox theologians. Teilhard was equally aware of the need to summon
a ‘New Nicæa,’ a new ecumenical council to define ‘the cosmic face of the
Incarnation.’ He feared that we were about to see a renewal of ‘the great
conflicts of arianism’ in an evolutionary cosmos. Finally, Teilhard invites
us to return to the roots of our faith—going through Newman and the
Eastern Fathers—to allow us to advance together towards the reconciliation
of the eastern and western churches so that the ‘one holy catholic and
apostolic Church’ might ‘breathe again with its two lungs,’ according to
Pope John Paul II’s much-loved metaphor. We have much to do…

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DOI: 10.1558/ecot.


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