In this age of evolutionary science, theological reflection on the doctrine of the incarnation has led to speculation that in God’s taking on the corporeal reality of Christ the whole universe is, by extension, taken into the divine life. The physical body of Christ is, like every other living organism, the outcome of a cosmic and biological evolution.
Hence one may conjecture theologically that the story of the entire universe is inseparable from the existence of the incarnate God. The cosmic story itself, therefore, becomes sacramentally the revelation of God. In light of the idea of God’s incarnation in matter the notion of “revelation” can no longer be restricted simply to a brief series of salvific events in the narrow province of terrestrial human history as recorded in the Bible. Rather, the universe as a whole is now seen by many to be the sacramental disclosure of the incarnate God. To some Christian thinkers, especially the Jesuit geologist and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), the epic of evolution is endowed with the deeper meaning that it is from start to finish the process in which God becomes increasingly incarnate in matter, clothing the divine being in the stuff of the universe.
However, as Teilhard de Chardin repeatedly emphasized, “true union differentiates.” God’s incarnate union with the world is one in which the world becomes even more, not less, distinct from God. Incarnation implies that God foregoes any annihilating relationship to the world. The doctrine of the incarnation, at least as understood by the Council of Chalcedon, implies that God wants to relate to a world that is “other” than God. In order to constitute such a relationship to the universe, however, the presence of God to the world cannot be one in which the divine presence dissolves the world. To seek such an annihilating union of the world in God is an expression of monophysitism, the view that the distinctively human nature of Christ loses itself in the divine nature.
A case could be made that the longing on the part of some anti-Darwinian theists to have a world carefully designed by God, rather than one that evolves more self-creatively and spontaneously, is by implication indicative of a hidden longing for a divine presence that abolishes the world’s distinctness from its divine ground. Beneath much current religious anxiety about the implications of Darwinian evolution perhaps there is evidence of a persistent monophysitic hankering for a kind of divine union with the world that melts the world into God.
Any concept of God that theology hopes to reconcile with biological and cosmic evolution, however, would not obliterate the cosmos or human existence in freedom, but would allow for a world that could become increasingly independent. Today a number of Christian theologians see in the doctrine of divine incarnation the basis for such an understanding of the relationship of God to the world.