It would be fitting at the end of these reflections to mention the name of Teilhard de Chardin, for it is his evolutionary and processive view of reality that has most influenced my own thinking. I would therefore refer the reader to the published works of Teilhard as the source and inspiration of the work. I confess that, in the actual preparation of the work, it was a processive philosophy, which I have myself formulated from Teilhard’s world-view, that directed and controlled my reflections.
While admitting my debt to Teilhard, it must be added that Teilhard should be absolved of any faults or inadequacies of the present study.
Teilhard has said that the success and validity of his thought can best be judged by how far those who follow him go beyond his thinking. I have tried to follow Teilhard but not in a slavish way. In fact, by the laws of development it is impossible to do so, for, inevitably, a true vital idea such as Teilhard’s, as soon as it emerges in the noosphere, begins to complexity or differentiate itself. I would like to look upon my efforts as a process of differentiation or complexification of Teilhard’s thought. Others who have been inspired by Teilhard have sought to reconcile his thought with traditional Aristotelian-Thomistic thought. The originality of Teilhard, I believe, was his effort to go beyond the traditional categories. There are others inspired by Teilhard who have applied his evolutionary and processive outlook to philosophico-theological problems. I belong to this group. However, even within this group, no two approaches are alike, for each one has approached Teilhard in his own unique way. The originality of my approach, if one can call it that, is to formulate a philosophy of process derived from Teilhard’s world-view, which I have applied, first, to the problem of grace or the supernatural in my book Teilhard and the Supernatural, and now in the present study on the problem of God.
Let me summarize what I would consider to be the significant conclusions for the problem of God and unbelief derived from the application of a philosophy of process:
1. On the problem of method, the temporal rather than the spatial distinction between science and theology is a direct conclusion from processive thought. Theology in this case does not deal with supratemporal or timeless truths but with the eschatological (a higher temporal dimension of evolutionary time or process than the purely historical) and hence temporal truths.
2. Because theological truth and therefore theological language belong to the eschatological dimension, linguistic analysis as now understood and practiced which deals with empirical and historical truths cannot decide on the meaningfulness or meaninglessness of theological language.
3. Faith or belief is not supratemporal; neither is it existential, that is, outside the evolutionary process, for human temporality cannot be understood apart from the evolutionary process; it cannot be bracketed. Faith or belief is an evolutionary category. It evolved and is, in fact, the highest product at present of the evolutionary process. Because of this fact, the beginning of evolution may rightly be said to be the beginning of belief itself. Evolution is the evolution of belief.
4. The relation between reason and faith is not a spatial or static one but a temporal or evolutionary one. In other words, faith is not something superadded to reason from without in which reason is considered as perfect and self-sufficient in its own sphere. Rather, faith is the intrinsic perfection of evolving reason, its eschatological dimension. By the insufficiency of reason we do not mean to deny the "autonomy" of science. To do science, one does not need the help of theological or religious faith. But reason, taken in its totality -- hence, not merely scientific reason, but reason in face of total reality -- can never find the complete solution to human fulfillment in purely political, economic, technological or social means. Reason must attain the dimension of faith to seek answers to questions of ultimate import and which will not go away, such as the reality of God, the origin and destiny of man, the ultimate worth of human life, etc.
5. Reason is not neutral in relation to faith. It is structured for faith, intrinsically ordained to it. For reason to become fully itself, it must tend toward faith as to its fullness. But it cannot attain faith by its own powers, for it is much like an ungerminated seed which cannot germinate itself apart from its ground. In this case, reason as process needs a Transcendent Ground, for nothing in process is able to evolve itself apart from its ground.
6. Reason as "ungerminated," that is, as outside faith, cannot judge of the validity of faith in much the same way that an ungerminated seed or an unborn fetus has no idea, experience or "perception" of the reality of the seedling or of the born child. Just as the child justifies the truth and usefulness of the fetus, so it is faith that judges reason and not the other way around. But faith, it must be understood, is none other than evolved reason. Therefore, it is really reason judging itself, except that it is the evolved state of reason that judges the unevolved state. Faith is not therefore irrational as some have claimed. Rather, it is the fullness of reason.
7. An analysis of the evolutionary process shows the need for its Ground as origin of growth, as sustainer of growth, and as goal of growth. We call this Ground of evolution "God."
8. Men who explicitly deny the reality of God i.e., relative atheists, but nevertheless affirm faith in the world and work for the good of the world, evolving it to a better state, implicitly affirm the Transcendent Ground of the world in process and therefore have some degree of faith. This conclusion implies a reevaluation of the traditional distinction between the Christian religion, on the one hand, and the so-called "natural" religions and atheism, on the other.
9. The Christian’s goal of union with God is not a departure from the earth. For union with God as Ground of evolution means involvement in evolutionary time; advance into the future toward God-Omega is not a withdrawal from time but a fuller possession of it.
10. From a reformulation of God’s eternity as Fullness of Time rather than as the absence of time results in a new understanding of theological anthropology. Thus, man is ordained for time. His reason is a gatherer of time such that the distinction between man and animal is not man’s capacity to withdraw from time but the greater capacity of reason to gather time. Reason not only attains the past and the present better than an animal’s memory and perception can, but it alone can attain the future by foresight, faith and hope. Faith, as the higher dimension of reason, is a power for the future that opens for us the Transcendent Ground or Omega of evolutionary time.
11. If God is the Fullness of Time or is God-Omega, it follows that the reality of God is better indicated by his absence than by his presence. God could not be present in the present, for the present in the context of process is the region of the not fully real, the unfinished, the imperfect, the undeveloped. It is, in short, the region of unfulfilled time. Now, God who is the Fullness of Time cannot be in the present which is the region of unfulfilled time. For God to be present in the present is the same as for him to put an end to historical time. It would be the eschaton. Hence, in the historical present, God’s reality is better indicated by his absence than by his presence. He is a Deus Absconditus.
12. Faith or belief in God is not the destruction of the freedom of reason but is its hope and guarantee. Freedom in the context of process is equated with fullness of being or of growth. For example, on the purely physical or biological level, it is evident that a normal and fully grown man is "freer" in the use of his hands, arms, legs, etc., than a child is. Thus, freedom, at all levels, is equated with the evolved, the mature, while unfreedom is equated with the immature or unevolved. Reason as immature, unevolved, does not have full freedom. It does not have full knowledge in which lies its freedom. Its hope of freedom and maturity is in faith. Reason, to use our previous example, is like an ungerminated seed -- hence, encased, "bottled up," "unfree." Just as the ground is the source of the seed’s "freedom" since the ground germinates the seed and gives it life, growth and maturity, so, too, God as the Transcendent Ground of reason does not destroy reason but liberates it. The "death" of reason, like the "dying" of a seed, is the birth of faith. Faith makes reason free.