The Faith Movement Vision
Fr Roger Nesbitt sets out the vision of the Faith Movement
The Unity-Law in Matter
The material universe is revealed to us by science as a balanced and harmonious unity of billions of entities. All material things, from atoms to stars, are controlled by the impact of the other things around them. Everything is interdependent: nothing in the universe can be understood apart from its relationships to other material beings. All these relationships are governed by equational laws of science, which ultimately link up into a highly developed `super-law’ which embraces all the physical sciences. There is clearly some sort of Unity-Law operating in the material order. This law is impossible without a centre of control and direction, a supreme Mind, which frames the law in balance and harmony. This Mind is that centred intellect and will that we call God. God cannot be part of matter: he must be transcendent, outside space and time, in order to plan the material universe and to bring it into being from nothing.
Creation through Evolution
Modern science has revealed to us, too, that the universe has an amazing history of development or evolution from simple beginnings to incredible complexity. Cosmology has shown us that the universe began some 15 billion years ago with a Big Bang – a huge explosion of matter and energy. From this beginning, under the control of the laws of science, matter developed first fundamental particles, then simple atoms of hydrogen. This gas collapsed under the law of gravity to form galaxies and stars. Within the stars heavier elements were synthesized and were thrown back into space when the stars exploded. From the richer mix of gases and dust now in space rocky planets could form, on which simple and then complex chemicals were produced. This development deepened with the synthesis of the first molecules of life – for under the mighty plan of God, even life emerges from the equation of matter in evolution. The first cells of life continued to develop under the biological laws of evolution, and from this evolutionary tree of life were formed the enormous richness of the plant and animal kingdoms, the myriad species of living things. Every living thing seeks control and direction, which it finds in the complex web of other living and non-living material beings which we call the environment.
Thus, onward and upward the Unity-Law manifests itself in coherent and harmonious development. If it was clear that a transcendent Mind is required to frame the laws of science in harmony and balance, how much more can we see the need of a transcendent God to poise these laws to bring about such tremendous development. Matter has indeed developed by evolution according to the laws of science, but this is no random process - it would be meaningless to call development random. Instead we can see clearly that the whole universe was planned by God, created through evolution.
The Unity-Law and the Creation of Man
Under the Unity-Law, matter evolved to higher and higher forms of life, still controlled and directed by the material environment. Eventually, however, a point was reached at the apex of the possible development of matter. At this point a unique mutation occurred, which produced a species with a larger brain than before – a brain too powerful to be controlled by the physical environment any more. However, like anything else in the universe, it could not be self-controlled or self-directed; it still needed to receive control and direction suitable to its nature, and unless this happened, according to the Law itself, the new species would have had too large a brain and would have been a diseased sport of nature. The soul, a new, spiritual principle of control and direction, was needed.
At this point, and only then, God created a new being, man, who stands at the pinnacle of the evolution of matter, but who also has a directly created spiritual soul. God could not have put a soul into any other physical creature; it would not have been physically prepared for it. In man, matter is controlled and directed not so much by the physical environment as by a personal principle unique to each individual, the spiritual soul – free and intelligent, so that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter had reached the end and goal of its development in producing this unique mutation. The whole purpose of the evolution of matter was the creation of man. Under the Unity-Law, creation has now passed to a higher order of being.
Not only is this vision in accordance with the discoveries of science; it also agrees with the essential truths revealed in Scripture. In Genesis 1-2 the Bible teaches that the world was created by God from nothing, and that over a period of time God built it up until with man the highpoint was reached. It also teaches that man is unique: he is different from the animals because, although he is created from the same earth as they are, he is also filled with spirit and is therefore made in God's image and likeness.
Some people hold that we must interpret these chapters absolutely literally. The Church teaches that whilst it is permissible to hold to such a literal reading of Genesis, an interpretation such as we give in Faith is also fully in accordance with Catholic doctrine. After all, many great theologians of the Church such as Origen and St. Augustine did not hold that the description of Genesis is an exact historical report of how creation happened. Pope John Paul II has also taught that belief in evolution, rightly understood, is not contrary to Christian Faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches this.
Control and Direction for Man: God as his Environment
According to the Unity-Law, man must find control and direction suitable to his nature. He is part matter but he is also part spirit, beyond matter. He will therefore only find real control and direction in God himself, who is pure and infinite Spirit. God is the true Environment of man: “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). As animals find their full meaning and happiness in their material environment of food, water, the warmth of the sun, and so on, so man finds his full meaning and happiness only in God. He will seek beyond matter for wisdom, guidance and love; God's grace will be for him the “sun shine of the soul.” So religion, which is that natural and supernatural living bond between God and man, is the fulfilment of the Unity-Law of Control and Direction in creation.
The Unity-Law and Revelation
Since under the Unity-Law man naturally seeks God and a personal relationship with him, we expect God to communicate his Truth to the mind of man, and his Love to the heart of man. We expect divine revelation from the first moment of the creation of man. And following the pattern of all God's works, we also expect this revelation to grow and to develop under the initiative of God controlling and directing man, both individually and socially, throughout history. Such a line of developing revelation, such a history of salvation, is found uniquely in Israel. Through the ages God's People is chosen and formed, with priests, prophets and kings. A pattern of living, the sacred liturgy and moral teaching in the commandments also emerge and develop under God’s guidance. And this People, prompted by God, constantly looks for a further development: the line is Messianic – looking for the One who is to come as the fulfilment of God's control and direction of man in history.
Jesus Christ: the Fulfilment of the Unity-Law
Like everything else in creation man must come into real contact with what controls and directs him, and this contact must involve his whole person - body and soul. Yet man is controlled and directed, and so fulfilled, only by God himself, who is pure Spirit. How can man as both spirit and body achieve this contact with God? Man could not think of a way, but God had already done so – indeed it was the very centre and fulfilment of his whole plan of creation and salvation. In Jesus Christ God became man, so that every human being could have a real personal encounter with God. Through union with the humanity of Jesus the whole human person enters into direct communion with God, and so receives the fullness of salvation.
Therefore we find uniquely in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ the highest possible fulfilment of man – a fulfilment so wonderful we could never have imagined it. God had already spoken to us in human language and human signs and rites in the Old Covenant; now, in Jesus Christ, he has given himself to us completely in human nature (cf. Heb 1:1-4, John 1:1-18), all the while retaining the fullness of his divinity. In Christ, and in him alone, we find the full meaning of our nature and existence: “Jesus Christ is the foundation and centre of history, he is its meaning and ultimate goal.” (Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennia Ineunte, 5) Indeed the whole universe was only created for Christ:
“Creation is the foundation of ‘all God's saving plans,’ the ‘beginning of the history of salvation’ that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’: from the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 280, cf. 349)
Fr Edward Holloway summed it up as follows:
“Without Christ man is meaningless, without man the evolution of life is meaningless, without life the earth is meaningless, but all things have meaning in Jesus Christ, to whom all things, visible and invisible are relative, and to whom all things bear witness in their being.”
Thus, the view of the Incarnation presented in the Faith movement is one of Christ predestined before the creation of the universe and before sin, which is known in theology as the Scotist view, following the teaching of Blessed John Duns Scotus.
However, following the disaster of sin, far from turning away from us, Christ embraced into the very heart of his work of salvation the mystery of redemption. By his life-giving death on the cross and his glorious resurrection he healed the wounds of sin and division and restored us to the destiny God had planned for us from all eternity.
Completion of the Unity-Law: Christ in History
Finally, the Unity-Law of Control and Direction points to the Church as essential to Christ's continuing control and direction of mankind, reaching out over the whole world and down through the ages. The Church will therefore be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. In the Church Jesus will continue to teach the truth in its fullness to all men in every time and place. He will also definitively give his life-giving and healing grace to us in the Church through a sacramental system. Thus the Church’s infallible magisterium and the seven sacraments – most especially the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist - are part of the continuing Unity-Law in its provision for mankind, until the Law reaches its final perfection with the Second Corning of the Lord Jesus.
This was initially published by the Catholic Truth Society as part of a pamphlet in a series on the New Movements in the Church. Fr Nesbitt is a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark.