Franciscans, Ecology and Evolution

For the last 13 years I have been studying St Francis of Assisi and the two great Franciscan teachers St Bonaventure and Duns Scotus and their potential relationships to modern science. (Hence my user name Cosmicscotus, also used in website of the same name if you want to seek it out).

Francis well documented love of nature was taken up by St Bonaventure in his work on prayer “The Mind’s Journey to God” as first stage of contemplation, the examination of the external world of life as it all comes from God. It unites study of the world with revelation. The scientific is spiritual. I find also Duns Scotus emphasis of God as original and continuing cause of all that exists takes us back to cosmic origins and also onwards into the future in which in Christ gathers all things to Himself.

For me both those aspects link us with evolution of all life initiated by God and continued by God. It links us with the ancient past and present complexity of ecological relationships and that we are not separate from it. In this way evolution underlines our connectedness to all life past, present and still to come. Too much traditional theology has marked a separation of humanity from the rest of life that has had devastating consequences in the way we have abused and continue to abuse the world. So from knowledge of evolution and ecological studies it may help us reestablish a divine connectedness to all of life, the wider scope of our spiritual walk with God and the seeking of social justice and care of the planet as our common home and responsibility.

We should still have awe and wonder of all life that has come from God in the vast history of our planet, see ourselves as part of a great drama of life that is still unfolding and to which we need to respond in love and service and protection.


how do you propose that the gospel is spiritual in outcome?

  • Adam and Eve sin, and death is brought into the world through that sin
  • The old testament sanctuary service lays the foundation of exactly how atonement for sin was to be made…
  • Christ was incarnate and dies physically on the cross for the wages of sin is death!
  • REvelation 21

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,a for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying:

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man,

and He will dwell with them.

They will be His people,

and God Himself will be with them as their God.b

4‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,’c

and there will be no more death

or mourning or crying or pain,

for the former things have passed away.”

At what point in the evolutionary model will death stop? Clearly it cannot if the world had death before Adam and Eve sinned…the claim that its only human and spiritual is highly problematic given Genesis tells us that the animals would suffer as a direct consequence of Adam and Eves sin! (God kills an animal to provide them with clothing, the cursing of the ground, Revelation tells us that in the new sinless heaven the wolf and sheep will sit side by side)

Its a fruitless exercise to point to the writings of individuals such as St Bonaventure (who i have also been reading of late) and try to claim the gospel is spiritual and that there are no physical outcomes. The reality of scripture is that the ultimate outcome is physical (New heavens and new earth and God residing with His people in the New Jerusalem)

The point is, it was the physical sin that caused the spiritual separation from God in the first place. The physical death of Christ on the cross is what provides the atonement for the physical consequences of sin. It is not possible to claim that original sin was allegorical…if it was, then modern logic tells us that Christ didn’t need to physically die on the cross…that was a pointless event!

You first need to biblically answer the question, if original sin is spiritual/allegorical, why Christ’s physical death as atonement? (and whilst you attempt to answer this question, read 2 Peter chapters 1 and 2 and also explain why Peter, the father and first bishop of the Christian church, claims he received his revelation from an eyewitness, Christ’s ministry, direct revelation from God and, that the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are real historical events?)

Because our sin is historically real, and also spiritual things are real, allegorical teaching is real.
Romans 3

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

The New Heaven and New Earth marks a complete change. If all death stops so des all births. Evolution is no longer, because there is no new life. There cannot be.

That is not physical death. The world cannot function without physical death. It never could. .

Original Sin isn’t.

The whole doctrine is a misinterpretation of Paul… Thee is no Original Sin in Judaism.

Christ told people not to sin. If Original Sin is true then that statement becomes impossible.

That does not mean that sin is not rampant or Christ.s death is meaningless. It just mans that sin is individual not endemic.

There is more to Christ’s death than just atonement. It was necessary to prove the existence of eternal life.

Furthermore, Christ existed in time. There is a before as well as an after. If Christ’s death is the only answer to sin the the whole Jewish system was a fallacy. Are you going to claim that God lied? Two doves? A ram? etc?

Christ is the Uiversal solution to Sin, but it is not unique nor does it preclude other Religions.

As long as Jesus is part of God then The statement
No one comes to the father except by me is a truism.

Let’s admit it, if Christ preached that there was more than one way to God It would have been self defeating. Christianinty is only unique inasmuch as God makes the first move. God is not stupid enough to ignore all the millions of genuine believrs who were brought up as Hindu, Musim or even Native American. Jesus provides the ultimate path, but others are not excluded.



The Genesis story can be allegorical/symbolic of the real existence of our human sinfulness and hence our separation from God that needs to be atoned and repaired. Thus the need for Christ to be the repairer of our separation by both His death and exemplary influence and the ongoing activity of the Spirit in us.

As regards the question of OT quotes by Jesus and NT writers, this has long been answered by the proposal from over a hundred years ago of the ancient past knowledge limitation of even Jesus and the apostles as they they lived in their time, Jesus could still make use of a OT for us that even if not historically true as we know it now but has meaning about our situation and how His words answer our situations.

1 Like

It is not necessary to have an actual historical even of sin by just two ancient individuals to explain the situation the continued actuality of sin in all of our lives. Each one of us makes choices and misuses or freedom and fails to be what God intends for us. We may not historically be able to pinpoint in time how humans left off the path of loving union with God and began to act selfishly and sinfully. But what we have is the continued evidence of the effects of human sinfulness as it affects all relationships still and needs redemption and healing, that involves both divine forgiveness from the cross and the summons to live in Spirit that can change our actual habits and way of life .

How about because sin is a spiritual matter?
And forgiveness is a spiritual matter?

You never seem to manage to grasp the point that spiritual things have an effect on physical things, as evidenced by the fact that you keep posting the same questions that have been answered repeatedly. It’s like trying to talk with a broken record.

This fails to distinguish between what happens to sin under the two distinct covenants. In the Old, the operative word is כפר (ka-par), which means “cover”; in the New, there is no one word but the concept is caught in John 3:16 with “born again/from above”.
The Old had no “answer to sin”, it had a temporary remedy. That remedy rested on the yet-to-come work of Christ, the source of all grace.

Jesus is not “part of God”, He is not one-third of God, He is fully God.

I think you aare splitting hairs

Again you are kntpicking… My arm is a part of me as Jesus is a part of God. The Old “fractured” view is more to do with linguistics. How else are you going to rectify
No one comes to the father except by me?


No --that’s heresy. Jesus is fully God just as the Father is fully God and the Spirit is fully God – but God is One, which means He doesn’t have “parts”.

This is not “nitpicking”, it is holding to the truth.

Exactly the same way that Nicaea did: three Persons, all equally God. Like this:

Or with some humor . . .

1 Like

This tenet puzzles me for at least two reasons.

  • Jesus’ power to perform miracles could be blunted, e.g. in Nazareth where he was seen as aberrant.
  • On the cross the cue-line for the 22nd Psalm marks him as sin hence not permissible in the presence of the Father; he endured this infinite sense of being cast away so that we would not be cast away. Jesus as our propitiation had to be able to suffer our just punishment of being banished from before the Father.

The Trinity is a theological device to rectify Jesus being God in human form. It works within its framework but, in common parlance you have to choose your words carefully.

There are several noted “heresies” whereby the perfection of the Trinity is compromised for ease of understanding.

Identifying specific part of the whole is probable one of them. Basically a chair has identfyable parts but is still one item. A leg, te seat, the back and so on. God the father, Son and Holy Spirit could be viewed that way except that technically Jesus is supposed to be “fully God” (by Trinity definition). However, not only are we knit-picking, we are also imposing a human value onto God which only applies in the 3D physical realm to which God does not have to conform.

Furthermore, we are only party to the information God has revealed about Himself and the Trinity limits God whereas God is limitless.

In many ways it is still better to leave God as beyond our comprehension. Then we do not have to try and understand, visualise or rectify anything.


Indeed so, Richard. We attempt to reverse-engineer the Creator of the universe when we make rigid statements about e.g. the Trinity. Scripture refers to God in three venues of interface. If there were to be a fourth we would speak of a Quaternity.

I have often steered clear of theology in which Jesus bares punishment for us as that makes God out to be a nasty sadist Father punishing Christ so we can go free and I cannot have such a view of God. What ever iis happening on the cross is love and maintains love within the Trinity with no separation between them.

It think it was NT Wright who explains that Jesus hanging on the cross, hanging on a tree is, cursed under the law, which is not the same thing as being punished by God. That undergoing being cursed is what is meant, cursed by the law that shows the inadequacy of the law that condemns.

I follow also an Orthodox understanding the the Farther and Son cannot be separated a were not so at the cross even if Jesus in His humanity felt such a feeling of separation and abandonment.

I also follow Jurgen Moltman (and others ) in which the Incarnate Word in Jesus has laid said all power and Jesus always acts through the power of the Spirit that rests upon Him. All that happens is fully Trinitarian and never just the acts of one member of the Trinity. Also that Jesus battles against all our sinfulness and the whole of evil in the world to rescue us from its clutches and start to remake us.

We may not understand the Trinity, as God is infinite and any speaking of "persons’ in relation to God is fraught with difficulties and imperfections. We can’t comprehend an Infinite Being of God expressed in three differentiations that are always inadequate symbols of divine reality. gid is still both known and unknown.

Thank you. The bottom line appears that rigid statements trespass into attempts to reverse-engineer the Godhead.

This, I think, is part of what Paul calls “the mystery of godliness”; we are able to state various items about redemption but cannot grasp how that redemption worked.

But it’s really no greater an issue than the Incarnation itself where the Messiah was fully God and fully man; compared to Yahweh becoming a created being, everything else pales.

How God the Son could be “banished from before the Father” is beyond our comprehension and I suspect will remain so even in eternity. We can understand how a man could be so banished, but that particular Man was (and is) also God, and just as Mary wasn’t merely “Christ-bearer” but “God-bearer” since the One in her womb was God we have to confess that the One who was banished was and is God, not merely man – we can’t go the Nestorian way of treating Christ as sometimes man and sometimes God, thus treating the two natures as sort of pasted together like a pair of post-it notes able to come apart at need.

It’s problems like these that drive the Orthodox apophatic approach to theology which consists of denying things that are false about God, affirming only what is explicitly stated (originally followed by “in the scriptures”). So we affirm that Christ is fully God because only one who is close kin to both parties in a matter can be Redeemer, and because Jesus asserted His divinity repeatedly, and we affirm that Christ Who is God was forsaken on the Cross by the Father – but we can’t explain either of those, indeed attempts to do so have tended to result in heresy.

1 Like

That’s because it isn’t possible to be God in any other way, it’s a binary situation.

The “imposing a human value onto God” is how we get heresies. The solution is to just accept that the scriptures call three different entities “God” yet maintain that there is but one God.

How does it “limit God” to honor what He has said about Himself?

It would be arrogant to presume we know everything about God. We only know what he has revealed. The Trinity doctrine is a little bit too dogmatic for my liking. It’s just as well they removed the anathema from the Nicene creed.


This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.