Neville can be counted on for controversy.
Eschewing Augustine for Irenaeus (“The glory of God is every creature fully alive”), Neville’s brief was to explore a projection of “the salvation of the human species.”
He proceeded with Frank Fenner, the Australian microbiologist who pioneered the eradication of smallpox who said “The human species is likely to go the same way as many of the species we have seen disappear – probably within the next hundred years.”
From this somewhat pessimistic outlook, Neville asserted that salvation today is about the salvation of the human species vis à vis the developing structure of self destruction. He explored this from various contemporary scientific and theological perspectives
In summary, Neville argued:
- His initial premise that the glory of God is every creature fully alive.
- We come into this world as creatures of promise, as part of the species homo sapiens, a species that is still evolving. Our task is to become who we really are, the pointer to which we see in Jesus of Nazareth.
- In him we see homo humanus, life in all its fullness, hetero pacificus, the Word made flesh. The tragedy is that rather than become who we truly are, we live a kind of half life. In doing so we sow the seeds of our own destruction.
- Evolution teaches us that existence and growth go together. Adapt or die. The world will go on without us – and there will be another dead branch on the tree of life.
- The Christian faith is that Jesus of Nazareth offers us a pattern of being, a pattern of growth, that will save us from the inevitability of extinction. That is what salvation is about…
There was much more as our small groups discussed and responded to Neville’s input. Neville’s role has been somewhat of a Jeremiah amongst us in the past, prodding us awake to the inevitable outcome of certain human trajectories – he was part of the “human shield” team at the outbreak of the invasion of Iraq and continues as a passionate advocate for refugees and responsible action on climate change.
His provocative nay-saying fulfills a positive function, however – it awakens us to what is real and encourages us to lay aside what is fanciful and unnecessary, even a hindrance.
This Wednesday the three of us form a panel to debate one another’s input. Should be interesting!