UNC at Greensboro
The Analogy of Blood: Evolution and the Blood of Christ
The Analogy of Blood combines classical theology and the latest sociology of religion to explain why evolution’s detractors resort to the language of blood, as well as why its defenders should reclaim the same language. On the way I venture a primatology of the incarnation, foster a sacramentology of gratitude, and recover from Maximus a cosmic theory of redemption. In Against Heresies, Irenaeus might have been complaining about creationism when he wrote of Gnostics, “People who do not appreciate the period of growth refuse to be what they were made: humans who share with animals. They override the law of nature; they already want to be like God the Creator before they even become human. Thus they are dumber than the dumb beasts. The beasts do not blame God for not making them human! We, however, complain that instead of being made gods from the beginning, we are first human and then divine” (IV.4). Irenaeus next complains that Gnostics want to escape blood, which both marks the creature and brings salvation (5.2).
When evolution penetrates Christianity, it seems to threaten traditional cosmology, gender roles, explanations for sin. It opens a social wound that bleeds with talk of blood—blood of apes and men, blood of Christ and atonement, blood of communion and culture-war. Blood matters to Christians not only as biology. but also as a cultural symbol, a fluid to think with. Blood means life and death, kinship and enmity, purity and contagion, vulnerability and enclosure. Whether Christians believe in evolution or not, they talk as if blood sets them at one with and apart from the “dumb beasts.” In disputes with one another they invoke the blood of Christ to name what sticks them together and cuts them apart. Science and theology must work together at the level of society and culture. If the evidence for evolution leaves creationists unmoved--if the evolutionary mysticism of Theilhard was condemned, and the evolutionary Christology of Rahner forgotten--that is because no one connected them as the Bible did to the bloody particulars of taste and sacrifice by which humans think in their gut. Sociologists of religion like Durkheim, Mary Douglas, and Nancy Jay show why the outrage of the detractors tends to the language of blood as well as why defenders seek both to avoid and to reclaim the same language.
Educated at Princeton, Tübingen, Rome, and Yale, I taught from 1993 to 2005 at the University of Virginia, chairing the Program in Theology, Ethics, and Culture. In 2005 I moved to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, to join my partner, Derek Krueger, a Byzantinist (this year at the Institute for Advanced Study). My books include Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth: Sacred Doctrine and Natural Knowledge of God; Sexuality and the Christian Body, which was named “essential reading” of the past 25 years by Christian Century in 2010; After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology; Aquinas on the Supreme Court: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Failure of Natural Law in Thomas’s Biblical Commentaries (ms. submitted Aug. 9!) and two anthologies in the Classic and Contemporary Readings series, one on sexuality and one on the Holy Spirit.