Question: "What is Teilhardism?"
Answer: Teilhardism is a quasi-religious, mystical approach to evolutionary theory. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) was a philosopher and Jesuit priest who was also trained as a paleontologist and geologist. Apart from his philosophy, Teilhard de Chardin may be best known for his part in the discovery of Peking Man.
Teilhard’s philosophy centered on the Omega Point, which, according to Teilhard, is the ultimate destiny of the universe, that point to which the universe is evolving. Since Christ is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8), Teilhard often equated the Omega Point with Christ in an attempt to blend Christianity and science. The books The Phenomenon of Man and The Divine Milieu set forth his philosophy.
Teilhard wholeheartedly embraced vitalist evolutionary theory—that is, the idea that evolution is not random on the grand scale but is moving forward to a specific point. The universe has evolved into consciousness in man and will eventually evolve to supreme consciousness in the Omega Point. The evolutionary forces that operate in the physical world also operate in the spiritual world, propelling man forward. By this teaching, Teilhard hoped to modernize the church. If evolution is completely random, then there is legitimate reason for despair because there is no purpose to history. But if evolution is headed somewhere, then meaning and purpose can be maintained. Christ is the ultimate goal of evolution when everyone will be completely united with God through Christ. Exactly what is meant by this union is defined in mystical, rather than New Testament terms.
The following quote is a good synopsis of Teilhard’s teaching—but what does it really mean?: “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire” (from “The Evolution of Chastity” in Toward the Future, 1936).
Most scientists consider Teilhard a mystic who simply tried to co-opt scientific terminology. Evangelical Christians can rightfully view him as a scientist, philosopher, and mystic who tried to co-opt New Testament terminology. Therefore, neither scientists nor Evangelicals hold Teilhard in high regard. However, he is greatly esteemed by those in the New Age movement.
The American Teilhard Association, since 1967, “is committed to making the thought and vision of Teilhard more widely available” (from their website). The emphasis of this organization seems to be more on the unification of the spirit of humanity in a global consciousness rather than the unity of humanity with God in Christ, indicating that perhaps there is no longer a need to couch the philosophy in New Testament terms to make it acceptable to the contemporary culture.