Sunday, July 11, 2010

"How God Acts: Creation, Redemption, and Special Divine Action" by Denis Edwards (Pt. 4)

In chapter 3 of Denis Edward’s new book “How God Acts”, we are presented with a fascinating doctrine of creation that builds on Raher’s theology of divine self-bestowal – that God chooses to give God’s self in love to what is not divine, and so creation comes to be. In this theology of creation, it is the divine self-bestowing love that enables evolutionary emergence, creates through natural processes, and enables and respects creaturely autonomy. Key to this theology of creation is the assertion that although we experience God’s actions in creation (limited by time and place) as differentiated and specific, they are all actually part of one divine act, “…an act of faithful, creating, and redeeming love.” Also key to this theology is that the incarnation has always been the central purpose in creation. The incarnation was not “plan B” to deal with sin, but with Duns Scotus, the incarnation is understood as the giving of God’s self to creation in love. So creation is intimately bound up with incarnation as one act of self-bestowal. Additionally, final fulfillment (eschatology) is also part of this one divine act. God is the core of the world’s reality, directing all of creation from within towards final fulfillment – which is itself the same act by which all of creation is being directed. I found this quote to be quite stimulating: “The Creator not only enables things to exist and act, but also enables them to become something radically new, as when life first appears in a lifeless universe. The immanent presence and ‘pressure’ of the divine being enables creation to become more than it is in itself.” In this context, the entire Christ-event is the “radical self-transcendence of the created universe into God.” Jesus is understood as part of evolutionary history – truly human. But he is uniquely and completely open to God. This is Christology from below. From above, Jesus is God’s radical self-bestowal on creation: “Jesus, in his life, death, and resurrection, is the culmination of the process of evolutionary emergence, although one that has not yet reached fulfillment.”

Edwards then moves into a discussion of noninterventionist divine action. First, God does not occasionally intervene from outside, but is constantly present within all of creation, enabling and empowering creaturely processes and existence itself. God never violates the laws of nature, but works through them within them. Additionally, because of the revelation of the cross, God puts Godself at risk by sharing in the joys and pains of creation by being present within all of creation – closer to creation than it is to itself. The resurrection offers the hope that God will ultimately achieve God’s purposes with creation. Still, God has freely accepted limitations by creating in love. God respect the autonomy of creation: “It appears from the Christ-event that God’s way is that of being committed to allowing events to unfold, even when they are radically opposed to the divine will, and to bring healing and liberation in and through them.” Like a jazz musician, God improvises and responds to creation as events unfold. God has inscribed chance and randomness in the universe to “ensure variety, resilience, novelty, and freedom in the universe, right up to humanity itself.” (quoting Elizabeth Johnson). Once again, God takes risks because randomness is real. It is, in fact, an expression of divine creativity. So God is not a rigid God bound by natural laws, but does work through them as well to achieve his purposes. God also works through chance to bring out the potentialities of creation, “enabling the new to emerge.”

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