Happy Moltmann Monday! I recommended The Way of Jesus Christ to someone over the weekend as a good overarching Moltmann book, so I’m choosing today’s passage from there. It comes from his chapter on the Cosmic Christ, which sounds funky but really only means the scope of Jesus in relation to the biggest things- universally big things.
Creation is not a work once performed and then finished and done with. It is a process, extended over time and open to the future. God continually creates something new, and develops what he has already created…God is not only a maker. He communicates himself in a certain way to what he has made, for through Spirit and Word the Creator enters into his creation and drives it forward…
It is certainly possible to detect certain evolutionary series in the history of nature. Matter is built up stage by stage into ever more complex forms. But we can also see catastrophic breakdowns in evolutionary series. Consequently, it is difficult to extrapolate a holistic goal for the universe out of the trends that are discernible in the history of nature, without falling victim to irrelevant speculations.
Theological cosmology has always seen the goal of creation together with creation’s beginning: all things are from God, so all things are for God and move in his direction… The biblical traditions share this viewpoint, but without the finalistic metaphysics through which later theologians formulated it. In these biblical traditions the goal of creation is not God in himself…it is the God who is present to all the beings he has created in his sabbath rest.
We know creation is not a one-time experience. And yet, the language we use when talking about creation theologically almost always centers on Genesis 1 and 2, which is only the beginning of the story. Even the word “creation” in Christian circles brings those two chapters specifically to mind, and not much else. I think it’s time we widen our language around this to account for the process of creation that is evident not only in the world but also in the story of scripture.
I do love that Moltmann doesn’t make it idealistic, though. We are not just getting better and better as things go along. We are not evolutionarily “working out the kinks” toward some pristine future. For as many things that become more beautiful as they grow more complex, there are other things which, when they grow complex, they become destructive and even apocalyptic. More complex is not better. We can’t draw general ideas about what it means for creation to move forward toward God in a faithful way, because it depends. Sometimes that means it gets simpler, or gets reduced, or even dies. Sometimes that means it becomes bigger and more complex.
What creation does mean, at its heart, is that we are in relationship with God. If there is a point to creation, the point is not some predetermined outcome, as if it is a goal list on a projection sheet you turn into your boss. It is grounded first in a relationship with God, through which we will find a holistic way to relate to other things. The point of creation is God being with us, and the point of God being with us is to learn to live and love well together, and that is going to look differently if we are talking about family systems or tree under-root systems or the underground tunnel systems of ants or the system of oppression of young black men in America or the political system or global economic systems. But we should remember that if we’re faith people, each of these systems can be- and ought to be- seen theologically. How does this system evidence a relationship with God? Is it a broken relationship? An exploitative one? A selfish one? A mutual, cooperative one?
I’ll be spending much of the next few months talking about original blessing, which is also grounded in relationship with God. Everything begins there, because it’s where God first reveals this to us: Creation is a process of living in relationship with God and others. And it matters how we do that, in all its forms. We can be grateful, though, that God is steadfastly faithful in how God holds relationship with us.