Moltmann Monday: More Zimsum!



Hi all and happy Moltmann Monday! Since I talked about the word zimsum last week, I thought it appropriate to share a portion from God in Creation where Moltmann discusses this idea further:

The existence of a world outside God is made possible by an inversion of God. This sets free a kind of ‘mystical primordial space’ into which God–issuing out of himself–can enter and in which he can manifest himself…The Creator is not an ‘unmoved mover’ of the universe. On the contrary, creation is preceded by this self-movement on God’s part, a movement which allows creation the space for its own being. God withdraws into himself in order to go out of himself. He ‘creates’ the preconditions for the existence of his creation by withdrawing his presence and his power.

And then this, a few paragraphs down:

Without the difference between Creator and creature, creation cannot be conceived at all; but this difference is embraced and comprehended by the greater truth which is what the creation narrative really comes down to, because it is the truth from which it springs: the truth that God is all in all. This does not imply a pantheistic dissolution of creation in God; it means the final form of God’s which creation is to find in God. Then the initial self-limitation of God’s which makes creation possible assumes the glorifying, de-restricted boundlessness in which the whole creation is transfigured.

OK- some of these are heady sentences. But here’s what he’s getting at: the thing we know about the act of creation, first of all, is that God wanted it and willed it, because God made space for it to happen. And for God to do that, Moltmann says, God had to create a space that could be called Not-God. It is ‘mystical primordial space,’ what Genesis calls “formless and void.” Moltmann contrasts that with Aristotle’s philosophical argument about God being the “unmoved mover.” Aristotle believed that if everything in the world was in motion, there had to be something or someone that was the one who put these things in motion, and that this something or someone had to be outside of the movement, and therefore, an unmoved (and unmoveable) mover. Aristotle also believed that “God” or the Unmoved Mover would therefore be perfect, unchanging, and complete. And being so, God would think only good, high thoughts, and therefore think primarily, if not only, about Godself. I tell you all of this because it shows what Moltmann is doing here, so well: he takes this argument of a God who is the Prime Mover, the Unmoved, Unchanging, Perfect, Only Thinking of Godself in Perfection God, and turns it on its head. He says no- God willingly and freely chooses to limit God’s own presence and power, withdrawing Godself, so that God could make space for us and then go out to meet us. God is not outside in any way that signifies indifference, or even distance. God makes an outside out of love, and a desire to make room. And that makes a huge, huge difference.

And then, later on, he explains why this matters, because otherwise it’s just philosophical navel-gazing about what may or may not have happened at the beginning of all things. He says there is this tension, this necessary dichotomy of God’s presence and God’s non-presence (which becomes creation) that even still holds onto this one, beautiful truth: God is all in all. The small truth is that God withdraws to make space for us (if you can call that small!). The bigger truth, which envelops it (or which will envelop it) is that even in this created space, God will not be separated from us. God will be with us. God will be, in the end, all in all, so that all of creation finds its home in God.

God withdraws to make space, and then goes right out to meet us there. Zimsum leads to redemption, regeneration, re-creation.

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