Academic journal article Theological Studies

A Procreative Paradigm of the Creative Suffering of the Triune God: Implications of Arthur Peacocke's Evolutionary Theology

Academic journal article Theological Studies

A Procreative Paradigm of the Creative Suffering of the Triune God: Implications of Arthur Peacocke's Evolutionary Theology

Article excerpt

IN HIS EXPLORATION of the influence of evolutionary science on Christian theology, Arthur Peacocke, Anglican theologian and biochemist, divides his evolutionary insights concerning creation into cosmic "being" or "what there is" in the cosmos, and cosmic "becoming" or "what is going on" in the cosmos. According to Peacocke, this distinction between cosmic being and becoming impels theologians "to reckon with their one God's relation to a continuously developing world," which implies "a continuously changing relation of God to the world ... and to the further possibility that God is not unchanging in certain respects." (1) To demonstrate this possibility, he applies the distinction between cosmic being and becoming analogously to distinctions in the nature and attributes of God. He proposes that one consider God not solely in terms of being (defined by Peacocke as who God is in Godself) but also in terms of becoming (defined by Peacocke as how God expresses the divine purposes in the cosmos).

Employing the scientific methodology of inference-to-the-best explanation, (2) Peacocke focuses on "what is there" in the being of the cosmos to unfold his understanding of the being of God. Based on scientific observations of cosmic being as contingent and dependent for its existence on a being beyond its own finitude, Peacocke infers that God in Divine Being is the transcendent Ground of the entities, structures, and processes intrinsic to the finite universe. These contingent realities display both a remarkable unity and a fecund diversity; therefore, the source of such unity and diversity must be both essentially one and yet unfathomably rich. Further observation of these realities discloses their inherent order and regularity, which demonstrates the supreme rationality that must underlie such cosmic properties. Moreover, the persistence of such order in the midst of a universe that changes with the passage of time implies that God acts not only as Creator, but also as Sustainer and faithful Preserver of the cosmos throughout the passage of time. Within this order and regularity throughout the passage of time, however, scientists have observed a remarkable dynamism through which new entities and structures appear. Because of this ongoing creativity, Peacocke infers that God may not only be conceived as Creator of the cosmos at its origin, but also as its continuous Creator. Such continuous creativity in the cosmos leads to the remarkable observation that from the very stuff and the very processes of the cosmos has emerged the human person, an entity of unparalleled complexity, consciousness, subjectivity, and freedom. On the basis of this observation, Peacocke infers that God, the Source of such a personal being, must be at least personal or supra-personal in nature and, on analogy with created personal beings, must have and express divine purposes through self-revelatory creative acts.

Shifting focus to "what is going on" in cosmic becoming, Peacocke enters into his discussion of God in Divine Becoming. Scientific observations concerning the kaleidoscopic fecundity of the cosmos suggest to Peacocke that God in Divine Becoming is a God who takes joy and delight in the pluriformity of creation, a pluriformity that results not only from the order and regularity, but also from the operation of chance occurrences within such regularity. Since Peacocke has already argued that God is continuous Creator, the inherent dynamism of the cosmos in its the evolutionary pattern of natural selection and the indeterminacy of events at the quantum level leads Peacocke to infer that God is not only the Source of the regularity of law, but also the Source of the operation of chance in the cosmos. However, science insists that the operation of chance within law is in principle unpredictable and uncontrollable. Therefore, Peacocke concludes, God cannot be considered unconditionally omnipotent and omniscient; rather, God must be conceived as self-limited in knowledge and power. …

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