Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Creation, Theological Imagination and Questions about Discipleship

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Creation, Theological Imagination and Questions about Discipleship

Article excerpt


Science yields factual data about the unfolding nature of the universe that challenges us profoundly and with urgency. This data verifies we are living in a dynamic world within a dynamic universe that is still in the process of creation. This process is wrought with risk and is also defined by relationships that emerge from the most basic elements of life. These times require a new cosmology. Haught reminds us that the adventurous narrative of love and liberation at work beneath the surface available to science is the work space of theologians. The patterns of relationships in all life forms evoke the image of the Trinity as a communion of relations. Discovering a new way of seeing requires doing theology in new ways and Delio notes this means a search for the newness of God evident in the New Testament. Ultimately, new ways of seeing require examining discipleship. Contemplation through the ages permits us to grasp that this Trinity of Love is our God who dwells with us. Our insight into God continually unfolds in history through the continuity of the Paschal Mystery of Christ in his incarnation, death and resurrection. Profound suffering, disaster and tragedy mark the age in which we live. Yet God is not absent. The call to discipleship with the One who has realized God's presence among us in the Paschal Mystery is a realization of a humility that is far removed from power, control and domination. We discover a humble God in the place of the poor because this is how God has become incarnate among us.

Challenging evidence about the unfolding nature of the universe is increasing rapidly. (1) The data verifies we are living within a universe that is still in the process of creation rather than in a completed creation. (2) The evolutionary process defining the universe offers us evidence that relationships are a key characteristic of all life forms. William Stoeger tells us that relationships are evident in the most minute particles of life throughout the evolutionary process. His research affirms there are patterns in the data from the universe which he calls "constitutive" relationships and which give an entity its unity, consistency of action, and identity. (3) Substantiation that this pattern of relationship runs through the make-up of the universe is leading theologians to reflect upon the significance of trinitarian relationships in the more vibrant image of creation that is emerging. Scientists provide factual information that challenges theologians to reach for deeper insights into the mystery of the Creator. These insights can question understandings and behaviours developed from an earlier and less dynamic image of God.

I believe important considerations emerge from the space of contemplation with its fruits of insight and imagination, which help to harmonize theological insights with current scientific data concerning the universe. John Polkinghorne points out the difference between cosmological argument and cosmological intuition. The first limits its context by scientific findings and the latter allows space for creative insight within the framework of truth. (4)

   Achieving scientific success is a specific ability possessed by
   humankind, exercised in the kind of universe that we inhabit. I
   believe that a full understanding of this remarkable human capacity
   for scientific discovery ultimately requires the insight that our
   power in this respect is the gift of the universe's Creator who, in
   that ancient and powerful phrase, has made humanity in the image of
   God (Genesis 1:26-27, NAB (5)). (6)

Another scientist, Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), expressed his insight about the Creator in this way:

   Love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most
   mystical of cosmic forces. Love is the primal and universal psychic
   energy. Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of
   spiritual evolution. … 
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