“An ecological doctrine of creation implies a new kind of thinking about God. The center of this thinking is no longer the distinction between God and the world. The center is the recognition of the presence of God in the world and the presence of the world in God… an ecological doctrine of creation today must perceive and teach God’s immanence in the world. This does not mean departing from the biblical traditions. On the contrary, it means a return to their original truth: through his cosmic Spirit, God the Creator of heaven and earth is present in each of his creatures and in the fellowship of creation which they share… God is not merely the Creator of the world. He is also the Spirit of the universe. Through the powers and potentialities of the Spirit, the Creator indwells the creatures he has made, animates them, holds them in life, and leads them into the future of his kingdom.” (1)
Christians believe in a God who is both transcendent and immanent. In reading Scripture, we see a God who both present and absent, within and without, here, yet not confined to here. A God who steps in (from above?) and does whatever God wants whenever God wants. Yet, from time to time, this same God seems to be acting from within and can be limited by the actions of humans. A God who is above and beyond all, yet here. Right now. This God who cannot be described in human terms but appears to humans and demands explanation. To put this all together Christians see God as both transcendent and immanent.
As a scientist, I and others interested in science and religion can’t help but focus more on God’s immanence. After all, we spend our time studying this world, the natural one, and because we believe that God can and does act in it, we strive to formulate a theology of nature that accurately depicts it. Most of us don’t believe that Creationism or Intelligent Design does the science or God justice. So we look elsewhere. For some, this leads to panentheism, a theology that is quite attractive to me at this point in time.
Last night I read an article in the journal Theology and Science, entitled Science Fiction, ET, and the Theological Cosmology of Avatar (2) by Joshua Moritz (subscription required). The article is outstanding. Joshua Moritz is the managing editor of Theology and Science, the journal for the Center for Theology and Natural Science, an organization that I am happily a member of. I must admit to not having seen Avatar even though I really wanted to. I don’t see as many movies as I used to… I’ll blame the kid.
In the article, Moritz summarizes the movie with a focus on the theology it represents. For many Christians, Moritz notes, Avatar is New Age, pagan, and promotes the worship of nature. Moritz responds in a way that is not uncommon for Christians. He says that C.S. Lewis’ writings include something similar. (Case closed right! If only it were so simple for the Rob Bell story, too). Lest one think that I am misrepresenting Moritz, a philosophical theologian, his discussion and argument involves much more than that and is quite good. (I just couldn’t resist). In addition to appealing to Lewis, Moritz also appeals to theologian Jurgen Moltmann in the quote that opened this blog post.
Moltmann seeks a theology that gives justice to the God who is immanent. A God who created. A God who still creates. A God who sustains creation. A God who is both transcendent and immanent, with all the intellectual turmoil that that causes.
(1) Jurgen Moltmann, God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God. (as cited in #2)
(2) Joshua Moritz, Science Fiction, ET, and the Theological Cosmology of Avatar. Theology and Science. Volume 8, Issue 2, 2010, Pages 127 – 131.