by Jerry Josties
I’ve been thinking how the creation story should be told if God’s creative love is truly uncontrolling. If I were telling this story, here’s what I might say…
In the beginning God, as Infinite Love, gave of Himself (kenosis) so completely that the creation experienced infinite freedom. This freedom is so complete that potential identities could choose whether or not to come into existence as egos partially separate from God. These creatures would be only partly separate from God, because they exist entirely within Infinite Love.
Those who chose to exist became the smallest elementary particles. Those who chose to remain with God became the elements of empty space.
This choosing was also the origin of moral choice. Such choices were required in every subsequent encounter, so that all such events/encounters had outcomes dependent on a double binary choice. That double binary choice was between self and other, and made by both identities in the encounter.
The creaturely choice for the other is a kenotic choice. In this, creatures mimic the choice made by God in creating. The kenotic choice brings one back at least to a partial reunion with God. In acting like God, we merge or reconnect with Him.
All motions by selves/egos and all assertions of freedom (choices for self/ego) require empty space. They depend on the initial choice by many potential identities to remain with God. This means that empty space is a very immediate reminder of the ubiquitous presence of the kenotic God. To illustrate this practically, we can walk across the room only because of the presence of God.
This creation story also helps us tell the story underlying all of physics. Physics has never provided a full explanation of physical events. It gives us a beautiful, precise, and integrated description, but it is always abstract.
We can interpret physics (and mathematics) as consonant with the theological vision I’ve described. This interpretation adds the theological categories of love, freedom, and moral choice, and these categories of explanation may potentially replace all abstract categories of description.
The deep underlying meaning of the space of the initial particles is the initial kenosis of God. And subsequent kenosis of particles gives additional space/freedom to other particles. Space is due to kenosis, or the choice for other.
The deep underlying meaning of what we call the “flow of time” is also due to free choice (for either self or other). These choices cannot be (fully) anticipated. The resulting events can only be considered and experienced in an essential sequence, which is the meaning of “time.”
When both identities in an encounter make the kenotic choice for the other, a higher level identity is the result. The degree of mutual deference, or the amount of freedom given up by the original identities, determines the coherence of the new identity and the amount of freedom which it can now exercise. This process is often called “emergence,” and it accounts for the hierarchy of physical identity.
The complex identities that emerge in this way continue to have internal choice interactions among their constituent identities, like we do in our brains. These interactions mediate our experience of the external world. But they also constitute, what we call logic and mathematics.
The creation story I’m telling helps not only with explaining the being of creation (ontology). It also helps to explain how we arrive at truth, or knowledge of creation (epistemology).
The knowledge we have of the world, or truth, is the feeling of rapport with ultimacy of some kind. Understood in this way, truth can characterize not only science but also poetic feeling, music, art, and love. All forms of truth are indirect forms of theological Truth, which is union with God/Infinite Love. Beauty, for example, can be thought of as Infinite Love shining through the many expressions of freedom.
We arrive at truth by some form of communication. In fact, conversation between people is paradigmatic of all forms of communication. There can be great joy and deep meaningfulness in conversation (with anyone). Indeed, together we can be close to God.
The kenosis story of creation says that sacred communication comes through a process of mutual kenosis/deference. Parties give themselves to the other. Creatures defer to each other, engaging “gently” with each other.
Because all parties at least partially defer, they are partially merged with God. They imitate God, who defers when creating. When we communicate as agents of love, we work together to elicit a stronger presence of God in our “midst.” And in doing so, we have greater access to Truth.
This creation story tells us that all of reality and even our method of knowing reality derives from kenosis. And it tells us that kenosis in the present reenacts God’s kenosis in the beginning. I believe that a reasonable criterion for the validity of any creation story is that every event be interpretable as a reenactment of the creation moment. In our story, that moment is kenotic choice.
I want to conclude by thanking Thomas Oord for his concept of essential kenosis, which he lays out in his book, The Uncontrolling Love of God. The creation story I’ve been telling is indebted to some of Oord’s ideas.
The creation story I’ve offered is, of course, open to revision. No story can tell us all truth. But the kenotic creation story is for me – and I hope it can be for you – a story that makes sense of life.
And it’s a story to live by.
Jerry Josties is a retired astronomer whose primary interests have always been in Philosophy, Philosophy of science, and Theology.