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 Josties Authorpotential 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.

 

10 thoughts on “A Universe of Moral Choice

    • Hi Tom, Thanks for the question! It is of course a very normal and appropriate question, and very much to be expected. In our normal scientific (or even non-scientific) worldview a particle is certainly not something that can make a choice. But I am an old man and very much in the habit of exploring alternative world views because I have never been satisfied with the standard scientific view. The reason is that science insists on remaining separate from our intuitive feelings and expectations, while it is my opinion that that need not be necessary. This opinion is shared by many Whitehead followers and philosophers who like panpsychism.

      My work can be considered to be just poetic metaphysical speculation, but my hope is that it can be a lead-in to a significant paradigm change among those thinkers of the future who are able to achieve a much deeper understanding than we have at present.

      To your specific question: There are two plausibility arguments for free choice among particles: 1) All particles in physics are characterized by a property called “spin”, which in normal experimental situations can have only two values, and these are oppositely directed in space. This fact, via a long argument, may be interpretable as due to two possible choices of attitude or orientation with respect to another particle, which is quite precisely akin to moral choice. This answer says that we already know that all particles have this essential binary capability within them. 2) Some will complain that a particle simply doesn’t have the information processing capability for assessing any relevant moral parameters in any situation so they couldn’t make a “moral choice” anyway, even if they do possess an intrinsically binary character. Perhaps they are right, but maybe not: There is another major philosophical problem in physics which may be relevant here – the existence of enormous numbers of particles of a given kind which are identical to each other. This fact points to the possibility of a global identity for each type of particle, which global identity would then in principle have “access” to the experience of all of its constituent particles, which would be an enormous store of information. Then, again in principle, an individual particle could easily access some of that information (which may correspond to the holistic human “right-brain”) which would give it considerable processing capacity. OK, this is all very speculative thinking, and I apologize if it goes too far outside the box for you.

      And I apologize if I’m being too philosophical!

      Peace,
      Jerry Josties
      jjosties@starpower.net

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    • Hi Tom,
      I gave a paper at a 2014 meeting of the AAR (American Academy of Religion, Mid-Atlantic Region)on mutual deference in sacred communication, which was an interpretation of Matthew 18:20, and which forms the basis for my contention that knowledge and communication are based on kenosis. I would be happy to send you that paper via email if you contact me at jjosties@starpower.net .
      Peace,
      Jerry

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  1. Jerry, thanks for the post… I am glad to see how your ideas are developing since last we spoke. I am not sure I would use the term choice since it has such a heavy anthropomorphic sense to it. I think I would use the more neutral term “response”. Elemental particles/wave exist because of the unique and specific response to the possibility of being which comes from God. My own take is that we all participate in micro creations that are always ex nihilo and therefore from an always acting and present God, who is non-controlling. As process folks would say, the divine lure. And yes, the response is laced with value throughout. To the extent there is choice then choice between values is always of a moral character. Do you think my use of the term “response” is too soft here?

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    • Hi Rick, It’s great to hear from you! Your preference for “response” is reasonable and probably many would agree with you, because folks generally regard the “anthropomorphic” as intellectually taboo. But my entire point is that that attitude is entirely scientistic; that is, in my opinion the whole history of science has been an unjustifiable attempt to purge our understandings of all reference to anything personal, by getting rid of all reference to feelings or anything “meaningful”. This was done by privileging “measurement”, the reduction of perception to numbers, and then relating the numbers with the fully abstract language of mathematics. This abstraction mania has now almost reached its limit, so one might claim that it is time for a major move back in the opposite direction, away from abstraction toward feelings, with an ultimate reference to ultimate feeling – that of relation to Infinite Love. Then, in a fully personal universe everything is a function of moral choice and occurs entirely within the context of Infinite Love, Infinite Kenosis.

      But I also know that my position here is too extreme, because it is outside the current limits of the semantical reference frame of nearly everyone. And for that reason your more intermediate language may well be more valuable. So tell me some more with your more moderate language!

      Peace,
      Jerry

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  2. For me (not a formal theologian or a scientist) this is a story that makes lots of sense and is a story to live by. For instance, this part of your essay:

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    I have had such conversations (meaningful, defering, engaging gently, sharing and listening from the heart) in which sometimes we prayed together and sometimes we didn’t, but it felt as if we did every time. In the same way he responds to prayers from the heart, I believe God is present in, hearing and responding to these self-giving, others-empowering conversations, as Malachi 3:16 affirms:

    “Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name.”

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  3. Here’s the part of the essay to which I was referring:

    “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. … 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.’ “

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    • Hi Catherine,
      Thanks very much for your response. I really liked your own post, and I just now responded to it rather belatedly. Yes, I think that sometimes conversations can be magical because they can be sacred, deep feeling touching deep feeling, love coming alive in the moment. I would like to apply this kind of thinking to conflict resolution, and I have explored this a little bit in a paper I gave at the AAR in 2014 on mutual deference in communication and Matthew 18:20. I would love to have your comments on that paper, so I will send it to you if I can find your email address. Mine is jjosties@starpower.net .
      And thanks for the Malachi reference.
      Peace,
      Jerry

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