April 16, 2005
trinitarian metaphor for God-world relationship
Theistic proponents of evolution have developed many ways to conceive of how God and the world can be compatible in a dynamic processual relationship. Panentheism is the idea that the world/universe is contained in God, but--unlike pantheism where the two are equally correlated--God is more expansive than the world. This is consistent with the scriptural principle that all things exist in God and through the power of God (from Acts 17:28) and yet this is consistent with the continuous emergence of life from patterns of complexity which the natural sciences have helped identify. Seems contradictory, I know...
But the solution really falls within a more traditional model of the Trinity. Harold Morowitz describes the trinity is naturalistic terms. He says that for evolution to occur there must be "immanence, emergence and transcendence" which translates into the "origin of the universe, the origin of life and the origin of mind" (Clayton & Peacocke, 2004, p. 217).
Joseph Bracken thinks this naturalistic trinity can be described in terms of divine persons. To start, God the Father may be equivocated with the transcendent cosmic process of evolution. In Buber's terms, God the Father is the "I" in the I-Thou dialogical relationship within the Trinity. Bracken describes the Father "as the initiator both of the divine life within the Trinity and of the world of creation, in that the Father supplies divine initial aims to all created actual occasions to guide them in their individual acts of self-constitution and to group them into 'societies' according to a pregiven pattern or common element of form" (Clayton & Peacocke, 2004, p. 218). The role of the Son is one of responding to the Father's initiative, both in the divine life and in the union (or immanence) we have with the incarnate (or cosmic) Son. This frames the I-Thou relationship, while the Holy Spirit is the mediator between the Father and Son as "the one who effects the unity of the divine community" (p. 218). So, in the sense the complexity emerges in "new and higher unities among lower-level systems or societies of individual entities" (a reference to Whitehead's terminology), so the Holy Spirit sustains and promotes higher and evolving unities within creation and between the divine persons.
It would seem natural that a divine process like this would result in the sharing of the community of shared unities between subjects. Those subjects would evolve to higher levels of unity which would allow emergence to bring about life in all its complexity. This does help make sense of the distinction but interrelatedness of things such as living things (life) and living things which possess consciousness (mind). Otherwise, how do we explain the emergence of the high order function of self-reflexivity of humans within a 'natural' evolution of processes? I can subscribe to an interrelatedness, but there is an orderliness that draws boundaries between things, as well. So, just as two electrons on opposite sides of the universe impact--even alter--each other in some way (if we think in truly systemic ways), then the evolution of human consciousness is related to all emergent processes, but is not the equivalent of them; there is distinctiveness.
All of this is an attempt to get me started thinking in terms of how evolution and divine processes can be correlated...even in ways that are consistent with scriptural assertions. This seems a bit impossible at the moment, but I'm going to keep unraveling these disparate threads.