Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On Moltmann's Trinity: Dissonance


‘We are the sperm of God/ sent to fertilize the egg of the earth/ in the womb of space.’ It was my first poem, written in some bizarre amalgamation of Wednesday Bible study and my first sexual education class. It was and is a terrible poem. I never thought I’d read its analogy in the writings of Jurgen Moltmann, but there, I suppose, it is. The possibilities of the metaphor aside, the notion of God self-limiting in order to create, those possibilities aside, the analogy is still problematic for classical theologians.

Moltmann insists on the will, on God’s self-willing as Creator as constitutive of relation, but fails to recognize that the will of God might also be ‘without analogy,’ as Moltmann says of God’s creation. After all, who can know the mind of God? Which is not to say that creation was not and is not an act of God’s will (how could it not be?) but this is to say that the act of creation in human terms, the analogy that we do in fact have, is not of course solely an act of will itself.

Pregnancy is the great intentional accident. Even when we don’t plan it, we biologically ‘intend’ it with our actions, we anticipate the act of our creation. And even when we do plan it, we plan neither the moment nor the person, it is always a surprise for which everyone must express pleasure and astonishment. Creation is not solely about the will but also about the nature.

Moltmann acknowledges the possibility – “the activity which is immanent to God and essential to his nature is the eternal, unchangeable resolve of his essential purpose” – but refuses to carry through the implications lest he be labeled, I suppose, a process theologian. Throughout, Moltmann assumes too many dualities: resolve is not emanation; being is not nothingness. (And one is here reminded of the film The Never-Ending Story where the demon is the Nothing that devours the imagined world).

But the primordial nothing which God created by God withdrawing Godself is itself an act of God and so must express the character of God, lest God not act in accordance with God’s nature. Through Moltmann concludes by saying that this does not justify the existence of evil, this is not the same as actually not justifying it. Moltmann, I believe, has a problem here with evil.

Yes, we are to live with hope through the contradictions of the world apart from God’s love, but one would rather see a theology which more boldly incorporates the unresolved tension than one that implies that it should not exist and stops at the tension’s edge, refusing to say more. One does not imagine Moltmann’s God capable of surprise, as God must often be, if the self-limitation of creation is not a jest. One imagines Moltmann’s God resolving to be Creator with a strong chin and furrowed brow.

But what if creation were more like a birth from nothing than God’s architectural blueprint? One might imagine creation emerging from the space created as all the persons of God bow down to each other, perhaps in play or as was once suggested perhaps in dance. Creation is a playful act, sex is laughter, and each dance is different from the last. One might perhaps see creation as the patterns of the steps, or the sound of God’s laughter, or the imagined world of play? This is all very speculative, but spectacles help us see.

I’ve never doubted that God has been surprised and horrified by much of what we’ve done, and Moltmann shorts himself by not perhaps not leaving the future as open as it might and must be if God is to continually create in love. Because I’ve also never doubted the space God grants the universe – perhaps intentionally, perhaps accidentally, perhaps as something in between – to do whatever it is, precisely, that the universe will do. Is God the world’s future? Doubtlessly, yes – but yet not without doubt, or the play of creation would be a sham and love of God for God or love of God for creation would be something of a sham. Does the kingdom look more like a constructed house? Or does it perhaps look more like the totality and culmination and continuation of the dance itself?

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