Good news: I am getting published in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science again. The Essay is entitled, “Whitehead, Chance, & the Immanently Creative Spirit.” This is my 26th Peer Reviewed publication, if you include my two books above. Glory be to God!
Below is the Introduction, pasted with the intent of you getting the issue if not year of Zygon itself:
- INTRODUCTION—CONCEIVING THE SPIRIT AS CREATIVITY:
In the following essay, one will find several parts, followed by a suggestive conclusion. Each part of this essay suggests an overall thesis that God through the Spirit is both the immanent and eminent principle of creativity, ever wooing, ever beckoning, and ever empowering the advancements in complexity over 15 billion years of cosmic history, and 3.6 billion years of earthly history, seen principally in he accompanying (or, rather, resultant) biological evolution. I will argue that via the primal kenosis of the Spirit’s being-ness into the world, the fullness[i] of the deity is immanently present upon and within the earth that has been expanding with increasing complexity in virtual perpetuity (Weber 2006, 149), insomuch as over a period of 3.6 billion years there has arisen entities that display and promote both the goodness (defined as what God does for the “other”) and the greatness (referent to the intrinsic character) of God.[ii] I agree with I. C. Jarvie, who holds that creativity is interesting precisely because it is uniquely mysterious (Jarvie 2009, 44). It is all the more mysterious since I posit that it is the Spirit who is the principle of creativity within the world, for the Spirit is often seen to be the hidden member of the trinity, and not an active force prior to the ascension of Jesus. It should be noted that creative achievements are unique events, and as such they are not repeatable. However, we can nevertheless reconstruct this creativity post hoc, which of course is our perspective in the twenty-first century. As an attempt to explain why process is at the base of actuality, Whitehead introduces the concept of creativity. I follow Whitehead’s lead in this essay.
In this sense, then, this essay argues that God, particularly in and through the activity of the Spirit of creativity, was not merely resting aloof on his (sic) proverbial throne for nearly twelve billion years before biotic entities arose upon the cooled earth, but—rather—was fully present in and with what is oft called “creation,” from the very beginning—and will be to the end, proleptically present as the expression of the principle of creativity. More often than not, God is understood (by Christians) to act particularly in the life of Christ, but cannot be said to do too much more beyond that. I maintain, however, that the Spirit, by her kenosis into the natural world, imbibed the natural world with an evolving fertility that has continually manifested itself in and through what we commonly term creativity. This primal imbibing of herself into the world of nature created a situation in which the natural world became marked, virtually in and of itself, by the gift of creativity (Weber 2006,142), or what principally amounts to an activation of the naturally occurring, inherent potentialities within nature, thereby producing (in essence) a distinctive self-creativity within the natural environ.
What, then, is creativity? Generically, it is the defining trait of our species—but to answer what it is specifically, one must explore the various aspects of creativity. Carl R. Hausman offers the following conditions of it: creative outcomes have lucid constructions that are irreducible; creative outcomes are capricious; structures of creative outcomes are fundamentally instrumentally valuable; and the acts that lead to creative outcomes include an morsel of spontaneity (Hausman 2009, 3–16, especially 4). In emphasizing the idea that the intelligibility of a creative outcome is discernible in a structure that is unpredictable, Hausman resists determinism because it excludes novelty and newness. After laying out his rationale for understanding the research undertaken by investigators of creativity, Hausman then adopts a descriptive premise that under constraints there is a select range of phenomena that is most clearly, undeniably, and unquestionably an example of creative acts and outcomes.
Again, then, what is creativity? For Edward O. Wilson, the two great branches of learning—science and the humanities—are complementary in the pursuit of creativity in that they share the same roots of innovative endeavor, as the realm of science is everything possible in the (uni/multi)verse, whereas the realm of the humanities is everything conceivable to the human mind (Wilson 2017, 14–15). Wilson admits that it “might seem—feel is perhaps the better word—that the human suite of intellect and emotion” is the only one that could have attained creativity. Somewhat a diagnostic trait of our species, some four billion years in the making, creativity might seem to require some “unique feature of evolution or else the hand of God extended special to our lineage” (Wilson 2017, 20). But this is not the case at all. Other species of animal, particularly the gorillas, apes, monkeys, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos (especially!) can display behavior that is akin to creativity in the human animal.
Because I am willingly constrained by science inasmuch as feasibly possible, I do not want to offer much more in this essay than what could be considered prolegomena to my argument that will be successively developed over the ensuing years of doctoral study (especially regarding the causal joint), one that stays neutral with reference to most of the frameworks of contemporary science. Theologians would be wise to no longer attempt to make their hypotheses palatable to the scientists who are often so hostile toward them, and that often without reason (e.g., witness the vitriol by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett to all things religious, especially to that which is “Christian”). This does not mean that theologians should be dismissive or ignorant of the developments in science. On the contrary, they should be well-versed in science, but not attempt to force their ideas into an established scientific position; doing that is more of a capitulation than a strategy to influence the public and academy (and such has often led to a god-of-the-gaps argument, which subsequently gets filled, thereby leaving the Christians who advocate such in a worse position than the one with which they started). This essay suggests a unique perspective on divine action that is exclusively pneumatological (related to the Spirit) and distinctly eschatological (anticipating the future), while being aware of varied proposals originating from the Divine Action Project (DAP), which was co-sponsored by the Vatican Observatory and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, CA, from 1988–2003.[iii]
In view of the conclusions of the DAP, which are far too varied and detailed to be explicated here, I postulate that the Spirit is ever-before the advancement of complexity on the face of earth. This poietic (creative) process was initiated long ago, but continues even unto this day. The infilling of the Spirit’s nature into nature creates a panentheistic relationship between herself and the world, which has been continually employed by her in the perpetual and almost inexorable advancement of biota in general, the most magnificent display of which is homo sapiens sapiens (our particular sub-species). The creative increase in complexity that is everywhere present is not a straight progression, however, for the Spirit is not the manipulator of the natural world, but its empowerment instead. In this conception, the deity is not the principle of order, but instead the very creativity—that is, the pure multiplicity—of the divine game itself, which is an affirmation that the complexification of the world is always “already all” of chance (Faber 2014, 261) and eminently influenced by the uncontrolling love of God (cf. Oord 2010; and Oord 2015, 1–29). This uncontrolling love of God is thoroughly empowering of the other, and not in any manner determinative of the outcome, much alike unto how God woos, lures, and beckons—but does not force or coerce—biologically complex organisms in the present era to do his bidding upon the earth. In Whitehead, as with Thomas Jay Oord, the divine game is not about power, but love instead (Faber 2014, 260). Further, for Oord, this uncontrolling love is self-giving. We will encounter Oord and Whitehead again later in this essay, but it is worth pointing out that their critique (more so the latter than the first) of power had the net effect of philosophers largely exchanging “coercion” with respect to God’s influence on the earth, with “persuasion” regarding the same (Whitehead 1967, 166).
[i] Note here that Michael Weber stipulates that within the triune category of the ultimate, Creativity cannot work without the One and/or without the Many, and the Many cannot work without Creativity and/or the One.
[ii] I herein take for granted that the readers of this essay are familiar with my re-imagining of the term “kenosis” as an in-filling—a proverbial “pouring out” of the Spirit into creation, versus it being a mere “self-emptying.” For a full exposition of this re-appropriation, the fullness of which would take us too far afield, I point readers to several of my peer-reviewed essays identified in the bibliography.
[iii] For a stellar accounting of divine action as distinctly pneumatological and exclusively eschatological, along with a tidy review of the DAP, I point the reader to Yong, Amos. The Spirit of Creation: Modern Science and Divine Action in the Pentecostal-Charismatic Imagination. Pentecostal Manifestos. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011, ch. 3 (73–101), and ch. 4 (102–32).