Observing the way in which nature co-exist, the flow of life and death, seems to reveal a designed harmony. But what is not immediately observable is the tens of thousands of species that went extinct in order to produce the current order. And so the design we observe is not the usual way we would conceive of a designer sitting and drawing out a plan or blueprint and then starting to manufacture that design. That is how many still think of God and the way God creates, as the great architect who manipulates everything according to his designs.
But if we take into account the many cycles it took to produce the current order, then this view of a separate designer planning it all out at the beginning does not make much sense. Because, either this demigod is not that intelligent, because most of his designs failed before we got to our current world, or he is a sadistic god who delights in the suffering.
I want to share a vision of God – a God more gracious and giving, more intelligent and awe-inspiring than what we have imagined. This is not the Great Architect demigod who decides all the designs beforehand, but rather the source of all creative inspiration, the one who enables creation to bloom into ever greater being and fulfillment. This God does not stand behind us with a blueprint, trying to bring this wayward creation back into his original plan. Rather, this is the God who opens up possibilities before us, inviting us and seducing us into the beauty and meaning we can co-create together.
I love the way N.T Wright describes the kind of creation we can expect if creation happens through Christ. Referring to Jesus’ parable of the sower, we can expect that its like seed sown extravagantly – some go to waste, others have promising beginnings, but withers soon after, yet others have surprising harvests. If creation happens through Christ then we could expect that it has his character, that it would not be a show of brute force, but rather an extravagant outpouring of self-giving love.
The design we observe in nature, therefore, is the end result of a very long story with many twists and turns. God’s involvement in this process is not of manipulation, but of opening possibilities and giving creation the freedom to realize those possibilities. In evolutionary language, this is called natural selection. There is no control here, no pre-defined path. There is a goal. And we’ll look at that in our next session.
Design is therefore not the result of something constructed according to a pre-defined blueprint, but rather the result of a process in which creation itself participates in creating novelty.
In Genesis 1 we see a poetic insight into the character of this kind of Creator. God speaks to creation and calls it to produce novelty. For instance, when God wants to make the fish of the sea, He does not create them by Himself in a heavenly aquarium and then dumps them in the sea. No. Rather, He speaks to the sea and invites the sea to produce swarming creatures.
The God of possibility stands in front of each of us, saying: do you know what beauty and meaning are possible for you? Come on, bring forth life! Creation continues and you are called to share in the creativity.