An evolving God
Wholeness. For me, that was the theme of Ilia Delio’s talk at the St Boniface Hospital in September 2016. The scientist and theologian religious sister was talking about evolution and Christianity, but the themes that resonated – from what I had encountered before and after – were wholeness and Holy Spirit.
“We’ve become so Jesus-centred, we ignore the Holy Spirit,” she said. That same challenge was posed on a CT podcast where the speaker pointed out that evangelicals fancy they’d love Jesus as their perfect pastor (in reality, we’d quickly look to fire him for his nonconforming behaviour, baffling preaching, and far-too-perceptive, honest critiques), but Jesus actually said he needed to leave so his followers could get something better – the Holy Spirit – to guide them every moment.
It’s a jarring thought for a Christo-centre Mennonite, but one that does not seem amiss on further reflection, especially as Delio continued to speak about wholeness in ways that affirmed and stretched my Anabaptist thoughts on shalom and community
Delio talked of God in terms of expansion, union and diversity. “We are strands in a web of life; our actions are not private; our actions are not individual.”
And the God who is simultaneously wholeness and diversity – as creator, truth and spirit – made his creatures prone to entanglement with each other. In the universe Delio paints of expansion, newness out of oldness, movement and forces of attraction and unification (always as diversity, not uniformity or conformity), it makes sense that we are always in a dance with each other. [Contra dancer aside: does that make the Spirit the caller, the musician or a meddling disruptive partner-less dancer mixing it up?]
This inclusive message is appealing in the current climate. Even in the Old Testament climate of exclusion, hospitality was a high virtue and God commanded the alien and stranger be taken care of. In the didacts of Paul’s writing in the New Testament, he preaches a freedom amid his principles and regulations. This is the shalom we believe God is drawing us to live: reconciliation with God, with each other and with our environment.
As for those who would argue “Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever,” perhaps “the same” doesn’t necessarily mean change-less or beyond the development of new understandings. Should we expect anything less than evolution from an all-powerful God intent on wholeness in a universe full of competing and self-guided forces?
Amid the wholeness, however, I missed the holiness which I believe is also central to who God is, and that which makes him other than us. For is it not holiness and truth that make shalom not just a positive feeling of happiness but an energy force of both justice and grace?