… and the best place to start is with God. But I’m not going to! Well, in a way I am, but if we really started with ‘God’ as our subject we’d be here for a very, very long time. So instead, I’m starting from some way down the road and making a few suppositions on the way. I’m going to take it as read that the starting point is an acceptance of the Trinitarian nature (or whatever other word you want to use instead of ‘nature’) of God – that is, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There’s a reason I start here. It’s the basis for creation and since that’s where I come in, there’s a personal dimension. So, yes it’s a purely selfish reason, but I’m not perfect. So, moving swiftly onwards…
The Christian church, including the CofS (yes, really) confesses that God is Trinity. Much theological debate surrounds the ‘nature’ of the Trinity, but one concept I find useful is that of relationship. Each part (and I use the word loosely, because it implies separation, which can’t be said of the Trinity) can be said to be in relationship with the other. An intimate, ever-giving relationship, where each gives to the others selflessly and continually. This is basically a model of Grace. This also doesn’t mean that God has the characteristics of Grace because that would then make God a ‘thing’. Rather God is Grace in the same way we might say God is love. We don’t simply mean loving but that God is the source of love. And we also mean to imply that, since God is limitless, His love and Grace are therefore limitless too.
Saying that God is Grace then has consequences. For us, the most important aspect of God’s Grace is creation. Arguably, this is a ‘natural’ (again used advisedly – God is super-natural) consequence of an abundance of Grace. A superabundance of Grace (giving) ‘creates’ – love, relationships, ‘things’ – in God’s case, the world (and all the rest). I was reading recently about zimsum. This is the idea that God, being omnipresent, needs to create ‘space’ into which the world/universe can be brought. This can only be done by ‘self-limiting’ His presence (surely an act of divine Grace – giving up of self). But if you think about that, the ‘space’ for creation is where God isn’t – it becomes Godless/Godforsaken. But God creates in this space (or allows creation to occur, if you prefer) and declares that ‘it is good’. Note, it is ‘good’ – good enough, not perfect, for then it would be God.
Now, since God is ‘relationship’, then the purpose/nature of creation (since it is made by God) is also ‘relationship’. Humankind has a particular place in creation. Humankind ‘shares’ in the creative process (naming of the animals, for example). God creates humankind to be part of God’s gracious relationship with all of creation and with God. And this has huge implications for how we treat this world and all that is in it.
But, if creation is created in Godlessness, then how can God be in it at all? For me, this is where ‘free will’ comes in. We can choose to live in ‘Godlessness’ or we can create (having inherited that ability by being in God’s image) a relationship with God. When we do the latter, then we are living closer to our true nature and so become more fulfilled and we are also bringing God into creation.
Of course, creation in ‘Godlessness’ and being less than perfect has consequences and that’s for the next bite-sized chunk.