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God Is Being Itself

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Science: Week 1

God Is Being Itself
Tuesday, November 3, 2015

God is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live and move and have our very being. —Paul to the people of Athens (Acts 17:28)

Science has actually found evidence of the light that burst forth at the moment of creation. “If we look up at night, the space between the stars seems black, but radio telescopes reveal that it contains a faint background glow—cosmic microwave background radiation. This is the primordial light released when the universe exploded into being at the time of the Big Bang. That radiation survives as a cosmic relic.” [1] Astrophysicists tell us that 95% of the known universe is dark energy and dark matter and seemingly empty space—not open to our analysis it seems. Yet we now know that all that darkness is objectively not darkness at all; what looks to the human eye like darkness is actually filled with billions of neutrinos—which are light. This sounds to me like John’s Gospel: “A light that shines on in the dark, a light that darkness cannot overcome” (1:5).

John goes on to say, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9). So the true light, or what I’m going to call consciousness, precedes and connects and feeds all else. Being is not just love, but it is light. Note that the creation story itself says that the moment of creation is precisely the creation of light. The first words God utters in Genesis are: “Let there be light!” And the first words about God are: “God saw that the light was good” (1:3-4). Of course, light implies an ability to see, to be aware, to be conscious. [2] This is always “coming into the world” (in Greek, erxomenon eis ton kosmon), which might just be the first biblical indicator of what we eventually call evolution.

Ilia Delio writes that Teilhard de Chardin “spoke of evolution as the emergence of consciousness and complexity. As entities become more complex in nature, consciousness increases or develops. . . . [Teilhard] sought to articulate a new philosophy based on the energy of love. [His] ontology of love [is] thus a radical shift from the world of being as substance to a world of love-energy and consciousness.” [3, emphasis mine] In other words, the very physical structure of the universe is love or mutual allurement.

This utterly grounds our deeper notion of God as Being itself, rather than God as a Being, alone and apart. Both Franciscan John Duns Scotus and Dominican Thomas Aquinas said Deus est Ens, God is Being itself. Duns Scotus, however, went further and taught about “the univocity of being,” meaning that we can speak with “one voice,” consistently and truthfully, about a rock, a tree, an animal, a human, an angel, and God. Aquinas said they were the same being “only by analogy.” You see why I am happy to be a Franciscan!

The mystery of cosmic incarnation, when taken to its theological conclusion, leads us to enjoy a very real participation in the same single state of Being, to varying degrees and with different qualities. This eliminates any radical distinction between things, peoples, and creatures because Christ existed in all matter from the first moment of the Big Bang. Remember, “There is only Christ! He is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). Now astrophysics tells us that the same molecules which existed at the beginning are still reshaping the universe now into endlessly new forms. All those songs about you being stardust are quite literally true.

Gateway to Silence:
Evolving toward love

[1] John Stanley and David Loy, “At the Edge of the Roof: the Evolutionary Crisis of the Human Spirit,” Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, ed. (The Golden Sufi Center: 2013), 44-45.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Christ, Cosmology, and Consciousness (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), MP3 download.

[3] Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), xxi.

Image Credit: Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant (detail), NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team.
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