Sunday, February 3, 2013

2013.02.03 Book Review, Face of The Deep

I’ve been reading Catherine Keller’s Face of the Deep and let me tell you it’s deep—and dense, full of scientific and theological language  worth puzzling. Keller is a scholar and theology professor at Drew University. Oh, how I wish these fine scholars would teach to a world of hungry non-academic students who could access their texts easily.

Still, Keller’s ideas are intriguing. She writes about quantum entanglement and gives it a theological pulse. When science explores beginnings and hits a brick wall of explication, there is an opening for theology and its ideas, read G-O-D or Creative Divinity—an option not explicable or provable, so far, but enlightening.

Quantum science and theology admit that this biblical Creator is intimately entangled energetically with cosmos—through chaos. Thus, Creation never stops, but constantly unfolds—like a pleated whole unfolding as it goes.  

As a writer I know that an opening sentence has to hook a reader into wanting more. So here is the Bible’s first sentence.  
            1) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth   (Ok, I’m drawn in.)
            2) the earth was formless and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind (spirit) from God swept over the face of the waters.   (Suspense.  What will this spirit-wind do? I’m hooked. My dopamine levels are up, and I haven’t even taken a Sudafed. I must find out what happens.)

Keller makes a lot of this second sentence. The action has already started before God says the famous and oft-quoted dictum, “Let there be light!”  Shapeless darkness therefore is not nothing. God tangles with matter before God speaks a word. Many will find that shocking. Why?  We’ve been carefully taught that God created ex nihilo—from nothing, making God a real superpower.  

But no. There’s a verse in between God created and God said. The between God messes with chaos and darkness, up to His or Her divine neck. 

The patriarchal church has taught an almighty omnipotent Divinity (all male to be sure) by ignoring verse #2 and establishing the doctrine of creation from nothing.  But no.  The Spirit vibrates (Keller’s lively translation) over something, not nothing.  That something is The Deep. 

Here is a deity who creates NOT on demand and command, who is NOT omnipotent and utterly transcendent, NOT a He-Man-God, but a Godde who, like a curious scientist, plunges into the depths of dark chaotic matter—tohu vabohu in Hebrew.  Keller calls this process Creatio ex profundi vs ex nihilo and develops a theology of BECOMING. Genesis is a becoming text, not a fait accompli text about divine executive function.  

How do this Deep and this God work things out together?  Does The Deep resist God’s engagement? How much power and energy does matter exert? What happens when God creates Humankind?  Process theologians call this process co-creation. 

What thrills me is that Creator God of verse 2 desires relationship over obedience. Keller suggests that there is in this cosmic quantum entanglement an ethical call, bidding us to join God in this work of transforming darkness and chaos. Think of a God who is entangled as much as we are in injustice, hate, war— a Divinity that energizes for change, not legislates about it. The ethical charge is IN creation itself.  

Keller’s exploration of this one small verse (Genesis 1:2)  does not support a patriarchal male- stereotyped Divinity.  What then?  To me it suggests that God is fully male and fully female—an idea that charges me, and frankly, demands my cooperation to help transform traditional perspectives and language, for the sake of new life. One day the image of God itself will be whole.

I end, as is my wont, with some humor, hopefully apt.  

Rita Mae Brown said:  "If you can't raise consciousness, at least raise hell."  But I hope for heaven, myself. 


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I was privileged to sit in on a few of Catherine Keller's classes and I must say I've never read - or heard - anything from her that wasn't very deep. She is one of the most thought-full, creative theologians I've ever had the privilege to meet.

Great stuff, this. Thanks for the review of her book. It's on my summer reading list.

Lyn G. Brakeman said...

Beware, baby it's DEEP:) But what is life in Christ if not deep, right? Take care and stay warm.