Theological Footnote “Advent Reflection 23: Peace“
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2).
God is the Infinite fullness of Being. There is nowhere and no-when God is not (Ps. 139:7-12). He is Presence itself and Subjectivity itself: He is I AM.
But God chose to create beings, subjects, otherness, things. How can there be true “otherness” in a place where there is nowhere God is not? How can there be other “presences” when God is Presence? How can there be other lives and movements and beings when God is infinite Life and absolute Being itself. Indeed, how can it be that “in him, we are living and moving and being” (Acts 17:28)?* Doesn’t our living and moving and being simply exist as such as parts of the whole that is God rather than wholes (or holes?) within a wholly (or holy?) other Whole?
In this vein, and most perplexing of all, how can there be other “subjects” when God is the infinite Subject, subjectivity itself? How can two I-AMs exist in the ‘same space’? How can the creation of subjects be anything more than the predicates of a single Subject, the multi-charactered soliloquy of a single voice, Geppetto’s puppet when it was still wood? Does creation require us all to just be (honest) Calvinists (re determinists)? How could God create a world where things could be said like, “Your will be done” or “Crucify him!”? How can I AM create all those dependent clauses (and put up with such confused subjects): “I think, therefore I am.”
It could happen if God created a space for subjective freedom, which is the fundamental precondition for love. That is the space of Genesis 1:2. God must create godlessness in order to create subjects who can give love and objects who can receive love–human beings, aka “Our Image and Likeness” (the Trinity). [For an extended discussion on the definition of freedom, click here.]
So creation of all things, naturally, must begin with the creation of a no-thing. God must create a space that is not God. Our existence must begin with the creation of a non-existence, the creation of beings with not-being, of light with darkness, of form with formlessness, the creation of daisy fields with a deep, dark void. “In the beginning” God created a non-beginning, a time of timelessness where everywhere there was nothing going nowhere. Absolute zero would have to come before Let there be summer.
So God creates ex nihilo, out of nothing, by first creating nihilum, nothingness. God is not removed from that space; rather, it is a space where he suspends his presence–he “hovers over” it. This is nature in its purest form, and it is utter emptiness, because it is godlessness. But godlessness is then filled with God’s speech, the communication of his presence in absolute freedom. Godlessness is then filled with the proposal to be filled with the fulness of God. God filled the void with form, the darkness with light, the wallless canyon with his living breath. God exhaled, creation inhaled. God spoke, the earth bloomed. God had created the space of the no-god, true distance and difference, and then invited it into harmony with God. It was a space where God could be heard. God said, “Let there by light.” Creation said, “Don’t mind if I do.” But that same space is one where God can be ignored. God said, “Let me be God.” Adam said, “No.”
But godlessness was the inevitable possibility of human freedom. The freedom to love is precisely the freedom not to. Living subjects could choose to deny the Absolute Subject, and thereby deny themselves, to say no to God, and thereby to themselves. We can always choose to die. But we can also choose life. Because the living God loves us, and his eternal Word of Grace is stronger than all our past words of defiance, all our future ones too.
So be still, and listen to God.
“The Word is near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. ‘See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God…then you shall live and multiply…Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God” (Dt. 30:14-20).
*ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν.