I try to pay attention to how things cluster in my consciousness. There will be a conversation here, I’ll read something there, someone will send a message from over there, all within a few hours, all about the same thing. When that happens–and it seems to happen often–I try to notice and see what God is trying to communicate. ((I realize that this phenomenon can be explained as the dislodging of an idea from my undifferentiated consciousness to my conscious awareness, but, even then, I believe that is the movement of the Holy Spirit. That is my prejudice.))
There are four events/thoughts that have converged in the last two days about which I would like to take note:
First, last night, at the dinner table, we were discussing Nietzsche, atheism, and the “death of God” (one of the benefits of having a daughter taking philosophy in college). During that conversation I reminded my daughter that I like to tell people–for shock value–that I, too, am an atheist. After the wide-eyed reaction dims, I reassure the bewildered listener that I believe in God. What? You see, it’s not that I don’t believe in God, it is theism that troubles me. Theism is a modern construct that explains God as a single-substance being that exists outside of time and space. I don’t believe that, so I am an a-theist (not a theist). What I do believe is that God is the Triune essence of being itself from which all life exists.
Second, last night, I taught a brief lesson on Advent to Parent University. The preparation for that lesson led me to meditate on the cyclical nature of life and the progressive layers of dying and rebirth (see my friend, Alex’s blog) we must experience in the process of our spiritual formation. (I’ll blog about that soon)
Third, this morning I read Richard Rohr’s meditation on St. Bonaventure and St. Francis of Assisi in which he claims that these two mystic monks were proclaiming panentheism. This is not pantheism that reduces God to the universe itself, but is the belief that everything is in God, and there is nowhere that one can go that God is not the sustaining presence.
My mind immediately connected this to Simmon’s book The Entangled Trinity. Simmons uses the entanglement theory from quantum mechanics to discuss the paradox of the Trinity. He proposes a theological position he calls Entangled Trinitarian Panentheism.
Finally, I am in the final week of the Deep in the Burbs Research project (woo-hoo!) I am sifting through hours and hours and pages upon pages of qualitative data discussing the connection between the social Trinity and spiritual formation. Yesterday I spent all morning transcribing the Monday night conversation (can you say tired eyes!). One team member wrote to me and discussed her evolving view of prayer. I wrote to her:
To me, [prayer] has always been about relationship. I have a great relationship with my Dad, so the analogy of prayer as a conversation with my Father has always worked well for me. Prayer isn’t as much about asking for things, but it is about bringing about a resonance, or “getting in step” with what God is doing. One thing that my journey in the social Trinity has helped me understand is that the “getting in step” is less about “getting with the program” like a submissive, marching soldier, and more about being a good dance partner, and letting God lead. A good dance requires my active participation, which is sometimes a push/pull movement.
All of these conversations, readings, and experiences continually point to the mystery of the God who is with us, and in whom we exist. Like the Apostle Paul said to the philosophers on Mars Hill
indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:27-28)
So, as I reflect on these conversations and encounters, I am reminded that this is a wonderful and mysterious journey that God calls us to take. It is a dance, a journey, a painful cycle of dying-to-live. It is life. Breathe it in, and dance.
This thketch explains a little bit about how I came from Theism to Panentheism.