We then note that Christ is in evolution:
Before we can speculate on what God is up to, we need to bring in the notion of Time and evolution. Paul had a three-fold insight: 1) that the Christ exists already at the beginning of time as the very idea of the Universe (Eph 1:4; Col 1:15-17), 2) this Christ is, throughout time, the ordering principle of the Universe (Col 1:17), and 3) ultimately Christ will be the fulfillment of the Universe when God is fully present in it (Rom 8:22-23). The first question we might ask ourselves, therefore, is: What kind of a Universe do we have, that has the Christ at the beginning of time as its idea, and at the end of time as its fulfillment? A Universe which unfolds! Which evolves. Evolution is not just a scientific idea, it is essential to our own theology!
So what might God be up to? How about this possibility? God gives concrete actualization to God’s infinite potential over time. Just sit with those words for a moment… The Universe is God’s concrete actualization, over time. It is God’s choice as to how to express God’s infinite potential. I suppose with the ancients we might say that something which exists concretely and actually is more fully realized than something that is merely a potential, a possibility. Out of the fullness of God comes forth the myriad ways of being. And, from what we understand of God, that fullness includes all Goodness, all Beauty, all Truth. And this, over time, gets expressed, more or less well, in the forms of concrete events and beings we see every day.
The fullness of what God can be in space-time is, of course, far in the future. We are invited to think in terms of “deep time” – not short-range but very long-range. We remember that, in the Universe’s long 13.7 billion year evolution to date, self-aware humanity as we know it takes up less than 250,000 years, and civilization a mere 30,000. As a species, we are in our infancy, barely out of diapers – toddlers, really…
Rather than focus solely on the here and now, what if we thought of the Universe as the great unfolding – the great concrete actualization – of God’s infinite potential over immense time? Everything we see and experience is an unfolding of God’s potential – all forms of life from tiny microorganisms to sperm whales to humans, all forms of rock, mountains, water, ice. What is it all directed to? Can you imagine what the Universe will be like when God is fully manifest in it? Our lives are far too short for us to experience personally the long-term effects of evolution… But we do experience in a sense its effects. If we look at “deep history,” not short-term stuff, we can sense that societies have evolved, slowly, and in fits and starts, and certainly imperfectly, but nonetheless resulting in greater complexity and consciousness: human rights, the rule of law, democracy, the “Golden Rule,” etc.
What if we recognized that this unfolding over time gets more complex, more inclusive, more conscious, more loving? Christ, the Alpha, at the beginning is pure energy unfolding according to complex laws. Christ, the Omega, will be the final fruit of that unfolding, in all its complexity, inclusivity, consciousness, personhood, and love.
We could approach this same subject from another angle by asking: “If there is God, why is there a Universe?” Or “Why would God desire a Universe?” What can the Universe possibly bring to God?
Perhaps the answer might start with something like this: God would not be God without the Universe and the Universe would not be the Universe without God. The Universe is God’s way to express Godself in space and over time, and God is the very fabric, dynamic, structure, and sustainer of the Universe. Hildegard of Bingen, the great German mystic says not only are we made by God, we are made of God. Metaphorically, we are the dance, God is the Dancer. We need to spend a lot of time with this.
If God is Love, then Love cannot not express itself outside itself, as it were. It must create something that expresses that loving nature. Any creator’s creation is always somehow a self-expression. If God is love, then the universe, as God’s self-expression, is imbued with that divine love. The love that permeates creation is driven by the inner law of love—attraction-connection-complexity-consciousness—to evolve to a level of self-reflective consciousness that can form a conscious relationship to its Creator. That is what the Creator desired in the first place—relationship. That’s what love always desires. The Cosmic Christ will eventually enable the universe to consciously recognize its divinity, and thus be able to relate to the Creator as the “image and likeness of God” that we were created to be. That’s some of the steps it takes for you to get from the previous paragraph to the following one.
The Universe exists because the dynamism of Love requires not only a self-giving Lover but also a Beloved who, over time, learns to return that Love. After a 13.7 billion year evolution, the Universe has reached a point where one species (at least, in this corner of the universe) has evolved a self-sentient capacity, allowing it precisely to reflect as we are doing, and to begin the process of returning that Love.
Note in passing that “personhood” is essential for the fulfillment of the Universe. The evolution of ever more aware “subjects” is at the heart of the blossoming of the Universe. (Here’s a thought: perhaps the evolution of the Universe is the movement from mere object to full subject… This gets captured in one major ethical theory in the Rule: “Always treat others as subjects and never as object, as ends, never as means.”)
Re-read the passages in Paul quoted above, and sense, in your understanding, a shift between the way you saw these passages before, and the way you might be able to see them now… Look for other passages in Paul in which he refers to the Christ, and see if they make any better sense when you approach them from the perspective of such a “Cosmic Christ.” Imagine what all the groaning of nature might be about… What is the Universe expecting, looking forward to? Re-read Revelation 21: 1-5; 10-14. To what extent can you relate to the yearning which the author describes here? What for you is most/least helpful about this approach?