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Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Dynamics of Love

I have begun reading a new book that is both challenging and exciting.  I have known about the author, Illia Delio, for some time.  Delio is a Franciscan sister, who happens also to be a scientist and theologian.  I know some people who know her and they all talk about a bright, engaging, humble woman.  She is currently a Senior Fellow in Science and Religion at the Woodstock Theological Center, which is part of Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
   
I am working my way through her 2013 book, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution and the Power of Love.  When I read these science/religion books, I always get the religion part fairly easy.  After all, studying theology was my own educational background.  And I know that can be somewhat daunting.  But then, someone like Delio adds a whole new academic discipline, namely, science.  As any of us know who studied some science in school, that really is demanding.  To be an expert in both arenas is something pretty rare. 
   
As we can guess from the title of her book, Delio thinks the scientific perspective on science is the only real way to understand our world as it exists today.  I find that argument convincing.  How we conceive of our world---its origins, development and future---scientists and theologians alike call cosmology.  Cosmology comes from the Greek word, cosmos, which I translate as “world” or “universe.”  So everyone has a cosmology, even if he or she never thought about it.  Everyone has some view of their world or universe.
   
The thing I like about Delio is not unique to her, but I enjoy meeting the issue again is the relationship between cosmology and theology.  In simple terms this means how we understand our world determines, in some ways, how we understand our God.  Or we can reverse it and say how we understand our God determines how we see the world.  For example, if a fundamentalist thinks God created the world in seven literal days and that the world is only some 5,000 years old, that is a very different cosmology than the evolutionist who says our world evolved and it is a little over 13 billion years old.  These two cosmologies implicate two very different types of Divine figures.
   
When I read someone like Delio, I find that I engage in a two-fold process.  In the first stage my goal is simply to understand what she is saying.  In this case it is understanding how she sees evolution as a process---a process that is still going on to this day.  It is to understand that human beings are also part of that evolutionary process.  The second part of my engagement with Delio after I have understood some of what she says is trying to fit it into my own experience and thinking.  So my two-fold process is about understanding and meaning.
   
I can understand some things that may have no meaning to me.  Delio helps me with both aspects.  The good thing about her is she has had to do this for herself.  After all, she is not just a scientist.  She is also a theologian.  But she is even more than that.  She is a Franciscan sister---which is somewhat like being a nun.  Somehow she is making sense of science and being religious.  She can be my teacher, for sure.
   
All scientists are not alike.  And even all people who believe in some form of evolution are not totally like-minded.  Some would be atheists.  And some, like Delio and myself, believe in God---in some fashion.  This is where Delio is helping me think about things.  For example, she suggests that love plays a crucial role in the evolutionary process.  And this dovetails with the biblical perspective that God is love. 
   
For example, early in her book she says, “Love is the fundamental energy of evolution.”  Even here I have to think a bit.  When I say to someone, “I love you,” I am not sure I immediately think about love as energy.  But when I do think about it, it makes perfect sense.  Everyone who is in love---or who loves---does feel energy and energized.  And Delio certainly stretches my mind when she claims that love is the fundamental energy of evolution.  Literally, love is what makes this whole thing---not just me---go.  And if God is love, then this puts God directly in the middle of it all.  God is the love Force of the universe.
   
In fact, she adds another short sentence that I find thrilling.  She describes God as “the dynamics of love.”  This is her way of seeing God at work in the world.  God is the dynamics of love at work.  It’s going to take me a little more thinking to tease out what all this means, but I like the direction.  It means wherever there is love in the world, there is God.  Of course, we have to recognize that hate and violence also still play a part.  But the hope---the future---is on love’s side.
   
The implications for me and my behavior are pretty clear.  If I am on the side of love, then I am on God’s side.  I am on the side of the evolutionary trajectory that ultimately will prevail.  My call and my ministry is to be a lover!  That means minimizing and, if possible, eradicating my own participation in hate and violence.  And community will be crucial.  I need to affiliate with others who also embody and act from this love.  The world sorely needs community of lovers to be at work. 
   
I find it exciting.  I find it especially exciting that I can be part of the dynamics of love and be confident I am doing God’s work.

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