“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

God Changes

Christianity claims that God changes and grows - that God does not sit passively and "immutably" outside creation, but rather enters into it, and ties himself to creation to such an extent that the unfolding events in this Story change not only God's experience, but even His identity.

"Heresy!" some may cry. But this, as I understand it, is essential to Christianity. God enters our world in Jesus, a human being, and becomes one of us forever. God does not leave this world and cast off His experience in Jesus as no more than a passing experience. The New Testament denies this. Rather, God unites himself to his people in such a way that the union of marriage is an image or metaphor for the union of God in Christ, and his people (the Church, the body of Christ).

None of this means that God's character or deepest nature - His love, greatness, beauty, depth - fluctuates or can be cast off or changed into something else. God's nature is eternal and universal, foundational to existence and therefore to the unfolding Story.

Whether or not "time" is a fundamental part of the process, there is a direction to reality, and dynamical change in that direction. We may be tempted to insist that God "keep a foot outside of" it all, if he is to remain "transcendent." And this may be true in some sense - God may or may not experience the whole of the unfolding Dance in a different way that is "complete" rather than as we do, moving along linearly and experiencing the flow of the Story from within. (We cannot say, and the words we use are more suggestive and intuitive than well-defined.) But God's greatness is not grounded in detachment from creation, as if emptying Himself and entering it was a weakness. That is against the grain of what the New Testament is getting at. Perhaps it is simply false to say that a perfect thing does not change, or that greatness must be something fixed and constant.

Where is this Story going? We do not know, but the portion we do know may be just the first chapter. The marriage of Christ and His Bride, of God and creation, of heaven and earth (all suggestive language pointing towards the same reality) lies on the horizon. From that marriage may be born something utterly new and unprecedented, hitherto unspoken of by God (just as His entering into this world was hidden until it happened). And that may be only setting the stage for the beginning of all things, as C. S. Lewis suggested in Perelandra. It is God's Story as much as ours - God's Story not only as the author, but the central character.

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