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Moltmann, Jurgen. “Reflections on Chaos and God’s Interaction with the World from a Trinitarian Perspective.”

In his paper, Jürgen Moltmann first describes five models of the God-world relation: (1) According to the Thomistic model, God is the causa prima of the world. God also acts through the causae secundae which serve as God’s instruments. (2) The interaction model postulates a degree of reciprocal influence between God and the world. This model can include the Thomistic model, but not vice versa. (3) The whole-part model, taken from biological systems theory, emphasizes that the whole is more than and different from its parts. In complex and chaotic systems this difference shows up in the form of top-down causality. The whole-part model is more inclusive than the previous models and sheds light on God’s indirect effect upon the world as a whole. (4) The model of life processes emphasizes the open character of biological systems. The present state of a living system is constituted by its fixed past and its open future or, more generally, by what can be called tradition and innovation. Here the world process is open to God as its transcendental future. (5) Finally, Moltmann considers two central theological models: creation and incarnation. Here God creates by a process of self-limitation (or tzitzum). The limitation on God’s omnipresence creates a habitation for the world; the limitation on God’s omniscience provides the world with an open future. God’s self-limitation allows God to be present within the world without destroying it. Moltmann believes this model is the most inclusive of the five.

Moltmann next offers three comments on how these models function in current theological discussions about chaotic, complex and evolutionary systems.

(1) He is critical of the interaction model, seeing it as a theistic model in which God is the absolute Subject who may intervene at will in nature. In the modern period it was replaced by two even more problematic models: deism and pantheism. In their place Moltmann commends to us a trinitarian model in which “God the Father creates through the Logos/Wisdom in the power of the Holy Spirit. . . . God not only transcends the world but is also immanent in the world.” According to this model God acts upon the world through God’s presence in and perichoresis with all things.

(2) Next Moltmann discusses eschatology, the new creation of all things. For Moltmann the future is not a state of completion but a process of continuing openness, in which all finite creatures will participate in God’s unending and open eternity even as God participates in their temporality. The openness of chaotic, complex, and evolutionary systems is suggestive of this vision, and seems inconsistent with a future conceived of as completed. “The future of the world can only be imagined as the openness of all finite life systems to the abundance of eternal life. In this way they can participate in the inexhaustible sources of life and in the divine creative ground of being.”

(3) Finally Moltmann asks whether the universe as a whole should be thought of as an open system. The growth of possibilities for such systems, their undetermined character, and their dependence on an influx of energy suggest that the universe itself might be open to energy. “In this case the world would be a ‘system open to God’ and God a ‘Being open to the world.’”

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