The Edge of Grace

In reading an essay entitled “A Siamese Connexion with a Plurality of Other Mortals” by Scott McVay, I was struck by a poem the author included:

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I am currently working on a paper for my doctoral course work in Science and Theology. My hope is that our theology will continue to expand in perspective to include the entirety of the created order rather than focus solely on the fate of human beings. Poems like this one, of course, open Christian theologians to charges of pantheism (God is in all created things) at worst, and panentheism (All things are in God) at best. Of course, such charges seem to glide over the fact that faithful Christians have sought to investigate and understand the deep harmony between the revelation of God in Christ Jesus and the revelation of God to be found in the created order for nearly two millenia. St. Francis of Assisi and St. Hildegard of Bingen come to mind immediately.

I acknowledge that Bruchac is both not Christian and makes a move towards pantheism by asking “only the blessing of the crayfish, the beatitude of the birds.” Of course, he isn’t alone. Consider Jesus’ words:

26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? -Matthew 6:26-30

While we certainly don’t “pray” for a “blessing” directly from crayfish or birds for God is not creation, and creation is not God (yes, we are all, at some level, dualists), we certainly can look to the crayfish and the birds as both reflective of and involved with the merciful and redemptive purposes of God. I think this is the direction Jesus points us toward when he asks us to consider the lilies of the field.  It is exactly here that Bruchac helps us being to steer a corrective course in our own theology that allows us to confess our own anthropocentrism when reading Scripture and thinking theologically.

“If we pretend we are at the center,” Bruchac writes, and that the created order is at “the edge of grace, then we circle dead moons.” What a profound thought. Our own theology convicts us on this point in that we must confess that God and God’s creatio-redemptive purposes are at the center all things. Moroever, God doesn’t create us in a vacuum. Genesis 1 is clear that God created many things, and they are all ki-tov, or very good. The goodness that is there is not a mere backdrop for the drama of human history to unfold. No! That very goodness of the creation is filled with the very life and vitality of God who breathes life into it and allows it to participate in God’s glory.

We get a wondrous vision of this in Revelation 4:8-9:

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,

“Holy, holy, holy,
the Lord God the Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come.”

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever

In the realm/dimension of God’s kingdom, the entirety of creation exists to glorify and honor God. It is very good, and it reflects that goodness back towards its creator. There is no “dead moon” in God’s purposes, and to pretend that all exists to benefit us is to both deny God’s bestowal of goodness upon the created order apart from our place in it, and to also deny God the glory and honor due God in all things. We have another word for this denial, and it is called idolatry.

Maybe Dante was right that the lowest circle of hell is where the evil one exists in all his primacy, a “cold sun” (to borrow from Bruchac) wherein his distorted kingdom worships their idol who promised them a world of self-delight, but offers only lifeless barrenness as they circle their dead sun.

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