Excerpts from: A religious interpretation of emergence: creativity as God, by Gordon Kaufman (Zygon 2007).
I suggest that instead of taking it for granted that “God” is the name of a creator-person who has brought everything into being, we will find it illuminating to think of God as the religious name for the profound mystery of creativity – the mystery of the emergence, in and through evolutionary and other originative processes, of novelty in the world. . .
If we do this, we will find ourselves able to connect the enormously meaningful ancient symbol God with central features of our modern thinking about the origins of the cosmos, the evolution of life and other features of the cosmos, and the emergence and development of human life and culture on planet Earth. . .
. . . the coming into being of the new, the emergence of the novel – seems to be happening virtually everywhere we look: from the Big Bang through the cosmic expansion into galaxies in which stars and planets emerge, through the appearance of life on planet Earth (and possibly elsewhere) and its evolution into countless forms, ultimately including human beings – creatures who are themselves creative and in whom creativity begins to become to some extent self-conscious and deliberate.
. . . in our human context, symbols, values, and meanings of many sorts emerge as creativity . . . Thus, in due course – through the creativity of such persons as, for example, the Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth – ideals and values, images and norms and meanings such as compassion and agape love, regarded by some as supreme human norms and standards, have been created. . .
Some may ask, why think of creativity in these religious terms? Isn’t this just taking over some modern scientific ideas and simply declaring them religious by calling them God?
I hold that identifying creativity . . . as God is fitting, given the long history in the Abrahamic traditions in which creativity has been the defining mark of God.
There will be those who say that in this theology God has disappeared in the mists of mystery, and true faith in God is thus also gone.
To this I reply that true faith in God is not living with a conviction that everything is going to be okay in the end because we know that our heavenly father is taking care of us. . . True faith in God is, rather, acknowledging and accepting the ultimate mystery of all these things in our lives and, precisely in face of that mystery, going out like Abraham . . . not really knowing where we are going but nevertheless moving forward creatively and with confidence. This confidence is grounded on the mystery of serendipitous creativity – God – that has brought into being our human biohistorical trajectory, and us along with it, and has continued to sustain the human project within the web of life that surrounds and nurtures us, giving us a measure of hope for our ongoing human existence here on planet Earth.
Here . . . God is thought of as the mysterious creativity that brought this world into being and that continues now with the ongoing development of this world.
With this concept of God we are in a position to connect our modern ideas—of the Big Bang; of cosmic and biological evolution; of the emergence of novel increasingly complex realities from simpler realities – with our thinking about and faith in God.
Creativity, in this view, is not a quasiscientific explanation of why and how new realities come into being; it is rather the word we use to identify and call attention to one of the profound mysteries of life: the mystery of new realities continuously being created, the mystery of complex things emerging from things less complex, the mystery of the coming into being of the universe and ourselves in that universe, the mystery of an open and unknown future into which we all are moving.
For many this creativity – God – manifest throughout our universe . . . is very awe-inspiring. It calls forth emotions of gratitude, love, peace, hope, and fear, and a sense of the profound meaningfulness of our distinctive human existence in the world – issues with which faith in God usually has been associated in the past. It is entirely appropriate, therefore, to think of God as precisely this magnificent panorama of creativity with which our universe, as well as our lives in this universe, confronts us.
All things came into being through the mystery of creativity; apart from creativity nothing would have come into being.