Spirit of the Future

Spirit of the Future August 28, 2014

Christoph Schwobel (Recent Developments in Trinitarian Theology, 31-3) claims that because God is the “unoriginate originating cause” of all things created, He is “atemporally eternally present to every creature in every point in time of creation.” 

Yet, creation is the actualization of God’s “eternal will to be in communion” with creation, then it is also true that “God must . . . be thought of as temporally eternally present for every creature and with every creature at every point in time of creation.” We may thus speak of “God’s temporality” in the sense of His “free and eternal self-determination for communion with God’s creatures.”

Within this framework, the presence of the Spirit has, Schwobel argues, a “twofold significance.” First, “it is the presence of the eternal God in all forms of created life as the Spirit of life that makes creation responsive to the creative action of the Creator.” That is, God acts and the creature responds, but the Spirit is active in the response. It is not simply God responding to God. It is truly the creation responding to the Creator, and yet the creation’s response is only response because of the Spirit’s life-giving presence.

Second, the Spirit is present as “the perfecting cause,” as the “presence of the future presence of perfection for creation.” Schwobel elaborates in a beautiful passage: “In God’s Spirit, God is the future of every moment of creation. As such, the Spirit liberates from the bondage of creation to the past. As the presence of the absolute future, it counteracts the conditioning of created existence from the past, from its antecedent conditions. The Spirit is in this way the source of freedom for the creature, the way in which the eternal perfection in God’s perfected communion with God’s reconciled creation is already present here and now. Phenomena like emergence, which are not the predicted result of their antecedent conditions according to determinate laws, appear in this way as the correlate of the presence of the Spirit in the natural world. The Spirit’s time is the actualization of novelty already before the end of history.”

In short, “talk about God’s eternity must comprise the forms in which God is present to creation as its eternal ground, eternally and temporally, in the chronos of physical time, in the kairos of the reconciliation of time and eternity, and in the eschaton where time is taken up into the eternal presence of God.”

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