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Edwards, Denis. “The Discovery of Chaos and the Retrieval of the Trinity.”

Denis Edwards begins by pointing to a major shift in science: the old worldview is giving way to a new paradigm of an open and self-organizing universe. Similarly, in systematic theology the old concept of God as the individual Subject is giving way to a relational, dynamic, trinitarian concept of God.

The first part of Edwards’ paper explores the general concept of divine action from the perspective of what many are calling a “retrieved” trinitarian theology. In the West, trinitarian theology as inherited from Augustine and Aquinas emphasized an individual and psychological model of the Trinity rather a communitarian one. It focused on divine unity rather than three persons, and on divine being rather than divine love. The newer trinitarian theology builds instead on the writings of Richard of St. Victor and Bonaventure. Edwards outlines a theology of divine action which understands the Trinity as a communion of mutual relationships which are dynamic, ecstatic, and fecund. He argues that the universe is God’s trinitarian self-expression, that there are “proper” roles for the trinitarian persons in creation, and that divine interaction with creation is characterized by the vulnerability and liberating power of love.

The second part of the paper asks what this trinitarian theology of divine action has to say about particular divine actions, such as the incarnation, the Holy Spirit, and divine providence. Edwards explores these questions by assessing the views of John Polkinghorne and Arthur Peacocke. He finds both significant agreements as well as some disagreements between them, particularly over the issue of whether the unpredictability of chaotic systems points towards an ontological indeterminism in nature.

Edwards’ reflections can be summarized in the form of six statements: (1) The trinitarian God works in and through the processes of the universe, through laws and boundary conditions, through regularities and chance, through chaotic systems and the capacity for self-organization. (2) This trinitarian God allows for, respects, and is responsive to, the freedom of human persons and the contingency of natural processes, but is not necessarily to be denied a knowledge of future contingent events. (3) We must take into account not only the divine action of continuous creation, but also particular or special divine acts. (4) If God is acting creatively and responsively at all times and also in particular ways, then this seems to demand action at the level of the whole system as well as at the everyday level of events, and at the quantum level. (5) Particular divine acts are always experienced as mediated through created realities. (6) The unpredictability, openness, and flexibility discovered by contemporary science is significant for talk of particular divine action because it provides the basis for a worldview in which divine action and scientific explanation are understood as mutually compatible, but it is not possible or appropriate to attempt to identify the “causal joint” between divine action and created causality.

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