In this episode of The Bible for Normal People Podcast, Pete and Jared talk with Ilia Delio about the relationship between God and science as they explore the following questions:
- When did science and religion come into conflict with one another?
- Should our understanding of science expand our understanding of God?
- How does evolution disclose who God is?
- Where did the idea that science and religion are opposed come from?
- How can reconciling science and faith be healing for us?
- What is God’s relationship to evolution?
- What should we use to understand God better?
- What are some problems with Darwinian evolution?
- How does God relate to physics?
- What does it mean that evolution is a complexification process?
- Are there some ways in which it is easier to keep science and religion at odds?
- What is quantum entanglement?
Pithy, shareable, less-than-280-character statements from Ilia Delio you can share.
- “What evolution tells us about God is God is not a God of fixed order, God is an order of love.” Ilia Delio
- “If you want to talk about an order or a logic to God, I think it’s the order and the logic of love.” Ilia Delio
- “There’s a correlation between evolution and the rise of consciousness itself.” Ilia Delio
- “The only way we can talk about God is really from creation and our own experience.” Ilia Delio
- “You can’t change creation without altering the understanding of the Creator.” Ilia Delio
- “God is a name that points to something that’s ungraspable… God is the horizon of being and therefore that horizon is always drawing us into discovery, into the knowing process.” Ilia Delio
Mentioned in This Episode
- Book: The Unbearable Wholeness of Being
- Website: The Omega Center
- Book: Love Matters More
- Patreon: The Bible for Normal People
Powered by RedCircleRead the transcript
Pete: You’re listening to The Bible for Normal People. The only God-ordained podcast on the internet. I’m Pete Enns.
Jared: And I’m Jared Byas.
[Jaunty Intro Music]
Jared: Welcome to the podcast everyone. Today, we are grounding God in evolution.
Jared: With Ilia Delio. Before we jump into that though, I would like to ground you in some knowledge –
Jared: About a book that I have coming out here, and I would very much appreciate you checking it out, it’s called Love Matters More: How Fighting to Be Right Keeps Us from Loving Like Jesus. We talk a little bit about love.
Pete: Mm hmm.
Jared: I have to say, I’m not as smart as Ilia when it comes to love, but, ya know, I gave it my best shot.
Pete: Yeah, you did.
Jared: So, check that out. You can go to our website, https://peteenns.com/, it’ll be there on the front page. You can go to https://www.jaredbyas.com/book/, you can just to your favorite place you order books and type it in, Love Matters More: How Fighting to Be Right Keeps Us from Loving Like Jesus, hope you check it out. Okay, Pete –
Pete: Yup, and love is, you know, a topic we go to in this podcast, but you wouldn’t think that with the title of “Grounding God in Evolution”. But yeah, Ilia Delio is just a fascinating person to talk to. When I first met her, you know, not personally, but I came across her thinking, because in part of a men’s group, a bunch of old weird Episcopalians, you know. I mean, I hope they’re listening, actually. But no, great bunch of guys. But we’re reading all sorts of interesting stuff, and one of the books that we have been reading and watching a lot of videos on is this book by Ilia Delio called The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love, which are things you don’t normally put in the same sentence, right Jared? So –
Pete: God and evolution? How about God against evolution love? What’s love got to do with it, right?
Jared: And she is, I mean, we have a lot of smart folks on here. She’s impressively smart, so, she’s a Catholic of the Franciscan Order, but she also is the endowed chair in theology at Villanova. But that’s sort of like, her second life.
Pete: She coaches basketball too.
Jared: Does she?
Pete: I don’t know. She’d probably be really good at it.
Jared: But the, I mean, her background, she has degrees, you know, undergraduate degree and graduate degrees in biology from Seton Hall. She has a Ph.D. in pharmacology from Rutgers, and then she joined a convent –
Jared: And eventually they asked her to go back to school, because apparently, she is really good at that.
Pete: You seem smart.
Jared: Yeah! So then she ended up getting a master’s degree in theology and a doctorate in historical theology. So, she’s uniquely positioned to bring these worlds together of science and religion and she does it in a fascinating way.
Pete: There are other people like that, but there really aren’t a lot of people who can speak with a sort of a studied authority in these two areas, either of which are not the easiest things to get ahold of. And you know, if you’re, you know, maybe new to what she’s going to say, I imagine a lot of people are, I was very new to this a few years ago when I started thinking about some of this stuff. But it’s, you know, I don’t mind saying, this is, okay. The word that comes to mind is hopeful. This is a hopeful way of thinking about our reality that we live in, the nature of God, and to think about God and to process all this in a way that doesn’t alienate you from your very existence. That sounds rather abstract, but, you know, if you have a God where everything around, where this God doesn’t explain or is not compatible with assumptions we make about every other area of existence, then that God’s not going to hang around for long. And, you know, there’s, this is not an apologetics kind of podcast, but, you know, I, people declare “I don’t think God exists anymore.” And I have to agree with them, because if the God you’re dealing with is one that can’t account for your experiences and the way the world is working around you, then maybe it is a problem to have a god like this.
Jared: Yeah, and to exonerate, you know, Nietzsche, Ilia in our episode mentions Friedrich Nietzsche who says God is dead, and for me that was like a bumper sticker kind of thing in my tradition, but that’s what Nietzsche is really talking about is this, and you’ll hear this in the episode, this Newtonian God, the God of mechanistic ways of thinking, black and white –
Jared: Order, not chaos.
Jared: That god is dead. And Nietzsche even says, hey, you don’t recognize it yet, because once you recognize it, it’s going to unmoor us in more ways than one.
Pete: And that god is dead, not because, hey, let’s just wake up one day and be liberal! But god is dead because –
Jared: Our understanding of reality has shifted fundamentally.
Pete: The word that comes to mind is [whispering voice] science. [Regular voice] Don’t tell anybody. See, that’s the thing. Science opens up our understanding of the reality of our existence, like, living in a functionally infinite universe with an infinite number of galaxies and stars, I mean, to start off with that, how do you conceive of God within that reality? That, I don’t mind telling you, that is like a question that has been on my mind for a very, very long time. I find people like Ilia Delio to be extremely thoughtful and helpful in opening up ways of thinking that can actually be, I think for people, at the end of the day, healing. Not antagonistic, but actually hopeful that, my goodness gracious, maybe this universe is just big and wonderful and –
Jared: And God can be there.
Pete: God is already there out ahead of us so to speak.
Pete: Not the past that we have to sort of keep dragging along, but in front of us sort of leading us on. And ironically science, I think, that is sometimes antagonistic to faith is something that can help us sort of see some of that bigness of everything.
Jared: And you know, one other thing I couldn’t help but think about that I have to bring in here before we get to the episode is I couldn’t help but think about our previous podcast guest with Brooke Prentiss and she said something really interesting from an Aboriginal –
Pete: The Aboriginal theologian, right?
Jared: Yeah, something very interesting. She said, you know, Aboriginal Christians, we start in Genesis 1 with God as Creator, most of the West starts in Genesis 3, and very human-centered –
Pete: And a problem to be solved.
Jared: And a problem to be solved. And I thought of that, I was like, it’s so interesting that what we think of as these primitive people groups often maybe connect with these deep, sophisticated, scientific worldviews in ways that are just now kind of coming to the surface. So, I just, a just new respect for that episode as well.
Pete: Yeah, God is sort of grounded in creation in Genesis 1. The thing is that our understanding of the nature of the creation… I almost said the created order, which is exactly the wrong thing –
Pete: But our understanding of the nature of creation is expanding and so maybe God should be thought of in a way that integrates with that. I guess that’s sort of –
Jared: Yeah, with what we understand of creation.
Pete: Well, that’s a rather long intro by us Jared, but that’s okay, because this is a different kind of episode, I think than we’ve ever done, and I think it’s really way cool.
Jared: I agree. All right, well, let’s let people hear it then.
Ilia: What evolution tells us about God is God is not a God of fixed order, God is an order of love; and if you want to talk about an order or a logic to God, I think it’s the order and logic of love. And if you’ve ever fallen in love, you know that love does not have a linear order. It may have a complexified order, it has a different logic, you know, it doesn’t work by analytical logic.
Jared: Welcome to the podcast Ilia, it’s great to have you.
Ilia: Thank you, I’m delighted to be here with you.
Jared: Yeah, so, we want to jump right into this question around faith and science, as Pete often says, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. But we want to start with, just give us a little history on these, this, you know, the odd couple here, where did it come from that these are at odds?
Ilia: Well, you know this idea that science and religion are in conflict or at odds with each other is actually relatively recent, and when I mean relatively, I mean within the last few hundred years. And I would say since the 16th century, this growing separation between science and religion has led, in the modern period, to seem as if they’re in conflict with one another. I think you know if you want to look historically, a watershed period is the Galileo affair. In other words, as we moved out of the Middle Ages and into the modern-period, we moved from a earth-centric or heliocentric universe, which was the one described by the Greek astronomer, Ptolemy, and we moved from that into a heliocentric universe described by Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler and others. And so that was our first paradigm shift, you know, that we’re not an earth-centric universe, we’re a sun-centered universe; now we know that we’re not even sun-centered. But that sun-centered universe caused a lot of problems, and one of the major problems historically was actually scripture. Because, if we go back to the beginning of Genesis, God created the heavens and the earth and at the sixth day, the human person was formed, and so the six days of creation were taken to be the order of creation as God intended it. Now once the earth was seen not to be stable and fixed but indeed moving around the sun, the big question was how will we interpret scripture? In other words, we would have to reinterpret things if everything is moving which means everything doesn’t have a fixed place. So, Galileo really, all he set out to do was to confirm the helio-centric universe because he had a very powerful telescope that could actually confirm this more scientifically than what Copernicus could do.
The Catholic church took real issue with that and basically condemned him saying that it was erroneous, in other words, you know, you could be thrown out of the church if you hold that the earth moves around the sun and the sun is center of the earth, which as Cardinal Bellarmine said, is contrary to scripture. So, they placed Galileo under house arrest, not too bad, not too shabby in Florence, Italy, truthfully.
Ilia: But this was also around the same time as the Protestant reformation. And so, I think, you know, from one side of history, the Catholic church was being threatened in terms of authority and obedience, right? You have the Protestant reformation, and now we have this, you know, radical heliocentrism. But after Galileo, we begin to see the rise of modern science. In other words, scientists were kind of delighted that they didn’t have to be under this heavy obedience of the church and having to answer everything to theology. So, science began to take off on its own, and religion sort of stayed fixed metaphysically in the Middle Ages. And the Protestant Reformation, of course, you know, as it began to develop in the various traditions, placed a much greater emphasis on sola scriptura, or scripture alone. In other words, meeting that word of God in scripture. And therefore, you could begin to see creation itself sort of drifting away from, you know, scripture, and I’ll get back to that in a minute. But interestingly, a lot of the great scientists in the 17th, 18th centuries, were Protestant scientists. So, it sort of liberated, you know, creation to be discovered. The three people who are associated with this conflict are not only Galileo, but Christopher Columbus, Charles Darwin is a big one –
Pete: Mm hmm.
Ilia: And I just want to take a minute there, because evolution really began to challenge the fixity of order, sacred order, you know, from scripture.
Pete: It’s the cosmos and also biological evolution, at least at first, biological.
Ilia: Exactly. So, and so cosmology and biological evolution were the two principal challenges to scripture and to understanding of sacred order. Of course, with Darwin, it was the idea that now we could identify mechanisms in nature to explain diversity, things like natural selection or adaptation. So, it looked more and more like God was losing a job in creation, right?
Ilia: God was going on unemployment.
Pete: [Continued laughter]
Ilia: And the idea was, well, who needs God to explain this stuff when now we can, you know, explain it scientifically. And it became very problematic, and I think it did lead to a backlash in terms of a literalism scripture, in other words, the fear of losing religion led to, I think, a kind of just doing the opposite. You know, ripping it with, you know, a tight fist so to speak. And so, the idea of literalism, you know, really emerges in the 18th/19th centuries, really places the literal word of God as the word. So, if God said, you know, let there, you know, the human was created on the sixth day, well, darn it, that’s exactly when the human was created.
Pete: Mm hmm.
Ilia: And so, we began to turn a blind eye to what science was telling us, you know, from the point of religion, and you see this growing separation of science and religion and I think quite honestly, if I can just say this here, that this growing gap between science and religion is at the heart of our problems today.
Ilia: And so, we have really unraveled ourselves. First, by not, you know, by allowing, not allowing science, by not tending to what science was telling us and then reacting to what science was telling us. Now, if I were to back that up a little bit, up to the 13th century, science and religion really worked together quite nicely. They formed a harmonious whole to the point where the big world, what we’d call the macrocosm, and the little world, the world of the human, were really synchronized. And some writers would speak of it as a musical harmony between the spheres and humanity. And then we can trace that back even further if we go all the way back to the Greeks, I mean, the human person learned what to do, in other words, affects was really based on cosmology.
In other words, how the heavens moved and how the stars moved gave us insight on wisdom and goodness and therefore kind of directed humanity to what was right and just in the polis, you know, in the human sphere. So, from the Greeks, you know, to the middle ages, we do see it would have been unthinkable, quite honestly, really unthinkable for the Greeks or early, early Christians to talk about science and religion as if they were two separate spheres. They would have said –
Pete: Can I interject here? I just want to make sure that I’m understanding are we sort of on the same page here. The, you don’t really have the conflict between science and faith for a large, you know, many, many years, you know, centuries from the Greek period to the Medieval period, and maybe, again, I’m trying, correct me if I’m wrong here, but a reason for that might be because there’s nothing in the science that challenges ones view of God or the gods.
Pete: They fit together nicely, right, there’s the order to the cosmos and there’s an order to theology and those two things sort of can support each other so you don’t really have the upheaval, like you might have had with Galileo, right?
Ilia: Right, correct.
Ilia: Yeah, I mean, truthfully, the order was really one order and from a Christian perspective, up to, certainly in the middle ages, theology was the queen of all sciences, so, all knowledge. So, science was known as natural philosophy. So, even natural philosophy was, in a sense, oriented toward theology. Everything came from God, God as creator, so all the order of creation would be oriented toward God. So, it would be unthinkable to think that science could have its own order apart from God, but after Galileo, that is what was begin to see. And it creates an artificiality, you know, in terms of creation and in terms of religion because one God, one creation. That’s how Genesis goes, right? It’s pretty simple.
Ilia: One God creates the whole kit and caboodle!
Ilia: You know, and we have so far strayed from that in the modern period that even the rise of modern philosophy is this, you know, this frantic search to find a new God because the old God seems to be, you know, dead as Nietzsche would say, because God got pushed out of the cosmos with the Copernican revolution, that’s really what happened, you know. We thought, hey, now we can explain all this stuff, who needs God as Lachmann said, or Diloplaus. And so, as we began to push God out of the cosmos, now we had an empty cosmos that needed explanation and there came philosophers, you know, they got a job in the modern period. And we have all sorts of, you know, different philosophies arising to explain why we exist or what we exist for, but it’s really a deep, deep theological gap that’s left by the pushing out of God by the rise of modern science. It didn’t have to be this way, I might add.
Ilia: If the Catholic church were just a little bit more willing to listen to Galileo and change.
Pete: But that means changing theology, that’s a very threatening thing.
Ilia: That is correct.
Pete: Yeah. Ain’t it thought?! I mean, you’re a Roman Catholic, you know this as well as anybody, but you know, Jared and I are both from Protestant traditions and Reformed Protestant tradition. But there is, the way we see it, Jared and I were talking about this, there are basically three postures that one can have as a person of faith towards science. One is that antagonistic posture, at least today, not historically, but today. And that’s one that we see commonly, and it usually boils down to Adam has to be a real person or the whole Bible is shot. Which is unfortunately, a little bit simplistic. But that’s really what it comes down to for many people. Another sort of what I would call, a mediating, sort of in the middle, gateway drug kind of position is, well, they’re compatible, let’s just not look at it too deeply. So, if you can find some way, some way to reconcile in a tweet length explanation the evolutionary data and the story of Adam or the big bang and the story of Genesis 1, you sort of have this uneasy truce between the two and as a friend of mine who works in this area puts it, it’s sort of like pinning the evolutionary tale onto the evangelical donkey. You sort of, that’s how you integrate, you just sort of add it onto. But others are saying, and I think, you know, you’re very much in this camp, that is not really an integration.
That is a very inadequate way of accounting for something that in other, that basically explains everything else about our reality, some sort of an evolutionary model whether it’s cosmological or geological or biological. It seems to be around us explaining, almost, well, pretty much everything we know at this point. And the integration comes with, I guess what you’re saying before, what is God like now in view of how we understand the nature of the cosmos. And go. Explain that. Do that. Talk to us. That, to me, that’s the big point. Like, how, okay, here’s what people will say. And talk people off the ledge, they’re ready to jump off a bridge because they’re saying I can’t let science affect how I think about theology. And what would you say to that person to save their lives?
Ilia: Ha. Uhhhh….
Jared: No pressure.
Ilia: Take five.
Pete: Yeah, right.
Ilia: Let’s go back to the models of relationship that you pointed to. In the 1960’s, Ian Barbour in his book Religion in an Age of Science devised four models to understand the relationship between science and religion. The first model he said, is the conflict model, which is the one that you’re pointing to in the beginning. Antagonism, that science and religion have nothing to do with one another, in fact, they conflict on certain levels. The next model, he said, is called the independence model, or non-overlapping magisteria. Science is science and religion is religion. They are separate domains with different languages, different ways of thinking about things, so don’t confuse them. Allow them just to be themselves and stop trying to make a problem here. The third model is the dialogic model, that science has something to say to religion and religion may have something to say to science, but they are still independent disciplines and should just have like, a friendly conversation sometimes. The fourth model is the integration model, meaning that, just to put it in the shorthand, science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind, and only together can we really understand the world in its unified existence. And so, that’s the model that I opt for.
Pete: Mm hmm.
Ilia: So, if we go back to the God/evolution question, right, so it’s how we’re going to address that question, is God opposed to evolution, is God something other than evolution, is God just in some kind of relationship with evolution, or does evolution give us new insight to who and what God is? So, I think part of the God question is how do we understand God? And that’s a philosophical question as well as a theological one. I mean, what are we using to bring understanding to God? Is it experience, is it Greek metaphysics, is it scripture and then is it a combination of all these things, right? So, if God, you know, says in Exodus 3:14, I Am who I Am, well, how do we understand that? What’s our understanding of “I Am”? Is God a big eye in relation to my little eye? Are we two eyes meeting eye to eye? Or, is God existence itself? I am really talking about beingness, which is what philosophers would say, right? God is existence, God is being. And if God is being, and science tells us a little bit better what being is, that it’s evolving, and by evolution I think that’s another word, you know, that needs a little bit unpacking because I think we hear the word evolution and the first image that comes to mind is a bearded man by the name of Charles Darwin and then a monkey next to him, right? So, our fear is we are monkeys. Just, you know, and like, how can we possibly hold evolution if we believe in God? Right? Because I’m not a monkey and I don’t descend from monkeys. God made me, I’m in the image of God. All of that is completely, quite honestly, just erroneous. It’s just overly simplified and it’s not correct.
At all! For one thing, evolution, the word comes from the Latin ēvolvēre, meaning unfolding. It’s sort of like a scroll. And that’s very consonant from what we know from big bang cosmology. Space time is not something that’s set in stone, right? That’s what Einstein sent to Newton. Sorry, you’re wrong. There is no thing as space and time. But space time is what’s forming.
Ilia: And so, the whole universe itself is like a scroll. It’s like, unfolding. And on a biological level that’s what life does, it unfolds from simple to more complex. And there’s a beauty to that, there’s a tremendous goodness, because as it unfolds, it actually builds up towards greater unities, things move from say, little bacteria to little cells and then to multicellular organisms and then to, you know, to organs and then eventually into creatures. And with that, what we find is a whole rise of consciousness, which is really quite fantastic, and that’s where we’ll have to talk a little bit about what physics is telling us today.
Pete: Well, yeah. I mean, let’s do that. I mean, either now or at some point, because I think consciousness is just such an importance concept that keeps coming up.
Ilia: Huge! Right, so you know, one of the problems with Darwinian evolution is it explains material existence without mind. It can’t explain the mind. And so, there’s all sorts of problem with Darwinian evolution, but in the early 20th century, you know, one of the key findings in physics was coming out of Einstein’s special relativity theory that matter is, in a sense, a form of energy and energy is a form of matter while conserving mass. So, this interconvertibility of matter and energy was a real, very novel finding because what it led to the reality is, is that all matter is really energy and all energy is, in a sense, a type of matter. And so, you know, the way scientists begin to understand matter and energy was they did experiments like the double slit experiment where they would place two slits in a wall and shoot a beam of electrons or a beam of particles and then realize that they couldn’t tell on the other side, like, where would the particle was. You know, unless they actually measured it because they got this funny wave pattern, particle wave interference pattern. And so, what science began to posit is hey, I need to actually be conscious and aware of what I’m measuring in order to make a determination, and it’s the first realization that consciousness plays a fundamental role in the realization of materiality or matter. And so, since that time, we have developed a number of models to say that mind is not something separate from matter. Like, matter is not just some brute thing, you know, just not innard stuff. There seems to be a level of consciousness, our mind already within matter itself. And we don’t know what this means, I mean, scientists couldn’t say one iota really what is consciousness, we don’t know. That it exists, that we know. Some posit that the universe is consciousness itself, but what we do know is that as matter complexifies, and that’s another word in evolution and an important word, evolution is a complexification process. And by complexity, we mean that the degrees of relationality increase over time. That we move from simple relationships to multi-relationships, and as relationships get more multiple, what we find is that consciousness seems to rise. So, there’s a correlation between evolution and the rise of consciousness itself, which is a very interesting phenomenon.
Pete: Yeah, so, I mean, can we get back to this double slit experiment?
Pete: Because that’s, I mean, that’s maybe not would fall off everyone’s tongue, necessarily. And again, correct me if I’m simply misunderstanding it, but the observer affects what they see?
Pete: Is that sort of? Okay.
Ilia: That is correct.
Pete: So that, that’s sort of what, if I’m understanding correctly, that is sort of a way, maybe, of boiling down this issue of how the mind and matter are not really separate. They’re integrated in some deep way –
Ilia: They’re two –
Ilia: Yeah. They’re two forms of the same reality.
Pete: That’s a game changer. I’m sorry, that’s a big idea, right?
Ilia: Uh huh.
Pete: I mean, this should affect an awful lot of stuff that we think about.
Ilia: Uh huh, including God, by the way.
Pete: Including, well that’s just it, right? I mean, that’s why, I don’t know, it’s so much easier to stay in conflict mode for people. You know, because it’s sort of black and white, it’s the way I’m used to looking at the universe. But, what you’re saying is that our science should really, we need a God who can keep up with it.
Ilia: Absolutely, right. Because there’s a two-way thing here, right? The only way we can talk about God is really from creation in our own experience, right? You know, the early Christian writers would say that nature is the first book of Revelation. I think that’s what Genesis is about, by the way, you know.
Ilia: So, how do we know God? Well, we can observe the things of nature. And so, as our understanding of nature changes, our understanding of God changes because guess what? God is the God of creation. So, you can’t change creation without altering our understanding of the creator. These two things go together, and when we start fixing God in certain categories while we’re on our web, you know, our phones and internet computers, and so, we’re all part of the great scientific technological age, but we fix God in some box. I’m like, dude, this doesn’t work, ya know.
Pete: So, we’re fixing God in a box that was created –
Ilia: By us.
Pete: By us, with, based on a different way of looking at creation.
Ilia: Yes, based on some age that no longer exists, based on a Newtonian world, based on what we then knew about science or philosophy or the natural world.
Ilia: And that’s the whole thing, like, we actually, I think the poor human brain is probably in some kind of cognitive dissonance, you know, it’s sort of like a split brain, you know. We have God lodged on one side of the brain, and then we have the scientific world on another side of the brain. But this is all, this is all our own construct in undoing it ourselves.
Pete: Yeah, that’s so common. I mean, Jared and I, we both see this where the so-called integration of science and faith usually goes something like this: well, how can I make evolution fit with my theology? Well, I’ve got the God thing down. That’s the part that does, I mean, I know that because the Bible says x, y, and z. Now, how can I bring evolution into that to make it fit, and when you make it fit, you’ve done your job.
Ilia: There we are! Right? God fits into my, the problem with God, I really worry when people talk so assuredly about God. First of all, it’s a name that points to an incomprehensible mystery, right? In other words, if I think that I know God, I mean, I’ve got God in my hand, I don’t think we have God at all. I have something of my own projection, maybe, but that’s not God. God cannot be the Great I Am and then at the same time, held in the palm of my own hand and at my own disposal. So, you know, God is a name that points to something ungraspable. God is the horizon of being, and therefore that horizon is always drawing us into discovery, into the knowing process. So, the first thing I’d like people to do is get over trying to control God, because you don’t have God. You know, Meister Eckhart, the Dominican, said I pray God to get rid of God, because the God we think we have is not God, it’s our God. We’ve created that God and we project onto that God. You can’t grasp God, God is ungraspable, but God grasps us, that is, I think that’s what grace is about. But going back to the evolutionary question, you know, I think a lot of people fear, it’s not fitting God into evolution, it’s how does evolution disclose now who and what God is? How can we know now from a world of complexity, a world of change, a world that is constantly in a sense, in fluidity of relationships, what does this tell us about God? That’s the theological question.
Jared: So yeah, can maybe, let’s try to get real practical here, and I know that may be challenging, but you’ve set up something, I think, that’s interesting. Like, we have a modern science and we have a Newtonian God. What are some practical ways that people can update their view of God that would bring it into, you know, post-Einstein science ways of thinking about the universe and the world? Are there some practical ways to say, you know, there’s all this science, and I think a lot of people aren’t going to be able to track with the science of it because it gets really complicated quickly, but there is, maybe, a way that people can say, yeah, this is a Newtonian view of God, this is more of a quantum view of God or something like that.
Ilia: Well, I think, you know, it’s when we box God, it’s a Newtonian God is a closed system God. So, it’s good and bad; God will bless me if I’m good, God will punish me if I’m bad. It’s right and wrong; you know, what they did was right, what they did was wrong. It’s, you know, the judgement thing; you know, God’s going to judge who’s gonna be saved and who isn’t going to be saved. That’s not God. I mean, at all, because that’s our own fears of what, you know, our own judgement I think sometimes. So, a Newtonian God is a very boxed in God into, and I would say this, it’s binary thinking. That’s about as simple as I can say it. It’s yes and no, in and out, saved and unsaved, heaven and hell, grace –
Pete: Black and white, very clear…
Ilia: Very clear, right.
Pete: No ambiguity.
Ilia: No, that’s it. So, maybe the difference between the Newtonian God and Einstein’s God is Newton’s God is very clear, black and white. Einstein’s God gets a little murky and ambiguity. So, it’s from binary thinking to the ambiguous God, you know, like maybe I don’t really know who you are. Maybe I can leave open room for God doing new things, so, Einstein’s God can do new things. It’s a God of spontaneity, a God of creativity, a God who’s never really in order but always slightly in disorder. So, we don’t think of God as actually a God of chaos, a God who is living always on the edge, but that is actually the God of Einstein’s world. A God who is always on the edge, spontaneously doing new things because this God is a future. This is not a God who’s just of the past, this is not a God who’s living in history, this is a God who’s creating into a new future.
Jared: And you know, that, the words that come to mind when I think of that too, and I don’t want to let theology off the hook completely, but I also think that a lot of our social sciences, if I maybe can speak that broadly, haven’t caught up to this Einsteinian world. And, because I think of other things, like what you’re describing is this idea of a static, like, the Newtonian God is really a projection of how we see ourselves.
Jared: And we as selves are static and, you know, I know the difference between me and Pete. Pete, you are there; I am here. The same me that’s here today was the same me of ten years ago, and that’s still, you know, you could take kind of religion out of it and we’re still in some social way, in how we think about our world, very Newtonian.
Jared: And this Einsteinian, I don’t know what word we’re using here, is more dynamic and that’s a process, that’s change, that’s seeing the self as this bundle of energy that’s constantly changing and this atoms that are constantly colliding and the same self now isn’t the self of five years ago in any reasonable way of talking about it. Is that a fair way of broadening that?
Ilia: Absolutely. Yeah, in fact if you want a practical example, you could just take our own present pandemic crisis that we’re in and, you know, I won’t go into why I think we might have gotten here, but here we are in a crisis –
Ilia: And what is the predominant news? When will we return to normal?
Pete: To normalllllll.
Jared: Mm hmm.
Ilia: Because normal, well, who defines normal? Normal is our everyday routines, right? I get up, I go to work, I work ‘til five o’clock, I come home, I have supper. That is a Newtonian world, right? And so, we live very much in Newton’s universe still to this day, and we can’t understand, you know, if something happens to us, we should be able to get over it, you know, get a vaccine or get some science to cure this thing so we can go back to normal. In Einstein’s world, there is no normal. That is the point. It’s not a closed universe, it’s an open systems universe, which means if we can get over our need to get back to normal, we actually may move into a more sustainable existence together. And we need to begin to understand how life, what science tells us, is life works according to relationality. It works according to creativity. So, we might think of new ways we may be able to reduce our, you know, ecological footprint, the way we might be able to, you know, increase our shared resources. But we’re not thinking at all like that, we just want to go back to normal, get back to work, and like, life resumes on automatic pilot. That’s Newton’s world, it’s going to kill us quite honestly.
Pete: Right, right. And it’s, when Christians defend it, that’s doubly tragic in a way.
Ilia: Well yes, because God, you know, God created this order like Newton’s world and you know, we have to get back on track to that order –
Ilia: When, in fact, God is not at all in that order. God is in the disorder and that’s, we don’t understand what evolution tells us about God is God is not a God of fixed order, God is an order of love. And if you want to talk about an order, or a logic to God, I think it’s the order and the logic of love. And if you’ve ever fallen in love, you know that love does not have a linear order.
Ilia: It may have a complexified order –
Ilia: It has a different logic, you know? It doesn’t work by analytical logic.
Pete: Yeah, I mean, let’s get into that in a second because I was hoping to get to love, because that’s sort of like, that put’s a cap –
Jared: It’ll happen one day Pete, it’ll happen.
Pete: One day I’ll learn how to love.
Pete: But it puts a nice, it’s sort of the goal of all this, so to speak. It’s the driving energy and the goal, and I’d love for you to talk about that. Before we get to that, let’s go beyond Einstein and I’d like you, if you can, as succinctly as possible, to define quantum physics.
Pete: Like, what is that, and if you could use something like quantum entanglement –
Ilia: Mm hmm.
Pet: As an example to illustrate, basically, the weirdness of the universe that an ordered, Newtonian world doesn’t simply catch up to, it can’t handle this stuff.
Pete: That might be very helpful to our listeners.
Ilia: Okay. So, you know, quantum physics in a nutshell, I’m not a physicist per se, but I can tell you my brief definition of it. I think it came out of the idea that matter is substance, you know, like, the idea of little atoms or like atoms in the shape of billiard balls, and again, I think those who began studying electromagnetism and light in the early 20th century realized that, you know, a particle can also exist in the form of a wave. So, quantum physics is this wave particle duality due to the interconvertibility of matter and energy. All matter is a form of energy and all energy is a form of matter. So, rather than billiard balls of matter, we have energy or deep relationality. I think what quantum physics points to is the intrinsic relationality of all cosmic life because it’s really filled with fields of energy. And so, what that means is that matter, there’s no matter that exists independent of any other matter. It’s all deep relationality interconnected, fields within fields, and fields of energy. Which means as Paul Dirac said, you know, if I pick a flower on earth, I can move the farthest star. Now, the idea of quantum entanglement was an idea that was first a thought experiment by Einstein and his students that said, well, you know this is really true, that means that if I take two particles that have interacted and I separate them by vast, vast differences and I place, say, one particle on my desk here in Pennsylvania and the other particle on the moon, and if I turn this particle, say, 180 degrees on my desk, the particle on the moon should turn 180 degrees down. Einstein said, I’m not sure on that and his students said, yep, I think that’s true! And that experiment was later shown to be true by John Bell, that particles that have been separate by vast, vast distances will affect one another.
Pete: They’re not communicating, right?
Ilia: They’re not communicating, no, but they’re reciprocally related and if you affect one, you will affect the other.
Ilia: Instantaneously, right. They are –
Pete: So, speed of light means nothing?
Ilia: I mean, it’s really interesting. They can’t exceed the speed of light, but you know, I mean, again, the way things scientists, I don’t think science has really figured out how these two particles can actually affect one another, but in fact, they do. But we also, this quantum entanglement is very much operative, even on human life. So, the idea that say, for example, I could, you know, get really angry at someone or do something really nasty to someone, our Newtonian way of thinking said well, that’s just this person I really don’t like and I’m going to tell him or her off. But, in an entangled world, my interacting with this person in a negative way could actually have, you know, vast ramifications on other energy fields. Right? So, whoever I’ve interacted with, you know? So, I think quantum entanglement says that we are all, in a sense, in this cosmic wholeness together. And therefore, our actions are not separate and discreet, they affect others. Even –
Pete: That affects – yeah, go ahead.
Ilia: Even our thoughts affect others.
Ilia: Our thinking something… If we have been interacting with someone then I can say, ‘Gee, I wonder how Pat is doing.’ You know, and then in a half an hour I get a phone call or an email from Pat saying I was just thinking about you and that’s how kind of weird it is. So, quantum entanglement is known as spooky action at a distance –
Ilia: Or nonlocal action at a distance.
Pete: I was going to say, you know, how you think about each other and I was, the first time that I began thinking about this on a very elementary level, but, it affects prayer, how you even think about the notion of what prayer is and what it does.
Pete: It’s not speaking to a divine butler up there to do something for you to something over there. There’s actually a deeper sense of interconnectedness where everything is interrelated. Everything is integrated.
Pete: And God is in there somewhere, but again, this might be too simplistic a question, but God is deeply enmeshed in everything, right?
Pete: Matter, energy, but God isn’t matter and energy.
Ilia: Correct, right.
Pete: Can you, because I think that may be something that people have questions about. This sounds really great, but it sounds like we’re not really left with anything that we can call God if this God is indistinguishable from, you know, from the coffee cup in front of me.
Pete: And a relationship. Yeah, right.
Ilia: Yeah, so just going back to that point of prayer, I think that’s really good. You know, I think prayer is quantum entanglement with divine energy, and so that you know prayer does, you know, intercessory prayer is quantum entanglement, that’s a really good way to look at it. People often ask, do my prayers for someone really make a difference? And I’m like, yes, they do. Now, in terms of God being entangled, that’s exactly, I think that’s what creation is. I think creation is the entanglement with God. What do I mean by that? God’s life affects our lives and our lives affect God’s life. Is God really just part of my coffee cup and my matter? Well no, God is God. And yet, how do we understand this? I think two things here, and one is the Trinity, God is relationality. In other words, the Trinity is not just like three men at a tea-party that God has, you know, a social committee with.
Ilia: God is relationship. God is personal. God is communicative. And the second is the incarnation, in other words, the Trinitarian relationality of God is what the incarnation is about and, therefore, the incarnation says, hey, God is not something separate and distinct from matter. God is united and one with matter. I think that’s the significance of the person of Jesus Christ. Which means that all matter matters to God and God is in then, in some way, entangled with all matter. And you know, one way we want to distinguish pantheism, all matter is God, from panentheism, God is in all matter and all matter is in God, but God is not all matter and all matter is not God. And you know, well we say, what does this mean? Well, we mean that everything that exists has, we might say, a divine dimension of depth to it, a divine depth dimension, and that means that it’s opened out to an eternal source, it’s opened out to infinity, and yet it’s finite. And it’s a paradox, right? So, I think the God/world relationship is a paradox, it’s mystery I think we can’t, we don’t want to conflate or reduce God to matter, but at the same time matter does have a divine dimension to it, a God dimension we could say. And that’s what makes the world holy. It’s not holy because it has a divine stamp, like, you know, the Good Housekeeping seal on it, that seal is God’s presence. I think that’s what the incarnation means to us. So, I would like to see us kind of get into a new consciousness that the human person is holy, that God is there in this person. This person reflects the face of God. This leaf expresses God’s wisdom and glory. So, that this creation is not just stuff, you can’t just chop it down or chop it up and throw it out, that everything that we’re doing here affects God’s life because that life, God’s life, is our life. So, I don’t know if that helps, but –
Pete: Oh boy, does it.
Jared: Yeah, well, and there’s… so, maybe we can swing back around to the idea of love here the idea of love here, because there’s a lot of language that maybe doesn’t lend to love. I mean, I’m just thinking like, it’s not when I think of quantum mechanics, I’m not thinking love and relationality and, you know, that sort of thing. So how do you connect the dots?
Pete: I’m still thinking a lot of mass.
Jared: Yeah, right. Exactly.
Ilia: Well, I have to tell you, one of the people that I use, one of the thinkers that I use quite often in my work, who was a scientist, is the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. And he was a full-fledged scientist, a paleontologist, his day work was digging up old bones, but he wrote, he began to understand matter from the point of what physics was telling us, that there’s an energy in matter that’s pulling things together and he began to conceive of the idea that the most fundamental energy of all matter, in other words, why does this cell attract to this cell, right? It’s not just a random attraction, there seems to be a center-to-center attraction. And therefore, he said even in the smallest of molecules that love is there as the energy of attraction and the energy of unity. So, he would not see love as the sentiment or emotion that we, like God, we actually conflate love and reduce it and constrict it to us.
But love is an energy, that’s what Teilhard was saying to us, it’s the prime energy of all matter itself, and that is something that science cannot really explain, why there is this irresistible force of attraction in the universe, no matter where you look, in fact, that is what evolution is at the heart of it. It’s an irresistible force of attraction to a greater complex, to a greater complexified life. And Teilhard said that’s because the universe is based on the structure of love, on the energies of love. So, we’re kind of the happy recipients who are conscious of love. And so, he’s saying that on even levels much lower than us that are protoconscious, that love is there as the prime energy, and therefore, we come into the consciousness that this love then, is, in other words, the absolute horizon of this love is God. So, there’s a seamless flow in Teilhard’s thought from the very basis of life beginning with the Big Bang to the human person, and then to the disclosure of God.
Pete: So that is the, Christians use the word, the telos, the goal, the purpose of all this. I mean, how would you describe that? Again, briefly because, I mean, we could go over this for hours –
Ilia: Yeah, right. So, you know –
Pete: What’s the point of the universe I guess is what I’m asking you.
Ilia: What’s the point of it all, right?
Pete: In two sentences. Go ahead.
Ilia: Yeah, so, I you know, I think from the point of process theology and process thought and this way, I think, you know, we are in relationship with the very dynamic God, a God who is creative and a God who is love. I think love is the creativity of life itself and, therefore, where are we headed towards? And I think we’re headed towards, we might say, the fullest consciousness of being in love. And that is, I think, then becomes the embrace of all life, which is, I think, what I think we may call heaven. Heaven is not a place, heaven is the openness of earth to its fulfillment, what it’s capable of in relation to God. And therefore, I think we are oriented toward, I think, a maximization of love in this, it’s like as if you became really fully aware of this full embrace of love in the whole of cosmic life. I think as Saint Paul says, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard all that God has prepared.” You know, because I think our little brains get really, we’re a little bogged down with, you know, our very narrow ways of thinking about things. But we are oriented toward, I think, a complete awareness of the fullness of love, and that’s God.
Jared: Well, I think we, Pete and I could talk about this for hours more, but I think it’s a great place to wrap up with this doxology toward love and a greater consciousness of love, but I do know that a lot of our listeners, this is going to be some of the first times that they’re hearing some of this. This is going to be way over their heads, so can you point people to some of the work that you’ve done so people who are interested, but, you know, they want to learn more. Where can you point people toward for that?
Ilia: Well, Jared, I run a website called the Omega Center and I write a lot of blogs, very short pieces there. We have Omega groups; you can join a discussion group. We have various videos, in case there’s anything, you know, if nothing made sense here this afternoon, you can watch a video. But the point of the Omega Center is to help us deepen an awareness of a dynamic God who is entangled with us in this dynamic universe where love is the heart, love is the root reality of all life in the universe. So, I would direct people toward the Omega Center. Then I have a score of books if they’re really into this, they can start reading the books.
Jared: Excellent, yeah. We’ll make sure we point people to that after here in our outro. But, is there any, can you maybe give a final word of just a practical first step, besides reading, that would help someone maybe move from a Newtonian view of God to this quantum view of God.
Ilia: Yeah, you know, I think the first thing really is let God be God. I would say, very simply, let go, let God. Here I think prayer is really important. In other words, coming to know yourself, like what’s the heart of your life. What’s at center? And then, growing, to really growing into a God who is deeply in love with us. Right? Deeply related to us. And we know, if you’re parents or whatever, that where there is deep love, you know, we may get things wrong, we might go astray, but that love is always faithful, always present. So, I would say do not fear of letting go of your old Newtonian God, God would be perfectly at home with that. God will probably have a party actually.
Ilia: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Ilia: Let go and let God be God and enjoy! I mean, really enter into a God who is dynamic and not static. Not this elderly male figure who is playing chess, you know, in heaven. This is a God who is deeply engaged in our lives.
Jared: Sorry to all the chess players who are listening. No offense.
Jared: Well, Ilia, this just has been delightful. It’s just been such a different world of thinking about God and I think it’s much needed. You know, Pete and I talk about these kind of things quite a bit, so I think it’s just great for everyone to hear it. Really appreciate you coming on.
Pete: Yeah, very much.
Ilia: Oh sure. My pleasure. Nice to be with you guys.
Pete: Yes. Thank you, Ilia.
Jared: See ya.
Pete: Alright folks, thanks again for listening to this episode. I’ve had a lot of fun; hope you have had some fun too. And again, if you want to learn more about Ilia, the book that I mentioned before is The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love and also the website she mentioned, Omega Center, that is a lot of wonderful and bite-sized information to be gleaned from that because she really does want to connect with normal, weird physics for normal people, that’s sort of what we’re dealing with here.
Pete: You know, evolution for normal people.
Jared: Good. Well, and before we go, we always want to give a shout-out and a thanks to our team, we couldn’t do what we do without them, so thanks to Tessa Stultz, creative director; Dave Gerhart, our audio engineer; Reed Lively, marketing and administration; Megan Cammack, our producer here at the podcast; and Stephanie Speight, who transcribes all of our episodes. Thank you so much, we’ll see everyone next time.
Pete: See you.
[End of recorded material]