Cosmic Prayer and Guided Transformation – review
Cosmic Prayer and Guided Transformation: Key Elements of the Emergent Christian Cosmology, by Robert Govaerts, August 2012. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick, 226 pages, ISBN 978-1-6109-860-6. RRP £17.00
Govaerts presents a Christian cosmological vision for all creation which envisages humanity in a process of transformation towards what God intends exemplified uniquely in Jesus: care and desire for justice for all creation. Govaerts enumerates this vision in dialogue with Scripture, Hellenistic thinking, traditional Christian theology, particularly Maximus the Confessor (580-662), process and new theology as well as scientific understandings of evolution.
Govaerts emphasises personal transformation through prayer and divine guidance by which we develop virtues fit to bring about God’s will. This raises some concerns for me. For example, how does a single isolated mother with three young children without a partner living in a high rise block of flats fit into Govaerts’ contemplative/prayer centred vision? Christians might offer her respite so she can go out with some friends for an hour and thus in some way facilitate more intimate community.
The doctrine of the Trinity is important to Govaerts and is characterized by God’s self-giving, suffering, love and compassion. This theory of the Trinity is popular among many Christians concerned with both social and ecological justice with its emphasis on God as loving community. This discussion provides a helpful overview of scholarly views such as Moltmann and Fiddes.
It is argued that creation is in continuous process. All creation longs for communion with the Holy Trinity and for personalization within the Trinity (134). Through this longing for God, creation is being guided by God to be at one with his will (150). This view rejects a deterministic view of creation as well as creation as finished or that God is micromanaging creation. Indeed, creation as in process is part of God’s creative intentions and that this provides a reason for Christians being involved in the world through living obediently in such a way to facilitate what God intends.
This book challenges the notion of human kind’s distinctiveness as rooted in its rational abilities (99). Hierarchy often is based on rational abilities and dominate our attitudes towards creation leading to those in the upper echelons domineering over all others. A key symptom of this hierarchy is the encouragement of self-empowerment among individuals. This perspective leads to inequality and increasing suffering for many others. Govaerts rightly argues that humans are to be defined by their capacity for a communal life rooted in God’s nature as community and culture based in prayer, care, love, and joyfulness.
In summary, this book is not an easy read and I wonder whether Govaerts could have made his argument more palatable by limiting his scope of disciplines. It strikes me, for example, that Scripture alone would have amply supported his argument albeit without the developed Trinitarian ideas. But still this is a valuable presentation of a Christian cosmological vision that can indeed motivate many of us to seek justice for all creation and a very useful resource for anyone dealing with Trinity or Maximus the Confessor.