What does Elizabeth Johnson learn about God’s presence from reading Darwin?

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Elizabeth Johnson regards the work of Charles Darwin as illuminating the relationship between God and His creation. Her close reading of The Origin of Species is intended to utilize certain of Darwin's key biological findings to provide a deeper insight into the Christian faith, especially in relation to God's presence.

In Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, Johnson argues for an imminent theology that eschews the more traditional anthropocentric approach and focuses instead upon the natural world around us. On this reading, the world we inhabit is no longer merely a backdrop to the unfolding of the great drama of humanity; it is an expression of God's infinite, self-giving love. Johnson decisively rejects the notion of God as a transcendent monarch who brings the universe into existence by an act of divine fiat. Instead, she presents God as truly a God of love, an imminent God, whose loving presence in His creation allows the universe “to evolve by its own natural powers, making it a free partner in its own creation.”

The very freedom to evolve granted to nature by the Almighty is an expression of God's overflowing love. Just as the universe that God created constantly evolves, so too does His love. It reaches down through Christ's incarnation deep into the most minute, elemental levels of physical reality. It is this incarnational aspect of the Nicene Creed—"For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made human”—that constitutes the ultimate expression of God's love for His creation, and Johnson argues that this is reflected in Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

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