Richard Beck has a post this week addressing “intellectual problems with petitionary prayer”, or to put the question another way: how does prayer “work”? He critiques a vision of God sitting at a distance from the world and being convinced to reach in and intervene in a Creation that otherwise ticks on autonomously. He calls this the “magic domino theory” - the idea that prayer is to get God to reach in and tip over the magic domino that knocks over other dominos to make things happen.

Beck’s latest book, as I understand it (having read his posts about it but not the book itself) argues for a re-enchanted view of the world. In this post he builds off of Gerard Manley Hopkins' line that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God”:

God isn’t at a distance. God’s energy and power suffuses creation. Creation isn’t ticking along autonomously, like a machine. Creation is alive and exists in an on-going radical dependence upon God. We are continuously bathed in God’s sustaining light and love, and should God ever look away from us we would cease to be.

Now I love this, but I am also internally screaming “but what does this really MEAN?” After a lifetime in fundamentalist evangelicalism being told to accept a broad disconnect between the reality of creation and the “mystery” of God in it, I need something more tangible.

This is where I appreciate being able to read Ilia Delio alongside Beck. Delio, I think, would agree with Beck’s vision of creation being imbued with God’s presence. But she would then start to talk about what that permeation might actually mean at a level of quantum mechanics. And this is so helpful to me because even though, to adapt Arthur C. Clarke, sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic, I need to at least conceptually be able to ground that “magic” (or to use Beck’s word, “enchanted”) view of God’s interaction with creation in the real, scientific world somehow.

And even though my understanding of quantum physics is quite limited, Delio’s push to bring theology into discussion with modern cosmology has been a key to my ability to stay within the stream of Christianity. I couldn’t deal any more with the disconnected, capricious, judgmental God that evangelicalism gave me. But that we could personify “God” as a conceptualization of the mysterious relational charge running through the fabric of the universe? That somehow uniquely enlightened and enlivened Jesus of Nazareth? That’s an approach that can unite my head and my heart as I (like everyone else) try to grapple with the mysteries of life.