Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, September 23, 2021

What Does It Mean to be Human? - Pachyderms, Podcasts & Process




Imago Dei:
Pachyderms, Podcasts & Process

The question was raised in class "What Does It Mean to be Human?" Certainly an appropriate question given that we were studying the evolution of man from a theistic-anthropological perspective. But next came the ready answer, "Man has podcasts, has built towering edifices across the face of the earth, has transcended into the skies, moon, planets and beyond. Elephants do not give podcasts. They eat grass, wander about, and are elephants doing elephant things."

"Well," I thought, "What is the truer imago dei of God? Man or Elephants?"

From the classical Christian definition and predominant human outlook of science and mankind in general, it seems God has only designated man in His image:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock and over all the earth, and over every crawling thing that crawls on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that [ak]moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every animal of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.


Now from what I gather in the verses above, man, like the animals, are to be vegetarians, sire progeny, and be what they are. More specifically, God made man and woman in His own image, which is the typical Christian understanding of humanity.

But I wonder, how is God's image in man alone and not in the earth and cosmos He created? It feels like an unnatural distinction to simply conclude God's image can only be found in mankind.

"Well," says the teacher, "And why not? We have been given morality, language, and culture!" This makes us superior to all other created things. It is our natural right to rule over the heavens and the earth!"

And again I wonder, "If man is so high on the scale of morality then why have so many cruel, murderous, and hellish, things been done in God's image? Is God cruel, murderous, and hellish in who He is?" It seems that if the earth becomes any more full of us it will perish under our weight. Is God the kind of God who is destructive and known as the "Destroyer of All Things?" I thought God was good, and kind, and loving. But in man's image God seems to be just the opposite.

And what about this language thing? Can man sing like the songbird in the morning? Can he whisper like the wind through the early morning boughs of spring? Can he call his children together as the ptarmigan her brood on the mountain top? Where is man's speech in the rainstorm, the fire, the deeps of the ocean, or the smallest mews of the kitten under the warmth of its mother? Are these not God's image too?

And finally, man is said to have the ability of culture... but in my experience it has been because of cultural differences we dislike each other, ostracize and discriminate against one another, even go to war with each other under the banners of personal rights, liberties, and holy destruction... all in the name of God though in all cases its in the name of ourselves claiming divine power in the face of human greed, sin and evil.



No sooner had I thought this things another speaks up in class blaming sin and evil on all things - that God's imago in man is marred by sin, distorted by evil, unmirroring the Divine One Himself!

"My, my," I thought, "Here's comes the old Christian canard of blaming sin for the want of God's image become an ugly thing in the transfer." Christianity makes convenient excuses for its theologies. This one runs to the top of the list for many. It gives every ready reason for every ugly thing done by humanity to one another and to this earth we were to caretake.

And so, I thought, "If God's image in man of morality, language, and culture is the highest achievable image of God in creation, then we're all screwed. God must admit a catastrophic FAIL in His divine modus operandi, back up, reset the clock (the Christian teaching of Tribulation, Armageddon, and fiery end of the earth), start over (a new heavens and earth), and learn from his mistake that love and freewill just don't go together. The equation was prejudiced to failure from the start."

All questions of the future aside, I don't think God made a mistake. It is our failure to hear God so one-sidely in Genesis as to think that man alone was created in God's image and none other. Tell me of one artist who paints, sculpts, welds, or builds, who doesn't put their whole self into a project? If it comes from the hand of the artist, then it comes all without division of character.

I don't think of God as dipolar, bipolar, or bearing a personality disorder of some kind. But I do think of man as always hearing things in a selfish, prideful, haughty way. To only think in Genesis that man alone bears God image is to put to fine a touch on the brush of the Master. God's painting of the cosmos does include His imago dei... ALL of it. From the least quark to the largest star. From the smallest cell to the largest biological organism. Man is not alone in God's image. God's image is everywhere we look.

So let us redefine the Imago Dei once and for all from a process Christian outlook rather than by the tired Christian outlook of morality, speech, and culture. Let us see God's image in terms of:

  • creativity
  • novelty
  • relationship and relationality
  • connectivity to all and all back to its parts
  • feelings of connection to one and all
  • feelings of relationship and relationality
  • the ability to respond, react, readjust to external stimuli
  • the ability to affect and be affected by environment
  • to change, to continue forward, to remember the past

In all these attitudes one may find the qualities of creation throughout the qualities of God. A God who is impassable in character but passable in relationship to creation. A God who is deemed Sovereign of the universe but in the ways of partnering with His creation towards divine outcome rather than coercive determination and breaking His own "rules" as set by classical thinking.

And less we have missed the obvious, the limitation of Christian philosophy has always been it's human centric view of the world rather than its process-centered thought of seeing creation - of which we are a part - in its fullness together granting us no greater distinction than any of its parts. We all, as a creative organism, are part of God's imago dei with none of its parts any greater or less greater than the rest of its parts, stamped by God's image.

And like the elephant which does not speak on podcasts but just is in its beingness to what it is in relation to its environment, I don't think man has yet to learn how to be like the elephant. To be. To be content in who we are. To live in relation to nature in a way that is restorative, natural, and unharming.

As evolutionary "superior" creatures I suspect our pride and me-centeredness only sees elephants and trees, colonies of ants and pods of whales, as aspects of isolated normalcies rather than as integral necessities to one another living in balance with the earth's entropy.

We take away from all when we lift our species up higher than it really is. But if, like God, we are generative, good, kind, partnering with each other and creation around us, we might just learn how to be. How to become. How to relax, contribute, and discover purpose in place.


R.E. Slater
September 23, 2021



"Elephants don't listen to Podcasts; they have better things to do"



* * * * * * * *


The Majesty of the Elephant


















Episode 2: The Gentle Giants,
The Elephant




Elephants are the largest land mammal currently in existence. There are two main species of elephant:

  • African elephant (Loxodonta Africana)
  • Asian elephant (Elephant maximus)

History

Both species of elephant can trace their lineage back approximately 7 million years ago when they branched out from the mammoth to the two species we know today. Another ancient elephant-like species, the American mastodon, branched off the elephant family tree over 26 million years ago.

African elephants once roamed the entire African continent and number over 27 million. Today, the African elephant is isolated in small pockets in Central and Southern Africa and number less than 500,000.

CURRENT RANGE OF AFRICAN ELEPHANTS







Asian elephants historically have had smaller populations, but once roamed most of Southern Asia. In 1900 it was estimated there were over 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, Asian elephants are isolated in small pockets within Southern Asia and number around 40,000 animals.


Facts

There are many physical differences between African and Asian elephants (see infographic).


Elephants are incredibly intelligent creatures. They have a wide range of emotions and their intellect is comparable to dolphins and primates other than humans. They have been documented in grieving for their dead, to showing joy, love, anger and other complex behaviors. Typically, elephants are found in a matriarchal society, or those dominated by females. Mature males typically are isolated or live in small bachelor groups and only venture into a family group during the breeding season.

Male elephants enter a periodic condition called musth. During this period, secretions are running down along the sides of the elephant’s head, out of their temporal glands, and is a time when the bull elephant is highly aggressive. The causes of musth are currently not known, and everyone should take extra cautious around an elephant in musth.

MALE ASIAN ELEPHANT IN MUSTH


A large male elephant can eat up to 150 lb (70 kg) of food per day. Both species are herbivores and eat a variety of plants, branches, leaves, and even tree bark. Tusks are used to help dig up roots are strip trees of their foliage. The elephant’s trunk has over 60,000 muscles and is used to help eat, drink, communicate, bathe, amongst other uses. Elephants are crucial for local ecosystems and have been known to spread seeds father than most any other animal.

Elephant Conservation

Asian elephants are classified as endangered with a decreasing population. African elephants are listed as vulnerable and on their way to endangered status. Both species are under threat mainly from human encroachment. African elephants are under severe threat due to poaching and now almost 27,000 elephants are killed a year for their ivory tusks.

POACHING STATISTICS


What Can You Do?
  • Never buy ivory. Never!
  • Great read about Mr. Lawrence Anthony, the Elephant Whisperer mentioned at the end of the podcast here.


Index - Caring for the Land




Index - Caring for the Land



To cherish what remains of the Earth
and to foster its renewal
is our only legitimate hope of survival.

- Wendell Berry


There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

—Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by George Gordon Byron






Commentary - Wendell Berry

Sep 21, 2021

Sep 21, 2021

Sep 21, 2021


Sep 16, 2021

Sep 9, 2021






Aug 20, 2020







"The earth has music for those who listen"
- William Shakespeare


"And I dream of the vast deserts, the forests,
and all of the wilderness of our continent,
wild places that we should protect
as a precious heritage for our children
and for our children's children.
We must never forget that it is our duty
to protect this environment."

- Nelson Mandela



Conservation & Ecology


May 4, 2021







"As we progress into the twenty-first century,
anyone who considers themselves a realist
will have to make the environment a top priority."

- Leonardo DiCaprio


“To waste, to destroy our natural resources,
to skin and exhaust the land
instead of using it so as to increase
its usefulness,
will result in undermining
in the days of our children
the very prosperity which we ought
by right to hand down to them
[have] amplified and developed.”

- Theodore Roosevelt



Ecological Civilizations







Nov 17, 2020