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

Sunday, June 20, 2021

How Do You See the Kingdom of God?


Notes from a dear friend

Russ, here is my summary of N.T. Wright's teaching on the Kingdom of God. Am I summarizing him correctly?


"It assumes that Israel's God was the world's true ruler. Israel's God would rule Israel in a whole new way returning in Power and Glory, to rescue His people, rebuke the wicked, and set up a new rule of justice and peace. Torah would be fulfilled at last, The Temple would be rebuilt and the Land cleansed. Israel's God would rule in the way He always intended through properly appointed persons and means. By implication the rest of the world will also be ruled through Israel whether for blessing or judgment. Promised Kingdom of God as promised throughout Psalms, Isaiah 40-55, and the Book of Daniel. The people in Jesus' day had long cherished hope for a new exodus out of the exile that began with the Babylon Captivity in 597 BC, a new Temple, a reconstitution of the 12 tribes, a renewal of the Covenant, a national forgiveness of sins, the release from captivity, an epoch of peace and justice and an end of foreign rule. Through Jesus, God was now unveiling his age-old plan." - Anon 

How Do You See the Kingdom of God?
by R.E. Slater


Having been raised (i) in a fundamentalist dispensational church, then (ii) attending a public university to hear dispensationalism preached all over again at both a on-campus Christian campus ministry and an off-campus fundamentalist bible church, and (iii) once again when transferring from university to study the bible at a fundamentalist private bible college - let's just say I am exquisitely familiar with the charts, diagrams, prophecies, themes, and hopes of Christians and their "Biblical" Systems attempting to organize the themes and eschatology of the bible (known as the "Day of the Lord" in the OT).

For the sake of argument let's simply say there are two prominent schemas of the bible which denominations have proposed and actively promote. One is the dispensational system and the other is the covenant schema of the bible. Certainly there are many more... both as variations of these systems as well as completely different from these systems... depending on your beliefs, religion, and historical roots.

In my graduate year of Seminary (M.Div, New Testament Studies) my capstone project under Dr. Carl Hoch, Jr., was to summarize the bible thematically. I believe we came up with eleven separate themes of the bible as a class where eschatology was woven in-and-out-and-around all eleven themes. Essentially we did not stipulate an eschatological system except through the major themes of the bible which also spoke to God, Christ, and divine purposes, goals, or aims as we could fathom.


Before beginning what I would like to mention here are a number of ways to miss what the bible is saying by getting too wrapped up into systemizing it's component parts. Probably the easiest way to graph or chart the bible might be by stating there are two testamental era... (i) one before the cross of Christ and (ii) one after the cross of Christ. However, even in this observation there are some sects which espouse three testaments or even four testaments depending on how they look at the bible's canon. The Jewish bible (e.g., the OT) has three parts:
The Hebrew Bible is organized into three main sections: the Torah, or “Teaching,” also called the Pentateuch or the “Five Books of Moses”; the Neviʾim, or Prophets; and the Ketuvim, or Writings. [As a collection] they are often referred to as the Tanakh, a word combining the first Hebrew letter from the names of each of the three main Jewish divisions.

Know this let me suggest some other ways to divide the bible...

  • Two Testaments: One Bible;
  • by observing Covenantal Continuities v. Discontinuities (based upon the covenanted community at the time in transition per historical era, such as early tribal Israel, pre-kingdom Israel, kingdom Israel, exiled Israel, the InterTestamental Age, Jesus in Roman Israel, Jesus in Resurrection, or the Church after Jesus' death and future coming);
  • Christologically as seen within each of the Covenants in either Testamental period; known as The Christ of the Covenants;
  • perhaps via various schemas of Millenialism (none, pre-, mid-, post-trib, amill);
  • or by God's promises to His covenanted people themselves, better known as Remnant Theology;
  • by the tension between the Here-and-Not-Yet, described as the Presence of the Future;
  • or reading the NT through the eyes of the OT; or, the OT through the eyes of the NT; sic, Jewish v Christian; summarized in the New Perspectives of Paul.
  • perhaps by the biblical themes of Messianic Hope;
  • or themes of Gospel v Law as Contrast or Continuum? between the covenants;
  • there also have been studies of the bible from the perspective of God's Covenanted People: God's promises to Israel (kingdom communities) as versus God's promises to the Church (ecclesiological communities): Israel and the Church;
  • or perhaps of Christ-as-the-MidPoint-of-History (sic, Christ in Time: theophanies, prophecies; thematic pictures of Christ in the OT, etc);
  • then there is God's Design of Creation, Salvation, and Well-Being mostly focused on viewing the covenants for differences in legal pact, formation, geography, and promises; 
  • and lastly, any other basic theological issues in Debate unaddressed by all of the above and in formations and debates around their validity of insight - or overall helpfulness - in knowing God and His creation through Christ, event, experience, and outcome (thus the contributions of many over this past century in applying Process Theology to Hellenised/Modernised Christianity).

Whew! So as you can see, there is no one way to divide the bible but LOTS of ways as one  would expect in a diversity world with many needs, philosophies, and cultural traditions. So to simply say one is a dispensationalist or one is a covenant person really doesn't say a lot except that each individual is trying in their own way to picture who God is, what He wants, and how He intends to interact with humanity (and very creation itself... which we always tend to lose sight of being overly focused on ourselves).


At this point let me throw out a few charts with the precaution that like the study of numerology I would strongly resist getting too far down the rabbit's hole in this subject. It never seems to end... as coincidental imagination runs rampant through the comparative themes of the bible. But some of us love to organize and chart things - meaning that this type of study can be a wizard's delight locking one into his or her own tower of trolling the news and social media looking forwards-and-backwards trying to predict this-or-that to come. To those future prognosticators out there, dial it back... take your passion and apply it in ministry to the underserved by providing bedding, clothing, housing, job training, and local community helps. Don't get lost in this area of predicting and prognosticating. Thanks.

To help sink in this kind of fruitless exploration let me note two things. First, history can be visualized as a helical spiral moving upwards in hope in Christ (rather than downwards in defeatism). Events and circumstances always tend to repeat but never in the same way. The Christian church recently has been going through its own apostasy these past few years (I count since the 1990s)... not unlike past historical ages of Christian apostasy away from Christ and towards worldly structures. Observation: Don't be surprised when history repeats itself... but never in the same way twice. It seems to move in escalated helical cycles.

Secondly, Christ says when He comes it will be as a thief in the night. He's not advertising His coming, He's just coming. Think of it as a surprise birthday party, or special event in your life you weren't expecting. So too with Christ. All the charting in the world is not going to help in determining the times and the seasons of Christ's coming. He's just coming. We call this form of future an "Imminent Coming of Christ" as versus a "Date-certain form of Coming" which we have had plenty of these failed predictions since the year 2000. Name the event and you'll have the prognosticators out there with their charts saying "He is Coming!"

Perhaps I'll add a third... my wife always like to say "Lord Come!" PTL, Hallelujah! To which I sometimes loving respond, "Dear, it's better to say 'Lord BECOME.'" Why do I say this? Because the Cross is a past historical event and whether Christ comes again or not is not in our Christian jurisdiction to control. But it is in our Christian responsibility to birth the love of God and the salvation of Christ to one another in all that we say and do. For me it's not a "Wait and See" event but a "Here-and-Now" let's-get-busy-event. There is work to do and God cannot do it if we are not out in the world bringing it about. I have no intention of waiting, charting, or predicting. But I have every intention of bring Christ to the world right now. Hence, "Not Lord Come! but Lord BECOME! in our midst!"


Dispensational Link


1. The Dispensation of Innocence. (From Creation to Adam’s fall)
2. The Dispensation of Conscience and Sacrifice. (fall of man until the flood)
3. The Dispensation of Human Government. (flood until the tower of Babel)
4. The Dispensation of Promises. (Babel until Moses)
5. The Dispensation of Law. (From Moses until Pentecost)
6. The Dispensation of Grace Abounding. (Pentecost until the rapture)

The number of dispensations vary typically from three to eight. The typical seven dispensational schemes are as follows:

1 - Innocence Adam under probation prior to the Fall of Man. Ends with expulsion from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Some refer to this period as the Adamic period or the dispensation of the Adamic covenant or Adamic law.

2 - Conscience — From the Fall to the Great Flood. Ends with the worldwide deluge.

3 - Human Government — After the Great Flood, humanity is responsible to enact the death penalty. Ends with the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. Some use the term Noahide law in reference to this period of dispensation.

4 - Promise — From Abraham to Moses. Ends with the refusal to enter Canaan and the 40 years of unbelief in the wilderness. Some use the terms Abrahamic law or Abrahamic covenant in reference to this period of dispensation.

5 - Law — From Moses to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Ends with the scattering of Israel in AD70. Some use the term Mosaic law in reference to this period of dispensation.

6 - Grace — From the cross to the rapture of the church seen by some groups as being present in 1 Thessalonians and the Book of Revelation. The rapture is followed by wrath of God constituting the Great Tribulation. Some use the term Age of Grace or the Church Age for this dispensation.

7 - Millennial Kingdom — A 1000 year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:1–6), centered in Jerusalem, ending with God's judgment on the final rebellion.


My next path of life began occurring during (i) those same years in private university, then (ii) under a beloved bible teacher in Sunday School (Dr. Hoch, again) whom (iii) I followed into New Testament Studies in Seminary after graduating from the fundamentalist bible college I had attended. The Lord was preparing me to see the bible not from a dispensational viewpoint but from a Reformed Covenant viewpoint. Though the seminary was attached to the dispensational college I had just graduated from, for some reason, there were seminary professors more in line with covenantal thinking at the seminary level. Curious, right?

Which ended up being very helpful as to me, as dispensationalism felt very artificial and subjectively placed onto the Scriptures. A forced exegeticism if you will. But the covenants of the bible from a Reformed understanding of them (ahem, but not from a Reformed Protestantism perspective - they tend to be more fundamental. But a covenantal perspective more in line with the RCA and CRC churches of America) made more sense biblically to me. And as a Baptist moving away from fundamentalism and towards a progressive form of evangelicalism (though all my environments could be classified more accurately as conservative evangelicalism... not progressive evangelicalism) it felt more appropriate to speak of God and the future in the broader terms of His covenants as they reached out to humanity.

As I know them, there are seven covenants which recognize biblically without straying into systematic versions of the covenants such as covenants of law/works v grace, or covenants of redemption, or into covenants of church ritual practices such as baptism and communion, etc.

And the reason these are important is because they are all related to the Semitic idea of relationships classified more formally as ancient Near Eastern Covenant Treaties of which I have several very long seminary papers expressing the meaning and vitality of each covenant treaty of the Old and New Testaments.

I suppose the one I like the best is the one showing how the Abrahamic Covenant is related to the ancient Suzerainty-Vassal Treaty form of the bible made between God and man where God says He will sacrifice Himself for the good-and-protection of those expressing allegiance to Him (Genesis 15.17). Of course the natural parallels to this B'rit speak to Christ and the church with the Cross as the cleavage between life and death where the Prince of Life, the Creator-God of the cosmos, is sacrificed on humanity's behalf and for our salvation. What are the seven covenants? Here they are:


Ancient Near Eastern treaties
The Hebrew term בְּרִית bĕriyth for "covenant" is from a root with the sense of "cutting", because pacts or covenants were made by passing between cut pieces of flesh of the victim of an animal sacrifice.

There are two major types of covenants in the Hebrew Bible, including the obligatory type and the promissory type. The obligatory covenant is more common with the Hittite peoples, and deals with the relationship between two parties of equal standing. In contrast, the promissory type of covenant is seen in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Promissory covenants focus on the relationship between the suzerain and the vassal and are similar to the "royal grant" type of legal document, which include historical introduction, border delineations, stipulations, witnesses, blessings, and curses.

In royal grants, the master could reward a servant for being loyal. God rewarded Abraham, Noah, and David in his covenants with them. As part of his covenant with Abraham, God has the obligation to keep Abraham's descendants as God's chosen people and be their God. 

God acts as the suzerain power and is the party of the covenant accompanied by the required action that comes with the oath whether it be fire or animals in the sacrificial oaths. In doing this, God is the party taking upon the curse if he does not uphold his obligation

Through history there were also many instances where the vassal was the one who performed the different acts and took the curse upon them.

1 - Adamic/Edenic
2 - Noahic
3 - Abrahamic
4 - Sinaitic/Mosaic
5 - Priestly
6 - Kingly/Davidic, and
7 - New Covenant


1 - Preamble: Identifies the parties involved in the treaty, the author, the title of the sovereign party, and usually his genealogy. It usually emphasises the greatness of the king or dominant party.

2 - Prologue: Lists the deeds already performed by the Suzerain on behalf of the vassal. This section would outline the previous relationship the two groups had up until that point with historical detail and facts that are very beneficial to scholars today, such as scholar George Mendenhall who focuses on this type of covenant as it pertained to the Israelite traditions. The suzerain would document previous events in which they did a favor that benefitted the vassal. The purpose of this would show that the more powerful group was merciful and giving, therefore, the vassal should obey the stipulations that are presented in the treaty. It discusses the relationship between them as a personal relationship instead of a solely political one. Most importantly in this section, the vassal is agreeing to future obedience for the benefits that he received in the past without deserving them.

3 - Stipulations: Terms to be upheld by the vassal for the life of the treaty; defines how the vassal is obligated and gives more of the legalities associated with the covenant.

4 - Provision for annual public reading: A copy of the treaty was to be read aloud annually in the vassal state for the purpose of renewal and to inform the public of the expectations involved and increase respect for the sovereign party, usually the king.

5 - Divine witness to the treaty: These usually include the deities of both the Suzerain and the vassal, but put special emphasis on the deities of the vassal.

6 - Blessings & Curses: Blessings if the stipulations of the treaty were upheld and curses if the stipulations were not upheld. These blessings and curses were generally seen to come from the gods instead of punishment by the dominant party for example.

7 - Sacrificial Meal: Both parties would share a meal to show their participation in the treaty.


I'll leave below helpful links to today's article. The next set of topical links will relate to Eschatology and Kingdom Perspectives from a variety of view points. These I will develop in a second related article to today's posting. Enjoy!

R.E. Slater
June 20, 2021

Article References

Related Topics Here at Relevancy22

Eschatology - End Times (22 articles)

Eschatology - Our Responsibility (15 articles)

Kingdom Eschatology (37 articles)

Kingdom Now (12 articles)

Theologian N.T. Wright (19 articles)

Paul - NT Wright Series (23 articles)

Friday, June 18, 2021

A Tribute to Loved Ones


Corinn Linkowski

Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen (cover) by Genavieve FEAT. MY SIS
Jan 4, 2019

The Prayer - Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli (cover) by Genavieve FEAT. MY DADDY
Nov 30, 2018

Corinn Linkowski Tribute
Mar 11, 2019

You Never Said Goodbye
by Unknown

You never said I'm leaving
You never said goodbye.
You were gone before I knew it,
And only God knew why.

A million times I needed you,
A million times I cried.
If love alone could have saved you,
You never would have died.

In life I loved you dearly,
In death I love you still.
In my heart you hold a place,
That no one could ever fill.

It broke my heart to lose you,
But you didn't go alone
For part of me went with you,
The day God took you home.

Kevin Costner´s emotional speech in full at Whitney Houston´s funeral
Dec 22, 2013

I Can Only Imagine
Song by MercyMe


I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk by Your side
I can only imagine
What my eyes would see
When Your face is before me
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for You Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees, will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When that day comes
And I find myself
Standing in the Son
I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees, will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine, yeah-yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You
I can only imagine

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Millard Bart Marshall
I Can Only Imagine (iTunes Originals) lyrics © Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp., Culture Beyond Ur Experience Publishing, What A Publishing Limited, Lslx Music, Artist Publishing Group East, Songs Of Universal Inc., Young Money Publishing, Inc., Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited

* * * * * * * * * *

Every mother-daughter relationship isn't perfect.
by Sherry A. Innes
October 2, 2005

A must-read for every mother with a teenage daughter. Margaret Johnson's description of Kathi's emerging independence and how it affected their relationship is honest. Kathi's boundless energy and determination, so cute in the little girl, was exhausting when the adolescent Kathi continually clashed with mom. Her choice of a best friend was a huge blow to her parents, especially her mom. It was more than the usual teenage "stuff"; there was a serious personality conflict between them. Before the book is over, Kathi has a life-changing experience that profoundly improves the relationship with her mother. Sadly, Kathi's life was cut short, leaving Margaret to sort things out. This great little book was the result. If she had lived, Margaret might never have shared Kathi's story.

When I read the book in the early 70s, it didn't occur to me that one day I would relate to so much of it. My tiny daughter and I had enjoyed a special relationship so I was unprepared for the clashes that surfaced during adolescence. Re-reading the book during that experience gave me encouragement to pray and keep being the mom. It helped! My daughter is now happily married to a mild-mannered guy who truly appreciates her strong opinions and independence.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Index - Process Christianity

Index - Process Christianity

A Study of Biblical & Systematic Theologies
in Contemporary Societal Context

Christian systematic theology will often touch on some or all of the following topics: God, trinitarianism, revelation, creation and divine providence, theodicy, theological anthropology, Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, Israelology, Bibliology, hermeneutics, sacrament, pneumatology, Christian life, Heaven, and interfaith statements on other religions.

Traditionally, systematic (major) themes of the bible speak to God, His revealed works of creation, provision, judgment, deliverance, covenants, and promises. Further, the bible tells what happens to mankind in the light of God's nature, righteousness, faithfulness, mercy, and love.

One might also imagine the bible in terms of spiritual themes:
  • Spirituality as a belief in God (a higher power or religion)
  • Spirituality as a channel that helps
  • Spirituality as a source
  • Spirituality expressed through actions such as praying, meditating, and attending church
  • God is present and giving
  • Spirituality as one's essence
Lastly, biblical studies may be exegetical, thematic or topical, and necessarily conversant with contemporary society. To these ends, the bible may be explained through church traditions and worship, in terms of denominational doctrine, or terms of (lately) evangelical, progressive, or liberal observations, and lastly in terms of social works of helps and assistance.

Progressive Christianity takes all of the above to express belief and faith in the newer terms of process philosophy and theology which embraces more easily science and reason than have the more traditional biblical approaches which generally eschew extra-biblical sources as informing the literary reading of an ancient cultus.

As example, Process Christianity can be right at home in Lutheran, Reformed, Orthodox, or Catholic teachings but can better integrate the postmodern worlds of polypluralism, social justice, equality of humanitarian rights, post-capital and post-communist economics doctrinnaires, and political philosophies.

Process Christianity embraces Process Thought to assist in replacing earlier outmoded philosophies which have informed the church's classic theologies through the centuries with more current philosophies which are less restricting or confining of God and creation.

Moreover, Process Christianity may also intersect well with the liberal theologies of feminism, gay and transgender studies, ecological societies, peace movements, and religious interfaith movements. As example, Judaism, Islam, even Buddhism, may all participate around various forms of process theology to expand conversations while delimiting more controversial topics of faith and belief.

Lastly, Process Christianity carries with it it's own Natural Theology which provides a complimentary witness to the bible while resonating well with the quantum physics of chaos; the teleological themes of spacetime, purpose, meaning, and divine immanence; even the holistic processual processes of lively contemporaneous evolutionary development of life as expressed in evolutionary terms of the sciences, creation, human civilization, languages, and the phenomenological / existential structures of the human mind.

In all things Processual Process Christianity is a higher-order of integrating philosophy then previous thought expressions found in earlier ancient Semitic, Platonic, Neo-Platonic, Aristotelian, Thomastic, or Modern philosophies have been able to express regarding who we are, what must we do, what purposes may we live for, or what might be the end of all things?

R.E. Slater
June 16, 2021

BBL1303 1.1: Introduction to Systematic Theology

Recent Articles

Wednesday, June 9, 2021


Theology Proper












Angels & Demons






Stellar Evolution - Large-Scale Cosmic Filaments in Angular Momentum

Artist's impression of the Doppler shift of a cosmic filament. (AIP/A. Khalatyan/J. Fohlmeister)

Astronomers Just Detected Possibly The
Largest Rotating Structures in The Universe

June 16, 2021

Although the night sky changes very little on human timescales, the Universe is not a static place.

We wheel about in motion around the galactic center. Stars are born, and die in violent explosions. Galaxies collide.

And, for the first time, astronomers have just found evidence that some of the largest structures in the cosmos rotate, on a scale of hundreds of millions of light-years. If validated, it would represent the largest rotating structure ever seen - suggesting that angular momentum can be generated on absolutely mind-blowing scales.

The structure in question is a cosmic filament, a long, cylindrical structure of dark matter, spanning intergalactic space as a sort of bridge between galaxy clusters. These filaments are strands of a vast cosmic web, via which galaxies and star-forming material are channeled into the cluster nodes.

This means galaxies can be found along the filament, too, not just within the clusters. This gives scientists a tool for identifying rotational motion within the filament itself.

"By mapping the motion of galaxies in these huge cosmic superhighways using the Sloan Digital Sky survey - a survey of hundreds of thousands of galaxies - we found a remarkable property of these filaments: they spin," said astrophysicist Peng Wang of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) in Germany.

The filaments are hundreds of millions of light-years in length, but just a few million light-years in diameter. On such large scales, we won't be able to see the galaxies actually moving, but luckily for us, the light of a moving object still gives it away.

It's called Doppler shifting, changes in the wavelength of light depending on whether it's moving towards or away from the viewer. Wavelengths of light from an approaching object will appear to shorten slightly towards the blue end of the spectrum, or blueshift; wavelengths from receding objects will lengthen, or redshift.

By carefully studying the light from galaxies on cosmic filaments and comparing them to each other, astronomers found that galaxies on one side of the filament were redshifted in comparison to the other side. This is exactly what you would expect to see if the galaxies were in vortical motion perpendicular to the filament's spine.

"On these scales the galaxies within them are themselves just specks of dust," explained cosmographer Noam Libeskind of AIP.

"They move on helices or corkscrew-like orbits, circling around the middle of the filament while travelling along it. Such a spin has never been seen before on such enormous scales, and the implication is that there must be an as yet unknown physical mechanism responsible for torquing these objects."

Astronomers get detailed view of Cosmic Web
Oct 4, 2019

Figuring out what that mechanism is could help astronomers figure out how angular momentum is generated in the cosmos. Currently, it's a mystery; in the early Universe, according to our cosmological models, there was no rotation - matter moved from less dense to more dense regions.

One theory, described as tidal torque, suggests the presence of a shearing force might have added a bit of a twist, but we simply don't know enough to even begin to take it seriously in models of cosmic evolution.

Because galaxies are connected and fed by cosmic filaments, these structures play an intimate role in the formation and evolution of galaxies, including their rotation. However, whether the filaments themselves spin had previously only been theorized.

The discovery that they do will help us better understand the emergence of angular momentum in the Universe, and the role the cosmic web plays in regulating it.

"It's fantastic to see this confirmation that intergalactic filaments rotate in the real Universe, as well as in computer simulation," Libeskind said.

The research has been published in Nature Astronomy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Charles Taylor - A Secular Age, Session 1

Amazon Link

Session 1: religion and the spiritual crisis

Conversation with Charles Taylor
Jun 16, 2012

The Godless Delusion

by John Patrick Diggins
Dec. 16, 2007

We haven’t yet solved the problem of God,” the Russian critic Belinsky once shouted across the table at Turgenev, “and you want to eat!”

Charles Taylor would prefer that we feast upon the 874 pages of his new book “A Secular Age,” which offers musings and perceptions from every field of knowledge except knowledge of God, which he leaves off the menu. Taylor’s quarrel is with secularism — the idea that as modernity, science and democracy have advanced, concern with God and spirituality has retreated to the margins of life. Calling this thesis “very unconvincing,” Taylor seeks to prove that God is still very much present in the world, if only we look at the right places and allow the mind to open itself to moral inquiry and aesthetic sensibility rather than traditional theology as the gateway to religion.

Taylor, an emeritus professor of philosophy at McGill University, is the author of “Hegel” (1975) and “Sources of the Self” (1989) and the winner of this year’s prestigious Templeton Prize, awarded for advancement and research of spiritual matters. A Roman Catholic who is convinced that life lacks meaning without belief in God, Taylor is also a communitarian who questions the value of an individualism supposedly indifferent to the concerns of the larger society. He commands wide admiration for his ecumenical attitude toward world religions, his favorable view of identity politics and his commitment to the idea of human beings as contesting agents, always situated in conflict and thereby deserving of rights. He also appeals to postmodernist thinkers who trust less in the power of philosophy to prove the existence of truth than in the power of language to persuade us of the possibility of belief.

Some postmodernists speak of the “end of philosophy,” since it supposedly can no longer tell us anything about the world independent of its relation to us — about that which exists “out there” and derives, as Taylor puts it, “from a power which is beyond me.” At present, he writes, “we live in a condition” in which we suspect our own beliefs as having been influenced by sources other than the self and its reasons, with the human subject the mere effect of forces alien to our being. “We cannot help looking over our shoulder from time to time,” he writes, “looking sideways, living our faith also in a condition of doubt and uncertainty.” Has religion, then, come to end in doubts about ourselves?

In “A Secular Age,” Taylor answers with a resounding no. He argues for “the ‘deconstruction’ of the death of God view” proclaimed by Nietzsche. To see secularization as simply the separation of church and state, the alienation of truth from power, and the rise of skepticism and worldliness, he writes, is to miss the deeper and more enduring residues of religion and the spiritual life, the true “bulwarks of belief” that in his view have hardly eroded. Taylor argues against the “subtraction stories” of modernity, in which religious belief and other “confining horizons” are “sloughed off,” leaving the mind without faith or piety. Instead, he argues, “Western modernity, including its secularity, is the fruit of new inventions, newly constructed self-understandings and related practices, and can’t be explained in terms of perennial features of human life.” Even the old distinction between the sacred and the profane has taken on new meaning. Instead of disappearing, God is now “sanctifying us everywhere,” including “in ordinary life, our work, in marriage, and so on.”

Philosophy, in Taylor’s estimate, also enjoys a certain sanctification of mind and will. He cites Descartes to suggest how we are rational beings demanding to be ruled by reason governed by will. Freud’s sense of the proud solitariness of the ego is also an example of the inner truth of the emotions asking to be controlled apart from formal religion, and William James’s “Varieties of Religious Experience” indicates how people everywhere have a need to believe that can be determined by the will.

Taylor’s case for the moral authority of “self-sufficient reason” may claim too much for mind and will. Descartes could scarcely break free from the Calvinist conviction that the will, rather than exercising sovereign control over the body, remained in bondage to the sins of the flesh. Freud saw religion as an illusion born of the need to deny death; and James gave us the right to believe, but not necessarily the reasons for it. The most Taylor succeeds in arguing is that secularization did not kill off religion, since the depths of humanism have survived as spiritual values.

Taylor’s deconstruction of the death-of-God thesis rests on his conviction that “the arguments from natural science to Godlessness are not all that convincing.” He has no patience with atheists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who argue that science, particularly the theory of evolution, has consigned religion to the ash heap of history. Taylor, in contrast, sees science as reinforcing religion, since God is implicated in a social existence where the contemplation of meaning and order suggests “something divine in us.” For Taylor, belief is not what science finds but what religion hopes for. Yet, in the larger perspective of intellectual history, the validity of belief may turn less on the clash of science and religion than on a concept of a deity in all its paradoxes. “An omniscient and omnipotent God who does not even take care that his intentions shall be understood by his creatures,” Nietzsche wrote, “could he be a God of goodness?” But Taylor seems uninterested in explaining the ways of God, and he argues that religion needs no justification on the basis of its good works while secularization, which some thinkers argue is necessary for tolerance, endangers the religious values that may save us from the temptations of our selfish desires.

A word repeated in Taylor’s book is “disenchantment,” derived from Max Weber, who saw Enlightenment reason turning into modern rationalization as intelligence is used not to get to the bottom of things but to organize life from the top down, through structures of hierarchy, specialization, regulation and control. Taylor agrees that this “disenchantment of the world” leaves us with a universe that is dull, routine, flat, driven by rules rather than thoughts, a process that culminates in bureaucracy run by “specialists without spirit, hedonists without heart” — what Weber called the “iron cage” of modern life.

The Weberian outlook is bleak, and Taylor puts it aside to find a far more hopeful vision in the sociology of Emile Durkheim. In contrast to Weber, Durkheim saw the forms of society as containing not impersonal functions but deeply implanted sacred practices, and he saw religion rooted in the roles and rules of modern social systems resisting the chill of alienation. Whatever intellectuals may think, people value religion as providing a framework of meaning, a realm of unifying symbols and a sense of belonging. Some observers have been surprised by the resurgence of religion in recent years. “In a sense,” Taylor observes, “part of what drove the Moral Majority and motivates the Christian right in the U.S.A. is an aspiration to re-establish something of the fractured neo-Durkheimian understanding that used to define the nation, where being American would once more have a connection with theism, with being ‘one nation under God.’”

Contrary to Taylor, the American founders felt they had to deal with a young republic consisting not of one nation but of a series of contending factions. Religion, in their view, would do more to divide the country into zealous sects than to unify it under “God,” who, after several polite appearances in the Declaration of Independence, is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Jefferson, in fact, subscribed to the “subtraction” theory of history that Taylor denies. “Priests,” wrote the author of the Declaration, “dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight.”

“A Secular Age” is a work of stupendous breadth and erudition, even if repetitious. While Taylor’s main purpose is to salvage religion from the corrosive effects of modern secularism, he would also like to see the Anglo-American world reconsider its liberal legacy. The Federalist authors taught that government was about safeguarding life, liberty and land. “The transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God,” James Madison wrote, “declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim, and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.”

Taylor believes that Western liberal thought, beginning with Hobbes and Locke, Hume and Adam Smith, is on the wrong track. For some Catholics in the intellectual tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas, the meaning of history is not the preservation of life but the salvation of the soul, not the right to labor and own property but the duty to abide by moral order, not the greed of the market but the grace of the cathedral. To resist the ubiquity of liberal individualism, Taylor draws on such dubious historical sources as classical republicanism, in which citizens subordinate private interest to public virtue, and the theory of public space, where citizens supposedly long gathered to discuss the issues of the day and render politics an act of conversation and dialogue. Taylor also draws upon the literature of Romanticism to demonstrate that spirit lives on in the imaginations of mind whatever the material forces of secularization. “A new poetic language can serve to find a way back to the God of Abraham,” he exhorts.

Some 19th-century New England Transcendentalists may have felt the presence of God in a blade of grass, but they sought to escape the Abraham who would have murdered his own son at God’s command, along with America’s own killer of innocence in the name of authority, Captain Ahab. Taylor’s effort to resurrect intellectual respect for religion is commendable without being credible. A new poetic language led Emerson to see American religion as “corpse-cold” as the sublime gave way to the mundane and the

“thingification” of life. What threatened religion was not only secularization but society itself, with its anxieties about status and lack of self-reliance. Yet Taylor looks to society for religious redemption, one possibility being “to recover a sense of the link between erotic desire and the love of God, which lies deep in the biblical traditions.” Whatever our desires, we are drawn to God. “Our access to the will of God, through his design,” Taylor writes, “is crucial to the story of the modern moral order and to the new neo-Durkheimian understanding of God’s presence among us.” Taylor assumes that we can “find a way back” to God by re-enchanting society with the mysteries of spirit and even sensuality. Since we cannot get to God by means of philosophy, Taylor sees the Deity’s “design” in the social world as we experience it in its moral and erotic dimensions. Can the same faith be trusted to history as to society? To insist that the “will of God” can be seen in history, one would have to deal with thinkers from Thucydides to Tolstoy, who saw “design” as the domination of reason by power and freedom by fate.

Emerson called society “a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members,” its material pleasures the very soil of secularism itself. Durkheim expected that such insatiable pleasures would be restrained by society, the role once assumed by religion. Taylor, for his part, promises an understanding of “God’s presence among us” in the fullness of ordinary life. But the belief that God inheres in life itself suggests Taylor’s Hegelianism and the dialectical fantasy that an indwelling “spirit” governs the material world. To see the sacred within the profane, to derive God from the sentiments of society, does little to relieve us of Weber’s secularized world where politics is no longer an ethical calling and religion no longer an ascetic ideal. Taylor may locate the drama of the soul in society, but the meaning and mystery of God remain as elusive as the enigma of existence and religious morality becomes little more than social convention. There are many reasons to read the profound meditations in “A Secular Age,” but waiting for God to show up is not one of them.