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
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)
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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Divine Synchronicity: What Does It Mean for Christianity?

LOST in Purgatory?
(Purgatory - Yeah or Nay?)
Part 1 of 2

While reviewing Roger Olson's thoughts on a conjectured Protestant Purgatory I couldn't help but think of another popular purgatorial position being espoused not long ago in the TV series LOST as it was aired over a six year period (Sept 2004 - May 2010). Here we witnessed the island adventures of trapped celluloid souls living through decisive moments of their re-created lives. Some failed their tests and immediately "died" (possibly to revisit the island again-and-again in a never-ending cycle of "purgatory" until they got it right; or, if they didn't get it right, to proceed immediately to hell, death, or some final stage of life); some passed their first tests but later failed to pass their "summary review test" and then were immediately killed; some got it right and left with a suddenness, separating from the constant struggles of island life (I assume to go to heaven, or some place of personal completion); and some knuckleheads took awhile to get it right but eventually did to then be reunited with all their island loved-ones in one grand finale six years later.

And though the LOST purgatorial theory at the end of season 1 was immediately and hotly denounced by the show's producers, Damon Lindelhof and Carlton Cuse, in the end we viewers who tenuously clung to our theories of an island purgatory were granted vindication (along with an unsettling feeling of being surreptitiously lied to over the very long, lost years of faithfulness at the end of season 6's grand finale). And so, I would point to this form of purgatory as a modern day, updated, sophisticated, form of purgatory held by today's cultural standards and understandings of the afterlife (appealing not only to those theists amongst us, but to those agnostics and atheists amongst us as well!). Where death is never quite dead, and where mankind gets repeated opportunities for eternal solidarity and redemption.

LOST became an immediate TV-land fan hit and lived mostly in the Internet's chat rooms and blogs to be fussed and fumed over by addicted LOSTIES such as myself. It was a great ride and one that gave a very satisfying sense of relief when completing its journey - or the journeys - of all its survivors from Oceanic 815 seen in Clip #1.

So how does this all tie into the biblical themes of love and justice, reconciliation and spiritual healing? Well, let's first get a better sense of the many theologic and philosophic issues LOST was dealing with through its global audiences (Clip #1) and while we're at it, peruse the 3-minute Clip #2 created by a chap using yellow post-it notes to help add to the quirkiness of this very unusual show!

Clip #1
Lost (The Ending Explained REAL)
~ the quality is poor but content excellent

Or, What Many of Us Thought...

LOST, the REAL Ending

Clip #2
LOST in 3 minutes

Before proceeding towards biblical themes I must also mention another book and movie that also comes to mind on this same topic of purgatory. Taken from Mitch Albom's fictitious biography of "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" in which he shares how our past sins might be absolved in heaven's absolution of divine love and forgiveness. Here is a very fine summary that must, MUST, be viewed in order for me to say what I intend to say next:

This is an Excellent Summary
and may be watched by clicking to "YouTube"


Point 1

Overall, I am unconvinced that a Christian purgatory was ever a requirement for heavenly destination - even though I am a Lostie and Mitch Albom fan at heart! - for the concept seems to rest upon the silence of the bible if it is at all true. However, what I do know is that from the clips I have provided above, we can expect our lives to work within a process similarly conducted within this life. It will have its own judgments, as well as its own blessings, and I think that Thornton Wilder may have gotten it right when writing of the completeness and finality of this life before being ushered into the next in his book, The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927) - . In it he took the historical instances of a Peruvian tragedy from a long time ago (about 500-600 years ago) and worked through it the theosophic questions of:

"Does everything in life happen for a reason? Or are there some unexplainable, random events we may expect within it? If everything happens for a reason, why do bad things happen to the innocent? Why do some of the wicked prosper and the just suffer? If there is a reason, what is it? And if the universe is purely a random set of events, how does one explain the obvious order in most aspects of the physical and social universe? Did all of this order come out of chaos? Does accepting the fact that there are some chance occurrences which will occur in this life deny the existence of God? Or, can the two matters be reconciled logically?

And so, when I listen to, and review, these Lost clips, and the very fine clip made by an English student on Mitch Albom's book above, I think to myself that all these existential elements must be applied within this life of ours first and foremost. That we should - we must - expect the essential themes of forgiveness, reconciliation from abandonment, release, love, persistence, resolution, as vital parts of our earthly existence. And to not assume those qualities of life to occur separately - and unconnectedly - from our contemporary experience of this frail, human life we live in now. To be then experienced later in resolution at another time and place outside of our experience of this life we live and breath within (such as a purgatory, a heaven, or a hell). No, it occurs in the here-and-now of our daily existences, in our relationships, and at our work-a-day worlds of impoverishment and plenty.

Point 2

This, I would submit, is another important emergent Christian theme that we must accept when we speak of God's dynamic interaction with our world and our lives. A theme demanding a full appreciation for the meaningfulness of life this side of heaven (or hell, or death). One that does not wait for goodness and mercy to come after death, but works diligently to rectify and reconcile our humanity within our own personal experiences of society. That healing and forgiveness importantly occur now in this life, and not in the next. Otherwise there is no value in holding to the belief of seeing the Kingdom of God become a structural part of our earthly history. For it is, at the last, a Kingdom of flesh and blood, and not of ethereal spirits devoid of evil's affects. Hence, God's redemption is both historical (by Covenant, and by Jesus), and historically working itself out within man's existential experiences (salvation, and renewal). It is meant to be especially meaningful in this life of ours now, and not to be regarded as some non-sequitur metaphysical property to be discovered later in a dimensionless time and space. This would be an illogical inference or conclusion to the biblical idea of God's here-and-now Kingdom.

That we must grasp the indefatigable truths that God, through his Holy Spirit, ineffably works  within our seemingly small, but very sacred lives, towards those many essential themes that would fill us with a hope and determination. Which speak to the fact that through Jesus, God is dynamically reconciling, and is intimately involved with, the world - both within our private lives as well as our communal, relational lives. And it is within these spiritually esoteric intricacies wherein lies our complex of hope connecting our living present to God's living eternity.

RE Slater
August 16, 2011

The Concept of Synchronicity
Part 2 of 2
(Continued from the above article, "LOST in Purgatory")

A significant concept that was not readily apparent on the TV show LOST until the flash forwards and flash sideways episodes began appearing in the third and fourth seasons was the concept of synchronicity. When reviewing my notes from several years back I believe that some of what was being implied through the concept of purgatory discussed above could easily fall into this metaphysical idea here, where, during our lifetimes, and quite unknown to us (if at all), coincidences based upon a-causal events may interlope (or intersect) within our lives in phenomenal ways. Some Christians call these events miracles, others an "intervention of grace," where non-normative events, ideas or people may enter into our lives in either profound or non-significant ways.

Most philosophers, psychologists and physicists, regard synchronicity as an extremely rare event (as initially conceived), but I am more or less of the opinion that synchronicity is a very common, normative event at work at all times in everyone's lives and that we are simply unaware of it, just like we are unaware of the act of breathing, or thinking, or behaving, or acting, or passing through time for most of our lives. It is an all-pervasive fact that we only may rarely glimpse like the tip of an iceberg. This has become known as a joined collective dynamic very similar to the physics term of quantum mechanics, but operative on a metaphysical level that occasionally intersects with our physical, symbolic world, and with others who cross-sect our daily routines sometime in life.

Taking this concept one step farther, I would entertain the idea that the operating mechanism behind the concept of synchronicity is that of the Holy Spirit infilling (or, infusing) all creation to bring it into the very plans and purposes of the Godhead. And it is through this metaphysical idea of a joined collective dynamic that God interweaves the lives of people with one another through the work of His Spirit to bring about both His purposes as well as our spiritual well being. Not our physical well being, but our spiritual well being (some would call it a blessedness to our lives). So that, regardless of our experiences in this life under the reign of sin, death, hatred, evil, wickedness, brokenness, abandonment, dissertion, betrayal, and dysfunctionalism and so on; but through all of this, God is weaving a redemptive tapestry predicated upon His purposes of redemption, reconciliation, wholeness, and healing. Whether we understand this or not. Whether we see this or not. Whether we acknowledge this or not. It is synchronous.

So then, we are given this time to make amends, to recover, to process our existence into a meaningful existence at one with the union of God's purposes. To allow what order can be made of it before we are removed from this life. And in a sense, this life of ours is our time of purgatory (one which emergent Christians have lately been calling our "heaven on earth" or a "hell on earth": sic, Rob Bell's book, Love Wins). Now I'm sure this is not what Bell had in mind, but as long as we're thinking through the concept of purgatory, we could very easily align it into this life rather than into a future expectation that is un-discovered (or, un-stated) in the Bible, just like Bell is aligning acts of heaven and hell into this life (otherwise known as Inaugural Kingdom Eschatology).

Consequently, though there may be a purgatory-like existence into heaven's entrance, (or in fact, into hell's entrance) - if we wish to allow for a type of universalism into this discussion - but I am not of the opinion that it is either necessary or biblical. For me, this meager life that we live will contain all those facets of purgatory, heaven and hell, to be sufficient for the redemptive purposes of God of establishing a creative order of blessedness. He does not need to extend our agonies nor our pains yet another second beyond this, our lifetimes. He will have worked out his purposes in our lives sufficiently despite evil, the devil, this sinful world, and ourselves, to be satisfied with its culminating end (which is a good working definition of Sovereignty). And the true fact is - one that should cause fear and trembling in our souls - is that we must not allow even one more breath or life-event to pass living separate from God's grace, love, and care in our lives!

For like the survivors on the mythical island of LOST we may be indeterminately and immediately snatched away by death once our purpose of existence have been completed. Should those purposes have striven towards wickedness and sin, towards striving against God, towards hatred and creating a hell for those around us, than we should not expect anything less than what we have brought into the lives of those whom we have harmed. And if, as Christians believers, we continue to seek ungodly and wicked demonstrations of harsh judgments upon both innocents and the true seekers of God alike, we too should expect nothing less than a judgment upon our hearts (known as the bema seat of God in Scriptures). There will be tears and agonies, vexations and the gnashing of teeth, on both sides of heaven and hell, but in the end God shall rule as He now rules in a broken, mis-shapened world. So then repent and be at peace.

RE Slater
August 17, 2011


1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom. Regards your discussion on what a miracle may be I still like the idea of synchronicity somehow added to the idea of God's daily communication with us (sic, providence) and/or at times when applicable to the definition of miracle itself.

    That is, that unbeknown to me, God is at all times operative in-and-around my life as He is the world's. That this activity of God becomes personalized (thus the "me" aspect of it) when I finally notice it. Not as a "deja vu" but as a profound experience of restoration, redemption, renewal, recreation, or reclamation. So that the backwards look takes the inspecific and unnoticeable values of life and instantly sees those events in my life previously unseen but operative all along.

    Too, synchronicity seems to work quite well with God's revelation of Himself to the world in the world's belated recognition of His benevolence and munificience (sic, generosity). Many prophecies seem to hold this element of surprise and amazement even though it may have been common knowledge but as yet held uncommonly re God's fuller revelation of Himself and His purposes.

    It also dovetails into C. Keller's idea of "entanglement" but unlocks the usual idea of synchronicity as a rare or seldom event. For me its more of an everyday event simply unrecognized much like the act of breathing is hardly thought of in our daily activity of living. Even so, is God entangled in our lives as He is in the world's lively outcomes.

    Unforntunately I have not taken the time to expound on this because I feel there are more factors to this idea than I am currently mentioning. Here's the link to a former article I wrote. You'll have to extrapolate the "Providential" aspect from it since it deals with other matters of life.

    Thanks. Good stuff. All the best as always.

    In reference to: "Thomas Jay Oord - Does It Make Sense to Believe in Miracles?" -