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

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Continuum of Open and Relational Theology


Postmodern Relational (Process) Theology (under-developed)
v.  Modernistic Relational (Open) Theology

In a previous post on process theology ( http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-and-what-of-process-theology.html ) I expressed a desire to elevate Classic Theism into postmodernistic process terms not realizing that Open Theology had already done that. I also declared a new name for this type of theism, calling it Relational Theism. Not realizing that that had been done too having discovered Thomas Jay Oord's version of Relational Theism which he calls by the same name. It is a blending of Open Theology (also called Open Theism), with that of his own Relational Theism, both of which elevate the concepts of Classic Theism into modernistic expressions. And, it seems that process theology had at one time been considered under the label "relational-process theology," which is yet another theme Thomas Oord may have re-packaged from process theology like what I am attempting to do now, however belatedly.

Moreover, as I explore Open Theology I am discovering it to complete Arminianism's questioning of the Calvinistic concepts of God's foreknowledge and election. Which is helpful because a doctrine focused on man's free will in relation to God can only go so far (though Armenianism is more than this but I am generalizing here to pander to its opponents that grant ill-will towards its doctrines). Consequently, Open Theology coupled with that of Oord's Relational Theism helps to complete Arminianism's reaction against Calvinism's overemphasis on God's Sovereignty vs. man's free will. What I want is balance and what I'm finding is that Arminianism is curiously much better positioned to speak to God's sovereignty than Calvinism is (even though Calvinism's many significant themes all revolve around the sovereign, active control of God over His creation!... all of which has been discussed in numerous articles posted on the sidebars here in this website).

Further, Open Theology / Relational Theology are syncretising themselves with their larger, more sophisticated and better developed relative, Process Theology. But with an important distinction that the former differs from Process in terms of being non-panentheistic. However, to my mind, the understanding of "ex nihilo creation" pertaining to God's independence and interdependence to His creation can both be true without the denial of the other. The former as factually explicit in defining a Creator who creates; and the latter, as a Creator who willingly limits Himself to His creation.

However, this is not true panentheism in classic Whiteheadian terminology. But it does seem that a more liberal, modified, version of Process Theology away from its stricter definition of "ex nihilo creation" could allow for a syncretism between Process Theology with Open Theology. Which is the syncreticism that I had earlier mentioned and hope to see (if possible). If this be so, than I continue to be attracted towards investigating all the areas of similarity and dissimilarity between these two systems in hopes of seeing a newer expression of Theism arise. One couched within postmodernistic language and allowing for the double meaning for the concept of "ex nihilo creation."

Moreover, my originating concept of Relational Theism is not strictly at this time, the same as Thomas Oord's expression of Relational Theism.... Though as I read Oord, I find him expressing exactly my own sentiments, and to which am thankful for all of his hard work of "personalizing" Open Theology's animating basis that felt static, cold and impersonal without it.

But I think what I want to further see is whether Open Theology and Oord's Relational Theology will continue to intermingle and elevate themselves systematically towards Process Theology's postmodernistic language. If that then becomes the case then we will have as a consequence a more mature system of Open-and-Relational Theism/Theology. One that is both similar and dissimilar to Classic Theism and more in tune with Process  Theology's pervasive (but not substantive) elements (as mentioned in a previous post). And postmodern. For me, this is where Relational Theism should be headed as I understand it right now. And it is a continuing interest of mine to study and examine in the year ahead once I get past several other topical issues expressed here on this blogsite.

And with these thoughts in mind, let us now continue to explore Thomas Oord's Relational "The-ism/Theo-logy" (sic, "God Study") that re-expresses its earlier historical fellow, Open Theology, into more relational terms between God, man and creation. Leaving us not with an uncaring, distant (or even a damning, judgemental) Godhead. But a Godhead more intimately involved in our lives then we had first imagined in our time-bounded past, present and future. And within the frailty of our fleshly constitutions pitted as they are against the harsher truths of sin, disease, calamities, and ruin. These truths give us hope. Hope any human most requires when apprehending God's divine love through His many salvific acts and benevolent rulership.

R.E. Slater
November 25, 2011


Some Questions to Ask of Open Theism/Theology

1. What does practical ministry look like from an Open view?

2. How should we think about science and culture as Open theists?

3. What biblical insights have Open theists to date either underemphasized or not noticed?

4. How should Open theists think about pain and suffering?

5. Can the Open view help us think better about prayer and pray with greater conviction?

6. What voices at the margins need to be heard for Open theology to be expanded and/or embraced by others?

7. What might missions and missional theology look like from an Open view?

8. Does the Open view suggest any new insights into Christology, pneumatology, or Trinity?

9. Where should the Open theology conversation go in the future? How might the insights of Open theology be more widely disseminated?


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Emergence of Open Theology

By Thomas Jay Oord
November 19, 2009

In 1994, a quintet of Evangelical scholars – David Basinger, William Hasker, Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, and John Sanders – published The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God. This work has caused – and continues to cause – an uproar within Evangelical circles.

This uproar exposed the reality that many Evangelical Christians are influenced more by the theology of Reformers such as John Calvin and Martin Luther than has been often recognized. The theological voices championed by mainstream Evangelical groups have often explicitly or implicitly identified themselves with a non-open, non-relational view of God.

The uproar also revealed that a large and growing number of Evangelical Christians are looking for theological alternatives that better fit their reading of the Bible and deepest Christian intuitions. Open theology provides a potentially more satisfying alternative.

Open theology has both expanded and matured since 1994. It has become a well-spring for both theological renewal and controversy. Many significant biblical, theological, and philosophical scholars now openly embrace Open theology or at least recognize strong affinities between Open theism and their own work.

While important differences of opinion exist among Open theists, the similarities among them are also striking. Here are core themes affirmed by the majority, if not all, Open theists:

  • God’s primary characteristic is love
  • Theology involves humble speculation about who God truly is and what God really does
  • Creatures – at least humans – are genuinely free to make choices pertaining to their salvation
  • God experiences others in some way analogous to how creatures experience others
  • Both creatures and God are relational beings, which means that both God and creatures are affected by others in give-and-take relationships
  • God’s experience changes, yet God’s nature or essence is unchanging
  • God created all non-divine things
  • God takes calculated risks, because God is not all-controlling
  • The future is open; it is not predetermined or fully known by God
  • God’s expectations about the future are often partly dependent upon creaturely actions
  • Although everlasting, God experiences time in a way analogous to how creatures experience time

These are brief statements, of course, and they do not address theological nuances that matter to Open theology scholars. But these statements are sufficiently narrow to distinguish Open theology from alternative theological options. And they are sufficiently broad to allow for differences among those who embrace the Open theology label.

I am optimistic about the future of Open theology. My optimism ultimately rests, however, on grace. I believe our loving God is, as John Wesley put it, “strongly and sweetly” calling and empowering us to live lives of love. In doing so, we participate in God’s loving reign. Open theology provides conceptual tools to make sense of these truths.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Characteristics of Evangelical Open and Relational Theology
http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/characteristics_of_evangelical_open_theology/

By Thomas Jay Oord
February 2, 2010

In a previous blog entry, I noted many of the theological beliefs that open and relational theologians affirm. I now identify three characteristics of Evangelically-oriented open and relational thinkers.

I find these three tendencies among open and relational scholars in the Evangelical tradition:

Scripture First

Open theists appreciate and draw from reason, experience, and the Christian tradition. But open and relational theologians place primary importance on the Bible for things related to God, salvation, and the big questions of life. Scripture is principally authoritative.

Open and relational theists are typically not committed, however, to affirming everything the Bible says about science, history, or culture. Most open theologians are not biblical inerrantists, if biblical inerrancy is defined as the notion that the Bible is without any error whatsoever. This rejection of what I call “absolute inerrancy” distinguishes open and relational theology from Fundamentalism.

Yet the typical open and relational Evangelical theologian also rejects the label “liberal theologian” as a way to identify their views. The primacy of the Bible steers them away from more liberal theologian traditions.

Evangelical Community Influence

While open and relational theologians may reside in just about any Christian denomination or subculture, a good number identify with the Evangelical Christian tradition. Virtually all of the major figures who adopt the label “Open theist” either teach at an Evangelically-oriented institution or attend a congregation whose members consider themselves Evangelicals.

The community with which we locate ourselves affects the way we do theology. Of course, the fact that Evangelical open and relational theists do theology in the broad Evangelical context does not also mean that they affirm all of the political and social issues normally associated with Evangelicals. In fact, Open theology sometimes draws advocates toward positions on political and social issues that do not fit either the typical conservative or liberal labels.

Humble Realists

Most open and relational theologians want to talk about how things really are or might be. This not only includes talking about the world, it also means talking about God in a realistic way.

In terms of epistemology, open and relational theists tend to be realists or critical realists. They realize that language about God and the world has limitations. But they affirm that some language better identifies what is true about God and the world than other language.

These three factors, in themselves, position open and relational theology differently than other theological alternatives. They provide fruitful avenues for engaging the sciences, for instance. They provide ways of engaging Postmodernism in constructive ways that avoids extreme relativism. And they draw upon and support the Evangelical witness and passion to the good news revealed in Jesus Christ and lived out within the Church.

Of course, open and relational theologies have critics. But I believe the ideas and theological proposals in this way of thinking are potentially more helpful today than any of the alternatives.



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