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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Death of Poetry by 20th Century Modernism, Part 1/2

Many of the ideas and comments contained in the following article are not new to this website. We have discussed each one at length and have so notated those discussions per the sidebar index to the right side of this site. This would include Deism, Darwinism, Augustine-Aristotle-Reformation, Creedal Development and Church History, the Literature of the Bible, and even Process Theology.

However, being a poet who likes to write with a prose style, I did find the last section contained in this article quite interesting... that poetry has died due to no small influence by that of 20th Century Western Modernism. It's an observation that I myself have felt these many years will listening to formulaic assertions about God, my faith, the church, our human societies, and just about anything else that our Western rationalism has affected and maintained to the death of our present modernistic culture.

In fact, through postmodernism's enhanced philosophic paradigms has come a (post)structural framework that can remove modernism's philosophical gaps and restore more of an integrative approach and balance (or symmetry) to all human and scientific disciplines. Some few of those approaches have also been discussed at length including:

  • the gradual detachment of Christianity from Calvinism's more systematic forms of theology (as well as other forms of systematizing Church dogmas and creedal assertions);
  • the assimilation of language and culture back into our reading of Paul (described as NPP, the New Perspective of Paul approach via Sanders, Dunn and Wright);
  • the re-connection of science to faith, and faith to science;
  • the heightened awareness of our human journey and its importance to the reading of the Bible giving back to it an authority and authenticity (contra the doctrines of inerrancy's rationalisms on the one hand and blatant Christian mysticism on the other);
  • the re-absorption of human anthropologies, sociologies, linguistics into the text of Scripture;
  • the re-awakening of our ecological responsibility to the care of both the Earth and humanity through ecologically sound practices;
  • and finally, the renewal of justice and compassion as a general human endeavor as based upon the practices of Jesus' ministry to the poor, the oppressed, and the neglected.

Through postmodernism's promise we are being led towards a participatory and authenticating form of faith and worship to our Creator-God-Redeemer which thusly provides hope for humanity's dreams by enabling and empowering increasingly connected civilizations towards peace, good will among all men, many forms of consensus leadership, and a formative sense of responsible world citizenship.

R.E. Slater
May 16, 2012

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

The Death of Poetry?

by RJS
May 15, 2012

I was recently sent a copy of the new book by Harry Lee Poe and Jimmy H. Davis God and the Cosmos: Divine Activity in Space, Time and History. Harry Lee Poe (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University in Jackson TN, Jimmy H. Davis (Ph.D. University of Illinois) is University Professor of Chemistry at Union University.

In God and the Cosmos Poe and Davis explore the interaction of God with his creation. There are two parts to their approach. Part One explores ideas about the kind of God who interacts with the world and the ways humans have considered this across cultures, religions, and time. Part Two turns this around and asks about the kind of world that allows God to interact.

Part One: What kind of God interacts with the world?

This section of the book does not address this question directly – but rather asks questions about the way humans have conceived of God and the way this impacts ideas concerning God’s action in the world. Poe and Davis begin with a survey of the way that God or divinity is understood in major world religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. This is an interesting survey – although the discussion of Judaism makes such a break with Christianity that it left me scratching my head at times.

How do we think about God?

How does this affect the way we think about God’s interaction with the world?

Turning primarily to the West and the development of science in Europe, Poe and Davis put forth a few ideas that drive much of the discussion in the rest of this section. The notion of a God who is rational combined with a break from the Platonic philosophical underpinning derived from Augustine gave rise to the reformation and the scientific revolution. Poe and Davis see the key developments and conflicts as more philosophical than theological.

Thomas Aquinas set the stage by breaking with Augustine and his reliance on Plato, turning instead to Aristotle. This allowed a view of nature more conducive to the development of science. But even Aristotle had to fall. Philosophical underpinnings that found the ground of knowledge in rational thought without [scientific] experimentation, not “the God Hypothesis,” had to fall before the scientific revolution could flower. The conflict over Galileo was not theological but philosophical – a rejection of Aristotle.

Question Authority

Poe and Davis also suggest that the reformation, including the cultural changes that preceded the reformation, led to the scientific revolution.
In the Reformation the principle issue at stake was one of authority.… The University was a monastic community. All disciplines were subdisciplines of theology. Theology was the “queen of the sciences” and philosophy was her handmaiden. The Protestant reformation was not only a debate about authority in matters of religion but also authority in politics and all areas of scholarship, including what we now call science.

Scripture and tradition. The change of mind that we call the Reformation began to take place at least 150 years before Luther’s posting of his ninety-five theses, and it would continue to unfold 150 years afterwards.… this way of conceiving authority had begun at least by the time of John Wycliffe (d. 1384) , long before the observations of Copernicus (d. 1543). (p. 60)
The revolution in the view of authority enabled the scientific revolution, which required something of an open view toward tradition and traditional authorities. This also led to a view of scripture as the authoritative foundation for faith [and not the state - res].


According to Poe and Davis, with the publication of A Golden Chain (1590) William Perkins (1558-1602) set into motion a process that led to an either-or dichotomy describing God’s work in the world. A Golden chain is a text that popularized the theology of Calvin with a famous diagram that outlined the causes of salvation and damnation.
The idea of conceiving theology as a massive dichotomy represents a major innovation by Perkins to the earlier theology of Calvin.

Like Plato’s hierarchy or Aristotle’s chain of being, Perkins’s Golden Chain provides his audience with a way to conceive of God’s causal involvement in the world. God is the King who issues decrees, and from these decrees there issues forth an unbroken chain of cause and effect. (p. 79)
The problem with Perkins and the theology that followed Perkins is that it keeps the Holy Spirit safely in heaven or eternity. There is no real role for God or the Spirit in the day to day processes in the world. This either-or mode of thinking became the dominant assumption as men thought about the nature of God’s role in the world.
By the end of the eighteenth century, William Perkins’s model of reducing things to two alternatives [dualism] had become the dominant way of thinking in the English-speaking world.… 
In the natural world observed by scientific investigation, scientists were faced by the two alternatives that their worldview allowed them: (1) phenomena occurred by the direct action of God, or (2) phenomena occurred as the result of the laws of nature. 
The idea that God could be active within nature was not an alternative allowed to them by their prevailing worldview. (pp. 87-88)
Poe and Davis trace this development through Newton, Boyle, Laplace and other early scientist to Darwin. In the thinking of Darwin, and in the way evolution has been thought of since Darwin, we see a full flowering of the idea. If there is a natural explanation then God was not at work. He is relegated to some deistic first cause or eliminated from the picture entirely.

The Death of Poetry

Poe and Davis see the loss of poetry as another major piece of the puzzle in understanding the modern conflict between science and the action of God. In fact they put it rather bluntly: Modern Western culture is unique in world history for having lost its poetry. All cultures, except modern Western culture, appreciate poetry. (p. 96) This they see as a unique development of the 20th century … and it is not only poetry, but the arts as well that we have lost: painting, sculpture, opera, ballet, classical music. These no longer belong to the broad western culture. The loss of poetry goes hand-in-hand with a literalism that permeates our reading of scripture and our understanding of God. And this devastates the ability to understand God.

Humans have no frame of reference for understanding God because the language of the bible uses analogy, comparison, and poetry. Only by using creative license in the form of poetic language can we even begin to describe God and his action in the world.
Without a sense of poetry and the way analogies work, people lose the ability to use models, whether in theology or in science. The model, whether scientific or theological, is not the reality. A theological system is never more than a human constructed model of God. It may be useful for understanding an aspect of God that it affirms, but it is always woefully inadequate as a total understanding of God. (p. 100)
The last two chapters in Part One consider with process theology and God-of-the-Gaps-thinking. These chapters delve more deeply into the question that frames this portion of the book – what kind of God interacts with the world – and how does he interact. I’ll turn to these two in the next post on this book – but today I would like to stop here and consider the scenario that Poe and Davis have outlined.

Do you think that Poe and Davis are right in the time-line they’ve sketched?

Does the either-or dichotomy represents the common view of the action of God in the world?

And perhaps most important of all:

Have we lost the ability to appreciate poetry and thus to think constructively about God?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]
If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

Part 2 continues here -

The Death of Poetry by 20th Century Modernism, Part 2/2

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