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, May 18, 2012

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

We move from what I considered a favorable analysis of 20th Century Modernism's rationalism to a deeply flawed discussion about Postmodernism and Process Theology. Poe and Davis come up short here and this is an instance where "science meets philosophy/theology and each are as large and demanding as the other..." which, to me means, that a good scientist cannot be expected to be a good philosopher/theologian, try as they might (though I applaud any-and-all efforts attempted). Nor do we usually find that "good philosophers/theologians make for good scientists" generally (although John Polkinghorne may be the exception here). And it seems that this book is an instance of these general observations of a theologian and a scientist trying to make sense of science and the bible (God in the Gaps) and a little known theological perspective about God and ourselves called process theology.

Whereas in part 1 after having made a good start with their discussion of Rationalism and the Church, we move into part 2 that is less than steller to find a poor grasp of two subjects. The first is the typical evangelic short-sale of process theology and then the confused-sale of the God-in-the-gaps theology attempting to bridge science with faith by making it a quasi-science. Causing me to make notations within the body of the article below of my observations and disagreements - which are many - in a review that was especially long and not fun to write because of its many erroneous statements and errors.

However, the value of this discussion does show that:

(i) conservative evangelicalism may be now admitting to their dependency and causal relationship upon Modernism. However, until evangelicalism's correspondent placeholds are lifted from their over-abundant dogmatic assertions and systematic doctrines there can be no moving forward for this faith group as a whole. (One that I think Emergent Christianity better validates through its postmodernistic approach to science, philosophy, and theology).

(ii) It also tells of evangelicalism's gross misunderstanding of process theology, which I found revealing and have thusly included my remarks within the body of the text as shown below. I did not expect less but I would've been encouraged to have found a better analysis of process theology than what is laid out here by two "experts" in their fields of theology (Poe) and chemistry (Davis).

(iii) The last value I found is that even in evangelical Christianity we now may find admission that God is as actively "entangled and enmeshed in our world" as we are in "His creation and divine personage." Not that evangelicalism has not been saying this all along. But because they are now trying to speak it from a postmodernistic, process-like version using open theology and an admixture of Emergent Theology as their new, formative voice. And from that attitude can we then find a more generous evangelical admission towards scientific studies and assertions (perhaps even towards brethren that hold a more open view towards an evolutionary understanding of creation).  Along with the absorption of some kind of process-like theology in the future (but more probably in the direction of a revisement of classical and open theology). Time will tell. Or is it, the timing will be telling?

But in whatever case, the point has been made that our modernistic western civilization has been the death knell to poetry and to the storied narrative. One that can be recoverable within postmodernism as it continues to proceed forth in participatory and authenticating ways. Ways that will bear with postmodernism its own forms and versions of obstacles no less than Modernism has experienced. We expect this but can also embrace its turmoil within the ever-expanding worlds of multi-ethnic globalism, the rich and variegated experiences of pluralism and societal individualities, and the technological solidifications portending to our many diversified societies.

Only some form of postmodernism seems most able to allow this diverse symposium of culture, heritage, religion, and humanism. But we are nonetheless assured that above all, in all, and through all God will be there enlightening mankind to His ever steady presence, plans and ministries through the Church of Jesus Christ (aka Stanley Hauerwas!) by the power of His Holy Spirit working above us, within us, and through us to the glory of God's salvation remaking all things new. Amen and amen.

R.E. Slater (res)
May 17, 2012

ps - the usage of the phrase God in the Gaps is new to me. So we will together read of it together and see what it is about. However, we should likewise defer opinion b/c it may be as well mis-analyzed here as process theology was mis-analyzed. Consequently I can only react in proportionate response and conjecture and must save theological credulity for a later discussion should this same sophistry arise and give us more cause for a better informed response to its quasi-theological perspective.

Continued from Part 1 -

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

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Beyond the God of the Gaps

by rjs5
posted on

Part One of the new book by Harry Lee Poe and Jimmy H. Davis God and the Cosmos: Divine Activity in Space, Time and History asks questions about the way humans have conceived of God and the way this impacts ideas about God’s action in the world. The last two chapters in Part One Poe and Davis consider 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.

Process theology and intelligent design are two [very] different ways of wrestling with the idea of God in the context of the materialism and naturalism that has captured Western thinking. These assumptions of materialism and naturalism are, it seems to me, in the air we breath and the water we drink. They are simply the unreflective, unexamined starting point for much of Western intellectual engagement, both in the academy and in the broader culture. Poe and Davis explore the positives and negatives of process theology and then move on to God-of-the-gaps arguments and finally to the way to get beyond these philosophical arguments to a more robust theological view.

Process theology

Allows natural theology to take a cue from evolutionary theory with all of being, including creation and the nature of God, evolving in time. There are rather unChristian, deistic, [my edits here, if any thing process is more panentheistic - res], philosophical forms of process theology that invoke, perhaps, a spiritual nature to life, but have no room for a personal God of the sort revealed in scripture, or for a God who acts in his creation [perhaps I've missed something in process theology but it seems that process is all about a personal God revealed in scripture and as an active actor in creation - res]. This is interesting, but need not really concern us in the search for ways to think as Christians about the interaction between God and his creation.

Is process theology a valid option to think about the role of God in the world? [yes - res]

[see relevancy22's sidebars under "theism" - res]

There are also some forms of process theology that are more clearly Christian. Here Poe and Davis outline the thinking of William Temple and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. These two have put some ideas forward that are worth pursuing. Poe and Davis acknowledge this, but seem to view the strength of process theology as lying in the way it underscores the inadequacy of a purely material outlook rather than its positive suggestions, although their comments about the inadequacy of natural selection leave me scratching my head. I expect the questions on natural selection will come up again in Part Two of the book. Poe and Davis sum up this discussion emphasizing the impact of process theology on one’s view of the interaction of God with the world:
Process theology makes the same error as the reductionist monarchical model makes when it assumes that God must always act in only one way. Rather than think God must always do the same thing, we may think of God relating differently but appropriately to every level of organization of the universe. He may operate in a deterministic way at some points and in an indeterminate way at other points. Like Calvinism and Arminianism, process theology would have God always do it the same way, which leaves God less free than the people who think about God. (p. 120) 
Poe and Davis quixotically argue the issue of freedom in the doctrine of Arminianism that is nothing but about the freedom of God, man and nature. And then they throw in process theology to boot. Consequently I find their arguments specious. The only value that can be allowed here is that they actually may be referring to the nature of these viewpoints as a closed-system. But there again process theology was formed to open-up church doctrines that appear closed. So again I find this summary statement invalid. - res
Some claim God must know and determine everything, his omniscience and sovereignty demand this[sic, the view of  Calvinism - res]; in contrast many process theologians claim that God must leave everything free, action by God would deny the universe the freedom to become [another gross misrepresentation of process theology; ultimately God's sovreignty does grant this kind of freedom, and does not remove it by determinism and reductionisti,c or mechanistic, process as classical theology would teach - res], and becoming is the core of process theology [amen. this is a true statement. - res]. Poe and Davis suggest that both these extremes are lacking.

[Consequently I find Poe and Davis' knowledge of process theology uninspiring. We have here at relevancy22 been working through a synthesis between process theology, on the one hand, and conservative theism, on the other hand, something that I've been calling relational theism. For more on this subject please refer to "theism" under the sidebars here. - res]

God-of-the-gaps Provides

Another approach to natural theology. In this case a metaphysical framework is at play that views events as either of God or simply natural.
The God-of-the-gaps phenomenon arises as people try to fix the place in nature where God may be found to act. This understanding of divine activity is consistent with every other kind of real event in a closed material world. If the activity of God cannot be shown to be of the same kind as other events in the material world, than it cannot be understood as real. Of course, if the activity of God can be described within nature, then it must be a natural event rather than divine action! (p, 131-132)
But the view that puts divine causality on the same plane as physical causality is necessarily limited. It leads to a limited view of God and of his action, or room for action, in the cosmos. One example Poe and Davis use to illustrate there point is the incarnation.
At the heart of the Christian faith lies the ultimate expression of this conflict: the incarnation. Was Jesus fully man or fully God? We ask God to show himself in ways we can perceive, but when he does, we say he is just a man. The central event of Christian faith demands that Christians employ a metaphysic that allows for multiple levels of experience. Any activity of God in the world that can be observed can necessarily be described according to the categories of nature. Does this make divine activity and natural laws mutually exclusive? (p. 132)

I would refer the reader to consider the hypostatic union of Christ as discussed in the Athenasian Creed found here at this link discussing the creeds of the church (about midway down) - It can be seen that because various forms of pelagianism and gnosticism had occurred in the early church we were then able to get to a more complete understanding of Jesus' divinity and humanity as a result of those egregious errors. It is an important doctrine to understand as it is trotted out again for review in the breeches and bellows of science. This same can also be said of Jesus' virgin birth found here at this link - But one I found less than satisfying when reviewing John Polkinghorne's scientific understanding of it (as discussed in that article), though he is a favorite of mine. - res
Intelligent design – looking for empirical evidence for divine causality separate from physical causality – is a search for a God-of-the-gaps. This doesn’t mean that the world is not designed, all Christians believe that God designed the world intelligently and for a purpose, but that divine causality and physical causality can and do coexists in the same phenomena.

I think what is here trying to be said is what we've described in a Biologos article of God's involvement in evolution - even until now, and even into the futures of mankind and the Earth. More probably b/c Calvinism's Sovereignty of God worldview has such a strong hold on evangelicalism has this kind of thinking arisen to further explain an austere God's presence in humanity's and Earth's subsequent "evolvement...." - res

I will list below at the end of this article five (5) links to articles that I think better bridges the "gap" in the God-in-the-gap kind of thinking. They come from an evolutionary perspective but they better describe the closeness of God's Sovereignty from the perspective of scientific discoveries. And thus make for a better integration between theological observations about God involvement with man and the Earth than I can find here in this type of thinking.... - res

Beyond the God-of-the-Gaps

Poe and Davis proceed here to muse a bit about topics like methodological naturalism (for which they have some negative comments); naturalism of the gaps (by which they mean the imposition of philosophical naturalism beyond the limits where science can speak); and the ability of humans to manipulate nature (heat or cool our houses, build dams, harness electricity, fly to Australia, and so forth). Some of the discussion gets a little off track (for example I would say that we have not learned to overcome the laws of nature, and we certainly don’t violate the laws of nature, but we can and do utilize the laws of nature to achieve a desired goal). By and large, however, the point is a good one. The human mind can conceive of ways to manipulate nature. Certainly the mind of God can do the same and more.
The more intelligent we become, the more we realize just how open the universe really is. As Polkinghorne has observed, “science’s description of physical process is not drawn so tight as to condemn God to the non-interactive role of deistic spectator.” God is at least as free and able as humans to interact with the universe. (p. 137)
A Trinitarian God

Poe and Davis consider the nature of God as a relational being, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to be significant for a proper understanding of the God who acts in his creation. Taking any one of these alone as a model for the interaction of God with the cosmos will be limited and flawed.
Theological systems from classical theology to Calvinism to process theology have in common the tendency to conceive of God as acting in the same way at all times, a view unsustainable from Scripture but perfectly consistent with a philosophical approach to faith. Polkinghorne has argued that “God’s utter perfection lies in the total appropriateness at all times of the Creator’s relationship with creation, whether that creation is a quark soup or the home of humanity.” (p. 137)
The Trinity allows for this appropriate interaction at all times. God can be in time, transcend time, localized in space, and everywhere at once. The Father is, they suggest, “constantly aware yet forever removed from the world of space and time.” Transcendent, eternal, perfection, absolute holiness are attributes of the Father. The Father interacts with his creation through the Holy Spirit and through his messengers (angels). The Holy Spirit is the most significant here as it proceeds from the Father as part of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit extends into time and space and exercises the power of God in time and space. The Holy Spirit is extended, wave-like. The Son on the other hand is particular. The Son entered into space-time in the incarnation.
In God’s incarnation, however, God comes to grips with a fundamental problem posed by a universe in which people can have freedom: theodicy, or the problem of suffering. A trinitarian God experiences this problem from the inside and not merely from the vantage point of ultimate wisdom and knowledge. As Father, Son, and Spirit, the trinitarian God becomes part of his own physical creation as the Son while never ceasing to be distinct from it as the Father. God experiences the pain and suffering through participation in the cosmos. (p. 141) [Again, this is better said, or un-said, through reference to this link here on the church's creeds and confessions within the lower body of that article - - res]
The Holy Spirit interacts with the universe, the material creation from quark to black hole and everything between in its openness and process. The Son interacts personally with humans created in the image of God by becoming one of us. The Father transcends space and time. [Affectively, the Trinity as a whole does all this together or, interacts with all of this together. It is not necessary to artificially divide the Trinity into these type of qualifiers. Please refer to the sidebar under Trinity for further discussion of this subject. - res]

The chapter finishes with a brief reflection on the world to come – the eschaton [please refer to the sidebar under Trinity again as well as under Kingdom Eschaetology. - res]. This will be something new and different with the disappearance of the apparent contradictions between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and a new physics allowing for resurrection, new heavens, new earth, in continuity with the resurrection of the Son of God.

Does this trinitarian view of God’s action in the world make sense to you?

Do you agree that theological systems limit the role of God, and thus inevitably miss part of the picture?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]
If you have comments please visit Beyond the God of the Gaps at Jesus Creed

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God's Role in Creation

Image for: What role could God have in evolution?

Is God Just Playing Dice?

Evolution: Is God Just Playing Dice?
How Could God Create Through Evolution?

How Could God Create Through Evolution?: A Look at Theodicy, Part 1

What Is Evolution?

Misconceptions about Evolutionary Theory and Process

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