Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

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

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Monday, April 23, 2012

Parenting & America's Public Educational Schools - "Waiting for Superman"

Addendum: Usually when I write I try to write for a global readership. But I apologize now for the following post written to my American readership. I will, however, speak to everyday concerns that may, or may not be helpful. For this, you be the judge. Thank you. - res

Many of Diane Ravitch's comments are worth reading at the bottom of this post (found in the Wikipedia section below). For myself, the issue isn't whether we promote either our charter schools or our public schools, but to create a school system in America that promotes our children's future from the bleak future they now may be experiencing in too many of our failing educational systems (and this includes our colleges and universities as well!). I have made several suggestions in past articles that could radically alter our current public school systems (also listed below). But in this article the fastest course of response seems to be by privatizing education and allowing those private groups to lead our public schools by example out of their current morass through competition for state and federal funds. Although privatizing education creates its own ills - primarily in the area of segregation and social inequality - it seems to be the only way to more quickly respond to public schooling's more immediate needs. My reasoning for this is that resistence in the school systems themselves seem too pronounced from the many organizations dedicated to serving public schooling. Consequently, competition for funding can be the greatest resource leveler for effective change by removing unhelpful organizational groups dependent upon public funding.

As concerning leadership, it often must find a toe-hold somewhere to create change. America's school systems at present must be revolutionized away from their pre-1930s production-factory philosopohies to the newer postmodern truths facing our societies today. Which means that "reading, writing, and arithmetic" forms of older education must be radically revolutionized on every level and scale of possibility and opportunity. Many public schools are focusing on classroom technologies, group learning and achievement, and mentoring techniques that pace individualized instruction within larger social group projects. They are turning to "curriculums within curriculums;" "specialized schools within schools;" and, a host of other methodologies and improvements to help our children effectively compete for global jobs requiring newer skill sets than once were promoted 100 years ago. Waiting for Superman admittedly is a frustrated view of exasperation by educators with our urban school systems focused solely upon outcome-based education. But rather than staying frustrated I would advocate that this tension can also lend hope to the dream of postmodern recreation in a reversal of mired opinions and social obstacles. A dream each of us ultimately must involve ourselves using any, and all, means - especially community outlets - to obtain. For it is imperative that parents first seek change through active involvement in their sons and daughter's schooling organization. This is by far the most efficient route than by simply voicing our opinions in the public square and pretending that we have then done enough.

And speaking of parents, it is to you that this burden is placed. Not to our teachers.... And not to our schools.... But to you! And its here that I must do a little preaching (forgive me!) by asking How is it a parent's responsibility for our present day educational system future progress? Because parenting is where it all starts. And it is the ONE thing that we can address immediately. But not by being passive parents. Nor neglectful parents. For poor parenting conduct and behaviors only harm our children. There are too many instances of broken homes harming our children. Of dysfunctionally abusive homes harming our children. Of parents not helping their children prepare for school by patiently helping them get dressed in the morning; or fixing a morning breakfast and evening meal; or by not listening to a child's fears and concerns; or even by not playing with their children which can be tremendously helpful in communication and relationship building. By neglecting even the most basic areas of a child's need can only serve to harm our nation's children for educational preparation and success. Too often we rely on children to raise themselves on their own; or at the hands of other children; or through substitutionary neighborhood gangs that reinforce acceptance and self-image; or impassively by the TV; or even public institutions like day care centers, sitters, and so forth. This is not parenting. This can be, and most often is,  neglectful and harmful to a child's self image when passively, or actively, providing negative or substitutionary influences in place of a parent's steadying love and healing friendship.

Moreover, parenting means personal involvement by the mom and dad. To parent is hard work. But shouting at kids, bossing them around, yelling at them, being childish in front of them with your spouse and other adult friends, being always angry, impatient, or not making time for a child is not parenting. This is defective parenting. Good parents work hard at becoming good parents. Learning to be patient, loving, forgiving, tolerant, personally involved with a child's life. To those parents who work hard at being a good, loving parents, God bless you.... But your responsibility doesn't stop there, does it? No, not even. Now go out and find another parent, or two, that you can mentor to become better, more effective parents! Show by your example how to parent children through personal involvement, patience, and love. Go coach your kid's team and have another parent help you. Go to your child's teacher's conference and provide a ride for a parent that can't get there. When at school greet other parents and school staffs civilly. And most of all don't expect similar responses. Be prepared to meet people in the struggles and difficulties of their work-a-day worlds. Be understanding and work at uplifting your community. Parenting is all this and more!

And this is the one solution that can most immediately affect our schools. Good parenting. Active, involved parenting at all grade levels. It forces a school system to improve through your personal involvement. And it provides community resources to a school system because of your involvement, imagination, skill sets, talents and abilities. How? By attending your child's school carnivals, band and choir concerts, parent-teacher meetings, ball games and cheer clubs, field trips and school-sponsored community drives. By providing a safe-haven in your home to your child's school friends. By being present in a child's life and by being involved in your child's life (there is no such thing as quality time with a child... quality time only comes through quantity time, as it would with any relationship). Schools love this when you do this. They WANT your involvement. Parents are a valuable resource to their school districts. Improving our schools does not start with teachers and administrators, but with the home and family. It is our responsibility as parents to raise our kids. Not the schools to babysit. Nor to undo all the toxic waste that we dump upon our children through harsh, vulgar words, childish tempers, de-meaning anger, and selfish un-involvement in their lives - no matter what age they are at. You must let your child - or teenager - or college student - k-n-o-w that they are important to you. That you love them. You do this through patient, loving, timeful expenditures of your own person and personable commitments in uplifting, loving, encouraging, relational engagements.

The best teacher to your children is  y-o-u  the  p-a-r-e-n-t.... So then, learn to love. Learn to forgive. Learn to be merciful. Learn to be patient and understanding. Learn to see life from your child's viewpoint, not yours. And most of all, pray to God for all these things and more... for this God will do and provide to you and your family. And most of all find mentors for yourselves. Find support groups of like-minded parents wanting to be GREAT parents. And in your spirit be teachable. Learn to listen. To cooperate with others. To find help. For these social qualities are the very same qualities that your children are being taught in school. Skills of cooperation. Skills of communication. to effectively disagree and engage one another.... And lastly, remember that across America are local area churches in every community that seek to help you in your burdens, your livelihood, and most especially with your family. Use them. Go to them. Become involved at your local church. For the Church holds the key to our families, schools and communities. They live to serve even as our schools wish to serve you the parent. And we, the parent, learn to serve both church and school. God and man. And one another.

So then, let your efforts be heard in a POSITIVE voice for change in your local school community. We all know what's wrong with the system but its an even greater task to figure how to make this system a better educational place TOGETHER. Your school administrators can help. They want to help. They began their careers wanting to help kids succeed in this world. Know this. Remember this. And work with your teachers and administrators to that end. They can be your biggest-and-best ally. Schools must change, and they will. But it takes more than a village to raise our kids. It must begin with our own personal involvement first and foremost. For those Waiting for Superman you need look no further. That Superman is you!

R.E. Slater
April 22, 2012

Waiting for Superman Official Trailer

Release Date: 2010 Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim reminds us that education "statistics" have names: Anthony, Francisco, Bianca, Daisy, and Emily, whose stories make up the engrossing foundation of WAITING FOR SUPERMAN. As he follows a handful of promising kids through a system that inhibits, rather than encourages, academic growth, Guggenheim undertakes an exhaustive review of public education, surveying "drop-out factories" and "academic sinkholes," methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems.
April 22, 2012
Film critics and general media reception
The film has earned praise and criticism from commentators, reformers, and educators.[7] As of May 1, 2011 (2011 -05-01), the film has an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[8]

Roger Ebert gave the movie 3.5 stars out of 4 and wrote, "What struck me most of all was Geoffrey Canada's confidence that a charter school run on his model can make virtually any first-grader a high school graduate who's accepted to college. A good education, therefore, is not ruled out by poverty, uneducated parents or crime- and drug-infested neighborhoods. In fact, those are the very areas where he has success."[9]

Scott Bowles of USA Today lauded the film for its focus on the students: "it's hard to deny the power of Guggenheim's lingering shots on these children."[10] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A-, calling it "powerful, passionate, and potentially revolution-inducing."[11] The Hollywood Reporter focused on Geoffrey Canada's performance as "both the most inspiring and a consistently entertaining speaker," while also noting it "isn't exhaustive in its critique."[12] Variety characterized the film's production quality as "deserving every superlative" and felt that "the film is never less than buoyant, thanks largely to the dedicated and effective teachers on whom Guggenheim focuses."[13]

Geraldo Rivera praised the film for promoting discussion of educational issues.[14] Deborah Kenny, CEO and founder of the Harlem Village Academy, made positive reference to the film in a The Wall Street Journal op-ed piece about education reform.[15]

The film has also garnered praise from a number of conservative critics.[16] Joe Morgenstern, writing for The Wall Street Journal, gave the movie a positive review saying, "when the future of public education is being debated with unprecedented intensity," the film "makes an invaluable addition to the debate."[17] The Wall Street Journal's William McGurn also praised the film in an op-ed piece, calling it a "stunning liberal exposé of a system that consigns American children who most need a decent education to our most destructive public schools."[18]

Kyle Smith, for the New York Post, gave the movie four-and-a-half stars, calling it an "invaluable learning experience."[19] Forbes' Melik Kaylan similarly liked the film, writing, "I urge you all to drop everything and go see the documentary Waiting For "Superman" at the earliest opportunity."[20]

The film also received various negative criticisms. Andrew O'Hehir of Salon gave a negative review of the movie, saying that while there's "a great deal that's appealing," there's also "as much in this movie that is downright baffling."[21] Melissa Anderson of The Village Voice was critical of the film for not including enough details on outlying socioeconomic issues, saying, "macroeconomic responses to Guggenheim's query...go unaddressed in Waiting for "Superman," which points out the vast disparity in resources for inner-city versus suburban schools only to ignore them."[22] Anderson also opined that the animation clips were overused. In New York City, a group of local teachers protested one of the documentary's showings, calling the film "complete nonsense," and noting that "there is no teacher voice in the film."[23]

Educational reception and allegations of inaccuracy

A 2009 study done by Stanford University found that, on average, charter schools perform about the same or worse than public schools. The film does note, however, that most charter schools do not outperform public schools and focuses on those that do. It also states that only one in five charter schools outperform public schools (close to the 17% statistic).

"The film dismisses with a side comment the inconvenient truth that our schools are criminally underfunded. Money's not the answer, it glibly declares. Nor does it suggest that students would have better outcomes if their communities had jobs, health care, decent housing, and a living wage. Particularly dishonest is the fact that Guggenheim never mentions the tens of millions of dollars of private money that has poured into the Harlem Children's Zone, the model and superman we are relentlessly instructed to aspire to." - Rick Ayers, Adjunct Professor in Education at the University of San Francisco[24]
Author and academic Rick Ayers lambasted the accuracy of the film, describing it as "a slick marketing piece full of half-truths and distortions."[24] In Ayers' view, the "corporate powerhouses and the ideological opponents of all things public" have employed the film to "break the teacher's unions and to privatize education," while driving teachers' wages even lower and running "schools like little corporations."[24]
The film does, however, note that since 1971, inflation-adjusted per-student spending has more than doubled, "from $4,300 to more than $9,000 per student," but that over the same period, test scores have "flatlined." Ayers also critiqued the film's promotion of a greater focus on "top-down instruction driven by test scores," positing that extensive research has demonstrated that standardized testing "dumbs down the curriculum" and "reproduces inequities," while marginalizing "English language learners and those who do not grow up speaking a middle class vernacular."[24]
Lastly, Ayers contends that "schools are more segregated today than before Brown v. Board of Education in 1954," and thus criticized the film for not mentioning that in his view, "black and brown students are being suspended, expelled, searched, and criminalized."[24]
Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, similarly criticizes the accuracy of the film.[25] Ravitch notes that a study by Stanford University economist Margaret Raymond of 5000 charter schools found that only 17% are superior in math test performance to a matched public school, casting doubt on the film's claim that privately managed charter schools are the solution to bad public schools.[25] The film does note however that most charter schools do not outperform and that it focuses on those that do. As well, the film explicitly stated that one in five charter schools (close to the 17% statistic previously stated) were the overreaching, superior charter schools. Ravitch writes that many charter schools also perform badly, are involved in "unsavory real estate deals" and expel low-performing students before testing days to ensure high test scores.[25] The most substantial distortion in the film, according to Ravitch, is the film's claim that "70 percent of eighth-grade students cannot read at grade level," a misrepresentation of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.[25] Ravitch served as a board member with the NAEP and notes that "the NAEP doesn't measure performance in terms of grade-level achievement," as claimed in the film, but only as "advanced," "proficient," and "basic." The film assumes that any student below proficient is "below grade level," but this claim is not supported by the NAEP data. A teacher-backed group called the Grassroots Education Movement produced a rebuttal film titled The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. This film criticizes some public figures featured in Waiting for "Superman" and proposes different policies to improve education in the United States.[26]
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Additional Educational Posts

Generation Unleashed - Concert Songs and Vids

Repost: Relational Theology in its Open & Process Forms

Relational Theology in its
Postmodern Open and Process Forms:
Working Towards a Syncreticism of Both Systems

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
April 22, 2012
Questions to Ask
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?

For more information - http://www.facebook.com/TheOpenView

For seminar information - http://www.theopenview.org/snapshot

Keynote Speakers: Greg Boyd, John Sanders, Thomas Oord

Greg Boyd

Gregory A. Boyd received a BA in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota (1979), an M.Div from Yale Divinity School (1982) and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary (1987). He taught at Bethel University (St. Paul, MN) for 16 years and has been Senior Pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood Minnesota since 1992. He has authored and co-authored 15 books on a variety of theological and philosophical topics, including the Open View of the Future. His present interest is with the debate over future contingents throughout history, focusing especially on ancient Greco-Roman philosophy. He is currently working on The Myth of the Blueprint and Cosmic Dancing. Greg and his adorable wife Shelley reside in St. Paul, Minnesota. They have three children, one grand child, two dogs and a guinea pig.

Thomas Jay Oord

Thomas (Tom) Jay Oord is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, Idaho. He directs the Open and Relational Theologies group at the American Academy of Religion. He has written or edited about twenty books, including a number of books on Open and Relational theology. Such books are The Nature of Love, Creation Made Free, and Relational Holiness. A recent book, The Best News You Will Ever Hear, presents the gospel to nonChristians in easily accessible language. Tom blogs frequently on open theology and other subjects at ThomasJayOord.com. He is married to Cheryl, and they have three daughters.

John Sanders

Dr. John Sanders received his Th.D. from the University of South Africa in 1996. Former professor of Philosophy and Religion at Huntington College, he now serves as professor of religion at Hendrix College. Sanders has written several books outlining his path to open theism, including The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence, and The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God. He will be lecturing at the seminar on the basic themes and variations of Open theology.

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.

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Characteristics of Evangelical Open and Relational 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.