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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ecology and Doctrine - How One May Affect the Other



The Persistency of Good Doctrine That Is Relevant

Over the past 18 months I have attempted to offer some discussion to the topic of God's Sovereignty as versus the all-too-popular view that God is always in control of everything - from the good to the bad. Or, as a variant to that claim, that God is just responsible for the good stuff and that the bad stuff goes either to our credit, the devil, or "sin" in general. Relational Theism makes the discerning observation that not all things are of God. Nor is God always in control. But rather He may seem to be both Strong or Weak (oft-times at the same time) without either view affecting His Sovereign Rule that allows for creational indeterminacy and sentient free will. As such, this kind of theological view will definitely affect our view of God, ourselves, sin and creation, to mention a few.

What Hess brings out here in his Catholic article on ecology below are the well-thought-out consequences of carrying older theologies written for very different times and cultures than our own postmodern climates and cultures. Which is yet one more reason that a blog essay like Relevancy22 is necessary to the public purview when considering the many fundamental (and I think, radical) changes occurring within the body of the church and its ministries today.

The Bible is meant to be relevant - not dated. And so is the church which we are to assist by becoming relevant ourselves as Jesus followers by bringing debate and reform to its very door steps so that the church does not rest upon its earlier-conceived missions, even from a generation ago. Older views may be the cherished, classic traditions of the church, but they aren't necessarily the most warranted unless they can be stretched a bit, or even shelved completely, dependent upon the events and eras each society is experiencing. The trick is to step back from ourselves and learn to proclaim a Bible and a God that can endure the yesterday's and tomorrows of Jesus' Gospel. What once was believed (or worked) may not be the best way to express the love of God and His current handiwork of regeneration, reform, renewal, redemption and resurrection. For so He ever does.



Thus, what I have attempted here at Relevancy22 is to reletivise static church dogma in a way that could be more pertinent as living doctrine for tomorrow's generation(s) while at the same time speaking extemporaneously to our contemporary environment based upon a biblically-rooted theology that is flexible and generous. Hess' article is a good example of how we should be broader-minded and more adept at thinking through the impact of our static definitions, dogmas, and church statements that may not necessarily be as relevant for us today as they once were generations earlier (and this goes for our narrow-minded press and media pundits as well!)

Recalling older theologians and commentaries is all wonderful and good, but we do our ministries and friends a great disservice when we allow the past to determine our future responses without adding a degree or two of prayerful discernment and theologic forward-mindedness. Newer doctrine does not necessarily mean newer heresies. That is the watchword of the slothful theologian unwilling to become versified in his generation's ways and means, toils and turmoils. It also is the watchword of the overly skeptical pulpit and well-meaning congregants who are unperceptive to the political, economic and social changes occurring around them as regarding the intent and meaning of a good, robust, Spirit-filled, theology.

Nor are our resident theologians and academicians without their flaws given the nature and force of resistant change found within the bastions of our timeless church institutions and traditions. For how many times have we read of a professor or pastor losing their job because they were willing to think outside of the box and address a specific need of society or ministry? If the discipline of science has taught us anything, it has shown us the regularly recurring necessity to abandon non-scientific views and ideologies for more expressive, adaptable, and truer thoughts in any given area. And so must we, pertaining to our ideas of a static theology, an irrelevant God, and an unmeaningful Bible. For so we get when we close God's Word and refuse an open theology rich and beautiful to the needs of our world, and ourselves, today.

Faith is not certainty. It is the courage to live with uncertainty.”
- Rabbi Johnathan Sacks, The Great Partnership (p.97)

We should not be stingy when regarding the hand of God and His heart. Our reluctance to change is most often our greatest sin. Nor should we be misers of the Gospel of Jesus which will have its own iconoclastic* affects both now and in eternity lest we better behave our temperaments, arguments and ecclesiastical statements of "Fire, Fire!" When, in effect, it is the very hand and will of God Himself that we are refusing to allow or assist. Epistemic humility goes a long way towards the grasping the benevolence of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Haughty, prideful spirits produce only darkness and gracelessness.

Be willing to change. Be willing to doubt yourself. Be willing to re-consider what you were once taught and how that might be better upgraded (or updated) to today's future generations. If not, God will find better spokesmen and women for His Son's Gospel of grace and mercy, wisdom and truth. But once you do, you'll be glad that you did. And so well your friends, congregants, and pupils.

R.E. Slater
December 6, 2012

*Please refer to the sidebar An Open Faith for additional articles of an open theology, an open Bible, and an open faith.

*Related doctrinal thoughts herein may be discovered in the sidebars labelled under "Sovereignty, God, Evolution, Sin, Man, and Relational, Theism," for starters. A word or phrase look-up may also be undertaken within the body of this blog's opening sidebars near the top right hand side alongside the box "search".

*i·con·o·clas·tic [adjective]
1. attacking or ignoring cherished beliefs and long-held traditions, etc., as being based on error, superstition, or lack of creativity: an iconoclastic architect whose buildings are like monumental sculptures.
2. breaking or destroying images, especially those set up for religious veneration.


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





Peter M.J. Hess, Ph.D.

Director of Outreach to Religious Communities, National Center for Science Education

December 5, 2012

Matthias Claudius penned some memorable lines in German two centuries ago that became in translation England's most popular harvest festival hymn:
We plough the fields, and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God's almighty hand;
he sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine
and soft refreshing rain.

In the holiday season, many of us reflect on what it is for which we are thankful. Naturally, we give thanks when things are going well, and even in a disaster we might be grateful that the catastrophe was not worse or that people stepped forward to render assistance. Claudius's poem presupposes a general climatic stability that for several centuries has been conducive to thankful worship.

But how does this optimistic hymn play in the era of radical climate change? How will it sound in the future, when each decade may bring yet more frequent and extreme climate events? What is the providential reading of "God's almighty hand" in a prolonged and life-threatening drought, or in the agrarian disaster of a dust bowl? When we are battered by a Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, how do we understand the majestic line about God in the Navy hymn, "Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep its own appointed limits keep"?

Indeed, what role do religion and theology play in the accelerating conversation about climate change? This has been a banner year for extreme weather events -- from severe drought in the American Midwest to the wildfire siege in Colorado to the "Frankenstorm" of Hurricane Sandy fueled by a warming Atlantic Ocean -- which have helped the reality of climate change to register on the consciousness of most people.

But global climate change is more far-reaching in its effects than a season of storms. Climate change threatens to put billions of people at risk of devastation wrought by a climate changing too rapidly for coherent and effective response. In numerous religious traditions and the denominations under their umbrellas, people have come to understand the scientific consensus that anthropogenic climate change may do irreparable harm to the biosphere upon which our modern civilization depends.

An example of involvement driven by religious conviction is Young Evangelicals for Climate Action. YECA spokesperson Ben Lowe says that:
In seeking to live as Christ's disciples, we have come to see the climate crisis not only as a pressing challenge to justice and freedom, but also as a profound threat to "the least of these" whom Jesus identifies with himself in Matthew 25. The early effects of climate change are already impacting many of our neighbors, both in the U.S. and around the world, and our time to act is running short.

YECA strongly believes that God is calling people of the millennial generation not to sit back passively, but to take action toward overcoming the climate crisis. "For us, this means living as good stewards of God's creation, advocating on behalf of the poor and marginalized, supporting our faith leaders when they stand up for climate action, holding our political leaders accountable for responsible climate policies, and mobilizing our generation and the larger church community to join in."

There are parallel currents within the Roman Catholic Church, which has a long-standing involvement with environmental matters. In 2006, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment jointly launched the Catholic Climate Covenant. This is championed by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, part of the USCCB's Environmental Justice Program. The coalition has developed the five-element St. Francis pledge, named for the medieval saint famous for his work with the poor and his kindness to animals. Those taking the pledge undertake to:

  • PRAY and reflect on the duty to care for God's Creation and protect the poor and vulnerable.
  • LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.
  • ASSESS how we -- as individuals and in our families, parishes and other affiliations -- contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.
  • ACT to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.
  • ADVOCATE for Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable.

Since its debut on Earth Day 2009, thousands of individuals and organizations have taken the pledge. The website of the Franciscan Action Network offers suggestions and resources for incorporating climate change awareness into church worship by way of prayers, homiletical themes and liturgical music.

Another exciting project is the Jewish Climate Initiative. Like many social action projects in Judaism, it was established for tikkun olam ("repairing the world"), which is especially appropriate for a group working on climate change issues. The rationale for JCI is deeply rooted in texts from the Torah and midrash (the body of rabbinic commentary and interpretation):
We are God's caretakers for the earth. Our job is to cultivate the natural world and enhance its capacity to support life. God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden "to work it and conserve it." (Genesis 2:15.) A famous midrash says: When God created Adam, God led him around all of the trees in the Garden of Eden. God told him, 'See how beautiful and praiseworthy are all of my works. Everything I have created has been created for your sake. Think of this and do not corrupt the world; for if you corrupt it, there will be no one to set it right after you.' (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13.) Destroying the conditions for much life on earth violates this duty of stewardship.

Not all religious groups are as active in promoting understanding of and action in response to climate change; indeed, some are actively denying climate change and resisting efforts to cope with it. But organizations such as YECA, the Catholic Climate Covenant and JCI have realized that religious groups have both an opportunity and an obligation to reinvigorate our society's conversation about climate change and hold policymakers' feet to the fire.



Continue to -