According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

How Does God Move and Act in the Universe? - "Eight Positions of Divine Sovereignty"

Options in Divine Action
 
by Thomas Oord
Dec 13, 2010
 
A recurring interest of mine is pondering how God acts. It's an immensely complex subject. I've come to think eight main options present themselves to Christians wanting a general framework for considering divine action.
 
Below is a chart of the eight general options. Some options are more attractive to me than others are. Those nearer the middle of the chart are most attractive.
 
 
Less Attractive Options
 
The options on the far left of the chart presuppose a very controlling God. The universe is virtually a puppet, because God controls everything or almost everything. This view of divine sovereignty, in my opinion, allows little or no room for genuine creaturely freedom or agency. These options fit some Calvinist theologies.
 
The options at the far right have problems as well. Although I think some degree of mystery should always be present when pondering how God acts, absolute mystery negates the entire enterprise of believing in God. I can't affirm wholescale negative theology.
 
Deism is not a viable option for me. My own personal experience, the Bible, and from reports of people throughout history testify to the ongoing activity of God after the creation of our universe. Thoroughgoing deism allows no room to account well for the spiritual experiences of my life and the lives of most people who have every lived.
 
More Attractive Options
 
Among the four remaining options, I see strengths and weaknesses.
 
Traditional freewill theism fits most of what John Wesley says about God's action. So I'm partial to that option. God generally gives freedom and only occasionally "interrupts" or "intervenes" the freedom God gives
 
Natural and/or Supernatural Action fits most of what I read in the writings of important theologians like Thomas Aquinas. His version of divine primary and secondary causation has been influential, although I don't think it answers some of the most important questions pertaining to theodicy.
 
What I've called the Steady State Divine Influence option has the advantage of an active God whose causal activity is uniform. This option fits well with theologies that emphasize God working in and with the laws of nature. But it has a more difficult time accounting for miracles. And most versions say God is voluntarily self-limited and the gifts of freedom and/or agency God gives are entirely voluntary on God’s part.
 
The option I currently like most is Essential Kenosis Freewill Theism. It says God necessarily gives freedom and/or agency to others. But the forms of God’s causal influence vary. And the effectiveness of God's activity depends in part on creaturely responses. It seems to fit best both with the idea that God creates and works with natural laws and the idea that God can act dramatically – miraculously – without squashing creaturely freedom and agency entirely.
 
I like to think Essential Kenosis Freewill Theism option takes Wesley's theology of prevenient grace, puts it on turbo charge, and then offers a consistent basis for affirming God's love. This is the option I develop in the last chapter of my new book, The Nature of Love: A Theology (Chalice Press) and in Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement (Brazos Press).
 
We Live by Faith
 
At the end of the day, of course, there will always be a speculative element to thinking about how God acts in the world. We live by faith, after all. None of our minds can comprehend the Universal Mind.
 
But some divine action options make better sense of what we find in Scripture, in our own experience, and contemporary science. And some do a better job of consistently affirming God's love.

 
* * * * * * * * * *

An Observation

Of note is that both ends move away from the idea of Open Theism while the middle positions are various versions of Open Theism from weak to strong to weak. Tom Oord's selection of EKFT will fit best with Wesleyan-Arminian theology, which would also fit best with this website's position of divine sovereignty (one which is always open), human free will (open), and relational theism (the freeing nature and action of the love of God).

R.E. Slater
October 12, 2013

continue to -
 
 
 




 

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