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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Peter Enns, "ETS and the Evolutionary Controversy in Evangelicalism"

An outsider eavesdrops on the Evangelical Theological Society
and the Adam/evolution controversy. Oh no.
by Peter Enns

Peter Rollins, "New Atheism/Religion and the Death of God"

“We should use and look upon nothing as separate from God, which indeed is a kind of practical atheism...
[God's] intimate presence holds them all in being, who pervades and actuates the whole created frame,
and is, in a true sense, the soul of the universe.” - John Wesley
Peter Rollins, Lawrence Krauss, The Guardian, Australia

by Peter Rollins
with commentary by R.E. Slater
November 15, 2013

Over the coming weeks I wish to write a few reflections concerning the discussion that took place between myself and Lawrence Krauss. This will be used as a means of getting to the heart of some critiques I have of the New Atheism movement as a whole. The main one mimicking the critique that psychoanalysis has with regards to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (namely that the latter doesn’t deal with the unconscious). Something that become evident in the debate with Krauss when he showed that he simply didn’t understand what is meant by the “death of God” and when he couldn’t fathom the way that fundamentalism was (structurally speaking) not an intellectual position but a means of protection against a trauma.

Anyway, for now I simply wish to publish a discussion Krauss and I had that was originally for The Guardian in Australia (but which wasn’t published because of the different lengths of response). The question that The Guardian asked us to talk about was: "Have the new atheists won the battle of ideas by proving that religion isn’t true?"

PR: This question might help us get to the heart of my problem with “New Atheism” (a term that is as problematic as “New Religion”). For the problem is not that it has gone too far in its critique, but rather that it hasn’t gone anywhere far enough.

I think the first great critic of the approach summed up in “New Atheism” was the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who, at the twilight of the nineteenth century wrote a scathing parable attacking the cultural elite who took joy in proclaiming the end of religion.

The story goes that a madman finds himself in a marketplace seeking God. Because he’s surrounded by enlightened nonbelievers he’s ridiculed for his pursuit. But then the madman tells them that the God he seeks is dead and that everyone in the marketplace has killed him. At this point in the parable we find an interesting antagonism, for the madman is telling those who don’t believe what they seem to already know, namely that God is dead as an anchoring point in their lives, that God is an idea whose time has passed: But he is precisely accusing them of not knowing it.


*My limited understanding of the phrase "God is Dead" refers to the historical death of Jesus on the cross... at which point God (through Jesus=God) cedes provisional caretake of the earth and humanity over to the church and His Holy Spirit. This then countermands the normal meaning that "there is no God, never has been a God (or gods), and never will be one" kind of understanding. The first takes the "Death of God" in a  deeply theological sense, while the latter in a common vernacular (atheistic) sense. - R.E. Slater


He goes on to say that, like a lightening strike in which we have not yet heard the crash of thunder, the impact of this insight has not yet hit them. They walk around feeling great about their “insight” without actually feeling the mad and horrific consequences of it. Hence, in a different passage, Nietzsche refers to a myth about the shadow of the Buddha remaining on a cave wall after the Buddha had died, commenting that the shadow of God still remains after the death of God and that the task set before us is the removal of the shadow.


*Here too it seems that in the proper sense of being a biblical sinner is one that places us fully in charge of our lives so that as a disbeliever (or atheist) one must fully remove God from very life itself as is possible. From religious holidays to momentous occassions (weddings, death, taking office, graduation, etc), from societal observances to personal tragedies and joys. To as literally remove God from one's life as can be possible while leaving in this space as much nothing, or human godlessness, as can be made. Leaving in its wake "mad and horrific consequences." For this is the truth to every lost sinner's life... that God is dead, and must be dead, so that there is no God found in this life or the next. Of course, as has been demonstrated in this link here, atheology is as fruitless a task as it is impossible task to achieve. Hence, Peter Rollins is pointing out the obvious in his own way. - R.E. Slater


In simple terms we can understand what this means by reflecting upon how none of us really believe that having a bigger house or better car will make us happy, and yet we continue to materially act as if it will. Or we might know that a loved one has died, yet we protect ourselves from the grief of that knowledge through a type of security blanket: such as keeping the room of our beloved exactly as it was.

The bigger house/better car/preserved room act as a fetish in the psychoanalytic sense of the term in that they act as objects that we know are not magical yet treat as if they are. A fetish object does not hide us from some kind of knowledge, but protects us from experiencing the psychological impact of the knowledge we already have. Just like an actual security blanket carried by a child doesn’t prevent them from knowing that they are in a room full of people, but rather protects them for the impact of that knowledge.

The critique then that “New Religion” offers against “New atheism” is a precise one… it has not felt the impact of its own claims, indeed it hides from the horror and madness of its own insights through its often bourgeois, detached elitism.

New Religion admittedly doesn’t sound like a very attractive proposition, for it is the place that one enacts this terrifying insight in a bodily way (through [new] music, poetry, ritual and liturgy). It is for the mad men and women, like Nietzsche, who are ready to hear the crash of the thunder in their lives.

My larger argument is that this experience of the “death of God,” far from being against the insight of faith, is its subversive, scandalous heart. That the event one wishes to experience in the New Religion’s “church” is precisely that cry,my God, my God why have you forsaken me.” This is not an intellectual atheism [so much as it is] an existential one. It is an atheism that is felt at the core of our being (an experience which is open to those who are, intellectual speaking, theists, atheists and agnostics). However far from being depressing, it is in confronting this experience that leads to a fuller and more enriching life. So the argument of New Religion is not that New atheists have gone too far by proving religion isn’t true in the marketplace of ideas, but that they’ve failed to go all the way.


One further thought (though this thought must be tested as true since I am very new to the new kind of language, and philosophy, being used here as I had cautioned earlier) is that Pete, like other Radical Theologians, is saying to torch all religion down. To burn down every last filament of our religious idols so that nothing exists in its place but a religionless landscape of godlessness. Because the very things we hold so dear in our religious lives have become the very things that have caused us to forgot God, and place in-and-around us, God-like structures of comfort and insurance. Hence, it is better to be a Christian-less believer than to be a faithfully church-going believer. And it is in this place of anarchy and destruction that God will be found all the clearer in the dismay, disbelief, and mayhem.

However, my counter-argument to this line of thinking, is that humanity must always be thought of as visual, symbolic beings always in need of their comforts and supports. To remove them is to remove the very essence of our humanity. Rather than seeing these as things as existential idols I rather see them as evidences (or testaments) to one's God-belief.... The trick is to not replace this Creator-Redeemer God with some lesser god, thing, or even self, as the Bible clearly narrarates time-and-again in the bankrupt lives of castaway believers and nonbelievers alike. Instead of torching everything down, the Christian is commanded to torch down all idols and let Jesus reign as fully as is possible within this life of ours. Which doesn't mean one must become a professional cynic, or monk-like stoic, which projects have been tried time-and-again within both Catholic and Protestant movements. However, even in these wild places the God one seeks can be as far away as our sinful, and proud, hearts will take us. This is the seriousness of the sin/atheism that we bear within our hearts and spirit, and the absolute necessity we correspondingly bear for a Redeemer God to come to us to recreate, rebirth, renew, and resurrect us within the cores of our beings. - R.E. Slater


LK: To the extent that I understand your point, I am a bit surprised. Why would one want to replace an old religion that doesn’t work with a new one that relies on angst? Moreover, at least where I live, the old religion is quite alive even if it is not well in the first world (in the developing world things are quite different. I do agree with you that it is experiencing slow death throes of realization that god simply doesn’t cut it anymore, but the response here is largely to retrench, to fight anything that might further god’s demise, and that fight can be extremely dangerous, and that fight is what many of the new atheists are trying to address. I can’t speak for others, but from my point of view, there are two messages: (1) hey, lighten up, this stuff is as silly as sex or politics, let’s treat it that way and, (2) the real universe is so amazing that we shouldn’t feel the loss of god is a loss, it is a gain, it opens us up to more wonder and awe.

PR: As a brief aside, the point I’m making is not that we need to replace the old religion with a new one but rather to discover the new that exists as a potential within the old religion. In other words, to draw out a liberating kernel operating within the actually existing religion, one that will crack it open like new wine in an old wineskin. While this might seem like splitting hairs the point is an important one. For I would argue that the most effective tools for ridding the world of reactionary religion are found within it.

I will however spend my response reflecting on your concerns over the idea of having a religion that “relies on angst.” This is where I must turn to Kierkegaard and respond that I’m not trying to create angst but rather draw out the way in which we are already full of angst and show how the best way of working through this is in facing it and tarrying with it.

There are broadly two ways to cope with our [existential/spiritual - res] angst: one involves hiding it/projecting it. The other involves making peace with it.

For Kierkegaard, the problem with angst was that it lurked within both everyday happiness and sadness. For him one could be happy and yet still be full of angst. Something we witness in the average nightclub, were one can’t help wondering what would happen if the lights went up and the music went down. Amidst all the pleasure it’s hard not to feel that the lights and the silence, combined with the awkward moment of looking each other in the eyes, would uncover in many an underlying sadness that didn’t just lie beneath their pleasure, but actually motivated their pursuit of it.

But in the same way that angst is deeper than both happiness and sadness, he argued that so too is joy. One can have joy even when facing difficult and sorrowful times. The point of the “New Religion” is to create spaces were people can encounter their angst, not so that they become enslaved by it, but so that they are freed from it just as talking about ones pain doesn’t strengthen it but helps to rob it of its sting.

In terms of the retrenchment you speak about in religion we simply diverge on our interpretation of it. The re-entrenchment of religion as seen in fundamentalism would, to me, signal not a security but precisely an insecurity. For instance, if I say to a friend that I think her partner is having an affair and she kicks me out of the house, telling me that she never wants to speak to me again, that is not evidence that she disagrees with me, but rather that she agrees with me but doesn’t want to directly confront her agreement. If what I said was something she didn’t know in some way her reaction would more likely be mere shock. The violent response is evidence of her own inability to face what she already suspects.

Within the religious world Fundamentalism is more often than not the externalization of an internal crisis. And here, once more, I would say that the most dangerous thing for these communities in crisis is not the position of the new atheist, but of those who attack from within (the “heretic” rather than the “infidel”).

You finish with two points. The first is that religion, like politics and sex, is silly; and the second being that the universe is amazing. I’m not sure I see why the first is necessarily silly while the second is not. Those who are depressed generally can’t place any value on anything while those who embrace life find it all incredible. In theological language, the latter experience a depth dimension in existence.

The majority of people who seek therapy go precisely because their desire is not functioning properly and everything seems pointless. The point of the “New Religion” is to help people face their angst, embrace life in the midst of unknowing and, in so doing, get themselves to the point were they can take seriously all of life.

What opens us up to awe and wonder is not a universe any more than a god: it is love. For those who do not love, the universe is experienced as meaningless even if they believe it is meaningful. While for those who love, the universe is experienced as saturated with meaning even if they believe it is not.

LK: Firstly, I agree there are seeds within the old religion to liberate people, and one can exploit some of the successful tools of religion, ritual, community etc. and we need to replace those positive aspects of religion with other sources when we get rid of it. Secondly, you misunderstand me. I agree the retrenchment is due to insecurity. However I don’t see that embracing that insecurity and that entrenchment will help. I see that ridiculing it will help. Thirdly, I am in awe of the universe, but I also think it is meaningless. Fourthly, the doctrines of religion are silly by any standard I can conceive. Moreover, taking ourselves too seriously is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Peter Rollins, "A Miracle Without Miracle"


by Peter Rollins
November 17, 2013

Here’s a little parable from The Orthodox Heretic. For the next couple of weeks you can listen to an audio version of this by clicking here and pressing the play button beside the name “Miracle Without Miracle”.

After Jesus had descended from the Mount of Olives he came across a man who had been blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he cannot see?”
            Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.. We must carry out the works of him who sent me while it is day for night is approaching, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “My friend, go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So he went and washed and returned in jubilation shouting, “I can see, I can see!”
            The neighbors and those who knew him as a beggar began to grumble saying, “Has this man lost his mind, for he was born blind.” Some said, “It is the same man who was blind.” Others said, “No, it is not, but he is like him.” In response to this grumbling, the old man kept repeating, “I am the same man. Jesus anointed my eyes and said, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and now can see everything.”
            To ascertain what had happened they brought him to the Pharisees. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know that this man Jesus is a sinner.” But the old man answered, “Whether or not he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
            But the Pharisees began to laugh. “Old man, meeting Jesus has caused you to lose your mind, you had to be carried into this room by friends, you still stumble and fall like a fool, you are as blind today as the day you were born”.
           “That may be true,” replied the old man with a long deep smile, “as I have told you before. All I know is that yesterday I was blind but today, today I can see”.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Brownscombe, (The Pilgrim's) First Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.
It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every-
where to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of
heaven and earth.

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

- The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 367 and 837

David Crowder Song & Video Mix

I Am a Seed

Heaven Came Down

Everything Glorious

Come Thou Fount

Never Let Go

I Saw the Light

Come and Listen

How He Loves
[may play together as stereo]



To the Only God


Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Short History of Thanksgiving & Thanksgiving Theologies

In an earlier post Tom discusses How Does God Move and Act in the Universe? - "Eight Positions of Divine Sovereignty,"  reviewing each position one-by-one. Today he takes the practical side of this chart and makes it relevant through the American holiday of Thanksgiving, which many believe was an institution originating with the Pilgrims for their safe passage and survival in the wilds of early America thanks to their Indian friends, whose relationships with one another quickly soured (cf. The Landing of the Pilgrims and The Pilgrim's Mayflower Compact). But the early story of this holiday is is not true.

However, it was more true that the holiday became a later Calvinist thanksgiving established by the Puritans of New England based upon earlier English Protestant Reformations made under King Henry VIII. Whose radical Protestant reformation groups wished to remove the many Catholic holidays down to two special kinds of observances: "Days of Fasting," for remembering times of sorrow and destruction; and "Days of Thanksgiving and Feasting" for remembering especially noteworthy, and joyous, events.

Wikipedia - Thanksgiving (around the world)

In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition is commonly, but not universally, traced to a poorly documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest. Pilgrims and Puritans who began emigrating from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to New England. Several days of Thanksgiving were held in early New England history that have been identified as the "First Thanksgiving", including Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623, and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631.[9][10] According to historian Jeremy Bangs, director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, the Pilgrims may have been influenced by watching the annual services of Thanksgiving for the relief of the siege of Leiden in 1574, while they were staying in Leiden.[11] In later years, religious thanksgiving services were declared by civil leaders such as Governor Bradford, who planned a thanksgiving celebration and fast in 1623.[12][13][14] The practice of holding an annual harvest festival did not become a regular affair in New England until the late 1660s.[15]

Thanksgiving proclamations were made mostly by church leaders in New England up until 1682, and then by both state and church leaders until after the American Revolution. During the revolutionary period, political influences affected the issuance of Thanksgiving proclamations. Various proclamations were made by royal governors, John Hancock, General George Washington, and the Continental Congress,[16] each giving thanks to God for events favorable to their causes.[17] As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nation-wide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God".[18]

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe

Wikipedia - The Pilgrims (Thanksgiving)

"First Thanksgiving"

The autumn celebration in late 1621 that has become known as "The First Thanksgiving" was not known as such to the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims did recognize a celebration known as a "Thanksgiving", which was a solemn ceremony of praise and thanks to God for a congregation's good fortune. The first such Thanksgiving as the Pilgrims would have called it did not occur until 1623, in response to the good news of the arrival of additional colonists and supplies. That event probably occurred in July and consisted of a full day of prayer and worship and probably very little revelry.[43]

The event now commemorated in the United States at the end of November each year is more properly termed a "harvest festival". The original festival was probably held in early October 1621 and was celebrated by the 53 surviving Pilgrims, along with Massasoit and 90 of his men. Three contemporary accounts of the event survive: Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford; Mourt's Relation probably written by Edward Winslow; and New England's Memorial penned by Plymouth Colony Secretary – and Bradford's nephew – Capt. Nathaniel Morton.[44] The celebration lasted three days and featured a feast that included numerous types of waterfowl, wild turkeys and fish procured by the colonists, and five deer brought by the Native Americans.[45]

Now let us turn our attention to the idea of Thanksgiving for both the religious, and non-religious alike, from a theological point of view....

R.E. Slater

November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Theologies
November 22, 2013

The Thanksgiving holiday is a terrific time to talk theology. But some theologies make more sense when offering thanks to our loving Lord.

Whether the setting is private or public, secular or sacred, hundreds of millions express gratitude. Often, even the day’s newscasts are laden with words of Holy appreciation.

For what, however, are we to thank God? What credit is due the divine? And which theologies best account for our desire to express gratitude?


One group giving thanks consists of those who consider theology a mere form of language without a Referent. There is no Holy Reality, they say, to which their rituals relate. Theology is nothing more than anthropology. Giving thanks to God is merely an expression of a shared cognizance that life is not entirely within our control.

These folks can utter the words, "Thank you, God." But their disbelief in a Being exists to whom they should be grateful makes their theological sleight of hand far from satisfying.

A Controlling God

Many eager to express their indebtedness at Thanksgiving have ties to a second option in Christian theology. This view says God either directly or indirectly controls everything. When someone from this tradition says, "Thank you God for _____," he or she can fill the blank with any event.

Such events in that blank may be joyous and hopeful. But others are utterly evil and horrific. The God of this theology is responsible for respect and rape, peace and pain, havens and holocausts. God directly or indirectly controls everything.

Most in this theological tradition express gratitude at Thanksgiving only for events they deem good. Reminding them their view implies God is also responsible for evil dampens their holiday spirit.

Classical Free-will Theology

A third theological alternative at Thanksgiving takes the form of classical free-will theology. Those in this tradition believe they sidestep theological potholes in which other believers fall. They thank God for good and benevolent acts, while blaming free agents or natural forces for evil.

A closer look at classical free-will theology, however, reveals that the God of this theology is culpable for failing to prevent genuine evil. Classical free-will theology says God voluntarily gives freedom to others, but God essentially retains the ability to prevent genuine evils by taking that freedom away or failing to provide it in the first place.

The God with the capacity to control others entirely by either failing to provide, withdrawing, or overriding their freedom is ultimately culpable for failing to prevent dastardly deeds. Although free creatures initiate evil in classical free-will theology, the view implies that God is ultimately culpable for whatever occurs. After all, this God has the capacity to control others entirely should God so decide.

Those affirming classical free-will theologies could insert any event into the “Thank you God for _____” phrase. The God they espouse voluntarily permits free creatures to use their freedom to cause genuine evil.

Essential Kenosis Theology at Thanksgiving

A fourth option may be more adequate as the theological framework for this year’s Thanksgiving prayer. I call this framework “essential kenosis,” because it says God necessarily loves in each moment without ever trumping creaturely agency and/or freedom.

Essential kenosis says God’s eternal nature of love includes giving freedom and/or agency to creation. Because God’s nature is this kind of love, God cannot fail to provide, cannot withdraw, and cannot override the freedom and agency God necessarily gives.

Essential kenosis theology says God’s loving actions in each moment present a spectrum of possibilities to each creature for response. This is not deistic theology, in which God sits uninvolved on the sidelines.  Instead, God actively creates, provides, and interacts with creation.

Not only does the God of essential kenosis offer possibilities, God also calls creatures to respond to the best possibilities. Our loving Creator inspires and empowers creatures to love. Genuine evil results from the responses these creatures make contrary to God’s call.

Essential kenosis theology affirms at Thanksgiving that every good and perfect gift originates in God. God alone is the source of good. But the good things we enjoy also require creatures to respond well to God’s loving activity. In other words, we should thank God for being the source of goodness, but we should also thank the chef for making a great Thanksgiving meal!

Without scruples, the Christian adopting essential kenosis theology can offer thanks to God for being the source of all this good and not the one responsible for causing or allowing evil. She can also thank God for inspiring, empowering, and creating others to act in love, peace, and beauty.

A Short Thanksgiving Prayer

"Our loving God, in deepest gratitude, we thank You for the good you have done and are doing. We thank you for empowering and inspiring us to respond well to your perfect goodness. We are grateful now and forever. Amen!"

Peter Enns, "Scripture as a Polyphonic Text has not One, but Many Voices"

Genesis, creation, and two very different portraits of God (or, you can’t pin God down)
He concludes by saying that the Bible as “a polyphonic text—a work that speaks in many voices… is the strength of the Bible rather than a weakness.” He continues,
Different people relate to one or another of these divine portraits—some of us are drawn to an approachable God, and being that is more be like us, while for others, a majestic, distant deity is more “Godlike.” Sometimes this can even shift with time and need—the very same person may sometimes need to connect to a God who walks about the Garden at the breezy time of the day (Gen 3:8), while at other times they may need to connect to a God who insists that all is ordered and in its place, good, indeed very good. Post-biblical Judaism used interpretation to discover different images for God in the Bible—no two parshanim or philosophers shared identical images of what God was like.  But this inability to pin God down, to create one single, uniform, univocal image of God already has strong roots in the biblical text itself.
Bottom line for Brettler: You can’t pin God down. The Bible tells us so.
Note how a Jewish reading celebrates diversity in Scripture–even diverse portraits of God–whereas Protestant readers, particular evangelicals and fundamentalists, tend to seek a singular, unified voice in Scripture–and do some fretting when they don’t find one.
Jewish readings of Scripture see diversity as a property of a sacred, inspired text. Conservative Protestants see it as a characteristic that is incompatible with divine inspiration and thus needing to be “solved.”
Personally, I have long thought that a Jewish approach to diversity in Scripture is preferable, given the degree of theological diversity that is self-evident in Scripture itself – the two creation stories being only a small sampling of that. That is why chapter three of Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament deals with theological diversity.
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Brettler is also author of numerous other books, including How to Read the Jewish Bible, and co-editor of The Jewish Study Bible and The Jewish Annotated New Testament. He is also cofounder of Project TABS (Torah and Biblical Scholarship) -TheTorah.com.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Peter Enns Book Review: "The Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism," by Molly Worthen

evangelicalism and the uneasy relationship with academic freedom–more thoughts from Molly Worthen
The evolution of the evangelical community–and whether, and why, it might be called anti-intellectual–is best traced through the lives of the elites: the preachers, teachers, writers, and institution-builders in the business of creating and dissminating ideas. When critics describe evangelicalism as anti-intellectual, usually they are not blaming ordinary laypeople. A casual glance at the latest Amazon.com best-seller list, chock full of celebrity memoirs and pulpy novels, or the amateur talent shows and dating competitions that top the television rating, demonstrates that when it comes to intellectual shallowness evangelicals have no advantage on the rest of America.
When critics condemn the “evangelical mind,” they are talking about the people who ought to know better, who bear some responsibility for the Darwin-bashing and history-hashing that pollsters hear when they survey evangelical America. They are comparing evangelical elites with the nonevangelical intelligentsia. They are asking how it can be that college professors believe in creationism, or that educated activists deny evidence of global warming. They are wondering how evangelicals define the purpose of higher education (for which they have long shown great zeal) when they so regularly demean the fruits of critical inquiry, and how they can reconcile their fervor for evangelism with American pluralism. (pp. 9-10)