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

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Book Review: Ed Dobson, "Seeing Through the Fog"

Death Is For Real

Amid a flurry of bestsellers promising firsthand proof of Heaven's existence,
Ed Dobson takes a brutally honest look at the pain of terminal illness and the
 difficulties of dying well.

Review by Rob Moll
[posted 10/31/2012 8:56 AM ]

Seeing Through the Fog:
Hope When Your World Falls Apart

Seeing Through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apartour rating - 5 Stars - Masterpiece
Author - Ed Dobson
Publisher - David C. Cook
Price - $12.99

I recently was reading the story of a former evangelical Christian, profiled by Tony Kriz in his new book,Neighbors and Wise Men.After growing up in a small, insular expression of the faith, he discovered a wider world outside it. In particular, this passionate believer discovered an environmental movement that spoke to his soul while his church home ridiculed the environmentalists. So, he switched his allegiances: "The Christian church has no coherent answer for earth care. And for that reason I now know I could never be a Christian."

Initially, this remark angered me. The evangelical movement has more than a few dissenters from the typical attitude toward environmentalism. They could have saved this man's faith. But as I gained some sympathy, I realized that the man's apostasy illustrates our need for faithful dissenters, insiders who stay true to the movement while critiquing its failures. These dissenters add diversity and show us new ways to be faithful followers of Christ.

It wasn't too long ago—when political evangelicalism was loud, and its hypocrisy easy to see—that I, immature and ignorant, wanted to lodge my own critiques against the church.

A faithful dissenter

Thankfully I discovered Ed Dobson, the faithful dissenter who voiced my own critiques while remaining inside the evangelical fold. Dobson was formerly a board member of the Moral Majority, a spokesperson for Jerry Falwell, and a vice president at Liberty University. Dobson had since become a successful pastor, leading a megachurch in Grand Rapids, and he remained a powerful voice in the pulpit and in his books. He was named "Pastor of the Year" by Moody Bible Institute. Dobson was an evangelical of evangelicals. He was a religious righter of the Religious Right.

And he gave me an answer to the problem of the church entwined with politics. In Blinded by Might, coauthored with fellow Moral Majority member Cal Thomas, they blame the Religious Right for that entwinement: "We have confused political power with God's power." Dobson and Thomas argue that the church has been compromised and distracted from its central mission. In 2008, Dobson voted for Barak Obama, telling ABC news that Obama "more than any other candidate represented the teachings of Jesus."

Dobson was a dissenter even during his days as a student at Bob Jones University. He turned away from, but never fully rejected, those who once nurtured him. Dobson speaks fondly of his days in fundamentalism and doesn't deride those he left behind. As Dobson has matured beyond the fundamentalist and Religious Right communities, he has simply pursued greater faithfulness and obedience to God for himself, his congregation, and the church at large.

Another kind of leadership

Now, Dobson is embracing a new role. After several years living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, Dobson is breaking the mold of the public figure diagnosed with a terminal illness. Such personalities typically retreat into private, preventing the public from seeing them in a weakened state. Or, these figures blandly assert that the disease will have no effect on their responsibilities.

As his body dies, muscle by muscle, Dobson is speaking at conferences, writing books, and is starring in a series of videos about his ALS, called "Ed's Story." Having left politics and now the pulpit, Dobson has embraced a new ministry. He is now teaching Christians to die well. Because learning to die well requires us to discover the meaning of a good life, Dobson's final journey instructs us all.

The church has always given an ear to its members who were near death. Today, travelogues written by children who visit heaven are our bestsellers. But earlier evangelicals read stories of transformation at the end of life and the narratives of faithful dying. Such stories filled religious periodicals. They weren't offered as eyewitness proof of Sunday school pictures of heaven. Obituaries never told about "battles" with illness but of abiding faith, deepened relationships, and glorious entries into heaven through the sad reality of death.

By taking his dying public, Dobson stands in this tradition. His latest book, Seeing Through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart (David C. Cook), offers the lessons Dobson has learned while dealing with a disease that kills slowly and painfully. In one of the Ed's Story videos, he says, "Every person knows that they are going to die. The difference is I feel it with every twitch of my muscles. I feel it in the very depths of my being."

Dobson writes about his fog of despair after his diagnosis, the difficulty of leaving his position as pastor, the challenge of prayer, and the constant worry when living with terminal illness. He writes about learning to give thanks—not for his disease, but for the many things ALS had yet to take away and for which he still could be thankful . Dobson writes about heaven and his powerful desire not to be there yet. He writes about his prayers for healing and the horrible things people say about faith and miracles.

To Die Well

The Christian tradition of dying well often has taught believers to hope for a slow death. It allows time for the preparation that a good death requires. Seeing Through the Fog, and particularly the Ed's Story videos, offers more than lessons in hope. It teaches the old practices of ars moriendi—the art of dying.

One Ed's Story video tells hows Dobson made a list of people from whom to ask forgiveness. Kathy had been a staff counselor at Dobson's church who was let go. The process had hurt Kathy, and she laid part of the blame at Dobson's feet. He knew she deserved an apology, and Dobson went to her, kneeled at her feet, and said he was sorry. "I found out much later that this was an event that marked her for the rest of her life," he said. "I didn't do it to mark her for the rest of her life; I did it because it was the right thing to do. I did it so that I could live my life without regret."
Dobson had intended to call Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, but he received a call from the radio host first. It is a generous anecdote that reveals a softer side of James Dobson. He had called to say he had been praying for Ed. When Ed asked for forgiveness, James asked the same from Ed. "Those few moments on the phone were incredibly liberating for me," Dobson writes.

Any serious illness will require a person to give up aspects of his life that were once considered essential. For the terminally ill, this giving up is a permanent and painful choice. Dobson shows his readers how he confronted the need to give up his lifelong role as a speaker. Whether speaking on television or preaching in the pulpit, Dobson's voice has been his life. But ALS destroys the muscles that control speech as well.

During one service after his diagnosis, Dobson spoke on giving. The offering plates had just been passed, and Dobson asked for one. He said we shouldn't just put a few of our possessions in the plate, but rather ourselves. Dobson delivered the rest of his sermon while standing in an offering plate.

In the hallway after the service, Dobson asked himself, "What am I holding back from the offering plate? ... I realized that my speaking and preaching should be in the offering plate." Dobson prayed, "I am now surrendering my speaking and preaching to You. I'm putting it in the offering plate. If the day comes when I can no longer speak or preach, I want You to know that it's okay with me."

An answer to death

I've had the opportunity to speak to a number of people who have been personally diagnosed with a terminal illness, or have known a family member who was similarly diagnosed. They're often surprised that dying today is only rarely a quick process. Most people die slowly over months and years. This is an experience that shakes their faith.

For anyone who needs to hear Christianity's coherent answer to the problem of facing one's death, or who needs a dissenter from popular narratives of near death experiences, Seeing Through the Fog is an excellent place to start. It is by no means the sum of the breadth of Christian teaching on dying well, but many readers may need to go no further than this book. The Ed's Story videos, which have received a good deal of media coverage, offer much of the same advice in a powerful, personal, and deeply touching way. I was disappointed that Seeing Through the Fog didn't evoke as powerful a response in me that the videos do.

Dobson's advice is soaked in Scripture, befitting a pastor who teaches from the Word. His generous spirit hasn't produced an upbeat book. He is brutally honest about the process of learning to die. His writing is at times stilted, suggesting the fact that he can no longer type but talks his writing using voice recognition software. Yet he writes with hope and joy of a deeper walk with Jesus.

Today, Christian's don't talk about death, but about near-death experiences seen to offer a kind of magical proof of the good life to come. For those Christians who, seeing today's bestsellers, wonder if Christianity has a coherent answer to suffering and death, Ed Dobson offers one. A faithful dissenter, Dobson offers real hope, meaning in the midst of suffering, the expectation of Jesus in the life to come, and ongoing transformation that brings us closer to him today.

Rob Moll is a CT editor at large and author of The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come (InterVarsity Press).

Editor's note: Some readers of an earlier version of this article thought it stated TonyKriz holds a negative view of evangelicals' commitment to environmental stewardship. We have edited the article to make clearer that the quote at the beginning of the review was given to Kriz by an interview subject.

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