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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

RNS Report: "N.T. Wright extends debate with John Piper by releasing Apostle Paul tome"


by Jonathan Merritt
November 6, 2013

N.T. Wright is one of the top five theologians alive according to Christianity Today, and given his accomplishments, it’s a difficult claim to dispute. Wright is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at University of St. Andrews, and before that, he served as Bishop of Durham for The Church of England, and taught New Testament studies for 20 years at Cambridge, McGill, and Oxford Universities. He has written a stack of widely-acclaimed and bestselling books, both academic and popular, and has a cult following among young Christian thinkers in the United States and Europe.

But Wright has also become a controversial figure in recent years, igniting a heated debate among American theologians with his so-called “New Perspective on Paul.” Many prominent Christian leaders wrote rebuttals of Wright’s perspective–most notably pastor John Piper, who devoted an entire book to the matter (The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright).

How does one respond to such controversy? If you’re N.T. Wright, by penning a 1700-page tome on the life and theology of the Apostle Paul–the most comprehensive published work on Paul in the history of Christianity. It’s called Paul and the Faithfulness of God, and it promises to extend the debate he sparked years ago. Here, we discuss the book’s thesis, how it may inform gender and political debates, and what he thinks will make John Piper most upset.

JM: Is it possible to give shorthand to the new way of reading Paul you’ve explored in this book? How would you describe your approach to Paul succinctly?

NTW: I offer a holistic reading of Paul in which the different emphases many have seen, between ‘juristic’ or ‘lawcourt’ thought, and ‘participationist’ or ‘incorporative’ thought, are reconciled; in which what some call ‘apocalyptic,’ and what some call ‘salvation history,’ are brought together in a larger framework of a new-covenant theology; in which Paul’s Jewish, Greek, and Roman backgrounds are all taken fully into account. Paul emerges as a three-dimensional figure, passionate about the very Jewish message of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah and the world’s true Lord, and aware that in announcing this message he was engaging with the philosophy, religion and imperial dreams of his day.

In particular, Paul emerges as the one who invented what we now call ‘Christian theology’ – prayerful, scripture-fueled meditation on God, God’s people, and God’s purposes – to meet the particular need: a community which had to be united and holy but which lacked the Jewish cultural symbols that had helped the Jews with their version of this vocation. “Theology” as Paul was doing it, and more importantly was teaching his churches to do it, was the way to corporate-and-individual human and Christian maturity and to sustaining the church in its life and witness.

JM: And how do you anticipate that this historical and theological study of Paul will reframe Christian theologies of salvation, justification, and law?

NTW: The main point is that most second-temple Jews weren’t discussing “salvation” and “justification” in anything like the way later Christians did. They were anxious about how Israel’s God was going to unveil his long-awaited covenant purposes, returning in person to deliver Israel from subservience to pagans and to launch “the age to come”. That, for them, was [their] “salvation”  and “justification” - not that they discussed it much - [but it] was about how you could tell in the present who God would vindicate in the future. Their debates focused on how all that would happen, and what they should be doing in the meantime.

Image courtesy of Fortress PressI have shown how Paul’s teaching on justification, the law, etc. is best understood as the radical reworking of these debates around the new fixed point: that Israel’s God had returned in the person of Israel’s Messiah and that, in his crucifixion and resurrection, he had not only launched but had also redefined the “age to come” right in the middle of ongoing and contested history. For Paul, this sovereign, saving act of the Creator, and covenant God, was then being implemented through the work of the Spirit and in the announcement of the “gospel” to the pagan world. We only “get” what he means by “justification” and “salvation” when we put it all in this larger context. Nothing of value is lost thereby from older traditions (though some cherished formulations, themselves unbiblical, will need to be revised in the light of what Paul actually said); but much, much is gained, particularly the large and utterly coherent vision of his whole thought and work.

JM: Your views on these topics have upset some American Christians in the past, particularly those in the Reformed movement. Which parts of this book will John Piper be most upset with?

NTW: Far be it from me to put words into Dr. Piper’s mouth. I am sorry he and I have never met; we share so much–a commitment to the great Reformed tradition, a commitment to the cross as the center of everything, a commitment to scripture, and to the faithful and patient investigation and exposition of it.

I think what stands behind some of the ongoing disagreements and challenges which come from that quarter is the awareness that, in locating Paul (and Jesus for that matter) within the world of first-century Judaism, I am invoking the first-century Jewish sense of an ongoing narrative reaching its shocking and unexpected climax. Most Protestants assume that an ongoing narrative is a form of Catholicism, leading to an assumption that all you have to do is to belong to the story and all will be well–and leading thus to a carelessness about the radical inbreaking of the gospel both in history and individual lives. This may indeed be a danger; but it is far more dangerous to ignore the ways in which both Jesus and Paul believed that the Messianic events of Jesus, and the work of the Spirit, were in fact the fulfillment of the ancient covenant with Abraham.

Here’s another irony: I would expect that a Reformed theologian like Dr. Piper would welcome a “covenantal” reading of Paul. Perhaps he yet may. Of course, he has said many times before that he thinks my reading of Paul screens out “imputation” in his sense, and he’s right: Paul doesn’t say what that theory wants him to say. But the underlying meaning Dr. Piper and others are seeking in that theory are, I believe, [are] not only retained, but enhanced in the larger and more textually grounded reading which I have offered. I have no interest in maintaining an either/or. I am interested in seeing how what Paul actually says holds together the multiple emphases, which scholars and preachers have discerned, in his writings.

The other thing which I think is underneath the rather sharp opposition, not only from Dr. Piper but from some others, is my insistence–in line with Paul’s own vision of renewed creation in Romans 8 and elsewhere–that Paul saw the gospel and “salvation” not in terms of a “spiritual” escape from the present world but as the transformation of this present world.

JM: Some modern Christians have criticized Paul as “sexist” or even “anti-women.” How does your book inform conversations about gender?

NTW: This view is depressingly shallow. Paul, like the other early Christians, and like Jesus himself, lived in a complex world where, despite what some think, many women were able to live independent lives, run businesses, travel, and so on, while many others were part of traditional structures which still curtailed their options. A world much like ours, in fact! Into that, the main message was what Paul says in Galatians 3.28: in the Messiah, Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, no “male and female”. We can see this working out when he refers to Junia as an “apostle”, and in the same chapter (Romans 16) mentions several other women who are in positions of leadership in the church–and where, too, he gives Phoebe the task of taking the letter to Rome, which almost certainly meant that she would read it out and explain it to the house-churches.

At the same time, Paul was a deeply creational theologian, who believed passionately that men and women were created differently and that this God-given difference was not obliterated but had to be navigated appropriately and wisely. As with his political views, so here, he may seem to us to be saying two different things, but this only shows that we are trying to fit him into the Procrustean beds of our late-modern imagination. It’s like criticizing Shakespeare for not writing in 140-character Twitter sound bytes.

JM: You mention Paul’s political views, and in the book, you argue that Paul founded and maintained communities loyal to Jesus  across a world owing allegiance to Caesar. How will your work impact modern Christians’ allegiance to governments, political parties and power structures?

NTW: Just as, in the sixteenth century, western Christians came to the text with certain questions shaped by their culture–and we can now see how much that has caused people to misread him–so now western Christians come to the New Testament with the questions of modern western democracy in our minds, and within that the questions of the “culture wars” of late 20th Century America. Was Paul a Republican or a Democrat? Was he right-wing or left-wing? One of the things we must urgently learn is that our rather shallow polarizations do not at all correspond to the ways in which ancient Jews or Greeks or Romans saw public and civic life.

We too easily grasp Paul saying “obey the government” and assume he was an unthinking right-winger in our terms. Or we latch on to the fact that he says “Jesus is Lord” and assume he will line up with every neo-Marxist movement, eager to overthrow the present authorities. This is naïve.

Paul has a great deal to say about power, government and so on–not so much about “political parties” because that’s a fairly modern idea, one particular localized way of “doing democracy”–but we only understand it all when we really dig deep into his cultural, philosophical and political roots [of his time]. That’s what I’ve tried to do in this book. My hope is that the book will open people’s eyes to the powerfully subversive early Christian vision of Jesus as Lord, and to the shallow and often self-serving ways in which the western world “does politics”, whether to the right or to the left. One thing is sure: follow Paul, and any idea that “theology” or “spirituality” has nothing to do with public life will be gone for ever.

One of the peculiar things about transatlantic theological debates is that in America people who are right-wing theologically are often right-wing politically, whereas in England theological conservatives are often left-wing politically–though again the “right” and “left” mean different things at different times and places. Paul can help us get beyond the shallow stereotypes and enable us to see what it really means, in geopolitical as well as “spiritual” terms, to say “Jesus is Lord”. And, as pietists have always taught, if he is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all.

- “Go on,” Paul would say. “Think through what that’s going to mean for Christianity in the 21st century.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDHs8S1Se3E

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Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and has published more than 1000 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Atlantic, and National Journal. His most recent book is "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars."

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Continue to Index -

Index - Christmas and Advent

Advent Season 2020 - The Process Christ of Advent's Being & Becoming

24 Advent Poems for Christmas

All Things Christmas: The Rythm of Time, Christian Calendars, Advent, and Christmas Future

The Origin of Christmas

How December 25 Became Christmas

The Story of Christmas

The Meaning of Jesus' Birth to the Romans of the Ancient World

An Aussie Children's Christmas Story

Remembering the First Christmas: The Killing of Innocent Children