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, December 20, 2013

Four Areas That Will Challenge American Evangelicalism

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to the yesterday's previous post

Published - December 19, 2013

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Four Areas That Will Challenge American Evangelicalism

1. Openness to true developments in the intellectual drama of the human species.

2. Openness to different ecclesiastical traditions.

3. Openness to different expressions of the spiritual journey.

4. Openness to holding to Scripture in a different way.

Openness to the Other: A Challenging
Necessity for the Future for American Evangelicalism

by Peter Enns

Let me lay out two preliminary points. First, this is a blog post, not a treatise. I am expressing my opinions, formed over roughly twenty years, on a matter that has occupied my thoughts.

Second, I realize full well the perils of speaking of “Evangelicalism” (even when modified as American) as anything other than a fairly diverse movement, especially in recent decades. I restrict my thoughts below to what I see as institutional, or systemic, issues. I realize, quite happily, in fact, that scores of individuals exist on the Evangelical spectrum who would do not reflect the “system.”

That being said, I see “openness to the other” as a pressing challenge and a pressing need for the future of Evangelicalism.

The challenge is that the kind of openness I am calling for would likely threaten Evangelicalism’s raison-d’etre, i.e., a largely defensive posture assumed for the purpose of protecting and defending what is seen as the most biblical iteration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The need is that without some adaptation or transformation, Evangelicalism will shrivel and die the death of a thousand qualifications and slink off into irrelevancy.

And to be clear, by “openness” I do not mean open to superficial exchanges that leave things as they are. I mean true openness, where change is a two-way street, where the possibility of change is focused inward rather than simply outward.

So where would the Evangelical system need to be open to the other in ways it traditionally has not? For better or worse, as an academic, I live in the world of ideas, so I want to restrict my thoughts here to that familiar world and mention just four interrelated areas. I am not suggesting that all the pressing challenges reside in my universe of discourse, and I am counting on others to add their own voice from their own experience.

1. Openness to true developments in the intellectual drama of the human species.

Other posts in this series have addressed this issue, which often falls under the umbrella of genuine significant advances in various scientific fields that tell us of the past.

We simply know more than past centuries of Christians, even more than the early decades of the Evangelical movement, about evolving humanity, our ancient planet, and the inconceivably large and complex universe around us.

I am not suggesting—I hope this doesn't to be said—that science “dictates” faith, the truth of the Gospel, or whether God exists. These sorts of accusations are often first lines of defense in maintaining the system; they are obscurantist and ultimately destructive of true faith in God.

I am saying, however, that genuine, widely agreed upon, scientific developments need to be accepted for what they are—and not at a distance, but brought into theological and hermeneutical discussions of our faith. To do otherwise is to concede that God himself is outmoded.

2. Openness to different ecclesiastical traditions.

A common characteristic of Evangelical ecclesiology is the view, either explicit or implicit, that Evangelicalism is in some meaningful sense the clearest and most faithful expression of the Christian faith—which implies it is the version God most approves of. Other traditions are often looked down upon as either compromising “the clear teaching of Scripture” or lacking in some other crucial way.

The challenge to maintain some sort of Evangelical identity amid ecumenical discussions is a real one, but not necessarily impossible to pull off. How that might work itself out is not for me to say, but, in our ever-shrinking world, Evangelicalism cannot afford to be seen as anything other than in serious dialogue with other Christians communions. The global Christian faith must work toward a deep unity in basics amid diversity of various local and ecclesiastical traditions.

3. Openness to different expressions of the spiritual journey.

Most global citizens claim to adhere to some sort of religious/spiritual practice and faith, and most of them are not American Evangelicals. Evangelicalism must be willing to listen as much as speak, and be willing to have its own traditions examined, and even to learn from those of other faiths and to take their expression of faith seriously.

Rather than seeing such openness as a denial of the Gospel, it is actually an expression of deep faith in God to acknowledge that our own very local view of ultimate reality is deeply conditioned by the American drama—often far more so than by the biblical story. Few things are as unsettling to Evangelicalism system than to consider that Israel’s God, in Christ, and in Spirit—who, like the wind, goes where and how he pleases—may be on the move across the world in ways the Evangelical system cannot understand or control.

4. Openness to holding to Scripture in a different way.

The core intellectual foundation of Evangelicalism is biblical inerrancy, however defined (whether literalistically or its more recent progressive iterations). Inerrancy is rooted in a priori commitments to the nature of God and how that God would necessarily communicate in a written document—namely, in a manner that is essentially historically accurate and internally consistent (without contradictions of true theological diversity).

The modern study of Scripture and the events behind it study has yielded numerous insights that are in irreconcilable tension with inerrancy but are also widely accepted among scholars, and in some cases are pillars of the academic field (such as the long compositional history of the Bible and the presence of myth and political ideology in the Bible).

Though these insights form the content of most any high-level academic program in the study of the Bible and the biblical world, they have rested uncomfortably with the Evangelical commitment to inerrancy. As I see it, the recurring tensions over inerrancy within Evangelicalism are fueled by the distance between a priori theological expectations about God and how his book should behave, and the non-cooperative details of biblical interpretation.

The nature of Scripture is not a closed question, and within Evangelicalism, an invitation to open and safe discussions is sorely needed.

No tradition is perfect, and I am not saying Evangelicalism alone has problems. I am only saying that, in my opinion, the future of American Evangelicalism requires that Evangelicalism be prepared to rethink some things, even reinvent itself, by proactively, seriously, and openly addressing issues such as these—not to participate in trends and fads to keep current, but simply to remain active and contributing players in the human drama, which will not sit still waiting for the next clever defense of the Evangelical status quo.

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