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

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review - The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence, Part 1


Milky Way on Leslie Gulch Reservoir, Owyhees, Idaho

A few weeks ago I made the following observations:

"God is holy. God is good. God is love. But the greatest of these is love. Love is how God makes one holy and good through Jesus. Not of human will but divine.

God's love cannot be preached enough. All Christian doctrine must proceed on God's love. All missions of the church must go at this sublime thought. No other church dogma must be higher than the grace of God. And all church doctrine must revolve around this one thought.


The holiness of God is meaningless without the grace of God. The goodness of God has no affect if it isn't bathed in God's atoning grace. Holiness without grace is austere. It proceeds in judgment first, last, and always. Goodness is without effect if not given in love. It is wholly utilitarian and bare of God's mindful relation to His creation if not met in love.


The love of God is the most sufficient descriptor of the Christian faith, of God Himself, and God's relationship to His creation. None else may proceed above this thought."

- R.E. Slater, June 2, 2014

In due consideration of today's article I think it is important to remind ourselves that open and relational theology rests in the entirety of its subject upon this sublime thought. Should it stray even an iota from the love of God than it ventures from the intentional (and some will now say, insistent) heart of God into the schemes and pretensions of men and their doctrines.

Today's article will be one of several to come. Here, we focus on what is meant by open and relational theologies when speaking to the subject of God's {open and relational} divine providence.

We will continue to discuss this important subject in the days and weeks to come.

Enjoy,

R.E. Slater
June 23, 2014


The God Who Risks

The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence
Book Blurb

If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, can he in any way be vulnerable to his creation? Can God be in control of anything at all if he is not constantly in control of everything? John Sanders says yes to both of these questions. In The God Who Risks, he mounts a careful and challenging argument for positive answers to both of these profound theological questions. In this thoroughly revised edition, Sanders clarifies his position and responds to his critics. His book will not only contribute to serious ongoing theological discussion but will enlighten pastors and laypersons who struggle with questions about suffering, evil and human free will.


* * * * * * * * * * *


John Sanders and Divine Providence:
Points of Agreement
http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/john_sanders_and_providence/#.U6jjaPldX9y

by Thomas Jay Oord
June 23, 2014

All who journey to open and relational theology ponder providence. Theologian John Sanders offers one of the most thorough and best-known theologies of providence written from an open and relational perspective. His book, The God Who Risks, has as its subtitle, A Theology of Divine Providence.

I am currently writing a book on providence, randomness, and evil. In it, I proffer my own version of open and relational theology – what I call “essential kenosis.” My version is similar to Sanders’s, but it also differs in important ways.

The following essay is my summary of Sanders's overall theology of providence. These are issues on which we agree. In subsequent blog essays, I highlight areas of disagreement to contrast Sanders’s views with my alternative open and relational theology proposal.

A Risk Model of Providence

Sanders understands providence as “the way God has chosen to relate to us and provide for our well-being.” He offers a “risk model of providence,” which says God voluntarily decided to create a world with free creatures. When creating in this way, God made a covenant to be open to creatures. This covenant “is not a detailed script but a broad intention that allows for a variety of options regarding precisely how it may be reached.”

As an open and relational theologian, Sanders rejects the idea that God constantly controls others. “God grants humans genuine freedom to participate in this project, and he does not force them to comply.” Creating genuinely free creatures meant God losing the ability to control all creatures all the time.

God acts providentially, but the divine plan has “a broad intention with flexible strategies that allow for a variety of options.” God works with his creatures, seeking to obtain various goals. In this providential activity, “God genuinely enters into dynamic give-and-take relationships with humans, loving them, providing for them, and soliciting their collaboration in the fulfillment of God’s purposes for creation.”

God’s providence involves risk, which means God “does not get everything he desires,” says Sanders. But this is the nature of love, because “love takes risks and is willing to wait and try again if need be.” Love may result in deep interpersonal relationship. But it may also be scorned, as creatures reject God’s invitation. This does not make God helpless, because “there is much the lover can do,” says Sanders. “But success is not guaranteed."

The risk model of providence will not appeal to everyone, Sanders admits. Some believers prefer guarantees. But the alternative to a risk-taking God is some form of theological determinism: "Outcomes are guaranteed only if God controls others entirely and fails to take risks. Robots can be trusted to comply, but free creatures may hinder divine plans."

Sanders affirms open and relational beliefs about God’s knowledge and relation to time. “God is everlasting through time,” he says, “rather than timelessly eternal.” God knows all that can be known given the sort of world God chose to create. But the future is not entirely knowable, because it is contingent upon creaturely choices. This is what Sanders calls “dynamic omniscience.” In this view, “God knows the past and present with exhaustive definite knowledge and knows the future as partly definite (closed) and partly indefinite (open).”

The Language of Love

Love motivates Gods’ providential activity. “Love is the preeminent characteristic of God,” says Sanders. And “the commitment to love his creatures and bring them into a reciprocal relationship of love is fundamental to God.” God does not give up on covenantal commitments but responds with a strategy for redeeming each situation. Sanders believes that “God loves his creatures and desires to bless them with all that is in their best interest.” The relationship God offers “is not one of control and domination but rather one of powerful love and vulnerability.

Some criticize open and relational theologians for using creaturely analogies when talking about the Creator. The technical word for this practice is “anthropomorphism,” which means “human-like.” Open theists use images, analogies, and language to describe God, who is not a creature.

Sanders answers this criticism by saying biblical writers use anthropomorphic language. Consequently, biblically-oriented open and relational theologians feel warranted for following this biblically-derived practice. Furthermore, scripture reveals that God is like us in some respects but not in others. Our language describes at least something about who God truly is. This is especially true if, as the Bible says, we are created in God’s image.

The clearest revelation of God comes in Jesus Christ, himself human. Sanders makes a strong Christological case for open and relational theology. “If Jesus is the ultimate revelation of who God is and what humans are supposed to be in relationship to God,” he says, “then we should pay particular attention to the way divine providence works in the life of Jesus.” If we look to Jesus, says Sanders, “we see the genuine character of God, who is neither an omnipotent tyrant nor an impotent wimp.”

Jesus reveals that God intimately relates to us by giving and receiving love. “God is intimate and near, not remote or disengaged,” says Sanders. Because creatures affect God, the evangelical emphasis on “a personal relationship with God” is correct. God’s way is to respond to creatures and be receptive to what they say and do.

According to the witness of Jesus, God opposes evil. “If Jesus is the paradigm of providence,” says Sanders, “then God is fundamentally opposed to sin, evil, and suffering.” Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection reveal that “God is not the all-determining power responsible for sending everything, including suffering, on us.” Rather, “the way of God is love.” “The almighty God wins our hearts through the weakness of the cross and the power of the resurrection,” says Sanders. “Love does not force its own way on the beloved.”

Conclusion

Up to this point in my summary of Sanders’s version of open and relational theology, I completely agree with him. I might articulate some points slightly differently. But we both endorse main themes of open and relational theology. We agree on so much!

I firmly believe many Christians are confused about issues of providence. And Sanders's version of open and relational theologies can go a long way toward alleviating that confusion. I recommend The God Who Risks!

As I said at the outset, however, I disagree with Sanders on some issues. My primary disagreement pertains to his view of how God’s love, power, and failure to prevent genuine evil are related. I will address this in subsequent blogs....

- TJO

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