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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Is and Isn't the "Lake of Fire" in Revelation?

The Lake of Fire. Or is it?

Is the Lake of Fire Torture? Josh Butler

by Scot McKnight
Oct 10, 2014

IS THE LAKE OF FIRE TORTURE? by Josh Butler, author of the just-out and excellent book, The Skeletons in God’s Closet.

Joshua Ryan Butler is author of the new book, The Skeletons in God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, the Surprise of Judgment, the Hope of Holy War(Thomas Nelson), and a pastor at Imago Dei Community (Portland, OR).

* * * * * * * * * *

Book Description

Is God a sadistic torturer? Coldhearted judge? Genocidal maniac? Unfortunately, our popular caricatures often make him out to be.

There are some questions no Christian wants to be asked. Many today believe hell, judgment and holy war are "skeletons in God's closet," tough topics that, if looked at closely, would reveal a cruel, vindictive tyrant rather than a good and loving God. And we aren't comfortable with the answers we've been given.

  • "How can a loving God send people to Hell?"
  • "Isn't it arrogant to believe Jesus is the only way to God?"
  • "Why is there so much violence in the Old Testament?"

In this book, we'll pull these bones out into the open to exchange popular caricatures for the beauty and power of the real thing. We'll discover these topics were never really skeletons at all . . . but proclamations of a God who is good "in his very bones," not just in what he does, but in who he is. We'll fling the wide the closet door and sing loudly, boldly and clearly:

God is good and coming to redeem his world.

* * * * * * * * * *

Many a street preacher has used the “lake of fire,” an image in Revelation, to depict God as a sadistic torturer who likes to roast unrepentant rebels like kalua pigs over an eternal spit once the stopwatch runs out.

But is torture really the point of this image? I would like to suggest, in contrast, that the lake of fire is an apocalyptic symbol for the smoldering rubble of Babylon. It depicts God’s judgment on empire, not the torture of individuals.

Let’s take a quick look at why this is a better interpretation.

Burning Down Babylon

The lake of fire shows up in Revelation, a book filled with apocalyptic symbols. There is a danger in interpreting these symbols too literally. To say Jesus is a lamb does not mean Jesus is on all fours, chewing grass and saying, “Baa!” When a beast rises out of the ocean, we do not expect Godzilla to come walking out of the Atlantic to trample down our cities.

If we did interpret these images this way, John (the author of Revelation) would probably scratch his head and say, “How did you get that?” We’d be missing the point.

We have to ask what these symbols represent. Jesus’ identity as Lamb draws upon the Old Testament history of sacrifice to proclaim that his death atones for the sin of the world. Beasts are an Old Testament symbol for empire, depicting the Gentile powers that arise to rage against God’s world.

So what about the lake of fire?

A good first question to ask is: “What context does the symbol show up in?”

And there is definitely a context. Just before the lake of fire steps onstage for its first appearance in Revelation 19; something dramatic has just happened: God has just judged Babylon with fire.

God is burning down Babylon. This is the immediate context for the symbol. God is judging an empire, not torturing individuals. This is structural judgment, not personal judgment.

Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! . . .
for her sins are piled up to heaven
and God has remembered her crimes . . .
She will be consumed by fire,
for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.

God is waging holy war on the great city, not roasting people over a flame.

Babylon’s judgment has implications, of course, for individuals whose lives are invested in all that she represents. When the “kings and merchants” (political and economic leaders) see “the smoke of her burning,” they weep and wail, exclaiming,

“Was there ever a city like this great city?” (v.18)

But it is worth recognizing they are not in physical anguish because God is torturing them; they are in emotional anguish because their lives were invested in the empire. They are weeping and gnashing their teeth over the things they’ve lost in the fire.

God is not roasting them over a spit; they are crying because their toys have been taken away.

The Smoke Goes Up

The lake of fire’s backdrop in the Old Testament also confirms this interpretation. I explore a few significant passages that Revelation draws upon in my new book, but let’s look at one. When Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by fire from heaven, Abraham looks out upon the valley where the imperial powerhouses once were, and sees in their place, “dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.” (Genesis 19:28)

The great cities have been judged by fire, and all that is left is their smoldering remains.

Revelation alludes to this verse when Babylon is destroyed, saying, “the smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” (Revelation 19:3) God judges the empire by fire and all that is left, like Sodom and Gomorrah, is smoke rising up from the land.

In the Sodom and Gomorrah allusion, the “smoke from a furnace” is obviously not an underground torture chamber; it is simply a picture of the city destroyed—the smoldering rubble of empire.

When Revelation says the smoke “goes up forever and ever,” it is similarly speaking to the finality of Babylon’s destruction. Sodom and Gomorrah were eventually rebuilt after the smoke faded and rubble was cleared away. But Babylon will never be rebuilt, because God has won his victory over her forever.

The smoke going up forever tells us this: when Babylon goes down, she ain’t getting back up.

Empire vs. Individual

So why is this helpful? There is all the difference in the world between judging an empire and torturing an individual. Consider, for example, when the Allied powers bombed Nazi Germany to bring an end to World War II. Most people today think this was the right thing to do. And this is a picture of an empire being judged by fire from above.

But let’s say after the war ended, convicted Nazi soldiers were lifted high on stakes with piles of wood set aflame beneath their feet, and slowly roasted in agony over the torment of the flames. What’s more, let’s say they were lifted just high enough to stay alive indefinitely. Most of us would think this a cruel and inhumane thing to do—a picture of torture.

Bombing an empire and torturing an individual are two very different things. The former is done to end a war; the latter for revenge.

Judging an empire has obvious implications for its citizens. If you’re a Nazi soldier, it’s bad news when Germany gets bombed. It’s bad news when your side gets defeated in the war. It’s bad news when all you’re left with is the smoldering rubble of your once-glorious civilization.

You will probably weep and wail, feeling an internal sense of anguish and torment at all you sought to build that has now been lost. But this is very different from your victorious enemy throwing you into a concentration camp and torturing you.


The lake of fire is an apocalyptic symbol for the smoldering rubble of Babylon. It does not depict the torture of individuals, but rather God’s judgment on empire. When God has destroyed Babylon by fire, all that is left is a smoking pile of stones. A steaming pillar of debris. A sunken puddle of flame.

The great city that once destroyed the world has been reduced to ashes.

The symbol does not promote a caricature of God as a sadistic torturer, but rather reclaims hope for a world torn apart under the destructive power of empire.

Walking as Living Spectres and Ghosts in the Graveyards of Life

Earlier this morning I put up several collections of Halloween poems on my poetry site and as I did I could hear the many Christian responses of, "Oh! You can't do that! It's not Christian! You're worshipping the devil! It's the devil's holiday!"

But when you come right down to it, these collections of poems were about the hopes and fears, the superstitions, and churchly beliefs, of men, women, and children, in their day and age - if not the very poet himself, or herself, as they attempted to circumscribe the universe by pen and by will.

And given a thorough reading of poems of this nature one can learn a lot about what people think about life and death, God and man, devil and spirit, when stirred in a cast-iron vat of rhyme and poetic passage. Adding ingredients of heartache, dread, and crushing aloneness, to be ladled out in personal litanies of echoing despair, deep anger, boiling resentment, and hot unfairness.

For the astute observer, its important to pay attention to the raw emotions of people who have spoken, filmed, or sung about their inner demons. Of an uncaring, withdrawn society filled with evil witches and warlocks. To research and meditate upon a culture's perennial observations of life and death so that at some later time we might be better able to speak to the various subjects and themes that come from our worst fears and wandering beliefs.

Beliefs about what we expect of one another or God or, perhaps, don't expect of either. Or, fear to ask. Or, if asked, fear receiving the very response we knew would someday come for voicing our personal complaints and deep displeasures. Or, perhaps saying nothing at all to experiences of injustice, sharp unloving tongues, selfish attitudes, actions, and behavior. Becoming both victim and victimizer.

To pay attention to people's basic fears in the middle of the night as they lay awake in a cold sweat on a disheveled bed tossing and turning unable to sleep. And when slumbering dreaming those dark, ugly nightmares from deep within a pained subconscious. Otherwise, how can we expect to minister to people in the middle of the day when fear has been washed away by the common daylight of human companionship and goodwill?

So, in a sense, Halloween can be an everyday event of the year within our lives. It doesn't simply come-and-go on a dark hollow's eve between the hours of 5:00 to 8:00 pm as impish trick-n-treaters squeal, squawk, and dash about in dizzying delight from one house to the next. Or flee for their lives before fun-luvin' pranksters rising from carefully placed frontyard coffins that creak and groan. Or from scary ghoulish spectres greeting children in darkened doorways boding tasty treats and delights. Or from creepy hanging things dangling unseen off dark trees and wires by thread and bobbin.

No, in another sense (h)alloween is with us every day of the year. It is carried within our hearts overburdened by what we have said or haven't said. Did, or didn't do. Saw, but didn't respond to. Felt, but never voicing the hurts and pains carried deep within us locked up like the crypt of the undead.

Or, if we did, we didn't know how to express ourselves as recovering addicts to life's carousels of whimsical delights and never-ending mendacity's. Looking for the next rush that might invigorate a dulled life too dreary to contemplate its endless days and nights. Leading us further and further away from those deep-seated hurts from a dad, a mom, sibling, or friend, who deeply failed us when we needed them most.

Or, harmed us so that now we walk as the living dead. Zombies to life's beauty unseen, untouched, unfelt, and unheard. Wishing to feast on any so unwise or so foolish to come too close to us. Living with those buried hurts and bitter hatreds of the wrongs we suffered so meaninglessly, cruelly, or meanly at the hands of the very devil himself. Cruel hands pinched in our blood, sweat, and tears.

Nay, this is not a day that is so easily made fun of and then forgotten by some of us still living in ghostly shells knit of vaporous skin and hollow filaments. For some of us the night of the living dead lives each day of our nightmarish lives with no end in sight except more pain and lostness.

For those souls hell is already here with no angel or God in sight. Just the Devil and his cruel brigands of death. And yet, isn't this what the Psalmist felt when abandoned by God and by very mankind itself? Or the prophets who wandered alone prophesying doom and judgment upon a careless people gripped by pride and greed? Or even Jesus Himself bowed of hoary head and weary heart in the Garden of Gethsemane praying alone when He most needed another prayer partner by His side?

Yes, it would be naive to think that God's people have not gone through the deep pains of life. But for those who have, you'll find them on the street with an understanding smile, a helping hand, a serving heart. Behind the cash register, at the waitressing table, in the school room, or on the field coaching kids and adults.

You'll find some amongst those special pastors who fill a pulpit with warmth and wisdom while staying true to their humanity when knowing how deeply inhumane life once was for their own hard pasts. Or that kid's counselor at the youth center willing to help if they are allowed. Or the boss who'll make sure you succeed against every particle of your body that wishes to fail. Or that aunt or uncle who was there all the time but you saw them not.

Yes, looked at again, God and His angels are everywhere about us. But we've gotten so use to fleeing from the crypts and coffins of our lives that we've run right by them with sightless eyes filled with self-loathing and hatred.

Forgetting that the crosses of Easter are just as meaningful this time of the year as the ragged crosses staked into the ground on a Hallow Eve's black night. You just have to pull those raggedy stakes out-of-the-ground-of-your-life and turn them the-other-way-around, away from your heart and soul. And when doing so seeing the one Cross of this world that was placed for all the world to see on a hill named Golgotha. A Cross of freedom, healing, and empowerment.

To be drawn to another graveyard on Calvary's hill knowing that there is a Redeemer-God who received death's hells upon His very self so as to provide a resurrection through His Son Jesus to this life's sins and woes. That in the darkened graveyards of our existence can be raised not ghostly spectres, but what we might become in the power of the living Holy Spirit. And that the candies of this world are no longer the food and meat of a Spirit-filled warrior-believer seeking to live life as it was meant to be lived as a crucified, penitent, servant of the Holy God raised beyond the grave of death's hopelessness.

Nay, if one is going to feast at the table of slaughter-and-ruin let it be on the draculas and demons of our sinful heart slain before the Sonlight of this wicked world before the living God of all. It is He who rules the day and night and none other. Be they demon or ghost in this life it is yet our life to valiantly claim and not so easily lay down before the hellish feasts of another. To place a crucified stake in the ground of belief and say with all authority, "Here I stand with my God and my Savior. Though heaven and earth be moved this day I shall stand in the power of the Holy Spirit and be all that I can be till life expires." Amen

R.E. Slater
October 30, 2014


If God Be For Us Who Can Be Against Us

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j]35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Parable of the Grain of Wheat

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? Butfor this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Social Group Theory and the Question of "Whom Did Cain Marry?"

Cain flying before Jehovah's Curse, by Fernand Cormon

"An individual's self-concept derives from perceived membership in a relevant social group"

"Microcultures are specialised subgroups, marked by their own languages, ethos and rule
expectations... A microculture depends on the smallest units of organisation – dyads, groups, or local communities – as opposed to the broader subcultures of race or class, and the wider national/global culture, compared to which they tend also to be more short-lived, as well as voluntarily chosen."
-Microcultures, Wikipedia

Group Identity Tells Us Who We Are

How does a Christian evolutionist read Genesis 1-2 when coming to the story of Adam and Eve's children and who they married? Quite naturally there would be other choices beyond the standard non-evolutionary answer that Adam and Eve's sons only married their sisters based upon the more traditional literalistic reading of the Bible.

However, let us suppose there might be another way to read the story of Genesis....

Let us suppose that the oral legends of the Bible were less concerned with the creation stories of a humanity living beyond the "Gardens of Eden" and more concerned with their own corner of the world. A corner they deemed to be paradise at once in league-and-fellowship with the very God of the universe.

That is, Israel's group identity was solely focused on its own stories, histories, and legacies and not on another nation's stories, histories, or legacies. Consequently, the story of Adam and Eve based upon an early ancient reading of the Israelites were either of very real people, tribe, or clan. Or, of a legendary people (as we have noted here before), telling of Israel's origins as a "God-fearing" race.

Based upon "group identity" a culture more readily identifies with its own legends and stories rather than with another cultural heritage's legends and stories. Without discounting the historicity of Adam and Eve, the ancient Israelites quite naturally concentrated their attention to their own self-affirming perception as a "God-fearing" nation with its own trials of faith and failure.

Telling One-Sided Stories

Israel's p-e-r-c-e-p-t-i-o-n of the world was limited to their personal investments into their traditions and history. Though not denying there were other ancient human cultures and traditions beyond that of their own, those "foreign" cultures and traditions were of less value to Israel's own stories as God's chosen people. A God whom they knew as Yahweh rather than as a God with an Assyrian, Sumerian, or Akkadian name from other more ancient tribes and nation-states.

Why is their no mention of other men and women beyond the Garden of Eden than only that of Adam and Eve? Because it was the perception by the tribes of Israel that those foreign elements of humanity's stories were less central to their own Jewish stories of faith and failure.

That is, the Israelite storyteller knew other men and women in Genesis existed outside of Eden, but this social situation did not matter to him or her. Or factor into his/her account of Israel's spiritual heritage. He/She was more concerned with their own "Adam and Eve" stories and not those creation stories beyond their known group. As such, foreign lands and people were not mentioned. And only mentioned where necessary to complete their familiar story lines.

Narrative (Sociological) Context is Important

And so, with this "wider reading" of the Genesis account through the lenses of "group identity" we find a Genesis story that makes more sense. The question is not necessarily one of either evolution or "special" creation but one of literary and sociological context.

A context of "group identity" and social perception by an ancient race of people creating their own social history in relation to the world of men rather than accepting the more pagan accounts of the nation-states around them that historically preceded their own national formation.

Cain Becomes an Outcast to his Group

Asked again, "Who did Cain marry?" He married another women perhaps from his own region but more likely from beyond "mom-and-dad's" homelands to an unfamiliar homeland of another people either nearby or more distant.

In other words, Cain was alone. Without family or tribe to protect him in an ancient world more skeptical to the foreigner and alien invader. Foreigner's who seemed "less human" in the eyes of the homeland tribe and usually considered threatening or harmful.

Accordingly, the ancient world was reduced to small regional territories of tribes and clans that grew to either trust or distrust one another. Trade and marriage helped to increase communication. And with communication came either greed and war or, fidelity and enlarged community. Quite naturally Cain was at risk as an unknown outcast from an unknown land. A "foreign" land to those he would meet beyond his homelands of Eden.

Our Own Stories

As a religious people bound within our own familiar fellowships and churches we each have our favored stories and perceptions of the Bible, of God, of ourselves, and of others. It is the hope here at Relevancy22 that we widen our stories a bit more to include a larger grouping of religious and spiritual intimates, traditions, heritages, and ideologies.

To remain properly skeptical - but also properly open - to differing accounts of the Bible while holding each nuance in balance with the other until at such a time we can we let all go in God's wisdom, grace, and benevolence.

We live in a very large, vastly complex, and fast-paced world, whose global societies will stretch our Christian identities with other Christian identities and "invading" pluralistic religions. It is important to know our own stories, how-and-where they can flex, and how God's story through us can become mankind's larger story of grace and salvation.

Cain was an outcast from his former society and yet, in God's grace, Cain was preserved in the land of Nod east of Eden. He lived as a marked outcast whose personal story to his wives and children and all whom he met was one of great sin before God. Of envy and murder. But also of God's grace in saving his soul from a death that he did not spare his brother from. And yet God spared him only to live in a foreign land never to return home.

From Cain's descendants came great accomplishments of cities, and lands, and flocks. But also perhaps great pride from unrepentant sin. Pride that does not call on the name of the Lord but on one's own name and the pride of one's ancestors. Of a past marked not by repentance but perhaps of a hard-heart before the Lord as declared by Lamech in avenging his injured pride. Where the musical lyre and pipe were played perhaps to the soulful tune of regret and judgment. Or to the joviality of life in wealth, and deeds, and the lusts of man.

The rightful fear in the story of Cain is one of not repenting from sin and wounded pride. To be come content living as an outcast before the Lord rather than falling on one's knees to weep for forgiveness from a Father God whose grace is sufficient in Christ Jesus our Savior and Redeemer. To be part of the wider family of Abraham. A family of faithful followers obedient to their Lord in all of life however hard or difficult it may be. To rejoice with our brothers and sisters and not be envious. And to lay down one's life for the other if necessary even as Jesus did for us.


R.E. Slater
October 29, 2014

Additional References

Special Creation theories arguing against Pre-Adamite Civilizations
Halfway House theories arguing for cosmic and geographical but not biological creation
Wikipedia - Collective Identity
Wikipedia - Microcultures
Wikipedia - Social Group Theory
Wikipedia - Social Identity

The Genesis Story of Cain and Abel

Genesis 4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Cain and Abel

4 Now the man [a]had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to [b]Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a [c]manchild with the help of the Lord.” 2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about [d]in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, [e]will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain [f]told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord [g]appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and [h]settled in the land of [i]Nod, east of Eden.

17 Cain [j]had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. 18 Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad [k]became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael [l]became the father of Methushael, and Methushael [m]became the father of Lamech. 19 Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I [n]have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

25 Adam [o]had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him [p]Seth, for, she said, “God [q]has appointed me another [r]offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call [s]upon the name of the Lord.


Genesis 4:1 Lit knew
Genesis 4:1 I.e. gotten one
Genesis 4:1 Or man, the Lord
Genesis 4:3 Lit at the end of days
Genesis 4:7 Or surely you will be accepted
Genesis 4:8 Lit said to
Genesis 4:15 Or set a mark on
Genesis 4:16 Lit dwelt
Genesis 4:16 I.e. wandering
Genesis 4:17 Lit knew
Genesis 4:18 Lit begot
Genesis 4:18 Lit begot
Genesis 4:18 Lit begot
Genesis 4:23 Or kill
Genesis 4:25 Lit knew
Genesis 4:25 Heb Sheth
Genesis 4:25 Heb shath
Genesis 4:25 Lit seed
Genesis 4:26 Or by

The sacrifices of Abel, the younger, and Cain, the older
Cain murders his brother Abel

Who Was the Wife of Cain?

A closer look at one of the most enigmatic women in Genesis

Mary Joan Winn Leith explores the identity of the wife of Cain.While there are many examples of strong and inspiring men and women in Genesis, the book is also packed with stories of dysfunctional families, which is evidenced from the very beginning with the first family—Adam, Eve and their two children, Cain and Abel. In no short amount of time—just 16 verses after announcing the birth of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4—Cain has murdered his younger brother and is consequently exiled from the land. In theory, this would have dropped the world’s population from four down to three. The narrative continues in Genesis 4 with Cain settling in the land of Nod and having children with his wife. Who did Cain marry? Where did she come from? Are there other people outside of Eden? In the November/December 2013 issue of BAR, Mary Joan Winn Leith addresses these questions and explores the identity of the wife of Cain in “Who Did Cain Marry?”

Given that the wife of Cain is only mentioned once in the Old Testament, she would not be counted among the famous women in Genesis. Nevertheless, her identity is still worth investigating. Who did Cain marry? Mary Joan Winn Leith first explores the traditional Jewish and Christian answers that contend that the wife of Cain was another daughter of Adam and Eve. According to this reasoning, Cain would have married his sister—one of Abel’s twin sisters no less, according to the Genesis Rabbah.

A different answer emerges when Leith turns from the traditional responses about the wife of Cain and delves into modern scholarship. Looking at recent work done by sociologists and anthropologists, she notes that when forming a group identity, we tend to define ourselves by how we differ from other groups. In the ancient Near East, sometimes those outside of a particular group or society were considered less “human” by those inside of the group.

An important factor that contributes to this mindset is geography. People in the ancient Near East typically stayed close to home, which affected their perception of the world. Surely they knew that other groups of people—potential enemies or allies—existed far away, but if they never came into contact with these groups, what did they matter?

Mary Joan Winn Leith suggests that while the Israelite storyteller knew that other men and women in Genesis existed outside of Eden, they did not matter to him or factor into his account. He was concerned with Adam and Eve and their progeny—not those outside of this group.

Who did Cain marry? There are many answers. For Leith’s explanation of the identity of the wife of Cain—one of the often-overlooked women in Genesis—see her full column.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Faith Feels Like...

Faith is the sight of seeing what's not there. Of discovering the knowledge that God is present through all the bad days and hours of suffering and the crap you get from living. In the difficult days when faith and God doesn't seem real. These are the days when faith begins to grow through the mighty swells and heavy waters of life's turbulent seas. When death's liquid mountains of dark despair become faith's best moments of courage knowing God is there whether it feels like it or not. That He will lift up underneath the seas of our disbelief. This is the gift of faith which makes the good moments of living fly over the waves of trouble and turmoil. To soar over the heavy waters propelling a living faith upwards over the dark surfs holding troughs and trolls. And there to know that God is real and life is a gift and without a Spirit-led faith we would've failed long ago. - re slater

Surfing @ 1000 Frames per Second, by Chris Bryan

Surfing @ 1000 Frames per Second, by Chris Bryan

Surfing @ 1000 Frames per Second, by Chris Bryan

Surfing @ 1000 Frames per Second, by Chris Bryan

Surfing @ 1000 Frames per Second, by Chris Bryan

Surfing @ 1000 Frames per Second, by Chris Bryan

Surfing @ 1000 Frames per Second, by Chris Bryan

Surfing @ 1000 Frames per Second, by Chris Bryan

Surfing @ 1000 Frames per Second, by Chris Bryan

As Christians, we have to recognize that Faith is perhaps the single most important aspect of Christianity. Without faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, we are are nothing. Faith in God, although it seems easy, will take a lifetime of effort to keep. It is the true Faith and what every Christian should aspire to have. Don't let your Faith waver when things in life don't go as planned. We should work hard every day to remember that Jesus Christ is our Savior and God is our Father - we should always have faith in Him.
Use these scriptures to reaffirm your faith in God. Meditating upon the Holy Bible can give you all kinds of insights... and helping you understand Faith in God is one benefit you can receive from reading the Bible. Reading the Bible might not mean the same thing to everyone, but every Christian should do it.
Just remember, you are not alone in this life - God is always with you. The Bible verses about faith should fill your soul with song - whenever you are feeling the least bit down, it is a good idea to read a Bible verse about faith.
Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be you removed, and be you cast into the sea; it shall be done.
Luke 7:50 And he said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.
Luke 17:6 And the Lord said, If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this sycamore tree, be you plucked up by the root, and be you planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
Ephesians 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
1 Thessalonians 1:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;
Philemon 1:6 That the communication of your faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
James 2:14 What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
1 Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Acids of Modernity and Christian Theology, Part 4

Modernity has been an age of revolutions—political, scientific, industrial and the philosophical. Consequently, it has also been an age of revolutions in theology, as Christians attempt to make sense of their faith in light of the cultural upheavals around them, what Walter Lippman once called the "acids of modernity." Modern theology is the result of this struggle to think responsibly about God within the modern cultural ethos.

In this major revision and expansion of the classic 20th Century Theology(1992), co-authored with Stanley J. Grenz, Roger Olson widens the scope of the story to include a fuller account of modernity, more material on the nineteenth century, and an engagement with postmodernity. More importantly, the entire narrative is now recast in terms of how theologians have accommodated or rejected the Enlightenment and scientific revolutions.

With that question in mind, Olson guides us on the epic journey of modern theology, from the liberal "reconstruction" of theology that originated with Friedrich Schleiermacher, to the post-liberal and postmodern "deconstruction" of modern theology that continues today. The Journey of Modern Theology is vintage Olson: eminently readable, panoramic in scope, at once original and balanced, and marked throughout by a passionate concern for the church's faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This will no doubt become another standard text in historical theology.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Getting Beyond the Liberal Conservative Divide

by Scot McKnight
Oct 3, 2014

Modern theology is the attempt to accommodate the great tradition of the church with modernity and so to make Christianity more appealing to modern/postmoderns. A very typical example of modern theology, in a liberal mode, is Schleiermacher who focused the Christian tradition on the experience (of God). Responses to modernity’s theology included robust defenses of the tradition — and sometimes these defenses were strident, but not always, and it is a mistake to think defense of the tradition means defensive or strident or fundamentalist.

But some sought a mediating path, or a third way. This is often called “mediating” theology. And Roger Olson, in his very useful The Journey of Modern Theology, outlines mediating theology. Olson insists that mediating is not the same as moderate (which he thinks is too soft of a category to be of use — I disagree but it all depends what one means and who one wants to classify as moderate). Mediating means not landing in the middle but finding a higher synthesis or a bridge of opposites. It is to find an inner reconciliation or a higher standpoint or a more original unity.

Where do you see mediating theology today? Take inerrancy vs. errancy: where is the mediation? Moderation might do little more than take the heat out of the discussion and leave both sides wondering which side the moderate is on. But what would mediation look like in this debate?

Olson focuses on two examples, one German (IA Dorner) and one American (Horace Bushnell). He knows most take J.W. Nevin and P. Schaff are the typical examples of an American mediating theology (called Mercersburg theology), but he think Bushnell is actually a better example. He says Bushnell advocated “progressive orthodoxy.” They sought to utilize Schleiermacher, they wanted to bridge the subjective and the objective (experience and Scripture), they sought to combine liberal Protestant with Protestant orthodoxy, and they reconstructed theology with an eye on modernity.

Mediating theology is often forgotten because extremes make a bigger impact: “It is always the bold, the innovative, the radical who are remembered” (242).


Dorner, for instance, wanted a view of God that was both relational but not Hegel’s pan/entheistic view of God evolving through history. Hence, he anticipated some concerns of late 20th Century’s process theology and open theism: "God, for Dorner, loves in perfect freedom and knows in relation to human freedoms and actions. Immutability concerns God’s free activation in love (or God as love)."


Bushnell represents the American mediating theology for Olson, and it all begins when he had a profound experience of the “gospel” after he had been pastoring for 15 years. True Christian faith is not about propositions or tenets but “of trusting one’s being to a being” (267). It is encountering God in an unmediated direct way. He approached it all from an experiential mode from that day forward. He became America’s most influential theologian of the 19th Century, many ranking him with [Jonathan] Edwards and Reinhold Neibuhr. He influenced the Christian education movement with his famous Christian Nurture book. He was opposed to systematizing the Christian faith.

He opposed the anti-supernaturalism and mechanical theories of life of modernists and at the same time pressed against traditionalists in arguing for updating and making things relevant.

He preferred imagination and metaphor over dogma. Instead of classical theories of the Trinity he thought it was all too speculative, and he argued for worship as an expression of God’s revelation to us. What matters most then is in the realm of the aesthetic.

He approached postmodernity’s penchant in understanding theological language. God language is metaphorical.

And he strove for Christian comprehensiveness — a way of getting beyond the dichotomies and tensions in theological discourse. His view was not accepted in his day but his approach has become standard fare for many today — and is at work in some ways in the ecumenical movement.

Olson suggests Lindbeck’s approach to theology is not that far away from Bushnell’s Christian comprehensiveness.

On atonement… Bushnell was dissatisfied with both the exemplary subjective theory and the objective penal substitution theory and eventually came to the view that God suffered in Christ because he was forgiving. He did not suffer in order to forgive but because he was gracious and forgiving.*

- Scott



*Bushnell's idea of God suffering because He is forgiving is a close idea
to an earlier article I published entitled, "What Is Radical Theology?."

R.E. Slater

October 27, 2014