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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

God and Time: The Mystery of the Incarnate God Eternal


Jesus - Incarnate "Immanuel" ("God with us")
see also, The Names of God in Scripture


In response to Tony Jones' earlier article on "God is Not Eternal" (posted further below) and the Biologos article "What is Time, and How Does God Relate to Time?" I thought I might reflect on each and pose some further questions and insights that seem to have generated additional thought and comment to my mind. - R.E. Slater


God and Time: The Mystery of the Incarnate God Eternal

"Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" means "I will be that who I have yet to become."
- God (Ex 3.14)


An Eclectic Doctrine

Sometimes there are areas in Christian doctrine that you may properly be an eclecticist. I think the doctrine of God and time may be just one of those doctrines. I'm reminded of that every time we sing Troy Hatfield's song Matchless at Mars Hill where Troy unconsciously jumbles up the classical idea of God's unchangeableness with God's imputed changeableness: "A God who was, and is, and will be, constantly unchanging, immutable, unspeakable, full of grace, the God-man who came." A God who entered into our time and space and became. And there's the crux of it. "God was, and is, and will be."

A God who came into time and out of eternity. Into creation's experiences of time, and out of time's timelessness as the Greek Classicists and early Church Fathers had conceived of it. A God who became incarnate; Who lived with us and died for us. Who would renew all creation and mankind by His lived life and experiential death. Who was Himself, the timeless One, became the corruptible One - in the sense of bearing a dying body, and not bearing a sinful soul. Who became the changeable One at the time of His incarnation forward through to His death. Who now lives with all of creation's temporality as the eternally incarnated Redeemer of creation.

The Metaphysics of Becoming and Being

This ontological truth (ontology = speaking of God's being, attributes, and character) cannot be explained, understood, or imagined. It just must be accepted. A God who Himself had become and now is - mutable, changeable, temporal. Forever affected by the very creation He created within time and space. We cannot understand it. We cannot explain it. We can only state it and present it. The idea that a holy, eternal God can forever now be the Incarnated, holy, eternal God. No less divine but wholly glorified by His incarnation (which is what you would expect when finding anything touched by God's own presence). Who is both creature and Creator. Who is timeless Saviour become willful Redeemer. It is a paradox which is beyond our experience and metaphysical categories (metaphysics = simplistically, anything "spiritual." Something that is not physical but can be decribed meta-physically). We just know God is. Who once was and has become. Who, like us, was, is becoming, and will be, in the past, present, and future tense of our understanding.

It is this God that is the God who has entered into creation's time and become a God who is in process like we are today (a simplistic description of "process theology"). Who is in Himself experiencing the eternal process of "becoming and being" as the incarnate, resurrected Saviour of man. Who is no less flesh and blood than we are today. Whose future is our future when we die. And like us (anthropomorphism = bearing man's image) has become us, even as we are like Him (theo-morphism = bearing God's image) and are, and will be, in both the past-present-and-future sense of the word. We each share the other's image because of God's incarnation through Christ Jesus our Saviour. It is a mystery but one we must be mindful not to forget less we make of God an idol untouchable. One too holy, too distant, too unfeeling, from our own experiences. But whom we do understand can be all this and more if it were not for His holy incarnation that bridges the gap between our humanity and His divinity.

What Do We Mean by "God Being in Process?"

Now the question. Actually two.... If we have a lover, spouse, or friend, who forever was fixed in time from the first day we had met him or her, would that be satisfying to us today? To know someone who never changes. Never grows old with us. Whose experience of time is forever fixed in what was once was? Would this be satisfying to us? Would that friend, lover, or spouse, be able to meet our needs? Or match our experiences? Or breach our understanding of time and death? In a limited sense, yes. And in another sense of providing to us the comfort of our past, yes. But it would be akin to something similar to our fond memories of past loved ones who had died but are no longer with us today. Who were but who are no longer present with us in the continuing experience of our flesh. It's trials and travails.

However, loved ones who are in the process of dying (there's that word again. It speaks of both life and death and life beyond).... Who are remembered - perhaps like my father's long illness or, as a beloved child we once remember from many years ago as a parent - they are forever fixed in time and space and no longer able to reach out to us in meaningful ways that our current timeful experiences of life will demand. We would share ourselves with them but find a gap, an emptiness, there. An experiential gap that is unbridgeable - unless they were able to move forward with us in time and space to appreciate our experiences in the now. The here. The present. This is what we call relationship. Relationships must be living, not dead. We cannot share with a dying parent or loved one as they let go of this mortal veil of flesh to push onwards. We cannot commune with a pleasant memory of a past childhood or family life that no longer lives with us except in the past. This things are mortal. They are past. They continue forward only in our minds and hearts and not as living present relationships.

Thus, if we only had the memory of a dead God and Saviour than it is only that. A dead memory and not a living relationship. For God to be a living God is to be a God who must continue in His relationship with us into our future tense. And not only with us but with all of His creation in its future tenses. If He had only died and remained in the grave than there would be no present tense "I-Thou" relationship which could continue. To do this God must be resurrected from the grave, and raised into glorification, as the divine, but incarnate (not re-incarnated), God of the universe. (Pauline sidetrack: in a sense God is re-incarnated in us even as our past is re-incarnated in us. But not ontologically. But existentially = as something that is "live out through our past experiences." That is, we are not God. Nor are we other people. However, our relationship with God, or with others, will reproduce their mind, their heart, their passion, in-and-through us. Just not themselves, excepting God's Spirit of course, who lives in us, and through us, and permeates all creation, infilling it with His presence). A God of the universe who would continue with us alongside our time-and-experience, even as He would continue alongside of our own past when having died to it and parted from it. Otherwise there is no now, no here, no future promise, no thereis, and will be. All would be nothingness and nothing. Without future, hope, or promise.

This God must be a living God. Not a dead God only beheld from the grave. And not a timeless God who had never known incarnated. Or walked this earth as a flesh-and-blood but very mortal human. This God must be a God who continues forward both within time and space, and without (or outside) of time and space. Even so, it is this latter part that we seem to mangle and confused. For it is the "within" part that we do seem to understand more readily than the "without" part... that we do now have a living Saviour who is with us, but who is apart from us as divine Spirit.

Hence the concept of process.... Process theology is a dynamic (and not static) concept of God that says that God continues to live though dead - and not impassionately apart from His creation (sic, deism, pelagianism, in all their gnostic forms). But passionately. Who continues to become and be through creation's experiences. Or our own. Or the church's experiences in this world. Which is part two of our question. How can a dead God remain with us? At Calvary's cross He did die. A place where He was forever affected by His humanity by His divine death. A death that became as a result of His incarnation. A death that He would meet - as we each will - simply because He lived even as we do now today live, and breath, hunger and thirst, know tiredness, suffering, aches, and pain of heart. In this mortal flesh we do know that every living thing dies. We see it everywhere about. We know of only one man that never died - Elijah. A prophet of God who was raised up as a living, non-dead, being. But it is through Elijah's story, and that of Lazarus'  miraculous "raising from the dead," that we would understand Jesus' resurrection. An "alive-but dead-but made alive again" resurrection into the heavens by the hand of God.

Enter Radical Theology's "God is Dead"

It is this kind of Process Theology that can better inform us of God's continued presence with us which a Radical Theology will then acknowledge as an event described as the "Death of God" when reflecting on this momentous event. Which is quite unlike the movie depiction of the "God is Dead" movement that serializes a Hollywood charicature of the "Death of God" movement. In reality, a true theology will take this event's implications very seriously. That God did die and that we must now know what it means for our present tense society, humanity, creation, church, Christianity, and future expectations. But we've strayed off topic again and must return to the topic at hand....

A Process Theology can better handle God's death when coupled with His resurrection, and not apart from it. Even as we can best understand God's death when beheld in the light of His resurrection. But it is the "without" part of God dwelling "outside of" time and space that we may have the greatest struggle with. And in fact, we must now admit into our definitions and classical ideas of "eternality" that God is no longer the unaffected eternal God. But the affected eternal God who must now dwell within all time and space. Who no longer is separate from it - if He ever really was. That perhaps classicism itself is to blame for making this God we worship so timelessly eternal that we see Him too far away from ourselves. If we say that God is love than how do we know that this God can love?

The very idea of God's "love and grace" seems meaningless without its actual experience of love and grace (whether before God's Incarnation or after it). Have you noticed that platonic love is seldom written about or moanfully sung?. But romantic love - deeply entangled love - is. It fills all the music industry with its messiness and frailty. Its crucible of a heaven-and-hell painfully experienced deeply within the souls of our being. Our anger and frustrations. It affects everything we say and do - our passions, drives, and nature. However, divine love cannot be meaningful if it dies in the grave, or never lived at all. It must somehow live in the present and future tenses of its expectations of being and becoming.

And yes, spirits, even divine Spirits, must admit some form of eternality because spirits by our very definition and ideas are seemingly "unaffected" by timeful events.... Or so we think. However, it is that very idealised human idea of "spirit" that must change from its classical sense to its process sense. We can no longer think of God as Spirit without thinking of God as an affected and affecting Spirit. It would be both biblical and right to aver that God ever loved in eternity even as He will ever love throughout eternity everlasting. But even more so, as our Incarnate, glorified God, He now is one with His creation. This divine love has been made plain to us through Jesus God's Son and very Self come among men.

Otherwise how can a dead God continue to love if we are to take the "Death of God" seriously? How can a dead God be alive and present with us now? How can His grace and mercy, peace and justice, hope and force of life, be our present guide and salvation? Nay, this God who is dead must somehow live. And live both within and without eternity as both divine Spirit and incarnated God. He must be resurrected from the grave. From hell. From the separation of Himself from Himself even as the Son was forsaken by the Father. He must be a God who is glorified on the basis of His incarnation and defeat of death, grave, and hell, by penalty and resurrection. Even as the believing son or daughter of God must even so live beyond death. He must be a God who lives with us in this life even as He will live with us in the next life to come. In eternity everlasting.

Which doesn't mean that our dead loved ones might commune with us now in this life as they once had.... But for the Christian, there is the strong knowledge that those dead loved ones will be communed with again on the other side of the grave. And until then they rest in God. They remain in Him even as we shall someday rest in God. And know that by the saving work of Christ our Saviour - based upon His own death and resurrection - that we will likewise rise with Jesus into the fellowship of God everlasting. Who in Himself was, and is, and ever will be, the Prince of Life. Our Prince of Life. Our Promise and Keep. Our strong fortress that prevails over death, the grave, and even hell itself.

The Incarnate God Who Died and Lives Again

Which brings us back to thought number two... how does a God who died now live? We have answered it on a Spirit level (or metaphysical), but we must also answer it on an existential level (an experiential, knowledge level, on the plane of our being). The short answer is that God is dead and we must acknowledge His death (back to Radical Theology again). This too is a paradox which forces us to admit that the Eternal, Unchanging One is no longer eternal and unchanging. That He has died and no longer lives as He once was apart from Calvary's Cross. And this is the part we will struggle with so firm our convictions that He walks with us "in the garden alone" as the old hymn says. That His Spirit does ever live and is with us by His eternal presence. And yes, this is true. But it is also true that His discourse with man is not like it once was in the Old Testament. And here is the tricky part then. Just what is it now since the days of the New Testament? Since the days of His death and resurrection?

I might offer one suggestion. That God continues today with His church (and with all of mankind) through His infilling Spirit of Pentecost. That is, it is through God's very Spirit that He communes with man today (though I suspect that even in the Old Testament He did so when speaking to the saints and priests of old, and beholding their commune with God). For this old world to see God means that it must see God through us, His church, His body and bride. How? By His own wounded hands and feet which act through us by His living miracles of healing, prophesying, evangelizing, of doing good works through us. We are His tongue and words (logos). His presence (spiritos). His feeling and composure (pathos). His nurture and grace (agapos). Truths which will place a lot of responsiblity upon our shoulders when we think of it in this way. Which doesn't mean that God by His Spirit can do nothing alone apart from us. But that, like with the Patriarch's and Israel's spiritual responsibility in their day, even so the church must now bear the love and grace of God, and the burden of the Lord Jesus Christ, through us, His living church.

Henceforth, and forever now, do we know that the God who lived, and who has died, must now live again in the resurrected sense of His living church. Who is a God who still reaches out through His Spirit to infill, transform, and conform, our very lives so that they may reach out to friend and family, foe and enemy, in the love and grace and divine power of His Almighty, Holy Spirit. We are not alone. We have a living God who is not dead. But a God who did die and lives again. Who is our pattern for both life and eternity. Who is in Himself the unexplainable One. Our mystery and paradox. Our enigma and riddle. But One whom we trust, and know, and desire to live and serve though all our mortal-immortal life. Even so dear Lord come. Come into our lives and help us die to sin's deaths and live to graces sustaining affects. In all our weakness. In all our frailty. By your strength and help and Spirit. Amen.

R.E. Slater
March 19, 2014



Jesus - Incarnate "Immanuel" ("God with us")



Aaron Niequist live at Willow Creek Church singing Matchless -

Matchless
by Troy Hatfield
Mars Hill Church, Grand Rapids, MI

Long before

Our time began
Long before I was

Heaven rang--creation rang

The matchlessness of God

Majesty unspeakable

We boldly bless Your name

In awe of love--in awe of grace

The God, the man who came

Praise to the constantly unchanging


You were

You are
And You will be

You were

You are
And You will be

God even though immutable

Revealing still today

The story moves--our parts still prove

Significant in ways

We praise the constantly unchanging


You were

You are
And You will be

You were

You are
And You will be

Beauty, glory

Just and holy
Righteousness and truth
Faithful leader, gentle healer
Matchless God are You

Beauty, glory

Just and holy
Righteousness and truth
Faithful leader, gentle healer
Matchless God are You

You were

You are
And You will be

You were

You are
And You will be

Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

©2003 zonkeydonkeytunes





continue to subtopic and discussion

under "God and Time" here -







* * * * * * * * * * *





God is Not Eternal
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2014/02/12/god-is-not-eternal/#more-9825

by Tony Jones
[additional remarks by r.e. slater]
February 12, 2014

Writing a book on the atonement is like peeling the layers of an onion. Every theological dilemma you [think you] solve only brings up two more dilemmas. So it was that I needed to write a section in the book on God’s relationship to time, because it seemed to make no sense to talk about God’s relationship to Jesus’ crucifixion unless I could explain God’s relationship to time.

So a couple weeks back, I wrote a post arguing that God is not outside of time [that is, in the classic description of time. But that God is alongside of, or within time, in the process sense of time. - r.e. slater]. When reading that, Keith DeRose sent me Nicholas Wolterstorff‘s classic essay, “God Everlasting” (in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion, New York: Oxford, 1982).

In that essay, Wolterstorff argues that God is not eternal, God is everlasting.

His argument proceeds thusly:

1) The biblical narrative clearly tells of a God who changes, and any hermeneutic that denies this is tortured.

2) Any being who changes is necessarily, in part, temporal.

3) “Eternal” is a totalising characteristic. It is not possible for a thing to be partly temporal and partly eternal.

4) Therefore, God is not eternal.

Money quote:

What I shall argue is that if we are to accept this picture of God as acting for the renewal of human life, we must conceive of him as everlasting rather than eternal. God the Redeemer cannot be a God eternal. This is so because God the Redeemer is a God who changes. And any being which changes is a being among whose states there is temporal succession. Of course, there is an important sense in which God as presented in the Scriptures is changeless: he is steadfast in his redeeming intent and ever faithful to his children. Yet, ontologically, God cannot be a redeeming God without there being changeful variation among his states.
Some will argue that God could be eternal and still involved with time. Wolterstorff debunks that claim in a section that begins,

As with any argument, one can here choose to deny the premisses rather than to accept the conclusion. Instead of agreeing that God is fundamentally noneternal because he changes with respect to his knowledge, his memory, and his planning, one could try to save one’s conviction that God is eternal by denying that he knows what is or was or will be occurring; that he remembers what has occurred; and that he brings about what he has planned. It seems to me, however, that this is clearly to give up the notion of God as a redeeming God. And in turn, it seems to me that to give this up is to give up what is central to the biblical vision of God. To sustain this latter claim would of course require an extensive hermeneutical inquiry. But lest someone be tempted to go this route of trying to save God’s eternity by treating all the biblical language about God the redeemer as either false or misleadingly metaphorical, let me observe that if God were eternal he could not be the object of any human action whatsoever.
For me, in solving the enigma that is the crucifixion of Jesus, God’s relationship to time is essential, and Wolterstorff opened a new vista of understanding in this essay. It’s that last sentence that really seals it for me. I don’t see any logical way that an eternal being could be engaged in temporal human affairs, and surely not in the way that’s described in the Bible.

What do you think is God’s relationship to time?

- Tony