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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

UNICEF & Katy Perry - Loving Unconditionally Those with HIV

Katy Perry's 'Unconditionally': A music video for #ShowYourLove

Published on Jul 19, 2014
Subscribe to UNICEF here: http://bit.ly/1ltTE3m

We brought a group of young people together - both HIV positive and HIV negative - and watched some heartwarming moments unfold!

Join UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Katy Perry and #ShowYourLove for all the adolescents facing stigma. Adolescents are the only age group in which AIDS-related deaths are increasing, and stigma -- in many forms - is an immense barrier to HIV testing, care and treatment. Let's work together to end the discrimination associated with HIV!

For more about UNICEF's work on AIDS, visit:http://www.unicef.org/aids/

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Katy Perry, UNICEF Inspire Us To 'Unconditionally' Show Love For Those With HIV

The Huffington Post | By Robbie Couch
Posted: 07/21/2014 4:23 pm EDT Updated: 07/21/2014 6:59 pm EDT

Knowing you are loved -- no matter what -- can make a world of difference to those living with HIV/AIDS and battling hurtful stigmas associated with the virus.

A new video by UNICEF is promoting unconditional acceptance for HIV-positive people with lots of warm hugs, tear-streaked faces and wide smiles. The video's message, spreading online through the #ShowYourLove hashtag, features young people writing encouraging messages, like "Love is everything," "Positive sympathy," and "Survivor," on chalkboards for the world to see. Other messages, such as "#GetTested" and, "If you love me, use condoms," highlight the realities of HIV in the 21st century.

It's no coincidence that the video, featuring Katy Perry's "Unconditionally," is targeting a younger audience. A study released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the annual diagnosis rate more than doubled for young gay and bisexual males over the last decade, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

"There’s a new generation that comes up, and many don’t have firsthand experience with the devastation we saw in the earlier years," the study's author, Amy Lansky, told the news source, referencing the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

Although significant work is in order to reverse recent trends, the study also highlighted major progress within other demographics: Overall rates of new HIV infections in the U.S. dropped 33 percent over the same time period, with better screening and prevention initiatives largely to credit for positive strides.

To learn more about UNICEF's work combating HIV/AIDS, visit the organization's website.

HIV Virus

HIV Virus

HIV Virus

HIV Virus

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The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a lentivirus (a subgroup of retrovirus) that causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS),[1][2] a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Without treatment, average survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years, depending on the HIV subtype.[3] Infection with HIV occurs by the transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate, or breast milk. Within these bodily fluids, HIV is present as both free virus particles and virus within infected immune cells.

HIV infects vital cells in the human immune system such as helper T cells (specifically CD4+ T cells), macrophages, and dendritic cells.[4] HIV infection leads to low levels of CD4+ T cells through a number of mechanisms, including apoptosis of uninfected bystander cells,[5] direct viral killing of infected cells, and killing of infected CD4+ T cells by CD8 cytotoxic lymphocytes that recognize infected cells.[6] When CD4+ T cell numbers decline below a critical level, cell-mediated immunity is lost, and the body becomes progressively more susceptible to opportunistic infections.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

HIV/AIDS Disease
- Wikipedia

Human immunodeficiency virus infection / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a disease of the human immune system caused by infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).[1] The term HIV/AIDS represents the entire range of disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus from early infection to late stage symptoms. During the initial infection, a person may experience a brief period of influenza-like illness. This is typically followed by a prolonged period without symptoms. As the illness progresses, it interferes more and more with the immune system, making the person much more likely to get infections, including opportunistic infections and tumors that do not usually affect people who have working immune systems.

HIV is transmitted primarily via unprotected sexual intercourse (including anal and oral sex), contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.[2] Some bodily fluids, such as saliva and tears, do not transmit HIV.[3] Prevention of HIV infection, primarily through safe sex and needle-exchange programs, is a key strategy to control the spread of the disease. There is no cure or vaccine; however, antiretroviral treatment can slow the course of the disease and may lead to a near-normal life expectancy. While antiretroviral treatment reduces the risk of death and complications from the disease, these medications are expensive and have side effects. Without treatment, the average survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years, depending on the HIV subtype.[4]

Genetic research indicates that HIV originated in west-central Africa during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.[5] AIDS was first recognized by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1981 and its cause—HIV infection—was identified in the early part of the decade.[6] Since its discovery, AIDS has caused an estimated 36 million deaths worldwide (as of 2012).[7] As of 2012, approximately 35.3 million people are living with HIV globally.[7] HIV/AIDS is considered a pandemic—a disease outbreak which is present over a large area and is actively spreading.[8]

HIV/AIDS has had a great impact on society, both as an illness and as a source of discrimination. The disease also has significant economic impacts. There are many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS such as the belief that it can be transmitted by casual non-sexual contact. The disease has also become subject to many controversies involving religion. It has attracted international medical and political attention as well as large-scale funding since it was identified in the 1980s.[9]

World Vision to aid unaccompanied children fleeing violence

Children are fleeing Central America and going to the United States because of violence and poverty.
World Vision is preparing to respond to the crisis. (©2012 Heidi Isaza/World Vision)

World Vision to aid unaccompanied children fleeing violence

As the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border intensifies, World Vision is providing essential supplies through partner organizations to help unaccompanied minors in transition centers across the United States.

By Lauren Fisher, World Vision U.S.
Updated July 10, 2014 at 08:30am PDT

More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors — most from Central America — have entered the United States since last October seeking refuge from violence and oppressive poverty in their nations.

That’s twice the number from the previous 12 months.

A desperate escape from violence

Heedless to the dangers involved, these unaccompanied children crossed vast distances with little protection or resources, arriving in the United States with the clothes on their backs and little else.

Nearly 60 percent of young people cite gang warfare and escalating violence in their homelands as the primary reasons for their exodus, according to a U.N. studyExternal Link (pdf).

Providing necessities for unaccompanied children

The plight of children at the border is causing an escalating humanitarian crisis.

As this emergency intensifies, World Vision is poised to provide essential supplies through partner organizations to help unaccompanied children being sheltered in locations across the United States.

World Vision is working with the churches and community partners at 13 locations throughout the country, including California, Texas, Florida, and New York, to supply unaccompanied children with items such as:
  • Clothing
  • Shoes
  • School supplies 
  • Activity kits
  • Backpacks
We are also furnishing cleaning supplies, paper products, and other materials to equip the local centers that are hosting children.

Addressing the root causes

In Central America, World Vision has worked in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras for decades to address the crisis’ root causes like poverty and the threat of exploitation that cause children to flee.

In El Salvador, programs like urban and rural children’s clubs give kids positive role models and a place to escape the violence. Throughout Central America, projects address the lack of economic opportunities — another factor that causes children to flee — by providing savings groups, vocational training, and other livelihood assistance.

Groups of parents and community leaders are trained to spot child protection issues and advocate for reforms to benefit children on a local and national level.

Learn more

How you can help
  • Pray for unaccompanied children. During the arduous journey north, they are separated from their parents, far from home, and vulnerable to violence, abuse, and other dangers.Use our prayer pointsExternal Link to help guide your prayers.
  • Make a one-time donation to help care for unaccompanied children in shelters across the United States. Your gift will multiply 8 times in impact to help provide interventions like clothing, shoes, hygiene kits, school supplies, activity kits, and other essentials, as well as cleaning supplies, paper products, and other materials to equip local centers that are hosting children.
  • Advocate.External Link Join us in calling on the governments in Central America and the United States to do more to protect children from violence.

Being is Becoming by Un-Becoming...

And you learn that love, true love,
always has joys and sorrow,
seems ever present,
yet is never quite the same,
becoming more than love,
and less than love,
so difficult to define.

And you learn that through it all,
you really can endure,
that you really are strong,
that you do have value.

- Anon

"Not unlike mankind in general, but especially for the Christian who is blood-bought through Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, the process of "putting off" the ills and harms and toxicities of this life must be compensatory. Without the living God exploding the inner worlds of our former unrepentant self there can be no becoming. What stubbornly wishes to remain is the unrepentant "old man" of our former self living with its uncrucified lies and misspent beliefs before the saving God of grace who must be allowed in to cut out our prideful passions and idolizing sense of self and being.

"The Christian life then, is ultimately one of growth through difficult personal struggles against the lies we have grown up with about ourselves and others. Of un-becoming what once was in order to realize, or become, the child of God in the image of Christ, our Lord and Savior. It is a lifelong process that is as hard as it is fulfilling. As difficult to let go of the "old man" as it is difficult to put on the "new man." But we are empowered by the Holy Spirit of God who wishes to cleanse all that we are as blood-bathed sacrifices, and holy altars, or temples, to the living God. Who are become the body of Christ, the bride of the Lamb, and redeemed of the Lord. Eh, verily, Lord, come."

- R.E. Slater, On becoming a "New Man"


"The ontic sense of being is not static but ever changing, or moving, towards something, or away from something, in the present tense of time. With time and distance one's being may be discerned as to its change and movement from what once was to what now is

"There is no future sense of being without the accompanying movement of becoming (either less or more from something or towards something). And if there is no becoming than there can be no being. This is as true for God in relationship to His creation as it is for man himself in relation to his Creator.

"The sense of redemption in this world then is the sense of becoming and not static being. It carries both heaven and hell in its epistolary movement either towards the Creator-God or away from the Redeemer of mankind, and even this world itself."

- R.E. Slater, A Sense of Self


In philosophy, the concept of becoming was born in eastern ancient Greece by the philosopher Heraclitus of Hephesus, who in the Sixth century BC, said that nothing in this world is constant except change and becoming. - Wikipedia


Clemens Alexandrinus (Stromata, v, 105). Similar: Plutarchus (De animae procreatione, 5 p, 1014 A) concerning Heraclitus: This universal order, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures. -Wikipedia


German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that Heraclitus "will remain eternally right with his assertion that being is an empty fiction".[3] Nietzsche developed the vision of a chaotic world in perpetual change and becoming. The state  of becoming does not produce fixed entities, such as being, subject, object, substance, thing. These false concepts are the necessary mistakes which consciousness and language employ in order to interpret the chaos of the state of becoming. The mistake of Greek philosophers was to falsify the testimony of the senses and negate the evidence of the state of becoming. By postulating being as the underlying reality of the world, they constructed a comfortable and reassuring "after-world" where the horror of the process of becoming was forgotten, and the empty abstractions of reason appeared as eternal entities. - Wikipedia

* * * * * * * * * * *

Popular Quotes on Becoming

“Meeting you was fate, becoming your friend was a choice, but falling in love with you I had no control over.” - Anon

“He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues it possesses” - Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)

“The American lives even more for his goals, for the future, than the European. Life for him is always becoming, never being.” - Albert Einstein quotes (German born American Physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity. Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

“You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay? Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” - Jim Rohn quotes (American Speaker and Author. He is famous for motivational audio programs for Business and Life. )

“Nothing is, everything is becoming.”Heraclitus of Ephesus quotes (Greek philosopher remembered for his cosmology, 540-480BC)

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.” - Zig Ziglar quotes (American motivational Speaker and Author. )

“When you meet someone better than yourself, turn your thoughts to becoming his equal. When you meet someone not as good as you are, look within and examine your own self.” - Confucius quotes (China's most famous teacher, philosopher, and political theorist, 551-479 BC)

“There is no knowledge of true being. The world is fundamentally in a state of becoming.” Friedrich Nietzsche quotes (German classical Scholar, Philosopher and Critic of culture, 1844-1900.)

“I've always thought respectable people scoundrels, and I look anxiously at my face every morning for signs of my becoming a scoundrel.” - Bertrand Russell quotes (English Logician and Philosopher 1872-1970)

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” Anais Nin quotes (French born American Author of novels and short stories, 1903-1977)

“Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life eight years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things I would no longer accept in my life, all the things I would no longer tolerate, and all the things that I aspired to becoming.” - Anthony Robbins quotes (American advisor to leaders)

“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quotes (German Playwright, Poet, Novelist and Dramatist. 1749-1832)

“Most success springs from an obstacle or failure. I became a cartoonist largely because I failed in my goal of becoming a successful executive.” - Scott Adams quotes (American Cartoonist, b.1957)

And you learn that love, true love,
always has joys and sorrow,
seems ever present,
yet is never quite the same,
becoming more than love,
and less than love,
so difficult to define.

And you learn that through it all,
you really can endure,
that you really are strong,
that you do have value.

- Anon

“I'm becoming more and more myself with time. I guess that's what grace is. The refinement of your soul through time.” - Jewel quotes (American Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist, b.1974)

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you” - Dale Carnegie quotes (American lecturer, author, 1888-1955)

“What is passion? It is surely the becoming of a person. Are we not, for most of our lives, marking time? Most of our being is at rest, unlived. In passion, the body and the spirit seek expression outside of self. Passion is all that is other from self. Sex is only interesting when it releases passion. The more extreme and the more expressed that passion is, the more unbearable does life seem without it. It reminds us that if passion dies or is denied, we are partly dead and that soon, come what may, we will be wholly so.” - John Boorman quotes (British motion-picture director, b.1933)

“We are becoming the servants in thought, as in action, of the machine we have created to serve us” - John Kenneth Galbraith quotes

“''Reason'' is the cause of our falsification of the evidence of the senses. In so far as the senses show becoming, passing away, change, they do not lie.”Friedrich Nietzsche quotes (German classical Scholar, Philosopher and Critic of culture, 1844-1900.)

“Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.” - Julius Charles Hare quotes

go to this link here for more sayings and quotes on becoming

go to this link here for bible verses on becoming

Book Review - The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence, Part 2

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.


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.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Problems with Sanders’s View of Providence:
Points of Disagreement

by Thomas Jay Oord
July 21, 2014

My friend, John Sanders, has written a powerful proposal for understanding God’s providence. As an open and relational theologian myself, I agree with much of it. But there’s a key problem with his view...

In a recent blog, I summarized Sanders’s version of open and relational theology. I agreed with all I put in my summary of Sanders, which comes from his immensely important book, The God Who Risks. My in-depth study of Sanders’s work is part of a book project of my own, made possible in part by a grant from the Randomness and Providence project.

I also want to say before noting our differences that John Sanders and I are good friends. I consider John a fine scholar and exemplary Christian.

My disagreement with Sanders is over theological points. We both endorse main themes of open and relational theology, and we agree on so much. But our disagreement is over an important set of issues: power, love, and evil.

According to Sanders, God Permits Evil

My central disagreement pertains to how Sanders views the relation between God’s love and power. I disagree with Sanders when he says God allows or permits genuine evil.

In The God Who Risks, Sanders often says God permits evil when it could have been prevented (all quotations in this blog come from that book). “Evil is allowed but not desired by God,” he says. “God permits things to happen, both good and bad, that he does not specifically intend.” General sovereignty “allows for pointless evil.” And “God has the power to prevent sin and evil from coming about.”

When Sanders talks about evil, he apparently means genuine evil. Genuine evils have no specific purpose; they are gratuitous. “Some evil is simply pointless because it does not serve to achieve any greater good,” says Sanders. “Horrible events happen that God did not want to occur.”

But God has a reason for not preventing gratuitous evil, says Sanders. The reason has to do with “the nature of the divine project.” The divine project involves what Sanders calls “general sovereignty.” God’s general sovereignty “does not allow for each and every such evil to be explained,” because “God is only responsible for the structures within which we operate and for those specific acts in history God elects to do.” God’s creational project makes possible the structures of existence in which evil and suffering could occur. But according to Sanders, God does not directly intend or cause evil.

God is ultimately responsible for evil, according to Sanders. “It may be said that God, in permitting significant others who have in fact done evil, takes responsibility for creating a world in which such evil could obtain. But God cannot be blamed for the actual evil of the creatures, since God did not intend it.” Here, Sanders seems to distinguish between God’s ultimate decision to create the universe and the belief that God did not want particular evils.

Is God Like a Parent or Teacher? - No

A critic might respond that the God Sanders describes does not act like a loving parent, let alone a perfectly loving God. A loving mother would prevent pointless harm to her child, if she were able. She would not stand by and allow others to assault her child.

While God acts like a loving parent in some respects, says Sanders, God acts differently in others. “Unlike a human parent, God is uniquely responsible for upholding the ontological, moral, and relational structures of the universe.” In other words, God does not prevent genuine evil in specific cases, because God is concerned about the whole.

Sanders also believes God does not act like a teacher whom we might think should halt trouble in the chaotic classroom. For instance, we might think a loving teacher, if he were able, would prevent one student from bullying another. Bullying is an evil we would want to thwart.

In response to the classroom analogy, Sanders says the almighty God “could veto any specific act.” But if God “made a habit of it, then he would turn the beloved into an automaton and thus find himself alone,” says Sanders. “God cannot prevent all the evil in the world and still maintain the condition of fellowship intended by his overarching purpose in creation.” Again, Sanders believes God fails to prevent specific evils, because God has to manage the entire universe.

Notice that Sanders talks about God “making a habit” of vetoing specific acts. This suggests he believes God can and perhaps does occasionally veto acts by controlling others or situations. He says, for instance, “in the God-human relationship, God sometimes decides alone what will happen.” There are “specific acts in history God elects to do.” “Sometimes God unilaterally decides what shall be...” And “there are some things that the almighty God retains the right to enact unilaterally.” Assuming God acts in relation to creatures, the specific divine actions Sanders mentions in these quotations seem to require God to control creatures completely.

We might summarize Sanders’s overall explanation in this way: God decided to create a world in which free creatures might exist and enjoy unforced relationship. Sometimes, however, free creatures do evil. God has the capacity to determine specific acts unilaterally, thereby preventing genuine evil. But God does not usually do so, which means God voluntarily chooses not to prevent evil. God allows it. Controlling others too often would result in a world of robots instead of free creatures.

What Would Victims Say to Sanders’s Proposal?

If I have summarized Sanders’s view correctly, I wonder how the victims of atrocious evils would respond to it. How would the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing respond? What would parents whose child was born with severe disabilities think of it? Or how would victims of rape and murder respond to Sander’s explanation of evil?

I doubt any of these people would find satisfying Sanders’s view that God permits evil that God could have stopped. I do not.

Sanders’s view says God could prevent these instances of evil. But God chooses not to do so. God’s choosing to allow genuine evils is somehow for the good of overall creation. “God elects not to renege on the conditions he established,” to use Sanders’s words. Instead of preventing these evil events, God chooses to “maintain the conditions of fellowship intended by his overarching purpose in creation.” Sanders seems to believe God cannot maintain creation’s overall purpose and prevent individual evil.

We need to listen first to the stories of the victims.

Sanders Says God Voluntarily Restrains from Preventing Evil

Sanders believes God’s failure to prevent evil derives from God’s voluntary commitments. “God does not give up power,” says Sanders, “but he does promise to adhere to the creational structures he made.” And this “divine self-restraint should be understood as the restraint of love in concern for his creatures.”

But this voluntary self-restraint does not sound loving to me!

I doubt God’s alleged self-restraint would sound loving to rape victims and others who endure genuine evil. I cannot imagine God, “I could have prevented your rape, but I voluntarily restrained myself from doing so. I didn’t stop those who violated you, because I am the perfect lover.”

I’m sure most victims of genuine evil think real concern would mean preventing the evil they endured, if prevention had been possible. And Sanders believes God could have prevented these evils, stopped their horrific suffering instantly. The sovereign and loving God who could enact some things unilaterally, as Sanders puts it, should avert pointless misery and death. The God who can veto any specific act should veto acts of genuine evil.

God sometimes “decides alone” or “unilaterally decides what shall be,” says Sanders. The God with the capacity to determine unilaterally, however, apparently has not believed the evil and suffering in the world and our personal lives were bad enough to prevent. Evidently, God’s preventing them would have been worse than allowing them. In my view, however, God’s failure to prevent genuine evil doesn’t sound like God is, as Sanders claims, “fundamentally opposed to sin, evil, and suffering.”

Do Genuine Evils Occur?

At stake is whether rape and the other atrocities are genuine evils. Genuine evils are events that, all things considered, make the world worse than it might have otherwise been. Sanders believes God allows pointless, gratuitous, or genuine evils, so he apparently thinks such evils occur. And he would likely say many atrocities we encounter are genuine evils.

The version of open and relational theology Sanders offers, however, does not actually consider these specific atrocities genuinely evil. His view implies that if God were to intervene and prevent them, God would be unloving.

Preventing the Boston Marathon bombing, for instance, would have been wrong. Love would not have been expressed were God to have prevented the actual rapes, murders, genocides, and incest we have witnessed in our world. God’s loving activity, according to Sanders, entails upholding the ontological, moral, and relational structures of the universe.

Preventing these specific atrocities, on his view, is not the way of love.

Sanders Seems to Offer a Best of All Possible Worlds Theodicy

Sanders’s position ends up sounding like a “best of all possible worlds” defense to the problem of evil. According to it, God allows evil because preventing it would undermine the good of the overall project. Sanders admits that many atrocities are “pointless evils” and “God does not have a specific purpose in mind for these occurrences.” But he also seems to believe “some evils are justified for some greater good.”

I find it difficult to imagine how God preventing rape and murder in any particular instance would throw out of balance the structures of the universe. I am not convinced the creation project requires God to allow genuine evils – including the Boston Marathon bombing, the debilitating condition of severely handicapped infants, the rape and murder of innocent women, and countless other atrocities.

This doesn’t sound to me like God desires, as Sanders alleges, to “bless them with all that is in their best interest.”

Sanders believes open and relational theology supports well the idea that we each have a personal relationship with God. I agree. But in these powerfully personal stories of suffering, tragedy, and evil, Sanders believes God allows atrocities for the good of the whole. His position emphasizes the whole and undermines the personal aspect of open and relational theology he elsewhere embraces.

In short, Sanders fails to solve the problem of evil. And the result is that we should wonder whether God loves perfectly after all.


Without a solution to the problem of evil, we cannot make sense of numerous events in our world. Sanders’s overall version of open and relational theology is largely helpful, and I agree with the majority of what he proposes. But it fails to answer well this crucial question: “Why doesn’t a powerful and loving God prevent all genuine evil, especially specific instances of horror in our personal lives?”

In the final segment of my exploration of Sanders’s view, I’ll show the key difference between his version of open and relational theology and mine. I think readers will be surprised by what I say. I’ll argue that Sanders’s doesn’t follow through when he correctly says love is God’s preeminent attribute.