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

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Story of Genesis as Wisdom Literature, Part 2

The Last Judgment (Garden), Bosch

Fall, or Folly? (2): A Wisdom Story

by Chaplain Mike
November 11, 2014

St. Irenaeus (2nd century) described Adam and Eve as “adolescents.” They were not “perfect” in the sense of “complete.” They represent a beginning and an intention – but something that not only remained unfulfilled – but even something that had deviated from its intended path. From “mud commanded to become Gods,” they became beings unable to be truly human. Death and corruption mark their existence. The stories in Genesis include fratricide among their children. The early chapters of Genesis are not the record of a promising start – they are the record of the start of promises.

Fr. Stephen Freeman, “From Mud to Light – the Saving Work of Christ”

The Last Judgment (Serpent and Tree), Bosch


We do not normally think of the Book of Proverbs as a work of deep theological content. We think of it as a collection of sayings, practical in nature, giving sound advice for living. But portions of the book go far beyond that.

Take Proverbs 1-9 for instance, which form an extended meditation on the nature and blessings of divine Wisdom (personified), urging the young in particular to open their ears and hearts to receive her teachings so that they will “fear the Lord,” become wise in their lives and dealings, and find the reward of “life.”

Proverbs teaches “the simple” (the young, morally unformed, susceptible to temptation) to listen to and follow “wisdom” (fear the Lord and follow his instructions), because listening to wisdom is the path to “life” and failing to do so leads to “death.”

One characteristic of wisdom literature is that its teachings are rooted in creation more than in covenant. That is, they reflect on the world and life and the characteristics of people and how they relate to each other. Its counsels derive from observation, not from special revelation. To put it simply, wisdom posits that God designed creation and life to work in certain ways. The wise person trusts God and seeks to order his or her life according to those ways. He or she “trusts in the Lord with a whole heart.” The foolish person disregards God and seeks to live “leaning on his or her own understanding.”

I suggested in the previous post that the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis is a wisdom story. Those who composed and edited the Hebrew Bible in its final form were concerned that the post-exilic community learn wisdom about their past, present, and future. So they told the first stories about people in the Bible using wisdom terms and metaphors to make their message clear from the start.

This same language and imagery is prevalent in other wisdom literature, like Proverbs. Here are a few examples:

The story of Adam and Eve has been often portrayed as the story of two perfect people in perfect conditions who “fell” into a state of corruption and mortality and plunged all creation into such a condition because of rebellion. But “fall” is not really the best description, or at least the most accurate description of what this story teaches.

Instead, Genesis 3 tells how God set boundaries for two children (or adolescents, as Irenaeus suggested) who are “simple” — youthful, naïve, inexperienced, morally unformed, and susceptible to temptation.
  • Look at them: “naked and not ashamed,” like children who don’t even know enough to be embarrassed as they frolic about without clothing.
  • Look at them: enticed by a treat that looks good, that promises to taste good, something that engages a childlike curiosity which knows no caution.
  • Look at them: easily distracted from their parent’s warning by a cleverer, wiser tempter.
  • Look at them: persuaded into transgressing the boundaries set for them without even thinking.
This is not the “fall” of the perfect. This is Pinocchio, led astray by Lampwick at Pleasure Island!


[T]he Adam story is not about a fall down from perfection, but a failure to grow up to godly wisdom and maturity. Adam and Eve weren’t like perfect super humans. They were like young, naïve children, who were meant to grow into obedience, but were tricked into following a different path.

...The serpent tricked Adam and Eve into gaining wisdom too soon, apart from God’s way. They were naïve children who did not have the shrewdness to withstand the serpent’s craftiness. They should have just trusted their maker. The knowledge of good and evil isn’t wrong, but getting it free from God’s direction is death. Without the maturity that comes from obeying God, Adam and Eve can’t handle the truth (said in our best Jack Nicholson voice).

This is the point of this story: the choice put before Adam and Eve is the same choice put before Israel every day: learn to listen to God and follow in his ways and then— only then— you will live. The story of Adam and Eve makes this point in the form of a story; Proverbs makes it in the form of wisdom literature; Israel’s long story in the Old Testament makes it in the form of history writingByas and Enns, Genesis for Normal People


This story was intended first for Israel, who throughout their history followed the same patterns set by Adam and Eve and then by their children Cain and Abel and were likewise sent off into exile from God’s good land.

But one effect of reading this as a wisdom story is that it tends to universalize its message. Jew and Gentile alike, we recognize ourselves in the stories of Adam and Eve and their children. As one of our commenters said in yesterday’s thread - "Adam is everyman. And Eve is everywoman. These stories reveal the universal human susceptibility to temptation. We all show ourselves to be simpletons, in need of divine wisdom."

As Pinocchio found out, no one becomes a “real boy” without first realizing he’s made a jackass of himself at Pleasure Island.

We all need to learn: “Trust in the Lord with a whole heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).

And specifically, we must put off the old foolish Adam who leads us to death and put on the new man, Christ, “who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption“ (1Cor 1:30). He is our Tree of Life.

continue to -

The Story of Genesis as Wisdom Literature, Part 1

The Garden of Earthly Delights (detail), Bosch

Fall, or Folly? (1)

by Chaplain Mike
with comments by r.e. slater
November 10, 2014

Whatever else one might say about Genesis 2-3 (the text actually goes from 2:4-4:26 and includes Cain’s story) and the account of Adam and Eve and the “fall,” it should be noted that, in its final form, this is a wisdom story. It is the first in a series of narratives that encourage the [Israel's] post-exilic community to reflect upon their history by showing them, in nascent form, the folly of their own ways which had led them into exile in Babylon. (sic, Genesis 2.4-4.26 was not written until 500 BC or thereabouts - re slater].

This week, we will consider Adam and Eve and their story in Genesis 2-3 and what it teaches about the human condition. We start with an overview of its context and general characteristics.

Adam and Eve, Cranach
Genesis 1-11 forms a preamble to the Hebrew Bible, and its focus is two-fold:

(1) it distinguishes Israel and her beginnings as set apart from the nations, particularly Babylon, and

(2) it shows that Israel was nevertheless just as foolish and sinful as the nations, even though chosen by God.

This section ends with the nations gathering at Babylon [the Great, sic Revelation in the NT - re slater] to found the city and build their great tower to the heavens. God comes down and scatters them abroad, paving the way for Abram’s call and the time of the patriarchs, when Israel as a people is formed in the midst of the nations. The stories that make up Genesis 1-11 set the stage by introducing us to several characters who represent Israel in both her chosen and foolish condition.

We read about Adam and Eve in the garden and exiled from the garden. Then we learn of Cain and Abel and God’s provision of both justice and mercy in the aftermath of the first murder. A list of Seth’s family line emphasizes both the greatness and mortality of the faithful ancestors. Noah and his family, like Israel in days to come, are saved through the waters from God’s judgment. The resulting “new creation” is soon spoiled again, however, in another garden and by another sinning son. The narrative then fast forwards, through genealogies, to a portrayal of the nations founding Babylon, the ultimate opponent of God’s people in the world.


Genesis 1-11 shows an ongoing pattern of God’s blessing, human folly and sin, divine judgment, salvation and new creation. The first story — of Adam and Eve — has been understood by many as depicting a unique, cosmos-changing event — a “fall” from paradisal perfection to a state of depravity, introducing corruption and death into the world.

Many Christians are taught to read the Adam and Eve story something like this: Adam
and Eve are fresh-off-the-assembly line, shiny, new, perfect, first human beings — sort
of super humans. God tested these flawless creatures with this command not to eat of the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil, just to see if they meant business and would obey
him. But they failed the test, rebelled against God, and lost not only their own perfection
but also that of every other human being born since.

- Byas and Enns, Genesis for Normal People

But can the story bear the weight of this interpretation?

First, the early chapters of Genesis show that Adam and Eve were not the only human beings in the world at that time. There is more than one use of the word “adam” in Genesis 1-2. 1:26-27 describes the creation of “humankind” (adam), encompassing both male and female, as the crown of God’s creation, made in God’s image. On the other hand, the first human we meet, designated as a specific male individual (adam), is created alone in chapter 2, a much different process is envisioned, and the female is created out of him later. This suggests, in the logic of the joint narratives, that humans are created by God in the beginning and already in the world when God later deals with this particular couple. We also have the story of Cain, which portrays other people in the world at the time he is set wandering. Other human beings are living outside the garden; Adam and Eve are special because they are “first” in other ways, [but] not as the lone humans on earth.

Second, the story suggests that these first humans were already subject to death. Their mortality is assumed by the presence of the Tree of Life, from which they must eat in order not to die. Immortality is available to them; it is not their possession. Nor is death portrayed as the immediate consequence of their “fall.” Adam and Eve do not die after their transgression and, although physical death is described as their inevitable fate, it is not presented as part of the “curse” as such. As creatures made from dust they will return to dust. The couple’s expulsion from the Garden is for the specific purpose of denying them immortality through eating from the Tree of Life. All this fortifies Bouteneff’s conclusion:“Humankind does not begin as immortal and then become mortal as a result of the transgression” (p. 6).

Third, the story suggests that the first humans were not perfect before the transgression. Two sharply differentiated human natures pre- and post-transgression are not portrayed. The fact that God issues a prohibition to Adam and Eve implies not only that they are in communion with God, but also that they are capable of doing something of which God does not approve. Boundaries need not be set for perfect people. Furthermore, something within them makes them vulnerable to the serpent’s temptation, and their subsequent disobedience is not the behavior of pristine individuals.

Fourth, as mentioned above, in context the Garden narrative is one part of a whole decline narrative, the first in a series of “falls.” The Bible first mentions “sin” not in the garden, but with regard to Cain’s much more depraved act of murder. This observation led many Jewish and early Christian interpreters to emphasize the corruptive nature of this account more than the Adam and Eve story. And if we are looking for an account of a truly transformative “fall” leading to pervasive sin, death and destruction, then Genesis 6 fits the bill much better, when “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth [land], and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually”(Gen. 6:5). Bouteneff concludes: “Genesis 1-11 narrates a whole series of cycles or ages of human decline. . . .”

The transgression . . . is an ongoing reality or activity; Scripture does not present the fall
as an event but as humanity gone awry, though this sense is not properly (for Israel, at
any rate) identified with the tree in Eden. Scripture points beyond paradise, beyond Genesis
1-11, to existential life. “It is the ongoing sin of the human that returns the earth to chaos”
[quote: Ricoeur and LaCocque]. As we might deduce from Jeremiah 4:22-25 and Hosea
4:1b-3, it is not because Adam sinned that everything is askew; it is because everyone is
sinning. (p. 8)

Adam and Eve’s transgression is the first. In that sense it is unique. Their story is also singular in that it portrays Adam and Eve being banished from the garden and losing access to the Tree of Life.

These are important characteristics of the story, and we will explore them further tomorrow and see how they are designed to teach wisdom to Israel in exile.

Peter Bouteneff gives several reasons why the traditional Augustinian view of “the fall”
does not fit the particulars of the garden story as it is presented in the Hebrew Bible.