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, March 31, 2015

Confronting the End of Meaning: Crucifixion and the Critique of Signs and Wonders

Francisco de Zurbaran , Agnus Dei , 1636 - 40 , San Diego Museum of Art , California , USA

3 Reasons the Human Jesus is Important

by Peter Enns
March 31, 2015

Guest Blogger Jared Byas

This week Christians celebrate the crazy idea that God became human.

While affirming this in theory, my evangelical upbringing was very uncomfortable with the idea of  a Human Jesus. We had to admit Jesus was human but that didn’t mean we had to like it.

After all, the God Jesus is where the magic happens. Human Jesus sometimes muddles the important stuff, takes our eyes off the ball about heaven and whatnot. But here, I submit 3 reasons why Human Jesus is important to remember:

1. God gets that we are a mess.

Jesus experienced the love of his mother and the betrayal of his best friends. He felt the beautiful sensuality of getting his feet wiped with the hair of a young woman and the tortuous pain of getting his feet nailed to a cross.

In seminary it was through seeing Jesus as unapologetically human that I was able to see that God doesn’t want me to become superhuman but wants me to be a loved person.

Christianity isn’t an instruction manual for how to be perfect like God but a story about how God became like us. And that’s a crucial difference.

2. God is willing to join the mess.

God doesn’t mind “looking bad” for the sake of those God loves.

If you want to be in relationship with broken humans, you run the risk of looking broken yourself. God doesn’t seem to care. Why do we?

The streak I see in Human Jesus is the holy being so involved in the lives of the unholy that people are uncomfortable with how, from the outside, it’s hard to tell the difference. I see a God who, for the sake of love would risk reputation, trading in “omnipotent” for “glutton” and “drunk.”

3. Because of #1 & #2, I expect a very human-looking Bible.

If the same God that came to earth as an unimpressive carpenter from an underperforming people group also provided us a book, I would expect it to look very human. Would it run the risk of looking ordinary, unrefined, and altogether human?

Yes. Point taken. The Bible looks a lot like Jesus.

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Confronting the End of Meaning:
Crucifixion and the Critique of Signs and Wonders

by Peter Rollins
March 03, 2015

Last night Tony Jones had a launch for his latest book Did God Kill Jesus. The book itself is an excellent and very readable overview of the various ways that the church has understood the meaning and significance of the Crucifixion. Partly motivated by Trip Fuller’s statement, “God has to be at least as nice as Jesus,” he goes further than simply describing the basic approaches and endeavours to find a way of understanding the Crucifixion that prevents it [from] being mired in a theology that justifies violence, anti-Semitism, exclusion, and political oppression.

In the book Jones views the incarnation as signifying a fundamental shift in the way God relates to human beings (shifting God from a place of sympathy regarding humans to empathy). The infinite lives into the finite and tastes the existential predicament of human subjectivity. Including condemnation by the law, oppression and a sense of alienation (Crucifixion).

The main problem I have with this approach is that Tony continues to see the Crucifixion as a meaningful event. It is an event that must be integrated into a certain apologetic system. An approach that generates so many of the problems that Tony brings up in the book… how to make an event that seems to defy everything we think of the Absolute, fit with it.

Below I have taken an excerpt from The Divine Magician that outlines a critique of this idea. It begins by referencing a previous argument concerning “freedom from the sacred-object” and closes before I go on to draw the consequences of the position I outline. Both of which are important to the position. But I hope it at least introduces the idea that Crucifixion might operate as a rupture in meaning.

This freedom from the sacred-object also spells freedom from the need to find an overarching meaning to life. Indeed, the apostle Paul directly attacks the idea of Christianity offering a system of meaning in his attacks on what he called “signs” and “wisdom.” Signs and wisdom represent two ways in which we seek meaning. Through either apologetic argument or the occurrence of unusual or unexplainable events, we want to find ways to justify our beliefs.

To the Jew a "Stumbling Block"

While the affirmation of signs and wisdom to justify a particular religious position is part-and-parcel of religious discourse, Paul sets his sights firmly against them when critiquing the Jewish community of his day for seeking the former and the Greeks for wanting the latter,

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

What’s fascinating here is the way Paul sets up the Crucifixion as the very opposite of a sign or wisdom. From the perspective of both, the Crucifixion can strike one as nothing but empty nonsense. Why? Because this method of execution symbolized a divine curse. More than this, the idea of an innocent man, let alone God, being murdered in such horrific terms strikes against the idea of justice, reason, or goodness.

It is a meaningless, absurd, and offensive event, something theologian Paul Hessert picks up in his book Christ and the End of Meaning,

Anyone executed by hanging was seen in Jewish tradition as cursed by God. The sign of such a death was taken as divine corroboration of the administration of human justice. In other words, God was seen as acting in this sign-event to give the victim “what was coming to him.”

As that which runs against the very idea of a sign, Hessert argues that what we’re confronted with is a type of profound offense to reason:

The affront is not merely the case of the ignominious, brutal death of Jesus . . . [it is] to the whole religious outlook that searches for signs. . . . Preaching “Christ crucified” is not merely saying that bad things happen to good people but that God’s approach to us belies our expectations.

In other words, the event of the Crucifixion is actually the very contradiction of our expectations. This contradiction is much more than the liberal concept that the cross represents the idea of a good person being killed because he stood up against injustice. It is rather a direct confrontation of all that we think religion and God is about—it is that which breaks apart “our sense of reality.”

To Greek Stoicism "foolishness"

In the scripture passage quoted previously, Paul connects the desire for wisdom with the Greeks and their development of classical philosophy (the “love of wisdom”). The Greeks were not so much interested in signs, but rather with the eternal realm of ideas. They sought an underlying rational structure that would make sense of the passing, decaying nature of the world and render it all meaningful.

The preeminent teachers of wisdom at the time of Jesus were the Stoics. Stoicism was the ancient Hellenistic philosophy that emphasized an emotionally balanced life based upon a will that was in accord to nature, a strong moral temperament, and a deeply rational outlook.

These teachers would often compete with Christian preachers for an audience and argued that behind the chaos of our lived experience there was a harmonious center, an order that could, in principle, provide a meaning for everything. The Stoics saw the brokenness and decay of the world as a type of illusion or temporary condition. While they had a strong moral theory, there was a broad acceptance of the status quo. In this way, Stoicism was able to become the philosophical outlook of the cultural elite in the Roman Empire without actually threatening some of the more barbaric and inequitable practices of the day.

The Stoics would have had little problem in accepting the liberal reading of Christ’s crucifixion as an example of one who faced injustice and suffering with [a kind of Stoic] peace and resoluteness. Indeed this Jesus would have fitted very neatly into their worldview.

For Paul, however, there was something much more profound and offensive taking place in the idea of “Christ crucified.” Indeed, Paul was reading the Crucifixion against this stoic vision of Jesus. For Paul, the Crucifixion was that which defied reduction to a sign or system of meaning. As Hessert notes,

“Christ crucified” makes no sense. Instead of linking God to the enveloping rationality that absorbs or even overrides the passing contradictions of goodness, it focuses attention on the contradiction itself. That is, “Christ crucified” is no key to the meaning of life and human events. It is a problem to meaning, a problem requiring explanation.



1. (in secular Judaism) a Hebrew word for holocaust (sense 2) See alsoChurban (sense 2)
Word Origin literally: destruction


[hol-uh-kawst, hoh-luh-]


1. a great or complete devastation or destruction, especially by fire.
2. a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.
3. the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II
4. any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.


Hessert notes that the Shoah operates in a similar way within Jewish thought. For the Shoah is that horrific, unspeakable event that ruptures and renders offensive any attempt to make it into a divine sign or element of wider rationality. This is why the term Shoah is often preferred over Holocaust. For the latter is derived from the Greek holókauston, a term that has connections with the notion of religious sacrifice and thus religious significance. In contrast, the Shoah simply means destruction and thus lacks any justificatory undertones.

The attempt to provide a cosmic meaning for the Shoah is not simply misplaced, it is a profound offense. The event stands as an affront to all such strategies. In terms of the European intellectual tradition, the First World War can be seen to act in a similar way. One of the features of this horrific event is found in the way that the war disrupted all our attempts to tie it into some deeper meaning or significance.

It is precisely this connection with meaning, religious or otherwise, that the Crucifixion of Christ cuts against.

Once we grasp this idea of Christ representing a break with [Jewish] signs and [Greek] wisdom, we can begin to perceive how the actual existing church has fundamentally betrayed the scandal of the Crucifixion, effectively making it into a type of Stoic doctrine that doesn’t challenge our world, but confirms it.

In contrast, for Paul, “Christ crucified” is that event that defies all attempts at being reduced to some system of meaning.

It is a type of antisign that fractures religious signs.

An antiwisdom that confounds human wisdom.

A nuclear event that blows apart all of our apologetic enclosures.

Paul and the Crucifixion: Neither Modern Nor Postmodern in Radical Theology

I have been participating in the "Rupture, Revelation, Revolution" classes each week and must share what Badiou's "Event and Being" means to me on a rudimentary level. I say "rudimentary" because I am not a philosopher but am interested in the creation of a new postmodern philosophical language (or linguistic scaffolding structure) in which to inspect and/or construct/deconstruct a new postmodern language for present day theology. 

Moreover, last summer I met and studied under Alain Badiou at the insistence of a new friend who was conducting podcasts with Pete Rollins and John Caputo out of my office from the week before. And well that I did, because Badiou was the kind of free-ranging thinker whose system concepts bode a greater expansiveness to my own enlightenment/modernistic background from which I had been attempting a resurrection from through the utilization of postmodern thought.

Anyway, today's blog article is a crude summary of what we have been talking about the past 2 weeks which I hope helps when reading Pete Rollins article following immediately below.


"I have been taking a 6 week primer on philosophic radical theology using Paul's theology as a type of profound revelation that ruptures one's previous world systems by displacing and deeply revolutionizing all succeeding thoughts and acts against past cherished paradigms personally or sociological ingrained in society.

By using Alain Badiou's "Event and Being" as a juxtaposition we moved last week from the poet/prophet act of receiving (or discerning) revelation (the Event) to this week's transformative stages of Being which becomes radically transformative in the Christ event for the Apostle Paul (even as it is for the Christian believer).

As such, all past hermeneutics interpreting Jesus must radically fall away for Paul as he became consumed in Jesus as a rupturing Event to his life's theology, mission, and identity. Similarly, post-modernism's anthropological-existential hermeneutics may now displace all previous enlightenment and modernistic theologies themselves having become radically transformed upon the very foundation these systems had built for their own demise.

In lay terms this means that even as Paul was profoundly changed by Jesus in doctrine, service, and identity so will the new postmodern Christian become profoundly moved fundamentally to his/her state of being with its acquisitions and proclivities. And as individuals are changed so will the church in its doctrine, mission, and identity.

Thus, Paul no longer sought to fit Jesus into his bible but the bible around Jesus. (In existential terms Paul was the one to be fit around Jesus even as the Christian believer becomes radically transformed in the same way). He knew the reality of his experience (the subjective response to the objective) and though he could not explain it he knew he must become neither Jew nor Greek but God's servant.

Even so, this is the philosophical scaffolding of a new theology that brings God's kingdom into the present through gracious acts of servitude towards others when overwhelmed by Spirit-filled revelatory light and illumination. A new consciousness which sees world systems and Jewish or Christian laws as antithetical to Jesus' apocalyptic event and being.

Correspondingly, this becomes the scary stuff that we most fear because it radically changes us should we allow it to do so. But without this personal admittance it cannot displace nor disrupt nor revolutionize the very person seeking to be claimed by the event itself.

Likewise must theology flow in its disruption to all past theologies that it might proclaim the event through a new essence of being. An essence which deconstructs old-line systems and traditions in order to reconstruct the self to the newer radicalized rectitudes and discontinuities obtained by the rupturing revelation to consumptive lives, routines, and activities.

R.E. Slater
March 31, 2015


Anon: "I concur with all of this. I hope you'll keep us/me updated as you move through the course. Sounds interesting and wise.+

Myself: "Thanks. It's even more radical than this. I am looking for a new philosophical framework on which theology might further expand and transform the bible beyond perspectival hermeneutics to radically lived kingdom lives. Lives as very poets and prophets themselves. I met Badiou and studied with him last summer but even though I didn't understand it I felt there was in his way of thinking a way to reinterpret the bible beyond itself. Moreover, it's also a continuation of reviewing what radical theology can become stripped of western thinking and infused in Christ. Basically it's left of liberalism but center on with Jesus at its core."

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Paul and the Crucifixion: Neither Modern, Nor Postmodern

by Peter Rollins
March 03, 2015

As some of you know, I’m currently teaching a course with Tripp Fuller that explores the turn to Paul found among atheist philosophers. In contrast to the “New Perspective on Paul” found in contemporary theology, people like Badiou, Zizek and Taubes are celebrating a militant, political Paul who provides a model for combating postmodernism.

One of the questions that has come up during the course concerns why on earth these political atheist thinkers would find an ally in Paul when they share nothing of his dogma or commitment to the largely conservative, pietistic community that claims his legacy. More than this, the Resurrection of Christ is Paul’s overriding belief, it is the sun around which everything else orbits.

How then can thinkers who view this part of the Jesus story as a fable, possibly champion the controversial apostle?

In order to approach an answer we have to briefly reflect on how Paul held the belief in Christ’s resurrection. Bearing in mind the centrality of the belief, it is hard not to be struck by the fact that he doesn’t actually argue for it in the traditional way. Indeed he specifically claimed that the event was foolishness in terms of reason, and a stumbling block for those who sought a sign. In this way Paul neither resembles the modern apologist who employs philosophy to back up his claims, nor the postmodernist who sees her claims as relative.

Paul can’t be placed into either of these camps, and instead opens up a different mode of discourse: Proclamation. For Badiou, this opens up the figure of the apostle over-and-against the figure of the philosopher and the prophet.

To understand the atheist philosophers’ enlisting of Paul we have to understand the nature of this third discourse in relation to the statement “Christ is Risen.” The main thing that strikes us when reading Paul’s claim is the way that it isn’t a theory to defend, it is rather an event that is proclaimed and verified in the formation of what Paul Tillich would call, the New Being.

In Badiou’s excellent book on Paul he uses the example of how the belief in the gas chambers used by the Nazis function for us today.

The claim that millions of Jews where executed in these gas chambers is an historical one that is open to verification and falsification. However the way that this claim functions for us cannot be reduced to this level. When someone attempts to draw us into a debate about whether or not these murders really happened, we not only refuse to enter in, we expose how the very reduction of the event to a type of detached historical debate is already a betrayal of the event it signals.

For most of the world the historical belief in the mass murder of Jews in Nazi death camps articulates an event that demands an unconditional stance. The historical record is encountered as something that makes an absolute claim on us. It reflects a horror that we must attempt to ensure never happens again. The contingent historical reality is thus a site of demand. It houses an event that cannot be reduced to the location it was birthed in. An event that is eclipsed the moment we treat the gas Chambers in a cold, detached way.

For Paul, the resurrection is a historical reality, but he holds it like one might hold the belief in the gas chambers, i.e. the event housed in the historical claim is not something one debates, holds lightly or defends. For Paul it is proclaimed in the life of the one caught up in the event. For Paul, the idea of playing into the Greek discourse of reason is not simply misplaced, but a fundamental betrayal of the event. In a brilliant reflection from St. Paul, Badiou shows that even Pascal failed to grasp this in its entirety.

This is analogous to the event of love. A contingent, imperfect other becomes, for us, the site for the love-event. The love-event is birthed from the other, but the lover doesn’t engage in apologetics to defend their claim that their beloved is the most beautiful person in the world. Yet neither are they an apathetic relativist about their beloved. That contingent person who they met through a random set of events becomes the site for that which cannot be reduced to a mere philosophical argument. [cf., Something I explore here.]

To grasp this means that one can begin to see why some radical political philosophers are drawn to Paul. For Paul is a clear example of a militant who is committed to a truth-event, a truth-event that is based in the world but that is not reducible to it.

This is powerfully portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. In one particularly incredible scene the firebrand apostle is preaching the resurrected Christ when Jesus confronts him and calls him a liar. When Paul pursues him Jesus says, “I was never crucified, I never rose from the dead. I’m a man like everyone else.” In response to this news Paul retorts, “I don’t care if you’re Jesus or not. The resurrected Jesus is what will save the world and that’s what matters.”

In this scene Paul is faced with the reality that the historical claim that birthed his vision of a universal community (of neither Jew nor Gentile), is false. But rather than despair he thanks Jesus. For he knows that the event is what counts. The historical claim opened up the way for the event, but the event is what counts.

In the same way, a person transformed by love, but who later finds out that their lover was a scoundrel and a fraud, can still be faithful to the transformed life that arose from the love. [sic, not that Jesus was either rogue or scondrel]

For Paul there is probably as little doubt about a historical resurrection than there is doubt for us about the gas chambers in Nazi Germany. But the resuscitation of a body is not what Paul is concerned about: he proclaims Resurrection (with a capital “R”). This means that he proclaims New Being.

Whether one thinks that the historical site of the event is actual or not, one can be caught up in the event and committed to fighting for the universal community that is opened up by the event.

So then, for people like Badiou, Paul provides a great ancient example of what we so need today, a figure committed to fighting for a universal community. A figure who doesn’t get bogged down in modernist apologetics or in postmodern relativism.

jesus meet saint paul ----from temptation

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Philosopher's on Paul

by Tripp Fuller
March 10, 2015

Why in the world are philosophers getting so excited about Paul these days?

Well I would tell you the answer but Tripp and Pete decided to do an entire High Gravity class investigating this turn to Paul among political philosophers. Last week the class kicked off with an initial session on the Bible with Daniel Kirk and now in the second session we turn to the philosophers. This podcast includes the general introduction to Paul and the philosophers that kicked off session two. Check it out and think about joining us for the rest of the class.

In the second half of this session we discussed Jacob Taubes‘ seminal work The Political Theology of Paul. His lectures were what paved the way for two of the most talked about texts in political philosophy. In weeks 3 and 4 we will walk through Alain Badiou‘s Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. In weeks 5 and 6 we will do a close reading of Slavoj Zizek‘s The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity.

The class includes over 10 hours of live-streamed nerdiness for just 30 bucks. Each session will be a live streamed video-cast w/ some introductory remarks about the thinkers, conversational walk-through the texts, and interaction with the participants. Following the session it will be available for download on the class page along with links to the archived video, supplemental reading material, and the class discussion board. Each session will begin at 6pm pst (9pm est). Go HERE to join.

Make sure you check out our sponsor Deidox Films. They create short films takes which show how different disciples in different walks of life embody their faith. If you like using films in your teaching, preaching or learning then get wise and click on over.

You can also check out the downloadable package of three High Gravity classes Tripp and Peter Rollins taught together. It includes all the audio from Atheism for Lent, Radical Theology, and Christology classes totally over 27 hours of material for 50 bucks.

Head over HERE for info about the March 17th Theology Nerd Bootcamp in Chicago before #PYM15.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Remembering an All-But-Forgotten, Extremely Influential Theologian: Christoph Blumhardt

Remembering an All-But-Forgotten, Extremely
Influential Theologian: Christoph Blumhardt

by Roger Olson
March 29, 2015

Much to their credit, a few historical theologians are trying to revive memory of German theologian-evangelist Christoph Blumhardt. My friend and co-author Christian Collins Winn (Bethel College, MN) is one of them. (He and I collaborated on our recently published book Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition [Eerdmans, 2015].) In my opinion, however, Blumhardt is one of those great Christian thinkers and leaders who has been pushed to the deep background and only remembered (vaguely) by some as an influence on Karl Barth’s theology. However, even some books about Barth and his theology neglect to mention Blumhardt who deserves much more credit for helping launch theological renewal in the twentieth century.

Christoph (1842-1919) would consider it a disservice to himself not to mention his father Johann (1805-1880). The father was catapulted to fame in Germany and the Christian world by the story of his months-long exorcism of a demonic spirit possessing a young woman. Johann was a fairly ordinary Lutheran pastor in Southwestern Germany when she was brought to him by a friend. He did not consider himself an exorcist and had hardly given a thought to the subject of demon-possession but discerned that this young woman’s problem was supernatural. He was reluctant to engage in exorcism but agreed to pray for her. Eventually the demonic spirit left her and she was miraculously freed from spiritual bondage to evil. The elder Blumhardt went on to found a Christian retreat center for spiritual counseling, prayer and healing that became famous not only in Germany but also in Great Britain and America.

Christoph grew up in that atmosphere under the influence of his famous father and eventually took over his father’s ministry moving the retreat center to Bad Boll. It still exists although much changed. Now it is an ecumenical center for peace studies.

Christoph Blumhardt was a phenomenon in his own lifetime, much revered and criticized. He refused to fit into any traditional religious category and eventually surrendered his ministerial credentials in the state church under tremendous pressure from the tradition-bound hierarchy. Christoph was, like his father, a renowned exorcist and “faith healer.” (I prefer the term “divine healing evangelist” because in that tradition it is God who heals, not the person who prays. “Faith healing” is a journalistic term that does not do justice to that tradition’s beliefs.) People came from all over the world to Bad Boll to meet Blumhardt, hear him preach, receive spiritual counseling and advice from him and to be prayed for. He was widely regarded especially in Germany as a prophet, evangelist and political activist.

Blumhardt (from here on when I use that name I mean Christoph) picked up his personal motto from his father: “Jesus is victor!” This was the prophetic phrase declared by a woman present at the end of the famous exorcism carried out by his father over months. Blumhardt believed and taught that the future Kingdom of God is breaking into history through Jesus and the church. He believed and taught that miracles ought to be expected signs of this presence of the future. But he also believed socialism is the social order of the Kingdom of God and that Christians ought to model socialism in the church and state. He joined the Socialist party and became a member of parliament for a few years. He was also a universalist and pacifist. He believed that “Jesus is victor!” also means that God’s coming Kingdom through Jesus will eventually be all inclusive.

Barth gave Blumhardt credit for influencing his theology and social views. But Barth was not alone in being strongly influenced by Blumhardt. Scholars writing about Jürgen Moltmann almost always refer to two major influences on his thought—Barth and Bloch (Ernst). However, Moltmann himself credits Blumhardt with being the single most influential person on the development and direction of his theology. (See “The Hope for the Kingdom of God and Signs of Hope in the World: The Relevance of Blumhardt’s Theology Today” in Pneuma 26/1 (Spring, 2004). Donald G. Bloesch used Blumhardt’s motto “Jesus is Lord!” as the title of his little book on Barth’s theology and referred to Blumhardt many times in his writings.

My long time readers will already know how influenced I am by theologian Emil Brunner on whose Dogmatics I cut my “theological teeth” in seminary. Brunner dedicated Volume 3 of Dogmatics (The Christian Doctrine of the Church, Faith, and the Consummation) to Blumhardt: “This book is dedicated to Christoph Blumhardt. It was he, the prophetic witness to Jesus, who in the days of my youth by direct personal contact and, later, through men like Kutter and Ragaz, rooted me deep in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. I have always loved and honoured him as one of those in whom the divine light shone forth, and in gratitude I regard my theological work as the harvest of his sowing.”

What did Barth, Bloesch, Brunner and Moltmann have in common that they might have inherited from Blumhardt? The answer is obvious: their Christological concentration. But it is better expressed as their “concentration on Jesus.” Some people talk endlessly about “Christ” but rarely mention “Jesus.” The difference may seem subtle, but it’s not to a true Pietist. One can believe in and talk about “Christ” as (for example) “the New Being that appeared in Jesus” while pushing the living Jesus, our contemporary (as Kierkegaard put it), to the background. Blumhardt believed Jesus is alive and busy wherever God’s people invite and allow him to be busy—bringing in the Kingdom on earth among us. Barth, Bloesch, Brunner and Moltmann all developed Christocentric or “Jesus-centered” theologies that, like Blumhardt’s theology, were infused with Pietism without Quietism. (Yes, I know Barth was highly critical of Pietism, but I am convinced his critiques of Pietism were aimed at a particular German expression of Pietism in his time and place and not at Pietism in general. He was very appreciative of Zinzendorf, for example, calling him a modern father of the church.)

All four of those theologians drew from Blumhardt their Jesus-centered hermeneutic of Scripture that relativized the Bible as witness to revelation with “revelation” being Jesus. Brunner’s “I-Thou encounter” is usually traced back (as a concept) to Martin Buber and Ferdinand Ebner, but I recognize it as just as much or more influenced by Blumhardt. When I first encountered Brunner in seminary I detected a certain “spirit” or “ethos” that resonated with my Pentecostal-Pietist spiritual formation. I now realize that ingredient in Brunner’s theology was Blumhardt in him.

We need a rediscovery of Blumhardt in contemporary theology.

Notes to Water Based Green Infrastructure: Sustainability and Practices

"It's amazing what happens below our feet and all around us."
- anon

Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear and no foretelling,
for I saw the last known landscape destroyed for the sake 
of the objective, the soil bludgeoned, the rock blasted.
Those who had wanted to go home would never get there now.

- Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir [excerpt]

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

- Wendell Berry, What We Need Is Here

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

- Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things

* * * * * * * * * *

Water Based Green Infrastructure:
Sustainability and Practices

Why Natural Hydrology?

Healthy natural landscapes slows rainfall down, cools it, and filters it back into the ecosystem.

The purposes of water is used as energy to living ecosystems by carrying nutrients to the landscape as a balancing mechanism to living things. This occurs in two ways:

1 - Cycles of Depletion and Renewal

2 - Ground Water Flow Paths: Infiltration of the water into the land as it flows into the water table and back to land surfaces recharging the ground

But Urbanscapes have altered the natural conditions of water hydrology through several mechanisms:

  • gray infrastructure - ex: cement
  • stormwater management - ex: pavement
  • volume redirection - discharge
  • detention basins
  • restriction of distribution of natural deposits and nutrients 
  • outflow to streams and away from the land

Results Occur as:

  • flooding
  • air and water decline
  • environmental impact and decline
  • decaying roads
  • rising maintenance costs
  • loss of recreating social and community well-being

As a result we now have a crumbling gray infrastructure needing repair and maintenance. However, we also have the opportunity to replace, rebuild, replenish, and remodel living human communities back into synchronisation with the natural ecological cycles of the land.

Water Balancing Strategies
  • Treat water as a resource
  • Keep water local
  • Replicate natural hydrology by understanding it
  • Replicate natural hydrology by recreating it
  • Replicate natural hydrology by lessening the impact of urbanscaping


  • By reducing runoff
  • By restoring infiltration to the maximum of biodiversity
  • By connecting people to water and to living things (biophelia)

*biophelia = a love of live and the living world; the affinity of human beings to be in productive relations with other human beings and nature itself.

What are our water consumption and waste options? To treat and re-use waste water onsite. This will reduce infrastructure and containment transportation.

Types of  Water Consumption and Waste Recycling Options:

  • Green Roofs which protect and cool building while providing sociological re-creation
  • Permeable Pavements to allow the water to be reabsorbed into the ground and travel as groundwaterthrough its various cycles of replenishment and nourishment
  • Creation of Bio-Retention ponds and drainage systems as healing gardens
  • Rainwater Harvesting and Re-Use
  • Waste Water Recycling and Re-Use

Types of Problems?

  • Cold weather challenges to porous pavements
  • Community promotion and marketing of green/blue infrastructure
  • Create tool sets to monitor sustainability targets

Tool Sets for Sustainability Targets

Sustainable Site Initiatives for Land Design and Development:

  • USGVC LEED Programs
  • Ecosystems Services
  • Human Health and Well-Being
  • Natural Biophelia Re-scaping of Land
  • Living Building Challenges (this has a higher rating system than the LEED standards)

Types of High Performance Green Buildings:

  • LEED - Gold certification
  • LEED - Platinum certification

Using rainwater redirection as a functional and artful component of the building or campus' landscape by opening up covering drainage pipes to the air and sun as a form of rain-scaping or rainwater gardens. Thus, re-shaping through artful re-creation water courses through rainwater harvesting and bioscaping to living landscapes.

Reasons for Geothermal Heating and Cooling:

  • To Obtain Energy Use Efficiencies
  • To Decrease of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • To Decrease Water Use (saves $$)

District Applications and Site Types

  • Green Streets Re-creation and Integration through visioning workshops to revitalize gray-scapes through sustainability projects.
  • Education and encouragement of the the community to become a transformative part of the process of terra-forming.
  • Integrating human use with a pedestrian focus into the project: walking, bicyclists, accessibility to the handicapped, etc.
  • Forming a participatory community process for community life strategies.
  • By soliciting artful natural landscaping from the public.
  • By maximizing public spaces for public usage within natural landscaping.

for further reading ~

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Blessed are the Poor": Striving for the Spiritual Non-Possession of Biblical Interpretation

... the question of how to protect Christian tradition from reification may perhaps find the
most satisfactory but also the most difficult answer: by not allowing it to become our
possession,  either in terms of universalising the past or particularizing the eschatological.
History would thus not be tied down by tradition, and tradition would not be reduced to the historical.

... Normative tradition in this sense would not tie history down, but rather testify an ongoing
possibility to encounter the transcendent and loving God whose victory is ultimately not
dependent on the historical projections of the possible.

- Ivana Noble

How does one link the church's past traditions which-are-always-and-in-every-way being re-interpreted by the human imagination of its historical legacies, towards any future eschatological possibility of / the living God / or, / the living Christ's / presence and sublimation of our historical present that it may become real and transforming?

It is in the continual act of submitting our church traditions to the One who is our Tradition by not claiming it as our own that we may morph from generation to generation towards the realisation of the Bride of Christ, the Living Church.

A Church which must always be poor in spirit to receive the Living Word of the Lord to our heart, our mind, and our activities. Without this humility, this meekness, this mindset, we are at all times confronted with our need to legalise the Spirit of God who is very Word Himself unscripted by the heart of man. A Word that must transform us if we are to move forward in any eschatological sense of divine realisation within this world of sin and woe.

Here then is the conumdrum. Not that the Word of God is living and renewing to the heart of man but that the heart of man would idolize the very Word of God which is life itself to make of it a static, possessive language of the heart, desperate for particulars by chaining its weary paths through this hard life onto a leaden script weighed out by the church's own hands, and voices, and feet, unto bonded charters and constitutions. A fallible script of false theologies idolised for their human veracities but not spiritually renewing, nor transforming, as when first pronounced by Him who is the Word of God.

The temptation of our age, as in any age, is to transform God's living words with our own couched within human sentiments, fears, inequalities, and oppressions. To make of it our own kind of personal freedoms vouchsafing our own prejudices, bigotries, and hatreds. This is neither the Gospel of Christ nor the Word of God but become a mean thing spoken by a brutish church whose own veracity is but filthy rags become unstained by the blood of Christ.

But / the living God / living Christ / has provided His very Self as that breakage to our norming heart so that by His living resurrection to our incarnating heart we may, with Him, be raised from the dead to worship this celebrated new life with Holy Spirit freedom and empowerment. One that will embrace the oft-misused Sermon on the Mount's instructions of "beinging of the mind of Christ" and one that would implement the Golden Rule of "loving one another."

This then is the real Apostolic tradition built upon an Apostolic Christ roaring to our hearts Jesus' victory over our many willful deaths on this Easter eve. Nay, let it not be so. Let it not be spoken amongst Christ's church of this blinded wickedness that forestays God's grace and forgiveness.

Let us repent of this evil lest the winnowing hand of our Lord falls upon His children to separate its many crafty wisdoms from those of a humbler congregation knowing right from wrong. That a truer worship of the living God might transform His church by the Spirit of God's relentless application of grace and peace to the very human breast that would deny Christ's possession of itself. That this Church might live beyond its own lusting words and harming traditions to hear anew / the living God  / and / living Christ / so that the generations to come may have hope and not be bounded by death to the sterility of its own religious traditions and legacies. But find within those greater legacies a more meaningful victory and living hope that is pleasing to the very God Himself who rules both night and day.

It is thus, to this kind of Living Bible with its Living Tradition and Living Church that we must chain ourselves ever and always. To be willing to question every non-renewing tradition of our earthly churches succumbed to its many forms of powerful preaching which darkened understanding while pretending a form of holiness but embracing very hell itself. That the Spirit of the Living God who proclaims the Living Christ's Word truly be heard and understood. Whose manna is life-giving against man's own wisdom which takes life away.

Do not be deceived, the Gospel of Christ would free all men and not just some. It would break all bonds and not just some. It would make of enemies friends and of friends new enemies. It would turn child from parent and parent from child. For a wicked gospel of blindness but breathes more blindness. It must be separated from lest darkness reign where it should have been defeated. Discern the falseness of spurious "gospel teachers" who mock and judge and come out from amongst this heathen lot. Do not fear neither them nor their false doctrine. It is the Lord God who must be feared and not mortal man. Amen and Amen.

R.E. Slater
March 29, 2015

* * * * * * * * * * *

History Tied Down by the Normativity of Tradition?

Inversion of Perspective in Orthodox Theology:
Challenges and Problems

Essay Source:

The Shaping of Tradition Context and Normativity

Edited by Colby Dickinson
with the collaboration of Lieven Boeve and Terrence Merrigan


... ultimately done. In living out Christian tradition we do not step intothe past, but into the realm of the Spirit, where we are enlightened fromthe eschatological realm of the Resurrection, where the saints, ourFathers and Mothers, are closer to Christ, the Source of Life, than we are. And yet, with Christ’s and their help and advice we have to act. We need “to accept the new, to comprehend it, to make out precisely what it demands of us.”

In her second lecture on a new monasticism Mother Maria takes a further step. Interpreting the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”(Mt 5:3), she states that the monastic vow of poverty understood as a striving for non-possession should be expanded to “spiritual non-possession.” This “non-possession” can also be applied to our attitude towards tradition. For Mother Maria the call to live this beatitude and the search for how to do it involve struggling with two vices, miserliness and greed. On the one hand we have to face a loss of certainty with regard to our convictions, and this involves the challenge that salvation may not arrive to us in our way. We cannot give a limit to divine love, according to Mother Maria, not even the limit of our self-preservation. On the other hand we have to struggle against greed for the spiritual riches of the other. Mother Maria states that both of these desires to possess are common in life outside the Church and in distorted understandings within Christianity.

VI. Conclusion

To summarise, we have seen not only how differently “the permanentreference point” was defined, but also various possibilities of decon-structing its ideological potential. Now let us return to the initial ques-tion of how we can speak about the living tradition as normative forhistory, and see how each of the approaches, refined through criticism,may help us.

In order to keep the tradition as living and not reified, Florovsky’s way forward to the roots needed to include innovation into the very requirement of tradition. With this change, pseudomorphosis of tradition would include either ignoring tradition and replacing it with other views, orignoring this very requirement of the tradition to remain alive. His concept of re-hellenisation, when unpacked, was surprisingly less problematicthen his notion of catholic transfiguration. While the re-hellenisation didnot contribute to building a negative identity against the West, a questionremains as to what degree it was used against the Slavic spiritual traditionas praised by the Slavophiles or the Sophiologists. Catholic transfiguration is, in my view, more vulnerable to what Kalaitzidis calls mythologisation of tradition. Its de-particularisation of Christian Hellenism allowed forowning it at a meta-level as a kind of essence of Orthodoxy. And at thispoint the notion of non-possession, developed in Mother Maria Skobts-ova, may lead us in a slightly different direction, in which what is norma-tive does not have to be present in an essentialist synthesis.

In Schmemann, there were two problems, one that the requirement to adapt to another historical period made a division between higher and lower times in history, underestimating the presence of God in the pre-sent (or in other than pre-Nicene Patristics). The second problem concerned Schmemann’s notion of eschatology as basically closed, and as projected on to us, not leaving space for active and creative participation in the task of transforming this world into a better place for living. Both of these problems stood at odds with Schmemann’s dynamic and all embracing liturgical vision of life in communion with God.

In Meyendorff, we find the problem of reification of the Byzantine tradition, which is supported by his understanding of the visibility of divine providence and the negative synthesis of the West, against which the – in his interpretation, basically hesychast – Orthodox position is spelled out. And yet, if we applied the criticism of the use of essence from Meyendorff’s religious epistemology to his understanding of tradition, its permanence would shift from something that we have to some-thing in which we can participate. The essence/energy distinction applied there would make a non-synthetic approach to tradition, where each instance while related to its source, the living Christ, would be its full representation. There will be no need to compose a neo-patristic or any other synthesis as the abstract (essential) whole in order to be normative for history. The normativity would remain a testimony to the divine non-possessiveness of Christ, through whom we are filled with the non-possessive (and non-reified) life. Meyendorff’s contribution to this, with the critical revision of his notion of destiny and of the negative synthesis of the West, lies in showing how this life can and is to be passed on, in a non-reductive and non-secularised fashion.

In Mother Maria Skobtsova, the question of how to protect Christian tradition from reification may perhaps find the most satisfactory but also the most difficult answer: by not allowing it to become our possession, either in terms of universalising the past or particularizing the eschatological. History would thus not be tied down by tradition, and tradition would not be reduced to the historical. It may, however, cost us security and the comfort of knowing and belonging, and we may need to shift our balance from an overemphasis on the kataphatic to the inclusion of the apophatic expressions of the mysteries of faith. In this sense, it would be paradoxically closest to the source of the tradition, the living Christ. Normative tradition in this sense would not tie history down, but rather testify an ongoing possibility to encounter the transcendent and loving God whose victory is ultimately not dependent on the historical projections of the possible.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What If... ?

"We seek to preserve peace by fighting a war,
or to advance freedom by subsidizing dictatorships,
or to 'win the hearts and minds of the people' by
poisoning their crops and burning their villages
and confining them in concentration camps;

we seek to uphold the 'truth' of our cause with lies,
or to answer conscientious dissent with
threats and slurs and intimidations. . . . 

I  have come to the realization that
I can no longer imagine a war that
I would believe to be either useful or necessary.
I would be against any war."

- Wendell Berry, February 10, 1968 [cf., activism]

What If... ?

make love; not war.

We live in a world,
buried in hate and filled with judgement.
A world covered in fear,
fighting a war because of our greed,
or maybe to try and cure ourselves,
from the fear we feel inside.

Some days I feel so alone,
watching the war for something,
that we can only define as greed.
Some days it feels as though,
the world has forgotten compassion.
We can think of anything else,
but money, greed and our own happiness.

We make reasons,
that change like seasons,
to why we fight,
and why we kill.
First its safety, then change,
then its to help.
but all we're doing is destroying,
and watch as people lose faith.

The world we live in today is nothing simple,
we fear those who aren't like us,
we fear anything that's different.
We push people around,
make them hate themselves for what they're not.
Make them slowly fade away,
because they don't see things our ways.

Just because they're different,
sometimes even because of who they love.
Some days I feel myself losing faith,
wondering if this will ever stop,
wondering if people will just learn to love.

But some days I do find hope,
because not everything in this world is wrong,
maybe if we just remembered a little compassion,
and try ed not to judge so much,
the world would be a little better.

by one second regrets poetry

Bombs Away
Written by Jonathan Thulin and Rachael Lampa

1: The bombs have dropped and I've fallen on my face
I made my decision and I'm feeling disgraced
But I won't stop till it's done
My fire and glow will be fading out soon 
Cause my conscience broke and my heart's out of tune
but I won't stop till it's done, no I won't stop till it's done

Chorus: Bombs away, Bombs away to my heart
To my heart bombs away

2: The devil came knocking at the door of my dreams
I knew it was wrong but my mind felt so free
Now I won't stop till it's done, no I won't stop
Till it's done


Bridge: The battle of me and myself is exploding me
The fire is gaining on me and I'm letting it
I'm searching the heaven's and earth for the end of me
So here I am, here I am

Light the fuse cause my heart's gonna blow

Love Can Change the World
by Aaron Niequist

bridges are more beautiful than bombs are
bridges are more beautiful than bombs
listening is louder than a lecture
listening is louder than a shout

but Love – Love can change the world
oh do we still believe that
Love – Love can change the world
oh do we still believe in

Love – Love
God is Love, our God is Love and
Love can change the world

an open hand is stronger than a fist is
an open hand is stronger than a fist
wonder is more valuable than Wall Street
wonder is more valuable than gold

repeat chorus

may we never stop this dreaming
of a better world
may we never stop believing
in the impossible

Women: God is love
repeat chorus

©2005 AARONieq Music

Brothers & Sisters
A change has come

A change in the way
we look at people and things
a change in the way we feel
are felt
and are seen
To feel beautiful we must become beautiful

Loving ourselves more than we love the lie
You know the one you tell yourself
to feel secure
or the one you told,
just the other day to spare his feelings...
yeah that’s it,
(it didn’t have a thing to do with compromising your security)

the one that bought
a nations love
with terror
the one they sold us
to pimp our fear
to fuel tanks
the one that bought and lost your house
and sent your man to jail

To feel beautiful we must become beautiful
as a nation
as a nation within a nation
as family and community
as humans
not given to fight
until we know
and believe in
what we are fighting for
as lovers & friends
we must choose to
make love, not war

Jessica Holter

Make Love, Not War

You hear shouts “stop the killing”, 
Though people stay so violent, cruel. 
Is there hope for the healing? 
Our nature always has been dual. 

As someone gives you pretty smile, 
The other hides his drowned eyes. 
Where there was no place for guile, 
Now wars break out, heaven cries. 

Men take their homicidal guns, 
Drops of the rain are getting red 
And The Creator dooms his sons 
To strangle in the blood they shed. 

Forgotten of the sense of love, 
They get obsessed and then resigned. 
Eternal fight – it’s not enough, 
Their clemency is left behind. 

But we can love; do you remember? 
It is salvation, perfect cure. 
Frozen hearts get brittle, tender, 
Rid of ice cover that’s impure. 

This is enveloping your skin 
Like ocean caressing shore, 
When everything becomes serene. 
People, let us make love, not war.