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

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Foundations for a Radical Christianity, Part 2 - Thriving

Everything Must Change

Not many years ago I began my movement away from what I call a "closed bible" and a "closed faith" towards a spiritual hinterland promising a more open bible and open faith. One that might allow the God I knew "to breathe" again away from the specific theological containers and measured borderlands I had come to place Him in through affiliations to the institutions of my youth. What I strongly felt I needed was a faith that might be "less sure of itself" than what it had now become in its verities and condemnations.

What I didn't see was this same aspect carried through in the corporate religious identities I was associating myself with. In essence, my personal faith identity was not matching up to my corporate faith identity and I sadly knew one or the other must change. By-and-by this discernment became a personal crisis of identity where the God I knew was not the God I was hearing spoken through the voices of a religious America become darkened in its speech and knowledge. One, or both, had to change, and I knew it must first begin with me.

Yes. Personal Change. This was the easier route. But it was also the harder route because it required letting go of my former identity in finding a new identity that bore very little similarity to the older religious groups I saw fomenting around me. Faith groups that I was familiar with and had grown old with. Very old. I was in the early stages of my sixth decade of life by now at 53. I was identified with faith groups that were adopting a new form of Christian identity than I felt comfortable with. In many ways we both were changing. Curiously, I had become less certain while the other corporate form had become more certain in ways that changed their view of God and the Bible in more agitated tones than I first remembered of them.

Even still, I was not alone. Though at the time I felt very much alone. Had I considered it, I did have a fellowship of equals measured in the lives of those men and women of the Bible who likewise faced deeply personal crisis of faith interpretation with the religious institutions of their day that they had grown up and identified with. Who were forcibly flung into the unknown away from friends and family, away from the religious dogmas they had grown up with, and away from their homelands and occupations they once had known. As example of this latter, some bible pastors and professors were being removed from their churches or colleges because their positions on human equality and justice were changing.

Essentially my fellowship was becoming affiliated with a broader Christian fellowship than I had first considered. It was not simply mine own woeful burden of a new Christian awareness as I struggled to be released from "the miry pit of clay" which had formed tightly around me that was presently keeping me from divine breath and light. Nay, others had also trod this unceremonious road of sacrilege to feel despised and alone. Like myself, other destitute men and women of God had wandered foreign lands of idols-and-fear searching for a land not of their own making through the dark days that seemed to stretch endlessly onwards without end.

For myself, my developing new faith was as much an attitude shift as it was an epistemological crisis. I felt strongly moved towards a faith that might be more doubtful, less certain of itself, and less strict in its personal dogmas of confidence. A faith which had lately become quixotically more religious than when I first remembered it as a youth. A faith which once had carried a certain kind of Jesus figure, or Jesus cross, or missional message, but had strangely morphed away from what those things once meant to me and the church to become something completely alien to itself in these, my later years.

Largely, the Christian affiliations I had once identified with seemed to have changed. And as they changed so did my identity as it became something more foreign to myself than when I had first subscribed to it so many long years ago. It required of me to re-think my identity, the message of my Christian heritage, and even the kind of faith I was holding. To find a continuity with my faith heritage that was less dogmatically orthodox and more spiritually orthodox in an updated sense to the contemporary times of my postmodern society.

A Crisis of Faith

I hadn't planned on doing this as I explained in Part 1. But it was a journey requiring me to move forward in quite an unexpected fashion to my earlier faith identity. An identity that had been formed in my youth and then, as I grew older, had become caught up with the responsibilities of family and job as it trusted to those in religious authority to keep the Christian faith from an apostasy to dogma and dictum.

But these Christian leaders had failed in their congregational duties becoming harsher in their attitudes of Christ and God's sanctifying love. More uncharitable and unforgiving. Belatedly, I now discovered that my faith required a deep updating to the contemporary institutions I had grown up in having trusted them to adopt and accommodate the Christian faith in positive ways to societal trends and academic findings. But apparently senility is as much a problem for long-lived institutions as it can be for older living adults. Even at the age of 53. For myself, I didn't wish to fall into the category of black cynicism and fear which typically marks older age against a more youthful, hopeful faith I was observing in the younger generations of my son and daughter's twenty-something worlds. And yet, a more fearful faith can-and-will fall into this "pit of despair" (as John Bunyan would call it) if it doesn't learn to grow and acclimate itself to its times and seasons of missional opportunity as time will challenge the church to do.

And thus began a very difficult personal journey as I wrote and wrote here at Relevancy22 of my despair and testimony to a more hopeful Christian faith. But never a task which I wished to back away from when facing the deep complexity it would require in deconstructing Christianity's present foundations and structures towards a newer promise filled with God-filled grace and presence. Nor was this task one that I could back away from even if I might hesitate because with age had come a sense of settledness to who I was, and a belief in what I must accomplish, in order to get past the "me of yesterday" to the "me of tomorrow." The faith groups I identified with required as much breakage and re-constructing even as mine own head and heart would require. Each pretending their own fantasies in a world they were lumping along with in a way that they really weren't understanding or able to testify to. My more dogmatic faith only made sense to me in the way that I pretended it to be within its delineated confines. But when doing this I had to shut my eyes and close my heart to what I read in the Bible or saw of God in His secular presence to the world I lived in.

Moving Forward

Overall, I don't really have any magic formulas to describe how God moved me through this formative time of searching, burden, betrayal, abandonment, and resurrection. All I knew was that my theology had to change if I were to come into a Christian faith more flexible with the times and more intolerant to the folklore theologies that abounded everywhere around me.

More curiously, the presence of God was exceedingly strong in my life during this time and there was never a silence of His Spirit that I could attest to by God's absence or lack of guidance. No, I felt very burden by the Holy Spirit to climb out of the hole my faith had lately fallen into while re-envisioning what it might become for the generations ahead of me. To reconstruct, or re-envision, its theological and religious orthodoxies where the God of the Bible is more present in this life than far away. Who might breathe into us a more open Bible to people everywhere burdened with the quest for spirituality than an arcane faith of nonsense and disbelief.

"Yes," I thought, "Everything must change" and nothing can be left unturned that wasn't dissettled before. In many ways it was my third experience of breaking from my hallowed past. The first was when I left my country family, the gentrified farm I grew up on, and the little one-room country school house I had attended, to join a public school system less glamorous than my past. I wasn't concerned about the new subjects I would learn because without attending the public school I wouldn't have been able to learn those newer subjects. But what I actually was experiencing in my transition was a new kind of Christian agnosticism and disbelief that I hadn't experienced in my boyhood years. One that began to drive me to ask the question of why and how and what.

Of course these questions could not be settled right away. It took me some dozen years to re-calculate a more contemporary faith than I had held from the good earth days of my boyhood. My simple, sheltered, almost mystical faith, had become filled with an admixture of Christian and non-Christian thought asking more questions than I could answer. Nor did this go away after high school graduation as I studied the sciences, math, and engineering, having gained a full-ride academic scholarship at a major national university. At the last, the profundity to which I was becoming disturbed caused me to leave university in my junior year to complete my senior year at a bible school over a two year time frame. Afterwards I needed a little time off and found myself teaching out-of-state at a Christian high school for one year before choosing to return to complete a 4-year Master's program in Divinity without ordination. All along I was active in my local churches (GARB Baptist and IFCA Bible), singing, evangelizing, visiting homes, teaching youth, while asking the Lord what next.

Eventually, I settled down, married, took 3 more years of night school towards a partial MBA degree and called it quits on the schooling front. I was laid-off from my financial analyst job at a major Christian publisher and decided to form my own IT consulting firm for the next 27 years where I could explore IT trends and processes, several business entrepreneurships, and generally help small businesses with the then curious world of technology.

During this time I stayed active in my church but stopped reading theology and trying to figure things out because I no longer knew which way to press forward. The best I could do was use what I knew while trusting the Lord to bless the college/career and single adult ministries I was then leading and pastoring at the time. It really wasn't until long years later, once I had left those ministries, that my boyhood years of curiosity and passion began to stir again asking the age-old questions I once was asking.

Mostly, I think I had delayed this more fundamental period of investigation because I knew the hard work it would require of me if I should stop and ask disturbing questions of my Christian faith. And, more specifically, how disruptive it might become if a father and a husband started to ask questions which were very-unlike what my wife and children had come to expect of me as a Christian lay minister, "Pauline tent-builder," and family figure. And so, I plodded along until discovering one day I could no longer be content with where I was personally. I began asking questions and then started trying to answer those questions back in the days when I was a promising young student theologian. To then discover that my non-Calvinistic or non-Reformed orthodoxy answers may be disruptive to the my faith tradition I grew up in. My faith dilemma suddenly became a deeply orthodox dilemma so that what I feared would happen, did. Over past several years it would require the wisdom of God to put all back together quite like the Humpty-Dumpty which had fallen off the theological wall. There the pieces lie everywhere about the ground and I, not wanting to reassemble it, into the fashion it once was. No, this assembling would take a deep, more complex rethink of the Christian faith.

Hallowed Ground Fell Away to Discovery

It seemed the epistemological grounds which the Lord had been sowing in my life had lain fallow inside of me until the seeds of my discontent must burst forth lest they became more rigid and inflexible with the passing years of old age as I was now witnessing in my older friends. A new kind of faith now echoed within my once youthful vigor. But one that could finally seek more meaningful direction. I think my work in sales, product marketing, adaptive entrepreneurship, and the rapidly changing industry of technology had taught me how to handle the upheaval of a postmodern society throwing out the past while dealing with the ills of a post-postmodernism full of anarchy, chaos, hate, and division.

A new philosophical direction inhabited me. One I couldn't ask my questions of before but had, with the passage of time, learned to become more able to discern and read among the newer, more promising, trends and directions I was sensing within Christianity. It dawned upon me that the times of silence in my life might not only have been the best answer to epistemic or theologic unknowing, but perhaps the best ontic solution during those times of metaphysical unknowing.

Surely, the process of epistemological tension requires the patience of decades as much as movement, shout, and roar of the society we dwell within as it writhes, twists, and turns. Significantly, I now had the advantage of old age and a contemporary postmodern history of event showing to me the way forward... and the way out! The way forward into a postmodern Christianity more developed than it once had been years earlier. And the way out of a secular Christianity more at odds with itself than it ever was in the past having adopted neo-Calvinistic and non-scared conventions and sanctums into its lapsing evangelicalism.

And so, being part innovator, part creator, part artist, I knew I had to set aside time to think, research, pray, and write of these new developments in my own spiritual world as well as that of the church I hoped to see again. I began with writing unpublished poetry for two-three years from dawn to dusk and eventually this task slowly gave way to a conscious need to write of a more open faith which might rest upon a more open theology. A theology both of my past (the good parts) as well as a theology of the future. In essence, my poetry came to an abrupt stoppage because it wanted a better theological foundation to write upon.

One that might move away from its more linear edges I was now observing within American Christianity. An open faith and theology that might re-embrace God's grace with the good spiritual sense He has given His followers to be gracious in witness and humble in prayer. Less agitated with sin and judgment and more agitated for mercy and forgiveness.

For me, it was the development of a new spiritual constitution that I could no longer be patient waiting for against what I was seeing from the lips and actions of a harsher brand of Christian faith than once remembered. My faith of yesteryear had grown up from the whips and chains of fear-mongering to seek a more open Christianity at peace with itself and with the world it lived within. What I had learned from my fundamental, conservative church experiences was the love of God for all men and women everywhere, as curious as that now sounds to me when looking back on those impressionable years of youthful faith development within the heart of darker church constitutions. Surely that must be a work of the Spirit to see straight-and-true the gospel Christ had lived, preached, and died for!

And so, today, I wish to present a new kind of faith. One more rounded to its future faith possibilities and more jagged to its present-tense assembly of itself beheld in fiery Christian pulpits and incharitable (stereotypical) Christian media. One that embraces people with God's love and forgiveness as much as against the calling down of God's holy judgment by self-proclaimed false prophets of our day and age.

I have felt then, as I do now, a holy prophetic calling of God to preach salvation to both the unbeliever as much as to the believer. That the roots and foundations of our dogmatic chains must fall off if we are to behold the light and beauty of the gospel of Jesus as it reclaims this wicked world from the bondages of its miseries and woes. That evil comes in all forms - even that of well-intentioned Christian religion. And that like all sin, must be burned up and thrown on the trash heap of bad theology as readily as any farmer would to save the soils of his land from biological rape and destitution.

My pro-bono calling now is to discover this new homeland where the Christian faith might breathe again in the postmodern airs of disruption and upheaval. And if it can, than I have met my calling and answered my burden long enough to allow others the opportunity to carry forward what I and others had sensed among us was corrupting the great halls of past hallowed orthodoxies. Spiritual reformations which were once bourne by dissembling faith-bearers against their own times and cultures who were agitating for God's calls for truth, love and worship.

Faith-bearers we now know as the great saints of the Christian past though greatly differing in spiritual judgment to the dying churches and dead cults of their day. Who strove for both precept and principle, by letter and by deed, for the grace and mercy of Christ their Lord. Even so do we postmodern reformers by picking up the broken glass shards of theology lying shattered everywhere on the churchy floors around us by reframing new theological windows looking out upon the Creator Redeemer of the universe streaming into our souls the purer airs of blue skies and brighter hues of sun and moon.

Peace be with you, my brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

R.E. Slater
April 30, 2015
revised May 13, 2015;
September 3, 2020