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, June 20, 2016

What Is Christianity's Relation to Metaphysics?

As intro, and with several years of hindsight, the authors here below are struggling with the place and logic of Christianity. Though sympathetic to their observations let's make several observations which may help...

1. When reading the bible over its several millenia of construction each oral legend, story, or narrative comes from within a receiver's point of view which necessarily includes personal and cultural beliefs. 

1b. God reveals His revelation inside man's perceptions. When we read the bible we should be cognizant of the metaphysical understanding of each era, nation, region, locality, tribe, family, and individual.

2. There is no one overarching metaphysic nor consistency of metaphysic in the bible. It is a hodgepodge of many worldviews. To claim there is a Christian metaphysic somewhere in it's pages is to look for something not there.

3. Metaphysicists, like phosophers in their various deciplines, have sought through the ages to explain reality. This same exploration also lays in the bible. It is what makes the bible valid. It speaks from its eras.

3b. For argument's sake, let's say there is a simple Christian metaphysic that speaks of God, His creation, its fall, Christ's redemption, and the resurrection hope of creation. This seems consistent throughout every bible page. We'll call this a Salvific metaphysic.

4. As Christian and non-Christian metaphysicists explore "reality" those metaphysics holding portions of a salvific reality seem the more helpful. However, outside of the Christian metaphysic or semantic vernaculars there exists other helpful (perhaps biblical) themes and subjects earlier Christians have overlooked. And certainly from past, older civilizations as human societies have grown more complex than their earlier forerunners.

5. Currently Whitehead's Process Philosophy has become the more helpful. It includes the salvific and theistic elements in Process Theology and has embedded within it such subjects as peoplecare and earthcare found in process-based Integral Philosophy. There are many writers, novelists, poets, artists, and musicians speaking to these areas in theocratic "language".

6. Lastly, creating a wooden epistemology of the bible to match up with standardized dogmas and doctrines will be unhelpful. The ancients used what they had in the past but cannot be as informed as more advanced or current cultures historically more experienced by beauty and cruelty. Even ten years out of date (including bible schooling, such as it is) is a lot of information missed. 

6b. It would be improper to stilt the bible to past historical perspective except to understand its ancient beliefs. Use its pages and the knowledge of academics to advance its salvific messages far and wide. To limit the gospel of Christ and God's love in the past would be like hiding your light under a bushel basket. Hidden and unuseful. "Learn to unlearn to relearn."


R.E. Slater
August 27, 2020

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Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:
  • Ultimately, what is there?
  • What is it like?
A person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysician. Among other things, the metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.

A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to each other.

Some include epistemology as another central focus of metaphysics, but others question this.

Another central branch of metaphysics is metaphysical cosmology, an area of philosophy that seeks to understand the origin of the universe and determine whether there is an ultimate meaning behind its existence. Metaphysical cosmology differs from physical cosmology, the study of the physical origins and evolution of the Universe.

Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as natural philosophy. Originally, the term "science" (Latin scientia) simply meant "knowledge". The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy. By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called "science" to distinguish it from philosophy. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence. Some philosophers of science, such as the neo-positivists, say that natural science rejects the study of metaphysics, while other philosophers of science strongly disagree.

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An example of a metaphysical "philosophy"

What does metaphysics mean in relation to Christianity?

by Bruce Charlton
July 10, 2013

Metaphysics is a very interesting subject - doubly so when it interacts with religion.

Interesting - and misunderstood. 

Metaphysics describes the ultimate structure of reality - it is about the pre-suppositions or assumptions which underlie more detailed considerations such as specific philosophy (e.g. the philosophy of morals, beauty or specific religions) and science. 

For a Christian, the most fundamental domain ought to be Christianity, which originates in revelation and revelation is in itself a complex product of tradition, scripture, authority, reason etc.

After this comes theology - but theology presupposes a particular metaphysics; for example monism or pluralism, serial time or eternal out-of-timeness, and some kind of point at which questions have to stop and the answer 'it just is' becomes accepted. 

[For example,] the underlying difference between Mainstream Christianity and Mormonism relates to metaphysics - Joseph Smith's Restored gospel is based on a different set of metaphysical assumptions - e.g. pluralism, dynamism, serial time, and the stoppage of questions at the terminus of the existence of the stuff of the universe and laws of nature. 

The big question is whether a different metaphysics means that Mormonism is not Christian. And the answer is: obviously not, because metaphysics is a matter of assumptions, and the Christian revelation did not refer to metaphysics. (Or, at least, the metaphysics of Christian revelation is ambiguous - and can be interpreted in contrasting ways.) 

But even though metaphysics is an assumption and not a discovery nor amenable to empirical investigation - it does make a difference. 

Indeed, it can (for some people, at some times and/ or places) make a profound difference.

Thus a Christianity based on Platonic, or Aristotelian, or Pluralistic metaphysics will have very different emphases, gaps, biases, strengths and weaknesses.

And these metaphysical systems are incommensurable,meaning that one cannot be mapped onto the other, because each works by a different language - a different lexicon and grammar of belief. 

But, they are all potentially Christian - why would they not be? 

Christianity is prior to metaphysics.

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by Christopher Benson
July 27, 2010

My friends and fellow bloggers are talking about metaphysics. So, I will jump in. Matt Milliner announces, “Attempts to overcome metaphysics [have] been shown to be themselves irrepressibly metaphysical.” Matt Anderson insists:

Either a natural order exists, or we impose it. Either the meaning is tied to the structure of things, or we make it up. And if the order exists, our options are conformity or rebellion. There is no middle ground here, despite the ambiguities and uncertainties that we experience in our confrontation with it. But if we reject metaphysics, our only resource for ethics is our will, and God’s.

His point reminds me of a former professor of philosophy, who asked his students: Is reality discovered or constructed? For nearly an hour, the classroom engaged in a spirited discussion, students falling into one camp or another. Once the thoughts were fielded, the professor asked a final question: What if reality is both discovered through creation, incarnation, resurrection, and revelation while also constructed through human understanding?

To reflect on this further, here is an excerpt from William Hasker’s Metaphysics: Constructing a World View (Contours of a Christian Philosophy):

Is there a Christian metaphysic? According to [Alfred North] Whitehead, “Christianity has always been a religion seeking a metaphysic.” What he meant by this is that Christianity came into the world as a religion of salvation rather than a metaphysical system; since then Christian thinkers have adopted a number of different systems but have failed to establish one of them as definitive.

If Whitehead is right about this, then in at least two senses there is not and cannot be such a thing as a Christian metaphysic. In the first place, there is no one metaphysical system which is definitively Christian, but rather a number of systems, all of them more or less inconsistent with each other and all of them more or less adequate to the content of Christian faith. But the fact that Christianity is a religion of salvation also suggests that in a sense no philosophical system can be fully Christian, because no philosophical system can express the unique content of Christianity.

Philosophy is a discipline based on human reflection and human intellectual resources. But the message of salvation is not a discovery of human reflection. It comes to us by revelation, and Christians have consistently acknowledged that its central truths – the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, his atoning death for our sins, his resurrection from the dead, salvation by grace through faith – cannot be known by unassisted human thought. No metaphysical system can incorporate these truths without becoming something other than philosophy, and in this sense no metaphysical system can be fully and distinctly Christian.

But if Christianity is not a metaphysical system, it nevertheless implies metaphysical claims. And since very early times Christian thinkers have struggled to formulate these claims in philosophical terminology and to demonstrate their rational acceptability using philosophical methods. If by a Christian metaphysic we mean the result of such reflection, in which a Christian thinker seeks to develop a metaphysical system which is compatible with Christian faith and which is an adequate vehicle for the expression of Christian convictions, then not only is there a Christian metaphysic, but there are quire a few of them . . . .

First, a Christian metaphysic must speak of God. God is the ultimate and supreme reality; he takes first place in our answer to the metaphysical question, “What is there?” And an adequate account of God’s nature – at least, as adequate as possible – must be a high priority for Christian philosophy.... [Secondly,] a Christian metaphysic must also speak of creation . . . . And finally, a Christian metaphysic must speak of man as the image of God.

This then is metaphysics: a set of questions which press us to the very limits of human understanding, answers to those questions which are passionately held and yet deeply controversial, and in support of those answers seemingly endless arguments and counterarguments, rebuttals and counter-rebuttals. The task of seeking understanding is indeed endless. May we all continue in it, as we seek to love God with all our minds.

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Is Christianity a “Religion Searching for a Metaphysic?”

by Roger Olson
June 7, 2016

Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead famously declared that while Buddhism is a metaphysic searching for a religion, Christianity is a religion searching for a metaphysic.

In a forthcoming book from Zondervan (precise title yet to be decided) I argue that he was wrong; Christianity does have a metaphysic and it is not borrowed from an extra-Christian source. It is basically the same metaphysic as the Hebrews and it is implicit in the Bible, the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Unfortunately, agreeing with Whitehead (before his time), many Christian thinkers have borrowed non-Hebrew, non-Christian metaphysics from elsewhere and imposed them on both Judaism (e.g., Philo) and Christianity (e.g., Augustine). Perhaps the worst example of such is modern Process Theology (e.g., John Cobb) which borrows a metaphysic from Whitehead and imposes it on Christianity.

I do not deny that extra-biblical, extra-Christian metaphysical ideas can be helpful speculatively in answering questions the Bible does not answer; what I argue is that this must be done ad hoc and not against biblical philosophy. An example is the church fathers’ borrowing from Greek philosophy (“despoiling the Egyptians”) to say that evil is the absence of the good (Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine). The Bible does not say that, but there is a “fit” between what it does say (and imply) and that specific Greek philosophical idea.

I do not argue that the Bible is a metaphysical or philosophical book; I affirm that the Bible is a narrative, a “theodrama,” containing many literary genres, including some that seem more philosophical than others. Overall, however, the Bible is a story that presupposes a metaphysic—not a complete one that answers every conceivable subject of metaphysics but one that, once discerned, answers the basic questions metaphysics has always been concerned with (e.g., “the one and the man”).

Christians generally used to know this even though: 1) They did not always acknowledge it as such, and, 2) They disagreed much about its details, and 3) They often replaced parts of biblical metaphysics with metaphysics drawn from other sources distorting Christian thought into a form almost unrecognizable (e.g., so-called “negative” or “apophatic” theology [Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite] and Process Theology).

I agree with 20th century Swiss theologian Emil Brunner who argued in his Dogmatics (as well as in his much earlier Philosophy of Religion) that there is a philosophia Christiana rooted in biblical revelation and that two tasks of a Christian scholar is to discern it and to integrate it with other knowledge.

Unfortunately, even many Protestant Christians, including evangelicals, have fallen under the sway of a Kantian reduction of religion, including Christianity, to ethics, as if ethics could be supported without a metaphysical vision. Some years ago I read a book (long lost) by a Baptist theologian arguing, in a popular fashion for use in churches, that Christianity is not a “worldview” but a “lifestyle.” As is often the case, he was wrong about what he denied while being right about what he affirmed. But that sentiment is extremely common in modern and postmodern Christianity—including among evangelical Protestants.

Much of my life as an evangelical Christian scholar, teaching now for thirty-five years in three Christian universities, writing articles and books, editing a Christian scholarly journal (Christian Scholar’s Review), has been devoted to attempting to explain to other Christians, especially in the academy (scholars, students, teachers), what “integration of faith and learning” means. In my opinion, it is rarely rightly understood. I have heard others attempt to explain it (e.g., in “new faculty orientations” and in faculty workshops) and have usually felt frustrated because the way “integration of faith and learning” was explained was bound to raise wholly unnecessary objections if not outright hostility.

The “faith” part of “integration of faith and learning” (which is one of the main purposes of Christian higher education) is, in my opinion, the implicit biblical metaphysical vision of reality. It is often referred to as “the Christian worldview.” Of course, a problem that immediately arises is that “worldview” now has several meanings and so claiming there is a Christian worldview arouses consternation—especially among social scientists (e.g., anthropologists) who tend to refer to “worldview” as inseparable from culture. Even Christian social scientists prefer to refer to Christian worldviews (plural) rather than the Christian worldview (singular).

What I argue, with Brunner and others (e.g., Claude Tresmontant and Edmond Cherbonnier) is that there is one biblical-Christian metaphysical vision of reality tha ttakes many different forms and expressions when enculturated. However, to avoid sheer cultural relativism, I also argue that in whatever culture the biblical-Christian worldview appears there are limits to that culture’s alterations of it. It is not endlessly flexible. A major task of every Christian thinker in every culture where Christianity appears is to integrate the implicit biblical-Christian metaphysic, embedded within the biblical theodrama, with that culture’s form of life without distorting either one—to the extent that is possible. It is always a risky project and there can be no pre-set limits or conditions to it except the Bible itself.

However, another reason I believe “integration of faith and learning” in Christian higher education has fallen on hard times is a lack of clear explication of the biblical metaphysical vision, Brunner’s philosophia Christiania, including alternative metaphysical visions, worldviews, philosophies of life with which it is incompatible. Administrators of Christian colleges and universities need to understand it themselves and make clear to their faculties, especially new hires, that studying it and then working to integrate it—take it into account—in their research and teaching is expected. This is especially true in those disciplines where there is likely to be some conflict between alternative, non-biblical, non-Christian worldviews and belief systems and the biblical-Christian one. According to Brunner, and I believe he is right, these are primarily (but not only) the “human sciences.”

The biblical-Christian metaphysic, philosophia Christiana, can be enriched and informed by secular research because all truth is God’s truth, but Christian scholars teaching in Christian schools need to be careful not to corrupt their teaching with beliefs that conflict with the biblical-Christian worldview. This happens all too often when administrators and department heads are not watchful and when even well-meaning, sincere Christian faculty members indulge in syncretism of popular (or even not popular) theories about realities with biblical-Christian truths.

This is the purpose of my forthcoming (2017) Zondervan book: To explain that there is a metaphysic implied in the biblical narrative, to explicate what it is and is not, and to encourage Christian students and scholars to go deeper than just confessional doctrine into understanding this Christian philosophy “hidden” within the Bible itself. This is especially important in the increasingly pluralistic society of America in which no one, anywhere, can take even the most basic of biblical ideas for granted.