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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Scot McKnight: Review of "The Shack," Part 3/3

Image courtesy: windblownmedia.com

Baffled by the Criticisms of The Shack?

by Scot McKnight
Mar 10, 2017

Anyone who knows me knows that as a Christian I proudly stand in the Nicene-Chalcedonian tradition. Every time I confess the Nicene Creed in worship, I do so with deep conviction. I am unapologetically trinitarian and I resist any attempts at modern modalist reconfigurations of the essential Christian doctrine of God. I firmly believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and I strongly object to any attempt to have a resurrected Jesus without his actual earthly body.

I love theology and I love the necessary precision of theological language. But I also love the imaginative narrative that displays theology in ways that speak to the head and to the heart, which is why I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Shack several years ago and found myself rather baffled then, and somewhat mystified now, with the advent of the movie, at so many of the very negative appraisals of the book (and now the movie) on theological grounds from other Christians. (FYI: I have not yet seen the movie.)

Casting aside the aspersions of the book as juvenile and sophomoric literature, what I loved about the book was that in a wonderfully imaginative way it dealt with doctrine, relating it to the always deeply relevant and timely philosophical and theological matters that relate to the problem of evil, forgiveness, the nature of God, and God’s work in this world by God’s very presence. To be sure, there were times when I didn’t agree with a particular narrative move the author, Paul Young, made in a portrayal, but then again, I have yet to always agree with every scholarly and not-so-scholarly constructive theological treatment I have read.

Without precise theological language, the great doctrines of our faith have no boundaries that give them their distinctive character. Without narrative imagination our doctrines will appear to many to be somehow beside the point of life. Theologians may prefer to read something more substantive like Karl Barth, and I love Barth - but they need to know that the folks in the pews (and outside the pews as well) are not reading the great Swiss-German theologian - they are reading Paul Young and now they are going to see the movie. (As example, as much as I love Barth’s Church Dogmatics, I doubt there is a movie about it in the offing.)

I heard Paul Young speak several years ago. If you ever get an opportunity to hear him you must make the effort. As I listened to Paul, I remember becoming rather angry at the charge of heresy that had been leveled against him by those, who may know their theology, but know little about the nature of true heresy, as well as having no idea how to express theological truth in a way that makes a difference in people’s lives. (See my post on the use and misuse of heresy.) C.S. Lewis often complained that the biggest problem with theologians was that they lacked imagination in their theological explications. If Lewis were still alive he would know that little has changed.

There are times when I have wondered if Jesus was accused of “heresy” when he compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. On occasion I have considered the possibility that Jesus was charged with a less than orthodox doctrine of God when he, in story form, compared God to the father who gladly threw aside his dignity and self-respect to welcome home a wayward son. There have been times when I thought that perhaps Jesus was ridiculed by the trained theologians for his portrayal of God as an unjust judge.

I love reading theology. I enjoy parsing terminology and honing the sharp edges of doctrine into something finely tuned and precise. But I also enjoy reading the imaginative narratives that help me think theologically about life and faith in ways I had never considered.

I am an unapologetic Nicene-Chalcedonian trinitarian theologian; and I applaud Paul Young for his portrayal of the Trinity and his narrative display of some of our most significant beliefs and convictions in The Shack.

Related Links:

Unanswered Prayers, A Silent God, and the Death of a Child

Amazon link
Book Blurb

After the unexpected, accidental death of his three-year-old son, Jason Jones went on a long, painful journey to make sense of how God could have let this happen to his son and best friend, Jacob, and to their family. And he struggled intensely with his faith after everything he thought about God disintegrated on June 12, 2011.

In "Limping But Blessed," Jones explores struggling with faith and belief, dealing with his depression and grief, and searching for hope in a hopeless situation. The book includes tales of his darkest days, correspondence he had with Christian theologians, and what he's done to preserve his son's legacy.

At some point in each of our lives, something goes terribly wrong, and our faith is shaken to the core. This book is the story of one man's journey through the darkest time of life searching for answers and a grueling attempt to find a sliver of hope to keep holding on.

Publr - Fortress Press
Publ Date - April 1, 2017

* * * * * * * * * *

Limping But Blessed

by Thomas J. Oord
March 21st, 2017
“My son is dead, but I still think about him in the present tense. When we talk about people who have died we often talk about them in the past tense. I struggle to reconcile this when I talk about Jacob.” - Jason Jones
That’s the way Jason Jones begins his new book, Limping But Blessed: Wrestling with God after the Death of a Child. That introductory paragraph and the rest of this essay is a guest post from Jason. Here’s the rest of what he says in the book’s introduction…

Limping But Blessed
by Jason Jones

It may be semantics, but in my mind Jacob is not gone forever. He is still my son. I didn’t used to have a son. I have a son. So, when I talk about him, I try to say things like: “He is a sweet fun-loving kid.” I know that sounds crazy to other people. Maybe they think that I’m living in denial. But because I believe Jacob continues to be who he is, there is no reason to speak of him using the past tense. I don’t want to say Jacob was a good boy. I want to say Jacob is a good boy. He didn’t stop being who he is at the time of the accident.

This is especially true because I believe in a life that comes after this earthly life. And I believe I will be with Jacob again. I don’t know or understand what that will look like, but I do have faith that all things will be made new again. For the sake of not confusing you, however, when I talk about Jacob in this book I will use the past-tense verb “was” instead of “is.”

This book is about Jacob’s life, and his death. It’s about what happened on the day of his accident and about what unfolded in the following days, months, and years. And it’s about my tenuous, tortured, doubt-filled relationship with God.

You see, God didn’t answer my prayers when Jacob died. None of them. They all went unanswered. And to this day, I still experience an overwhelming silence from God.

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God anymore. But I don’t believe in him the way I used to.

I don’t know if God is.

But I know this: Jacob is.

So maybe God is, too.

My Superhero

The day we found out we were having a boy, I was full of excitement and joy. I loved playing with dolls and having princess parties with the girls, but I was excited about the new experiences raising a boy would bring—teaching him how to throw a football, fighting with action figures on the living room floor, and watching sports together on Sunday afternoons.

Jacob was delivered via C-section, so when he was born I was only able to get a short glimpse of a fat pasty baby with bright red hair as they rushed him over to a table out of sight. He was a plump little thing with rolls all over and a head full of fine red hair. When he finally blinked his little blue eyes open wide enough, we connected. That was it. This was my son, and I was in love.

Jacob brought a new level of energy to our house. The girls were quiet and well behaved when they played, but Jacob was loud and rambunctious. He was a whirlwind around the house, making noise wherever he went. When he learned how to walk, he stole the girl’s high heel dress-up shoes and put them on. From the other side of the house we could hear him, clanking down the hall with those cheap plastic shoes that didn’t fit his feet. A typical little brother, he put on their girly costume dress-up clothes and ran through the house laughing because he knew how much it bothered his sisters.

Recently, Brea and I were talking about how much of Jacob’s personality had already begun shining through even though he was only three years old. He never reacted to anyone as a stranger and was a happy, contented toddler. He was independent, adventurous, and curious. What stood out to me most was how tenderhearted he was. He loved to cuddle, unlike our daughters, so he got plenty of cuddles from his mommy and daddy. He wasn’t shy about giving kisses and big hugs either. He was very affectionate, and everyone that he knew loved that about him.

Jacob was fascinated with superheroes. Every day, he dressed up in a different superhero outfit, or a mix-and-match of a few. Some days he’d wear his cowboy boots, blue jean shorts, and a Batman shirt and mask. When Brea ran errands with him, she often had the protection of Batman or Buzz Lightyear as she walked up and down the grocery store aisle. Brea loves to tell the story of the time when a neighbor’s cow got loose and wandered into our front yard. When Brea and Jacob walked outside, the cow started walking toward them, and Jacob put up his arm like Iron Man and started making shooting noises to keep the cow at a safe distance from him and his mother.

Our relationship at first was father and son. But we quickly became playmates, and I often called him my “little buddy.” As Jacob got older, building a fort and playing with superhero action figures inside of it was one of our favorite things to do together. He gathered up his action figures and climbed in dressed as a superhero, and we went wherever his toddler imagination would take us.

Our forts were a mess of sheets secured by as many pillows as we could gather and fortified by dining room chairs and the living room couch. I usually played the bad guy and Jacob was the good guy (of course). One of his favorite action figures was Blue Beetle. I’d never heard of him when I was growing up, but he became Jacob’s favorite to carry around and play with. Sometimes, out of nowhere, Jacob looked at me and pointed and called me Blue Beetle. Since Blue Beetle was his favorite and he carried him everywhere with him, I took it as a compliment.

I vividly remember a poignant moment with Jacob on one of the many days we spent together in our fort. While we were playing, I asked Jacob if he knew who Jesus was. I don’t really know what prompted me to ask my three-year-old this question, but I did. He looked up at me, and he said, “Yes. He’s the man at Papa’s church.” (Papa is the name the grandchildren call my dad.) I put my head down so he couldn’t see me laughing at his answer. He was right, though. Jesus was the man at Papa’s church. A few weeks earlier, we had gone to an Easter play at my parents’ church where we saw a man dressed up like Jesus. We talked a little bit more about the Easter play, and Jacob remembered seeing Jesus go up into the clouds. I’m sure this reminded him of all the superheroes he saw flying around on television. I knew at some point I would revisit who Jesus was, but I wasn’t going to confuse him with that explanation at this point. So I moved on.

One of the most special times Jacob and I had together was two weeks before he died. Our family went to a bed-and-breakfast retreat for the weekend with a group of other families. We knew there was a river close by, so we brought fishing poles, including a Spiderman fishing pole for Jacob. He’d never been fishing and was excited to get to use his very own fishing pole, especially one with a superhero on it.

From the time we arrived, he begged me to take him fishing. Honestly, I’m not very interested in fishing, so I kept putting it off. Plus, I didn’t expect that we’d catch anything. On our last day, Jacob asked me again about fishing, and I knew I had to take him.

All three of the kids and I walked down to the river and found an open spot in between some trees. We put all of our poles and gear down, I pulled out one of the worms, and I showed them how to put one on a hook. None of them liked that very much and asked me to do it for each of their poles. The kids proceeded to get hooks stuck in trees and broke lines on roots in the water. They didn’t know any better and just figured this was part of the deal. After several casts and no bites, Kendall and Kelsey grew tired of it and walked off. I wanted to join them, but Jacob wanted to stay and keep fishing.

While I was baiting a hook on his Spiderman fishing pole he squatted down low to the ground like I did and put his hands on his knees. He patiently watched me put the hook through the worm. He scrunched up his little pudgy nose like he thought it was gross. In the sweetest voice he asked me, “Daddy, are we fishing?” He wanted to make sure we were really accomplishing our goal. I told him, “Yes, Jacob we are fishing.”

After casting and casting, to my surprise we actually caught a fish! I was as shocked as Jacob was. “Ha! Jacob, we caught a fish,” I told him. I let him reel it in, and he was beaming with excitement. He started laughing at the fish flopping around on the ground.

We both felt pretty proud of ourselves. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I took Jacob fishing—it’s a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. It may sound like a very simple story, but it’s one of those father-son moments dads dream about. It’s even more sacred to me because he died only two weeks later. Thankfully, Brea was able to sneak up behind us that day and take a picture of the two of us to capture the moment. That picture is one of my prized possessions and it’s in my office next to me every day.

This book is dedicated to Jacob, my superhero.