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
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
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)
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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Is God Relational? If So, How Does This Affect His Impassibility?



Impassibility (from Latin in-, "not", passibilis, "able to suffer, experience emotion") describes the theological doctrine that God does not experience pain or pleasure from the actions of another being. ... However, in Christianity there is an ancient dispute about the impassibility of God (see Nestorianism). - from Wikipedia, "Impassibility"

A Standard Christian Creed of the Church


Recently I received an email from Tom Oord discussing the various aspects in which God is both passible and impassible. This subject seems to be generated whenever one speaks to the "Relationality between God and creation." Especially when framed by Process Theology which speaks to the idea that God is experiencing creation's timefulness with us rather than apart from it, above it, or beyond it.

These questions arise when thinking of whether God is primarily or secondarily affected by the creation He has made. If He is affected primarily by it then we are speaking to a process-based theology; if secondarily, then we are back to Calvinism's old legacies of the problem of sin and evil (theodicy) amongst other very basic questions about the Person and Work of God.

Certainly this topic is more complex than these simple introductory notes but to think of God as primarily relational seems to help us humans who are also primarily relational. Here are some examples of this relational puzzle:

  • We are not things, or automotons, or non-beings. We are not bodies housing souls, or souls clothed by bodies, but whole beings composed both of soul and body. This would speak to the Jewish idea of wholeness vs. the Greek-Hellenistic idea of di/trichotomy;
  • Moreover, man's essence is not found in his soul/spirit apart from his body as taught by Greek Stoicism for one; in Paul's day this work out in the books of Romans et al as the problem of antinomianism in the early church;
  • In parallel with these adverse teachings are the many derivations of Persian Zoroastrianism which have subtended into the Christian gnosticisms of pelagianism primarily disputed in the third and fourth centuries of the church through to the Medieval Ages and even into contemporary times (cf. various Christian sects, denominations, and worship styles arranged around this topic) where Jesus is viewed as less than God because He was a man (or, conversely, more than a man because He was God).


The offshoots from the doctrine of relationality can become a doctrinal maze leading away from the pith of the idea of what humanity is in its essence. But, in sum, subtracting all the noise that can arise here, we are essentially beings with a heart, soul, body, and mind bearing a sense of self in relationship to the God of the universe as well as to creation itself.

By thinking of God as primarily relational than it also can speak to the idea that God has led out by divine decree and act through love ahead of all other attributes such as justice. Knowing that all things - whether metaphysical or physical - have been led out in love resolves a lot of questions but essentially reinforces the idea that God is first-and-foremost a relational God.

As such, for all these reasons, Calvinism has pushed back with the the paradigm that if God is relational than He is passible and not the God of the bible which speaks of Him as impassible. Certainly this is an untrue assertion by a system dealing with in its core/centeredness of a God more Force than Person, more Transcendent than Here (Jesus), more Other than Father, Son, and Spirit.

Further, the doctrine of Calvinism must lead out in God's judgment untempered by His grace than by God's grace which tempers His judgment (sic, the Law v Grace discussions of the church here). For all these initial reactions a Relational, Loving God is unwanted by church systems built up on doctrines of fear, uncertainty, guilt, and second-guessing (our future, for instance, when doing wrong and wondering how God will later punish us). A RELATIONAL Process Theology subverts all this, and when it does, comes under fire from the very systems which cannot answer the most basic questions of theology without reasserting their own creedal structures opposed in their core to the idea of God's relationality.

Thus my interest many years ago to revisit Arminianism to discover if Calvinism could be biblically replaced without any lose of God in all His love, divinity, power, and presence. After years of research and investigation (I've indexed many of these under topical discussions to the right) I found that I could. And when preceding forward then discovered Relational Process Thought (I stress "relational" because without this aspect Process Thought itself can be dry and barren).

Which brings us back to the subject of God's divine impassibility vs His passibility. I would submit that God is both:

God is Other than we are as relational beings but He is primarily Relational in the fullness of His being. To say it another way, God is wholly relational at all times and in His Otherness is also found to be fully relational. This retains the mystery of God while keeping to the Personhood of the Tri-une God at all times.

If we were to draw a circle of the universe and place all creation within that circle we could then draw another larger circle encompassing the creation-circle. This second, larger circle is the God of creation who exists both within our creation-circle and outside of it. This illustration allows God His "Otherness" if you will. But I would also like to think of the God-circle as being more than just itself. In truth, God is not only found "within" His God-circle but in all the empty space "outside" of the God-circle. This then would capture the idea behind classical theism while including the idea of panentheism as illustrated below which is central to the idea of Process Theology.


And this is the God we worship. A God "Who"! (not "What"!) is Truth, and Light, and Beauty. Who loves us, spawned us, is WITH us, and saves us. He is God for the very reason that He is. Whose Being gives all of creation its purpose and meaning driven by His Divine will to re-center all back to Himself in fullness through free will allegiance (the idea of a submitting partnership between both the Divine and the Human, if you well).

This is the process of redemption. It is a divine process which refuses to let go of creation until it is fully and completely united within the fellowship of the Godhead even as that fellowship is partially displayed now in the time, place, and loci of our very lives when we seek God and allow Him His gracious rule in our lives.

R.E. Slater
September 5, 2017


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A Relational God -- Thomas Jay Oord 
September 5, 2017

Affirming a Relational God

I'm find puzzling those who think God is impassible in all respects. By "impassible," I mean the idea that God is not affected by give-and-receive relations with us.

As I read Scripture and think about the logic of love, it seems obvious that God is passible/relational. I don't think all aspects of God are affected by creatures. For instance, I think God's eternal nature is unaffected and immutable. Affirming an unchanging and impassible nature seems important if we are to say God's love is steadfast.

But I don't understand why some are reluctant to say God is relational in ANY respect. The biblical witness strongly suggests otherwise. We creatures influence our Creator.

I find it most helpful to say God is impassible in some ways and passible in others. To do this, I distinguish between God's timeless nature and God's time-full experience. God's nature is impassible and immutable. But God's moment-by-moment experiential life is passible and relational.

I'm nearly finished writing an essay affirming "strong divine passibility." As I use the phrase, it means that a necessary aspect of God is everlastingly passible.

My essay will appear in a "4 Views" book on divine impassibility. If you've got any advice for me as I complete my essay, let me know asap.

I'm attaching a few links to recent blog essays on God's relationality. I'd love to hear your thoughts on them too!

Tom


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New Book Coming Out this Month:

Theologians and Philosophers Using Social Media: Advice, Tips, and Testimonials

I've been working on a major book project that includes more than 90 theologians, philosophers, biblical scholars, and religious leaders. Each essayist describes how they use social media and technology. The book is big: 460 pages!

This is the kind of resource just about everyone will want, because it provides tips and advice. It's more of a practical "how to" book than a theoretical "here's why" book. Some of the most influential scholars and leaders write essays, along with some rising stars.

The book is published by SacraSage Press and will be available in print and as an ebook. Look for Theologians and Philosophers Using Social Media by mid September on Amazon and other booksellers.

- Tom