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, October 7, 2017

The Sense & Sensibility of Process Theology Combined with the Gracious Orthodoxy of Church and Liturgy

What happens when church and liturgy meet real life the way it is meant to be? When we discover fellowship, service and ministry are the bedrocks for relational enjoyment, identity and being? When community opens up to embrace the fullness of its members, their cultures, and religions? Welcome to the healing lands of process theology which imbues all things with spirit of the living God flowing through the lands of the living like air, water and light as each flows through the connectedness of creation as one symmetry underlying all as music upon the heart of God.

R.E. Slater
October 7, 2017

Wings Of Love by Marilyn Biles. Posted in Episcopal Art Blog
by C. Robin Janning on May 11, 2013

What is Missing in Process Theology
by Jay McDaniel
What I Learn from Process Theology
by Teri Daily 

* * * * * * * * *

What Is Missing in Process Theology

by Jay McDaniel, Editor of JJB

Something's missing in process theology and I've known it a long time. Teri Daily helps me put a name to it. Process theology is not orthodox enough, at least in the way that Teri Daily is orthodox. Let me back up:


For me process theology is not a metaphysical philosophy but rather a set of sensibilities: a cluster of motivating intuitions, values, and attitudes. When process theology is reduced to a mere set of ideas to which people adhere -- or worse than that, a metaphysical system that seems to answer all important questions -- it lapses into a fundamentalism of its own. I've seen it with my own eyes, a couple of times while looking into the mirror.

That's why I say that, at least for me, process theology is a set of sensibilities rather than a system; and these sensibilities can be internalized by people from different religious traditions: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Unitarian, Taoist, Confucian, and Bahai, for example.

Process theology is now a multi-faith tradition. Most of us in the process community trust and hope that the sensibilities important to us will be concretized and particularized in different kinds of communities, which will add distinctive richness and wisdom of their own. As I write this I am reading an advance copy of a book called God of Becoming and Relationship by Rabbi Bradley Artson, of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, to be published by Jewish Lights Publishing, in the Fall of 2013. It will be Jewish process theology. Hindu and Buddhist and Muslim process theologies are now being developed.

Teri Daily has named many of the sensibilities that are important to me and other process thinkers of different faiths:

  • Generosity of spirit embodied in the embrace of diversity
  • Common ground for interfaith dialog
  • The call to humility
  • Playfulness and imagination as part of the spiritual journey
  • Novelty in the face of tragedy
  • The tender nature of God

These are good things about process theology. It is what draws us to process theology and to the philosophy of Whitehead.

It is noteworthy to me that only THE second one -- common ground for interfaith dialog -- implies a reference to Whitehead's philosophy as a framework for appreciating the different yet complementary forms of beauty and wisdom that can be embodied by different religious traditions.

But it seems to me that the others can well be embraced, and are embraced, by people from different religious traditions and no religious tradition. You don't really need Whitehead to be humble, or to face tragedy in a spirit of novelty, or to trust in the tender nature of God. Many orthodox Christians -- and people of other faiths and no faith as well -- were doing these things long before process theology was ever conceived. That is good news.

Moreover, even the second item Teri names -- common ground for interfaith dialog -- presupposes an attitude of welcoming interfaith dialog, which likewise need not be based on Whitehead. Whitehead's philosophy is an invitation to have a hospitable heart and open mind, but [it is] not a precondition for those qualities. This is good news, too. And this is why process theologians rightly recognize that it would be a sad world indeed, all too devoid of diversity, if everyone became a Whiteheadian. In our world there needs to be competing worldviews, many of which can elicit the sensibilities identified above from radically different and opposing points of view. Teri has it right: "Agreement is overrated."

As I see things, Whitehead's philosophy is helpful because it offers a way of affirming these and other sensibilities, showing how they are all connected. It helps with many other topics, too:

  • It helps with a dialogue between religion and science;
  • it helps in affirming the value of aesthetic as well as ethical experience;
  • it helps with appreciating the intrinsic value of all living beings, not humans alone.

Perhaps most importantly,

  • it offers a powerful alternative to mechanistic ways of thinking that emerged in the West in the seventeenth century.

It is a philosophy of organism which helps people re-claim and also advance organic ways of thinking that have been part of many cultural traditions: Middle-Eastern, South Asian, African, East Asian, and American. Nevertheless, the verbalized propositions in Whitehead's philosophy are not the heart of the matter. They are, in his own words, lures for feeling and appeals to intuition. What is important about Whitehead's philosophy are the sensibilities to which his words point and the feelings they can help evoke.

Here is the problem. We humans cannot live by sensibilities alone. We need practices and traditions, community and rituals, meditation and prayer. We need stories, too, and opportunities for service. These offer wisdom and substance to a life that cannot be provided by theology alone, much less metaphysical systems. And this is one of the many things that I myself am reminded of, when I learn from orthodoxy, Teri Daily style.

How to put this? Teri Daily often uses two words as an abbreviation for practices and traditions, communities and rituals, meditation and prayer, stories and service: Church and Liturgy. Of course she has in mind the Christian church and Christian liturgy because, after all, she is a Christian priest. But if we widen our sense of church and liturgy to include other forms of community and tradition, then my point is that most of us -- maybe even all of us -- need something like church and liturgy, something like community and practice, to become the people we probably want to be: carriers of God's love: love of other people, love of the earth, love of heaven and, yes, love of ourselves.

Buddhists tell us that wisdom and compassion are the two most important virtues. I think the sensibilities are vessels for these virtues. But how do sensibilities gain a foothold in history, or even in a local community, unless they are enlivened, enriched, and deepened by church and liturgy.

Most process theologians know this. Many belong to churches, synagogues, sanghas, and temples. Or at least book clubs and maybe bowling clubs. But their weakness -- our weakness -- is that we too often focus on worldviews or, in my case, sensibilities, at the expense of the nitty-gritty of the incarnate life. We fall into the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. Especially if we are Christian (but not as much if we are Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu) we fall into the bane of white, western, male-dominated Protestant Christianity [with an] an overemphasis on belief and worldviews. We dwell too much in our heads. The orthodox Christianity which Teri Daily so well represents is a healthy and wonderful antidote to head-based Christianity and, for that matter, head-based process theology.

There is something else missing in process theology, and that is a recognition that, as meaningful as the process idea of God is to many people, there's more to God than is contained in the idea. It is important to orthodox Christians not to reduce God to a being among beings who can be encapsulated within a philosophy and thus reduced to an object about which people have convictions. I will say more about this in closing, but first a further word about sensibilities.


I want to add two sensibilities that are also important to many process thinkers, and that Teri doesn't list but are quite evident in her life and also entailed in orthodox Christianity as she understands it. The first is relationality.

Many turn to process theology because it emphasizes that we humans, while delightfully different from each other, are also formed through our relationships with each other and, for that matter, with other animals and the surrounding world. We process-influenced pilgrims agree with Teri Daily; these relationships can be deeply loving. She believes that the God is the perfection of love and we do, too. She believes that this love is deeply relational and we do, too. Indeed, what she says of the Trinity we say of the universe as well. Process theology affirms the primacy of what Buddhists call inter-being and propose that even the Soul of the universe -- even God -- is formed through loving relationships with the world. This is why we also call ourselves relational theologians.

Teri Daily finds a similar perspective in the Trinity, which for her is not simply an idea that is reflected upon but, more deeply, a reality that is felt and also, in the liturgy, danced. She speaks often of a space within the Trinity in which all beings, not Christians alone and not humans alone, are held, which seems to me very much like the spacious love of God as understood in process theology.

I see with her help that the Trinity -- as felt -- is both the reality of, and an invitation for, the kind of difference-respecting yet destiny-sharing love that is important to process theology. I find myself believing very much in "the space within the Trinity" and I hope that orthodox Christianity can help me better walk within this space. I do not ask people of other paths to be Trinitarian; I know that one in whose love I want to walk, Jesus, was no Trinitarian. But I suspect that his heart was opened in a Trinitarian way and I'd like for my heart to be opened in this way, too. Still, think he must have felt the Trinity. I suspect he danced it, too, at weddings, when he beheld lilies of the field, and when he suffered little children to come unto him. I learn from Teri Daily that the Trinity is not simply something we feel, it is also something we do.


The other idea that is so important to process thinkers is creative transformation. It's the idea that we walk with God by being open to novelty, not only in times of suffering but in all times. As I read what she has written I know that she has this in mind with two of her emphases: playfulness and imagination as part of the spiritual journey and novelty in the face of tragedy.

But what strikes me about her essay, and what I find helpful and inspiring, is that she herself so vividly exemplifies the spirit of creative transformation with help from, not despite, her orthodoxy. Hear the last line of her essay: "Perhaps there will be more changes along the way, and another installment of 'an orthodox-oriented Christian encounters process theology.' I look forward to it."

She explains earlier that this hospitable approach to being changed by the voice of other people and other ideas comes, not from process theology, but from orthodox Christianity itself. Hers is not a rigid or fixed orthodoxy. It is a creative orthodoxy that nourishes her with a freedom to listen and be changed, and with a freedom, if needed, to leave orthodoxy behind in fidelity to the very God to whom orthodoxy points. I can only hope that I have the courage to be changed in just this way, to listen to orthodoxy and a range of other perspectives in an open way, and to leave process theology behind if Wisdom calls. May those of us in the process community be as receptive to creative transformation as Teri Daily is.

But she knows and we know that the deepest forms of creative transformation are not exactly mental but more holistic. Hear these words of hers:

We encounter the Holy in brief, life-changing moments that can’t be described with words, that can’t be mapped out, that can’t in and of themselves be organized into an over-arching system of thought. Such experiences often don’t lend themselves to an adequate construction of meaning, and so we need the experiences of others in order for us to make sense of our own.

A danger of having a theology that means too much to you is that you will use it to organize the moments of your life into "an over-arching system of thought.." There is a resistance in orthodox Christians of the kind she represents to fall into such systemolatry. For orthodox Christians in her tradition, the liturgy and sacraments are much more important than systems; and this freedom from dogma, this freedom from system-worship, is at the heart of creative orthodoxy. In this and in so many other ways, orthodoxy offers a prophetic word to process theologians, and it is called liturgy. Liturgy opens us up into the possibility of life-changing moments in ways that systems can never understand. It opens us up into novelty or, as process theologians like to say, creative transformation.


We process-influenced travelers speak of God as the spirit of creative transformation in the world. We say that God is not a created good but is instead the creative good. This creative good is like a third person in an otherwise binary relationship, who perpetually unsettles pre-existing habits of thought, feelings, and actions by proposing new possibilities that the first two [individuals] never thought of. But the truth is they are third persons, too. Teri Daily helps me see that three is better than two, because it opens all partners involved into [a] newness [of imagination, living and worship.]

If this newness is part of what orthodox Christians mean by threeness, then process theologians of many faiths can learn from orthodoxy. We believe in threeness and call it the spirit, the creative good. There is a space within the three that is always moving and never still, productive of novelty and surprising all parties involved, changing them from who they have been into who they can become. There's an important social lesson here. Threeness takes us beyond binary thinking into multiplicity thinking where each particular is preciously odd, preciously unique, preciously queer, because not reducible to any other or any "system of categories" we might impose upon ourselves and the world. In a certain sense threeness is a metaphor for deep and creative multiplicity, both heavenly and earthly. It makes space for differences.

We process travellers know that we cannot contain the spirit of threeness and pretend that it is an object in our minds. We know that the spirit is like the wind, blowing wherever it will. At our best we remember that the spirit flows from a mystery that can never be contained by our minds or ensconced within our systems. It is not "the primordial nature of God" or "the consequent nature of God" or any such nature that fits within a conceptual whole. The very idea of "natures" is problematic, if hardened into fixed essences in the imagination.

I suspect that one of the deepest lessons we can learn from orthodoxy is that we have been far too sure of ourselves and insufficiently humble in the presence of mystery. The more we know our unknowing, the more we can dance freely, without pretending we have all the answers, in the space of the Trinity, however understood. And then we will better understand that transcendence belongs, not only to the creative good, but also to each finite being - each person, each plant, each animal -- who forever transcends whatever worldview we might bring to the world, thanks be to the mystery of life.

Objects congeal around little specks of Cosmos. Some objects hide and protect us from this immensity.
Some objects may form points of access to this immensity. Many are both – we need them to be both.

Images above, top: Altar of St. Francis; and, bottom: Bronze Altar #7356
by David OrthWords above from Threshold Objects by David Orth.
Read more HERE. And a special thanks to the Episcopal Cafe Art Blog
for sharing: http://www.episcopalcafe.com/art/. Originally posted by
C. Robin Janning on May 6, 2013

* * * * * * * * *

 What I Learn from Process Theology

by Teri Daily, Episcopal Priest

Image by Jeanelle McCall. Originally posted
by C. Robin Janning in Episcopal Art Blog,
 April 9, 2013.
When Jay McDaniel suggested that I write an article for JJB along the lines of “an orthodox-oriented Christian encounters process theology,” I was pretty much immediately onboard. But some disclosures might be in order at the outset. I am not an academic theologian; I am a parish priest. And one with a fairly limited knowledge of process thought. My experience with process theology in seminary was limited to the following three occasions: 1) a brief encounter with Catherine Keller’s Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming while making an argument myself for creatio ex nihilo, 2) reading Proverbs of Ashes by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker in a Feminist Theologies class, and 3) using an in-depth look at Catherine Keller’s Apocalypse Now and Then to suggest that a process understanding of eschatology might have a prophetic word to offer the Anglican Communion in the midst of conflict.

Recently, I have resumed my relationship with process theology. For the past eight months I have read JJB faithfully. I have also read Bob Mesle’s book Process-Relational Philosophy: An Introduction to Alfred North Whitehead, The Handbook of Process Theology edited by Jay McDaniel and Donna Bowman, a few other books by Jay, The Metaphor Maker by Patricia Adams Farmer, and (with John B. Cobb Jr.’s Whitehead Word Book by my side) Whitehead’s Process and Reality. But that, I confess, is the sum total of my lifetime experience with process theology.

Finally, I consider myself an “orthodox” Christian who is deeply drawn to the sacraments. I say the creeds without embarrassment and without crossing my fingers behind my back, I find my life shaped by liturgical seasons and the rhythms of worship, and I accept (sometimes more easily than others) the meaningful and authoritative role of tradition in my own faith journey. That being said, I also find myself drawn to process theology—not despite, but precisely by way of, my orthodox understanding of God and my sacramental view of both religion and the world.

Let me try to make this connection—not meaning to imply that it is the only pathway from one to the other, just that it happens to be mine. For orthodox Christians, metaphysical (or analogical) transcendence—with God as source of all being and not one being among many—is the very means of intimacy with God. It allows God to be present with and in the world without competition between God and creation when it comes to agency, power, dignity, or will. By virtue of God’s transcendence, we participate in the life of God not as something separate from or reducible to our experience within the world, but as a dimension within our daily lives that is, at times, revealed unexpectedly to us.

We encounter the Holy in brief, life-changing moments that can’t be described with words, that can’t be mapped out, that can’t in and of themselves be organized into an over-arching system of thought. Such experiences often don’t lend themselves to an adequate construction of meaning, and so we need the experiences of others in order for us to make sense of our own. According to William Countryman in Living on the Border of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All, this is where the priesthood of all humanity comes in.

My own ordination to the priesthood is really a sacrament of sorts; my presence as a priest is meant to be “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” that is, in reality, the priesthood as it exists in all humanity. The priesthood we see in religion is a reminder that we are all meant to be priests to one another—to share our experiences of the Holy and to help one another make sense of them in ways that bring meaning to our lives. Countryman describes this priesthood of all humanity beautifully in this passage:

Since we are, by nature, finite beings, each of us limited by time and space, none of us will ever experience directly more than one life’s worth of God, of Truth, of Reality. What each of us comes to know are fragments of something immeasurably larger than we can grasp. My neighbor knows other fragments, which may well be the ones to make sense of my own. Therefore, I must turn to my neighbor in search of understanding, in search of the priestly ministries that can flow from that person’s experience. And my neighbor will need to turn to others, too—perhaps to me.[1]

Image by Virginia Wieringa. Originally posted by
C. Robin Janning in Episcopal Art Blog, June 16, 2013.
Those interested in process theology may well want to expand this universal priesthood to include other aspects of creation—such as animals, rivers, trees, and distant galaxies. And rightly so. But the point I want to make is this: If I believe that all creation directly participates in and experiences God, that God is much greater than any single one of us (or even all of us together) can comprehend, and that the priesthood is both sacramental and universal in nature, then I have to acknowledge that truth can be found outside my well-constructed system of beliefs and practices. In short, I have to be willing to seek and honor truth as it is found in process theology, too.

There is an irony here: It is my own understanding of what it means to be an orthodox Christian that pushes me to explore process theology, and yet the exploration itself may ultimately change the very faith that brought me here. It already has. In fact, the willingness to be changed by an encounter is the defining characteristic of true and holy hospitality. As Scott Bader-Saye writes,

"The true practice of openness to the other, of hospitality, means that “we must be ready to let our identities morph over time, allowing the stranger to become friend and in so doing change in some way how we see ourselves.”[2]

Sometimes my encounter with process theology has felt like the collision of two theological tectonic plates, resulting in a radical change in the landscape.[3] At other times this encounter has seemed more like a blowing wind, slowly changing the landscape in subtle ways. Sometimes this encounter has been priestly in nature, revealing new understandings and ways of seeing. At other times it has borne the marks of the biblical prophetic tradition, calling me back to aspects of my faith that I have neglected or forgotten. But almost always this encounter with process theology has been a source of balance and grace within my own spiritual life.

So here are just a few aspects of process theology (as I have experienced it) that have enriched my own faith:

1) Generosity of spirit embodied in the embrace of diversity – I have found in process theology a generosity of spirit, embodied in its embrace of diversity. Perhaps this is one of the strongest pulls for me. An explicit distinction between contrast and incompatibility, a desire for contrasts (even contrasts of contrasts), an understanding of beauty that requires as much difference as can be harmonized, God as lure toward greater beauty—all this presents diversity not as a threat, but as an essential element in a beautiful life. In the Church, we often understand diversity through the lens of Paul’s description of various spiritual gifts within the Body of Christ—“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). There is definitely beauty in the harmonic, cooperative nature of community, no doubt. But can’t difference be beautiful in its own right, apart from the work it makes possible? Can’t we delight in the very existence of diversity, in a harmonization that is not purely functional? Process theologians would, I think, say “yes.”

2) Common ground for interfaith dialogue – While embracing diversity certainly stirs the desire for interfaith dialogue, I’m not sure that it alone makes such dialogue possible. Perhaps process thought is so conducive to interfaith dialogue because it allows conversation from the perspective of a philosophical system rather than a particular faith narrative. Of course, it can be argued that there is an embedded narrative within all systematic thought—in process thought, it’s a story of change and permanence woven throughout time, of the ever-present promise of newness, of a Love that always remembers. But when an explicit and dearly-held narrative alone is what undergirds one’s faith, such as the incarnation and the resurrection for many Christians, a starting place and common language for interfaith dialogue can be challenging to find.

3) The call to humility – In a world where contradictory certainties in the form of “talking heads” flood every twenty-four hour news channel, I find Whitehead’s humility in the preface to Process and Reality to be a prophetic reminder for this and every time:

There remains the final reflection, how shallow, puny, and imperfect are efforts to sound the depths in the nature of things. In philosophical discussion, the merest hint of dogmatic certainty as to finality of statement is an exhibition of folly.

For my own spiritual path, it is a reminder that faith and mystery go hand-in-hand, and that any absolute claim to truth is a form of idolatry.

4) Playfulness and imagination as part of the spiritual journey – Once we let go of the oppressive idea that we should or ever could grace the world with the complete knowledge of absolute Truth, playfulness and imagination quite naturally become part of our search to know God. I see it all over JJB—finding God in fudge, mashups, the self-dependence of cats, and everything in-between. Why in our culture do we always associate linear, rigid logic with truth and imagination or fantasy with falsehood? Maybe the storyline of modernity keeps us from seeing the crucial role imagination plays in the world. Maybe that’s why this statement from Whitehead in Process and Reality (Part I, Chapter 1) was, for me, a freeing revelation of sorts:

After the basis of a rational life, with a civilized language, has been laid, all productive thought has proceeded either by the poetic insight of artists, or by the imaginative elaboration of schemes of thought capable of utilization as logical premises. In some measure or other, progress is always a transcendence of what is obvious.

Image by Melissa Strickler. Originally posted
by C. Robin Janning in Episcopal Art Blog,
 June 16, 2013.
5) Novelty in the midst of tragedy – I admire process thought for its profound appreciation of novelty and hope, held in tension with its refusal to trivialize the tragic dimension of the world in which we live. It’s precisely this tension that resonates with my own understanding of the beauty of resurrection. Grace is not found in denying or trivializing the loss, suffering, and pain that are part of our story; instead, grace is found in the new life that comes through it.

6) The tender nature of God – I find the tenderness of God in process theology to be like a mother who meticulously gathers up the pain and joy of her children like pieces of glass scattered on a hard tile floor. She then creates from those shards of glass a totally new piece of art that embodies (in Whitehead’s words) “truth, beauty, and goodness.” In this work, all the sufferings, pain, joys, and triumphs are redeemed, made whole, and offered back in an act of love. To label this mother as “all-powerful” or “not all-powerful” is not something I feel compelled to do, for I can’t imagine anything more deeply powerful or salvific than a love like this.

Of course, there are other elements of process theology that have also influenced my spiritual life, and there are some that do not resonate with my own experience. Agreement is overrated. I suspect that there are as many understandings of God/Truth/Life as there are people on this planet (and maybe even beyond). At the end of the day, I trust that God is found in the journey itself and not just in the end, in the seeking and not just in the finding, in fellow travelers we encounter on the way and not just in those who have already arrived.

I am grateful to have the JJB community as companions on the way, as priests and prophets in my own spiritual journey. And I’m grateful to Jay McDaniel for a friendship of holy hospitality. Perhaps there will be more changes along the way, and another installment of “an orthodox-oriented Christian encounters process theology.” I look forward to it.

You might also enjoy these articles by Teri Daily: