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

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Is God Culpable For Sin and Evil?






Does God permit evil to produce good? The answer is "No, of course not," but to listen to old line theology is to say "Yes, God permits evil so that good might arise." This line of questioning goes back to the idea of how responsible is God, the Creator, for the suffering and evil that is in the world? Is He 100% culpable? 50%? 0%? Is it us? Is it God? Is it sin, devil, world, or those around us? If God is the Sovereign God of the universe, of all creation, over all mankind, over me and my actions, etc and etc, than is God culpable for sin and evil in any sense?

Again, the answer is, "No, of course not." It goes back to the premise we wrongly assumed and started off with - that God is "Sovereign" over sin and evil. In plain language, God is NOT. The sin and evil that is in this world is not of God, nor used or employed by God, nor continued by God, nor even of its own kinds of power or entity. It just is because there is love, freedom, goodness in this world. Once God granted love, freedom, and goodness than the conditions exited for rebellion - for not loving, for oppression, for doing harm. The initial conditions God granted set the initial outcomes of all things irrespective of who God is, desires, or wants.


Stated another way, "God is holy, good, loving, and righteous." And thus, we have a problem. Our definition of God and sin/evil is in direct opposition to what we think we know of God, the world, how it operates, ourselves, and so on. Quickly we would think, "If God is not God than He is neither Sovereign, Holy, Good, nor Loving!" But again, this is incorrect. God's relationship with His creation as Sovereign is extremely complicated - claims that He is a lesser God than He is, or incapable of "controlling" (a word which is unhelpful in this discussion but used all the time by Christians in explaining God to themselves and others) His creation, or a useless God for all the outcomes we see but do not like. These ascriptions cannot help us here.




So again, "Is God unwise, or short-sighted, or made powerless once He created a creation with the possibilities of sin and evil, or with such horrible outcomes as sin and evil?" This kind of question we'll leave to the philosophers and theologians but essentially, if God were to create a world with how it is now, in this moment, than this is how it will operate - both good and bad, right and wrong, loving and hating, along with its storms, cancers, brokenness, and such like.

Which brings us to another line of thought... Did God create a world in which He might share His fellowship and love with His creation despite knowing the outcomes of sin and evil? That because of His great love, that it is, that He must likewise allow His creation to respond one way or another. IF God were not the way He is in Himself than no corollaries would be resulting. But because God is who He is than all the corollaries we have read about, felt, and seen, are in evidence. They are, because He is. If He were not such those qualities would not be either. Nor would we be. Nor this world. Nor our family, friends, ministries, hopes, dreams, and occupations. Which gets us back to that philosophical line of thought we'll leave for another time - both in their heretical (non-theological) and non-heretical (theological) forms.


Experience tells us that sin and evil seemingly compounds itself out of control. But cannot light as well? Cannot light push away the darkness of sin and evil? And there's that old, mistaken assumption again... If I can't have a God who is "in control" than He isn't any kind of God I can believe, trust, respect, worship, or obey. In essence, we've assumed the role of God, we have become His own Father and Creator, we have told God how to be, live, run a universe, and so on. Curious, isn't it? A God who loves, who provided so much good, is accused of being so short-sighted, limited, and unwise. People like the biblical tragic figure of Job have stood on these same shoals asking similar questions of essence, ontology, and metaphysics. And God's reply? To look around us and answer us in the only categorical existentialisms we can understand. In this case, God used Job's definition for a good and loving God against Job's line of thinking. He didn't teach above it, beyond it, or redirect it. He used what Job knew and answered him to the point of overwhelming humbleness and submission.


Jesus was also such a tragic figure bearing the sin and evil of the world upon Himself. This, as Christianity teaches, is the very God who created all things who became for us a created, tempted thing but within sin or stain, blotch or blemish. Who took upon Himself all sin and evil unto His holy personage as ransom for all. His redemption as fully God and fully man enlivens creation with opportunity to live productively. To live lovingly in a sinful world. To resist its temptations and powers even to the point of death or martyrdom. And yet the world still spins, still reels from sin and evil, still goes along and we ask, "When, O God, shall this pain end? How shall this old creation be renewed?" Which we'll save for another day - that of the Christian hope in a creation full of pain. For if God cannot answer this question through love and by His love than I suspect all other versions of God's apocalyptic end-times are askew, filled with our sinful versions and ill-expectations of Himself, and need a bit of correction. Suffice it to say, we are to love God and love our neighbor. The simplicity of this command is enough to obey. To act as our Creator acts in all wisdom and love, goodness and justice. Be this so that your light might push away the darkness for others.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
March 25, 2018

      


PAUL APOSTLE OF CHRIST (2018) Movie
Full Official Trailer Drama Movie HD JC Series



Saturday, March 24, 2018

"Christian" America's Weakness in the Age of Trumpian Politics



Yesterday I completed a four week mini-course on Sparta and Athens, both rivals and friends when it suited them. Sparta was a militaristic state which evolved Hellas' (The Greek name for Greece before Rome later renamed; thus "Hellenistic" culture or the influence of "Hellenism" upon the ancient Jewish world) first rudimentary democracy amongst its own Spartan population (750 BC). Otherwise, it was a slave state from first to last, expanding its territory as it went along and taking slaves (helots) as it conquered. Athens, whose power came 250 years later (around 500 BC), expanded the Spartan idea of a limited democracy to include all citizens of all races, classes, stripes and colors. Most of Western civilization is based upon this latter Hellenic model. As such, Athen's mode of "conquering" was through economic and political alliances which, once made, was difficult for city-states to get out of without resorting to a war of some kind against Athen's expanding global outreach. This ancient idea of "leaguing" with one another is still in use today to greater or lesser effect.

Thucydides, a late Athenian general, leader, and later exiled historian who used his freedom to travel abroad in the ancient world including that of Sparta, witnessed the Spartan-Athenian alliance work together to conquer a common adversary, Persia. But later this alliance dissolved through what he called "mutual distrust." This meant that each city-state power "feared the other" and came to determine what it had to do to keep its "rule" against the other's waxing power and influence. Though each had its own kind of democracy, how each understood and utilized its democracy was starkly different. One limited it to its own "race of people" (those who were "Spartans") while the other (Athens) extended it to "all its people living within its borders" regardless of race, color, or distinction. Over time, these systems clashed so that what destroyed Spartan and Athenian democracies was their own internal warfares with one another which weakened each and eventually ceeded (yielded) to tyranncy, greed, adverice, and a mania for wealth and power by the lesser lights of their citizenry.



Moreover, Thucydides who chronicled Hellas' legacies is considered the father of the school of political realism, which views the political behavior of individuals and the subsequent outcomes of relations between states as ultimately mediated by, and constructed upon, the emotions of fear and self-interest:
Jonathan Haslam from the University of Cambridge characterizes realism as "a spectrum of ideas."[1] Regardless of which definition is used, the theories of realism revolve around four central propositions:[2]That states are the central actors in international politics rather than individuals or international organizations,
That the international political system is anarchic as there is no supranational authority that can enforce rules over the states,
That the actors in the international political system are rational as their actions maximize their own self-interest, and
That all states desire power so that they can ensure their own self-preservation.

Realism is often associated with Realpolitik as both are based on the management of the pursuit, possession, and application of power. Realpolitik, however, is an older prescriptive guideline limited to policy-making (like foreign policy), while realism is a particular paradigm, or wider theoretical and methodological framework, aimed at describing, explaining and, eventually, predicting events in the international relations domain. The theories of Realism are contrasted by the cooperative ideals of liberalism.
Furthermore, the "Thucydides Trap" is one where international relations is upended through the emotional attitudes of fear and distrust (see article below). This is now in evidence across America as its democracy is threatened within and without:
The "Thucydides Trap" refers to when a rising power causes fear in an established power which escalates toward war. Thucydides wrote: "What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta."
"By within," is meant how America will, or will not, extend its democratic principles to those races, cultures, and religions within its borderlands in an equal and just legal system. When refusing to do so it evolves into a democratic tyranncy of majority over the minorities. "By without," is meant how America behaves both to its Allies as well as to those newer rising international powers which would threaten its commerce and trade. Of course the benefit to all involved nations is the opportunity to examine, understand and accept one another in times of high stress. Many times the strength of nations can be found in accepting and examining a foe or ally's cultures and religions. The trap for Sparta and Athens was the rise of the latter's power and influence over the other resulting in the fear that it instilled in Sparta which made war inevitable between both ancient city-states.

Similarly, when reviewing Western civilization's past 500 years of history (1,500-2,100 AD) it has evidenced 16 incidents in which a rising national power threatened to displace a ruling one. Twelve of those historical incidents ended in war. The bottom line is that war is usually inevitable once the "fear line" of tolerability has been crossed. This is the "Thucydian Trap". Should America continue its militaristic rhetoric of war against rising powers like China we will witness an accelerating and harrowing relationship between both powers. Powers which should rather work together to solve massive global crises of water, food, pandemics, poverty, and injustice, rather than rattle sabers at each other vying for supremacy. The objective is as inane as the populations which think there can be a winner in war. However, in all wars, all lose. And in the case of Sparta and Athens the new winner was the one on the sidelines waiting to come in, namely, Macedonia under Philip and his son Alexander (the Great).


As an evolving democracy on the precipice of internal collapse, America owes itself the opportunity to continue reforming itself under the Constitutional principles of equality and justice both "within and without." And as an international power to share its wealth, knowledge and power with the world in a kind of relationship which works towards peace, cooperation, and acceptance. If not, America will continue civilization's course of mutually assured destruction where neither side wins and all sides lose. As a nation which prides itself as a Christian nation (which, when looking at its history can be highly debatable) would certainly be the Christianly thing to do. It is certain the Jesus thing to do who served others ahead of Himself and strove for peace, love and just equibility between all men and women. If America is a Christian nation then it will do the same - working for justice to its minorities within - and justice to the world without. It rests in the unique position of servanthood - a spiritual strength which could bring peace and goodwill to all nations. But if refusing, provide an injustice and harm beyond measure to all innocents within and abroad.

R.E. Slater
March 24, 2018




* * * * * * * * * *



The Thucydides Trap
http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/09/the-thucydides-trap/

When one great power threatens to displace another,
war is almost always the result --
but it doesn’t have to be.

June 9, 2017

In April, chocolate cake had just been served at the Mar-a-Lago summit when President Donald Trump leaned over to tell Chinese President Xi Jinping that American missiles had been launched at Syrian air bases, according to Trump’s account of the evening. What the attack on Syria signaled about Trump’s readiness to attack North Korea was left to Xi’s imagination.

Welcome to dinner with the leaders who are now attempting to
manage the world’s most dangerous geopolitical relationship.

The story is a small one. But as China challenges America’s predominance, misunderstandings about each other’s actions and intentions could lead them into a deadly trap first identified by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. As he explained, “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” The past 500 years have seen 16 cases in which a rising power threatened to displace a ruling one. Twelve of these ended in war.

Of the cases in which war was averted — Spain outstripping Portugal in the late 15th century, the United States overtaking the United Kingdom at the turn of the 20th century, and Germany’s rise in Europe since 1990 — the ascent of the Soviet Union is uniquely instructive today. Despite moments when a violent clash seemed certain, a surge of strategic imagination helped both sides develop ways to compete without a catastrophic conflict. In the end, the Soviet Union imploded and the Cold War ended with a whimper rather than a bang.

Although China’s rise presents particular challenges, Washington policymakers should heed five Cold War lessons.

Lesson 1: War between nuclear superpowers is MADness.

The United States and the Soviet Union built nuclear arsenals so substantial that neither could be sure of disarming the other in a first strike. Nuclear strategists described this condition as “mutual assured destruction,” or MAD. Technology, in effect, made the United States and Soviet Union conjoined twins — neither able to kill the other.

Today, China has developed its own robust nuclear arsenal. From confrontations in the South and East China Sea, to the gathering storm over the Korean Peninsula, leaders must recognize that war would be suicidal.

Lesson 2: Leaders must be prepared to risk a war they cannot win.

Although neither nation can win a nuclear war, both, paradoxically, must demonstrate a willingness to risk losing one to compete.

Consider each clause of this nuclear paradox. On the one hand, if war occurs, both nations lose and millions die — an option no rational leader could choose. But, on the other hand, if a nation is unwilling to risk war, its opponent can win any objective by forcing the more responsible power to yield. To preserve vital interests, therefore, leaders must be willing to select paths that risk destruction. Washington must think the unthinkable to credibly deter potential adversaries such as China.

Washington must think the unthinkable to credibly deter potential adversaries such as China.

Lesson 3: Define the new “precarious rules of the status quo.”

The Cold War rivals wove an intricate web of mutual constraints around their competition that President John F. Kennedy called “precarious rules of the status quo.” These included arms-control treaties and precise rules of the road for air and sea. Such tacit guidelines for the United States and China today might involve limits on cyberattacks or surveillance operations.

By reaching agreements on contentious issues, the United States and China can create space to cooperate on challenges — such as global terrorism and climate change — in which the national interests the two powers share are much greater than those that divide them. Overall, leaders should understand that survival depends on caution, communication, constraints, compromise, and cooperation.

Lesson 4: Domestic performance is decisive.

What nations do inside their borders matters at least as much as what they do abroad. Had the Soviet economy overtaken that of the United States by the 1980s, as some economists predicted, Moscow could have consolidated a position of hegemony. Instead, free markets and free societies won out. The vital question for the U.S.-China rivalry today is whether Xi’s Leninist-Mandarin authoritarian government and economy proves superior to American capitalism and democracy.

Maintaining China’s extraordinary economic growth, which provides legitimacy for sweeping party rule, is a high-wire act that will only get harder. Meanwhile, in the United States, sluggish growth is the new normal. And American democracy is exhibiting worrisome symptoms: declining civic engagement, institutionalized corruption, and widespread lack of trust in politics. Leaders in both nations would do well to prioritize their domestic challenges.

Lesson 5: Hope is not a strategy.

Over a four-year period from George Kennan’s famous “Long Telegram,” which identified the Soviet threat, to Paul Nitze’s NSC-68, which provided the road map for countering this threat, U.S. officials developed a winning Cold War strategy: contain Soviet expansion, deter the Soviets from acting against vital American interests, and undermine both the idea and the practice of communism. In contrast, America’s China policy today consists of grand, politically appealing aspirations that serious strategists know are unachievable. In attempting to maintain the post-World War II Pax Americana during a fundamental shift in the economic balance of power toward China, the United States’ real strategy, truth be told, is hope.

In today’s Washington, strategic thinking is often marginalized. Even Barack Obama, one of America’s smartest presidents, told the New Yorker that, given the pace of change today, “I don’t really even need George Kennan.” Coherent strategy does not guarantee success, but its absence is a reliable route to failure.

Thucydides’s Trap teaches us that on the historical record, war is more likely than not. From Trump’s campaign claims that China is “ripping us off” to recent announcements about his “great chemistry” with Xi, he has accelerated the harrowing roller coaster of U.S.-China relations. If the president and his national security team hope to avoid catastrophic war with China while protecting and advancing American national interests, they must closely study the lessons of the Cold War.

*This article originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of FP magazine.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Madeline L'Engel & Thomas Oord - Being Light in the Darkness

"A Wrinkle in Time" author Madeline L'Engel's postmodern day counterpart is theologian Thomas Jay Oord who similarly deals with the issues of light and darkness - of how a loving and sovereign God acts in a world filled with sin and evil. In essence, God’s love makes a real and direct difference in the world and that without it there would be no hope. Evil would fill the entirety of its condition where no goodness or love could be found.

Yet God's love makes a real difference against evil when men and women submit to His divine love providing outcomes to creation which could not exist without creaturely obedience in response to the divine call, revelation, and examples set forth in Scripture (Jesus, for one) by God's positive, direct actions to love.

God's love is a love which partners with His creation without coercion, controlling, or determining obedience. Like a marriage partnership, He works within the limits we allow Him who fills His children with love and goodness when tempted at all times to give up, to allow sin and evil full reign. Little Meg in L'Engel's story fought against this same urge to discover she had the power to say no to evil when allowing the love and light of God's presence to guide her actions.

Some Christian groups call this incarnating moments of Jesus when God's presence in our faith in Him become pregnant with empowerment by His Holy Spirit. Other Christians, using less direct Christian descriptions, sense only the power and presence of a loving God asking us to say yes to Him that He might bring hope and healing not only to ourselves but to those around us in fundamental acts of Christlike actions.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
March 13, 2018

Reference Links:

 


What Does God’s Love Do?
http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/what-does-gods-love-do#undefined.gbpl

by Thomas Jay Oord
March 7, 2018

If God’s love is uncontrolling, what does it actually do? Is God uninvolved in our lives? Or is God more like an object that inspires without directly affecting us?

In a recent International Journal of Systematic Theology article, Kevin Vanhoozer offered a dialogue between John Webster’s views of love and my own. Kevin wonders if my view of God’s uncontrolling love means God is ineffective in bring real change.

In this essay, I explain that God’s uncontrolling love makes a real and direct difference in the world.

What Divine Love Does

Vanhoozer wonders what God’s love actually does. “If it is real,” he says, “it should make a difference.” I agree.

My theology emphasizes that God’s love makes an actual difference in creation. God acts in many ways to promote wellbeing. God is the necessary cause in the existence of everything, moment by moment. But I do not think God’s action controls others.

I often refer to Aristotelean notions of causation when explaining my view. I think God expresses love as efficient, final, or formal causes, for instance. But God never acts as a sufficient cause. That would involve divine control. God always loves, and divine love is uncontrolling.

God’s love is more than an example that we might find inspiring. It is also directly affecting us moment by moment, empowering us to choose.

An Uncontrolling God Acts

Vanhoozer’s comments remind me of a worry the philosopher Arthur Holmes once raised. Holmes argued against theologies that say God lovingly persuades but never coerces. To him, the God who persuades “cannot act.”[1]

Holmes seems not to see the important distinction between 1) acting that affects outcomes and 2) acting that unilaterally determines. The vast majority of, if not all, actions we witness in the world affect others without controlling them.

In my view, God’s always acts, and divine love is action that makes a difference. Creatures or creation more generally cannot prevent God from acting. The outcomes God desires for creation, however, require creaturely response. Because God’s actions are always loving, God never singlehandedly determines others to generate outcomes.

The Marriage Proposal

I acted when asking my fiancé’ to marry me. Her favorable response, however, was required for the outcome I desired.

If I had tried to force, control, or unilaterally determine her, few would call such coercion loving. If she responds positively to me, however, we can say my action made a difference in generating the outcome I wanted: marriage. I think divine love is analogous.

Of course, I’m happy to say that my marriage proposal was accepted, and Cheryl and I have been married for almost 30 years. And my goal for our marriage to be excellent still requires her response. One person cannot guarantee a happy marriage!

God’s Love is Effective

Vanhoozer introduces a word in his essay that I do not think describes my view of God’s action well. That word is “non-effectual.” When summarizing my theology, he says I believe “God thus loves creatures not by strongly causing (i.e., determining) good things, but rather by constantly issuing non-effectual calls, thus weakly causing good things (when they happen).”

The word “non-effectual,” as Vanhoozer uses it, might sound as though he thinks my view entails that God’s actions do not produce any effect. He apparently means by “non-effectual” that I am claiming God’s actions do not necessarily produce God’s desired effect.[2]

To describe my view better, Vanhoozer might rephrase his sentence. The revised sentence might say “God loves creatures not by controlling events and thereby unilaterally causing good things but rather by constantly calling and empowering creatures, thereby symbiotically causing good things (as creation cooperates).”

This alternative statement rightly emphasizes my view that God’s actions are causal but not controlling. God’s actions in the world require creaturely cooperation to produce the results God wants. God’s actions prompt creatures to act in ways to produce some desired effect, but they do not necessarily produce such an effect.

Is Strong Divine Action “Determining?”

In summarizing my view, Vanhoozer says “strong” divine action is “determining.” This implies that weak divine action involves lack of control, in the sense of not producing the desired effect necessarily.

It seems that Vanhoozer believes controlling others to produce desired outcomes is the “stronger” form of power. I once believed this. But as I have argued in various publications, I now believe God’s almighty power is uncontrolling love.[3] And as I argued in previous blogs, this uncontrolling love can do miracles.

I believe the strongest form of power is cooperative rather than controlling. And many essayists in the new book, Uncontrolling Love, seem to agree.

God Acts as an Omnipresent Spirit

Let me conclude with brief words about God’s being. Like most theologians, I think that God is incorporeal. God is spirit (Jn. 4:24). I deny that God has a localized, physical, divine body with which God exerts an impact.

The biblical notions of God as ruach and pneuma are important for understanding why God fails to prevent genuine evil. While in some instances we use our bodies to prevent evil, God as spirit has no localized divine body to use in this way.

As spirit, God exerts efficient causation of the sort we think metaphysically analogous to other causal occurrences in the world. But efficient causation does not mean sufficient causation. Affecting others doesn’t mean controlling them.

One view of the human mind-body relationship helps as an analogy. Just as our minds exert efficient causal influence upon our bodies without entirely determining them, so God as spirit exerts causal influence upon creatures without entirely determining them. God acts causally without controlling others.[4]

Conclusion

God always acts, and we creatures cannot control God. God’s love is uncontrollable.

But God’s actions never control creatures. “Love does not force its own way,” to quote the Apostle Paul. Or to put it my language, God’s love always influences but is also always uncontrolling.


TJO

Notes

[1] Arthur F. Holmes, “Why God Cannot Act,” in Process Theology, ed. Ronald Nash (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1987).

[2] I am grateful to Kevin Vanhoozer for responding to a first draft of this essay and clarifying what he means by “effectual.” I tried to incorporate his thoughts here.

[3] See my books, Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2010); The Nature of Love: A Theology; and The Uncontrolling Love of God.

[4] For more on God acting as a spirit, see my essay, “The Divine Spirit as Causal and Personal,” in Zygon 48, no. 2 (2013): 466-77.


* * * * * * * * * *


Against a personal struggle to make sense of evil L'Engle found a way to communicate her Christian faith to a world struggling with the same: “If I’ve ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it,” L’Engle wrote in her journal about “A Wrinkle in Time.” “This is my Psalm of praise to life, my stand for life against death.”

R.E. Slater
March 13, 2018

“A Wrinkle in Time” author Madeleine L’Engle. (Crosswicks) 

Publishers rejected her, Christians attacked her: The deep faith of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/03/08/publishers-rejected-her-christians-attacked-her-the-deep-faith-of-a-wrinkle-in-time-author-madeleine-lengle/?utm_term=.88714a8525aa

March 8, 2018

It took 26 publisher rejections before Madeleine L’Engle could get “A Wrinkle in Time” into print in 1962. The book was an instant hit, winning the Newbery Medal the following year, but despite its wild success, L’Engle still had fierce critics — including a good number of them who disliked her book for faith reasons.

While L’Engle considered herself a devout Christian, and sprinkled the book with scriptural references, she was accused by some conservative Christians of promoting witchcraft and the occult — an accusation made later against “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.

The religious wariness likely also contributed to some publishers’ rejection of the book, but it didn’t stop “A Wrinkle in Time” from being popular for more than 50 years after it was finally saw the light.

A Disney film adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time,” which opens Thursday, stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine and Zach Galifianakis, and is directed by Ava DuVernay of “Selma.” In the story, 13-year-old Meg Murry, played in the film by Storm Reid, is guided by three angelic beings on a quest to find her father, a scientist who had gone missing.

“If I’ve ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it,” L’Engle wrote in her journal about “A Wrinkle in Time.” “This is my psalm of praise to life, my stand for life against death.”

Ava DuVernay's adaptation of the classic book has an all-star cast, including
Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.(Walt Disney Pictures)


Before she died in 2007 at age 88, L’Engle was the rare writer who ran in both liberal mainline Protestant circles and elite literary ones in New York City, and who also had made conservative evangelical fans around the country. L’Engle was part of an exclusive society of authors, including Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster and Philip Yancey, who remain popular among evangelical readers.

“Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys,” L’Engle wrote in her book “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.”

L’Engle is sometimes compared with 20th-century British author C.S. Lewis, who wrote popular children’s literature, as well as books defending and explaining the Christian faith. L’Engle graduated from Smith College, and a collection of her papers is held at Wheaton College, the evangelical school in the Chicago suburbs that also holds some of Lewis’s papers.

She wrote that publishers had trouble with “A Wrinkle in Time” “because it deals overtly with the problem of evil, and it was too difficult for children, and was it a children’s or an adult’s book, anyhow?”

“A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle. (Square Fish) 

A woman named Claris Van Kuiken, who was a member of the Christian Reformed Church, wrote a 1996 book titled “Battle to Destroy Truth,” tying L’Engle’s work to New Age spirituality. She argued that L’Engle’s works “preserved the ‘ancient wisdom’ or ‘secret doctrine’ condemned by God Himself.”

L’Engle was baffled and frustrated by some of the vitriol she faced from fellow Christians, her granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis said Wednesday. Although she once considered herself an atheist, after L’Engle became a Christian, she had a daily practice of reading the Bible and praying. Her granddaughter said L’Engle’s coming to her faith was slower “acceptance of what she had always known to be true,” rather than a sudden conversion moment.

“She was a Christian because she was deeply rooted in its traditions and language, and she was moved by and trusted in its stories,” Voiklis said.

Although L’Engle did not like denominational labels, she mostly attended Episcopal churches, serving for about four decades as a librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, an Episcopal church and one of the largest cathedrals in the world.

“The themes that are important in Christianity permeate her writing: good and bad, light and darkness,” said the Rev. Patrick Malloy, subdean of the cathedral. “She was open to questions and to looking at new ways to say old things.”

In the 1990s, L’Engle began attending Sunday services at All Angels Church, an Episcopal church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side known for attracting artists. She wanted the smaller community of All Angels but still attended noon prayer and evensong services at St. John the Divine, Voiklis said.

St. John the Divine Cathedral. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey) 

Voiklis, who co-authored “Becoming Madeleine,”said her grandmother’s faith informed everything she wrote, including numerous books, plays and poems.

“She preferred scientific metaphors, and scientists to theologians, because she understood that science is more open to revelation than religion,” Voiklis said. “Religion divides us into teams.”

L’Engle wrote that “A Wrinkle in Time” was her rebuttal to German theologians, who she complained were too rigid in their answers to cosmic questions. “It was also my affirmation of a universe in which I could take note of all the evil and unfairness and horror and yet believe in a loving Creator,” she wrote in “Walking on Water.”

But some conservative Christians took offense to elements of “A Wrinkle in Time,” including what they saw as relativism. The book lists Jesus alongside the names of famous artists, philosophers, scientists and Buddha.

The idea of conformity is one of the major themes in the novel, which was published during an era when Communism thrived. Conservative Christians were not only confused by the book, said Don Hettinga, an English professor at Calvin College, but they also proved its point by forcing conformity to a certain way of thinking.

“A Wrinkle in Time” author Madeleine L’Engle. (Crosswicks) 

L’Engle was not afraid to push buttons, said Luci Shaw, a poet, co-author, editor and a friend of L’Engle’s for more than three decades. She said L’Engle was a universalist, believing that all humankind will be invited into heaven, and she loved gay people at a time when many Christians were suspicious of them.

“Many conservative churches draw a circle, and certain people can’t enter the circle because they haven’t been baptized or committed themselves to Christ,” Shaw said. “Jesus drew a circle that was much bigger, and it included everybody. She had a broad sense that we’re all in this together, that God’s love is the power that runs the world.”

In some ways, L’Engle could be compared with Marilynne Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Gilead”; a member of the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ, Robinson still finds fans among conservative evangelicals. But L’Engle was likely more controversial because she was writing for children, said Sarah Arthur, author of a forthcoming biography of L’Engle titled “A Light So Lovely.”

“If Madeleine had backed off from theology, it would’ve been safer,” Arthur said. Her literary friends often didn’t understand why she had to write so much about faith, Arthur said, while she received criticism from some conservative Christians. Yet she straddled both the Christian publishing world and a nonreligious publishing world in ways most authors cannot.

Hollywood has sometimes struggled with films that have spiritual or religious undertones. The film “Noah” received backlash for its loose interpretation of biblical narratives. “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” about Moses, was criticized for whitewashing the characters. And some filmmakers don’t include religion at all: Angelina Jolie’s film “Unbroken,” an adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand’s book on Olympian Louis Zamperini, did not include his Christian conversion.

The film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic sci-fi fantasy novel “A Wrinkle in
Time” had its trailer debuted at the D23 Disney convention in Anaheim. (Reuters)

Early reviews of “A Wrinkle in Time” are mixed, drawing a 44 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And a film starring Oprah, who is also controversial among some conservative Christians, might not attract the same kind of crowd that soaked up films such as “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Blind Side” and Disney’s adaptation of Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

Arthur fears that the film could turn L’Engle’s work into a “ ‘power of positive thinking’ approach to spirituality.”

“There are a lot of people who believe the strength that you need to fight the darkness is in you,” Arthur said. “But it’s because they were connected to the source of light who is Jesus. If it’s unmoored from Madeleine’s Christian faith, it’s missing a big piece of the spiritual thrust of what she was doing.”

The film, which preserves “a more vague spirituality,” makes no effort to appeal to the moviegoing audience that typically flocks to Christian movies, writes Alissa Wilkinson, a film critic at Vox and an English professor at King’s College in New York City. Instead of including particulars about many religions, Wilkinson writes, the film smooths “them all out into a vague swirl of ‘love.’ ”

Would L’Engle have liked Hollywood’s adaptation? Her granddaughter, who saw an early version, said it gave her the “same feelings of inspiration and optimism” as the book.

Hettinga, who had not seen the film, believes L’Engle would have loved the reinterpretation that made the main character, Meg Murry, a black girl from an interracial marriage. For its time, L’Engle’s book was groundbreaking by portraying Murry’s mother as a well-educated scientist with two doctoral degrees.

“I think she would like something that caught the spirit and wouldn’t try to be literal,” Hettinga said.

SPB

* * * * * * * * * *


Additional References to L'Engel's work

“The wound is the place where the light [must] enter you.” – Rumi, Persian


One of the many themes of the movie speaks to the idea of conformity. Says L'Engel's daughter: "...The story wasn't a simple allegory of communism; in a three-page passage that was cut before publication, the process of domination is said to be an outcome of dictatorship under totalitarian regimes, AND by an excessive desire of security under democratic countries." Now isn't that interesting? It wasnt until a year ago in 2017 that many can now see the truth of how fear brings about so much damage to a society. - re slater


I loved the mystery and wonder in the first third of the movie and had wished it persisted throughout the script though at some point one has to acknowledge that each of us deserves love and that this affirmation needs to be repeatedly expressed enough until it finds a home within our souls against all the words and lies which too often lingers in our ears holding its message back. - re slater



Sunday, March 11, 2018

Toward Ecological Community & Civilization in Process Thought



As always I seem to be playing a little catch up with major events happening right under the bubble of economic/political news-events I never hear about or see. So here again I find another series of amazing discussions going on all around me while I am absorbed in my little worlds far, far away!

Not many years ago I obtained a Master Naturalist certification through Michigan State University's Community Extension School in which I became better acquainted with the green (land) and blue (water) ecological organizations in my area - locally, publicly, educationally, and in civic-minded townships, cities, and rural municipalities.

Certainly the linkages between these groups can be immense and wide as they are occurring everywhere at once not only in West Michigan where I live but across North, Central and South America. I found this to be true again when my wife and I travelled south to Mexico for a short vacation. There I saw glimpses of how the ancient Mayan people of the Yucatan Peninsula were trying to care for the land and water they depend despite the deep interruptions occurring across major commercial corridors of development. Like the efforts of many citizens in West Michigan, we hope to make an impact as we can upon the lives and consciousness of our fellow neighbors, communities and industrialists.

During the latter half of 2017 last year I began posting many articles on Process Thought in its derivative forms of Process Philosophy and Process Theology begun under the thinking of Alfred North Whitehead at the start of the 20th century. Much of this thinking is now being applied fundamentally towards what is known as "ecological societies" committed to "saving the earth" by re-envisioning how postmodern civilizations might live in harmony with one another as well as care for the precious resources we must share and cultivate with one another known as air, land and water. I find this heartening against the hard, cold facts of America's current Trumpian government's purposeful actions of denying and destroying everything necessary to restoring good earth practices back into our sphere/realm of influences and with our trading neighbors in general.

And so it is with great encouragement that I discovered a group of internationalists thinking along these same lines examining our behaviors and compacts with one another - how we might begin to improve our practices of consumption, reduce our ecological footprint upon this earth, and what it might mean to integrate human civilization into regional - if not global - green/blue communities.

Below is a list of topics and titles from the best of Whiteheadian thinking on ecological civilizations. Here is a world of envisioned alternative realities occurring from the best minds and hearts of progressive, process-based thinking by global citizens committed to humanity's best self rather than its too-often uglier side showcased in industrial pollution, oppressive governments, or nationalised militarization.

Yes. There can be another way. Another vision. A better reality than the one this world has made for itself. As a Christian I believe it begins with Jesus by following his code of love and goodwill. And from this ethic of belief to extend it both forwards and backwards into the recreation of renewed biotic communities of this earth we inhabit through the means of a Land Ethic once beautifully described by Aldo Leopold as inspiration to the efforts of all those who would heal the harms and wounds we have left upon so much of what we have touched. These are the grand visions and deep burdens of  people around the world. Visions and burdens to see practiced by humanity in its reforming legacies of international cooperation, communication, peace, love and harmonious care for one another and this old earth.

R.E. Slater
March 11, 2018



Information on this year's 2018 Ecological Civilization Conference:

Ecological Civilization and Symbiotic Development


Conference Purpose

It is no secret that both China and the world are facing many disturbing problems today, and that we are heading in the direction of an ecological catastrophe. Finding an alternative to the current form of modernization has become an urgent issue. What are the root causes of the current crisis? What are the philosophical, political, economic, and cultural foundations of this crisis? How do we step out of this predicament and avoid destroying the earth’s ecosystems? Are there alternatives to the Western civilization that has formed the modern era? Is a new civilization—an ecological civilization―possible? What is “ecological civilization”? What are its philosophical foundations and its social, political, and economic implications? What kinds of kinds of sustainable practices are emerging today that may help us to create an ecological society? What kind of role can China play in creating an ecological civilization? The 12th International Forum on Ecological Civilization will contribute fresh reflection on these burning questions from an organic, relational, non-dualistic perspective that is far more congenial to classical Asian thinking in general, Chinese in particular.

Cosponsors:

This Conference will be hosted by the Institute for Postmodern Development of China, EcoCiv, the Center for Process Studies, Pitzer College, Claremont Graduate University, The South China Institute of Environmental Science, the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China, Huanghe Science and Technology College, and others.

Plenary speakers:

John B. Cobb, Jr., David Korten, Holmes Rolston , Philip Clayton, Steven Rowe, Clifford Cobb and others will speak at this conference


Main Topics:

I. Core Theoretical Issues concerning Ecological Civilization
  • What is “ecological civilization”?
  • What are its philosophical foundations?
  • What are its social, political, and economic implications?
  • Ecological Civilization and Symbiotic Development
  • Ecological Civilization and Organic Thinking
  • Marxist Ecological Thought
  • Constructive Postmodernism and Ecological Marxism
  • Organic Marxism and Ecological Marxism
  • Process Philosophy and Ecological Civilization
  • Chinese Traditional Culture and Ecological Civilization
II. Constructing Ecological Civilization
  • How can we create an ecological civilization?
  • Ecological Civilization and Green Development
  • Ecological Civilization and Eco-cities
  • Ecological Civilization and Ecological Agriculture
  • Ecological Civilization and Ecological Economy
  • Ecological Civilization and Green Community
  • The Construction of Ecological Civilization in China
  • Constructing Ecological Civilization around the World
  • How to Tell the Story of Ecological Civilization: The Role of Ecological Literature
  • Ecological Civilization and Green Language
III. Ecological Civilization and Education
  • Ecological Civilization and Education Reform
  • Ecological Civilization and Educational Innovations
  • Ecological Civilization and Ecological Education
  • Ecological Civilization and Education with Roots
  • Ecological Civilization and Organic Education
Call for Papers

If you are committed to creating an ecological civilization and have interest in any of the above topics, you are invited to contribute a paper to the conference. Please submit a 1500 word abstract of your proposed conference paper. The deadline to submit your abstract is Feb. 28, 2018.

Contact Info:

Institute for Postmodern Development of China, USA
Email: eco-conference@postmodernchina.orgTel:909-450-1658
Fax: 909-621-2760



Toward Ecological Civilization Series

This series proposes that the work of Alfred North Whitehead provides the best alternative to the pervasive worldviews that now threaten our civilization with catastrophe. His comprehensive and rigorous philosophy provides the more organic, relation, integrated, nondual, and processive conceptuality needed to support the emergence of an ecological civilization.

This series is connected with the 10th International Whitehead Conference, held June 4-7, 2015, in Claremont, California. The conference, called “Seizing an Alternative,” convened international presenters and work groups from every major field in the sciences and humanities to explore a sustainable way forward for the Earth and its inhabitants. Continuing the work of the conference is Pando Populus–a platform created as a forum for events, discussion, education, and community – sometimes in physical, always in virtual, space.

Books in this series:

Organic Marxism, Philip Clayton and Justin Heinzekehr
Theological Reminiscences, John B. Cobb, Jr.
Integrative Process, Margaret Stout and Jeannine M. Love
Replanting Ourselves in Beauty, Jay McDaniel & Patricia Adams Farmer, eds.
For Our Common Home, John B. Cobb, Jr., & Ignacio Castuera, eds.
Whitehead Word Book, John B. Cobb, Jr.
Educating for an Ecological Civilization, Marcus Ford and Stephen Rowe, eds.
Socialism in Process, Justin Heinzekehr and Philip Clayton, eds.



Ecological civilization

Ecological civilization is the final goal of environmental reform within a given society. It implies that the changes required in response to global climate disruption are so extensive as to represent another form of human civilization, one based on ecological principles. Broadly construed, ecological civilization involves a synthesis of economic, educational, political, agricultural, and other societal reforms toward sustainability.[1]
Although the term was first coined in the 1980s, it did not see widespread use until 2007, when “ecological civilization” became an explicit goal of the Communist Party of China (CPC).[2][3] In April 2014, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization founded a sub-committee on ecological civilization.[4] Ecological civilization emphasizes the importance of a long-term perspective on the current climate crisis, the need for major environmental reforms, and the need to reimagine the nature of society after these reforms.[1]
History
In 1984, former Soviet Union environment experts proposed the term “Ecological Culture” (экологической культуры) in an article entitled “Ways of Fostering Ecological Culture in Individuals under the Conditions of Mature Socialism" which was published in Scientific Communism, Moscow, vol. 2.[5] A summary of this article was published in the Chinese newspaper the Guangming Daily, where the notion of ecological culture was translated into Chinese as 生态文明 (shēngtài wénmíng), or ecological civilization.[6]
Two years later, the concept of ecological civilization was picked up in China, and was first used by Ye Qianji (1909–2017), an agricultural economist, in 1987.[7][8] Professor Ye defined ecological civilization by drawing from the ecological sciences and environmental philosophy.[9]
The first time the phrase “ecological civilization” was used as a technical term in an English-language book was in 1995.[10] Roy Morrison, an environmentalist, coined the phrase in his book Ecological Democracy, writing that “An ecological civilization is based on diverse lifeways sustaining linked natural and social ecologies.”[11]
The term is found more extensively in Chinese discussions beginning in 2007.[2][3] In 2012, the Communist Party of China (CPC) included the goal of achieving an ecological civilization in its constitution, and it also featured in its five-year plan.[1][12] In the Chinese context, the term generally presupposes the framework of a “constructive postmodernism,” as opposed to an extension of modernist practices or a “deconstructive postmodernism,” which stems from the deconstruction of Jacques Derrida.[1]
Both “ecological civilization” and “constructive postmodernism” have been associated with the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.[1] David Ray Griffin, a process philosopher and professor at Claremont School of Theology, first used the term “constructive postmodernism” in his 1989 book, Varieties of Postmodern Theology.[13]
The largest international conference held on the theme “ecological civilization” (Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization) took place at Pomona College in June 2015, bringing together roughly 2,000 participants from around the world and featuring such leaders in the environmental movement as Bill McKibbenVandana ShivaJohn B. Cobb, Jr.Wes Jackson, and Sheri Liao.[14]
Since 2015, the Chinese discussion of ecological civilization is increasingly associated with an “organic” form of Marxism.[1] “Organic Marxism” was first used by Philip Clayton and Justin Heinzekehr in their 2014 book, Organic Marxism: An Alternative to Capitalism and Ecological Catastrophe.[15] The book, which was translated into Chinese and published by the People’s Press in 2015, describes ecological civilization as an orienting goal for the global ecological movement.[16]
A defence of ecological civilization as the ultimate goal of humanity, has been mounted by Arran Gare in The Philosophical Foundations of Ecological Civilization: A Manifesto for the Future[17] which was published in 2016.

See also

References


  1. Zhihe Wang, Huili He, and Meijun Fan, "The Ecological Civilization Debate in China: The Role of Ecological Marxism and Constructive Postmodernism—Beyond the Predicament of Legislation", last modified 2014, Monthly Review, accessed November 1, 2016.
  2. Zhang Chun, "China's New Blueprint for an 'Ecological Civilization'", last modified September 30, 2015, The Diplomat, accessed November 1, 2016.
  3. James Oswald, "China turns to ecology in search of ‘civilisation’", last modified August 3, 2016, Asian Studies Association of Australia, accessed November 1, 2016.
  4. Zhu Guangyao, "Ecological Civilization: A national strategy for innovative, concerted, green, open and inclusive development", last modified March 2016, United Nations Environment Programme, accessed November 1, 2016.
  5. Липицкий, В. С., "Пути формирования экологической культуры личности в условиях зрелого социализма," Вестн. Моск. ун-та. Сер. 12, Теория научного коммунизма 2 1984: p43.
  6. 张擅, “在成熟社会主义条件下培养个人生态文明的途径,” 光明日报, 18th February 1985.
  7. 中国生态农业奠基人108岁叶谦吉教授在重庆仙逝
  8. Arran Gare, [1], in Chromatikon V: Yearbook of Philosophy in Process, ed. Michel Weber and Ronny Desmet (Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses universitaires de Louvain, 2009): 167.
  9. Jiahua Pan, China's Environmental Governing and Ecological Civilization (Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag GmbH, 2016), 35.
  10. Jiahua Pan, China's Environmental Governing and Ecological Civilization (Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag GmbH, 2016), 34.
  11. Roy Morrison, Ecological Democracy (Boston: South End Press, 1995), 11.
  12. John B. Fullerton, "China: Ecological Civilization Rising?", last modified May 2, 2015, Huffington Post, accessed November 1, 2016.
  13. John B. Cobb, Jr., "Constructive Postmodernism", 2002, Religion Online, accessed November 1, 2016. See David Ray Griffin, William A. Beardslee, and Joe Holland, Varieties of Postmodern Theology (Albany, State University of New York Press, 1989)
  14. Herman Greene, "Re-Imagining Civilization as Ecological: Report on the 'Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization' Conference", last modified August 24, 2015, Center for Ecozoic Societies, accessed November 1, 2016.
  15. "Spotlight: Organic Marxism, China's ecological civilization drive in spotlight at int'l conference", last modified May 1, 2016, Xinhua News Agency, accessed November 1, 2016. See Philip Clayton and Justin Heinzekehr, Organic Marxism: An Alternative to Capitalism and Ecological Catastrophe (Claremont: Process Century Press, 2014).
  16. Philip Clayton and Justin Heinzekehr, Organic Marxism: An Alternative to Capitalism and Ecological Catastrophe, trans. Xian Meng, Guifeng Yu, and Lixia Zhang (Beijing: The People's Press, 2015).
  17. Jhttps://www.routledge.com/The-Philosophical-Foundations-of-Ecological-Civilization-A-manifesto-for/Gare/p/book/9781138685765