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
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

Saturday, December 8, 2018

How Panentheism Differs From Other Theistic Systems of God + Creation

Panentheism (not pantheism, look it up) states God and creation are deeply and essentially related. I usually think of creation as the fourth member of the trinity sans the God-part. This speaks to the sublime idea of intrinsic fellowship where each finds identity in the other, defines the other, gives purpose and meaning to the other.

Asked in another way, does God and His creation depend on each other? Yes. Do each need each other? Yes. Can either exist without the other? No. Now this is not how traditional theism would answer each question. In fact, quite the reverse in its severe separation between God and creation where there is a deep uncrossable divide between the Creator and the created thing.

However, from a panentheistic viewpoint the ontic relationship is honored - not lessened - as any theistic system would do. What is different is how panentheism wishes to heighten the idea of "relationship" between the Creator to His creation. Not remove it into the cold abyss of divine transcendency.

Divine Aloneness Might Be Correct, But It is Meaningless

As such, if we were to follow traditional theistic teachings to their conclusion then the Creator God of the cosmos becomes wholly unknown to creation, wholly removed from it, wholly Other to Himself alone. Divinely alone except to Himself - without relationship, connectedness, or meaning except to Himself alone. As a panentheist I am find with such a statement. But I also find it empties God of His meaning to us. If He wished to be God alone then fine. But He didn't and created the cosmos and all that is in it. And when He did everything changed. He "expanded" Himself, shared Himself, revealed Himself. Why? Out of Love. This is the "relational theology" piece of relational-panentheism.

As corollary, theism then teaches the Godhead to be a meaningless, empty, absent, un-presence to His universe. Meaning, God becomes sufficiently unrelateable. Which isn't what the Bible teaches when it states the the Divine Encounterer has Divinely Encountered His creation. That is, God revealed Himself. And when He did He did so from the basis of Love, not secondary Decree. Why? Because God revealed His personage, His essence, His being, which is love. He could not do otherwise.

Thus the Godhead's relationship to a created cosmos is based wholly on love. He did not will Himself to relate to us, but came to us in the fullness of His divine Being as relationship, one built from love. Not displeasure, not control, not judgment, not selfishness. But of Love.

Which then explains the basic substance of the cosmos... that in all its parts and entities it is highly, complexly related to itself as it is relatable. This is the observation panentheism would make over the self-excluding, self-hiding, nuanced statements of traditional theism built upon Hellenistic thoughts of gods and godliness. It might be right, but it is not biblical in the sense that God has come and revealed Himself. And for this Christmas season,... in Christ.

God as the Definition of All Things

But how can it be otherwise!? Because if creation isn't, then we aren't. It is by, and through, and from, God's love that we are, that we might become, that we find wholeness to one another and to our Creator. Essentially, God's "is-ness" gives to us our "are-ness". As significantly - and this is where panentheism comes back into play - "even... as... we give to God His "is-ness" and "are-ness". Not in ontic dependence as theism rightly describes, but in relational dependence, which makes all the difference to us, God's creation. Thus, both creation and Creator need each other, depend upon each other, find meaning and identity in each other. It takes away the cold idea that God doesn't need us and only deigns to be present with us when He arbitrarily chooses. I'd rather have a God that is near because He is near, and present, and working with creation in all its aspects.

To argue idealized Greek philosophies of divine transcendence, of wholly Otherness, of divine purpose without object or subject to love, only teaches a God whom we can never know as Father-God, Redeemer, Lord, or Savior. These are specious church arguments which would separate us from our God - not bring to us a God who needs His creation deeply, or is part of His creation essentially.

Now this should blow your mind up, if not d-ssettle you're very soul. Bam! Say again!? Bam! It's like seeing color for the first time in a black-and-white world of theology! Restated another way, "Creation is not an unimportant thing to God." It is not a mere insect or meaningless grammatical insert or conditional side-affect of grace. Creation is of God as God is integrally "related to" it. 

Panentheism is therefore different from cold classic theism too focused on separating creation from God in clever syllogisms of wit or theological bombasity. God should never be thought so easily removed from us, so easily separated from His creation, or made so unlike who He is. This is the meaning of "I AM" when God declares "who He is". He is - not simply all-sufficient within Himself (though not denied) - but in "necessary cosmic RELATIONSHIP" to creation.

God is the God of Relationships

This latter idea then gives to God His definitive "am-ness" to creation - otherwise He is without meaning to us. It's easy to say we aren't in classical theism while God is  - but it is not correct. If we aren't then God isn't - not in His ontic Being but in His essential role as Creator-God. 

For us, there is no God unless we are. But why would we be wrong to think otherwise? Because in traditional theology (if not logic itself) it sounds more profound to make God so great as to unlink Him from a creation He is forever tied to. The real profundity is that God is great because He is forever interlocked with creation. Forever bound to creation. Forever become a deep, deep part of creation. Not so with the Greek gods of mythology who treated men with scorn and disdain. Who, for purposes of defeating other competing gods, titans, or forces, ruthlessly used men.

The God of the Bible is never this. Never.

The God of the Bible is always present essentially, fully, and substantially bound to all that is. This is what stands behind the idea of "relational" panentheism. It is the fourth and last model drawn in the diagram below and distinctly different from all previous versions of panentheism which has preceded it. More so, relational panentheism is based upon "open and relation process theology." Which is why I've taken such pains over the years to describe what ORT is and means to us today.

The importance, or import, of this position is that it always tells us God is there for us. That He is in every moment recreating a broken creation in every possible way back to Himself as we allow Him. Thus Jesus, and thus the import of God's "Christmas" Advent to creation, which He entered into with Creation so purposefully, so personally. We call this moment of cosmic entrance God's divine incarnation who, born as man, paradoxically, was fully God even as He was fully man.

God's Advent into Creation

It was therefore at this first advent of the Spirit-God in a fleshly, physical, earthy presence in which we beheld God as Love beyond the words, statements, descriptions, visions, or actions of biblical narratives. This is who Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah is. Not a mere babe, nor mere man, but the God man - fully relatable, fully loving, fully suffering, fully tormented - in a world He must come to in the entirety of His Being. The Wholly Other is Here. And this makes all the difference in a world which would deny God's "Here-ness" not only spiritually, but physically in holy presence. I submit then that if it were not so then life isn't life, gives no hope, and loses its veracity in the absence of God.

Lastly, I leave the section in John below to finish my thoughts. Thank you.

R.E. Slater
December 7, 2018

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

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