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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Listening to the Gospel of Christ over the Airs of Church Teachings

The following article below is the kind of discussion evangelicals always seem to be speaking among themselves using popular terms and concepts which have taken on a life of their own within their circles of theology. Doctrines which must be continually re-examined lest they go too far, or don't say enough, about Christianity's central biblical tenants and beliefs.

From a process perspective I would like to think of the atonement of Christ as a necessary and good result of the love of God for humanity bound by sin and needing release from its burden. Evangelicals would also agree to this concept but always seem to come at it from a "divine wrath" perspective with hell as the condition upon which every man or woman must confront.

True, evangelicals will admit to God's love as being a motivating factor for atonement, but I often suspect it never seems enough as they preach the judgment of God upon man for his/her sin condemning each to the fires of hell if not received. It seems God's wrath is evangelicalism's primary motivation for God's offer of redemption to mankind (I can still hear Billy Grahm's crusades echoing in my ears). At which point they begin splitting hairs as to whom God redeems or condemns (sheep vs. goats; or the tares (weeds) illustrations); whether His salvation is effectively for all or practically for some (the predestined or elect); whether salvation can truly be known or not (the Catholic angst); how efficacious salvation's effects might be (faith and works); and so on and so on and so on.

The doctrine of salvation is part of the many doctrinal labyrinths whose mazes spin this way and that having begun ages ago in the histories of the early church attempting to decipher salvation's effectiveness against persistent evil, oppression, persecution, and the death of God's people before corrupt and evil human agencies.

It's like looking at a cup of water and wondering whether the glass is half full or half empty. From an open-and-relational process perspective its a "half full kind of thing" which would more readily admit the need for atonement as an extension of God's love and fellowship back to all things created rather than to approach salvation from the wrath and judgment side of the divine (which pretty much is closed and determinative according to Calvinism's Reformed doctrines). And if this former, can then more easily speak to the need for sin to be resolved within the personage of Christ Jesus as evidenced in the Gospel narratives rather than attempt to drive it out of us by fear, threats and intimidation.

Christ moved among us not because of the hell we see or live through everyday but because of God's need to imbue wholeness within us who are unwhole, unwell, broken. Who need a Savior who can move us from our binds and burdens back into His fellowship, love, care, sustenance, and healing. Where heaven might be a reality now... not later. Because God and His love is a reality now. Who sees us as worthy of the hard work of redemption which may be started in our lives now rather than later. A reality whereby this sin-held world might be released one soul at a time from its evil. For love, not for wrath, Christ came into this world to redeem.

Having grown up in evangelic doctrine I find more satisfaction having stepped away from its "cup is half empty" perspectives back into the simplicities of Scripture's plain teachings. That God loves us and must reach out to us because of His great love. Not because we are doomed to hell and divine wrath because of our sin but because divine Love is the grace which explains and drives all of life.

I prefer to place the emphasis where it needs to be. This is not to discount sin which is plainly everywhere about. But for myself, a God who is all Judge and Jury seems less attractive a gospel than a God of all Grace and Majesty. And when it comes to how He deposed Himself within Himself on the Cross when taking on the sin of the world - it is enough for me to know that He came as a holy sacrifice willing to take our sin upon Himself without causing His Being to be any less than it was before He had undertaken this atoning act. Though rent by our sin He remained wholly in fellowship with Himself while remaining unrent ontologically. That as God, He could bear sin - and sin's penalty - and still be God in the act and the outcome. But I would expect God to be this kind of God, wouldn't you?

And so, while the article below can provide a provocative read it can also provide a narrowing of the human understanding of the Cross of Christ on Calvary's hill of Redemption when over-concentrating on the what, why, or how of its transaction. A divine transaction between a holy God reaching out into a broken world offering completeness, release and rest, from its daily burdens and hardships when continually confronted by the sin and evil present within its broken provide.

Lastly, and with a word of caution, I urge readers not to be drawn away into useless arguments of the Cross or of God but to always learn to discern where God would place the emphasis of His gospel - rather than how our own human hearts might hear or think of it. We've all listened to music stripped of its beats, tempos, or rhythms from the original score, making it into something else. But when this latter is brought into the music it can soar under the hand of the composer who had wrought it. This is as true of the bible, of God, of our lives, as with anything else. Sometimes we need to listen to the heart of God over our own hearts which would misread or misinterpret God's soaring music of the Good News of the Gospel which is  found in Christ Jesus our Savior and Risen Lord.


R.E. Slater
April 4, 2018

* * * * * * * * * *

Is the Wrath of God Really Satisfying?

God’s anger against sin is real on Good Friday, but he doesn’t “turn his face away” from the Cross.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words come from the lips of Jesus as he hangs on the cross (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34). They are powerful and haunting, and they are surely very important. But what do they mean—how are we to understand them?
For many who hold this view, the Trinity is somehow “broken” as the communion between the Father and the Son is ruptured in the darkness of that Friday afternoon. And this is said to be good news and the heart of the gospel because Jesus absorbs the wrath of God in taking the exact punishment we deserve. God is changed from wrath to mercy and can no longer justly punish those for whom Christ died.Here is one line of thinking that has recently become very popular in some circles. According to C. J. Mahaney, this cry from the lips of Jesus is the “scream of the damned.” He takes this line from R. C. Sproul who exclaims that when Jesus is crucified it is “as if a voice from heaven said, ‘Damn you, Jesus.’” This is because Jesus becomes the “virtual incarnation of evil” and even “the very embodiment of all that sin is.” Thus God abandons Jesus, turns his back on him, “curses him to the pit of hell” and “damns” him.
Such preaching is very powerful. But is it right? We should, of course, want to proclaim all that the Bible says about the work of Christ (at least as much as we are able), and we should be committed to affirming all that this teaching implies (what older theologians called “good and necessary” consequences). But we should also be very cautious about going beyond what is explicitly taught or implied— especially where the Christian tradition warns us. And we should strive to avoid anything that goes against biblical teaching and theological orthodoxy. So what are we to make of such teaching?

The Scream of the Damned?

We should be faithful to proclaim all that Scripture teaches, but we should be cautious about going beyond it. And here we must be blunt: Scripture nowhere says that Jesus’s cry of dereliction is “the scream of the damned.” Sproul says that “it is as if” there is a voice from heaven that says “Damn you, Jesus,” but in fact, there is no such voice. Jesus Christ is nowhere said in Scripture to be the “virtual incarnation of evil” or “the very embodiment of all that sin is.” To the contrary, he is the incarnation of goodness—he is holiness incarnate as truly human.
There is no biblical evidence that the Father-Son communion was somehow ruptured on that day. Nowhere is it written that the Father was angry with the Son. Nowhere can we read that God “curses him to the pit of hell.” Nowhere is it written that Jesus absorbs the wrath of God by taking the exact punishment that we deserve. In no passage is there any indication that God’s wrath is “infinitely intense” as it is poured out on Jesus. Such statements may pack a lot of rhetorical punch, but they go far beyond what Scripture teaches.
Of course, not all “going beyond” is going against, but sometimes the tradition warns us that “beyond” has become “against.” I have argued elsewhere that important patristic, medieval, and Reformation teaching denies these claims, but consider these statements (from theologians well known for their defense of a version of the doctrine of “penal substitution”). John Calvin says that “we do not admit that God was ever hostile to him, or angry (iratum) with him. For how could he be angry with his beloved Son, ‘in whom his soul delighted?’”
Similarly, Charles Hodge denies that the atoning work of Christ “consist[s] in an exact quid pro quo, so much for so much,” and he says that Christ “did not suffer either in kind or degree what sinners would have suffered.” It is tough to argue against Hodge here, for if sin deserves eternal separation from God and eternal conscious punishment (as traditional Reformed and much evangelical theology insists), then clearly this is not what Jesus receives.

One Triune God

Just as we must be cautious not to go beyond what Scripture says, so also we should not proclaim anything that goes against biblical teaching (or its “good and necessary” entailments). I have made the case elsewhere that while it is clear that the Father abandoned the Son to death on the cross, there is no good reason to think that this causes a rupture— or even a “strain” or “tension”—within the Triune life.
Not only is there no biblical text that says that the Father “turns his face away” from the Son, the passage that most plausibly speaks to the matter actually says that God did not do so. For if we take Psalm 22 to be important for our understanding of the cry of dereliction (as both Mark and Matthew clearly do), then we find these words: “he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (Ps. 22:24). And the steady drumbeat of the apostolic preaching of the gospel has this consistent refrain: You killed him, but God raised him from the dead.
Finally, the “broken Trinity” and “God against God” views run aground on the doctrines of divine impassibility and simplicity as well as the doctrine of the Trinity. According to Christian orthodoxy, it not even a possibility that the Trinity was broken. If we know anything about the Trinity, we know that God is one God in three persons, and we know that God’s life is necessarily the life of holy love shared in the eternal communion of the Father, Son, and Spirit. To say that the Trinity is broken—even “temporarily”—is to imply that God does not exist.

The Just For the Unjust

We must not go beyond or against Scripture, but we should do our best to affirm all that Scripture says. So then, what can we say of the cry of dereliction? First, we should see that the biblical depiction of the human condition makes it clear—painfully and depressingly clear—that we are sinners. We are all sinners (Rom. 3:23), and we are helpless to rescue or repair or somehow save ourselves. We have the problem of what we’ve done and the wreckage we’ve caused; our sin and guilt and shame are undeniable and unshakable. But this isn’t all, for we have the further problem of who we are, what we’ve become, and what we will continue to do if we are not radically transformed. To use the language of older theology, we are both polluted and guilty.
Death is the consequence of sin (Rom. 6:23). And because of our sin, the wrath of God is being revealed (Rom. 1:18). Our days “pass away” under God’s wrath (Ps. 90:9). God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient (Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:5–6). Indeed, we are “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3, ESV).
Second, we should understand the work of Christ on our behalf within the storyline of Scripture: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). His work addresses our condition— both the guilt and the pollution. Jesus Christ reverses the disobedience and unfaithfulness of Adam and Israel. Drawing on an ancient theological insight, we can say that in becoming human the divine Son of God “recapitulates” (or “re-heads”) humanity. The incarnation is itself redemptive, and it is his entire life, death, and resurrection (as well as his ascension and session—Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven) that brings salvation to us.
In becoming fully human as Jesus Christ, the Son enters our brokenness and takes upon himself the “curse” caused by humanity’s sin. Thus the incarnate Christ unites himself to those under the wrath of God and suffers death. Christ’s work on our behalf is thus grounded in his incarnate person; it includes his teaching and example (1 Pet. 2:21) and culminates in his glorious defeat of sin and death (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:54–57; Heb. 2:14).
To say that Christ “died in accordance with the Scriptures” is to see his work within the broad biblical storyline that begins with Adam and focuses on Israel. More precisely, this includes seeing it in light of the Old Testament witness to both the wrath of God and the sacrifices offered for sin. The New Testament draws these connections, and it presents Jesus as the one who is both priest and sacrifice, both representative and substitute.
Jesus has come to ransom others (e.g., Mark 10:45). His suffering is not merely physical (Matt. 26:38), as his intimate union with humanity makes him deeply aware of their sin and its consequences. His death was “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet. 3:18). He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” to be a “sin offering” and to “condemn sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). He redeemed us from the curse of the law by “becoming a curse for us” in his death (Gal. 3:13). We are “saved from God’s wrath” by Christ (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10). The one who was sinless (e.g., Heb. 4:15) and who “had no sin” became “a sin offering” (not a sinner) on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, “‘bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24; compare Isa. 53:5–6).
Note carefully the statement “so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” We cannot afford to miss the union and participation here—Christ lived with and for us and died for our sins so that we might die to our sins and live with and for him. Nor can we afford to miss the intention; it is so that we might be transformed, so that we might be truly righteous.
Christ was a sacrifice for us so that we might live as people who are holy (e.g., Eph. 5:2–21). His sacrifice was to “do away with sin” (Heb. 9:26). It was to cleanse us from sin—the “acts that lead to death” (Heb. 9:14; 10:10). Christ was a “sin offering” precisely so that we will “not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4)—so that “we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). As a result of Christ’s work, we can be “freed from our sins” by the one who loves us (Rev. 1:5).
We should be committed to proclaiming all that Scripture says about what Christ did for us. So we should not shrink from clarity about sin and its awful and horrific consequences. Indeed, we should be faithful to point out that “wrath remains” on all who reject the Son (John 3:36). At the same time, however, we are not at liberty to restrict our understanding of the intents, purposes, and breadth of Christ’s work.
Narrowing Christ’s work to the limited sense of taking the punishment for our sins can cause us to miss (much of) the point. Yes, Christ came to get us out of hell, but he also came to get hell out of us and to make us holy as we walk in communion with the Triune God. We should be faithful to proclaim that while Christ’s sacrificial work saves us from the wrath of God, it does so precisely as it radically transforms and changes us.
To say or imply that the Trinity is broken is to say or imply that God does not exist. This is exactly what we should seek to avoid saying on Good Friday and every other day. To the contrary, the holy love of the Triune life is the ground and wellspring of salvation: God “demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). “God is love,” and “this is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world ... as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:8–10). This we joyfully proclaim.
Thomas H. McCall is professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and professorial fellow in analytic and exegetical theology at the University of St Andrews. His most recent book is An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology (IVP Academic, 2015).