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

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Process Theology: The Peace of Uncertainty



Introduction

I find here in Farmer's process reflection all the best of "open and relational theology" coupled with "process thought." In opposition is the egregiousness of hob-nailed booted theology which misses everything that is said here in her well written article. Yet it is in this space we must take off our boots if we are to learn to walk again upon this earth in the presence of God as we would amongst all things holy and divine.

R.E. Slater
September 3, 2019






The Spaciousness of Uncertainty

by Patricia Adams Farmer
September 3, 2019

In the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.
- Rebecca Solnit

In her book Hope in the Dark, writer and activist Rebecca Solnit argues a strong and eloquent case for uncertainty. Uncertainty? But no one likes that word. Don't we often remark that the worst part of waiting for news about a diagnosis or a lost dog or an unpredictable hurricane is the "uncertainty"? Today, we face serious, existential uncertainties in the larger world: Will we finally address climate change before it's too late? Is it, in fact, too late? How much more violence will we see before hate runs its present course? Will our democracy hold? All this uncertainty makes us crazy. That is, until we discover the riches inherent in uncertainty.
The elegance of Solnit's premise, which she develops in historical context, is this: "In the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act." And this—uncertainty itself—forms the basis for all hope. She explains: "Hope is the embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists." She's right. Certitude is deadly. I often hear extreme optimists, particularly religious ones, exclaim with certitude (which they mistake for faith): "God's in control! It's all good!" I hear pessimists, especially lately in the face of the Amazon's raging fires, say with the same certitude, "We're toast! It's too late, it's all over." Both of these expressions lead to apathy and inaction, to say nothing of mental health problems. It is between these extremes that the gift of uncertainty steps in to save us. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, when asked if she is an optimist or a pessimist, replies, "I am an optimist who worries a lot."

The idea of uncertainty from a spiritual viewpoint is a rich and fertile area for nurturing meaning and enthusiasm. And yes, hope itself. That's because in the spaciousness of uncertainty we come face to face with our freedom, not an illusory freedom, but authentic freedom to act, to make a difference to God and to the world. Freedom creates new worlds of possibility, but it also creates anxiety as it opens up possibilities for evil as well as for good. And so, our freedom is both a curse and a blessing. It fills us with the dread of uncertainty, but without it nothing would be real or fresh. Creation would end. Civilizations would cease.

As a process thinker and contemplative Christian, I embrace this sense of authentic freedom, even with the unpleasant side effect of uncertainty. I see God and the world as deeply interconnected—i.e., panentheism. To use religious language, we are in a covenantal relationship with God. We are co-creators with divinity, not inert chess pieces or puppets with the illusion of freedom. We possess authentic freedom to act and dream and change the world—a world of unrelenting uncertainty. But now we see that uncertainty is our best friend. Without it, it would be useless to do anything, to pray, to act, to write a letter to the editor, to protest. Nothing would count for anything without authentic freedom and its side kick, uncertainty.

In a Whiteheadian cosmology, uncertainty marks the character of every fresh droplet of experience in the universe. Every new moment is open and pliable and receptive until it becomes the past. In our human freedom, we have input, we have significance, we have power—albeit, limited. We are part of a whole universe infused with innate freedom, which means that even influencers like cancer cells and tyrants have input. But God has input, too. Always. In every fresh, becoming moment, God is at work. We may not see it or feel it, but God's presence imbues everything in the world, maybe not in an extrovert "Here I am!" sort of way, but rather in the quiet depth of things: in our sufferings and our joys, in our confusions and in our passion for a better world. God's power is not the kind of power that determines our fate like a master puppeteer; God's power is like the lure of oasis in a desert, an attraction, a beauty that we are so thirsty for that we choose it as we do a lover.

And so, God tenderly lures all creation toward the best possible choices given the circumstances. Of course, we humans often bulldoze over the best choice in favor of selfishness and greed and so break the heart of God on a daily basis. Nevertheless, love—the greatest power in the world—persists. As process theologian Marjorie Suchocki says, "God works with what is to bring about what can be." Such ongoing divine enticements toward joy and meaning and connection are driven by an unflagging cosmic love that beats quietly and patiently in the depths of the world, in the wings of the dragonfly, and in our cries for help.

So, yes, there is a kind of certainty, too, but it is not certainty of outcome or the certainty that "everything happens for a reason," or that "everything is in God's hands," but rather a faith in love itself, in beauty, in kindness—a trust in the power of creative transformation and resurrection possibilities, come what may. This is the firm, unwavering ground on which we stand.
I believe "God is love" as the New Testament says. And love never coerces or bullies or abandons or goes it alone. And so, in this thoroughly relational world, our faith in God is blended with the colors of empowerment within ourselves to create a fresh and more beautiful landscape. This means we have to be willing to accept uncertainty, even the anxiety of it.

If we have trouble accepting anxiety as a part of uncertainty, we may need to enlarge our palette to make room for several colors of feeling: contentment and restlessness, grief and joy, anger and forgiveness. All of this spaciousness helps Beauty do her work in the creation of a new world. Beauty, from a process standpoint, is not a pretty picture with monochromatic color of easy, uncomplicated feeling. It is not a Hallmark movie. Rather than a thin line of either/or, Beauty calls for a spacious, richly intense harmony of inclusion and transformation. Like the Psalmist of the Hebrew Bible who chooses all colors of feeling to be expressed in song and poetry, so maturity is learning to hold contradictory feelings in the wideness of God's mercy and love.

In the spaciousness of uncertainty, we can find a larger peace—Peace with a capital "P." This wider sense of Peace, Whitehead says, is primarily "a trust in the efficacy of Beauty." In this wideness filled with possibility and love, we can act, we can create, we make meaning. We can paint the world anew.






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