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
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
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

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Towards a Process Philosophy of Ecological Neuroscience



Scientific discovery game significantly speeds up neuroscience ...
Neuron Activity inside the brain


Towards an Ecological Neuroscience:
Aspects of the Nature of Things
According to Process Philosophy

by S. David Stoney
Ph.D.Dept of Physiology
December 17, 2001

"There are deep similarities between Whitehead's idea of the process by which nature unfolds and the ideas of quantum theory. Whitehead says that the world is made of actual 'occasions', each of which arises from potentialities created by prior actual occasions. These actual occasions are 'happenings' modeled on experiential events, each of which comes into being and then perishes, only to be replaced by a successor. It is these experience-like 'happenings' that are the basic realities of nature, according to Whitehead, not the persisting physical particles that Newtonian physics took [to] be the basic entities.
Similarly, Heisenberg says that what is really happening in a quantum process is the emergence of an 'actual' from potentialities created by prior actualities. In the orthodox Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory the actual things to which the theory refer[s] are increments in 'our knowledge'. These increments are experiential events. The particles of classical physics lose their fundamental status: they dissolve into diffuse clouds of possibilities. At each stage of the unfolding of nature the complete cloud of possibilities acts like the potentiality for the occurrence of a next increment in knowledge..." Henry P. Stapp, author of Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics, in an invited paper at the Silver Anniversary International Whitehead Conference, Claremont, CA, August 4-9, 1998. See http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/wh2.txt

Neurologic Manifestations of Hughes Syndrome - Neurology Advisor

I. Introduction.

The problem, of course, with the materialistic approach is that it doesn't validate that which is the only thing we are really sure of, our own experience. This is dangerous for ourselves as persons of value and for science. Whitehead's bold step was to presume the reality of experience and process all the way up, from the most "elementary" of particles to the mind of God, so to speak. The biologist, Conrad H. Waddington, described Whitehead's idea as follows:

"Whitehead was bold enough to take on, face to face, the most difficult of intellectual problems - the fact that each one of us has a conscious experience, whereas in science we try to account for the behavior or things by means of concepts or entities - atoms, waves, fundamental particles, and so on - whose definition does not contain any reference to consciousness. Whitehead argued that this is not good enough: you have either got to have consciousness, or at least something of that general kind, everywhere, or nowhere; and since it is obviously in us, and cannot be nowhere, it must therefore be everywhere, presumably mostly in very rudimentary form." Conrad A. Waddington, cited in John A. Jungerman, World in Process: Creativity and Interconnection in the New Physics, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, pgs. 86 & 87, 2000.

David Ray Griffin had this to say about the universality of experience:

"Panexperientialism [another name for process philosophy] is based upon the... assumption that we can, and should, think about the units comprising the physical world by analogy with our own experience, which we know from within. The supposition, in other words, is that the apparent difference in kind between our experience, or our "mind," and [other] entities... is an illusion, resulting from the fact that we know them in two different ways: we know our minds from within, by identity, whereas in sensory perception... we know [other entities] from without. Once we realize this, there is no reason to assume them really to be different in kind." David Ray Griffin, Religion and Scientific Naturalism: Overcoming the Conflicts, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, pg. 2000.

So, process thought views experiential events, understood as actual occasions, not substances, as fundamental. Although brief, actual occasions bring forth, over and over again, the objective world and our awareness of it. The following description, which relies heavily on the mercifully short introductory chapter in Jungerman's (see above) book, will present, in a somewhat didactic form, a brief description of the basic features of the process approach. This chapter from Jungerman's book is on reserve at the MCG library. The other books and copies on reserve at the MCG Library have more thorough descriptions.

Female Central Nervous System,artwork Stock Photo, Picture And ...

II. Some important process ideas.
(See Figure below from Jungerman, pg. 11, see )

  • Actual occasions, understood as experiential events, are primary, not substances ("mere matter").
  • Each event feels the feelings of - is connected to (i.e., prehends) - earlier events as well as the dominant occasion of experience of the universe. Actual occasions are "drops of experience."
  • Although strongly influenced by the past, events have aims (goals), namely to maximize creativity and intensity of feeling, that arise due to their participation with more dominant occasions of experience.
  • Thus, events have some capacity, however slight, to select among alternatives. This allows for novelty.
  • Immediately upon grasping or incorporating the feelings of past events and potential goals, the actual occasion "perishes" into objectivity, becoming data (potentiality) for the next actual occasion, which immediately succeeds it.
  • This process makes concrete a novel, present unity with duration, in which the prehensions and the subjective goals are integrated. Whitehead calls this process of self-determination a "concrescence."
  • An event that has completed it's concrescence has achieved satisfaction and becomes "objectively immortal" as a datum to be prehended by future experiential events.
  • Thus existence is a series of coming into beings (concrescences), each occasion of which brings the world with it as data (See and reference 8, especially Kevin O'Regan's notion of "the world as an outside memory," in the Introduction).
  • Subjects and objects are different in time, not in kind.
  • Compound individuals (societies of prehensions with dominant occasions of experience; such as living creatures) must be distinguished from mere aggregates (societies of actual occasions without dominant members; such as rocks).
  • Any creature is a highy integrated, dynamic pattern of interdependent events. Its parts contribute to, and are modified by, the unified activity of the whole, i.e., by the dominant occasion of experience.
  • The dominant occasion of experience integrates the lower level actual occasions into a unity of purpose. For human beings, the dominant occasion of experience constitutes the mind (or psyche, or soul) and the integration of the experience of all subordinate actual occasions provides for conscious awareness from an embodied perspective.
  • Existence is becoming: The many become one and are increased by one
  • Most experience is nonconscious (nonsensory) experience. All actual occasions share in having nonconscious experience; conscious experience arises in only a few compound individuals.
  • The universe appears interconnected by a web of prehensions and probably has its own dominant occasion of experience.
  • For any actual occasion, the future is open, i.e., unpredictable because of the alternatives (potentialities) available to it. This is the basis for the appearance of novelty.
  • Conscious awareness is not an unbroken stream of experience, but rather is a series of experiential events, each of which has spatial as well as temporal extension.
  • Memory and perception are alike in that they each are an intuition of previous actualities




Jungerman describes this figure as follows:

"The event begins with a prehension, a grasping of previous events, including the prior events of the enduring society to which it belongs, by the physical pole. The physical pole is the part of the event that interacts with the external world. This information passes into the mental pole. The mental pole is internal to the the event. It synthesizes the data coming to the physical pole with the goals of this becoming event. This process is termed a concrescence. When the synthesis is accomplished, all the data are simplified in a satisfaction... The mental pole's creative simplification by selection among alternatives may lead to increased intensity of experience and to novelty. It may lead to a new whole (synthesis) through emergence with other events. On the other hand, a single electron's experience may be viewed as being so dominated by its physical pole that upon concrescence its characteristics are repeated over and over. It becomes an enduring individual that retains the same character over a long period of time. After its satisfaction, an event is said to be objectively immortal, as it becomes a datum to be prehended by future events. Note that the event takes place in a finite time, which flows from the past to the future..." (pg. 11 & 12)

Nicholas Rescher, in Process Metaphysics (see), notes that this approach is a point of view that accepts that processes and activities are more important than things and substances. He listed the following differences:




III. Prehensions

The importance of this concept cannot be overstated. Each actual occasion prehends - i.e., grasps or incorporates - data from the past, as well as subjective aim from dominant occasions of experience. Thus, an actual occasion is an action.

In addition to such positive prehensions, negative prehensions, which can exclude the sharing of feelings can also occur. Jungerman describes prehension as follows:

"Prehension describes the connection between past and present events, no matter how elementary. The present event, which is partially self-determining, makes a creative selection among data from all past events and from alternative future possibilities, goals, or aims. Such aims are only potentialities until the selection actualizes them... At some level we are aware of the mysterious 'otherness' of our fellows creatures and take them into ourselves, informing our own actuality - not just in appreciation, but rather in recognizing that the 'other' is [sic] in some sense constitutes ourselves. We are all inextricably linked in the matrix of creation " (pg. 7 & 8)

At a more concrete level of description, consider Charles Hartshorne's words (which describe, I believe, the doorway to understanding of placebo effects):

"Cells can influence our human experiences because they have feelings that we can feel. To deal with the influences of human experiences on cells, one turns this around. We have feelings that cells can feel." (pg. 12)

Babys Nervous System Stock Photos & Babys Nervous System Stock ...


Illustration of a baby's brain and nervous system Stock Photo ...


IV. Dominant occasions of experience

No doubt there is a dominant occasion of experience for the event known as a hydrogen atom, just as there are dominant occasions of experience for the events known as you and I. The prehension of the proton by its electron (and vice versa) no doubt gave rise to an experience that is, from our perspective, indescribable, except to say that there presumably is more enjoyment associated with that concrescence than, for example, with the concrescence of the quarks and gluons that make up the proton. The idea that societies of actual occasions, especially those associated with compound individuals, are capable of more enjoyment and more complex experiences than simple assemblies of events is fundamental to process thought. Failure to take note of this feature is one of the most common, erroneous reasons for dismissing panexperientialism: "Oh, those folks are crazy, they believe that electrons (or rocks) are conscious."

Process thought explicitly recognizes that creation of order, increasing complexity, and emergence of novelty are historical facts. Such an outcome is, according to process thought, the natural outcome of a society of occasions of experience maximizing its satisfaction or enjoyment. Jungerman quotes Waddington in this regard:

"Whitehead insisted that an event is not merely an assemblage of numerous relations between many different things thrown together in a disorderly heap. On the contrary the various 'feelings' of one for another are organized into something with a specific and individual character... Organization occurs when the relations are of such a kind that they tend to stabilize the general pattern against influences which might disturb it. That is to say, organization confers on the entity an enduring individuality which a mere assemblage lacks." (pg. 118)

In this regard, I believe that it is noteworthy that Whitehead's metaphysics leads naturally to an introduction of the divine. I simplistically [can now] view the divine "as a field of pure positive affect that pervades the entire universe and which participates with the dominant occasion of experience of that universe." The accord between modern science and process theology means that the estrangement between religion and science may dissipate in a reconstructive postmodern era. Given the threat to societal stability posed by abrupt global climate change, it is comforting that we may be able to use all the tools at our disposal to meet that enormous challenge to human progress.

Reincarnation, the 'Interlife', Universal Consciousness & the ...

V. Why bother?

Isn't the present primarily physicalist approach close enough for government work? Well, yes, provided that the goal is to maintain the status quo and continue the current modern trajectory toward a deconstructive postmodern ("posthuman") future where we can all take great delight in being naught but souless "bags of genes and chemicals" bumping about in a blighted environment. If perchance that does not seem desirable, then perhaps it is time to admit that 100% allegiance to the present approach may be suicidal. Isn't neuralism, especially in conjunction with a "revolt of the elite" - for whom the accumulation of more and more 'stuff,' without relation to actual need, has become the highest good - quite nihilistic toward human value, not to mention survival of the world as a viable ecosystem?

I suggest taking a bold step. Integrate information about abrupt global climate change into our base of conscious knowledge so that it can act as a "cognitive capstone," deflecting the trajectory of embodied human consciousness away from its highly alienated, 'posthuman' target and towards a more humane, postcritical mindscape. According to this scheme, the competitive, tribal mentalities that have dominated the first part of this interglacial phase must give ground to more cooperative, postcritical, participatory mentalities not dominated by unconscious fear. A postcritical worldview will consciously recognize abrupt global climate change and the critical need to break free of the conditioned thinking of the past where 'our knowledge' of abrupt global climate change has been almost entirely in the form of unconscious fear. The figure below illustrates some alternative trajectories for embodied human consciousness.


As alluded to above, the data about cyclic climate change - at least for the last three million years or so of earth's geologic history - where long, cold, arid glacial phases have been interrupted by short, warm, wet interglacial phases, is startling and very worrisome. The last three million years was, by the way, the period when the hominid line diverged from its primate forebears, leading, according to the fossil record, to the appearance of modern Homo sapiens with brains such as ours in size, around 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. This data is, at least in broad outline, firm and widely accepted.


"Cyclic climate pattern of alternating cold, dry glacial periods and warm, wet interglacial periods. This pattern has prevailed during the current ice age, which has lasted for three million years. Transitions between glacial and interglacial phases may occur within as short a period of time as a decade. Marked variations in sea level occurred near the end of the last two interglacial periods. Upward slope of interglacial phase temperatures reflect the progressive decrease in earth's albedo as the polar ice caps shrink. Insert shows rapid fluctuations in temperature that occurred during the last glacial phase."

So, our best guesses are that the three million year old climate cycle continues and the currently warming interglacial phase will come to an end, perhaps abruptly, perhaps soon. What we don't know is exactly when and how the next glacial phase will begin. However, to wait until we do know "for sure" will almost certainly be too late. Even though we have developed practically all the tools (except perhaps the political will and spiritual fortitude) we need to deal with this problem during the first part of this interglacial phase, we should not underestimate the resistance that will arise to changing the ways we do business.

If we have 100 years to get used to the fact that those of us who live in northern latitudes are merely 'renters,' well, then we could probably do a little. If we have 500 years we could do a great deal. To put it into stark terms, consider that contemporary thought forms appear to be able to do relatively little towards stemming population growth. This makes it probable that interglacial phase population growth will approximate the curve shown in part A of the figure below: population increases as long as food supply allows.


The problem for the postcritical mind: Learning to learn to live in an ecologically sustainable way during interglacial phases.

Now, in the event of a rapid cooling (or worse, a "1-2 punch" of rapid warming and sea level rise followed by rapid cooling) the population downsizing will almost certainly be extremely catastrophic. Is that how this phase of civilization is going to end? Let's at least try opening ourselves to a new infusion of creativity and novelty for the last part of this interglacial period.

Surely we should work towards having a population that will be closer to a level sustainable through the transition to the next glacial phase. Surely we should work for the maintenance of civilization, freedom, and the individualized modes of consciousness that civilization supports. Who knows what can be accomplished in our society if we Homo sapiens sapiens are willing to work together, if we are willing to strive to be an example for the rest of the world.

If not, if we bow our heads and slink into the posthuman future of denial, alienation, and despair, then the question must arise as to whether or not human beings are truly conscious. What use is freedom without consciousness?

VI. References and Notes

1. The disutility of conceiving of human beings in strictly physicalist terms was addressed with vigor by philosopher/scientist Michael Polanyi:

"The ideal of strictly objective knowledge, paradigmatically formulated by Laplace, continues to sustain a universal tendency to enhance the observational accuracy and systematic precision of science, at the expense of its bearing on its subject matter...[Science may be characterized as harboring] a misguided intellectual passion - a passion for achieving absolutely impersonal knowledge which, being unable to recognize any persons, presents us with a picture of the universe in which we ourselves are absent. In such a universe there is no one capable of creating and upholding scientific values; hence there is no science."

The story of the Laplacean fallacy suggests a criterion of consistency. It shows that our conceptions of man and human society must be such as to account for man's faculty in forming these conceptions and to authorize the cultivation of this faculty within society. Only by accrediting the exercise of our intellectual passions in the act of observing man, can we form conceptions of man and society which both endorse this accrediting and uphold the freedom of culture in society. Such self-accrediting, or self-confirmatory, progression will prove an effective guide to all knowledge of living beings." (Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, 1958. Emphasis added)

2. John A. Jungerman, World in Process: Creativity and Interconnection in the New Physics, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, pgs. 86 & 87, 2000.

3. Henri Bergson, in Introduction to Metaphysics (NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons, pg. 12, 1912), expressed it this way:

"...to live is to grow old. But it may just as well be compared to a continual rolling up, like that of a thread on a ball, for our past follows us, it swells incessantly with the present that it picks up on its way; and consciousness means memory."

4. Nicholas Rescher, Process Metaphysics: An Introduction to Process Philosophy, Albany, NY: SUNY Press, pg. 35, 1996.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Jay McDaniel - Process Pluralism as an Antidote to Hate



Photo: Susannah Stubbs, Artist in Residence, Open Horizons


​Process Pluralism as an antidote to
the Ideology of Hate

In appreciation of, and response to, David Brooks'
"The Ideology of Hate and How to Fight It"

excerpts from David Brooks' Opinion essay in NY Times, August 5, 2019


1. Mass murderers are inspired by a shared ideology

"Many of today’s mass murderers write manifestoes. They are not killing only because they’ve been psychologically damaged by trauma. They’re not killing only because they are pathetically lonely and deeply pessimistic about their own lives. They are inspired to kill by a shared ideology, an ideology that they hope to spread through a wave of terror." (David Brooks, NY Times, August 5, 2019)

​2. Their ideology is antipluralism: a yearning for "clear borders, settled truths, and stable identities" and a reaction against the "diversity, fluidity, and interdependent nature of modern life."

"Trumpian nationalists, authoritarian populists and Islamic jihadists are different versions of antipluralism.These movements are reactions against the diversity, fluidity and interdependent nature of modern life. Antipluralists yearn for a return to clear borders, settled truths and stable identities. They kill for a fantasy, a world that shines in their imaginations but never existed in real life." (David Brooks, NY Times, August 5, 2019)

3. Mass murderers share this ideology with ethnic nationalists, authoritarian populists, and Islamic jihadists, although the latter may not resort to violence. 

The antipluralist ideology need not include incitements to violence, but it lends itself to violence against "others" who threaten "clear borders, settled truths, and stable identities." (Jay McDaniel)

4. The alternative to antipluralism is pluralism. It is a belief that each person is a "symphony of identities" and that no one is reducible to a single label. In the language of Whitehead, each person is an ongoing process of of assimilating many influences into one moment, in the context of which a person becomes "new" moment-by-moment.

"The struggle between pluralism and antipluralism is one of the great death struggles of our time, and it is being fought on every front...We pluralists do not believe that human beings can be reduced to a single racial label. Each person is a symphony of identities. Our lives are rich because each of us contains multitudes." (David Brooks, NY Times, August 5, 2019)

5. Pluralists believe that "mixing" and "amalgamating" is good and that a "pure culture is a dead culture."

"Pluralists believe that culture mixing has always been and should be the human condition. All cultures define and renew themselves through encounter. A pure culture is a dead culture while an amalgam culture is a creative culture. The very civilization the white separatists seek to preserve was itself a product of earlier immigration waves." (David Brooks, NY Times, August 5, 2019)

6. Pluralists believe that life is an adventure in diversity and dialogue.

​"Finally, pluralism is the adventure of life. Pluralism is not just having diverse people coexist in one place. It’s going out and getting into each other’s lives. It’s a constant dialogue that has no end because there is no single answer to how we should live....Life in a pluralistic society is an ever-moving spiral. There are the enemies of pluralism ripping it apart and the weavers of community binding it together. There is no resting spot. It’s change, fluidity and movement all the way down." (David Brooks, NY Times, August 5, 2019)

7. Pluralists believe that the idea of a pure, static world is an illusion and that life is about movement, interdependence, and life.

"The terrorists dream of a pure, static world. But the only thing that’s static is death, which is why they are so pathologically drawn to death. Pluralism is about movement, interdependence and life. The struggle ahead is about competing values as much as it is about controlling guns and healing damaged psyches. Pluralism thrives when we name what the terrorists hate about us, and live it out." (David Brooks, NY Times, August 5, 2019)

​​8. Process Pluralists add a cosmology to what Brooks says, partly rooted in insights from physics. They believe that what David Brooks says of the world is likewise true of the universe. 

They believe that the universe as a whole is vast network of inter-dependent creative inter-becoming, and that antipluralists are fighting against the very grain of a creative, dynamic process of inter-becoming. (Jay McDaniel)

​9. Process Pluralists believe that the universe of inter-becoming is enfolded within a self-conscious Life (God) and that process pluralism can have a faith dimension.

​For process pluralists -- sometimes called open and relational theoloians -- God is not a tyrant in the sky but rather a sky-like Mind who embraces the whole of the universe. God feels the feelings of all living beings with tender care and inwardly beckons human beings to live with compassion, creativity, and wisdom concerning the interconnectedness of things and the needs of fellow creatures. God, too, is in process. This means that antipluralists are hiding from the will, and the yearnings, of the Soul of the universe. (Jay McDaniel)

10. Process Pluralists add that people need community and the natural world to live happily and wisely.

The social ideal of process pluralism is to help build communities are compassionate, creative, participatory, multicultural, multifaith, humane to animals, good for the earth, and spiritually satisfying, with no one left behind. Process pluralists speak of these as the building blocks of ecological civilizations: the best and only hope of humankind. (Jay McDaniel)

The best way to fight the ideology of hatred, and the violence which is sometimes give rise, is not to moralize incessantly or to argue, but to help build these communities, working with the antipluralists whenever and wherever possible, understanding their need to secure identities, helping them find community. Such communities need strong and enforceable laws, but generous spirits. (Jay McDaniel)


Photo: Susannah Stubbs, Artist in Residence, Open Horizons


* * * * * * * * * * *


THE IDEOLOGY OF HATE AND
HOW TO FIGHT IT: DAVID BROOKS

​In his Opinion Column of August 5, 2019, David Brooks makes a strong case that the current cultural battle in the world is between antipluralists and pluralists, and that the antipluralists feed the ideology of hate. His column is called "The Ideology of Hate and How to Fight It." Brooks sees this antipluralist ideology -- this ideology of hate -- in Trumpian nationalism, authoritarian populism and Islamic jihadism. He presents pluralism as the needed alternative and suggests that there will be competition between these two approaches to life for many years to come. 

Brooks' pluralism sounds very much like open and relational or “process” philosophy, albeit without mentioning additonal themes such as “community” and “ecology” and “spirituality” and "God." In what follows I speak of Brooks' pluralism as Process Pluralism, because his views so resemble process philosophy... and a word about the unmentioned themes at the end.

- Jay McDaniel

* * * * * * * * * * *



Mourners on Monday at a makeshift memorial for victims of the shooting in El Paso.
Mourners on Monday at a makeshift memorial for victims of the
shooting in El Paso. | Credit: John Locher/Associated Press


The Ideology of Hate and How to Fight It
The battle for the soul of our culture.

By David Brooks
Opinion Columnist
Aug. 5, 2019


Many of today’s mass murderers write manifestoes. They are not killing only because they’ve been psychologically damaged by trauma. They’re not killing only because they are pathetically lonely and deeply pessimistic about their own lives. They are inspired to kill by a shared ideology, an ideology that they hope to spread through a wave of terror.

The clearest expression of that ideology was written by the man charged with a killing spree in Christchurch, New Zealand. His manifesto has been cited by other terrorists; the suspect in this weekend’s El Paso mass shooting cited it in his own manifesto.

It’s not entirely what you’d expect. At one point its author writes about his travels around the world: “Everywhere I travelled, barring a few small exceptions, I was treated wonderfully, often as a guest and even as a friend. The varied cultures of the world greeted me with warmth and compassion, and I very much enjoyed nearly every moment I spent with them.”

The ideology he goes on to champion is highly racial, but it’s not classic xenophobia or white supremacy. Its first feature is essentialism. The most important thing you can know about a person is his or her race. A white sees the world as a white and a Latino sees it as a Latino. Identity is racial.

The second feature is separatism. Races are healthy when they are pure and undiluted. The world is healthy when people of different races live apart. The world is diseased when races mix. “I am against race mixing because it destroys genetic diversity and creates identity problems,” the El Paso suspect wrote.

The third feature is racial Darwinism. Races are locked in a Darwinian struggle in which they try to out-reproduce their rivals. Currently, the black and brown races are stronger than the white race and are on the verge of obliterating it through invasion.

If we allow them into our country, brown immigrants will overwhelm whites just as Europeans overwhelmed the Native Americans centuries ago. As the El Paso suspect put it, “The natives didn’t take the invasion of Europeans seriously, and now what’s left is just a shadow of what was.” Immigration is white replacement. Immigration is white genocide.

This is not an ideology that rises out of white
self-confidence but rather white insecurity

Mourners at another memorial, this time in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March.
Mourners at another memorial, this time in Christchurch,
New Zealand,  in March. | Credit: Adam Dean for The New York Times

This ideology is an extreme form of a broader movement — antipluralism — that now comes in many shapes. Trumpian nationalists, authoritarian populists and Islamic jihadists are different versions of antipluralism.

These movements are reactions against the diversity, fluidity and interdependent nature of modern life. Antipluralists yearn for a return to clear borders, settled truths and stable identities. They kill for a fantasy, a world that shines in their imaginations but never existed in real life.

The struggle between pluralism and antipluralism is one of the great death struggles of our time, and it is being fought on every front.

We pluralists do not believe that human beings can be reduced to a single racial label. Each person is a symphony of identities. Our lives are rich because each of us contains multitudes.

Pluralists believe in integration, not separation. We treasure precisely the integration that sends the antipluralists into panic fits. A half century ago, few marriages crossed a color line. Now, 17 percent of American marriages are interracial.

Pluralists are always expanding the definition of “us,” not constricting it. Eighty years ago, Protestants, Catholics and Jews did not get along, so a new category was created, Judeo-Christian, which brought formerly feuding people into a new “us.” Thirty years ago, rivalries were developing between blacks and Hispanics, and so the category “people of color” was used to create a wider “us.”

Pluralists believe that culture mixing has always been and should be the human condition. All cultures define and renew themselves through encounter. A pure culture is a dead culture while an amalgam culture is a creative culture. The very civilization the white separatists seek to preserve was itself a product of earlier immigration waves.

Finally, pluralism is the adventure of life. Pluralism is not just having diverse people coexist in one place. It’s going out and getting into each other’s lives. It’s a constant dialogue that has no end because there is no single answer to how we should live.

Life in a pluralistic society is an ever-moving spiral. There are the enemies of pluralism ripping it apart and the weavers of community binding it together. There is no resting spot. It’s change, fluidity and movement all the way down.

The terrorists dream of a pure, static world. But the only thing that’s static is death, which is why they are so pathologically drawn to death. Pluralism is about movement, interdependence and life. The struggle ahead is about competing values as much as it is about controlling guns and healing damaged psyches. Pluralism thrives when we name what the terrorists hate about us, and live it out.



Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Envisioning a Process Relational Theology


Richard Rummell's 1906 watercolor landscape view of Harvard University,
facing northeast. Whitehead taught at Harvard from 1924 to 1937.


ENVISIONING A
PROCESS RELATIONAL THEOLOGY

A Summary Review by R.E. Slater
of Robert Mesle's Introduction to AN Whitehead


As quoted in a previous article, "What would Bob say if you were riding in an elevator and he had 90 seconds to explain process-relational philosophy?"

  • broad vision of the nature of the world and reality
  • helps people address issues of evil
  • applies to other fields, not just Christianity or religion (e.g. why did the stock market crash?)
  • a way to say we are all in this together
  • we should be concerned with the common good, not just what’s best for us

Whitehead began his work of process philosophy in reaction to modernism's ascent in the 17th and 18 century. He had begun life as a scholar publishing a treatise on mathematics (Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell; cf. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). As he did so he became conversant with the early quantum physics of Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr, and other notables:

The foundations of quantum mechanics were established during the first half of the 20th century by Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Louis de Broglie, Arthur Compton, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Max Born, John von Neumann, Paul Dirac, Enrico Fermi, Wolfgang Pauli, Max von Laue, Freeman Dyson, David Hilbert, Wilhelm Wien, Satyendra Nath Bose, Arnold Sommerfeld, and others. The Copenhagen interpretation of Niels Bohr became widely accepted. - Wikipedia

While in discussion with several quantum physicists Whitehead began to explore the idea of a comprehensive metaphysic which blended philosophy with scientific research. Apparently he went through seven years of insomnia and used the time to read up on philosophical history and how it too was reflecting the science of mechanism and the material properties of nature, society, humans, and so forth, stipulated by axioms and orderly laws.


By approaching the world in a mechanistic fashion modern philosophy had isolated its discussions to the thing itself rather than to a world of things abounding around isolated things. This stood out in Whitehead's readings so much so he determined to write of a philosophy in a manner which would comprehend the wholeness of the universe - not as a mechanistic thing, but as an integrated, organic whole, alive to itself and all that was within, and without, its operations.

Further, what was especially important to Whitehead was whether there might be valuative issuances birthing from nature (or creation's) relational connectedness with itself. Valuative instances or experiences of morality, education, aesthetics, even beauty. At which point Whitehead began developing a "Philosophy of Organism" (what we know as "process relational philosophy") from age 63 to 68 (sic, Alfred North Whitehead Bio, Wikipedia):

"Alfred North Whitehead OM FRS FBA (15 February 1861 – 30 December 1947) was an English mathematician and philosopher. He is best known as the defining figure of the philosophical school known as process philosophy, which today has found application to a wide variety of disciplines, including ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology, among other areas.
"In his early career Whitehead wrote primarily on mathematics, logic, and physics. His most notable work in these fields is the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910–1913), which he wrote with former student Bertrand Russell. Principia Mathematica is considered one of the twentieth century's most important works in mathematical logic, and placed 23rd in a list of the top 100 English-language nonfiction books of the twentieth century by Modern Library.
"Beginning in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Whitehead gradually turned his attention from mathematics to philosophy of science, and finally to metaphysics. He developed a comprehensive metaphysical system which radically departed from most of western philosophy. Whitehead argued that reality consists of processes rather than material objects, and that processes are best defined by their relations with other processes, thus rejecting the theory that reality is fundamentally constructed by bits of matter that exist independently of one another. Today Whitehead's philosophical works – particularly Process and Reality – are regarded as the foundational texts of process philosophy.
"Whitehead's process philosophy argues that "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 consequences for the world around us." For this reason, one of the most promising applications of Whitehead's thought in recent years has been in the area of ecological civilization and environmental ethics pioneered by John B. Cobb."

Of particular interest to Christian process philosophers - what later developed into Process Theology, and now Process Relational Theology - was Whitehead's last chapter on God in his book Process and Reality. Though Principia Mathematica "Principles of Logic" became a work of futility by quantum mathematical standards Process and Reality has survived the test of time and is now flourishing into a global movement across all religions, sciences, and business endeavors.

Amazon.com: Process and Reality (Gifford Lectures Delivered in the ...

Though Whitehead spoke of God in a rough framing outline related to his envisioning of God and early process theology, those who came after him succeeded in refining its ground breaking view of how God operates in the world and what God's relationship to the world is.

Philosophers and theologians who have published a monograph defending some variety of process theism informed by Whitehead or Charles Hartshorne include: Henry Nelson Wieman (1884–1975), Bernard Meland (1899–1993), Paul Weiss (1901–2002), Norman Pittenger (1905–1997), Daniel Day Williams (1910–1973), John Moskop, William L. Reese, John B. Cobb, Jr., Schubert Ogden, Edgar A. Towne, Eugene H. Peters (1929–1983), Bowman Clarke (1927–1996), Joseph Bracken, Burton Z. Cooper, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, Gene A. Reeves, Lewis S. Ford, André Gounelle, Rem B. Edwards, Delwin Brown (1935–2009), David A. Pailin, Franklin I. Gamwell, Forrest Wood, David Ray Griffin, James A. Keller, Jorge Luis Nobo, Tyron Inbody, Carol P. Christ, George L. Goodwin, Barry Whitney, Santiago Sia, Jay McDaniel, George W. Shields, Donald Viney, Daniel A. Dombrowski, Anna Case-Winters, Kurian Kachappilly, Gregory A. Boyd, Roland Faber, Thomas Jay Oord, Donna Bowman, Derek Malone-France, and Julia Enxing; Williams, Reese, Cobb, Ogden, and Peters were Hartshorne’s students at Chicago; Clarke and Edwards studied with him at Emory; Nobo was Hartshorne’s student at Texas. - SEOP [*we should also add Catherine Keller - res]


Process Relational Philosophy/Theology

Within Part 5 Whitehead describes God in revelationally new ways under process relational thought. The remainder of these notes here will explore with Whitehead how God is perceived within a relational process construct.

Eckhart Hall at the University of Chicago. Beginning with the arrival of
Henry Nelson Wieman in 1927, Chicago's Divinity School become closely
associated with Whitehead's thought for about thirty years.

First, God is pictured as a persuasive, rather than coercive, ruling force. Yet these last two words ill fit Whitehead's description of God as God does not so much rule, nor rule by force, as to defeat the definition of a persuasive, guiding God in creation's affairs. To explore this further, is to ask the kind of action then that this kind of God utilizes. To say God is a guiding or luring presence must necessarily ask the "how" of God's non-coercive guidance.

This then links us with discussions of freewill, self-creativity, self-determination, and a whole host of other qualities asked of God in His relationship to the world, universe, creation, or nature (I will treat each description of the cosmos as equally reflective of the other in this discussion).

If God grants creation to be in His image then all that He is has been granted to creation - especially with respect to the quality of freewill. An agency which may love or not love, show generative value, or deny its course, a nurturing freedom or a debilitating power. Though God's image strives with His creation to produce valuative "feelings" or, generative panexperiential relationships, it may also be denuded, marred, denied, or refused by creation's own freewill agency. This is why freewill is the heaviest burden creation might bear. How it is used can mean everything. When not used well it is the greatest of burdens and griefs.

We might also ask the follow up question of whether God "granted" freewill or whether this issuance was part-and-parcel of His own being/essence. Thomas Oord describes freewill as that which came from God's love. It was never granted or allowed. It flowed naturally from God's very being. Again, the burden of a great gift is to the lack of its use in meaningful, valuative forms. 

By this gift creation and humanity became culpable to its misuse, known in Christian terms as sin and evil. It is not God who is culpable for the sufferings of this world but creation's own "nature" - or misused "divine agency" of God's image. Of note too, when describing non-sentient things such as nature, natural freewill might be referred to as "indeterminative agency or freewill"; which also describes humanity's agency quite well too).


Is God A Supreme Power or Kingly Ruler?

Whitehead goes on to ask the question of how do we understand God. In what terms do we ascribe to God His "Godness"? He notes the classical way of describing God has been of One who exhibits willful control over creation, doing what He wants and when He wants, at any time or any place. One who determines the future as to its results, whether good or bad. Whose dictates or fiats are to be obeyed, maybe strictly so, and that by the conduct of His unilateral rule it may be described as without affection for the world (the church doctrine of impassibilty).

This means then that God may do what He wants to do without being affected by our experiences. God is the Impassable Creator. An unaffected, determining force of creation. One who rules above the world, is transcendent to it, and unfeeling to its sufferings while executing within its providences determinative divine, or heavenly, results which He deems most necessary to the fulfillment of His ambitions. Creation then is simply His pawn to be used for a time then discarded like an old rag without value.

Of course, what Whitehead was noting was that early Israel and the church in the centuries afterwards came to identify God with the figures of Pharaoh of Egypt and Caesar of Rome. The bible describes such a claim as faith idolatry. A misplaced faith which wishes God to be other than He really is, as plainly told to us through the personage of Christ Jesus. He, who was Emmanuel, the suffering God of our experiences (sic, Isaiah 52.13 - 53.12)

The bible, as does process theology, rather focuses on God as a loving, suffering God who walks with us in all our ways, griefs, joys, pains, hopes, and outcomes. One who experiences with us the world as we feel and know it. He is the God of the here-and-now; the present as well as the past and future; the One who carries our burdens and cares; Who is affected by all the world's experiences at every single moment of every possible location wherever creation exists.

This is quite a different description of God than the classic Christian belief of a God of willful power and controller of outcomes. It doesn't see God's power as a unilateral or determinative force but as a guiding, persuading presence, granting generative freedom at every possible  moment. Helping and assisting as we go through life moment-by-moment. But when compared to the Pharaohs, Caesars, even "Presidents" of nations - God is unlike such beggardly rulers. He is more aptly described as the "Servant" King of creation.

One last, God is not in love with God's own power. He is not interested in waiting for us to praise Him, as it were, but much more interested in figuring out with us how to help us in our everyday lives, and creation generally, in its experience of itself towards goodness and light.


God guides
productive, or
constructive forces,
with goodness
and energy,
but not with
destructive forces
of any kind.

Nor does

God abandon a
self-creating world
of His creation,
but saves it
by atoning guidance,
and redeeming power,
caught in the throes
of freewill agency.

So then

God is the Poet
of worldly affairs,
through loving patience
and compassion,
leading all within
towards truth,
beauty, and
benevolent
goodness.

- r.e. slater



Five Ways You Can Make God's Love Real to Others - Thomas Nelson ...


How Does God Guide?

Which leads us to yet another question... How is God's work "persuasive?"

Let's start off with this reflection by Whitehead again:

"Apart from the intervention of God in the world, there can be nothing new.
God does not control the world but inspires creativity, order, beauty." - ANW

In essence, God is safeguarding the past, the present, even all future presents, by allowing creation the opportunity to experience a range of creative possibilities within its processes of becoming.

God is the lure, the feeling, the call towards better, valuative possibilities and outcomes. He is not a ruling tyrant or even a benevolent tyrant; He is not a ruthless moralist; nor is God the "unmoved mover".

God dwells in the tender moments of the world. He is moved by love and compassion towards creation and people. Love does not rule but guides. Love does not usurp freewill but grants it. God presents the possibilities of love and goodness while also drawing creation to valuative possibilities. Possibilities for nurture, wellbeing, decision making and living. The love of God is always generative and generatively loving.

1 John 1  [New American Standard Bible (NASB)]
The Incarnate Word
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
God Is Light
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
----------
John 1 [New American Standard Bible (NASB)]
The Deity of Jesus Christ
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
The Witness John
6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

In both 1 John 1 and John 1 it is shown that creation as well as mankind may respond to God's love or ignore it. If we choose the latter than we choose to live in unloving, ungenerative lives of darkness and not light.

Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World (Lyrics) - YouTube


What Is God's Experience of the World?

From moment to moment across the expanse of creation God experiences the world and takes it all into Himself. When we experience God we are also experiencing God in what He has taken in from the world. His experience of it commits Him to us differently than He would have been in an earlier period of our lives. As we mature and experience the world so does God in a similar way. What we knew of ourselves and of life in an earlier youth we now know differently having lived life; having experienced life. So too with God.

This then removes God from the classic view of His experiencing all of creation from time immemorial to time everlasting. Though God has experienced time immemorial from the past to the present, He, like us, is experiencing the present tense of time with all its future possibilities of its present tense. As God does not determine the future nor does God know the future or has experienced the future. In this sense God is bound by future time even as His creation is, but with the important difference that He is immortal to our mortality.

Thus, God experiences all the past and all the present of every single moment everywhere in creation. As Whitehead says, God experiences the world, and our lives, even as the world and our lives become part of God's past and present tenses. He takes all our experiences into Himself and preserves it forever. God also takes all those experiences of us and the cosmos and re-weaves all His experiences received from it back into His interaction with the world.

Similarly, we do the same as we accumulate experiences in the world with each other and with creation. We then take the accumulation of those experiences and reweave them back into our lives as we respond to the world in our interactions with ourselves, each other, and nature. God is thus experiencing in this same fashion His creation from our experiences of ourselves and each other. From nature, the world, and the cosmos' experiences with itself and other processes.

As God has given Himself to us so we give back to God and to one another our essence and being as we share our experiences forward into the future present tenses of becoming. God then is our fellow companion and sufferer who walks with us, knows our griefs and sorrows, our joys and dreams, and takes all of our being into Himself even as He does with all of creation moment by moment in deep divine fellowship with all that has protruded from Him. In this Image all creation is born.


GOD   <-------------------------->  <---------------------> WORLD
Divine Tension  


God then brings the possibility of valuative becoming into the world even as he bears its non-valuative freewill actions upon this self-same world of possibilities. By this divine interaction God leaves God's Self vulnerable to the world even as He persuades it to become in the whispers of His being to be more than it is. God then is not the coercive power of the world but the "weak-and-strong" power of the world who imagines with us all that could be within the realms of our realities. The prayers of His people, wherever they are, whoever they are, and from whatever religion or culture they are, God hears and seeks to move with us in fellowship, and in answering our prayers, against sin and evil even as we imagine, and pray to create, generative living and life practices.


Is God the Unmoved Mover?

With the Greek philosopher Plato, and the early Church Father Aristotle studied in Platonism, the conception of God was one who was perfect. And by "perfect" they mean to convey the sense that God cannot be touched by His creation. That God is closed off from it; transcendent above it; unaffected by our experiences; unchanging in His eternal Being and Essence; and totally insulated or uninfluenced by creation in all of its portrayals. In classic doctrinal terms God is impassable (unfeeling), doing what He wants, when He wants, regardless of what results by His actions. We might call this a very Greek view of the Semitic God of the bible in its Greek mythologies of reality.

Conversely, if God is imperfect, then He is weak, powerless, touched adversely by humanity or creation. Who feels too much, who is too close to a sinful world of darkness and evil, who too readily changes within Himself to His experience of the world. Who can be influenced by petitions and prayers and pleas of mankind and nature. Whose actions demonstrate too much care, too much reaction to our plights, too much humanness or creatureliness within His experience of the world. In classic doctrinal terms God is passable (feeling), reacting to His experience of the world moment by moment but as an involved God of presence to its harms and ills.

So which view is right? Is God perfect or is God "imperfect"? Or, may God be perfect but in a different sense than the one given Him by theological classicists? Might God be perfect in an imperfect way? And might that imperfect way actually show to us the perfectness of His imperfection. Where God's weakness led Him to the agony of the cross. To the atonement for our ills and harms, sins and evils. To the redemption of our future presents. To the resurrection of our beings, our souls, our meaning. Yet each-and-all into the continually evolving process of becoming who we were meant to become? I think yes. God is all this and more.


Hindu/Buddhist/Taoist/Chinese  <-------  Parallels  -------> Semitic Christian
                  Process based religions                                            Processed based religion


The Constructive Nature of Postmodernism

The era of modernism arose in the 17th-18th Century under the early sciences under luminaries such as Galileo, Newton, and Descartes amongst others. This was the mechanistic world of calculated laws and machines which could be calibrated and directed to do precisely what they were expected to do. It affected market economies, societal community, and everyday pedestrian life.

It was also in this era that bodies and minds were considered separate entities. The body was compared to a machine in all its parts, routines, maintenance, needs, and regularities. Whereas the mind was quite free of these atomistic attitudes and might free-range across non-spatial expanses independent of any physical restrictions (even including those whose minds might be sick physically or psychologically; yet those minds might range wherever they wished to go from hallucinations to psychic experiences).

Here was a dualistic, binary view of the universe. The earlier Greeks had posited such a world as three: body, mind, soul. Though curiously, the Hebrew view was always one, not two, and not three. For Whitehead, having observed in his philosophical studies the atomistic, mechanical worlds of apartness and separation he found he wasn't impressed. That he yearned for another world. A world of wholeness integrated and integrating.

Whitehead lived in the early stages of postmodernism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the age of early quantum physics. It was from modernism's incomplete world Whitehead wished to examine process-based experience "all the way down".

Whitehead then asked whether Descartes was wrong in his binary approach to a universal comprehension of metaphysics. Whether if the human mind was the exception to nature or whether it was an extension of material things such as the body and its connection to the environment around it. Whether humans were the exception to nature as "special" beings or whether they were no different than anything else. Thus, began Whitehead's exploration for a greater, overarching, more integrated, explanation for everything.

Whitehead observed that the human body does have experiences, feelings, and casual reactions to the mind as did the mind to the body (cf. early neurosciences and psychoanalysis). That rather than being separate dualistic entities both body and mind acted as one. That the human condition was that of a holistic experience as a unified relational being. He noticed this through such incidental addresses as injuries, mockery, stress, scorn, pressure, exhaustion, love, anger, even the scratches and bruises a body gets from its experience of the outside world. To him, both body and mind responded as one holistic unit. That they were integral to each other and not two separate things.

To this Whitehead then directed his attention to the animals and nature around him. Even to the inorganic, non-sentient things such as rocks in their experience of time and evolution to the environment around such seemingly "static and impassable" states of their composition. He noticed the animals exhibited like us this body-mind unity. That mountains become hills, rocks became soil, and then he asked whether the experience of life, a process-based life, "goes all the way down"?

To this question Whitehead looked at the quantum world as to whether it was actively moving, changing, integrating, dissolving, flying apart, and flying together. Again, yes. What we as humans experience of a process-based world "all the way up" also occurred on the quantum level of string theory (not known then) "all the way down". That creation was not unlike itself from beginning to end - but completely like itself within its composition and apprehension of a processed-based cosmos.


Creation sings at dawn,
The hills clap their hands,
The heavens dance for joy,
The Lord, our Maker,
Rejoices in His work,
Compassion,
Runneth over all.

- re slater


The Relational Web of Becoming

PAST, PERISHABLE -------> ACTUALIZED POSSIBILITIES -----> RELATIONAL
                 EXPERIENCES                           Prehensive Actualities                     BECOMING

Even as postmodernism questions modernism by deconstructive thought, so postmodernism might also be a constructive form of evalution leading to greater holism of activity and experience. A comprehensive universe is an interactive, engaging process of the parts to the whole and the whole to its parts. It teaches us to listen to the world around us as well as to be intentional in all the ways we might create valuative constructs into the world around us.

Regardless as to whether these are socio-economic views, or ecological views of social justice, equality, and earthcare, the world is not simply a place of cruel labor or raw resources to be greedily used, stockpiled, and thrown away. Process Thought affirms the value we must place on the world beyond ourselves. Even as the bird and deer might enjoy their own lives, having value for what they are, so too we must recognize the value of compassionate living for all things and people around us. If one is to speak of becoming, then one must always be speaking of compassion as the central component to process philosophy and process theology; of process religion, economics, governance, science, sports, community, church, and every facet of life. 

We live in a process world. Part of its becoming is its striving towards compassion. Even as the God of love birthed the world out of His love, so this world is filled with His love looking to magnify and implode across our many worlds of unloving, uncompassionate attitudes and behavior. We call this generative living. Where every action leads to the welfare of other creatures and entities. To permeate nature and civilizations with compassion. Ourselves with compassion. And those around us with compassion. It is how a processed-based world operates underneath all its freewill agency. Should the two someday join up, the Ying and the Yang of its throes, then with Louis Armstrong we might sing, "What a Wonderful World that would Be."


Louis Armstrong - What a Wonderful World (1967)




And I Think To Myself What A Wonderful World Shirt T-Shirt Unisex ...



Sunday, April 19, 2020

Thomas Jay Oord - Prevenient Grace & Questions of God's Love





Prevenient Grace All the Way Down
by Thomas Jay Oord

In recent years, I've been developing and exploring a theological view I call "essential kenosis." It fits nicely with theological traditions that say creatures have genuine freedom to respond well or poorly to God.

I see parallels between essential kenosis and a theory called "prevenient grace," which emerged earlier in Christian history. Prevenient grace says God acts first ("pre") in love ("grace") to provide freedom (among other things) to humans. We must decide how we will respond to God's initiating action of love. Today, those in the Wesleyan tradition are most likely to embrace prevenient grace theory.

I believe essential kenosis extends prevenient grace beyond its usual application. Essential kenosis says God graces ALL creatures, not just humans. God gives freedom to complex creatures, agency and/or self-organization to less complex, and spontaneity to the most basic creaturely entities. 

It's prevenient grace all the way down. 

Essential kenosis says something else not usually associated with prevenient grace. It says God necessarily gives freedom, agency, self-organization or mere existence to creation. "Necessarily" means God must give, because giving in love is who God is.

God gives gifts in each moment, because God's nature is self-giving, others-empowering love. This means these loving gifts are irrevocable, to use the Apostle Paul's words (Rm. 11:29). Consequently, God can't control anyone OR anything.

Wesleyans argue prevenient grace makes a huge difference in understanding salvation. God never forces us to repent; but God empowers and calls us. When God’s action is understood in the light of love, prevenient grace makes sense to many.

Essential kenosis expands the notion of prevenient grace for salvation to say God expresses uncontrolling love for all creation. This makes a difference for understanding how God acts to redeem all creatures and all creation, as the Apostle Paul suggests (see Rm. 8:20-21). God doesn't force humans, other creatures, or any aspect of creation!

I need to develop in detail an uncontrolling love eschatology. But I give an overview of what one looks like in my book, God Can't. I call it "the relentless love" view. For details, see the last chapter of the book.



God Can't: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils by [Thomas Jay  Oord]
Amazon Link


The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence by [Thomas Jay Oord]
Amazon Link



Five Questions of My Theology of Love

by Thomas Jay Oord
December 10, 2019

An academic book of essays on love was recently published. My friend Kevin Vanhoozer wrote the first essay, and the second is my response.

Kevin criticizes my theology of love in various ways, preferring instead John Webster’s theology. I address his criticisms in my full essay, but I thought I’d excerpt a portion here. For the full essay, get the book.

Amazon Link

Kevin asks five questions, which I list below and offer brief answers. I’m posting these because they might be questions others have.


1) How does Oord reconcile his definition of love as intentional action with his insistence that God necessarily loves everyone, everywhere, all the time?

Answer: I affirm that God can love both intentionally and necessarily. I see no conflict in affirming both. In my view, God necessarily loves, but God freely chooses various ways to love.

Because love comes logically first in God’s nature and God “cannot deny himself” (2 Tm. 2:13), God must love. God is not free to do otherwise. But God is free when deciding how to love. The how of love is contingent, not necessary.

I embrace the essentialist tradition when it comes to believing God cannot deny God’s own nature. But because I believe God faces an open and yet to be determined future, I also embrace voluntarist claims about God’s free choices in choosing how to love. God freely acts in various ways when anticipating what may occur in the future.

As an analogy, let’s assume that my human nature leads me necessarily to act humanly. I can necessarily act as a human and still intentionally choose to type this sentence instead of another. I’m free in this sense. In fact, I’m free to type a wide variety of sentences, despite not being free to be other than human.

In this way, necessity in nature and free intentional action coexist. We can necessarily be human and yet free to act variously as humans. Analogously, God can necessarily love everyone and yet freely and intentionally choose how to love moment by moment.

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(2) Does Oord truly preserve the Creator/creature distinction, or is God on the same metaphysical level with the rest of created reality? If the call to love that God gives each creature is in one sense “no different from the causal influence that other creatures exert,” then doesn’t God exist on the same plane of being as everything else?

Answer: At the start of his essay, Vanhoozer provides a teaser about the worries he voices in this question and that emerge later in his essay. He worries that my theology might be a Feuerbachian projection.

Vanhoozer offers theological realism as an alternative to anthropomorphic hubris, a position that says we can be wrong in our descriptions of God’s love. I join Vanhoozer in being a realist in this sense. I don’t think we can ever grasp divine love fully or define it perfectly. We see through a glass darkly.

I also believe, however, that we should seek to know something of the God whom we can never fully know. I think we should try to grasp divine love as best we can and define it as well as possible. In this, I steer clear of both absolute apophatism and thoroughgoing anthropomorphism.

Wikipedia - Apophatic theology, also known as negative theology, is a form of theological thinking and religious practice which attempts to approach God, the Divine, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God. It forms a pair together with cataphatic theology, which approaches God or the Divine by affirmations or positive statements about what God is.
The apophatic tradition is often, though not always, allied with the approach of mysticism, which aims at the vision of God, the perception of the divine reality beyond the realm of ordinary perception.

To make sense of God’s love, actions, and more, I think we should draw bidirectional analogies between Creator and creatures. Without them, I think we fail to do justice to the biblical witness and fail to understand well what it means to be made in the image of God. We can embrace such bidirectional analogies without considering God to be on the same metaphysical level or plane as creatures. Creator and creatures differ in some respects but also share some similarities. I’ll address this more in the second half of this response.

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(3) Does Oord derive his definition of love from the event of Jesus Christ or from somewhere else?

Answer: Vanhoozer asks this question as an either/or choice. For me, the answer is both/and. I accept the revelation of God’s love found in Jesus and the revelation of God in creation more generally. As I see it, the clearest expression of love comes in Jesus, and therefore he becomes crucial to defining love well. But I’m also confident that my views of love have been shaped by the broader biblical witness, the Christian community, and the revelation of God in creation more generally.

Because God is omnipresent and self-revealing to all creation, those who know nothing of Jesus can accept my definition of love. In fact, adherents of other religious traditions affirm my definition. Those involved in other religions may find resonance between my views of love and what they find about love in their own texts and communities, thanks to God’s prevenient grace expressed throughout all creation.[1]

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(4) In “solving” the problem of evil by stipulating God’s nature as uncontrolling love, does Oord render insoluble the equally important question, “What may we hope?” Oord stresses the importance of human participation in what he calls “participatory eschatology”: “God’s kenotic love invites creatures to participate in securing victory.” But why think that the entropic universe, much less rebellious children, will come around to God’s way at the end of time? Does not this solution to the problem of evil render evil metaphysically unavoidable and necessary?

Answer: There are several questions here. All of them point to eschatological concerns. Answering them well requires at least a book. But I’ll offer a few brief responses that I hope provide light. (I also offered a blog essay on my eschatology, which readers can find here.)

My theology of love’s eschatological vision does not support the kind of universalism that some theologians desire. While it supports the hope that all will cooperate with God, it does not support theories that require divine coercion for redemption.

My participatory eschatology provides some guarantees. It guarantees that God never gives up seeking to save the lost. It guarantees that God’s love is always uncontrolling. God never uses coercion but always calls creatures to say “yes” to abundant life. This inviting, empowering, but uncontrolling love is expressed both in this life and the next. God’s wooing never ceases.

My eschatology also guarantees that those who cooperate with God in this life and the next enjoy abundant life. It supports the hope that cooperators enjoy untold bliss in the afterlife. It cannot guarantee that everyone will enjoy this bliss, because it says God never forces the good life on others. God respects the freedom of rebellious children who continue to reject salvation.

In sum, my eschatology rejects unilaterally secured universalism. But it also rejects the view that God gives up loving creatures and offering eternal life. My vision provides genuine hope for abundant life here and now and eternal bliss there and then for those who cooperate with God’s love.

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(5) If Oord is right, is the God who is uncontrolling love more deserving of our worship or  [our] sympathy?

Answer: The God of uncontrolling love is worthy of our worship. I worship this God unreservedly and wholeheartedly. Doing so brings me great joy!

I’ve spent significant time thinking about what vision of God provokes my worship. I’ve come to think it’s impossible for me to worship a God who could prevent genuine evil but fails to do so. I don’t unequivocally respect humans who fail to prevent evil when their doing so was possible.

So I can’t unequivocally worship a God capable of preventing genuine evil but who fails to do so. I may dread this God. But I could not unreservedly love and worship such a being. As I see it, the God who can control is unworthy of my worship.

Vanhoozer’s mentions pity as a possible response to my vision of God, and this reminds me of a recent conversation. I was explaining to a fellow theologian that the uncontrolling God cannot prevent genuine evil by acting alone. My friend responded that he prefers a God who can control. He smirked and said, “You know, Tom, your God is just doing the best He can.” I thought about his remark and responded, “Your God could be doing a whole lot more. But He apparently doesn’t care enough to do so!”

I mention this conversation because it illustrates how love is my fundamental theological intuition. When I think about a God worthy of worship, I find far more winsome the vision of a God who consistently loves but cannot control than a God who can control but loves inconsistently by causing or allowing evil.

Some claim the God they affirm both controls and loves consistently. In light of evil, they say it is a mystery how God does both. This measure of mystery, however, detracts from my worship. I’m unable to worship a God who cannot be understood to such a degree.

I can’t get motivated to worship an incomprehensible God.

- TJO

*[1] As just one example, see Rabbi Bradley Artson’s work on love, which draws from my definition (God of Becoming and Relationship [Nashville: Jewish Lights, 2016].