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

Saturday, May 30, 2020

R.E. Slater - The Eighth Day of Creation



May 13, 2020 – The Park Forum


The Eighth Day of Creation
by R.E. Slater


O' Father God,
    who spake bright worlds
into being and becoming,
    who guides forces of
renewing goodness
    and bounteous energy;
be our hope and stay
    during days of evil. 

Deliver Thy people
    who walk your love,
from crimes of
    injustice and hate;
guide thy creation
    its bounteous courses,
from barrenness
    and childless joy.

Do not abandon us
    nor this frail earth,
to wickedness
    and ruinous sin;
but come bringing
    peace and goodwill,
during dark days
    and evil dreads.

Thy worlds were
    made in Thy image;
self-creating worlds
    of atoning goodness,
of soul redeeming love,
    of resurrecting grace;
all now sadly within webs
    of sorrowful agency.

Be the All-Seeing Poet
    over our affairs; direct
Thy loving conviction
    with holy compassion
upon those spewing hate;
    whose lips speak daily lies
and restless slander; false
    shepherds of undead souls.

To those who seek
    Thee not, who rage
within, who harm;
    be not still Thy Spirit
which stills broken hearts,
    which opens blinded eyes,
which unstops deaf ears,
    raising lepers to walk again.

Such harlots of humanity
    look not within but hate,
spinning lies and deceits
    of every kind; such whores
of creation breed every kind
    of evil unrelenting their sin;
to these close their mouths,
    lay bare their nakedness.

You have birthed worlds
    promising Eden, yet we
destroy Thy holy earth,
    denying its promise, by
unlove and fell deeds;
    may Eden renew again
our hearts of hard clays,
    to be yielded soils remade.


R.E. Slater
April 21, 2020

@copyright R.E. Slater Publications
all rights reserved








Monday, May 18, 2020

Scientists Find The First Animal That Doesn't Need Oxygen to Survive




Scientists Find The First Animal That
Doesn't Need Oxygen to Survive

by Michelle Starr
May 10, 2020

Some truths about the Universe and our experience in it seem immutable. The sky is up. Gravity sucks. Nothing can travel faster than light. Multicellular life needs oxygen to live. Except we might need to rethink that last one.

Earlier this year, scientists discovered that a jellyfish-like parasite doesn't have a mitochondrial genome - the first multicellular organism known to have this absence. That means it doesn't breathe; in fact, it lives its life completely free of oxygen dependency.

This discovery isn't just changing our understanding of how life can work here on Earth - it could also have implications for the search for extraterrestrial life.

Life started to develop the ability to metabolise oxygen - that is, respirate - sometime over 1.45 billion years ago. A larger archaeon engulfed a smaller bacterium, and somehow the bacterium's new home was beneficial to both parties, and the two stayed together.

That symbiotic relationship resulted in the two organisms evolving together, and eventually those bacteria ensconced within became organelles called mitochondria. Every cell in your body except red blood cells has large numbers of mitochondria, and these are essential for the respiration process.

They break down oxygen to produce a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, which multicellular organisms use to power cellular processes.

We know there are adaptations that allow some organisms to thrive in low-oxygen, or hypoxic, conditions. Some single-celled organisms have evolved mitochondria-related organelles for anaerobic metabolism; but the possibility of exclusively anaerobic multicellular organisms has been the subject of some scientific debate.

That is, until a team of researchers led by Dayana Yahalomi of Tel Aviv University in Israel decided to take another look at a common salmon parasite called Henneguya salminicola.


(Stephen Douglas Atkinson)

It's a cnidarian, belonging to the same phylum as corals, jellyfish and anemones. Although the cysts it creates in the fish's flesh are unsightly, the parasites are not harmful, and will live with the salmon for its entire life cycle.

Tucked away inside its host, the tiny cnidarian can survive quite hypoxic conditions. But exactly how it does so is difficult to know without looking at the creature's DNA - so that's what the researchers did.

They used deep sequencing and fluorescence microscopy to conduct a close study of H. salminicola, and found that it has lost its mitochondrial genome. In addition, it's also lost the capacity for aerobic respiration, and almost all of the nuclear genes involved in transcribing and replicating mitochondria.

Like the single-celled organisms, it had evolved mitochondria-related organelles, but these are unusual too - they have folds in the inner membrane not usually seen.

The same sequencing and microscopic methods in a closely related cnidarian fish parasite, Myxobolus squamalis, was used as a control, and clearly showed a mitochondrial genome.

These results show that here, at last, is a multicellular organism that doesn't need oxygen to survive.

Exactly how it survives is still something of a mystery. It could be leeching adenosine triphosphate from its host, but that's yet to be determined.

But the loss is pretty consistent with an overall trend in these creatures - one of genetic simplification. Over many, many years, they have basically devolved from a free-living jellyfish ancestor into the much more simple parasite we see today.

(Stephen Douglas Atkinson)

They've lost most of the original jellyfish genome, but retaining - oddly - a complex structure resembling jellyfish stinging cells. They don't use these to sting, but to cling to their hosts: an evolutionary adaptation from the free-living jellyfish's needs to the parasite's. You can see them in the image above - they're the things that look like eyes.

The discovery could help fisheries adapt their strategies for dealing with the parasite; although it's harmless to humans, no one wants to buy salmon riddled with tiny weird jellyfish.

But it's also a heck of a discovery for helping us to understand how life works.

"Our discovery confirms that adaptation to an anaerobic environment is not unique to single-celled eukaryotes, but has also evolved in a multicellular, parasitic animal," the researchers wrote in their paper, published in February 2020.

"Hence, H. salminicola provides an opportunity for understanding the evolutionary transition from an aerobic to an exclusive anaerobic metabolism."

* The research has been published in PNAS.

**A version of this article was first published in February 2020.


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The Story of Oxygen in Early Earth

Oxygen was a toxic gas in primordial earth's early history until it was not. How and why did this happen? It begins with the story of methane gas. Further, it seems to explain quite sufficiently the explosion of life in the Cambrian Period which everyone seems to make a fuss over (Why All the Fuss over Earth's Remarkable Cambrian Explosion?). The article that follows explains this....

R.E. Slater
August 15, 2018



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The Rise of Bonhoeffer: Ethics & Empire
in a Post-Truth Era

We live in a time of crisis upon crisis and yet the church is silent. The need, or better put the demand, for a new trajectory of faith is clear. Where do we begin? Is there a starting point for considering faith beyond Christendom?

In this class we will carry these questions to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a genius of the 20th century church cut short because of his resistance to Nazi Germany and its ecclesial partners. Too often Bonhoeffer is claimed as an ally in this task without sitting long enough with his actual texts and witness. Here we will work through sections from his major texts and end up reading them in light of current situation, from COVID-19, to Trump, the ecological crisis, and beyond.

an Online Pop-Up Learning Community

Lectures - Reading - QnA - Forum

June 2020 - 5 Weeks


Update. May 15, 2020

Tripp Fuller - Over 700 have joined the Bonhoeffer reading group. It’s gonna be a blast & who doesn’t want to know what Bonhoeffer meant by “religionless Christianity.” Join up today!



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BIOGRAPHY



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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Man After God - Peter Bending - Medium
Dietrich & Sabine Bonhoeffer, 1939 | Sabine Leibholz (1906–1999), twin sister of Dietrich, married legal scholar Gerhard Leibholz (1901–1982), judge at the Federal Constitutional Court.



Dietrich Bonhoeffer

by John MacQuarrie
June 21, 1970

“Through the half‐open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds.” So wrote the camp doctor who witnessed the death at the hands of the Nazis of 39‐year‐old German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on April 9, 1945.

Many theologians have had large books written about their thought and speculations. Here, however, on the 25th anniversary of its subject's death, we have a massive volume devoted to a theologian's life. The author, Eberhard Bethge, was Bonhoeffer's friend and student; he married Bonhoeffer's niece and edited the theologian's famous volume, “Letters and Papers From Prison.” For years Bethge has devoted himself to the preparation of this essential, well documented biography. If the life of the average theologian is uneventful, this was far from the case with Bonhoeffer, and his enduring significance is better explored in a biography than in an analysis of his theology.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer obsessed with this man and his life ...

When the young Bonhoeffer announced his intention of studying theology, his father, who was professor of psychiatry at the University of Berlin and himself an agnostic, was disappointed. Later he wrote to Dietrich:

“At the time when you decided to devote yourself to theology I sometimes thought to myself that a quiet, uneventful minister's life would really almost be a pity for you. So far as uneventfulness is concerned, I was greatly mistaken. That such a crisis should still be possible in the ecclesiastical field seemed to me with my scientific background out of the question.”

These words come from a letter written as early as 1934, and neither father nor son knew then that more than a decade of still more eventful and severe crises lay ahead.

It was Bonhoeffer's fate that his life intermeshed with the century's most fascinating episode — the rise and fall of Nazism. To be sure, it is the fascination of horror. It provokes to this day the great question and enigma of our time - a question not without its theological dimension. How was it possible for this monstrosity to emerge at the center of European civilization? We see in this biography the young Bonhoeffer's promising career diverted by the rise of National Socialism. He is increasingly engulfed by it, and eventually destroyed.

Yet it would be a superficial understanding of Bonhoeffer that considered him simply as a man caught in the events of his time, like a fly in a spider's web. He himself understood his career as the continually deepening response to a vocation that finally demanded everything he had. The best‐known of his books published in his lifetime was “The Cost of Discipleship,” and perhaps the word “discipleship” is the key to his theology.

Discipleship Vol. 4 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2003, Paperback) for ...

What does it mean to be a disciple? Whereas his Lutheran training had stressed “grace alone” as that which makes the disciple, Bonhoeffer shifted the emphasis to obedience. He made a famous distinction between “cheap grace” vs. “costly grace.” Cheap grace is nominal Christianity, grace “sold on the market,” “thrown away at cut prices,” to quote Bonhoeffer's biting words. Costly grace is obedient discipleship, and he understood this particularly as obedience to the Sermon on the Mount.

In the concrete, as Bethge makes clear, this theological problem of obedient discipleship became for Bonhoeffer the agonizing question of the Christian's obligation to participate in political realities. He might have remained an academic theologian, as did many others; and then he might have survived, as they did. It was not simply an external fate that overtook Bonhoeffer. He was follow ing an ideal of discipleship.

If there is a constant thread that holds his life story together, it is the thread that leads from his early political disinterestedness to his final implication in a political conspiracy. Rightly or wrongly, this was how his understanding of discipleship unfolded. And clearly his dilemma has a continuing relevance beyond the circumstances of Nazi Germany.

Bonhoeffer was a most unlikely candidate for the role he came to fulfill. In appearance, he was round faced, bespectacled, mild. Yet his physique was powerful, and he must have had a tremendous supply of energy to maintain the activities of his busy life.

Young Dietrich Bonhoeffer with siblings
Young Dietrich Bonhoeffer with siblings

Paula Bonhoeffer and Her Kids
Bonhoeffer saw theology as branch of knowledge. His path to theology began – despite the Christian foundation of his parent’s home – in a secular atmosphere. Only later did the church enter his field of vision. Unlike theologians who came from families that were active in the church & theology. | Wikipedia - The Bonhoeffer Family

Dietrich and his twin sister were the sixth and seventh of eight children. If their upbringing in the last years of imperial Germany was strict, it was also secure. Their parents never had less than five domestics to help run the household. They always kept a summer place, where the children spent many happy weeks. Musical evenings were another feature of family life. One of the older brothers was killed in World War I; but on the whole, life was secure, and the young Bonhoeffer sometimes felt guilty about it. “I should like to lead an unsheltered life for once,” he confided to his youngest sister. “We understand the others.”

No doubt when Bonhoeffer first turned to theology he expected that life would continue to be secure, like that of some of his relatives who were pastors. His theological studies were chiefly at Berlin, where the faculty was one of the finest in the world and prided itself on “scientific” theology. 

But soon he felt himself drawn to a man who in those days was revolutionizing theology and had emerged as a sharp critic of the pundits of Berlin—Karl Barth. Later, Barth was to take a leading part in the struggle of the church against Hitler. He became one of the great influences in Bonhoeffer's life and loyal friend, even if the two men did not always agree.

Bonhoeffer was a student at Union Theological Seminary, New York, in 1930–31. Here he made lasting friendships, but the American experience brought a new challenge to Bonhoeffer's conception of theology. Although he tended to despise what he found at Union because the intellectual dimension of theology seemed sacrificed in the interests of social activism (it was the time of the Depression), his year there helped him to discover that German academic theology was equally one‐sided, though in a different way.

On his return to Germany he soon learned that theology cannot be pursued in quiet isolation. Christianity in Germany was facing its greatest challenge, and this became acute after Hitler came to power in 1933. Many churchmen conformed to the new regime, but Bonhoeffer and Barth were among those from several religious traditions who resisted.

The young man who had criticized the activism of American Christianity now became deeply involved in the ecclesiastical and civil politics of Germany. A change was taking place in his understanding of both discipleship and theology. He even began to question the omnicompetence of German theology. “It seems inconceivable,” he wrote, “that in the whole of the world just Germany, and in Germany just a few men, have understood what the Gospel is.”

These were incredibly busy years in Bonhoeffer's life. He taught theology, first in the university, then in an unofficial seminary and finally, when that was closed by the Gestapo, in a clandestine “underground” seminary. He was ever active in the struggle within the church and between the church and the Nazis. He became a well‐known figure in the ecumenical movement and international conferences that led to the formation of the World Council of Churches.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on a weekend getaway with confirmands of Zion's Church congregation
in 1932. | Photo courtesy of German Federal Archives/Creative Commons

Two important friendships date from these years. One was with Bethge, who joined Bonhoeffer's seminary in 1935 and became a faithful companion. Though himself arrested, he was able to preserve for publication some of Bonhoeffer's manuscripts, including the famous letters from prison. The other friendship was with Bishop G.K.A. Bell of Chichester, an English leader of the ecumenical movement. Bell was greatly impressed by Bonhoeffer, and both then and later used his influence to help the resistance to Hitler.

It was in 1939 that Bonhoeffer made the most crucial decision of his life. It was apparent that war was inevitable. Some of his friends tried to persuade him to seek security in the United States, and he was offered various positions. He did in fact come to New York at the beginning of June and taught in the summer session at Union Seminary. But by the end of July he was back in Germany.

Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (third from right) participating in a Nazi parade in Munich,
c. 1930s. | Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

He wrote to Reinhold Niebuhr: “I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany or I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people.”

Till now, his resistance to the regime had been nonviolent - he was, incidentally, a great admirer of Gandhi. But he was aware that there were others, some of them in high positions in the armed forces, who believed differently. His own brother‐in‐law, civil servant Hans von Dohnanyi, was one of this revolutionary group. These men believed that only the assassination of Hitler and the violent seizure of power could save Germany from destruction. As early as 1940, Bonhoeffer came to share the view that Hitler must be eliminated.

From now on Bonhoeffer was living what Bethge calls a “double life” - churchman and conspiratorial agent. Under the auspices of disaffected elements in the military, security service, he made several journeys abroad to establish contacts on behalf of the conspirators. In 1942 he was in Stockholm conferring with his old friend Bishop Bell, who tried unsuccessfully to convince the British Government to take the conspirators seriously as a means of ending the war.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer [Credit: The Broken ...
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Wedemeyer

But things went badly with the conspiracy. Time and again, the plans miscarried. In 1943, Bonhoeffer, Dohnanyi, and some others were arrested. Shortly before, Bonhoeffer had become engaged to the 18‐year‐old Maria von Wedemeyer - a surprising step in view of the almost monastic existence that he established in his seminary.

Greater surprises were to come. In the two years that he spent in jail, he wrote down in letters and fragmentary essays his thoughts on Christianity as these had developed. This man of faith was now advocating a “worldly” theology. To be sure, this has often been misunderstood.

He wrote: “I don't mean the shallow and banal this‐worldliness of the enlightened, the busy, the comfortable, or the lascivious, but the profound this‐worldliness characterized by discipline and the constant knowledge of death and resurrection.” For him, “worldly” Christianity meant the fullest participation in the world and for the world, but in‐the-strength of an inner discipline of prayer. Surely in his death he carried that ideal to its fulfillment.

There has been a tendency to overrate Bonhoeffer as a theologian. His work is too fragmentary for him to stand in the first rank in that respect. But it would be impossible to overrate his importance as a disciple—and not least because he was willing to accept the moral ambiguity of the last phase of his activity. Mr. Bethge has created a memorable portrait of a great Christian and moral leader of this century.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Discipleship

He was a German, a Luther pastor and theologian who lost his life for opposing Hitler. Dietrich Bonhoeffer produced three books of lasting significance -- The Cost of Discipleship, Life Together, and Letters and Papers From Prison and gave a powerful witness of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.


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Elena Postigo on | Dietrich bonhoeffer quotes, Bonhoeffer quotes ...



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THE UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MUSEUM

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (far left), with his family
The Bonhoeffer family, March 1943, five days before Dietrich’s arrest. Dietrich is on far left. Rüdiger Schleicher, Klaus Bonhoeffer, and Friedrich Perels, also in the picture, were executed in 1945 as well. | Christian Kaiser Verlag


Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Opposition

by Victoria Barnett

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau on February 4, 1906, the sixth child of Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer. His father was a prominent professor of psychiatry and neurology; his mother was one of the few women of her generation to obtain a university degree.

Paula Bonhoeffer chose to educate her children in their early years at home. She had observed that “Germans have their backbones broken twice in life: first in the schools, secondly in the military.” 1 Her emphasis on a strong moral and intellectual character was shared throughout the Bonhoeffer family. This became evident in the tragic aftermath of the failed attempt to kill Adolf Hitler, when four members of the immediate family were executed: two sons (Dietrich and Klaus) and two sons-in-law (Hans von Dohnanyi and Rüdiger Schleicher).

From the beginning, Bonhoeffer’s interests took him beyond the traditional realm of German academia, and his intellect and theological achievements won him early renown. He completed his studies in Tübingen and Berlin with a 1927 dissertation, Sanctorum Communio, under Reinhold Seeberg. In 1928, he served as vicar in the German parish in Barcelona; in 1930, he completed his theological exams and studied at Union Seminary in New York. He also became active in the fledgling ecumenical movement, making international contacts that would prove crucial to his work in the resistance. In 1931, Bonhoeffer began teaching on the theological faculty in Berlin.

With Hitler’s ascent to power at the end of January 1933, Bonhoeffer’s church entered the most difficult phase in its history. Since its inception, the German Evangelical Church (the main Protestant church in Germany) had been shaped by nationalism and obedience to state authority. Influenced by these traditions, and relieved that a strong new leader had emerged from the chaos of the Weimar years, many Protestants welcomed the rise of Nazism.

In particular, a group called the Deutsche Christen (“German Christians”) became the voice of Nazi ideology within the Evangelical Church, even advocating the removal of the Old Testament from the Bible. In the summer of 1933, citing the state Aryan laws that barred all “non-Aryans” from the civil service, the Deutsche Christen proposed a church “Aryan paragraph” to prevent “non-Aryans” from becoming ministers or religious teachers.

The ensuing controversy almost split the German Evangelical Church. Despite widespread antisemitism and enthusiasm for Nazism, most church leaders steadfastly supported the “Judenmission”—the evangelization, conversion and baptism of Jews. But the Deutsche Christen were already claiming that Jews, as a “separate race,” could not become members of an “Aryan” German church even through baptism—a clear repudiation of the validity of Gospel teachings.

Protestant opposition to the Aryan paragraph, then, was not based upon disagreement with Nazi racial policies, but upon an important element of Christian doctrine. Nonetheless, the issue led church leaders into a public debate about one of the most crucial aspects of Nazi ideology. In this initial battle to retain church independence, most church leaders avoided the deeper issue: that the civil rights of all German Jews had been attacked. Indeed, many who opposed the church Aryan paragraph otherwise supported the regime’s restrictions on German Jews.

Bonhoeffer bitterly opposed the Aryan paragraph, arguing that its ratification surrendered Christian precepts to political ideology. If “non-Aryans” were banned from the ministry, he argued, then their colleagues should resign in solidarity, even if this meant the establishment of a new church — a “confessing” church that would remain free of Nazi influence. This was a minority view; most German bishops wanted to avoid antagonizing the Nazi regime and to keep their regional churches together.

The strongest opponents of Nazi interference in the churches, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, eventually did form the “Confessing Church.” But, while some Confessing Christians moved toward open resistance against the regime, more moderate Protestants (inside and outside the Confessing Church) made what they saw as necessary compromises. As the Nazi dictatorship tightened its hold, the Confessing Church itself became paralyzed.

1 Siegele-Wenschkewitz, Leonore, “Die Ehre der Frau, dem Manne zu dienen: Zum Frauenbild Dietrich Bonhoeffers” in Jost and Kuberg, eds., Wie Theologen Frauen sehen—von der Macht der Bilder. (Freiburg: Herder Verlag, 1993), 105.


Friday, May 15, 2020

R.E. Slater - My Journey Towards Open Theism


3d White Tunnel Interior With Black Hole Stock Photos, Pictures ...


My Journey Towards Open Theism

by R.E. Slater
May 15, 2020


Over the years I have made available on this website several hundreds of articles working through Calvinism, Arminianism, Freewill, Sin, Judgment, Open and Relational Theology. More recently, this would include Process Theology and what that approach can mean to Christian doctrine, the sciences (ex., process evolution, process religion, process psychology, process sociology, etc.), and societal living. This, in addition to many, many other topics related to the Christian faith and evangelical church.

Today's post is but a microcosm of those fuller discussions which are available to the reader on this website when reflecting upon the hue-and-spectra of what is being stated in Christian circles today. This is seen most prominently in the evangelical church's harmful entanglement into empire politics proving itself so directly contrary to the gospel of Christ in the current environment of post-truth, vulgar Trumpian practices of dishonesty, non-humanitarian policies, blatant use of undemocratic power, and willful authoritarianism.

For myself, part of breaking away from evangelical teaching was not only its unbiblical view of a disapproving, unloving God, but its corruptible ties to community leadership which, unsurprisingly, reflected its view of God in the tone-and-tenor of unethical treatment of those unlike its own white gospel and congregation. It defeated its basic missional statement to bring Christ to all the world. To all races, genders, religions, cultures, and ethnicities. The Christian God is not the Western God of the evangelical church. God is the God of all the world. Of all cultures. Of all persuasions. As such, my breakaway was both necessary and directional.

Thus my long journey began in revisiting what I had learned from wonderful evangelical teachers, clergy, and lay leaders of the past to what it might become through another lens less committed, if at all, to the basic evangelical tenets of Calvinism - and/or denominational distinctives based upon Calvinism - when reading and interpreting the bible. It required removing the doctrinal boundaries of Calvinism, valuing doubt and uncertainty, and attempting to reconstruct an understanding of our Creator God perhaps through more expansive, contemporary forms of hermeneutical interpretations.

My tradition is that of Baptist, which means I was as influenced by Calvinism as much as I was by the Wesleyan/Methodist doctrine of Arminianism. Yet, as the years went by my denomination's affiliations, if not sentiments, were moving steadily towards a form of neo-Calvinism even as I was beginning to move in the opposite direction away from it. Belatedly of course, and long after my evangelical bible training and seminary studies, did I come to a personal precipice to move against it. Eventually I began to grasp that the direction I needed to go required removing the obstructions binding my feet to where the Spirit was leading me. And make no mistake, the weight of God's Spirit was heavily upon me, even as I dealt with an unwanted year of personal agony and darkness. Whether I wanted it or not, the Lord led me into a wilderness which took some time to travel across.

In hindsight, it’s amazing how hard a task this proved to be, and how deeply unsettling it became personally, when coming to terms with deconstructing and reconstructing my faith after so many long years of committal to its forms and perceptions. I had grown up in fundamentalism, and then progressed towards its more liberal cousin, conservative evangelicalism. So you can see the distance I had to travel towards my present allotments today which I have no name for because of its studied progressiveness to creating a contemporary, postmodern faith. If done poorly I might have become shipwrecked upon the shoals of unbelief and cynicism. Essentially, another None and Done. If done rightly, I had hoped to build on past experiences and knowledge towards a positive meaningfulness of faithful apprenticeship in the best orthodox traditions of the church. With the Lord's gracious help, this I think, has occurred, making me all the more thankful that I had journaled my exploration through this website over the years as I reflected, critiqued, and drove forward with bountiful hopes for the future of a contemporary, Christ-filled, Christianity.

Peter Rollins, The Idolatry of God



Letting Go of the Past

As stated earlier, I will be short and to the point, in the following observations. Many longer discussions can be found here on the website for any related topic wished to be explored. So here we go...

Once rejecting Calvinism's view of the bible where God's wrath and judgment is made the centerpiece of theology, and rejecting how Calvinism is the be-all, end-all of all interpretations of God and the bible, I could then began exploring Arminianism, where God's love and our wellbeing is made the centerpiece of theology. In this endeavor I found the church historian, Roger Olson, curiously of Baptist and Arminian background, a great guide and help. When done, it brought forward thoughtful questions such as to what kind of God we taught and worshipped. Whether God is Judge or Savior; Condemner or Helper; Far or Near to us. This new path I was on had to first address who God was in relation to my sin and its outcome.

In Arminianism, freewill is made front-and-center over God's sovereign determination of our fate as concluded by Calvinism. We, as sinful beings, are free and open to follow God or follow our own sinful ways. There is no mystery here. At once, it removed God from the role of our Judge to the role of our Savior. Though Reformed theology teaches we are all under God's wrath without Christ, under Arminianism we are under God's loving care and direction leading to salvation as sinners. It does not deny judgment for our sins but lays it firmly upon us, not God. The sin is mine, and mine alone, as is its conclusion whether to repent or not by the Spirit of God. Calvinism teaches our fate is sealed in God's election and predestination of our lives. Thus our futures are closed and not open, and our freewill (sic, agency) is denied.

Under Arminianism, a God of Love loves at all times. This means that God is not in the business of condemning but aiding; not excluding but assisting us in our sin and sinful surroundings. Rather than abandoning us as sinful beings God comes in salvation to deliver us from sin that we be remade in the image of Christ. Conversely, when we refuse God's attentions to our salvation (sic, not only as a faith expression but as a faith profession) than God allows us in our freewill to refuse His benevolence. But like a loving parent, God is "hard of hearing," unwilling we refuse Him or track away from Him. He never leaves us even in our deepest sin.

Like the proverbial Hound of Heaven, God will never leave us nor abandon us. At all times God offers not only eternal life, but an enriching life yearning to love all things and all people - even as He loves and partners with us towards helping us do His will of goodness and love. Judgment comes only through ourselves - not God. Our sin judges us - not God. The results of our sin harm us - not God, who feels harmed when we fail and sin. Who suffers with us and with those whom we cause to suffer. Being borne in the image of God is to be borne as a free will being. We have a free will to use with God as our guide and helper, or without God as our guide and helper. The choice is ever ours even as the Spirit of the Lord ever calls us to our Lord and Savior by faith repentance and confession towards faith living and profession. We are never abandoned of God. God is always with us yearning to help us break free of our sin which binds and shackles us.


I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped; 
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after...

- [Excerpt] Francis Thompson, "The Hound of Heaven"


Letting the God of Our Present

Secondly, once a loving God is placed in the center of the bible then all the church's doctrines must reflect God's love and not God's judgment. It's a logical result. John Calvin chose to emphasize sin and judgment. A generation later Jacob Arminius chose to see God as love with the consequence of loving, saving divine action. As a doctrinal illustration, the doctrine of eschatology then becomes less dark and earth-ending. Our "end-times," so to say, becomes our times of "harvest and reaping." The future may be full of light and grace overflowing with the possibilities of where creation may go when guided by the love of God. The distinction is seeing an open future full of possibility and wellbeing rather than a closed future of Armageddon-like doom and destruction. One's belief about God tends to reflect upon one's thoughts and actions about God  doctrinally as well as privately; policy-wise as well as community-wise; through institutional church teachings as well as by congregational actions.

So, what about all the OT prophecies of judgment? Or Jesus' sayings of end time doom? Or even the book of Revelation's endless stories of destruction and loss? The burden of man's needs to cease from sin is ever a daily burden. Its reality is very real. So are its heavy consequences when failing to seek God to remove sin's doom in our hearts and minds. We condemn ourselves and all others around us by our sinful actions. Sin's results come from our refusing to "become" Christ images of love and goodness to earth and man.

But if, in the power of Jesus' atoning love, and through His Spirit of resurrection, we might learn to live with one another and with creation in ways of dynamic (or salvific) being and becoming, then the future is open, and we are freer to abandon sin's hallmarks to remake a sinful world in the power of God's love. All of which is open ended, filled with humane goodness to one another, and far more in balance with the Earth's environments which we have destroyed. Arminianism's corollaries then point towards the contemporary doctrines of an Open and Relational (Process-based) Theology and away from a Closed, Determinative Theology of wrath and judgment where the church loses in its historic missional witness and gives up awaiting its Lord's Return. Jesus said in His parables that to such a congregation, or proposition, they have ill-used the currency of the redeeming gospel by hiding it in the ground.

This is Jesus' good news. The Gospel of the bible. That God's love has come and that it is good. That this old world may be delivered from its sinful ways and that cycles of doom and judgment might be broken. The church then may stop giving up and waiting for God to return as He is here, now, waiting to become. That the church's whole effort must be focused on releasing one another to the gospel of God's great love which overcomes the sins of the world through Jesus. To relearn in Jesus that sin can no longer bind the one Cross-won, Buried in Christ, and Spirit-raised from the dead. That by the power of the Spirit a world held in God's love might be resurrected in reclamation and renewal towards God's original intent for creation. That we preach and live a gospel of good news that is compassionate, valuative, generative, socially just, and indiscriminate towards others of difference. This is the kingdom which God wishes to envelop creation within. It is open, free to be and to become, and filled with purposeful intention. And the good news is, it may begin today.

If a Christian is to have an end-times eschatology at all, it must be one hope-filled, and reaching out, in loving remake of a world Jesus valued so highly that He came to atone for its sins that we might, by our Lord and Saviour's love, redeem a lost world onto the path of God's loving goodness and wellbeing, in all the many forms which this may mean. Even so Lord, come. And in your coming to our unloving hearts, become within-and-without our being, that we may then become as you are becoming, one soul at a time, one occasion at a time. Amen.

R.E. Slater
May 15, 2020


WHAT MIGHT AN ECOLOGICAL CIVILIZATION BUILT UPON THE
GOSPEL OF GOD'S LOVE LOOK LIKE?  HERE'S ONE EXAMPLE:




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RESOURCES


Thomas Oord's Center for Open & Relational Theology: Videos and Online Resources

Relevancy22 Index - Open & Relational Process Theology

Relevancy22 Index- Calvinism v. Arminianism

Relevancy22 Index - Calvinism v. Wesleyanism

Relevancy22 Index - Process Philosophy & Theology


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Arminianism is a branch of Protestantism based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) and his historic supporters known as Remonstrants. His teachings held to the five solae of the Reformation, but they were distinct from particular teachings of Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and other Protestant Reformers. Jacobus Arminius (Jakob Harmenszoon) was a student of Theodore Beza (Calvin's successor) at the Theological University of Geneva. Arminianism is known to some as a soteriological diversification of Calvinism; to others, Arminianism is a reclamation of early Church theological consensus.


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Open theism, also known as openness theology and free will theism, is a theological movement that has developed within Christianity as a rejection to the synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology. Open theism is typically advanced as a biblically motivated and philosophically consistent theology of human and divine freedom (in the libertarian sense), with an emphasis on what this means for the content of God's foreknowledge and exercise of God's power. Noted: Open Theist theologian Thomas J Oord identifies four paths to open and relational theology:

1. following the biblical witness,
2. following themes in some Christian theological traditions,
3. following the philosophy of free will, and
4. following the path of reconciling faith and science.

Roger E. Olson said that open theism triggered the "most significant controversy about the doctrine of God in evangelical thought" in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


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What Is Open and Relational Theology? It is an umbrella label under which a variety of theologies and believers reside. This variety shares at least two ideas in common:

  • God experiences time moment by moment (open)
  • God, us, and creation relate, so that everyone gives and receives (relational)

Most open and relational thinkers also affirm additional ideas, such as the idea love is our ultimate ethic, creatures are free at least to some extent, all creation matters, life has purpose, genuine transformation is possible, science points to important truths theology needs to incorporate, and more.


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Process theology is a type of theology developed from Alfred North Whitehead's (1861–1947) process philosophy, most notably by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000) and John B. Cobb (b. 1925). Process theology and process philosophy are collectively referred to as "process thought".

For both Whitehead and Hartshorne, it is an essential attribute of God to affect and be affected by temporal processes, contrary to the forms of theism that hold God to be in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable), and unaffected by the world (impassible). Process theology does not deny that God is in some respects eternal (will never die), immutable (in the sense that God is unchangingly good), and impassible (in the sense that God's eternal aspect is unaffected by actuality), but it contradicts the classical view by insisting that God is in some respects temporal, mutable, and passible.

According to Cobb,
"Process theology may refer to all forms of theology that emphasize event, occurrence, or becoming over substance. In this sense theology influenced by Hegel is process theology just as much as that influenced by Whitehead. This use of the term calls attention to affinities between these otherwise quite different traditions."
Also Pierre Teilhard de Chardin can be included among process theologians, even if they are generally understood as referring to the Whiteheadian/Hartshornean school, where there continue to be ongoing debates within the field on the nature of God, the relationship of God and the world, and immortality.


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The Future of Open Theism
by Richard Rice

Amazon Link


Book Contents



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Introductory Considerations
by R.E. Slater

Rice's book is a recent example of Calvinistically-based Evangelicalism struggling with the love of God in a non-Calvinistic context. Having not read Rice's work I do hope he gives to open theism its due as it is part-and-parcel with relational theism each of which are founded upon process theology and all integral with each other.

What this means is that the future of both God and creation is open as each, together with the other, strives towards beneficial wellbeing and generative becoming. Conversely, the church's typical outlook is that of a closed, determinative future bound for hell and judgment which a sinful humanity binds itself to should we neglect Christ's freedom to be released unto the love and reclamation of God's new creation.

Open and Relational Process Theology is the best explanation of the bible and the spirit/world we live in. For myself, it was a natural evolution and contemporary upgrade based upon the biblical foundation of Arminianism as I had explained above. Any theology, such as Calvinism, bearing lesser views of God's resurrecting love, are neither optional biblical views nor worthy of defending by the church if it is to retain its mission of Christ and His gospel of crucified insurrection. It's time to release all other lesser gospels for a gospel of God's love, first, foremost, and always.

R.E. Slater
May 15, 2020

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Book Blurb

Open theism has reached its adolescence. How did it get here? And where does it go from here? Since IVP's publication of The Openness of God in 1994, evangelical theology has grappled with the alternative vision of the doctrine of God that open theism offers. Responding to critics who claim that it proposes a truncated version of God that fails to account for Scripture and denies many of the traditional attributes of God, open theism's proponents contend that its view of God is not only biblically warranted but also more accurate―with a portrayal of God that emphasizes divine love for humanity and responsiveness to human free will. No matter what one's assessment, open theism inarguably has made a significant impact on recent theological discourse.

Now, twenty-five years later, Richard Rice recounts in this volume the history of open theism from its antecedents and early developments to its more recent and varied expressions. He then considers different directions that open theism might continue to develop in relation to several primary doctrines of the Christian faith.