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

Friday, January 31, 2020

Thomas Jay Oord - Relentless Love in the Afterlife




Relentless Love in the Afterlife


by Thomas Jay Oord
July 2nd, 2018

In the book I’m currently writing, I address the question of heaven, hell, annihilation, and the afterlife. I take the logic of uncontrolling love to its eschatological end. And this process has led me to coin a label for my view, Relentless Love.

The Usual Afterlife Theories

The logic of uncontrolling love changes the way we think about the afterlife. If God’s self-giving, others-empowering love is necessarily uncontrolling and can’t control anyone or anything, what we do now and after we die makes an ultimate difference.

The view of God most people seem to have — what I call “the conventional view” — not only assumes what we do now is unnecessary for God’s purposes, it also assumes what we do after death is unnecessary. The typical scenarios say or imply God alone can decide our destiny.

Heaven and Hell

The most common afterlife scenario says God will decide some must go to heaven and others to hell. A person’s sin may influence that decision. Whether a person “accepted Jesus” or was faithful in some religion may influence it. How a person treated the last and the least on earth may affect what God decides. But nothing we do is essential. It’s up to God. The God with controlling power can do whatever he wants.

The heaven or hell scenario assumes God alone predetermined the criteria used to decide our destinies. God set up the rules, decides whom to punish or reward, and assures judgment is executed. The One who set up the rules can change them at any time, because God is the sole lawmaker, judge, and implementer.

This God answers to nothing and no one.



Universalism

The second scenario says God accepts everyone into heaven. Often called “universalism,” this view says a truly loving God wouldn’t condemn anyone to eternal torment. The punishment of everlasting agony doesn’t fit the crimes of 80 years (more or less) of earthly sin. Besides, a loving God forgives.

This scenario assumes its God’s prerogative to put everyone in heaven. And because God can control anyone at any time, heaven is ensured for all. But this also means that what we’ve done – good or bad – doesn’t ultimately matter. Our choices now don’t matter then to the God who, by absolute fiat, will decide to place us in heaven.

This God answers to nothing and no one.

Annihilation

The third afterlife scenario agrees that a loving God would not send anyone to eternal torment. But God destroys the unrepentant. God either annihilates them in a display of omnipotence or passively by not sustaining their existence. God causes or allows death God could singlehandedly prevent.

Both active and passive destruction extinguish the unrepentant. They disappear. A controlling God retains ultimate say over whether anyone continues existing. If sinners wanted to repent, it’s too late. God set up the rules and follows through with them.

This God answers to nothing and no one.

The Lawmaker, Judge, and Jury of One

In these afterlife scenarios, our actions don’t ultimately matter. They may tilt God’s decision one way or another, but they don’t have to. The Judge with the ability to control can singlehandedly save us, condemn us, or annihilate us.

All three scenarios assume God set up afterlife’s judicial system. Whether judgment involves heaven and hell, heaven only, or annihilation, God predetermined the rules. A God who singlehandedly decides the rules retains the ability to change them. It’s up to the Lawmaker, Judge, and Jury of One.

The God who answers to nothing and no one can alone decide our fates.

Relentless Love

There’s a better way to think about the afterlife. It builds upon the radical belief God needs our cooperation for love to flourish. It endorses our deep-seated intuition that our choices matter. And it says God’s love for everyone continues beyond the grave.

The better alternative agrees with other scenarios that our hope for true happiness now and later has God as its ultimate source. It disagrees, however, with scenarios that assume God alone can decide our fate. It says God always loves and seeks our love responses. When we and others cooperate, we enjoy well-being. When we do not, we suffer.

Let’s call this the “relentless love” view of the afterlife.

Rob Bell and Love Wins

The relentless love view follows the logic of uncontrolling love. To get at the details, let’s compare it to Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. (Click for a full review of Rob’s book.)

Much of Love Wins addresses hell. The book raises to awareness among the general public what biblical scholars have known for centuries: the Bible provides little to no support for the view that hell is a place of everlasting torment. The traditional idea of hell doesn’t mesh well with Scripture.

Rob believes in a type of hell, however. “We do ourselves great harm when we confuse the very essence of God, which is love, with the very real consequences of rejecting and resisting that love, which creates what we call hell,” he says. To refuse God’s love “moves us away from it… and that will, by very definition, be an increasingly unloving, hellish reality.”

I agree with Rob. What he calls “hell,” I call the natural negative consequences of choosing not to cooperate with God’s love.


Our Beliefs about God’s Love

The most important point in Love Wins is that our beliefs about God should shape our beliefs about what happens after death. We make the best sense of reality if we believe God’s nature is love. A loving God would not send anyone to everlasting torment. God always loves everyone and all creation. Rob and I agree on that too.

In my view, God doesn’t send anyone to hell singlehandedly. God can’t. The God whose nature is uncontrolling love also can’t force anyone into heaven. Such force requires control, and God’s love is uncontrolling. As far as I can tell, Rob doesn’t make this claim.

Love Wins isn’t clear about what it means to say, “love wins.” Does “winning” mean God never stops loving? Or does it also mean God’s love eventually persuades all to cooperate? And if God’s love persuades all, is this a guarantee or hope?

The Guarantees of Love

The relentless love view of the afterlife guarantees that love wins in several ways.

First, the God whose nature is uncontrolling love will never stop loving us. Because love comes first, God cannot stop loving us. Conventional theologies say God may or may not love us now. They say God may or may not love us after we die. God could choose to torture or kill. It’s hard to imagine any loving being sending others to hell or annihilating.

1. It’s guaranteed the God of relentless love works for our well-being in the afterlife. Love wins.
The second guarantee relentless love offers is that those in the afterlife who say “Yes” to God’s love experience heavenly bliss. They enjoy abundant life in either a different (spiritual) body or as a bodiless soul. (I address these two views in chapter four of the book.) Those who say “Yes!” to God’s love are guaranteed life eternal.
2. It’s guaranteed those who cooperate with God’s relentless love enjoy eternal bliss. Love wins.
The third guarantee is that God never stops inviting, calling, and encouraging us to love in the afterlife. Although some may resist, God never throws in the towel. There are natural negative consequences that come from refusing love in this life and the next. But these consequences are self-imposed not divinely inflicted. God never gives up and never sends some to hell or annihilates.
3. It’s guaranteed God always offers eternal life and never annihilates or condemns to hell. Love wins.
As we consistently say “Yes” to God, we develop loving characters. The habits of love shape us into loving people. While God’s love always provides choices, those who develop loving characters through consistent positive responses grow less and less likely to choose unloving options. This may happen quickly or take more time. But when we taste and see that love is good, and as love builds our spiritual bodies, we’re less likely to lust for junk food! Beyond the grave, this love diet rehabilitates. We’re guaranteed to become new creations when we cooperate with love!
4. It’s guaranteed consistent cooperation with God’s relentless love builds loving characters in us. Love wins.

The relentless love view cannot make one guarantee, however. It cannot guarantee that every creature and all creation cooperate with God’s love, but love is like that. It does not force its own way (1 Cor. 13:5). Love cannot coerce. Love is always uncontrolling.

Because God’s love is relentless, however, we have good reason to hope all creatures eventually cooperate with God. It’s reasonable to think the God who never gives up and whose love is universal will eventually convince all creatures and redeem all creation. After all, love always hopes and never gives up (1 Cor. 13:7)!

Divine Love Sets the Rules

We earlier noted that conventional views assume God alone sets up the rules of final judgment. The conventional scenarios say God answers to nothing and no one. God freely sets up the rules, judges, and then implements the consequences. God alone decides all.

Things are different for relentless love. God didn’t singlehandedly set the rules of judgment long ago. In this view, God’s loving ways are expressions of God’s loving nature. The lawmaker, judge, and implementer of consequences is bound by the logic of divine love. Because God “cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13), God expresses uncontrolling love now and in the afterlife.

God answers to God’s own nature of love.

Conclusion

In sum, bliss beyond the grave rests primarily, but not exclusively, in the relentless love of God. God continues to give freedom and seek cooperation. The relentless love view provides various guarantees. And what we do in response to God’s love matters now and in the afterlife.

Love wins!





What Does a God-in-Process Mean in relation to Providence?




A TimeFull God of Providence
by Thomas Jay Oord
December 26, 2019

Most Christian theologies assume God is essentially timeless. By ‘essentially timeless,’ I mean they assume God does not experience in relationship with others moment by moment. Many assume God ‘sees’ history – beginning to end – from an eternal now, without engaging in giving and receiving relations with creation.

Scholars offer various theories for how the timeless God acts. But each theory shares the view God is fundamentally nontemporal. The timeless God is ‘outside,’ ‘beyond,’ or ‘above’ time.

Open and relational theologies believe God experiences time sequentially — moment by moment — in relation with others. God’s experience is in process, we might say. God experienced the actual past, experiences in the present, and faces an open, yet-to-be-experienced future. God’s experience is timefull not timeless.

Some open and relational theologies say God always experiences in Trinity, as divine members give and receive love. Others say God always relates timefully with creation, never having existed without creaturely others. Some think God relates in Trinity and with creation.


Providence

The idea God everlastingly experiences time makes a difference for a Christian doctrine of providence. The implications of thinking God experiences moment by moment are vast. Exploring them all is not possible in this essay.

I will, however, point to four general characteristics of God-in-process views. I’ll explain what these characteristics typically mean for accounts of providence. I’ll address other characteristics in a future essay.

Open and relational theologies make better sense of the biblical witness, personal experiences, and the world science explores. They also make better sense of the idea love is God’s providential mode of operation.

Open and relational theologies vary. No set of ideas is embraced by every theologian who accepts the label. But family resemblances can be identified. These resemblances shape this view of providence that says God is timefull not timeless.


An Omniscient God Experiences

Open and relational views of providence take the reality of time seriously. Not only is existence fundamentally in process, but God also experiences the process of time. The living and loving Creator everlastingly relates with others moment by moment.

God-in-process views say God faces an undetermined future. That’s the meaning of ‘open’ in open and relational theologies. An undetermined future implies God cannot with certainty know now all that will occur. Exhaustive divine foreknowledge would only be possible if the future were settled, fixed, and complete.

Lack of foreknowledge, however, doesn’t mean God’s knowledge is limited. The future does not yet exist to be known. It does not provide information anyone could know. The future is inherently unknowable because not yet actual. So God should not be thought limited because not knowing what is inherently unknowable.

Open and relational theologians believe God is omniscient, however. God knows all that’s knowable. God knows the completed past, the unfolding present, and possibilities for the future.

This view of God’s omniscience makes better sense of how most Christians relate to God. Petitionary prayer makes better sense, for instance, if the future is open and not yet decided. Why ask God to do something if the future is already settled? To put it another way, petitionary prayer makes little sense if God is timelessly unresponsive.


God in One Sense Affected and Changing;
in Another Sense Unaffected and Unchanging

Many of the most influential Christian theologies say God is unaffected by creation. God is ‘impassible,’ to use the ancient language. God is unmoved.

By contrast, open and relational theologies say creatures affect God, because God is passible. Many today use the word “relational” to talk about how others influence God. This view fits biblical accounts that portray God responding to creation and feeling emotions (e.g., anger, sadness, joy) in light of what creatures do.

God undergoes changes in experience. Divine experience is mutable, dynamic, or interactive. God may even change plans – repent – in light of what creatures do. In fact, more than forty biblical passages say God does just that: repents. The idea that God interacts with creation also fits well with the covenants reported in Christian scripture.

Most open and relational thinkers make a distinction between God’s changing experience and unchanging nature. Some call this distinction divine “dipolarity.” I call it God’s “essence/experience binate.” The shared point is that God’s essence is impassible and immutable as eternally constant. But God’s experience is passible and mutable. The phrase ‘God in process’ refers to ongoing divine experiences not the unchanging divine essence.

We best understand biblical statements about an unchanging God (e.g., ‘I am the Lord who does not change’) in light of the immutable divine essence. But we understand passages describing God repenting, responding, expressing emotion, feeling compassion, or making covenants in light of God’s mutable experience.


Genuine but Limited Freedom

Some theologies deny that creatures have genuine (libertarian) freedom. Theologies that adopt divine determinism explicitly reject creaturely freedom. They assume a sovereign God controls all things. Other theologies say humans are free, and yet somehow God simultaneously controls them. This called “compatiblism.” Open and relational theologies say both determinism and compatibilism make no sense.

Open and relational theologies affirm that humans express genuine but limited freedom. Various biological, environmental, historical, epistemological, and other factors limit creatures. But humans freely choose in each moment among limited options arising from and suitable to their circumstances. We are not entirely controlled by God, atoms, genes, neurons, or any environmental factors. But we are influenced by them.

Some open and relational theologies assume other creatures express genuine but limited freedom. Still others speculate that less complex creatures have agency, self-organization, or spontaneity. Some embrace panpsychism, which affirms responsiveness in even the least complex entities of existence. But open and relational theologies differ among themselves about how far down the complexity scale creaturely agency goes.

Open and relational theologies assume God is not free to do some things. In addition to being unable to do the illogical, the divine nature prevents God from acting in other ways. God is not free to stop existing, for instance, because by nature God exists necessarily. [Nor is] God free to stop loving, cannot sin, etc., because God cannot contradict Godself.

Some open and relational theologies argue God’s freedom in relation to creation became constrained once God created the universe ex nihilo. Others say God’s freedom has always been constrained, because God has always been creating and relating to uncontrollable creatures. In either case, God has genuine but limited freedom. Whatever one means by ‘divine sovereignty,’ therefore, divine power must be understood in light of God’s nature, metaphysical laws, and/or what is logical.


God is not Culpable for Evil

Open and relational theologies think about God’s power differently than timeless God theologies. Because God does not predetermine or foreknow, for instance, God neither pre-causes nor foresees evil.

Process theology is best known for arguing God’s power is inherently limited. Some process theologians say these limitations come from the God-world relationship; others say from God’s relation to creativity; others say metaphysical laws constrain God. The strength of such claims is hard to overemphasize: the God process theology describes cannot coerce and is therefore not culpable for failing to prevent genuine evil. God cannot cause evil nor singlehandedly prevent it!

Other open and relational theologies say God voluntarily self-limits. This means God ‘allows’ or ‘permits’ evil. Some believe God made a promise at creation never to intervene. Others say once creation exists, God’s power becomes limited.

Such claims partly answer questions of evil. They reject the idea evil is pre-decided or foreknown. But divine self-limitation theologies are not as strong as process theology when it comes to solving the problem of evil. Survivors wonder why the voluntarily self-limited God doesn’t occasionally un-self-limit, in the name of love, to prevent their suffering.

God-in-process views vary in their views about demons and a devil. Some reject the idea such ontological beings exist but acknowledge demonic non-agential principalities and powers. Others embrace demons and a devil as ontological beings. These theologies blame at least some disorder, tragedy, and evil to the activity of destructive agents.

Conclusion

In this essay, I’ve laid out four ways theologies of providence that assume God is timefull differ from theologies assuming God is timeless. Much more could be said, of course, and I’ll write a second essay laying out other ways.

It matters to think God experiences time rather than standing outside it.




* * * * * * * * * *




A TimeFull God Creates & Acts
with an End in Mind


by Thomas Jay Oord
January 30th, 2020

Many people think a timeless God created the universe and is its eschatological hope. By contrast, I think we make better sense of creation and eschatology if we think God is timefull rather than timeless.

In a previous essay, I identified four dimensions of an open and relational — “God-in-process” — view of providence. Here’s a link. In this essay, I continue my previous train of thought and address the beginning and end from a timefull God theological perspective.

God Continually Creates

Open and relational theologies affirm God is Creator. God created in the past and creates in the present. God continually creates (creatio continua). Creation depends moment-by-moment upon divine creativity.

The idea God continually creates fits nicely with the general theory of evolution. The vast majority of contemporary biologists say new species emerged slowly over a long period, thanks to various forces and factors.

Most open and relational theologies agree with the general theory of evolution. But they claim God acts in the evolutionary process. A timefull God creates through evolution (and other forces).

God also empowers creatures to co-create alongside their Creator. This view fits nicely with biblical claims about God calling creation to create (Genesis 1) and contemporary scientific views that speak of the emergence of new species. God’s creating is noncoercive. Random genetic mutations, natural selection, creaturely self-organization, evolutionary dead ends, and natural evils are compatible with God’s uncontrolling, creative love.

Creation out of Nothing?

Open and relational theologies differ on whether God ever creates from a ‘blank slate,’ i.e., out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). Although the view isn’t explicitly stated in Scripture, some affirm creation from nothing for metaphysical reasons. Creatio ex nihilo implies that creation depends upon God. It also implies that God differs from creation in a crucial way.

Other God-in-process theologies say God never faced a completely blank slate. They reject creatio ex nihilo, and they think God everlastingly creates. God differs from creation in some ways but not others.

Most who accept creatio ex nihilo and reject it affirm with contemporary science that this universe began with a big bang roughly 13.8 billion years ago. And they affirm with Scripture that God is Creator. (For more on the diverse views, see a book of scholarly essay I edited: Theologies of Creation: Creatio ex Nihilo and Its New Rivals.)

God-in-process views offer a methodological advantage for thinking about theology and science. These views says efforts to understand existence require both scientific and theological contributions. Any scientific theory claiming to explain reality fully without reference to God is false. Any theology claiming to explain reality fully without reference to nature is false.

We need both science and theology to make sense of life.


God Has Plans but No Blueprint

Most theologies assume God’s providence follows a foreordained and foreknown plan. The God who is outside time predetermined creation’s current events and future outcomes. Or this God foreknows – in some mysterious way – precisely how history plays out.

From a timeless God perspective, divine providence is like a detailed blueprint portraying all events in advance.

Open and relational theologies deny that God foreordains or foreknows exhaustively. The future is open, and the present becomes what a timefull God and creation decide. An uncontrolling God cannot guarantee or foreknow all outcomes.

The God of open and relational theology has plans and desires, however. God leads creation toward fulfilling them. This is not the God of deism watching from a distance. Nor is this an aloof and detached deity.

God makes plans for love to win. And God empowers creatures to cooperate in fulfilling those plans. God works in each situation to call, persuade, or command creatures to choose well-being.

God-in-process models might think of providence like an improvisational play. The play has a Director and general direction. But creaturely actors play essential roles in deciding how the plot unfolds.

God-in-process models might also think of providence like a jazz session. Each musician contributes, and there’s a general movement toward the possibility of beautiful art. But the artists determine together how the music develops.

These models might also think of providence like a family. A perfectly loving Parent nurtures and instructs children. This Parent directs the whole family toward well-being. But the family’s health depends on the decisions of all members, not just the Parent.

(For more, see the blog essay, “Ways to Think about Providence.“)


God Acts with the End in Mind

Open and relational theologies embrace diverse eschatologies. Their views on the end contrast those theologies that assume God is timeless. Divine providence does not proceed according to a preset eschatological scheme.

Open and relational theologies describe a God motivated by persuasive love. God imagines a better future and calls creation to embrace the best in each moment, depending on what’s possible. (For what this means in terms of heaven, hell, or annihilation, see my “Relentless Love” view of the afterlife.)

Those who embrace love cooperate with God’s work to redeem all creation. Their cooperation promotes overall well-being. Those that fail to cooperate reap the natural negative consequences that come from saying no to the well-being God offers. Their lack of cooperation negatively affects others too.

If God foreordained and foreknew all that will occur, the future must already be settled, complete, and fixed. If the future is complete, creaturely decisions cannot be made freely in relation to possible futures. There is only one way things can play out.

Without genuine creaturely freedom, it’s hard to imagine how creatures are morally or socially responsible. Without social and moral responsibility, it’s hard to see how creatures ultimately matter. God-outside-of-time views are difficult to reconcile with our the deep intuition that what happens in our own lives makes an ultimate difference.

Open and relational theologies say creatures make a real difference to how history unfolds. Our lives count.

Conclusion

How one believes God relates with time matters. Timefull theologies offer plausible views of how God created and creates. They also offer hopeful views of what the future can be.






Pluralism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow - Why Its Important to Know and Accept




Imagining a Brotherhood of Man

by R.E. Slater
January 31, 2020

Contemporary societies either move forward accepting multiethnic, multicultural compositions or endlessly fight for pure blood societies of their imaginations which can never return to the "good old days" of "one race, one religion, one meaning." Not now, not then, not in "biblical times." The race of men will always hold wide and varied beliefs. It will never be otherwise. The plea for accepting pluralism requires seeing another as equal and important. The latter observation of one religion, or one race above all others, diminishes both being and outcome.

As a Christian, God loves all without preference. The church must then obey and do the same. The days of assimilating western practises and beliefs into the Christian faith are gone. Post-colonialism says those days are done and over and must never be returned to. Pluralistic cultures do not colonize. They find ways to elevate common ground in appreciative respect.

Populism, or nationalized Christian faith, refuses these acts in power moves to restrict, curtail, deny, and barricade the rights of minorities and diversely different religions. Yet statistically those same minorities and religions will continue to grow and expand thus creating greater conflict with old guard traditionalists refusing foreign thoughts and beliefs beyond their own rationalized structures. Missions accept the difference and work within cultures of difference.

Societies which successfully navigate these waters must therefore deconstruct their beliefs before they can positively reconstruct their faith on a pluralistic basis. One could say this is occurring now in America but one could also say it is failing as ideological Christian borders rise higher and broader across the hearts of white Christians wishing to force their sectarian ideas of westernism above all other beliefs thereby refusing pluralistic attitudes and behavior in the Christan faith which might otherwise thrive openly with embraced welcome by churches, schools, and religious bodies of convention.




One last... if God is God then we shouldn't worry if pluralism will drown out God's voice. He is, and because He is - in a different non-colonizing way - it is the old attitudes, beliefs and theologies of Christianity which must change. Which must release God from bondage by freeing Him to be who He is apart from our restricting cultural ideas of who God should be.

Christianity has always acted and taught that God is trans-national, trans-geographical, and trans-temporal. This means that God is the God of all nations, across all places on the earth, and across all eras. So let us now double down on practicing these ancient acknowledgements even as the Hebrew Christians had relaxed their Jewish rituals; as Paul did when preaching to Greek and Roman alike; as Philip and Mark had when bearing Christ's message to Egypt and Africa; and, as the Apostle Thomas did bearing the gospel into India.

There should never be any fear in discovering God in new ways through the lenses of other cultures. It is enough to appreciate how God can be seen through the eyes of fellow Christians across the world beginning first with our Catholic Hispanic neighbors and all Muslim Christians who have come to America for sanctuary. I find it even more interesting that some immigrants have come to "Christian" America to missionize us as lost ones to the gospel of Christ. It seems both ironic and paradoxical but I am so very grateful to our foreign brother's hearts in passionate witness for Jesus. Even as many of God's remnant residing in here in America are similarly burdened, working out of positions of pluralism and welcome to all segments of society, including the gay and trans populations of America.

by R.E. Slater
January 31, 2020


Amazon Link

An Introduction to Christian Worldview:
Pursuing God's Perspective in a Pluralistic World

Publ October 10, 2017
Description

Everyone has a worldview. A worldview is the lens through which we interpret the cosmos and our lives in it. A worldview answers the big questions of life: What is our nature? What is our world? What is our problem? What is our end? As Anderson, Clark, and Naugle point out, our worldview cannot simply be reduced to a series of rational beliefs. We are creatures of story, and the kinds of stories we tell reveal important things about our worldview. Part of being a thoughtful Christian means being able to understand and express the Christian worldview as well as developing an awareness of the variety of worldviews. An Introduction to Christian Worldview takes you further into answering questions such as the following:

  • Why do worldviews matter?
  • What characterizes a Christian worldview?
  • How can we analyze and describe a worldview?
  • What are the most common secular and religious worldviews?

Well organized, clearly written, and featuring aids for learning, An Introduction to Christian Worldview is the essential text for either the classroom or for self-study.


Website Link

A Focused Session from our
2010 Ecclesia National Gathering


There is no question that we are living in the midst of a pluralistic society. For much of the western world, this is new territory that is becoming increasingly complex to grabble with and help those in our congregations understand. Inadequately dealing with the issues that a pluralistic society creates also hampers the confidence of those in our congregations towards mission and evangelism. In this session, Willard will address the issue of how the Christian gospel interacts with the pluralism of western society and offer a reason approached to re-establish confidence in the uniqueness of the gospel of Jesus.



Amazon Link


Authenticity and Religion in the Pluralistic Age:
A Simmelian Study of Christian Evangelicals
and New Monastics

by Francesca E.S. Montemaggi
Publ March 19, 2019
Description

This book provides an original concept of authenticity to illuminate the transformation of Christian consciousness in the increasingly more secular and pluralistic culture of Western societies. The present work is unique in offering an in-depth study of Simmel’s sociology and philosophy in dialogue with an ethnographic account of contemporary Christians. It develops original concepts drawing on Simmel’s writings on individuality and religion and connecting them with classical and contemporary scholarship in sociology and philosophy. The theoretical framework is illustrated through an analysis of the narratives and practices of Christians in an evangelical church in the UK and several New Monastic communities in the UK, US, and Canada. The book proposes an understanding of belief as relational and experiential and a concept of authenticity, as self-transcendence articulated in dialogue with religious tradition and the Other. Religious tradition is developed through an on-going process of interpretation and sacralization of what is considered within and without the tradition’s boundaries. The book also proposes an innovative approach to the study of morality by distinguishing between a people-centered ethic (ethic of compassion) and a norm-centered ethic (ethic of purity) to account for the the different ways in which Christians engage with the Other. This allows an exploration of the relationship between ethics and the making and breaking of boundaries in a given community. The case studies in this book show that committed Christians attempt to reconcile commitment to their tradition with the value of inclusiveness and to affirm their moral and religious identity as a distinctive moral lifestyle, not superior, but of equal worth to those of non-Christians.