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

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Catherine Keller - How to think about the pandemic


CV19 link







It awaits us to determine how we will react to crises in our lives
always with God as our helper as we work towards resolution.

- Catherine Keller, "How to think about the pandemic"










A Letter from Catherine Keller

April 2, 2020


Dear Ones,

Particularly, in this letter, ones who claim some seriously biblical, or explicitly theological, orientation. Amidst this pandemic, ones who may be wondering….

Is God punishing us?

We — the human species — certainly deserve it; we have gone way out of kilter in our most basic creaturely responsibilities. We’re out of balance, way out of sync with the wisdom, the Word, of the creation. We have taken our materiality for granted, in utter ingratitude. Isn’t this pandemic, and maybe worse to come, just what we have coming to us?

Is God testing us?

We surely are being tested, tried, exposed in our multiple vulnerabilities — challenged at our edges, both spiritual and physical. And that is not just as individuals and families and local communities. It is also our systems of life together, our economics and our politics, that are being tested. Some are failing worse than others. And our big national system is so far failing
big-time. But are we all together tested? By God?

Is God teaching us a lesson?

If so, we better learn it fast. So often, we have let the most aggressive and greedy portions of our species organize our material interactions, our global economies. Not that they asked our permission. But we who have less power have ceded much of the life of the planet, local and global, to the systems of power. We blame the powerful, but we do not reclaim the power. We have much to learn…so terrifyingly much.

Is God fixing the world?

Our carbon emissions are coming down, with millions of flights grounded. If emissions keep coming down, we might just prevent that 1.5C rise in global temperature. And pandemic can also bring down population levels, which have grown beyond sustainability. After all, the Bible teaches that it took the Great Flood to bring about a fresh start for humanity — and everything else. Almost total decline of the human population and the nonhuman ones too. Later, it took ten plagues to make Pharaoh “let my people go.” Huge collateral damage to the innocent, like Egyptian children and non-Hebrew slaves! Is our present plague the way God — like it or not — is fixing our world?


For many folks who find solace and guidance from their biblical faith, those questions must somehow be answered ‘yes.’ And this sense of divine intervention may lead them to do good, moral things. They can find biblical passages to read literally, to rip out of their context, to ignore millennia of history between an ancient text and our context, and find this kind of God who is directly and violently punishing, telling, testing, fixing.

I respect anyone’s sincere faith. But faith can get trapped in misguided interpretations. So, in the interest of the truth without which faith is an illusion — let me answer those four questions I posed.

Is the pandemic God’s punishment?

The coronavirus is having punishing effects, largely on the most vulnerable and least deserving. But “punishment” is supposed to signify justice. And yet in this and in most of the plagues of world history, the poor and the frail are the main victims. Doesn’t this make them the objects of a horribly unjust punishment? Besides, if God were the direct controlling agent of history, surely such unjust side-effects, such sloppy collateral damage, could have been avoided! Indeed, our getting to this point would never have been necessary.

God, in scripture, wants justice. So…no. God is not deploying the coronavirus to whip, execute, or otherwise punish us. Not even just to send us to our rooms like naughty children. Besides — isn’t punishment far too crude a notion for what we call God’s will?

Well then, testing us? That isn’t so punitive.

No, it’s not as punitive. But do you mean that God designed the pandemic to try our faith or our character, individual or collective? Again…no. Yes, our capacities are being put to the test as a society, as communities, as individuals — but not because God has selected this means to make folk grow better or stronger through suffering. Often, this “test” will have the opposite effect: we may grow weaker and die. Or we will fail the moral test and stock up for mere survival. Or the political system will pour maximum resources into reviving the economic system — rather than into the screaming needs of the suddenly jobless.

But then, isn’t God teaching us a lesson? Teaching us that we are all interdependent with each other — with all creatures, even with viruses?

No. Not if you mean that God has designed the disease to teach the lesson. It is too little too late, on the front of climate justice. And it is too much too fast, in the assault upon the weak. So, even if, improbably, we do collectively, globally — maybe even nationally — learn a great lesson about our togetherness as creatures, it won’t be because God has decided on pedagogy by plague.

Like it or not, you may insist: this crisis may be how the omnipotent God is now intervening to fix a sinful world. Don’t you believe that the Lord works to repair His world — whatever it takes?

Oh, I do think God works always for tikkun olam, the repair of the world. But no! Not by big destructive omnipotent interventions. No, God is no Big Fixer. The story of the flood powerfully narrates the radical new start that is possible after systemic human ugliness and tremendous natural disaster. And let us remember it is a highly condensed story, as is that of the Exodus — not a natural or literal history. Besides, the repair of the world in the Bible is a work of deep care, not careless destruction. The flood and the plagues, including COVID-19, do not care.

The God of Jesus, however, cares infinitely. And precisely for that reason, that God cannot, must not, be understood any longer as “in control,” as the omnipotent Lord who either always already determines all that is (in which case the world shouldn’t need repair in the first place); or as the One who occasionally steps in Big Time to Fix it.

Yet that is a big debate. “Theodicy” names an old theological argument about how to justify God — as just — in the face of unfair suffering. Christians often just go for the afterlife answer: whatever happens here, God will reward His own in heaven. As to this world, with its COVID-19 and other plagues — they assume it is somehow God’s will that we suffer (as punishment, as test, as lesson, as fix) and, well, it doesn’t matter anyway because I and my own are going to heaven when we die. The big supernaturalist shrug of — whatever.

So, no, I do not think that even the heavenly “out” works to relieve us of our collective human responsibility to be and do this world — better. Now.

Well, then, how is God working? Or are you saying that “God” is just a delusion of my wishful thinking or my unthinking tradition?

No, not that either! It is because we inherit some delusions about God that I offer this theological exercise. Those notions that God is an all-powerful force of control — always or when “He” deems fit — may actually obstruct God’s work in the world and in each of us. And it might be that God’s work in the world depends upon our work — precisely because the mystery called “God” is not a projection of sovereign dominance. Not something, someone, that works by top-down control.

If no, no, no, and no — how, then?


How about — by creative collaboration with the creatures?

The coronavirus is not sent as a divine punishment. But something not unrelated: in this crisis, God may well be calling us all to account, holding us responsible for the wellbeing of our world. It doesn’t mean God willed this crisis to happen — or any of the horrors and holocausts of history. It means that nothing happens apart from God, because God isn’t something that exists
apart from the world: the world is a part of God, and God participates in each part of the world. God feels and suffers it all — with us. But God also calls to us to face the meaning of this punishing plague, to face the interdependence of us all — an interdependence that our civilization conceals from us, that this contagion reveals to us.

God did not create the pandemic in order to test any of us; God didn’t create the pandemic! But perhaps we are being tested. Not by the torments of a bully God, but by invitation to rise to the occasion. To find the courage and the care that will sustain us.

And as a species, are we not being tested — to see if we might come to terms with our creaturely connections to each member of our species and to all the other species of the planet? If we fail the test, it is not that God will punish us but rather the consequences of our collective actions. It is the consequences of our actions and inactions that will bring us down. If not to the virus, then to the catastrophic effects of global warming. Coming soon. But isn’t the ultimate biblical test always and only love? If we rise to the occasion, it is because we grow in that dauntless love that casts out fear.

God is not spreading the coronavirus to teach us a lesson. The disease is the effect of imbalances between culture and nature. In this case, maltreatment of wild animals and systemic disregard for environmental regulations triggered the outbreak. But maybe God is trying to teach a lesson in and through the pandemic. Doesn’t God mean — the one who is always calling, inviting, us each and all? Trying to teach, to inspire, in the midst of whatever is happening?

Why then doesn’t the divine voice break through better? So many who declare themselves God’s spokespersons teach anything but that love — anything but the biblical love of the least, of the stranger, of every other. How can they confine love to their own community, race, religion, kind? How do they manage to drown out God’s teaching? Perhaps, because it comes in such “a still, small voice.” Might this pandemic, demanding so much sudden solitude, give us a chance to enter that stillness?

No, God is not going to fix the world through this or any disaster. So how can we hope for repair of the world? Certainly not by waiting for God to do it for us. Not by ignoring the spirit of wisdom that whispers, that breathes, within each of us always. Each of us individually.

But each, only in our all-togetherness — human, animal, vegetable, mineral. That togetherness takes on new meanings now, in all the layers of planetary interdependence, deadly or benign, oppressive or just, at home or in public. Now, as we learn that social distance does not mean separation, right in the midst of catastrophe, that Spirit might turn you, turn me, turn us together — into catalysts of transformation.

We might not fix much that is already too badly broken. But in a new, dark hopefulness, might we become creative collaborators? Even with the Creator, the one who triggers the simplest matter and the subtlest minds to new creation?

This is not a story of top-down creating. This new creation comes as we cooperate with each other and with the divine source of every other. This is new creativity in and through whatever chaos besets us. The chaos might feel like the Apocalypse. But remember that apokalypsis, at least in the Bible, does not mean The End of the World. It means revelation: not a final closing down, but a great dis/closure.


In whatever chaos we experience, we recycle everything that we can: ecologically and socially, democratically and theologically. We do not wait for a dictatorial fix from on high. We enter into creative collaboration in a process we can neither predict nor control. For the process of the new creation remains mysterious. “The new heaven and earth” translate no longer as supernatural intervention or afterlife escape — but as the radical renewal of atmosphere and earth.

I hope each of the four no’s have morphed into an odd kind of yes. Into affirmations of something of what you — you wondering ones — already deeply sense, feel, consider. And begin to do.

Love,
Catherine
March 2020






Resources - How Does a Good and Loving God Respond to Times of Harm and Crisis?




By way of introduction to the several lessons below I don't consider our present crisis of a worldwide viral pandemic a judgment by God upon humanity. Many will say just the opposite - that God is judging the world. Or others will say that God is far away and doesn't care to help. That we mean nothing to God. Even others will say God can do nothing to stop plagues and harm; that God is without ability or power. Or there may be others saying there is no God at all; that we are stuck here to help ourselves as it always has been.

Here, in this post, I have listed several theologs who will shed some insight along each of these statements and assertions. They each are respected in their fields and have shown fidelity over the years to the gospel of Jesus Christ which seeks the other to share God's love in service, guidance, counsel, and help at all times in our lives. Who deny that God is anything other than a good and loving God who is not helpless or some other derivative of the religious imagination.

One last thing. Though the COVID-19 virus shows our fragility as a species. Or our cycle of life within a larger cycle of environmental destruction and carelessness. It also shows the connectedness we bear with one another and with nature. I do not attribute the CV-19 virus as a virus sent by God, nor a divine judgment upon humanity. No. It is not something a God of love would send. But rather, I see a God who is fully involved in creation lending care, guidance, and healing where He can or is allowed.

This is more the idea of a indeterminate, freewill  creation, as depicted by nature or humanity, being caught up in its own complex of evolving natural results. Perhaps our lack of care for the earth and its natural remedies and protective barriers it would provide until it cannot might be one of the lessons we might learn here. Or, living in an uncontrollable creation of chaos whose environs we can never fully tame nor should we ever fully expect to.

There may be many reasons for a worldwide plague but in every crisis we do have the opportunity to not only respond but to put into place good things for the earth and for one another. To take the time to rethink and analyze ourselves, our plans, even our benighted actions towards one another in order that all future generations might be reminded of the necessity to learn, to help, aide, care, and heal with one another from the ills and harms of generations past. This, perhaps, might yet be another approach as we currently practice social distancing from one another. To take the time to reflect, pray, and share with one another how we might go on from here as an older, wiser species than we once had previous to our experiences of the world.

R.E.Slater
April 5, 2020
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Exploring the possibilites of God's relationship with the world during times of crisis.
How does a good and loving God respond with us to a creation or humanity which
can at times be harmful and cause deep suffering? Here may be some helpful ways
to think about those times...



God's Will and the Coronavirus
A Sermon by Professor Tom Oord
March 25, 2020




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From OPEN HORIZONS
by Jay McDaniel

Resources from process and process-influenced thinkers
offering comfort, perspective, and hope in our pandemic age.

Some focus on the personal and pastoral; some on wider,
social hopes for a post-pandemic time.

























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Wash Your Hands and Be Kind.
"Faith in a Time of Pandemic," by Bruce Epperly

Faith in a Time of Pandemic (Topical Line Drives Book 39) by [Bruce G. Epperly]
Amazon Link


From Pastor Bruce Epperly. "How can we respond spiritually when a pandemic hits our nation? How can our faith help us to face our fears, going beyond panic and denial, to hopeful and courageous action?

"The Coronavirus is changing everything in our society. It can provoke isolation and self-interested individualism. It can also inspire kindness, generosity, patience, and compassion. Facing the pandemic with God as our companion will deepen our sense of agency as well as peace and move us from self-interest and nation-first to planetary loyalty.

"This text provides a theological, pastoral, and spiritual pathway to help you, your family, and congregation find your way through the wilderness of the Coronavirus pandemic."



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This Barrel Aged podcast was originally released in 2008 as episodes 8 & 9. The quality of the conversation was so good we had to put it back out. Who doesn’t enjoy a good conversation about evil, suffering, Buddha, Bible & a little Whitehead? Clearly someone who hasn’t listened to this episode yet. Bob Mesle is a professor of Religion and Philosophy at Graceland University.

Dr. C. Robert Mesle’s 136-page introduction to process-relational philosophy is a must-read for anyone new to process or who wants to be able to clearly articulate Afred North Whitehead‘s philosophy to others without a lot of technical language or headaches. You can check out his podcast about the text HERE. You should also check out his introduction to Process Theology which again is the best for a newbie.







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Conversation link here



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9 Reasons to Affirm Free Will




Free Will is an Experiential Nonnegotiable

by Thomas Oord
March 22nd, 2020


There are strong reasons to believe humans have genuine but limited free will. I believe this, in part, because I experience freedom every day.

In a previous post (click here), I listed 9 reasons it makes sense to affirm that humans have genuine but limited free will. In this post, I address perhaps the most powerful reason: freedom as an experiential nonnegotiable.


Our Freedom is Always Limited

Some people think “freedom” means “the ability to do anything.” So they reject the view. Few if any scholars who affirm free will believe this, however.

Human freedom is always limited. It’s constrained, conditioned, or framed by many sources, both internal and external to the actor. But all humans act as if they are free, even if some deny this verbally.

To be free is to choose, in a particular moment, among a limited number of relevant options. We freely choose as a source or cause of our actions. Free creatures could have chosen something other than what they chose; they could have done otherwise.[1]

I don’t know with certainty that all humans have limited but genuine free will. Absolute certainty about such matters is illusory. Certainty is rare!

But I’m more confident about my freedom than I am about descriptions of humans or even of existence. I’m confident about about free will, because I experience it personally. And I presuppose its veracity in the way I live my life.


We Should Start with the Data We Know Best

We often make mistakes and don’t know much if anything with certainty. So we should have some method in our attempts to make sense of life.

The philosopher Roderick Chisholm recommends what he calls “epistemological particularism.”[2] This method privileges experiences we know best when trying to makes sense of life. It begins with ideas that seem most obvious.


Amazon Link

Epistemological particularism doesn’t claim we can be certain descriptions of our experience are 100% accurate. But we can be more confident in first-person data — especially data inevitably expressed in our living — than data we know from a third-person perspective.

This method should lead us to affirm the reality of human freedom. Of course, some people interpret studies in neuroscience (and other sciences) as indicating humans are not free. For several reasons, I think such interpretations mistaken. But my first step in addressing claims about determinism is to argue we should feel more confident of the truthfulness of first-person data – our inescapable personal experiences – than the data of neuroscience. Scientists obtain neuroscience data through third-person perspectives.

I’m not rejecting neuroscience as a discipline. In my view, neuroscientists should pursue their research with passion. The discipline has generated helpful insights, and I have friends contributing in this field. But we must avoid conclusions the data does not and, I think, could not in principle support. For an accessible philosophical defense of freewill in light of neuroscience research, see Alfred Mele’s work.[3] 


Is Free Will Just Common Sense?

Some call those beliefs that are self-evidently true and inevitably expressed in our actions “common sense.” Philosophers such as Thomas Reid, GE Moore, and Alfred North Whitehead argued for commonsense ideas.[4] In terms of freedom, common sense says we all act freely — at least sometimes.

We use “common sense” to describe ideas that are not inevitably expressed in our lives, however. To some people, for instance, it’s common sense black men should not marry white women. Others think it’s common sense that the New England Patriots are the greatest football team. Some think common sense tells us God controls our lives. Because these ideas are not truly common nor expressed inevitably in our actions, the phrase “common sense” can be misleading and then dismissed as unhelpful or dangerous.

David Ray Griffin distinguishes between ideas some call common sense and what he calls “hard-core” and soft-core commonsense ideas.[5] We inevitably presuppose hard-core commonsense ideas in our practice. We don’t inevitably presuppose soft-core commonsense ideas. Soft-core commonsense ideas might include the (wrong) belief that black men and white women shouldn’t marry, the (debatable) belief that New England has the best football team, or the (arguably harmful) belief that God controls creation.

We can deny soft-core commonsense ideas and still live consistently. Hard-core commonsense ideas cannot consistently be denied in our practice.


Free Will is an Experiential Nonnegotiable

I’ve come to call the ideas that we inescapably live out “experiential nonnegotiables.” We must accept the truth of experiential nonnegotiables if we want to speak adequately about the way the world works.

We contradict ourselves if we say we act one way and then act differently. We commit what Jürgen Habermas calls “performative contradictions:” our performance in life contradicts our statements about what life is like.[6]

In terms of freedom, we contradict ourselves if we claim we are not free and then live as if we act freely. Our words don’t match our actions; we are experiential hypocrites. At least for most humans if not all, genuine but limited freedom is an experiential nonnegotiable.

I could list other experiential nonnegotiables (e.g., there is a world external to myself). Myy point for this essay is the inevitable experience of freedom in our lives provides strong justification to think humans have genuine but limited freedom.

We contradict ourselves if we claim we're not free and then live as if we act freely. We are experiential hypocrites.


NOTES:

[1] For similar understandings of freedom, see Laura W. Ekstrom, “Free Will is Not a Mystery,” in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 2nd ed., Robert Kane, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 366-380; William Hasker, “Divine Knowledge and Human Freedom,” The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 2nd ed., Robert Kane, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 40-56; Timothy, O’Connor, “Agent-Causal Theories of Freedom,” in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 2nd ed., Robert Kane, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 309-328 and “The Agent as Cause” Free Will, Robert Kane, ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002); Kevin Timpe, Free Will: Sourcehood and its Alternatives, 2nd ed. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013).

[2] Roderick M. Chisholm, The Problem of the Criterion (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1973).

[3] Alfred Mele, Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will (Oxford University Press, 2014).

[4] For a brief overview of commonsense philosophy, see “Philosophy of Common Sense,” New World Encyclopedia. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Philosophy_of_Common_Sense

[5] David Ray Griffin, Unsnarling the World-Knot: Consciousness, Freedom, and the Mind-Body Problem (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1998), 34, 210.

[6] Jürgen Habermas, “Discourse Ethics: Notes on a Program of Philosophical Justification,” in Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. C. Lenhardt and S.W. Nicholsen (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990).