Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. – Tripp Fuller

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

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

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Relational Theology. What Is It?


Relational Theology. What Is It?

by R.E. Slater

A letter to my niece, who innocently asked:

"What is Relational Theology?"

Here was my long-winded response...  ;)

Background

Relational Theology works both within a closed and an open system. Because most of what theology has been in its classical sense has been as a closed system which speaks to a predetermined future. A good Calvinist loves this. Many Arminians do too (aka Wesleyans sic, Jacob Arminus). John Calvin wrote of a predetermined, non-freewill universe (TULIP). Jacob, his student, disagreed and said the universe is run by agency (DAISY) as given by God thus nothing is determined except with what we do with our lives.
[Wikipedia] Jacobus Arminius (10 October 1560 – 19 October 1609), the Latinized name of Jakob Hermanszoon,[a] was a Dutch theologian from the Protestant Reformation period whose views became the basis of Arminianism and the Dutch Remonstrant movement. He served from 1603 as professor in theology at the University of Leiden and wrote many books and treatises on theology.

Following his death, his challenge to the Reformed standard, the Belgic Confession, provoked ample discussion at the Synod of Dort, which crafted the five points of Calvinism in response to Arminius's teaching.
In the last 40 years (1980) a newer theology has come along uplifting Jacob’s thoughts to what is know as “Open & Relational Theology” (ORT). Again, relational theology works in both a closed and an open universe. But it works best in an unlimited future of opportunity rather than a closed future of doom and destruction. In this regard the Calvinist scheme is less hopeful, more dramatic. But with ORT hope thrives within its environment while placing the onus on Christians, and mankind in general, to create the best future they can rather than giving up, doing nothing, and waiting for the world to fall in on everybody’s heads.


Definition

Ok, so what is it? Relational Theology speaks to a God of relationships. Its nothing more than that but its profound when ppl feel God has abandoned them, is far away, has consigned this world to hell, etc. Relational theology (or relational theism) says “No. God is uniquely close to this world because this is how He made it." How? From Himself. Who is ultimately, maximally, infinitely relational. So all the classic doom and gloom preachings of God, of blasphemous prognostications, even of mankind's deep personal or group guilt, simply flies away in the face of God's state of Being. Who is intricately, majestically, integrally absorbed into the world we live in. God is truly here amongst us.

And if we take this one step farther, the world as it was made by a relational God is itself relational in every part of its essence, structure, movement, and panpsychic collective mass (‘cause I wanted to throw the inexact word “feeling” in there to mess with you.) Thus we live in a relational world which feels it parts to its whole and its whole to its parts. Whether it is in the form of displaced energies, forces, or sentient, animalistic, or even biologic feeling as we should wish to describe it.



Why is Open Theology Important? 

Next, to speak of Open Theology or Open Theism is to speak of an open future. Amazingly, people like Greg Boyd get this and have used it. But in what sense I do not know. Probably not in the process sense as is ultimately preferable. But other theologians like Tom Oord use it properly within its originating sense of process theology which naturally couples up then with relational theology as process theology and is where both have been generated when properly understood. They go together like “peas and carrots,” as Forrest Gump would say. I’ll get to process in a sec…

Forrest Gump, Like Peas and Carrots


Open theology speaks to an open future which says that a God of Love has given agency to creation to use as it will. However this does not mean that agency is without divine structure, impetus, ability, or direction. It only implies that freewill is indeterminant and may stray outside of divine goodness and love if it wishes. This then is where sin and evil arise. Always with us, never with God. There are implications for this kind of theology as well. The key word here is indeterminant. That is, the future is wide open without any prophetic end except a fateful end should sin and evil reign to the exclusion of beauty and harmony. Make of it what you will, but the biblical prophecies could become something akin to a fateful future of a world having abandoned God. Though in all of man's sin and evil God does not abandon us nor condemn us to a hellish end. Sin does this. Agency used poorly, if not purposely, against how it's suppose to run towards God and not away from God. Towards goodness and love and not away from these healing, structural virtues.

If we carry this out logically, Hell is a place already here where ppl live. But so too is heaven. And if one wishes, these can be in the afterlife as well. But uncaused by God but caused by sin. If you wish Hell to be a real place, rather than a metaphorical description, then go ahead, just remember God never made it and does not consign ppl to it. They cast their own selves into it, both now and perhaps later, unless Spirit-bourne penitence arises in their souls. To which God is always calling, both evil and good, by His Spirit of grace and mercy.

Which is why I have moved to a position of self-annihilation beginning now with seared hearts (which are never abandoned by God; though I do sadly think of --------- in this regard, who, at the end of life I'm told, through close questioning of his last girlfriend, made a repentance of sorts before ending his life). However, unlike Rob Bell and other friends I know, I cannot accept universalism. For myself, I believe there must always be accountability for our actions which propel us either to godly growth or nihilistic behavior. Otherwise what would the Atoning Work of Christ mean if only positionally and not practically? Thus, for me, I propose a theology of annihilation over a theology of hell. (Btw, at my bible college they taught a form of this through four stages moving outwards to inwards: a lost of relationships to the world, to others, to self, and finally to God. 1 John mentions this too. But being good Baptists they kept to Hell anyway because it preached good). 



Why Whitehead? Why Process?

Ok, now for the fun part… process philosophy and theology go together in Alfred North Whitehead. He was a Christian philosopher who saw a huge need to speak to metaphysical cosmologies and ontologic essence which had been abandoned since Hegel in the 1700s for dualistic, binary, reductionistic, or even machinistic processes. After 200-300 years of organic cosmologic absence Whitehead felt it was time to bring back an Integral Theory which could quite easily subsume all previous efforts of the ancients, classicists, and enlightened modernists into the postmodern era of process thought begun by Hegel but having drifted towards another direction. After a lifetime of mathematics, and as a fellow to the Royal Society and Royal Astronomical Society, Whitehead had retired from mathematics and in his retirement years, between the ages of 62 and 68, he wrote a treatise titled, Process and Reality.” It was profound and is profoundly changing the world even as we speak. 

What is process? Many, many things. Most simply, God is the first order of all proceeding processes. From God become all things filled with life, beauty, boundless novelty, and agency. Above all, it's process proceeds from God’s Love, never by divine fiat. Which is also where agency was birthed. Never by fiat. These things are as natural as God is in all that He is as metaphysical Process and ontological, relational Love. It also bespeaks of “B/being becoming.” Your Aunt Lori always likes to say, “Lord Come.” But she is incorrect. The Lord is already here, remember? God is in full relationship with creation. He has never left it but is intricately part of it, absorbed in it, filling it as it's all-in-all.



A God Who Is In Process

So your Aunt Lori should rather have said, “Thank you Lord for being here! For your majestic presence in our lives!” However, though this would be a true statement, a more correct process statement would declare, “Dear Lord, Become”! Remember the phrase in the bible, “I AM WHO I AM?” Is better translated in the Hebrew as the phrase, “I AM WHO I AM BECOMING TO BE.”
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I (God) will be that who I (God) have yet to become." (Ex 3.14)
Which states very clearly an open future for even God Himself whose Being is the very epitome of process. So when Aunt Lori says, "Even so, Lord Come!" Our replay is, "Yeah Lord, even so Become! And we, ourselves, with you!"  ;)

So process thought goes way beyond Disney’s trite phrase, the “Circle of Life” speaking to creation's infinitely complex connectivity with itself (Whitehead calls “process thought” the “philosophy of organism” which I love). And within this cosmic organism (not, orgasm... organ-ism) of God and creation all is bearing forth in multiplexed spectrums of becoming from one instance to the next

Process is a simple but very deep and complex philosophy. But it is an all-encompassing philosophy of cosmic streams and panpsychisms which can be rightly embedded into everything from nursing, to the business-industrial process, to ecology, to ecological civilizations, as well as to any of the sciences from the physical (or natural) sciences to the social sciences, psychologies, and political sciences and economies. As example, Darwinian Evolution is process based. So to is the Cosmological Big Bang. So too Jungian Archtypes. And on and on and on. Process Thought is a metaphysical Integral Theory of Everything (the quantum equivalent of its own T.O.E. hoping to lay a basis for everything, GUT).





Out with All Dualisms!

One last, just to blow your Hellenistic, Platonic, Neo-Platonic, and Aristotelian mindset. So you’ll have to dump the dualistic/reductionistic between God and creation (sic, Rene Descrates, Mind v. Matter syllogisms).

Statement: "God is no more pronounced over creation than creation over God." Classic theism keeps God at a distance. He comes and goes as He feels like it. Not dissimilar to the the Greek Gods who even themselves succumbed to the eternal objects or metaphors of Fate and Fortune. However, in a Process-based arrangement creation is not a God but a proceeding process of the (first?) second order from God. Thus we decry pantheism which says "All is God and God is All." But process theology must assert pan-en-theism where God and world are organically one together, intimately so. Not in ontologic essence but in metaphysical conjunction. Panentheists like to place “novelty or creativity” over this organic whole to describe the process features of a God-to-World marriage. That being said, we may rightly conclude that God will be with us for the long ride and we can kiss “adios” to the biblically asserted classical proposition of God v. Matter dipolarity. 

Below are some index links to help you explore further. Be mindful I completed everything I wished to complete last August of 2020 after eight intense years of research and writing. I have accomplished what I set out to discover - that of a fuller hermeneutic more helpful to Christianity than what I was trained in. Call it a self-paced, post-doctoral studies sort-of-arrangement with myself. From that concluding point of last August I am now more committed to describing the post-structuralist process in philosophy, theology, natural theology (the sciences), and of practical life illustrations in general. Hopefully gone are the days of necessary critical dissection of my past faith. I may call this “Phase V” of my writings having traversed phases I-IV.

Cya, 

Uncle Russ 
February 17, 2021