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

Friday, March 12, 2021

What A Process God of Mystery Might Mean



 

To rely on mystery as an explanation is not sufficient for a coherent theology of God, nature or man. Conversely, one may never state with absolute certainty a surmise in an ever evolving cosmogony between God and creation. The best we can do is to approximate reality that it sufficiently explains pain and loss, joy and passion. In this might a theology be described as coherent but never static as a dynamically evolving system. - re slater


What A Process God of Mystery Might Mean

by R.E. Slater

Can There Be Another Way?
The process of deconstructing biblicism is evangelicalism's gateway to embracing mystery, as long as the biblicism is left behind. Otherwise it is a gateway to unbelief. - Anon
I am modifying a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine whom I have followed at a distance for quite some time. Someone whom I greatly respect and admire as much for their courage as for their creativity in the wake of decades long evangelical turmoil of what it's classicisms was to what it's theologies might become in light of the more recent movement towards Open and Relational (Process) Theology. As such, the author's name will simply be Anon to preserve their identity.

My questions came with the loaded word mystery which evangelical Chrsitians have long used to explain the conflicts between a good and loving God and the harm and suffering they, their friends and relatives, or the world in general must endure within a process world promising as much beauty as it does pain, suffering, horror, and tragedy. Whether by nature's floods and winds, or man's neglect and lack, or by purposeful evil committed by the wicked against humanity and nature's creaturely wonders.

So let's start with a general description of the problem of mystery as used by Christians and applied to a personal or familiar cases of grief, tragedy, illness, or death. For myself, I've never been comfortable in its applications. It relieves God of accountability and ourselves questioning our faith in the kind of God we have been taught and think we know.

The Many Usages of the Word of Mystery

I've summarized the slogans pictured below. There are many more but here are some of the ways God and mystery is used:
  • Jesus Christ is the mystery of God (believing)
  • One may unravel God's mysteries (knowing)
  • God's Mind is a mystery (ontology)
  • God's mystery is bound up in Jesus (believing)
  • All is mystery from God's Self to the cosmos (metaphysics)
  • Mystery can be revealed in the bible (epistemology/biblicism)
  • Godliness is a mystery (ethics, morality, cultural/religious values)
  • God reveals mysteries (knowing, biblicism)
  • The mystery of God's care (love of God, ethics, morality)
  • God must remain mystery (belief)
  • The Persons of the Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit are a mystery (belief)
  • We live in mystery in order to accept good and bad outcomes (belief)



















Is There a Way to Sum Up the Many
Pictures of Theological Mystery?

1 - The CLASSIC Version of MYSTERY

2 - The PROCESS Version of Mystery

3 - How BIBLICISM Complicates Mystery



* * * * * * * *



The CLASSIC Version of Mystery

New Catholic Encyclopedia

A. Dulles

A hidden reality or secret. More specifically, in the theology of revelation, a truth that human beings cannot discover except from revelation and that, even after revelation, exceeds their comprehension. In addition to this primary meaning, which will be discussed in the present article, the term has other connected meanings that should be kept in mind: (1) in soteriology, the great redemptive acts of God in history, especially in Jesus Christ; (2) in the theology of worship, the sacramental reenactment of the redemptive deeds of Christ (see sacramental theology).

History of the notion

While the complete history of the term has yet to be written, the following high points may be noted.

Greek Fathers. The term μυστήριον is used by the Greek Fathers in many senses. They include the following: 1. The salvific counsels of God, hidden from all eternity in the divine mind, but partly manifested through His Prophets and especially through Christ. 2. The great salutary interventions of God in history, whereby He executes His salvific designs, including especially the decisive events of the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ. 3. The hidden senses of Scripture, especially the typological sense of the Old Testament, which looks forward to Christ and the Church. 4. The Sacraments, as ritual continuations of God's salvific actions in Christ. This sacramental use of the term μυστήριον did not become established until the fourth century, when the mystery religions were no longer serious competitors of Christianity. 5. The pagan cults and rites, for example, those of Eleusis, Attis, Osiris, Cybele, and Mithra (see mystery religions, greco-oriental). 6. In some of the Alexandrian writers (notably Clement), certain esoteric doctrines that, for fear of profanation, should be restricted to an elite among the faithful. 7. In Gregory of Nyssa, objects of mystical knowledge, such as were revealed to Moses and Paul in their ecstasies. 8. Especially in the fourth-century Fathers (Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, etc.), a revealed truth that even to faithful and educated Christians remains obscure by reason of its sublimity.

This last use of the term is particularly important in view of the later development of the notion. The theme of God's incomprehensibility, already set forth by Philo Judaeus in the first century, was strongly emphasized by the orthodox Fathers of the fourth century in opposition to the Eunomians, who maintained that God had so revealed Himself that the Christian believer could fully understand His essence. The anti-Eunomian Fathers developed a markedly negative (or "apophatic") theology, insisting on the total otherness and immeasurable majesty of God. As Rudolf Otto noted in his work, The Idea of the Holy [tr. J. W. Harvey (2d ed. New York 1958)], Chrysostom provides some of the finest expressions of the sense of the "numinous" in ancient Christian literature. With apt illustrations from the Bible, Chrysostom shows how the mysterious presence of the revealing God gives rise to sentiments of consternation, mental disarray, and trembling due to a combination of fear and delight.

In the sixth century, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite made effective use of the vocabulary, of the mystery religions to inculcate a sense of holy awe. His mystical works, translated into Latin by John Scotus Erigena (c. 850), were to influence the great scholastics, including thomas aquinas.

Latin Fathers and Doctors. In the West the Greek term μυστήριον, especially where it referred to Christian sacred rites, was generally translated  by sacramentum.  But mysterium was also uesd, both to designate the pagan mystery cults and to signify hidden truths,  including the hidden meanings of Scripture. St. Augustine  uses sacramentum and mysterium and almost interchangeably, but with slightly different connotations. Sacramentum refers primarily to the outwardly visible rite or symbol; mysterium refers to the hidden meaning behind it.

The medieval tradition was, on the whole, quite faithful to Augustine in its handling of the terms. Often mysterium was used to denote the spiritual or allegorical significance of Scripture.

St. Thomas Aquinas, relying on the etymology of the word, takes note of hiddenness or secrecy as fundamental to mystery (In Isaiam, prol.). In his theology, the divina mysteria are truths hidden in God, knowable to man only under the veils of faith. Very frequently in Thomas's writings mysterium occurs as the object of the verb credere. Following the biblical practice, he normally applies the term "mystery" not to the inner being of God, but to His redemptive counsels, whether already executed or still to be accomplished in eschatological times. Only on rare occasions does he call the Trinity a mystery, and then principally in connection with the Incarnation, which he terms "the most excellent of all mysteries" (Summa Theologiae 1a, 57.5 obj. 1). For example, in Summa Theologiae 1a2ae, 1.8 he distinguishes between the "secret of the Godhead" (occultum divinitatis, i.e., the Trinity) and the "mystery of Christ's humanity." Except in passages referring to the Eucharist, Thomas practically never calls the Sacraments mysteries. The consecrated wine, he says, is rightly called "mystery of faith" (mysterium fidei ) because the blood of Christ is not apparent to the senses (ibid. 3a, 78.3 ad 5).

Nineteenth Century. During the controversies with various rationalistic movements, mystery gradually emerged as a technical term in the Catholic theology of revelation. The semirationalists maintained that human reason, at least when sufficiently schooled under the tutelage of revelation, was in principle capable of comprehending and demonstrating all the dogmas of faith. From this it would follow that faith, in the sense of an assent to testimony, would not be required on the part of those who had reached full intellectual maturity. The doctrines of the leading semirationalists were severally condemned (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 27382740, 28282831, 28502861). The Syllabus of Errors, reaffirming this stand, rejected the fundamental tenets of semirationalism (ibid. 29092914).

Vatican Council I, climaxing this development, solemnly defined that there are "true mysteries properly so called," that is, dogmas of faith that cannot be "understood and demonstrated by a properly cultivated mind from natural principles" (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 3041). In the chapter corresponding to this definition, the council explained that by strict mysteries it meant truths "hidden in God that cannot be known unless divinely revealed" (ibid. 3015) and that "by their nature so transcend a created mind that even when communicated by revelation and accepted in faith, they remain covered by the veil of faith itself and as it were shrouded in obscurity, so long as in this mortal life 'we are exiled from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight"' (ibid. 3016; cf. 2 Cor 5.67).

The council, in the passage just quoted, seems to imply that there will be no more mysteries in heaven, when the light of glory replaces the dimmer light of faith. This classical position of Catholic theologywhich is also that of St. Thomas (In 1 epist. ad Cor. 2 lect. 1)is supported by various biblical texts in addition to the one cited by the council (e.g., 1 Cor 13.912; 1 Jn 3.2). Nevertheless, it is well to note, as K. Rahner has several times insisted, that no created intellect can be elevated to the point where it will have absolutely comprehensive knowledge of God (cf. H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 3001). Not even in heaven will God be appropriated as an object by the dynamism of the human ratio.

While stressing the negative note of incomprehensibility, Vatican I took pains to point out that "reason, enlightened by faith, when it diligently, reverently, and modestly inquires, by the gift of God, attains some understanding of mysteries, and that a most profitable one" (ibid. 3016). Such understanding is achieved by comparison of mysteries with things naturally known, with one another, and with the final destiny of man. In this way one may perceive the harmony between the natural and super-natural orders, the mutual coherence among the truths of faith, and the meaningfulness of the mysteries for man in his earthly pilgrimage. Although the concepts by which one knows mysteries are only remotely similar to the realities for which they stand, they afford a knowledge that is fully valid so far as it goes. Indeed, the contemplation of mysteries in this life can provide a kind of faint anticipation of the eternal vision enjoyed by the blessed.

Further speculation

In the struggle against rationalistic tendencies in the nineteenth century, the notion of mystery was gradually modified. Whereas the Fathers and medieval Doctors, thinking of mystery as something hidden within a sacramental presence, were inclined to regard the Incarnation as the supreme mystery, the nineteenth-century theologians, concentrating on the features of transcendence and obscurity, more frequently held with M. Scheeben that the Blessed Trinity is the "mystery of mysteries." In line with this tendency, Leo XIII referred to the dogma of the Trinity as "the greatest of all mysteries, since it is the fountain and origin of all" [Divinum illud munus; Acta Sanctae Sedis 29 (1897) 645].

In current Catholic teaching, three classes of divine mystery are commonly recognized. These are discussed below in the order of ascending sublimity.

Natural Mysteries. Naturally knowable truths that remain obscure because we lack proper and positive concepts of the realities involved are natural mysteries. While such mysteries may be found in the created order (e.g., animal instinct, human free will), they are preeminently verified in God, by reason of the extreme deficiency of the created analogies by which we know Him. For example, the divine freedom is far more a mystery than human freedom, for our experience affords no clue as to how freedom can be present in an immutable subject.

Supernatural Mysteries in the Wide Sense. Truths concerning the created order that are not knowable without revelation but that, once revealed, are free from any special obscurity are supernatural mysteries in the wide sense; for example, the primacy of the Roman pontiff in the Church. Such a fact, being dependent on God's free disposition, could not be known without revelation, but after being revealed it has an intelligibility comparable to that of other juridical notions.

Supernatural Mysteries in the Strict Sense. Those truths that cannot be known without revelation and that, even after revelation, remain obscure to us by reason of the sublimity of their object are supernatural mysteries in the strict sense. Three principal mysteries are normally recognized as belonging to this class: (1) the Trinity (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963]3225), which is the mystery of the communication of divine life within the Godhead; (2) the Incarnation (ibid. 2851), which is the supreme supernatural communication of the divine life to a created nature; and (3) the elevation of finite persons to share, through grace or glory, in the divine life (ibid. 2854). All other supernatural mysteries (e.g., original sin, the Eucharist, the Church as a supernatural communion, predestination) are commonly held to be reducible to the three central mysteries just named.

Supernatural mysteries in the strict sense, since they concern realities of the divine order, are beyond the comprehension of any created intellect. Their special obscurity comes from the fact that they have to do with God, not merely under those aspects in which He is directly mirrored by creatures (as, for instance, His goodness is reflected in the goodness of creatures), but precisely under those aspects wherein, thanks to His immeasurable transcendence, created analogies break down (see analogy, theological use of). Because the generation of living creatures only remotely resembles generation within the Godhead, we cannot reason from the former to the latter. Even after revelation, we cannot see the inner grounds that account for the fact. Revelation tells us that there are three Persons in God, that one of them has become man, and that men are called to be sharers of God's inner life. But it does not explain how such things can be.

During the early part of the twentieth century, a controversy arose as to whether we could know without revelation that there are any strict mysteries in God. Many competent theologians (e.g., C. Pesch, I. Ottiger, H. Dieckmann) replied in the negative, but others (e.g., R. Garrigou-Lagrange, M. D. Roland-Gosselin) held that we can definitely establish that there must be in God perfections that lack any counterpart in the created order, so that we could not learn them without revelation or, even after revelation, understand their internal possibility.

Apologetical considerations

Apologetics must show that the Christian notion of strict mystery is meaningful and credible. This task is necessary, for modern rationalism and scientism have sometimes claimed that in view of the unlimited possibilities of rational and scientific progress, all truths of revelation can eventually be reduced to strictly demonstrative knowledge.

To this object one may reply, with K. Rahner, that the human mind is so structured that it necessarily grasps particular limited objects against the horizon of the unconditioned and indefinable, the Absolute. Since this Absolute is the ground of all intelligibility, the human mind, even before it is the faculty of comprehension, is the faculty of mystery. The revealed mysteries of Christianity enrich our knowledge of the Absolute by certifying that God can communicate His divine life and draw near in grace without compromising His utter transcendence. But because all these truths have reference to the inner being of the Absolute, which outstrips objective concepts, the Christian mysteries can never be rationally or scientifically demonstrated.

Religious phenomenology, by showing that the notion of mystery is a constant feature of human religion, has underscored the value of mystery. All vital religions, as R. Otto recognized, live off a numinous experience of the divine presence, which arouses sentiments of awe and fascination. Men have always suspected that if God communicates with us, He must do so in a mysterious way, imparting deep and inscrutable secrets. Scheeben was therefore able to argue that the mysteries of the Christian faith, far from making it incredible, support its claim to be God's supreme self-revelation. If Christianity were devoid of mystery, he added, it could not stir and hold men as it does.

Modern Personalism. Approaching the question from another point of view, modern personalistic philosophers (such as M. Scheler, G. Marcel, and J. Lacroix) have shown that an element of mystery is inseparable from genuinely personal knowledge. Spirit as such is never deductively proved or experimentally verified; it is normally discerned through the signs by which it freely manifests itself. When a man reveals himself to a friend, he opens up something of the mystery of his own being. If God wishes to reveal Himself and draw human beings into friendship, He must share with them His own inner mystery. The human relationship of personal intercommunion therefore provides a fruitful analogy by which to approach the revealed mystery of our supernatural communion with God. In this perspective, mystery appears less as a particular datum of revelation than as a dimension in which the entire relationship of revelation and faith unfolds.

Bibliography:

a. michel, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, 15 v. (Paris 190365) 10:22585; Eng.

tr., c. j. moell, Mystery and Prophecy (West Baden Springs, Ind. 1954).

k. rahner, "The Concept of Mystery in Catholic Theology," Theological Investigations 4 (Baltimore 1966) 3673.

m. j. scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity, tr. c. vollert (St. Louis 1946). Le Mystère: Semaine des intellectuals catholiques, Paris, Nov. 1825, 1959 (Paris 1960).

j. macquarrie, Mystery and Truth (Milwuakee 1973). History of the notion.

b. neunheuser, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 10 v. (Freiburg 195765) 7:729731, with literature.

f. cavallera and j. danielou, Introduction to j. chrystostome, Sur l'incompréhensibilité de Dieu (Sources chrétiennes 28; Paris 1951).

h. rahner, Greek Myths and Christian Mystery, tr. b. battershaw (New York 1963).

p. visentin, "Mysterium-sacramentum dai padri alla scolastica," Studia Patavina 4 (1957) 394414, with literature.

a. m. hoffmann, "Der Begriff des Mysteriums bei Thomas von Aquin," Divus Thomas 17 (Fribourg 1939) 3060.

m. a. vacant, Études théologiques sur les constitutions du concile du Vatican, 2 v. (Paris 1895).




The PROCESS Version of Mystery

by R.E. Slater

The process of deconstructing biblicism is evangelicalism's gateway to embracing mystery, as long as the biblicism is left behind. Otherwise it is a is gateway to unbelief. - Anon

What is Biblicism? Long story short, treating the Bible like it’s a book designed to settle through proof texting complex theological questions. - Anon


Why Biblicism Is Unhelpful

When reading Anon's statement it pretty much subsumed my own feelings towards the use of mystery within evangelical theology. If the actions of God conflicted with our ideas of who God is then the evangelical fallback position has typically fallen upon "mystery". Examples abound such as, " How could a loving God do this to these people? To His own people? To those tragic innocents caught up in the upheavals of the natural or immoral world?" Answer: "All is a mystery."

As an open and relational process theologian I cannot accept this kind of usage of the word mystery. It leaves too many holes in the usages of language. In Process Theology we may aver that God is a God of love. Accepted. That the future is unknown and therefore pregnant with possibility. Accepted. That God is a God of relationships to all created things, including to this present world and man. Accepted. That God's love was fully shown in Jesus. Even God's very Self. Accepted.

So then, when I read of God committing unloving (sic, ungodly or un-god-like) acts in the bible I have a problem. When I hear or read of God's followers committing wickedness upon others because God told them do this or that thing which is unloving towards others (or towards nature) I have a problem. When despicable acts of evil are portrayed in the bible as God ordained, I have a problem. When the Church declares God is avenging, revengeful, or is vindictively judgmental, I have a problem. When Church dogma insists that a loving God created Hell and casts damned souls into it, yes, I have a problem.

These ungodly theological assertions and creeds are contrary to who God is. They are not consistent with God's portrayal of Himself as a relational God of love who assists us to overcome the evil we find in life in a way which might lead others back to repentance and wholeness.

So what am I to do? The conflict lies in the reading of the bible most assuredly... as it is in those pages of the Old and New Testaments where the ancients wrote what they believed they knew and were convinced of in their beliefs. However, I am not. I cannot read the bible literally. The bible cannot be for me an unassailable monument to the monstrosity of God. It's reading by others and interpretations of its ancient script must be consistent with God's love or not conjoined at all in my mind or heart.

A Normative Process Reading of the Bible

It is here open and relational process theologians begin to disagree with the classicisms of older church theologies. They long for consistency in the God of love to whom they testify and from which God Himself tells us who He is. The bible breaks down for us in a good way when it no longer holds a place on the altars of worship or inerrant decree. We'll go as far as saying, yes, it was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but in its inspiration it was written by cultures oriented to worldviews looking at God through their own vernaculars or religious lenses.

As such, the bible is sensibly read when it is not literally read. It is better read as a collection of ancient narratives containing some truths, some legends, and some religious beliefs about who God is and how God works in the world. Some two to four thousand years later, after many wars, environmental collapses, culturally constructed philosophies and theologies, we in the 21st Century must be forgiven for looking back on history and presuming there must be a better way for religion to move forward than to enforce age old societal grievances with one another, inhumanitarian treatment of each other, or be content with the cultural racisms and discriminations of our fellow neighbour and friend. Our sisters and brothers.

Yes, classic theology and the classic way of reading the bible in literal fashion is unhelpful. When reading the bible it shouldn't be read using spiritualized analogies or symbolisms. Nor as a mystery book we will never be able to understand. Nor even by angelic tongues. None of these church approaches are viable today. Nor should the bible be read using pet "hermeneutical interpretations" overlaying it (protestantism and catholicism is rife with theological interpretations presuming the text, or conforming the text to prior religious beliefs).

The bible is a collection of ancient worldviews expressing in inconsistent manner from one cultural era to the next, era-specific societal views of God. We are free to dissect these beliefs in every way possible, and for the open and relational process theologian, to construct them in a more viable reading towards enlivening human society with goodwill, peace, and love. Especially as it looks forward to yesterday's tomorrows through glasses full of possibility and opportunity.

A Running Discussion on Mystery I Had Held Online One Day

RES - I'm very much dissatisfied with the mystery approach. Yes, do away with biblicism and literalism. That would be great!! That approach has provided nothing but ungodly creedal dogmas and harmful unhumanitarian actions. I would rather read the bible as a collection of ancient regional beliefs about God kept by local religious lore and legends. It shows why the bible has so much variance within it which wrongly attributes evil actions to a loving God rather than to the ungodly religious cultures holding such unloving beliefs. This then allows today's contemporary cultures to read the bible in other, more consistently loving ways. This means that if God is loving as He claims than all "biblically" unloving actions of God are untrue. Even those which are written in the bible. Such narratives tells us not about God but of the religions of those eras. As such, the bible is better read through the open and relational process perspective (ORPT). It also discourages present day churches from hateful dogmas of not loving certain segments of society or claiming God teaches such cruel beliefs as "biblical" when they clearly are not. The mystery beliefs can then be rightfully abandoned and better absorbed into the ORPT approach - if one must to cling mystery. But much of the so called evangelical mystery statements are better answered within ORPT's Christian approach.

KA - Russ Slater, I’ve never heard someone put ORPT down on paper, but have thought that way a ton. It allows the Spirit to interpret. I do believe that mystery can go along with that. The Orthodox Church tends to point towards mysteries as an explanation [in place of their] systematic theology. Which again, I believe allows the Spirit to interpret to the individual.

Russ Slater - Thanks KA. I never had heard of ORPT either until falling into it while writing alone years ago. I much later discovered there were many of my contemporaries who were developing it for public consumption. Pick any of the Whiteheadian process guys (Cobb, Merlitt, Epperley, etc; or popular ORT figures like Thomas Jay Oord and the Center for ORT begun a year or two ago. My rant against mystery was a rant against my dead-ended faith  I was raised and trained in. One which saw God as both evil and good. Who is vengeful and avenging. Who hates sinner and sinning saint. It held to a controlling, determining God with a closed future, and a hardlined, literal bible, with no ability to explain the contradiction of hell except its where sinners go. Mystery, when used by this group, is a stale, bleak usage for a process God of love through and through. A God who opens up a possibility world to us from the many becoming possibilities which may become around us, starting with ourselves as much as with God Himself in His experience of the world. Those descriptors are positive, healthy, nurturing mysteries for me. But the other type of God I find expressed in classical theology is unhealthy and unnurturing. The God who threatens, cajoles, and creates evil around me, or towards me, and to the world in general. It is inconsistent with who God is and was as exampled in His (Christ's) atoning, reconciling ministry and love for and to us. The motto "What Would Jesus Do?" (WWJD) applies equally to the OT God as to the NT God. Open and Relational Process Theology (ORPT) says there is a more consistent, mystery-filled path to travel than the faerie kind of tale I've been raised to believe. Blessings.

Anon - Russ Slater, I think we might be using mystery in two different ways.

Russ Slater - Thx. Please enlighten!

Anon - It seems you are thinking of mystery as a “get out of theological trouble” card, which is how it is sometimes used...you know, “How can a good God order the extermination of the Canaanites?" Answer: “Mystery of God.” I am using it in more its contemplative sense, where we simply acknowledge, by grace, that God is infinitely knowable and therefore always outside of our knowing.

Russ Slater - Anon. Sounds good. Thx.

Russ Slater - Anon. One last... I prefer the word relatability to the word knowability. I came to the subject using Open and Relational Process Theology rather than standard evangelical Platonic arguments for the harm we experience as people in a process filled world. Here, God is infinitely relatable as the first process even as God is infinitely loving with no diminishment within an unfolding process-filled world. If mystery lies anywhere it is:

(1) how God's relatability subtends all future becoming processes which may be as much loving as they can be unloving. This latter relational moment is answered by the phrase "indeterminate creational agency" as versus the classic "determinative theistic agency" response. This latter speaks to God being something other than God isn't. A God who purposely directs ill upon creation. The former speaks to a loving God birthing agency even in the act of birthing loving process.

(2) The greater mystery which captures me lies not in God's Being as a loving God and all that this means, but in what God Himself is Becoming when He had initiated the first process to all future process of creational becoming. Mystery leaves the future undefined, calling us to enter in bringing the godly essences of wellbeing, care, love, and valuation into its unfolding process even as God is calling us to do, and is doing Himself.

(3) Lastly, the mystery lies in even the act of "loving and becoming" as a series of processes which strive against other less kinder processes wishing to quell the subtending originating processes working against it. In sum, the metaphysic and ontologic meets the teleologic. All driven by unknowable relational process. Hence, divine relatability is the higher preference over the human capacity of knowability. Two approaches from two different perspectives. One process, the other classicism Thx!

Anon - Russ Slater, Very helpful. I don’t have a quibble. For me, knowing is a relational notion. I’ve gotten a lot out of contemplatives like Rohr, Keating, Teilhard, Brourgeault. Throw in some brain science, consciousness, panentheism. The parameters of classical theism do not add up well in my opinion to our current [evangelical] context [of reading the bible].

Russ Slater - Agreed. My new word last year which I was attempting to get head around was Whiteheadian process panpsychism and panexperientialism. The latter I got, no problem. But the cosmic panpsychism category I had to separate from the 70s new ageism and far eastern mysticism (let's throw enneagram charts and astrology in with this too). When I did, it started to make sense when referring back to Whitehead's "Philosophy of Organism" bespeaking the cosmic energy or panpsychic feeling of creation of its parts to the whole, and the whole to its parts. All bespeaking of relationality or relatability or even relational-ness. At which point the Genesis account of the birth of consciousness fell immediately into place. That is, "Adam and Eve's" consciousness was far more primal then pertaining to the human species alone (I'm speaking in my past evangelic voice here). "Consciousness" or "feeling" (in the cosmic quantum energy sense) is innate within creation itself as radiation and gravitational forces to mention a few. God birthed creation as an "panpsychic living organism" with "feelings, connections, etc." (Whitehead is hard to put into words on this subject). But the bottom line, (cosmic)panpsychism goes all the way down even as it goes all the way up. In the evolutionary sense, humanity has no corner on the consciousness block of creatures or creation. Consciousness is innate within the very process of creation itself. Thus the psalmists may sing that "the trees may clap their hands and hills rejoice." Yes, poetic metaphor, but we can have fun with it and stretched it out a bit beyond its originating setting. Blessings.

R.E. Slater
March 8, 2021

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How BIBLICISM Complicates Mystery


Biblical Literalism complicates the understanding of the word mystery by placing the bible in such a way as not to be read for how it is but for what it isn't. Rather than reading the bible for its many good and bad beliefs of God we try to justify its bad with its good. Why? Because we tell ourselves the bible should never be questioned.

Yet by reading the bible literally prevents us from distinguishing good theology in the bible from bad theology in the bible. From distinguishing what-and-who God is when accepting all the scripted words-and-deeds of God portrayed in it's narratives without question.

How? When reading the bible as fully inspired of God and fully inerrant, these religious a prior assumptions prevent the faithful reader any ability to see past any of the bad beliefs about God in its day. Beliefs which later were passed along as gospel into oral legacy and solidified in collected written manuscripts which later became canonized.

What has been the outcome? Bad teachings of God have come along with good teachings of God. Yes, the result should be expected but we should also reconsider how we use the dogmatic word inspiration.

How Moses may have understood God was different from the early prophets, from the kings, from the latter prophets, from the people of their eras, and from Israel's religious leaders in their eras.

The bible went through a lot of life versions of others by insight, hard experience, and in the good. It was remembered in many different timeful settings. And it was preserved under a temple system much, much later removed from the actual occasions of the actual history or their oral recitations.

For us to read the bible today without reflecting on the how or why ungodly genocides were religiously approved, or harsh cultural laws were carried out (stonings for one), does not begin to reflect on how a loving God could be reimagined by religious people in such deeply painful and harmful ways.

But I think the bible stories were collected as much to show us what not to accept as to what to accept if for nothing more than to distinguish and reflect how other religious cultures in their day responded to their gods by their own human beliefs, words and deeds.

The church throughout history has been no less different than that of Israel in it's days as we read of it's tyrannies, atrocities, and horrors all enforced under the cruel banners purportedly believed coming from a loving God. Forgive me, but not all of Israel or the church's religious decrees and deeds are of God but of man. Templating God in man's image is always a bad idea.

And this is what you get with a literal bible: Something which cannot be tampered with because we have accepted the unquestioning bald belief that "the Holy Spirit infallibly inspired its words through "holy" men and women to communicate God's inspired divine wishes" (Inspiration).

And worse, "Nor can those originating inspired words be tampered with because they are God given" (Inerrancy).

By these creedal dictums have resulted the worse of religion in God's name.

And though God did inspire in some way through the good and evil instructions of well-meaning religious men and women in their societies, it was always towards enacting the Spiritos words of loving, forgiving, and repenting so that other men and women might be helped when beholding God's acts of love, mercy, forgiveness, and atoning redemption.

And when based on limited freewill agency (e.g., limited because we cannot control where we are born, the environment we live within, our cultures, and societal prejudices) we are the ones which bring hell upon our heads, not God.

Nor does God control our destinies. But provides opportunities for us to work with Him towards possible outcomes within the tortured paths life may have bound us upon to tread. 

The future is open because God, in His love, and not by His divine fiat, must give to His creation an open future. It's how love works. By God's love all creation has agency.

And words and phrases like predestination and God is in control cannot operate in an environment of divine love. Love does not fate futures but grants futures unlimited possibilities for good or for ill.

Love is love all the way through. Our destinies and futures are our own. And with God's help we try to make it what it can be as we walk along paths of love and forgiveness.

The downside of agency is of course, the misuse of it, or misapplication of it. Such things we call "sin and evil." The burden we bear is the burden of agency. It is a lifelong pandora's box of beauty and shame.

Finally, a process theology (1) rejects biblical literalism; (2) It qualifies what is meant by divine inspiration of the bible; (3) And rejects biblical inerrancy as a harmful, even magical, wish-fulfillment genie lamp to help reinforce biblical inspiration.

Process theology strives to read all the possible versions of the bible which best comports with God's love and loving actions.

Process theology rejects and opposes all religiously accepted and practiced asceticisms, leaglisms, self-righteous prides, unloving deeds, and bigoted hypocrisies which have too easily been preached in the church and transcribed onto unloving creedal doctrines justifying the church's continued malfeasance, social injustices and inhumanitarian actions towards sinful nonbelievers.

God is in the business of love. God's people should be in the business of love too. To impose ourselves as God's reapers of tares and weeds is not our mission. Our mission is to love as God loves building individuals, families, and communities into supportive, beneficial, and nourishing entities of peace and wellbeing.

R.E. Slater
Marcy 18, 2021

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Biblical Literalism (excerpts)
  (Redirected from Biblicism)

Biblical literalism or biblicism is a term used differently by different authors concerning biblical interpretation. It can equate to the dictionary definition of literalism: "adherence to the exact letter or the literal sense",[1] where literal means "in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical".[2]

Alternatively, the term can refer to the historical-grammatical method, a hermeneutic technique that strives to uncover the meaning of the text by taking into account not just the grammatical words, but also the syntactical aspects, the cultural and historical background, and the literary genre. It emphasizes the referential aspect of the words in the text without denying the relevance of literary aspects, genre, or figures of speech within the text (e.g., parable, allegory, simile, or metaphor).[3] It does not necessarily lead to complete agreement upon one single interpretation of any given passage. This Christian fundamentalist and evangelical hermeneutical approach to scripture is used extensively by fundamentalist Christians,[4] in contrast to the historical-critical method of mainstream Judaism or Mainline Protestantism. Those who relate biblical literalism to the historical-grammatical method use the word "letterism" to cover interpreting the Bible according to the dictionary definition of literalism.[5]

Background

Fundamentalists and evangelicals sometimes refer to themselves as literalists or biblical literalists. Sociologists also use the term in reference to conservative Christian beliefs which include not just literalism but also biblical inerrancy. The term "biblical literalism" is often used as a pejorative to describe or ridicule the interpretative approaches of fundamentalist or evangelical Christians.[6][7][8]

A 2011 Gallup survey reports, "Three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God. That is similar to what Gallup has measured over the last two decades, but down from the 1970s and 1980s. A 49% plurality of Americans say the Bible is the inspired word of God but that it should not be taken literally, consistently the most common view in Gallup's nearly 40-year history of this question. Another 17% consider the Bible an ancient book of stories recorded by man."[9]

Clarity of the text

The vast majority of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians regard the Biblical text as clear, and believe that the average person may understand the basic meaning and teachings of the Bible. Such Christians often refer to the teachings of the Bible rather than to the process of interpretation itself. The doctrine of clarity of the text does not mean that no interpretative principles are necessary, or that there is no gap between the culture in which the Bible was written and the culture of a modern reader. On the contrary, exegetical and interpretative principles come into play as part of the process of closing that cultural gap. The doctrine does deny that the Bible is a code to decipher,[20] or that understanding it requires complex academic analysis as is typical in the historical-critical method of interpretation.

Biblical literalists believe that the story of Noah's ark (depicted in this painting by Edward Hicks) is historically accurate.

Biblical literalists believe that, unless a passage is clearly intended by the writer as allegory, poetry, or some other genre, the Bible should be interpreted as literal statements by the author. Critics argue that allegorical intent can be ambiguous. Fundamentalists typically treat as simple history, according to its plain sense, passages such as those that recount the Genesis creation, the deluge and Noah's ark, and the unnaturally long life-spans of the patriarchs given in genealogies of Genesis, as well as the strict historicity of the narrative accounts of Ancient Israel, the supernatural interventions of God in history, and Jesus' miracles.[21][22] Literalism does not deny that parables, metaphors and allegory exist in the Bible, but rather relies on contextual interpretations based on apparent authorial intention.[23]

As a part of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,[24] conservative Christian scholarship affirms the following:
WE AFFIRM the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal, sense. 

The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense, that is, the meaning which the writer expressed. Interpretation according to the literal sense will take account of all figures of speech and literary forms found in the text.

WE DENY the legitimacy of any approach to Scripture that attributes to it meaning which the literal sense does not support.