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, November 17, 2021

Unedited Essays by John Cobb

 



Essays by John Cobb



Essays by John B. Cobb, Jr.


Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr.


R.E. Slater - Essays with John Cobb: Processual Immortality



Essays with John Cobb:
Processual Immortality

by Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr.
June 1998

Is God Personal?

Publication Month: June 1998
Dr. Cobb’s Response

Editing of Content Structure by R.E. Slater

I.

Question

Dr. Cobb, I’ve just started reading C. Hartshorne’s Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. The one response I find least satisfactory is his observation on immortality. What are your views?

Response by Dr. Cobb

Christians have varied ideas about “immortality” and tend to cover up their differences with vague rhetoric. Behind that rhetoric I encounter three general views with lots of diversity within them:

  • Some reject any notion of a reality other than our actual experience here and now between birth and death:
  • They think that affirming anything of that sort is religiously damaging, because it encourages dualistic and otherworldly thinking.
  • They believe that it has disparaged and distorted the real values of life here and now. They also believe that there is no valid reason to suppose that any other reality exists.
  • If there is any “immortality” it lies in the reabsorption of our bodies [and works] into the ongoing processes of nature and the influence of our lives, however slight, upon the future.
  • Some believe that the Christian faith holds out the promise that in the “end” all that has been still is in some fulfilled or perfected way. Tillich, Barth, and Pannenberg all seem to assert something like this. This belief is required to undergird the meaningfulness of our otherwise utterly transient existence individually and historically.
  • Others hold to the belief in continuing life after death either immediately or after the end of history. To them simply preserving what has been is quite unsatisfactory. Christian hope is for new life, a fulfilled and transformed life.

Process theologians can be found in all three camps.

What may be thought of as “standard” process theology falls in the second one. This is Whitehead’s Consequent Nature of God and is the emphatic position of Hartshorne.

Of course, process theology has the distinctive note that it is each occasion of human experience that is retained in God (along with nonhuman occasions), and that this immortality is immediateMarjorie Suchocki has developed this notion in such a way that it incorporates many of the values of the third camp as well.
Although Whitehead’s emphasis falls here, he also recognizes that his metaphysics allows for continuing existence of primarily mental occasions after the death of the body. This is unusual in the history of philosophy, since most metaphysical systems have either demonstrated the necessary truth of personal immortality or shown its impossibility. In Religion in the Making Whitehead states that continuation of the life of the soul is a question to be settled empirically rather than metaphysically. Some process theologians believe that empirical evidence is favorable to this belief.

II.

The question is also one of judgment as to the religious value of such beliefs. It is rare that those who do not see religious value in the hope for new life after physical death judge the evidence favorable or even examine it with much interest. Hence, in fact the judgments of positive value and of factual likelihood tend to go together, although there may be some who would like to believe is such [a] life but who think that to do so would be wishful thinking.

I count myself among those who think that belief in life after death can function positively today. I say this despite the extensive harm that it has done in the past, especially when salvation and damnation were defined in terms of such post-mortem existence. Today the danger to a proper valuation of human life here and now seems to arise more from the tendency to view people as simply what they appear to be, in terms of their social functions, or, even worse, reductionistically, as what they can be seen to be in the physical sciences. The doctrine of the soul, which once functioned to disparage the body may now be needed to preserve even the body from trivialization.

Because I think there is need for an understanding of the soul that indicates its partial transcendence of the body as scientifically understood, I am interested in the evidence for this transcendence including that of the soul’s continuation beyond physical death. But my attention to this matter has been sporadic. Anyone who is seriously concerned should read David Griffin. He has an excellent chapter on this topic in God and Religion in the Postmodern World.

As that chapter shows, there is a close connection among process thinkers between interest in parapsychological phenomena generally and concern about life after death. The former, if they occur, indicate a partial transcendence of the soul in relation to the physical body. It is this partial transcendence that makes the idea of the soul’s life apart from the present physical body conceivable. Griffin has written an entire book on parapsychology, the most thorough philosophical study of this topic in this generation.

III.

Strictly speaking, the soul’s survival of death need not amount to “immortality.” Indeed, for process thought the notion of any form of creaturely existence enduring forever seems inherently implausible. The only immortality would seem to be in God, as both Whitehead and Hartshorne have emphasized.

My own way of speculating about these matters is to stress that (i) personal identity is far from complete even in this life. Also, (ii) the Christian ideal is that we love others as we love ourselves. Really to do that would mean that our concern in each moment was for the whole future that we could influence, not focused on our personal future. One who has attained to that state will not be concerned about personal continuity beyond death. But others are, and God may give us that continuity as long we need or want it. But that will not be forever.

One feature of Whitehead’s conceptuality is highlighted in discussion of this topic. It accents empirical inquiry and the diversity of faith perspectives. On most questions, therefore, it leaves open a variety of answers. Those of us who adopt his views still have to work out our own beliefs. But those beliefs will nevertheless be deeply affected by the fact that we view reality in terms of process.


* * * * * *


My Process Observations on Immortality

by R.E. Slater
November 17, 2021

I.

Process theology is as much about a process-based philosophical view of life as it is theological. That is, however we come to know process philosophy is to that degree how it may better help to explain our ideas of God, life, living, duty, calling, work, church, and society among other things.

At once, process thought states that whatever is happening here in this life, in our mortal state of being and becoming is exactly what is happening everywhere else throughout creation and any other non-matter or spacetime form anywhere else. In Platonic terms, process is process whether here or in the next life. In non-Platonic terms, process is a constant whether here with us now or with God now or with God later when we are no longer living. Process is a constant throughout God's world both physical and spiritual.

That said, then immortality should be no different now in this life then it will be in the next life, whether we go on as bodiless souls or we simply cease to exist and become part of the process flow of the universe. Let me say that the Christian hope is that all souls continue onwards after death but process thought does allow for both this idea as well as the idea that our souls - like the cosmic soul - simply folds into the process flow of history and event no different then as it currently doing so now. In either sense, our lives and live's work continues in God in one manner or another. 

This does not particularly bother me as my trust is in God to do the right thing by the creation He breathed onto to make it as it is both now and forever. To be the created is to be finite, mortal, in some sense ending. But in God, all is made alive and its weight - or the weight of our existential mortal moment - will not be forgot or eclipsed in God. We are and will continue in some sense to be at death because God is.

For the literal Christian hoping for crowns, friends, mansions, and healing let's simply say "yes" this may be.... However, if these bible concepts are more figurative than literal the same will still apply. There will be a sense of gratitude and wellbeing, a society of some sort, an identity found in shelter and community, and the personal healing of one's psyche, soul, spirit, mind and heart. All things are because God is. God is the First Process which gives all other processes its energy, flow and future in becoming beyond any becoming we could realize in our lifetimes or in the lifetimes to come.

II.

In part II above Dr. Cobb wishes to convey that this life be product NOW. To useful NOW. To contribute to the meaningful flow of life's rhythms and harmonies against all that which is disruptive and harmful to the processual flow of life.

That a proper doctrine of the soul and of others is see our lives in the love and healing of God as it can be given the many times harsh localities we must live our lives. While also viewing the same of the lives of others as contributing souls to the wellbeing of mankind and this earth.

To the extent that our doctrinal views of the soul and of mankind becomes religiously harsh or cruel to the existence of ourselves or others is the extent to which we must repent and learn to lean into healthier practices of our spiritual worship life which allows God to unchain us from our guilts and sins.

Beating or denying one's body to please God is usually not what is meant by God who has granted us breath and health to positively contribute into this life be it ever so humble as that with a spouse, a family, a community or church. We are unable to do this if we have starved ourselves from unusefulness, become overly sensitive or crushed by guilt and shame, or harmed ourselves in ways that we are the ones needing ministry rather than giving ministry to both the harmed and the damaged as will as the whole and healed.

Repentance in Jesus starts with personal health. It does not condone harm to self or others. But it does request we submit to God and learn to love ourselves as God loves us and wishes us to be, as we can be, given the constraints of our circumstances.

III.

I like the idea that we are building into immortality the works of our mortal life. Simply, any work done which is loving and healing does now transfer immediately in this life and "the next" into meaningful flows of processual being and becoming. That our lives are never fully realized, nor can be, but in God, all things can be brought to fruition and multiplied over-and-over again by His Spirit.

To live our lives unconcernedly about either death or immortality and to live our lives concernedly as fully as we can, by God's good graces, now with our loved ones and to all we would meet. It is to God we live, and move, and have our being. All other concerns are light and passing in this life. Be who we are and do it as well as we can given our frailities and temptations and trust God to make up the difference which we cannot, in ourselves, make up.

This is the promise of life in God both now and everlastingly. That God can and will use all that we give Him and use it wisely, folding it into the everlasting flows of life both now and future as given to us by the Lord of Life and Saviour of our Souls.

R.E. Slater
November 17, 2021