We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

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 most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

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

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Process Theology & the Many Creeds of the Christian Church - Part 3


 

Process Theology and the Many Creeds
of the Christian Church
PART 3

by R.E. Slater


As an introduction to church creeds and confessions I'll start with what I know best... my own denominational background, which is Baptist, and specifically the General Association of Regular Baptist churches (or GARB, as we had fondly called it). Mine own church history began rooted in 1920s-50s fundamentalism to later end up in conservative evangelicalism of the 1980s-90s. I learned its ways and wanderings through various churches I was a member of, a Baptist GARB college (Cornerstone University), and seminary education (Grand Rapids Baptist School of Theology). Each-and-all entirely rooted in the Calvinistic tradition. Historically, Baptists were Arminian in doctrine (ahem, not Armenian)... but I'll get to that in a moment. Later, the denomination became more oriented towards "Cal-minian" with the emphasis on "Cal" (short for Calvinism) because of syncretism into its many Baptist fellowships.

All of which means I have very little experience in mainstream denominations, Catholic, or Orthodox faiths. It also means that I was trained to measure everything to the Calvinistic standard of a "right-and-proper-ordering" of biblically informed doctrines according to my "enlightened" - if not, "superior" - doctrinal training... Or so I was given to think by Baptists as a whimsical nod that they weren't quite sure about their beliefs, but if not, could always fall back on their hardline positions should they be challenged a little too successfully. But lest anyone misunderstands, let's just say that for any theologian an attitude of deep humbleness, if not, doubt and uncertainty, should ever be resident in the heart of any God follower, learner, or teacher.

However, let's go a step further in my Regular Baptist tradition to mention its willing acceptance of the doctrine of Dispensationalism which reinforced all the Calvinistic ideas of God swirling around in my head. Thankfully, years later, I learned about the Covenants of the bible which helped to settle the issue of overall thematic bible structure. Yet regardless of whether dispensational or covenantal dogma, my Baptist education was all based in Reformed doctrine (either strictly, formally, eclectically, or syncretically). It was during my seminary years which helped sort all these finer distinctions out in my head and heart so I could know the differences within the (Baptist) Reformed tradition while also knowing why those differences were there at all (cf. Chart 1 below).


Hence, when reviewing church creeds and doctrines I must remind myself from time-to-time that my Reformed background is not the only approach used to "compare" church creeds with other Christian traditions (as also depicted in the first chart displayed immediately below). Other church denominations carry their own beliefs and values even as my heritage does with its own. And so, I apologize ahead of time for my personal biases as I write here from my evangelical background even as I hope to overcome those same theological biases with the Spirit's help.

As example, I no long hold to any form of Calvinism (as much as I can knowledgeably say that I don't; but it still creeps into my thinking from time-to-time). My preference nowadays is that of the Wesleyan/Methodist doctrines of Arminianism, which I greatly prefer. The difference? Calvinism teaches divine determinism and degrees of freewill (ranging from none to some) while Arminianism teaches divine openness and a much fuller version of creational freewill. Calvinism rests upon Spirit-enabled enlightenment while Arminianism rests upon the inbred divine Imago Dei resident within creation + Spirit-enabled enlightenment. The former grants to God all control over all events and outcomes; the latter teaches God does not control any events or outcomes... thus reinforcing the idea of freewill and open futures.

If this all seems a bit arcane or confusing I should mention that I had spent the first several years here at Relevancy22 writing of the many perspectives and differences between the two approaches as I could. If any systematic theological names, labels, logic-suppositions, and theologoumenas come to mind - as you might remember them - then most probably they have been reviewed here. By-and-by, the Lord guided me towards a contemporary version of Arminianism which I later came to realize was the newly developing field of "Open and Relational Theology" (ORT). At the time, I was working on it on my own not realizing others had been doing the same years earlier. Essentially, ORT is the natural, contemporary, outcome to olde-timey Arminianism, aka Methodism, Wesleyanism, and even Nazarene doctrines.

More recently, I am interest in moving Open and Relational Theology forwards into all manners and perspectives of Process Theology - not progressive theology; that is the social justice and green environmental movement found in all progressive denominations and evangelical flavors of the church. Process theology is always progressive in these elements and more - but not all progressive theologies are based in Whiteheadian process thought. More comforting to me was that I came to process philosophy by way of "bible study" not realizing open and relational theology may also be described as open and relational process theology where most come to open and relational theology philosophically. Curious, eh? I think of it as providential.

All of which means that I am choosing to see the bible through the more ancient cultures resident within the biblical narratives later to be eclipsed by Greek and Westernized philosophical thought (most recently secular modernism). After discovering and writing of ORT, I next spent time "postmodernizing" my Westernized cultural thoughts away from its progenitor's industrialized and commercial mindsets so that it might feel more organic to me and to my socio-political context. Too, I've done the same with Continental Philosophy hoping to bring it into postmodern, process-based, insights and regiment. As example, Jungian archetypes seems to parallel well with process philosophy. I thought the same with Alain Baidou's Being and Event as he spent the week explaining it to me in an ad hoc class of thirty-some philosophers and professors. Process is all around us in glimpses and pieces... even the bible. But we don't see it because our American evangelical culture has taught us in Westernized forms of seeing the world. But we only need to look to see process everywhere about us!

Lastly, when reviewing the creeds and confessions of the church - whether in the Westernized part of the world, or the Middle East, or even in the Oriental religions - process theology is everywhere as it expands and develops globally. Further, it serves as an excellent common language or, lingua franca, to other religions in its philosophical foundation, structure, display, speech, and actions of a contemporary, postmodern+ Christianity. It is applicable to any-and-all extant biblical dogmas, systematic dogmas, creeds, traditions, socio-cultural heritages, worship styles, music, art, and more!

Thus and thus, a Process-based Christianity then is a way to see the world organically. Even as quantum physics, cybertronics, technology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and other academic disciplines are replacing the classic world of older eras, so too process theology is reparsing the religious world of believers through the "quantumized" eyes of a creation far vaster - and vastly more intricate - than we have come to realize before.

Hence, the dogmas of the church regarding how it perceives the divine-supernatural and the divine-natural must change accordingly. Process Theology is simply replacing Platonism and all of its Westernized forms, attitudes, and statements about God with a more proper, organic view of God-and-the-world. Process thinking is not to be feared, but welcomed. The more I have explored it's brave new world the more it makes sense with my experience and theology of the bible-world of God, His/Her/It's salvation, and future hope. Conversely, my past education might also be utilized to help expand those past worlds of faithful men and women uplifting the Christian faith from classically-informed worlds to more contemporary and relevant forms of the Christian faith.

To do this let's start with examining the church's past creeds and confessions so that at a later time, when process discussions come up, we might be better able to reflect on the deep differences the church must make in its thinking and theology if it were to travel more fully into the idea of a Process-based Christianity, which I am naming Process Christianity.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
December 30, 2021




Join the "Becoming Christian" class
with Tripp Fuller and Thomas Jay Oord
Jan 6, 2021 - 5:10 min




Join the "Becoming Christian" class
with Tripp Fuller and Thomas Jay Oord
Jan 6, 2021 - 6:11 min




Tripp Fuller on Progressive Christianity
Jul 30, 2019





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Infographic: The Order of Decrees
by denominational comparison chart

Below is an Inforgraphic chart that shows the comparison between general soteriological views taught in different Christian denominations. The chart is based off of the TULIP Calvinist theology. This is similar to the Order of Decrees chart made [by the Calvinist], B.B. Warfield, in his book Plan of Salvation.

The chart is built off the difference between Supernaturalist and Naturalist forms of Christianity. The order starts from right and goes to the left. It explains at what point in the timeline of humanity God performed his decree. For example the “Supralapsarian” position teaches that God predestined all things before He created them. This includes mans fall in God’s predestined plan. Then God provides Christ's sacrifice to the elect only and subsequently regenerates the elect only after applying the atonement. Finally God caused the elect to persevere till the end.


A CALVINIST (REFORMED) ORDERING OF DECREES

Supernaturalist: Particular, Universal, Sacerdotal
v.
Naturalist