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

Friday, February 25, 2022

How Not to Speak of God...

 

How Not to Speak of God...

by R.E. Slater


Setting: Russia's attack on its brother state, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022.

Here is a post I had read on Facebook which I will leave anonymous from a fellow Christian friend I admire but whose theology of God is austere and ungenerous.

An evangelical Christian whose faith is built on Reformed Neo-Calvinism which sees God as an unloving God disinterested in caring or helping those in need (such as the unfortunate Ukrainians in the loss of their freedom and democracy to Russia's bombs and forced subservience).

On the post was the recital of Romans 9:14-24 NLT without further commentary. Thereto were a number of "likes" and several comments agreeing with its posting. Knowing the person, their faith, and their followers, I then understood why it had been posted. Simply, it was to show a blind trust and faith in God regardless of world's events (such as the Covid pandemic we all have experienced).

Which is all well or good as blind faith goes but has become a misleading source to God's character impugned by Christians believing all sin and evil in the world is from His hand and by His direction.

Who further believe that God controls and determines all events in this world, whether good or evil, and that God may use both the wicked and the good to set His purposes aright in the outcome of His divine rule (as depicted in their minds by the book of Revelation).

At one time I was of the same mind and belief. But no longer. I do not consider God to be aloof from this world like the Greek Olympiad's Zeus, who came-and-went at his "good" pleasure leaving mankind to its fortunes or fates.

Nor do I attribute to God a determinative control over a freewilled creation birthed out of his love and not by divine fiat. A God who gave to creation the multiplying gifts of valuative wellbeing to bless one another with boundless opportunities of love, kindness, and recreation.

Nor do I attribute to God any-and-all wickedness which a loving, holy God cannot do. It would be out-of-character with whom God is. No, all sin and wickedness can only be attributed to a freewill creation which has abandoned its holy charters of love to enact unloving words and deeds upon itself. These things are not from God but from a creation choosing sin over love.

This kind of fundamental, or evangelical, or "biblical" faith is the kind of dogma I now reject and can not longer approve, defend, or wish to fix. Instead, I have chosen to abandon this kind of faith which believes in a God such as this and move to a Reformed process version of my faith

I should explain that since I am not Lutheran, Catholic, or Orthodox, the Lord took what I knew and helped me express my post-fundamental and post-evangelical Reformed faith using process philosophy as its base, and process theology as its outcome. In doing this, my rejection of Calvinism for Arminianism, and its subsequent uplift towards Open & Relational Arminian Theology can now include Open & Relational Process-based Arminian Theology. One which I now call Process Christianity so that it might include Lutherans, Catholics, and Orthodox believers.

Moreover, by quoting and interpreting Romans by Calvinistic standards I have found such theological outlooks to be implicitly harmful to Spirit living. Evangelical Calvinism has become over the years a very dark, misleading theology about God, God's promises and hope, and Christian living. But from personal experience it can also be a place where the Spirit of God might lead a follower of Jesus away from even as the Spirit had done with my own evangelical outlooks and beliefs many years earlier.

Which is why I write. In hopes that what spiritual light is spoken here at Relevancy22 may lead other Jesus-followers away from similar Christian systems of spiritual bondage and oppression to see the light-and-life which lies in Jesus our Lord and Savior when beheld in the love of God, our Father and Redeemer.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
February 25, 2022

* * * * * * * *



The God who is Not There for You

Posted by Anon
February 25, 2022

ROMANS 9.14-24 NLT
14 Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! 15 For God said to Moses,
“I will show mercy to anyone I choose,
and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”
16 So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.

17 For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh,
“I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.”
18 So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.

19 Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”

20 No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?”
21 When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?
22 In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction.
23 He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.
24 And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.

        END

* * * * * * * *


HOW to Speak of God aright...


A Suggested, But Brief, Interpretation
of Romans 9.14-24

by R.E. Slater

Here Paul speaks to an audience of Jewish and Gentile Christians who have questions about Israel's rejection of Jesus. From personal experience the Apostle Paul (once the Jewish Rabbi, Saul) understood the pride and hard-heartedness of his fellow tribal congregants and templed Jewish theocracy.

Firstly, Judaism was a monotheistic faith - but at Jesus' Incarnate Advent, the Jews believed Christians were holding to an apostatizing faith of two Gods, not One. For centuries later, both Jews - and later Muslims - misunderstood the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ. It kept both faiths to their own monotheistic faiths rather than convert to the trinitarian monotheism of Christianity.

However, here, in this passage, time, and setting, Paul gets a bit rough in his speech to his fellow brethren saying that if willful pride and the blasphemy of Jesus' redemptive atonement kept Israel from Christ, so too can pride and short-sighted theology keep the Christian church in its error and apostasy from Christ.

Paul makes full usage of the Judaized teachings of the Mosaic Law to show how far apart their idea of God is from whom the true God is. In affect, Paul's speech here of the OT God was purposely using the genre of sarcasm to compare Israel's hard-hearted, pagan perception of God to that of the Christian idea of a loving God who is always present with His people.

When Christians read these passages in a literalizing way they will find what they are looking for... a doctrine of a God of fear and judgment. But for the child of God who knows the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, there is no spirit of fear but of trust and affinity for the "Lover of Our Souls."

Romans 9 is the assurance to the converted Jew or Gentile that the God they had once pictured as doing "this or that thing" is but a fiction to the real story of God's steadfastness of love not only to the believer, but to all men and women living in a world of disruption, harm, and suffering.

God is a God to all people of all faiths even as God can never be a God to those who misunderstand Him and purposely refuse to change their beliefs teaching of an austere God who does what He wants, forgives whom He wants. A God not of love - but of bounded edges and withholding grace. Who is so far removed from creation as to become a God one fears instead of a God one loves. A God who is worshipped as a pagan would do, mistrusting the very God they sacrifice to rather than worshipped as a God who is good and kind and selflessly sacrificing to His creation in all His ways, actions, and deeds.

Romans 9 is a declaration to austere religions that the very God they worship is justified in treating their faiths exactly as they believe. But in Paul's rant, this same God is spoken of untruly and is not the graven image He is made out to be:
22 In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction.
23 He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.
24 And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.

R.E. Slater
February 25, 2022

*After writing this post I came across an interpretation of Romans 9 which may or may not help show how Calvinists and Arminianists think on the same passage. Perhaps this will enlighten a bit further. Here is the link.



Thomas Jay Oord - God's Timeful, Experiential Pluriform Love (Panentheism v Classic Theism)


amazon link



Big God Questions: Love, Divine Revelation, and the Value of Theology
Mar 1, 2022

Thomas Jay Oord joins Tripp Fuller to
tackle HBC Community Member questions


Why Go Wesleyan? 13 Reasons from Tom Oord
Jan 13, 2017

Thomas Jay Oord joins Tripp Fuller's Theology Nerd podcast
to drop 13 reasons to go Wesleyan... theologically speaking.


* * * * * * * *



A strong case can be made that love is the core of Christian faith. And yet Christians often fail to give love center stage in biblical studies and theology. And most fail to explain what they mean by love.

Thomas Jay Oord explores this question and offers ground-breaking answers. Oord addresses leading Christian thinkers today and of yesteryear. He explains biblical forms of love, such as agape, philia, hesed, and ahavah. We should understand love’s meaning as uniform, he says, but its expressions are pluriform.

Widely regarded as the world's foremost theologian of love, Thomas Jay Oord tackles our biggest puzzles about the nature and meaning of love, divine and creaturely. His proposals are novel. They align with love described in scripture and expressed in everyday experience. Oord also provides radical and yet persuasive answers to questions about evil, hell, the Big Bang, divine violence, divine abandonment, and more.

Pluriform Love changes the landscape of Christian love studies.


Here, Tom Oord tells of an Everlasting God whose presence and love fills all the days of the cosmos, earth, beasts, and mankind. A God who is here, now, with us and not a God who remains substantially apart and separate from His creation as classic theologies of the church would have us believe. This is the story of processual theology and its meaning to the church and the fellowship of humanity in the person, work, and love of the Incarnational God who has forever been, and forever will be, with us from all our days before to all our days beyond. it is not only God's promise but God's binding love which anchors His presence with His creation giving to it life and light, nobility and purpose. - re slater


* * * * * * *


By R.E. Slater

As Intro, please refer to my more recent posts on God and Time:



Thank you Tom for your helpful insights in your commentary below.


* * * * * * *



Love and the Timeless God

by Thomas Jay Oord
January 28th, 2022


Philosophy always plays a role in Christian theology. This isn’t a bad thing; philosophy isn’t inherently evil. We’re all philosophers, in the general sense of thinking about things, and all theologies have philosophical assumptions. In fact, every statement about love – scholarly or not – incorporates philosophy, at least in the broad sense.

Some philosophies do better than others at elucidating love. Some better fit the way biblical writers portray God’s love and creation. Some better fit our experience of the world, aligning better with contemporary science, personal experiences, art, and culture. Some philosophies are more plausible, in the sense of cohering with what we know about life. And some are more internally consistent.

We should avoid philosophies that cannot help us talk coherently about love.

Augustine and Classical Theism

The influential medieval theologian Augustine read widely in philosophy, including the works of Aristotle, the Neoplatonists (e.g., Plotinus, Porphyry), the Stoics, and others. Many scholars note the influence these philosophies had on his theology.

Adolf Harnack (1851-1930) is often cited as the first to decry Greek philosophy’s influence upon Augustine and Christian theology. Harnack called it “the Hellenic spirit” and many today call this the “Hellenization” of Christian thought.[1] These philosophical traditions still influence Christian theologians and philosophers today.

Many today use the label “classical theism” to describe ideas endorsed by Augustine and theologians he influenced, such as Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and Martin Luther. “Classical” doesn’t necessarily mean old. Nor do only theologians who lived long ago embrace these ideas; some scholars embrace them today.[2] And not every theologian of yesteryear embraced so-called classical theism. Theological diversity existed then as it does now.

Augustine and classical theism affirm at least four unique ideas about God, ideas intricately connected to Platonic and Neo-Platonic views about the superiority of what is changeless. They say God is

1) timeless,
2) immutable,
3) impassible, and
4) simple.[3]

To a great extent, these four ideas are mutually reinforcing, and each has implications for a theology of love.

In this essay, I explore problems which come when believing God is timeless. In my book Pluriform Love, I explore the other three aspects of classical theism’s particular view of God. And in the book, I offer alternative philosophical ideas meant to replace the ones in classical theism I find inadequate.

God and Time

Just about every Christian believes God had no beginning and will have no end. But classical theism understands this belief in a particular way. It says God experiences no succession of moments. God is timeless. There is no “before” or “after” in God because God is nontemporal. Deity does not experience moment by moment.

Augustine affirms this divine timelessness view.[4] “In the sublimity of an eternity which is always in the present,” he says, God is “before all things past and transcends all things future.”[5] In fact, God created time, according to Augustine. “What time could there be that you had not created?” he asks rhetorically of God. “You are the Maker of all times… No time is co-eternal with you.”[6]

Because time had a beginning, Augustine says, we should not ask what God was doing before creating.[7] That question is nonsensical, because there was no time before God created it. In fact, Augustine admits he can’t really talk about time at all. “If I wish to explain it to one who asks,” Augustine says, “I know not [how].”[8]

1 - Scholars propose various ways God might relate to time. Two proposals dominate. The divine timelessness view we find in Augustine says God experiences no succession of moments. God has no experience. Many use the word “eternal” to identify this view, although in popular vernacular, some say God is “outside time.”

2 - The other dominant way to think about God and time is often called the “everlasting” view.[9] It says God experiences a succession of moments, and this succession had no beginning and will have no end. But God experiences the ongoing flow of time. Past moments preceded each moment of God’s everlasting life, and God will experience moment by moment everlastingly into the future. The everlasting God is the “living God,” to use a common biblical phrase, in the sense of experiencing time’s ongoing succession.

In short, to say God is “eternal” means God is timeless or nontemporal. To say God is “everlasting” means God continually experiences and is pantemporal.

My Response to a Timeless God

It is difficult to align the dominant portrait of God in scripture with Augustine’s and classical theism’s portrait. The God described in the Old and New Testaments interacts with creatures, moment by moment. This involves time sequences. The living God of interactive love has “befores” and “afters,” making promises about what God will do and responding to what creatures have done. In the Bible, God plans for the future, talks about past events, and acts alongside creatures in the present. Biblical writers typically describe God as one who experiences time’s flow.

Old Testament writers use the word olam to describe God’s relation to time. This Hebrew word connotes long duration, antiquity, and futurity rather than timelessness. Olam describes the remote past or future, but also the notion of perpetuity.[10] When used with reference to God, olam better describes God as everlastingly experiencing rather than as timelessly not experiencing. Many scholars also say the timeless view of God is absent in the New Testament.[11]

According to this reasoning, passages that appear to support divine timelessness are better interpreted as identifying God’s faithfulness. God is lovingly faithful through time, not outside it (sic, "faithfulness"). C. R. Schoonhoven states the case bluntly: “In the understanding of the writers of the Old Testament and New Testament, eternity is not timelessness but endless time.”[12] The God of the Bible “lives in time,” says John Goldingay.[13] “Neither timelessness nor the simultaneity of past, present, and future,” says Terence Fretheim, “would represent the view of any biblical tradition.”[14]

An everlastingly time-full God interacts with time-full creatures in a time-full universe.

Divine Timelessness and Love

The timeless view presents problems for a theology of love. From everything we know, love requires time-full giving and receiving. Love is interactive and experiential, which implies influencing and being influenced moment by moment. The love of a timeless God would be nondurational, which makes no sense with love as we know it.

If the divine timelessness view is true, many biblical passages would be meaningless. John’s claim that we love because God first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19), for instance, would be incomprehensible. A timeless God doesn’t act prior to our actions. If God is nontemporal, John should have said we and God love simultaneously. Creatures would not need a timeless God to act first on their behalf.

Or take the biblical view that God redeems.[15] To say God, in love, redemptively responds to sin makes no sense if God is timeless. A timeless God has no time to redeem, because an eternal God does not respond to what occurs in time’s flow. Nicholas Wolterstorff puts it nicely: “God the Redeemer cannot be a God eternal.”[16] A redeeming God must be everlasting, which means responding moment-by-moment to creation.
One of the most profound expressions of divine love is forgiveness. God responds to sin by forgiving the offender. “If we confess our sins,” writes John, “he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins” (1 Jn. 1:9). But forgiving love makes no sense if God is timeless, because a nontemporal God cannot respond. Forgiveness is a time-oriented form of love.

Index

[1] Adolf Harnack, History of Dogma, Neil Buchanan, trans. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1897). Many others have made this argument. See Hubertus R. Drobner, “Christian Philosophy,” in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). 672–90; Helmut Koester, History, Culture, and Religion of the Hellenistic Age in Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995). Sometimes the Hellenism thesis is taken too broadly, as Paul Gavrilyuk has argued (The Suffering of the Impassible God: The Dialectics of Patristic Thought [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004]).

[2] For examples, see James E. Dolezal, God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011);H. J. McCann, Creation and the Sovereignty of God (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 20212).

[3] On this designation for classical theism, see Ryan T. Mullins, “Classical Theism,” in T & T Clark Handbook of Analytic Theology, James M. Arcadi and James T. Turner, Jr., eds. (London: Bloomsbury, 2021), 85-100; T. Williams, “Introduction to Classical Theism,” in J. Dillerand A. Kasher, eds., Models of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities (New York: Springer, 2013), 95–7.

[4] Augustine, On the Trinity, 5, 17; Confessions, 13, 38, 53; City of God, 11, 8; 22, 30.

[5] Augustine, Confessions, XI. xiii (16).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Translations of scripture rarely indicate what view of time the writer holds. Biblical translators sometimes use the word “eternal” to describe what is likely the “everlasting” view and vice versa. Note, for instance, various translations of the conclusion to John 3:16. Some say God gives “eternal” life and other say “everlasting” life.

[10] F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon (London: Oxford University Press, 1906), 761.

[11] Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time, F. V. Filson, trans. (London:SCM, 1951[rev. ed. 1962]), 69-80. This is the conclusion of many New Testament scholars, including Eldon G. Ladd (A Theology of the New Testament [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974], 47).

[12] C.R. Schoonhoven, “Eternity” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, ed. G. W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1982), 162-164.

[13] John Goldingay, Israel’s Gospel, Vol. 1 of Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity, 2003), 64.

[14] Terence E. Fretheim, God and the World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation (Nashville: Abingdon, 2005), 303.

[15] Richard Holland Jr. offers a strong argument for why a timeless God cannot be incarnate. See God, Time, and the Incarnation (Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock, 2012).

[16] Nicholas Wolterstorff, “God Everlasting,” in God and the Good, ed. Clifton J. Orlebeke and Lewis B. Smedes (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1975), 182.