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, March 10, 2022

JESUS DE/CONSTRUCTED FOR LENT, PART 2 OF 6



JESUS D/C SERIES




JESUS DE/CONSTRUCTED FOR LENT
PART 2 OF 6



UPDATE

Tripp’s book has proved hard to find for many of you. HERE is a PDF of the book. We just ask you don’t share it and if inspired purchase a delayed or digital copy.

Class Outline

We will have 6 weekly sessions each Thursday at 5pm ET. In addition to these sessions, there will be a special visit from the author of After Jesus Before Christianity: a Historical Exploration of the first two centuries of Jesus Movements.

  • 3/3 SESSION 1: De/Constructing Jesus & the Lenten Journey
  • Reading: the introduction to Freeing Jesus and chapter 1 of the Guide to Jesus
  • 3/10 SESSION 2: the Consequences of C.S. Lewis’ Worst Idea
  • Reading: Guide to Jesus ch 2-4
  • 3/17 SESSION 3: from Executed Prophet to Cosmic Christ
  • Reading: Guide to Jesus ch 5-7
  • 3/24 SESSION 4: Freeing Jesus from Christendom Capture
  • Reading: Freeing Jesus ch 1-3
  • 3/31 SESSION 5: One Jesus, One Story, & a Multitude of Christs
  • Reading: Freeing Jesus ch 4-6
  • 4/7 SESSION 6: De/constructed Jesus & the Journey of Holy Week
  • Reading: Freeing Jesus conclusion & Guide to Jesus ch 8


* * * * * * *


Amazon Link


The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus
Lord, Liar, Lunatic, Or Awesome?

by Tripp Fuller

Christology is crazy. It’s rather absurd to identify a first-century homeless Jew as God revealed, but a bunch of us do anyway. In this book, Tripp Fuller examines the historical Jesus, the development of the doctrine of Christ, the questions that drove christological innovations through church history, contemporary constructive proposals, and the predicament of belief for the church today. Recognizing that the battle over Jesus is no longer a public debate between the skeptic and believer but an internal struggle in the heart of many disciples, he argues that we continue to make christological claims about more than an “event” or simply the “Jesus of history.” On the other hand, C. S. Lewis’s infamous “liar, lunatic, and Lord” scheme is no longer intellectually tenable. This may be a guide to Jesus, but for Christians, Fuller is guiding us toward a deeper understanding of God. He thinks it’s good news—good news about a God who is so invested in the world that God refuses to be God without us.

* * * * * * *

CLASS 2 VIDEO
1:58:50
Jesus De/Constructed with Diana and Tripp
Mar 10, 2022

YouTube Video - Paid Content


* * * * * * *


Outline of "JESUS" BOOK
by Steve Thomason
Homebrewed Guide to Jesus chapters 2-4
by Steve Thomason | Mar 7, 2022

I am currently reading Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus by Tripp Fuller as part of a class taught by Tripp Fuller and Diana Butler-Bass.

Below are my notes from chapters 2-4.

The book introduces recent scholarship about Jesus and a really helpful and inclusive way to be a radical disciple of Jesus in this present moment. I find it life-giving.

You are welcome to join the class. It is awesome. CLICK HERE to check it out.

This book is the more accessible version of Tripp’s Book Divine Self-Investment, which I illustrated (a little) here.


by Steve Thomason

by Steve Thomason

by Steve Thomason

by Steve Thomason



* * * * * * *

CLASS 2 VIDEO
1:58:50
Jesus De/Constructed with Diana and Tripp
Mar 10, 2022

YouTube Video - Paid Content


* * * * * * *


Jesus DeConstructed VIDEO Session 2
Class Notes
with Diana Butler-Bass and Tripp Fuller

Mar 10, 2022

by Steve Thomason


Here are my notes from Session 2 of Jesus De/Constructed with Diana Butler-Bass and Tripp Fuller. It was an excellent session. I sectioned out the different parts and placed them in a more linear fashion below. Scroll down to get a sense of how the session flowed. Enjoy!

This session was based on chapters 2-4 of Tripp’s Book Homebrewed Guide to Jesus. See my notes of those chapters here.

CLICK HERE to view these notes as a PDF. Feel free to download and print.


by Steve Thomason

by Steve Thomason

by Steve Thomason

by Steve Thomason

by Steve Thomason
 
by Steve Thomason



* * * * * * *





LENT SESSION 2 NOTES
C.S. LEWIS RIGHT or WRONG?

Who is God?

1 - Truth (ambiguous: whatever is truth is truth)
2 - Spirit (disembodied and animating life source for all things)
3 - Love (ethic and moral to live by)

Jesus is fitted into the God picture by what He said, did, and had done.
But the church wants to talk about God's perfection over his love, for instance.
Stories shape how we view God, and Jesus, and Spirit.

Moses at the Burning Bush

God: "Moses, where are you?"
Moses: "Here am I Lord!"

...They converse then...

Moses: "Who do I say you are has sent me?"
God: "I am the One who is becoming to be."

Hence, the "Here I am" is meeting "the I AM" on the holy ground of encounter between God and our spirit which did not cease in the Moses moment in the bible. God meets with us today too. We, like God, are the beings who are becoming, both God and man. This illustration shares the words of God to our spirits beyond the words we write, speak or sing. God's Spirit ministers to our spirit even as our spirit ministers to God's.

Further
  • God is not an object. God is a relationally divine Being... God is SUBJECT
  • God is eternal... God never existed because God always was...

Cultural Distractions in the Church

Church is oriented to non-Jesusy things such as authority, control, power,  influence, dominionism, patriarchy, white nationalism of some order, and so on... known as Protestant Fundamentalism or Catholic Fundamentalism or American Fundamentalism

by Harry Emerson Fosdick
(see article at end of post below)

CS LEWIS

Lewis asked the question a long time ago whether Jesus was Lord, Liar, or Lunatic.

But can Jesus be cornered into only these three fundamentalist categories??

These accusations aren't biblical.

  • Sure, yes, the Lord part is there. And sure the Jews didn't believe Jesus was God. And more probably Jesus was a prophet for those Jews who followed Jesus. But for Jesus' enemies Jesus was regarded as a problem for the Temple's relationship with Rome (along with a problem for the formal religious structure of Judaism itself.
  • Lunatic? - Nope. Not there.
  • Liar? - Ditto

Jesus regarded these accusations by his detractors as blasphemous statements to the love of God being displayed through miracles, ministries, and preaching he had been doing throughout the Canaan and Judah.

Tripp goes on a rant and it was lovely. Diana is never at a loss of words when tagging up with Tripp.

Too much here to unpack.... listen to the video.

G'night!

R.E. Slater
March 10, 2022

* * * * * * *



First Presbyterian Church, New York City - Internet Archive- from The Services in celebration of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the founding of the Old First Presbyterian Church in the city of New York.

"SHALL THE FUNDAMENTALISTS WIN?"
Defending Liberal Protestantism
in the 1920s

Urban as well as rural Americans flocked to fundamentalist and evangelical churches in the 1920s. “Liberal” Protestants sought to reconcile faith and science and to slow what they saw as the reactionary tendencies of fundamentalism. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s influential 1922 sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?,” called for an open-minded, intellectual, and tolerant “Christian fellowship.” Though the sermon cost him his post at New York’s First Presbyterian Church, his views represented those of an influential Protestant minority, and Fosdick enjoyed a long career at Riverside Church, built for him by John D. Rockefeller. Following the Scopes trial and a well-publicized scandal involving well-known pastor Aimee Semple McPherson and a mysterious lover, fundamentalists began to lose the prominence they enjoyed in the 1920s. But religious fundamentalism would remain a vital political force in American life.

This morning we are to think of the fundamentalist controversy which threatens to divide the American churches as though already they were not sufficiently split and riven. A scene, suggestive for our thought, is depicted in the fifth chapter of the Book of the Acts, where the Jewish leaders hale before them Peter and other of the apostles because they had been preaching Jesus as the Messiah. Moreover, the Jewish leaders propose to slay them, when in opposition Gamaliel speaks “Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God.” . . .

Already all of us must have heard about the people who call themselves the Fundamentalists. Their apparent intention is to drive out of the evangelical churches men and women of liberal opinions. I speak of them the more freely because there are no two denominations more affected by them than the Baptist and the Presbyterian. We should not identify the Fundamentalists with the conservatives. All Fundamentalists are conservatives, but not all conservatives are Fundamentalists. The best conservatives can often give lessons to the liberals in true liberality of spirit, but the Fundamentalist program is essentially illiberal and intolerant.

The Fundamentalists see, and they see truly, that in this last generation there have been strange new movements in Christian thought. A great mass of new knowledge has come into man’s possession—new knowledge about the physical universe, its origin, its forces, its laws; new knowledge about human history and in particular about the ways in which the ancient peoples used to think in matters of religion and the methods by which they phrased and explained their spiritual experiences; and new knowledge, also, about other religions and the strangely similar ways in which men’s faiths and religious practices have developed everywhere. . . .


Harry Emerson Fosdick portrait- Library of Congress - Courtesy of the Special Collections Department University of Iowa Libraries.

Now, there are multitudes of reverent Christians who have been unable to keep this new knowledge in one compartment of their minds and the Christian faith in another. They have been sure that all truth comes from the one God and is His revelation. Not, therefore, from irreverence or caprice or destructive zeal but for the sake of intellectual and spiritual integrity, that they might really love the Lord their God, not only with all their heart and soul and strength but with all their mind, they have been trying to see this new knowledge in terms of the Christian faith and to see the Christian faith in terms of this new knowledge.

Doubtless they have made many mistakes. Doubtless there have been among them reckless radicals gifted with intellectual ingenuity but lacking spiritual depth. Yet the enterprise itself seems to them indispensable to the Christian Church. The new knowledge and the old faith cannot be left antagonistic or even disparate, as though a man on Saturday could use one set of regulative ideas for his life and on Sunday could change gear to another altogether. We must be able to think our modern life clear through in Christian terms, and to do that we also must be able to think our Christian faith clear through in modern terms.

There is nothing new about the situation. It has happened again and again in history, as, for example, when the stationary earth suddenly began to move and the universe that had been centered in this planet was centered in the sun around which the planets whirled. Whenever such a situation has arisen, there has been only one way out—the new knowledge and the old faith had to be blended in a new combination. Now, the people in this generation who are trying to do this are the liberals, and the Fundamentalists are out on a campaign to shut against them the doors of the Christian fellowship. Shall they be allowed to succeed?

It is interesting to note where the Fundamentalists are driving in their stakes to mark out the deadline of doctrine around the church, across which no one is to pass except on terms of agreement. They insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, preeminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration—that the original documents of the Scripture, which of course we no longer possess, were inerrantly dictated to men a good deal as a man might dictate to a stenographer; that we must believe in a special theory of the Atonement—that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner; and that we must believe in the second coming of our Lord upon the clouds of heaven to set up a millennium here, as the only way in which God can bring history to a worthy denouement. Such are some of the stakes which are being driven to mark a deadline of doctrine around the church.


'Shall the Fundamentalists Win' title page - Internet Archive

If a man is a genuine liberal, his primary protest is not against holding these opinions, although he may well protest against their being considered the fundamentals of Christianity. This is a free country and anybody has a right to hold these opinions or any others if he is sincerely convinced of them. The question is—Has anybody a right to deny the Christian name to those who differ with him on such points and to shut against them the doors of the Christian fellowship? The Fundamentalists say that this must be done. In this country and on the foreign field they are trying to do it. They have actually endeavored to put on the statute books of a whole state binding laws against teaching modern biology. If they had their way, within the church, they would set up in Protestantism a doctrinal tribunal more rigid than the pope’s.

In such an hour, delicate and dangerous, when feelings are bound to run high, I plead this morning the cause of magnanimity and liberality and tolerance of spirit. I would, if I could reach their ears, say to the Fundamentalists about the liberals what Gamaliel said to the Jews, “Refrain from these men and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will be everthrown; but if it is of God ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God.”

That we may be entirely candid and concrete and may not lose ourselves in any fog of generalities, let us this morning take two or three of these Fundamentalist items and see with reference to them what the situation is in the Christian churches. Too often we preachers have failed to talk frankly enough about the differences of opinion which exist among evangelical Christians, although everybody knows that they are there. Let us face this morning some of the differences of opinion with which somehow we must deal.

We may well begin with the vexed and mooted question of the virgin birth of our Lord. I know people in the Christian churches, ministers, missionaries, laymen, devoted lovers of the Lord and servants of the Gospel, who, alike as they are in their personal devotion to the Master, hold quite different points of view about a matter like the virgin birth. Here, for example, is one point of view that the virgin birth is to be accepted as historical fact; it actually happened; there was no other way for a personality like the Master to come into this world except by a special biological miracle. That is one point of view, and many are the gracious and beautiful souls who hold it. But side by side with them in the evangelical churches is a group of equally loyal and reverent people who would say that the virgin birth is not to be accepted as an historic fact. . . . So far from thinking that they have given up anything vital in the New Testament’s attitude toward Jesus, these Christians remember that the two men who contributed most to the Church’s thought of the divine meaning of the Christ were Paul and John, who never even distantly allude to the virgin birth.

Here in the Christian churches are these two groups of people and the question which the Fundamentalists raise is this—Shall one of them throw the other out? Has intolerance any contribution to make to this situation? Will it persuade anybody of anything? Is not the Christian Church large enough to hold within her hospitable fellowship people who differ on points like this and agree to differ until the fuller truth be manifested? The Fundamentalists say not. They say the liberals must go. Well, if the Fundamentalists should succeed, then out of the Christian Church would go some of the best Christian life and consecration of this generation—multitudes of men and women, devout and reverent Christians, who need the church and whom the church needs.




Consider another matter on which there is a sincere difference of opinion between evangelical Christians: the inspiration of the Bible. One point of view is that the original documents of the Scripture were inerrantly dictated by God to men. Whether we deal with the story of creation or the list of the dukes of Edom or the narratives of Solomon’s reign or the Sermon on the Mount or the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, they all came in the same way, and they all came as no other book ever came. They were inerrantly dictated; everything there—scientific opinions, medical theories, historical judgments, as well as spiritual insight—is infallible. That is one idea of the Bible’s inspiration. But side by side with those who hold it, lovers of the Book as much as they, are multitudes of people who never think about the Bible so. Indeed, that static and mechanical theory of inspiration seems to them a positive peril to the spiritual life. . . .

Here in the Christian Church today are these two groups, and the question which the Fundamentalists have raised is this—Shall one of them drive the other out? Do we think the cause of Jesus Christ will be furthered by that? If He should walk through the ranks of his congregation this morning, can we imagine Him claiming as His own those who hold one idea of inspiration and sending from Him into outer darkness those who hold another? You cannot fit the Lord Christ into that Fundamentalist mold. The church would better judge His judgment. For in the Middle West the Fundamentalists have had their way in some communities and a Christian minister tells us the consequences. He says that the educated people are looking for their religion outside the churches.

Consider another matter upon which there is a serious and sincere difference of opinion between evangelical Christians: the second coming of our Lord. The second coming was the early Christian phrasing of hope. No one in the ancient world had ever thought, as we do, of development, progress, gradual change as God’s way of working out His will in human life and institutions. They thought of human history as a series of ages succeeding one another with abrupt suddenness. The Graeco-Roman world gave the names of metals to the ages—gold, silver, bronze, iron. The Hebrews had their ages, too—the original Paradise in which man began, the cursed world in which man now lives, the blessed Messianic kingdom someday suddenly to appear on the clouds of heaven. It was the Hebrew way of expressing hope for the victory of God and righteousness. When the Christians came they took over that phrasing of expectancy and the New Testament is aglow with it. The preaching of the apostles thrills with the glad announcement, “Christ is coming!”


First Presbyterian Church, New York City


In the evangelical churches today there are differing views of this matter. One view is that Christ is literally coming, externally, on the clouds of heaven, to set up His kingdom here. I never heard that teaching in my youth at all. It has always had a new resurrection when desperate circumstances came and man’s only hope seemed to lie in divine intervention. It is not strange, then, that during these chaotic, catastrophic years there has been a fresh rebirth of this old phrasing of expectancy. “Christ is coming!” seems to many Christians the central message of the Gospel. In the strength of it some of them are doing great service for the world. But, unhappily, many so overemphasize it that they outdo anything the ancient Hebrews or the ancient Christians ever did. They sit still and do nothing and expect the world to grow worse and worse until He comes.

Side by side with these to whom the second coming is a literal expectation, another group exists in the evangelical churches. They, too, say, “Christ is coming!” They say it with all their hearts; but they are not thinking of an external arrival on the clouds. They have assimilated as part of the divine revelation the exhilarating insight which these recent generations have given to us, that development is God’s way of working out His will. . . .

And these Christians, when they say that Christ is coming, mean that, slowly it may be, but surely, His will and principles will be worked out by God’s grace in human life and institutions, until “He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.”

These two groups exist in the Christian churches and the question raised by the Fundamentalists is—Shall one of them drive the other out? Will that get us anywhere? Multitudes of young men and women at this season of the year are graduating from our schools of learning, thousands of them Christians who may make us older ones ashamed by the sincerity of their devotion to God’s will on earth. They are not thinking in ancient terms that leave ideas of progress out. They cannot think in those terms. There could be no greater tragedy than that the Fundamentalists should shut the door of the Christian fellowship against such.

I do not believe for one moment that the Fundamentalists are going to succeed. Nobody’s intolerance can contribute anything to the solution of the situation which we have described. If, then, the Fundamentalists have no solution of the problem, where may we expect to find it? In two concluding comments let us consider our reply to that inquiry.


The first element that is necessary is a spirit of tolerance and Christian liberty. When will the world learn that intolerance solves no problems? This is not a lesson which the Fundamentalists alone need to learn; the liberals also need to learn it. Speaking, as I do, from the viewpoint of liberal opinions, let me say that if some young, fresh mind here this morning is holding new ideas, has fought his way through, it may be by intellectual and spiritual struggle, to novel positions, and is tempted to be intolerant about old opinions, offensively to condescend to those who hold them and to be harsh in judgment on them, he may well remember that people who held those old opinions have given the world some of the noblest character and the most rememberable service that it ever has been blessed with, and that we of the younger generation will prove our case best, not by controversial intolerance, but by producing, with our new opinions, something of the depth and strength, nobility and beauty of character that in other times were associated with other thoughts. It was a wise liberal, the most adventurous man of his day—Paul the Apostle—who said, “Knowledge puffeth up, but love buildeth up.”

Nevertheless, it is true that just now the Fundamentalists are giving us one of the worst exhibitions of bitter intolerance that the churches of this country have ever seen. As one watches them and listens to them he remembers the remark of General Armstrong of Hampton Institute, “Cantankerousness is worse than heterodoxy.” There are many opinions in the field of modern controversy concerning which I am not sure whether they are right or wrong, but there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is.

As I plead thus for an intellectually hospitable, tolerant, liberty-loving church, I am, of course, thinking primarily about this new generation. We have boys and girls growing up in our homes and schools, and because we love them we may well wonder about the church which will be waiting to receive them. Now, the worst kind of church that can possibly be offered to the allegiance of the new generation is an intolerant church. Ministers often bewail the fact that young people turn from religion to science for the regulative ideas of their lives. But this is easily explicable.


Science treats a young man’s mind as though it were really important. A scientist says to a young man, “Here is the universe challenging our investigation. Here are the truths which we have seen, so far. Come, study with us! See what we already have seen and then look further to see more, for science is an intellectual adventure for the truth.” Can you imagine any man who is worthwhile turning from that call to the church if the church seems to him to say, “Come, and we will feed you opinions from a spoon. No thinking is allowed here except such as brings you to certain specified, predetermined conclusions. These prescribed opinions we will give you in advance of your thinking; now think, but only so as to reach these results.”

My friends, nothing in all the world is so much worth thinking of as God, Christ, the Bible, sin and salvation, the divine purposes for humankind, life everlasting. But you cannot challenge the dedicated thinking of this generation to these sublime themes upon any such terms as are laid down by an intolerant church.

The second element which is needed if we are to reach a happy solution of this problem is a clear insight into the main issues of modern Christianity and a sense of penitent shame that the Christian Church should be quarreling over little matters when the world is dying of great needs. If, during the war, when the nations were wrestling upon the very brink of hell and at times all seemed lost, you chanced to hear two men in an altercation about some minor matter of sectarian denominationalism, could you restrain your indignation? You said, “What can you do with folks like this who, in the face of colossal issues, play with the tiddledywinks and peccadillos of religion?” So, now, when from the terrific questions of this generation one is called away by the noise of this Fundamentalist controversy, he thinks it almost unforgivable that men should tithe mint and anise and cummin, and quarrel over them, when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith. . . .

The present world situation smells to heaven! And now, in the presence of colossal problems, which must be solved in Christ’s name and for Christ’s sake, the Fundamentalists propose to drive out from the Christian churches all the consecrated souls who do not agree with their theory of inspiration. What immeasurable folly!

Well, they are not going to do it; certainly not in this vicinity. I do not even know in this congregation whether anybody has been tempted to be a Fundamentalist. Never in this church have I caught one accent of intolerance. God keep us always so and ever increasing areas of the Christian fellowship; intellectually hospitable, open-minded, liberty-loving, fair, tolerant, not with the tolerance of indifference, as though we did not care about the faith, but because always our major emphasis is upon the weightier matters of the law.

Source: Harry Emerson Fosdick, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” Christian Work 102 (June 10, 1922): 716–722.






Questions for Open and Relational Theologians - Where is God for the Dying Giraffe?




We, in the open and relational process world, say that God is a loving presence in the universe, beckoning creatures on our planet, through a process of evolution, to a variety of forms of life, two of which are giraffes and crocodiles. Are-predator-prey relations a result of God's beckoning? Is it God's will that creatures eat one another? Why so much suffering? Is it truly reasonable to speak of a God of tender love, when there's so much violence? I struggle with this. Read the page and help me out.


Questions for Open and Relational Theologians


Divine love is pluriform: God loves in numerous ways to promote the well-being of people, other creatures, and all creation. - Thomas Oord


Where is God for the Dying Giraffe?

"It was a beautiful, peaceful day as I sat in a blind overlooking a small lake at the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Since this reserve is home to the Big Five, I was on high alert to see as many beautiful animals as possible. 

Nature did not disappoint, at least not at first. I had seen and shared space with a huge number of beautiful creatures as I sat munching on a sandwich and marveling at what I was experiencing. Soon, a gorgeous giraffe came up to quench its thirst. Since giraffes are so tall, they have to splay their front legs out quite far to lower their heads for a drink which makes them vulnerable. The spreading of their legs is a very gradual, slow, and deliberate process. And, once they are down, they cannot move quickly back to a standing and running position.

As this graceful giraffe began its drinking vigil, it became a victim of crocodiles. They were in hiding and surged up from the water bringing down this innocent animal who was simply trying to get a drink.

Needless to say, I was not only startled but bereft. The giraffe struggled and cried out. I wanted to help it but, of course, I could not. Nature was in process and I was only a witness. I had seen other kills like lions taking down a springbok or zebra, but there was something about this kill that overwhelmed me. The giraffe was so very vulnerable. It was not a fair fight or in any way merciful. It almost seemed like the crocodiles were taking delight in the suffering of their prey as it struggled to free itself from their grasp. Instead of just chomping the juggler, the crocs took turns maiming and drowning the giraffe as it cried out. I wanted to shout out to the mean crocs to let go!!!! My empathy for the giraffe and my dismay at the crocs' seeming cruelty did not save the giraffe. I felt as helpless as the dying giraffe."




* * * * * * *



Does God Love Animals?


Dear Dr. Jay McDaniel,

Thank you for recommending that I learn about open and relational (process) theologies with their idea of a relational, loving God. I like much of what they say when it comes to human beings. But it's the other ninety-nine percent of life, including the animals, that makes me doubt the God even of open and relational theology.

As you know, I gave up on God many years ago because “he” seemed so callous when it comes to animals and their suffering.

I gave up on Christianity, too. Some of my Christian friends say that animals don't really matter to God, that they are "put here" just for us to enjoy. They seem not to care about animals at all, except maybe their pets. But even the more ecologically-minded among them talk more about "global warming" and "environmental destruction" than about individual animals. They are concerned with about the web of life but not nodes in the web, about endangered species but not vulnerable animals.

Here I'm not talking about vulnerable animals under human subjugation: the animals we eat for food, or use in scientific experiments, or ride in rodeos, or abandon on the streets. They matter to me a lot, but they're not the ones I'm concerned with here. Take a look at the photo above of the giraffe being eaten by crocodiles and read the account. Let the giraffe be the "vulnerable animal."

You explained that, for some open and relational (process) theologians, animals do matter. For them, you said, God shares in the suffering of individual animals and seeks their well-being, even as God also seeks the well-being of human beings and the planet as a whole. I asked what I might read and you mentioned your own book of many years ago: Of God and Pelicans: A Theology of Reverence for Life. You also pointed me to a more recent book by Bethany Sollereder called God, Evolution and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall and one by Thomas Oord called Pluriform Love: An Open and Relational Theology of Well-Being.

You recommended Dr. Oord's book as the one I read first, because it introduces open and relational theology in a general way. I just finished the book and am left with five questions. All are subsets of a single question: Where is God for the Dying Giraffe? I hope you might share the five questions with him or with other open and relational thinkers. Here they are:

  • How does the giraffe feel God's presence, even if in an unconscious way? Is God's presence what process theologians call an initial aim: that is, a lure to live with satisfaction relative to the situation at hand?
  • Do crocodiles also feel God's luring presence? Do they, too, feel God's immanence as a lure to live with satisfaction? Is their hunger a response to God's lure?
  • If God lures the giraffe and the crocodiles toward these competing aims, is God conflicted? Or does God take sides?
  • Nita Gilger writes:
"The giraffe was so very vulnerable. It was not a fair fight or in any way merciful. It almost seemed like the crocodiles were taking delight in the suffering of their prey as it struggled to free itself from their grasp. Instead of just chomping the juggler, the crocs took turns maiming and drowning the giraffe as it cried out."

Would the giraffe's suffering be an example of what you call genuine evil? I'm not blaming the crocodiles here. But I am talking about the giraffe's pain.

  • Why, from an open and relational perspective, are there predator-prey relations in the first place? I know that, according to Thomas Oord, God did not set up the initial conditions of life on earth single-handedly. But did God play a role in bringing about predator-prey? If so, is God still loving and empathetic? Would it not be more plausible to say that God doesn't really care about individuals? And if that's the case, would God really be all-loving?


I hope you'll share these questions with Thomas Oord or some other open and relational thinkers? For my part, I'm still doubtful of God. It seems to me that, if there is a God, "he" doesn't really care about individual animal lives, and that we who do care are, in our way, more loving than God. I hate to say this, but I can't think of a way out.

Need help,
​Delores






Pluriform Love: An Open and
Relational Theology of Well-Being


"The God of uncontrolling love acts moment by moment and exerts causal influence upon all. God acts first as a cause in every moment of every creature’s life. Creatures feel this influence, even when they are not conscious of it. There is no time when, and no location where, God is not present and influencing."

"God does not create evil, and God did not singlehandedly determine the conditions for it to occur."

"We can solve the primary dimensions of the problem of evil by saying God can’t prevent evil singlehandedly, empathizes with the hurting, works to heal, endeavors to bring good from bad, calls creatures to join in overcoming evil, and does not create evil."





Why Isn't Divine Love Enough?

by R.E. Slater


As you can see here in these postings there is the introduction of the problem of sin and evil without any conclusion and has been left for the reader to try to answer.

Let's first assume the general teachings of the church that creation is good, and holy, and loving. This is how it was originally created as shared in the Genesis story about the Garden of Evil. Typically, the church then goes on to assert that at the Fall of Adam and Eve all of creation then fell with them.

And here lies the paradox. How could a "perfect" creation fall? Was it ultimately a failure of God's? Was God not wise enough, far looking enough, not persuasive enough in His work of creating creation?

Or perhaps God was not strong enough, too weak, too relenting, to permissive with creation?

Just what was creation's raison d'etre if it were not to become the very thing God wanted it to be? How could a good, loving God create such a paradox? Especially one that looks like a disaster on every level?

  • A creation which is physically conflicted - human disabilities for instance or those "tweener" stages of evolutionary development responding too slowly or too quickly to the conditions around it?
  • Or a creation which is psychologically conflicted - something along the lines of the Apostle Paul who said, "We/It wishes to do good but cannot do good."
Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? (Romans 7.13)

  • Or a creation which is spiritually conflicted? 

"...but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves." (John 5.42)

In everyway which we might describe creation we find its fallenness, not its holiness, goodness, or love. And yet, creation's very definition is not by its lack, but by its very character as birthed of God IN God's very image (Imago Dei).

Creation may be described as sinful or fallen but its truer character or nature is that it IS of God, is SUSTAINED by God, and will be COMPLETED by God. During all these phases from birth to life to death God is the One who defines us - as well as our fallenness from God's divine love.

Whatever else you know of church teachings remember WE are OF God birthed to LOVE, to BE, and to BECOME. Death is the completion of this cycle. It is the next step towards God's intended BECOMING. Death is not the end, except as the end of pain, suffering, tragedy, sin and evil. Death is the next step towards discovering LIFE in its intentional design when first presented to a freewill creation.

Moreover, God did not "rule" creational freewill... freewill came from God's Person in the form of love... NOT by divine fiat as the church so blithely proclaims so wrongly. God births God's Self.

When we give birth to children we do not RULE how they shall become. NO. Children our birthed out of the essence of their parents with capacities both wonderful or horrifying. As parents we give children love, loving direction, loving care, and loving openness that they may become a loving version of their Father God Creator... along with our talents and abilities.

None of these character qualities can be RULED into becoming. We take what's there in the modeling clay and to the best of our abilities mold children into images which may give life, freedom, beauty, and kindness into this world.

So has God. Not by fiat but by love.


Small Ukrainian Child


Creation is fallen. We are fallen. No amount of (i) human ability (sic, Mother Teresa), or (ii) religious activity (sic, the Pharisees of Jesus' day such as the Apostle Paul once named Rabbi Saul for his energetic zest of Judaism), or (iii) physical denial (sic, Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox slavish, monkish rituals of chastity, abstinence, or chastisement of any kind) may produce atoning redemption.

No, Jesus alone is the One through whom atoning redemption comes. Jesus, as God in the flesh incarnated, who sacrificed Himself physically, psychologically, and spiritually, that in all areas of human living - or creational becoming - we might be freed from sin and enabled by God's Spirit to lean into - if not wholly lean into - lives of love and loving embrace.

God's Spirit, just like God's Self, does not come by divine rule, dominion, or power. But by loving embrace, entrance, wellbeing, care, kindness, and wholeness, as only God can give any part of creation.

Creation was formed for goodness and wellbeing. Happily death is part of creation that it may one day cease from its groanings and sufferings to come to know a fullness of life not grasped in this life of the in-between.

For between divine birth and a life's end indeterminancy rules. Our passions and evolved abilities drive us towards individual fulfillment, whether man or beast. A crocodile is not a giraffe. A giraffe is not a crocodile. We are not the wind. Nor is the flood like ourselves.

The gift of life isn't a guarantee of avoiding sin and evil. It but begins a life towards fulfillment as well as disappointment, dismay, even ruin. Through it all God's presence is there, living within these creational spaces, living with His creation in the good times and the bad.

We pray for peace for all living things. We pray for peace in this world and ones to come at the hands of our progeny. We pray that societies learn to live with one another in goodness and peace. And we pray we, as human civilizations, learn to live with creation in proper ecological balance and wellbeing.

The cycles of life and death, not unlike the cycles of spiritual life and death, are the only constants in an evolving creation. We do not know its outcome but we do know its Creator. And as Creator, God in His love and wisdom and filling presence goes before us, around us, within us, filling us with His love, and purpose, and desires.

Amen and Amen,

R.E. Slater
March 10, 2022


* * * * * * *


A Covid19 molecule


An Unsolvable Paradox

Should this help...
This is what I was going to write...


As a process thinker I have come to think about sin and suffering as a result of the divine freedom and love we, as any part of creation has, received. The conflicting result is a supreme paradox to the avowed divine creation of a loving God.

How could such harm and suffering come from such an innocent act as the birthing of the divine IMAGO centered in love and beauty? The purity and self-giving efficaciousness of the act of God stuns me into silence. Surely sin and evil cannot be such a byproduct of so grand a gift??

And yet, the very cycles of life contains within them cycles of pain and death. If I were an Eastern wiseman or wisewoman I would perhaps have a comment as to the necessity for such a Ying-Yang cycle. But I am not. I am Western and Christian in orientation and am not very well acquainted with the religious and moral wisdoms of the East, though I am thoroughly acquainted with the cynicisms of the West.

When I look at the Genesis account of creation I see behind it the struggle of the Hebrew ascetics struggling to answer this same age-old question against their own backgrounds of religious ethics and human morals.

Process theology comes the closest to restoring to me the sense of the love of God in all divine acts of divinity and creation. Of the uncontrolling and necessary gift of divine love inlaid upon the very heart of nature, mankind, and cosmos tells me of the consequential results of indeterminant freewill used to either love or not love.

But there is also the question of death, of pain, of sin and evil. How could a God of life even begin to accede to the realities of love's "other side" of darkness? Where "creational freewill + freewill act" may not be equal to the life and beauty and grand sunsets but more meanly described in harming family dysfunctionalism, personal or societal cruelties, or institutionalized desensitization to the suffering of others?

No, the divine act of love is a mystery. Nor can it be all on creation to act forthrightly when even the act of love is supremely hard to accomplish. And in the divine act of atonement through God's Self as witnessed in God's Incarnational Birth in Jesus, we still see the act of love confounded in a thousand different ways.

Unfortunately sin and death and suffering and injustice seemed the inconsequential acts of not only love gone wrong, but it's opposite ying-yang struggle for personal survival in the face of need using our/creation's baser instincts which overwhelm us in our sense of self to whatever this thing we call life really is.

These are age-old questions which have no simple answers. Not religiously,  Christianly, or morally, though many have attempted it many times. The mystery of creational theodicy (e.g., the problem of sin and evil) is a question not only left to theologians to answer but to the despairing mom or dad whose children are at risk of malnutrition, societal harm, continuing health complications, lack of proper clothing, who ask these same questions every moment of their lives.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
March 10, 2022

 

Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. By this the love of God was revealed [a]in us, that God has sent His only Son into the world so that we may live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the [b]propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we remain in Him and He in us, because He has given to us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has [c]for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, we also are in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear [d]involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.