Quotes & Sayings

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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Process Teleology vs. Traditional Eschatology

Carl Jung

“Your Universe is in consciousness. And it’s a teleological process of unfolding patterns...The totality of your digital reality is what your conscious mind implicitly or explicitly chooses to experience out of the infinite.” ― Alex M. Vikoulov, Theology of Digital Physics: Phenomenal Consciousness, The Cosmic Self & The Pantheistic Interpretation of Our Holographic Reality

Poet and Author Tennessee Williams

"Life is the perpetual destruction of innocence. If we are witness to this, and if we step forward and heal the wounds of this destruction, we become human; we might even become saintly. If we share what we've seen and learned, we may create art. To do nothing is to be utterly evil."-Tennessee Williams/Interview with James Grissom

"The teleology of the Universe is directed to the production of Beauty... The type of Truth required for the final stretch of Beauty is a discovery and not a recapitulation... Apart from Beauty, Truth is neither good, nor bad... Truth matters because of beauty." - Alfred North Whitehead, Process Metaphysician

Process Teleology vs. Traditional Eschatology

by R.E. Slater

I was asked this weekend at our annual college Christmas party by fellow Christians to support their version of a "biblical" eschatology and how that "biblical truth" might be the more meaningful for living out our Christian faith as [liberal progressivism] overtakes the traditional church in an Age of Conservative Evangelicalism.

Mentally, my silent response was, "Yeah for American liberal progressivism seeking legal and civil equalities and recognitions to 'the unwanted other's' civil rights!" As versus the main church's active denial of those same rights by my Christian friends whose persuasion was the same one I've listened to all my life in their evangelical church traditions justifying their beliefs based upon their obsequious literal readings of the bible. (I will speak more to how to read the bible a bit later in this post.)

And secondly, my enjoining muted response in which I offered no further answers except continued silent response to their statements and thus preventing a predictably imminent and virtual crucifixion by my Christian friends. To speak would simply excite them to dig in and not listen. There was no purpose in attempting any truth speaking to religiously attuned ears seeking justifying responses to their own. I simply made a wise crack to relieve the tension in the room and left.

However, what I wanted to say would have been more along the lines of what I will observe immediately below. I would've stated that the only human Armageddon to come in my Christian friend's expected eschatological schemes (sic, from select passages in Daniel, the OT Prophets, and the NT such as the book of Revelation) would be by their own hands. Not God's. Nor the devil's. That end time judgments have usually come by the hands of the church itself historically. But of course, they would've decried my assessment against their own beliefs based upon a lifetime of personal and congregations readings, discussions, educational classes, and the pulpit. There was no winning this debate.

I Was but Now Am

Years ago I had entertained the very thoughts my friend's held that night based on old-timey fundamentalist teleologies and later, new-line evangelical teleologies (sic, the eschatological doctrine of design and purpose by God for creation). I too would've denounced my present self and shown by chapter-and-verse from Genesis to Revelation how to construct a biblical eschatology based upon a Reformed Covenantal reading of the bible. In fact, my graduate capstone paper for M.Div. certification centered on biblical exegetical studies proposing eleven major themes of the bible... several of which dealt expressly with teleology though I could easily make the case that all those same bible themes did so in themselves. Now realize that I was centering on major themes of the bible back in the 1980s; today, I could easily add a few more based upon current church discussions.

In that capstone project I merged those eleven themes with one another and discussed in brief what was meant by such subject matter as salvific discontinuity and continuity between the Testaments; God's Promises through the covenantal eras; the maturation of the major OT/NT Covenants across time; the various typologies of the Christ to come (sic, Messianic Christology); the movement of Salvific History through time, and etc. All this effort was done in order to complete a fuller picture of the coming future of God's inbreak into end-time human history describing God's divine sovereignty as God moved with humanity from the Fall of Adam to the Resurrection of Christ to the Salvation of both World & Cosmos. This then was the picture of redemptive eschatology I was taught would come to fruition via the "I-Thou cooperative" between God and man.

Now I still believe in these elements but am now expanding them beyond their traditional Christian basis when I speak to the more centralizing ideas of God's love and immanence (intimate nearness) with creation while lessening, or removing all together, the traditional church's theologoumenas as they are reflected by it's doctrines and creeds. When doing this, I am purposely placing my former education and theologies into a "progressive form" of evangelicalism and/or church traditions.

But when taking this step, I am also attempting to remove from my vocabulary and cultural mindset my own Western Philosophical thoughts when replacing them (as I can) with Whitehead's Processual thought structures. Which means all the Greek Platonic (sic, Hellenaic) philosophic structures describing God and man in the NT bible - or the more organic Semitic philosophies of the OT, are lifted out and replaced by Processual philosophy. Which in itself is it's own organic philosophy attuned to more similar mindsets from the ancient past. That is, Whitehead was echoed by Hegel who was echoed by earlier Semitic and Greek philosophers against Westernization's philosopher's such as Plato, Aristotle, and the rest who won out.

Thus, Whiteheadian process thought is the latest encapsulation of the past which is winning-over my own yearning to re-express my Christian beliefs in fuller, more congruent tones, to today's arising ecological civilizations and perhaps be recapture in other indigenous cultures and religions. Over the years I have gone into some depth to express all this... here, is my shorthand for observed momentous change which I see occurring across all of life's many disciplines and socio-political and economic landscapes as they each become more attuned to God's creative processual design in nature and the stars.

As an example of difference think in terms of the Greek pantheon's many Gods led by Zeus in their uncaring, unloving, greatness and power. Their distance from the world and their easy judgment upon mankind. This I have abandoned and refuse to conjoin Israel's and Christianity's God with such worthless Greek gods. When I read the bible now I am re-expressing the Christian God in terms of love, care, grace, mercy, and nearness, while also recognizing that the bible's authors in the ancient past did not separate their thoughts of God from their socio-cultural contexts as we have learned to do since the Enlightenment eras of the more recent past. And though their worship was tweaked to behave more in line with love than judgment and cruelty, still it was not fully enough when viewing Israel's doctrinal embodiments by the Pharisees and Scribes of Jesus' day. Thus Jesus ministry of indiscriminant love to the unwanted, unsightly, invisible, and oppressed. As well as Jesus' harshest words and actions against who were designated as priests of Israel's God. Even so today the church struggles with separating it's ideas of God from who God really is even as the bible narrators did in the past. Our pride and legalisms, wont for separateness, exclusion and holy "apartness," has brought a profound reading of the bible into today's civilizations. But again, I have discussed this at length over the years.

Hence, to contextually read the bible, one must read it in its cultural conjectures and teachings just as you would earlier ancient literature and beliefs. Some is fraught with goodness. Some not. Some is muddled in complexities by their own presumptions. And some more easier to grasp. And there's the rub. The ideas of the ancient past no longer translate "biblically" to the today's postmodern (er, metamodern?) world. Yes, the age-old metaphysical questions are the same of "sin and evil, God and man, purpose and reason for living." But the ways we approach such subjects must not be constricted by out-of-date Platonic, Scholastic, Enlightened, Victorian, nor Newtonian thinking any longer. With the age of (processual) quantum physics and (processual) evolution has come Whitehead and his predecessor, Hegel's, ideas of processual movement in a world which is never static, nor mechanical, nor without its own kind of processual (rather than reductionistic) teleology. In fact, we live in a processual creation/cosmos and don't even recognize it. We might call them "circles or cycles of life" (aka Disney's Lion King) but in Whiteheadian thought we may go far deeper than such simplistic statements.

What is a Process Teleology?

To Whitehead as a cosmological metaphysician who also happened to be a Victorian Christian, he observed a cosmology (or universe, or creation, or world) which was organic in its construction. He thought of it much like we do our own bodies and self-reflections moving through a world of experiences. We were not automatons any more than the world of quantum physics was, though scientists ascribed Newtonian philosophies to it. Yet, they did not work.

Whitehead's Philosophy of Organism spoke to a deeply complex, organically relational world of every changing causes and effects, where a positive evolution could evolve against all negative mutating circumstances. In these, like the biblical prophets and writers of old we would agree. When a God of love has essentially and purposely created creation from God's Self we would expect a struggle between good and evil - especially when it was created with agency, or INDETERMINANT free will, buried deep within the DNA of divine LOVE. Not by fiat did agency spawn. No, but by Love.

In time, Whitehead's ideas took shape and the generations after him recast his Philosophy of Organism as a Philosophy of Process, or, Process Philosophy properly stated. And as a progressive evangelical leaving evangelical teachings will keeping the bible ideas of "Covenant" and "Teleology" in my brain, heart, and faith, it became necessary to abandon not God but the old-line teachings of my faith. It held - and still does to some extent when not participating in White Christian Nationalism and Supremacy - a lot of good in it from many different directions. But of late, it's gotten tangled up with itself and has forgotten there is only one God and not the gods of politics appearing to my mind as the Evil Ones in Revelation.

None the less, these were things I thought but really couldn't speak to my present audience of Christian friends. They simply would not understand. As evidence of this I spoke to one of those friends who showed an interest for a time but then began to mentally wander off even as those close to our discussion moved away and spoke amongst themselves on other things they were more interested in. It is what it is, as they say in the state of New York. And you can't unmake that which is already decided and made. The best I can do is write down my thoughts and share with those who, like myself, must find another way.

From Faith to Faith, said the Apostle Paul

Which brings me to this observation: As a process Christian all the old line systematic theologies I was taught to believe - by both (i) exegetical interpretation of the Scriptures in the original languages plus (ii) eisigetical expositions from those studies - can no longer comport with the church's 2000 year hoary tradition of Westernized Christianity.

In its place, I am updating my faith through a more rigorous process of processual expansionism removing core Analytic Philosophical Westernized elements by replacing them with newer, more relationally organic elements pertaining both to my faith and civic life as a citizen of a liberal democracy eschewing any-and-all forms of authoritarian doctrinnaires and racisms as shown by the conservative church with its willful involvements in white neo-facist supremacy politics.

(Which is curious, as at one time I wrote here on an Age of Authoritarianism as versus an Age of Cooperative Participation of global communities with one another. To build ecological societies the latter must win out in displays of liberally adapted geographic global democracies against tyrannical and despotic governments of one or many. However, my shorthand at present is just to state Metamodernistic which implies these socio-economic elements and more.)

And so, when I now exegetically study the collected interpretations of God-and-life-and-faith in their orally derived and ancient/past commentaries, narratives, and interpretaive storylines of God in Scripture, I now read of them as plain admissions to theistic faiths in transition just like our own faiths are in transition today. Each historical era - whether in bible times or after - are attempts to describe a divinely loving God in their era-specific ageisms of culturally folkloric ideations of God-and-life-and-faith. Especially of a God who in many ways is "wholly-unlike us" but also a God who is "wholly alike us" in many, many other ways.

So when I speak of God I lean into the process version of God's nearness, participation, and fellowship with us, the world, and nature as versus the Platonic-Greek Hellenaic traditions of transcendency, wrathful holiness, and divine powers which Western theology has chosen to follow with its evidentiary histories of oppression, racism, and crusading inquisitions.

A God of Love is not a God of Wrath. The wrath we think we see is the consequences of our choosing not to love one another or the world about us. When ascribing to God Wrath, and Judgment, and Hell we are but describing ourselves and placing these qualities upon God. Which is why, I feel, the biblical authors had a hard time telling who the real God was and versus who they thought God was. 

These same discussions go on today in faith commentaries, books, and postings. And since divine revelation is open and not closed (sic, only found in the bible) I feel its a valid position to take that when a misapprehension of God is taken then I may call it out even when collected into the Scriptures. The biblical narratives are simply yesterday's newspapers of faithful believers gone wrong in their faith beliefs.

Reading the Bible As It Was and Can Become

Firstly, I don't read from a revelationally closed Bible but from an inspirationally open Bible by which I mean God is always in communication with us today as God was back then in "biblical" times. Whether by God's Spirit or however we wish to ascribe it along Western theological formulas and syllogistic equations.

Next, I would prefer to think of God's communication in terms of communing with us much as a parent would with a child... or a friend to a friend. To speak to one another in imagined divine fiats is one thing, but to commune with one another in divine love is another. A communion which vouchsafes God's lifelong fellowship and deeply earthy relational communion with us, and the universe, in continually intimate terms. Not in terms of a God ensconced upon a heavenly throne coming-and-going according to God's good whim much like the Greek gods had in the ancient Greek imagination.

Too, I've been leaning deeply into the process theological paradigms which teach God's nearness to us at all times in our lives. God does not - nay, will not - leave us as my earlier faith taught when teaching of a loving God beheld in idolatrous admixtures of a judging-and-condemning God. Without necessarily denying the ancient Greek idea of God's far-ness from us vis-a-vis the church's Hellenistic teachings of transcendence, a pan-en-theistic (not pan-theistic nor classical theistic) process faith better describes a God who created creation as One with God's Self. Think of this as a four-point "trinity" but in this case "creation" is the salient fourth point on the fellowship circle of Father-Son-and-Spirit. This then would describe a God who has no intentions of abandoning us because God is the kind of God who has been, and always will be, deeply, intimately, in processual relationship with us and God's beloved creation.

And to the outmoded eschatological idea of leaving this earth for a better, non-earthly life in heaven while the world burns itself up by its own hands in Armageddon-like ecology gone bad. This Christian theology as found in the NT book of Revelation seems quite un-God-like to a process Christian metaphysician. To such churchly beliefs of a distant God's impugning judgments upon a wicked, wasted earth, I would say this....

"If the events in Revelation's narratives do come about they will be wrought by our own hands - not by God's loving hands whose love forewarned us of sin and evil when we do not love one another. Nor does God pile-on when sin and evil measures our "endtime" existence.
Rather, one might say such calamities come from a polluted earth which we have corrupted to the point of its cosmic devastation. A devastation which bears consequences to our neglecting care of the earth.
So rather than ascribing to the Christian faith a judging Nether-God raging down His wrath and Hell upon us, I simply read in Revelation of unloving man's complete failures across societies, nature, and even the heavens itself. Which of course is a very processual theology which describes consequences to sin and evil and to which classic church doctrines would say anathema to in their closed, interpretive readings of God and Scripture and churchly dominionism."

A Heavenly Communion Which Doesn't Stay in Heaven

Further, when thinking of a "biblical" eschatology of predicted things to come first know God cannot control outcomes in a world God designed as generatively good in value and structure. Divine love does not control... it but persuades listening, obedient hearts against the misuse of its own agency.

And secondly, life is a procession of processual events both good and bad. "What we sow we will reap." A Loving God can never sow evil nor respond to evil in unloving, non-restorative ways of redeeming reunion.

And thirdly, we must learn to expand our minds and hearts away from the church's traditionalized teachings. It's biblical eschatology is divinely unbiblical as I have shown. But it also creates a closed cosmos whose future state becomes trapped within its own static statism.

However, if we substitute the word teleology for eschatology we then have a fully, more correct picture of a processually "uncontrolled" divine future working to rebalance its inherently redemptive structure away from deathly structures to divinely implanted transformative and generatively good structures. Structures I would better describe as organically inbuilt evidencing a teleology of atoning relationships between creation itself and its panenthiestically immanent Godhead. We might call such survivability as evolution, but a processually-based and divinely enable evolution speaks to continuing creative and generatively good evolving relationships seeking merger within its many cosmological forms.

Conclusion - We Are Whom We Are Becoming

Our conclusion? A process-based Christianity is more than progressive in its assessment of the world. It is a wholly-other construction away from perverse and unhelpful teachings of the traditional church (think gay re-education; or refugees being shipped to unready communities).

In essence, we are trading in a Fire-and-Brimstone God for a God of Love. And to the sins and evils in this life we do not blame God for them but ourselves for not humbling ourselves before one another and seeking goodness and kindness, listening and learning. God is a God of grace, mercy and forgiveness. Creation's very own teleology is one of generative goodness and valuative operation. Albeit, on its own terms, much like we ourselves likewise blessed with agency, but inherent in nature, in us, even the universe, is the Imago Dei of God.

And lastly, it is in creation's very nature - even us, ourselves - to redeem and recreate all things towards redemption. Christ did this very same in God's atoning emancipation. It is how creation's designed to work by active insemination from one redemptive effect to another. Process describes this creation process as "A process of Being which is Becoming." That is, we are, and we may move forwards towards what we may fully become as we can in this life and its circumstances. Like God Who once said to Israel "I AM who I AM"... so too we may also say, "We Are whom We are Becoming to Be."


R.E. Slater
December 12, 2022
partially updated January 23, 2023