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

Friday, September 29, 2023

Deep Roots of Humanity Project

Deep Roots of Humanity Project

Welcome to the Deep Roots of Humanity project, an investigation of early technological change in south-central Africa.

We are an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers examining a fundamental change in the way early humans planned and made tools. The time period spans 500,000 years to 300,000 years ago (the Early to Middle Stone Age transition). During this period a new way of creating tools emerged which we rely on today for making most everything we use.

For the first time in human history tools were made by combining two or more parts to make a single tool. Sounds simple but it was a revolutionary idea: everyday actions such as cutting, scraping, chopping, drilling and piercing were made more efficient with the addition of a handle. Imagine using a screwdriver which didn’t have a handle or try chopping down a tree with an axe blade, but with no handle. You’ll soon appreciate the advantages of hafting (the process of combining parts into a functioning whole).

The Deep Roots team is working to determine when this invention took place in what is now Zambia and put the Zambian evidence in the broader context of the Early to Middle Stone Age transition in Africa. We are also interested in why the invention of hafting came about when it did. Did climate change play a role, and were there regional differences in the take-up of this technology? Afterall, the large hand-held tools of the Early Stone Age, such as handaxes and cleavers, had been the standard tools for well over a million years. Why change what does the job? These are some of the basic questions driving our research.

We are documenting our research in more detail on the Deep Roots project website.

Excavating the evidence

Our five year programme of excavation and research aimed to enrich the database of evidence from existing African archaeological records, expand its geographical coverage and serve as a model which future researchers can adapt to locations in other parts of Africa.

Between 2017 and 2022 an interdisciplinary team worked in Zambia excavating in three key locations:Victoria Falls
Kalambo Falls

Previous excavations have found evidence in these places for the Early to Middle Stone Age transition (Mode 2/Mode3). This transition pre-dates the evolution of Homo sapiens and is characterised by a radical change in the way tools were imagined and made, with multiple parts combined into a whole. This is known as hafting or combinatorial technology.

Everything we make today is produced using tools made using other tools made of multiple parts. This research aims to unravel when and why this fundamentally new way of thinking about technology occurred. Part of understanding this transformation is learning what advantages this technology offered over older ways of making tools.‌

Well preserved wood being recovered from Early
Stone  Age deposits at Kalambo Falls, Zambia.

Fieldwork, April 2022

The videos here are from our final brief season of fieldwork in April 2022 when we returned to the area of Victoria Falls, a World Heritage Site, where we the project had started in 2017. The aim was to collect sediments from our excavations for environmental analyses and to record an area excavated in 1950 by Prof Desmond Clark. This excavation is located just near the entrance to the falls and a museum was built over the site. The deep pit preserves a long Stone Age sequence, including the important Early to Middle Stone Age transition, but baboons had found their way in and the excavations needed to be tidied up.

On our final morning before heading to the airport we explored a new area beyond the town of Livingstone and made an unexpected discovery. We share with you those early moments of excitement.

Expert crafting, local knowledge and
educational resources

The project has gathered information from local communities living near Victoria Falls and Kalambo Falls about plants that are used today for making handles for tools and adhesives for attaching cutting edges to the handles. This information has fed into our experimental work and helped us replicate hafted tools that work well in cutting, chopping, scraping and digging – basic tasks today and in the past.

Our use-wear specialists are using this information as a reference collection for interpreting evidence that survives on the stone tools excavated from waterlogged deposits at Kalambo Falls.

For those living near our excavations there were open days for the public, and especially for school groups to see the work in progress and handle artefacts.

We are currently providing activity sessions for local primary schools in the Liverpool region, helping teachers and their students to understand the importance of the development of hafting to our lives today. A longer-term aim is to make the knowledge gained from the project accessible for teachers in Zambia to use as part of the junior secondary school curriculum in the teaching of human evolution and climate change.

A recent activity session took place on Thursday 16th February, where Professor Larry Barham, Dr. Peter Hommel and students from the Archeology Department visited a school and provided an introduction to Living in the stone age. The class learnt about the importance of handles and hafts to the development of human societies, where they had the opportunity to handle some artefacts and replicas themselves. Students also conducted a chromatography experiment to see how ancient glues were made.

Our team

Our international team of researchers includes:

archaeologists - expert in innovative approaches to the study of stone tool use, notably use-wear and residue analysis
geographers - to help us understand the formation of the sites
geoscientists - who can date the deposits.
Find out more about us: Larry Barham (Liverpool, UK),
Ian Candy (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
Geoff Duller (Aberystwyth, UK)
Andy Hein (Edinburgh, UK)
Maggie Katongo (Livingstone Museum, Zambia)
Karl Lee (professional technologist, UK)
Perrice Nkombwe (Moto Moto Museum, Zambia)
Veerle Rots (Liège, Belgium)
Noora Taipale (TraceoLab, University of Liege),
Dave Thomas (Oxford, UK)
Sumiko Tsukamoto (Hannover, Germany)

The Deep Roots of Humanity project is funded by the Art & Humanities Research Council, UK (grant AH/N08804/1)

Deep Roots blogs

Larry Barham blogs about what it's like to excavate in Zambia, as he heads off to begin his research into stone age tools.

Researchers Explore Cultural Evolutionary Roots of Religion

amazon link

Religion has been a central part of human experience since at least the dawn of recorded history. The gods change, as do the rituals, but the underlying desire remains—a desire to belong to something larger, greater, most lasting than our mortal, finite selves.
But where did that desire come from? Can we explain its emergence through evolution? Yes, says biological anthropologist Barbara J. King—and doing so not only helps us to understand the religious imagination, but also reveals fascinating links to the lives and minds of our primate cousins.
Evolving God draws on King’s own fieldwork among primates in Africa and paleoanthropology of our extinct ancestors to offer a new way of thinking about the origins of religion, one that situates it in a deep need for emotional connection with others, a need we share with apes and monkeys.
Though her thesis is provocative, and she’s not above thoughtful speculation, King’s argument is strongly rooted in close observation and analysis. She traces an evolutionary path that connects us to other primates, who, like us, display empathy, make meanings through interaction, create social rules, and display imagination—the basic building blocks of the religious imagination. With fresh insights, she responds to recent suggestions that chimpanzees are spiritual—or  even religious—beings, and that our ancient humanlike cousins carefully disposed of their dead well before the time of Neandertals.
King writes with a scientist’s appreciation for evidence and argument, leavened with a deep empathy and admiration for the powerful desire to belong, a desire that not only brings us together with other humans, but with our closest animal relations as well.

* * * * * * *

By way of personal commentary. If I understood the article below a'right it is proposing to research humanity's belief in God as:

  • God as a Meme
  • God as a Social Construct
  • God as a survival method of grouping with like-believing hominin groups

Of course we can think of a few more caveats to research:

  • God as a deep need to share connection with one another and nature
  • God as a derivative of the hologram we live in
  • God as a necessary religious construct in evolutionary development
  • God as imaginary, non-existent social construct
  • God as an AI perturbation placed upon us

And then there is the general opinion of many...

  • that God is real and it is the nature of our being to ask questions about God's veracity as well as our own.

R.E. Slater
September 29, 2023

* * * * * * *

This ambitious, interdisciplinary book seeks to explain the origins of religion using our knowledge of the evolution of cognition. A cognitive anthropologist and psychologist, Scott Atran argues that religion is a by-product of human evolution just as the cognitive intervention, cultural selection, and historical survival of religion is an accommodation of certain existential and moral elements that have evolved in the human condition.

* * * * * * *

Graphic: Caroline Norman

The evolution of religion and morality:
Researchers explore cultural evolutionary roots of religion

February 25, 2013

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Human Evolution, Cognition and Culture (HECC) have received a $3 million grant from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for a project “aimed at exploring the cultural evolutionary roots of religion.”

The Cultural Evolution of Religion Research Consortium (CERC) project brings together scholars, both local and international (partner universities include Oxford and Harvard), from a range of disciplines. Researchers from the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences will focus on understanding the complex origins of religious behaviour and morality.

The HECC’s purpose, according to its website, is “to create a research and training hub that will simultaneously advance understanding of the human species within the framework of Darwinian evolutionary theory, and encourage evolutionary scientists to incorporate cultural learning and cultural evolution in explanations of human thought and behaviour.”

The CERC’s primary question, whether religious beliefs and behaviours are linked to within-group solidarity and cooperation, will be the focus of research, from which related questions about cognition and historical/cultural processes may emerge.

UBC researcher and primary investigator of the CERC, Edward Slingerland, calls for consilience between the humanities and the sciences to properly engage the project’s research. In a recent paper titled “Religious Studies as a Life Science” (coauthored by Joseph Bulbulia), Slingerland states, “progress in the study of religion requires extensive collaboration between life scientists and classical scholars of religion.”

Slingerland adopts this view on the study of religion, noting, “while preliminary results from the biology of religion are impressive, much of the science of religion is conducted by scholars who have only a casual acquaintance with religious facts.”

These biologists of religion include Richard Dawkins, who labels religion as a “meme” (i.e., a cultural unit of evolution) or collection of memes. Memes, which include “tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions,” are a possible explanation for the emergence of religion or belief in god.

“God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value or infective power,” claims Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene.

Others such as David S. Wilson have theorized religion as the product of multi-level selection, a biological position that claims natural selection works on multiple levels, such as the gene, the individual, and the group.

  • Slingerland notes three evolutionary models of religion proposed by biologists of religion. Some researchers understand religions as “cultural by-products” and consider religious traits to be “by-products of functional designs.” Dawkins’ memetic theory of religion falls into this group.
  • Others view religion as somehow conferring individual adaptations for cooperation, in which religiosity and associated characteristics are thought to possess survival value for the individual organism.
  • Lastly, the “cultural group adaptations” view asserts that “religious cultures evolve to benefit religious groups.” Wilson’s idea of multi-level selection would fall under this third category.

The CERC is dedicated to bridging an overplayed dichotomy between science and other fields of inquiry. Slingerland states, “biological approaches to religion are not merely optional.” However, classically trained scholars too must inform scientists, as Slingerland cautions, “a science without facts is not a science.”

Ultimately, the CERC is an excellent example of multidisciplinary research and strong Canadian scholarship in a global initiative. These researchers are digging at a fertile bed of knowledge that requires both the modern tools of science and, despite those who deem them outmoded, the tools of religious studies to penetrate and extract rich facts about religion and morality.

The study of religious behaviour and morality provides insight into one of life’s endless forms—the human mind—to which illumination can only make it all the more beautiful and wonderful.

The CERC is expected to report its results in 2018.

Nathan Fifield - The Evolution of God

The Evolution of God

The Bible is usually read as a grand narrative from creation to apocalypse. This straight-forward reading presents some paradoxes. For example, the Biblical God commands wrathful genocides alongside loving forgiveness. At times He demands uncompromising nationalism and at other times He promotes generous universalism. For centuries, armies of apologists have been busy justifying these paradoxes, anxious to clear up doubts that could arise about the divine origins of Bible. Robert Wright’s monumental book The Evolution of God gives a much simpler explanation for God’s schizophrenic nature: the God of the Bible is actually an amalgamation of different Canaanite gods. According to Wright the Bible is a selectively edited compilation of sacred middle eastern texts and traditions forged together into a cohesive narrative by Jewish scholars during the Babylonian captivity (697 BC) and then added to by Christian fathers in the 3rd century AD. It was only during the Babylonian captivity that true monotheism emerged.

In Wright’s narrative, the Jews were actually much less genocidal than the Biblical narrative suggests they were. In the Old Testament, God is a wrathful champion of an ISIS-like nation cruising from victory to victory as long as they were loyal to Him. However Wright suggests that Israel was actually a loose coalition of polytheistic tribes fighting off gigantic empires surrounding them. Within this pressure cooker Israelites faced impossible decisions: whether to accept humiliating vassalage at the hands of oppressive empires or to stand bravely against them. Not everyone can relate to the genocidal Jews in the literal Biblical account. But everyone can relate to Wright’s narrative of a nation afflicted and beset by unresolvable dilemmas. Under these circumstances it’s easy to see how some of the more troubling views about God emerged. Israelis were always the “little guys,” but they were inspired by stories that made them and their God out to be just as great or greater than the ruthless empires they were forced to take on.

The above diagram is an attempt to illustrate Wright’s account of the evolution of the Judaeo-Christian God from ancient Canaanite polytheism. It is meant to be a kind of family tree with the ancestral gods depicted at the bottom and evolving over time to form the Holy Trinity at the top. Wright is quick to point out that this narrative is not universally accepted, especially among the religiously devout. Nevertheless it utilizes some of the more mainstream theories about the development of Judaeo-Christianity from the historical and archaeological perspective. And nothing in this account precludes belief in the divine origins of the Bible. In fact the emergence of monotheism from polytheism represents a kind of miracle in and of itself. The Jews were uniquely important in the history of the world and not because of dramatic miracles like the crossing of the Red Sea. They were, in a much more important sense, divinely inspired.

Canaan as a Syncretic Pressure Cooker

Wright argues that Judaeo-Christian monotheism evolved from Canaanite polytheism through a process called syncretism (wherein two or more gods combine to form a new god). Much of Wright’s book analyzes how and why this happened. My illustration attempts to show how the empires surrounding Canaan acted as a kind of imperial pressure cooker leading to new deity combinations not unlike the pressures inside a nuclear reactor which force individual particles to combine to form new ones.

The Ancient Canaanite Trinity: Ywh (the flame), Baal (the husband), El (the father)

There were many deities in ancient Canaan, but three of them are central to the evolution of monotheism: Ywh, Baal, and El. Ywh (also Yhwh or Yahweh) was originally a warrior god with transcendent attributes. He enters the archeological record as a deity of the Shasu people, a religious minority persecuted in Egypt who later settled in Southern Canaan (the possible origin of the Exodus story). I’ve illustrated Ywh as an upside down triangle in an attempt to show that he represents the transcendence of heaven coming down into the human heart as a “still small voice” or a “fire in the bones.” Elsewhere in the Bible he takes the form of a burning bush or fire from heaven. I’ve therefore given Ywh the subtitle “the flame.”

Baal was a popular storm god who brought rain to farmers and fertility to families. Like Ywh I’ve illustrated Baal as an upside down triangle because he is also a sky god who comes down from heaven. Baal is also the Hebrew name for “husband,” and in a sense the god Baal was the archetypal husband: protector, provider, and inseminator of the land. (See analysis of Psalm 29)

El was the head god in a large pantheon of sons, daughters and wives and a popular god in Northern Canaan. He was a nomadic deity who dwelt in a tent or tabernacle and displayed the kind of patriarchal leadership that was emulated by kings and chieftains. I’ve illustrated him as a right-side-up triangle to emphasize the fact that he acts within a hierarchy. (El is also the generic term for “god” in Hebrew, so it is sometimes confusing distinguishing between El Shaddai, the proper name for this god, Eloheim, the name for El’s pantheon, and el, the name used for god generically.)

Although Wright doesn’t go into this, I want to highlight the archetypal connotations of this ancient Canaanite trinity. The archetypes Father, Husband, and Flame are remarkably similar to the Catholic trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. El the Father and God the Father both the crown the hierarchies of their respective theologies. The “Son” in Catholic theology is often described as a husband or bridegroom, an archetype similar to the “husband” Baal. The Holy Ghost also has remarkable similarities to the Biblical depictions of Ywh as a flame of fire or a still small voice. While there may not be a direct link between these ancient deities and the development of the Catholic trinity, monotheistic conceptions of God seem to reflect many of the ancient polytheistic archetypes.

Syncretic Alliances

There were two major syncretic events in ancient Canaan that were central to the formation of monotheism. One was a 9th century BC anti-Egyptian alliance between Ywh worshipers in the south and El worshipers in the north. This alliance may have been the origin of the covenant rites of Israelite worship wherein various tribes of Canaanites gathered together around important shrines to swear allegiance to El and appeal for his protection from their aggressive imperial neighbors. An anti-Egyptian alliance would make sense from the perspective of the Shasu, who had been persecuted by the Egyptians before. In this alliance El retains his position as the top god and Ywh becomes one of his sons (see Mark S. Smith analysis of Psalm 82 in Origins of Biblical Monotheism). El’s importance in Canaan was reduced after the Northern Kingdoms were carried away captive by the Assyrians in 722 BCE, the so called “lost ten tribes.”

The second major syncretic event occurred during a 7th century BC alliance between the Israelite nations and the Phoenician Empire. According to Wright this event influenced the merger of Baal and Ywh which happened not through cooperation but through competition. The Bible gives a dramatic account of this competition in 1 Kings which tells the story of a conflict between the Israelite King Ahab, his Queen Jezebel and the Prophet Elijah. Jezebel was a Phoenician princess loyal to Baal, and her marriage to the Israelite Ahab represented an important alliance with Phoenicia that would help fend off threats from the aggressive Assyrian Empire. This gave political clout to worshipers of Baal and marginalized those loyal to Ywh. The worshipers of Ywh refused to go down without a fight. Their prophets decried the alliance and attempted to demonstrate that not only was Ywh a better god than Baal, he could also best Baal at his own game: bring rain in times of drought and stave off an Assyrian onslaught without the help of the Phoenicians. This conflict is depicted in the famous contest between the priests of Baal and Elijah. While this story was written long after it had supposedly occurred, it is nevertheless a remarkable illustration of the political situation at the time. Ywh upped his game, taking on the attributes of Baal in addition to his own so that he could be touted as a legitimate substitute for those who were partial to Baal and his generative powers.


If there is any figure that comes closest to embodying the ugly Biblical violence celebrated in the Book of Joshua and elsewhere it is the Jewish king Josiah (641–610 BCE), who slaughtered the priests of other gods and enforced the complete domination of the cult of Ywh. While his reforms didn’t survive his reign, his accomplishments were celebrated by later Jewish scholars during the Babylonian captivity who recast him as a reformer reinstating an ancient monotheism laid down by the legendary prophets Moses and Abraham.

The Babylonian Captivity and a New Monotheism

The Babylonian captivity is the most important event in the creation of Jewish monotheism. During the captivity Jewish scholars compiled and edited what would become today’s Old Testament. Traditions associated with each of the three gods (Ywh, Baal, and El) were combined into a cohesive narrative and the three gods became one: a new, all powerful deity who wasn’t just better than the gods of other nations but was in fact the only God in existence. Exactly how this happened is the subject of much controversy but the most well known theory is called the documentary hypothesis. While many of the details of the documentary hypothesis are disputed, historians generally agree that there were various factions among the exiled Jews, each loyal to different traditions and conceptions of God. Their contributions resulted in a Biblical God who is quite diverse, at times nationalistic and at times internationalist, both pro-ritual and anti-ritual, both interventionist and non-interventionist, etc.

Complicating the picture is the fact that Babylon was overtaken by the Persian Empire during the period of the captivity. The Persians allowed the Jews return to their homeland, but not without pressing the Jews to adopt a more globalist outlook. The Persians granted their people local control throughout the empire but wouldn’t tolerate belligerence. The so called “priestly source” of the documentary hypothesis was likely a pro-Persian faction among the Jews, one that emphasized the international, universal aspects of God as opposed to the nationalist Ywh. The priestly source uses El, not Ywh as God’s name and narrates stories from Elohist tradition like the story of Abraham. In my chart I attempt to illustrate the Elohist emphasis during the captivity by enlarging the right-side-up triangle of El and merging it with Ywh’s upside-down triangle to create a new “star of David.”

The Evolution of Christianity

Jesus was a messianic Jew crucified by the Romans. However it wasn’t obvious to his followers what his death and resurrection was supposed to mean. There were many early versions of Christianity and they had widely divergent views. Wright examines three main branches: Ebionite Christianity, Marcionism, and Pauline Christianity.

The Ebionites denied that Jesus was divine in any way. He was a messiah for the Jewish people and Christians were to continue to obey the Jewish laws of the Old Testament. Thus for Ebionite Christians, Jewish conceptions of God stayed intact. Marcionism on the other hand held that Jesus had been sent by the true God and that he had defeated the evil god of the Old Testament. Therefore, the entire Jewish conception of God was to be done away with.

Somewhere in between the extremes of Marcionism and Ebionite Christianity is Pauline Christianity. A Jew himself, Paul believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of old Jewish law but that he did not overthrow the Jewish God. Rather Jesus was in some sense the God of both the Old and New Testament. This was a conception that would later evolve into the Catholic Trinity. Wright gives an extensive analysis as to why Pauline Christianity succeeded where other versions failed. Here is a brief summary: Christian missionaries relied initially on converts from the Jewish diaspora (which had occurred due to the collapse of the Alexandrian empire.) Jews scattered around the Hellenistic world were well regarded by the Greeks (who had also been scattered around the Mediterranean by the collapse of the Alexandrian empire). In fact many Greeks wanted to become Jews themselves although they balked at all the formal rules involved, particularly circumcision. Christianity was an attractive alternative. However Ebionite Christianity was too harsh and demanding, too much like existing Judaism. And Marcionism treated the Jews with contempt. In the end, Pauline Christianity represented a more ideal balance between Greek and Jewish culture. The newly baptized Greeks proclaimed that Jesus was “Socrates for the masses” and celebrated the God of both Old and New Testament as a single, universal Logos (stoicism) or One (neo-platonism).

Wright’s thesis is informed by game theory and its notions of zero-sum and non-zero sum thinking. Both Marcionism and Ebionite Christianity were zero-sum religions. They either excluded the Jews or excluded the Gentiles. Pauline Christianity on the other hand was a non-zero sum phenomenon that allowed Greeks and Jews to come together in a way that enhanced the cultures and prospects of both groups.

Wright’s book goes on to discuss the development of Islam and skips over the development of the Catholic Trinity. At the top of my illustration however I’ve added a ven diagram with stocism and neo-platonism intersecting with Pauline Christianity. In my view, the Holy Trinity emerges from the combination of these three philosophical and religious traditions. This emergence was formalized by the great 4th and 5th century theologian St. Augustine. It’s a complicated topic I intend to cover more deeply in future posts. For this analysis I’ll only note that the Catholic conception of God was perhaps the greatest non-zero sum accomplishment of the human race up to that point. As Philosopher John Vervaeke points out, St. Augustine took the best philosophy (neoplatonic), the best theology (Christian), and the best psychology (stoic) of his day and melded it into a cohesive worldview so powerful that it would endure for over a thousand years, eventually giving birth to the modern world.

Index - Rob Bell & The Emergent Church


To my readers,

If anyone would like to collate all of Rob Bell's sermons, videos and podcasts online this would be a great help to the community here. I would begin with Rob's own Internet site, Youtube, and Google accounts to check if he has released them to the public.

I would also check with my former church of 20 years, Mars Hill Church of Grandville (Grand Rapids), Michigan. Under their "All Series" I found AJ's past sermons have been kept by the church during the time he pastored after Rob and Kent Dobson. AJ was a more settled, as progressive, pastoral version of Rob and his sermons are as good or better than Rob's in many ways. Otherwise, Rob's sermons have been unlinked by the church. The question is, where did they go?

After you are done compiling your work you may send me your links to re-publish here at Relevancy22. Or link me to your site that I may download your work giving all due to your helpful work. Here, I do my own work and don't claim another's because everything here at this site is credited to any sources used.

A big thank you for your help!

R.E. Slater
September 29, 2023

Please Note
At present I find Rob's work to be very progressive even as we are here. Where I differ with Rob is in leaving (progressive) evangelical theology for (progressive) process theology. I find the bible extremely restricted under traditional and evangelical Westernized neo-Platonic structures whereas Whiteheadian Process Philosophy and its derivative of Process Theology more fully embraces the God of the Christian faith. 

Relevancy22's previous published
collection of Rob Bell's works:

[Note: some of Rob's media is no longer working]

[the next section is the breakout of the articles indexed here]

Rob Bell - Noomas (1)
Rob Bell - Podcasts and Films (1)
Rob Bell - Select Articles (5)
Rob Bell - Select Sermons (7)
Rob Bell - Sermon Archives (4)
Rob Bell - Tours (6)
Rob Bell - Updates (5)
Rob Bell - What We Think About God (8)
Rob Bell - ZimZum of Marriage (1)

[sic, the indexes above are broken out here]

Rob Bell's Nooma's 001 - 014
April 28, 2021

December 17, 2019

July 31, 2015

June 15, 2015

December 21, 2014

December 10, 2013

November 4, 2013

October 3, 2013

October 3, 2013

March 20, 2013

March 19, 2013

March 11, 2013

March 6, 2013

February 15, 2013

February 13, 2013

November 1, 2011

September 22, 2011

Published• Oct 3, 2011

Published• Oct 3, 2011

Published• Oct 3, 2011

Published• Jul 20, 2011

Rob Bell - First Love (Rev 2)
Published• Jun 24, 2011

Rob Bell: Rob's German Twin! (1 John 2.1-6)
Published• May 19, 2011

Here are the newer links

Rob Bell's Noomas on YouTube -

Rob Bell - Everything good or bad on Rob Bell via YouTube -

Unfortunately Rob has his detractors. I do not chose this route. I find Rob
insightful and helpful. As always, use your own best judgment. - re slater