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

Monday, October 23, 2023

A Faith for Generations Y & Z, Part II - Follow Up: Process v Reformed Theology

click to enlarge

A Faith for Generations Y & Z

Follow Up: Process v Reformed Theology

by R.E. Slater
October 23, 2023

Baby boomers are the eldest, born between the years 1946 and 1964.
Generation X follows, and they were born between 1965 and 1980.
Next comes Generation Y (more commonly known as Millennials), born between roughly 1981 and 1994.
The youngest generation in today's workforce is Gen Z, who were born between 1995 and 2009.


My previous article, A Faith for Y & Z Generations - Process Theology vs. Reformed Theology, felt like it needed a follow up. And quite honestly, I would've thought there might have been a few more articles on Google than what I found. One, by my Internet Arminian "mentor" and traditional Baptist theologian, Roger Olson, who in 2013 really struggled with defining what process theology was becoming; and, a 2013 follow up article by Tripp Fuller's Calvinist Reformed friend, Paul Capetz.

To these articles come my own articles from 2011-2016 here at Relevancy22 which are accounted for in the topical column and Indexes under assorted references and probably number in the hundreds as I struggled with leaving my Baptist heritage and Reformed Calvinist education for something I didn't even realize was out there until I stumbled across it.

This kinda-sorta happened as I was updating Olson's Arminianism towards an Open and Relational theology. Two other fields I knew nothing about. And it wasn't until six months later as I was "developing" these theologies when I discovered there were other theologians doing the same. One, by my friend Thomas Oord who was also a process theologian even as I was moving in that direction myself.

Moreover, the evangelical side of Open Theology and Relational Theology needed to be joined and united. So I did. And it wasn't until several more years later (2019??) that I discovered that these contemporary Arminian (and evangelical) positions functioned better as outcomes to a larger, more integral theology known as process theology.


This then is what finally propelled me to leave the Platonic et al Westernizations of traditional Protestant and later, contemporary evangelical theologies, for the philosophic-theology of AN Whitehead's process philosophy and its derivative, process theology as begun under John Cobb, Jr.

To this end, after reuniting open and relational theologies together I then completed them as Open and Relational PROCESS theologies. This is where both theologies belonged. Not in theologically dated and scientifically outmoded Calvinistic evangelicalism but in a post-evangelical landscape underlaid philosophically by process thought.

To which, since 2019 or 2020, I have been slowly expanding process thought to every Christian systematic doctrine, dogma, church polity, and missionary outreach over the past number of years. And I've also noticed that more and more protestant Christians of every denomination, sect, stripe, association, and synod are also beginning to explore for themselves, their schools, institutions, and organization how process philosophy and theology might update their own faiths in forms of societal currency.

For myself, the youth of the world is where I want to leave my labors for their generations to absorb it and expand process thinking across every form of discipline and endeavor. I began by writing for my grandchildren so that they would find a credible direction for their Christian faiths which could deal ably with evolution, the quantum sciences from biology to neuroscience, AI + technology, psychology and sociology, political economic theory, and most of all, the polyplurality intersections of racial harmony with institutional forms of equality and justice.

In my own Baptist-based evangelical and Covenant Reformed structures this was a much harder task to accomplish even as a "progressive (but not processual) evangelic). But with a process-based Christianity I can now easily embrace gender and sexual intersectionalism, interfaith religions, and the more generous forms of loving, value-centric democracies.

The key to all of this is that each area must have some form of process basis as a common language moving towards cooperative, resource sharing, and dialogic centrism within their religion, beliefs, and societal attitudes. Process in the binder. It works because God's creation functions processually. Perhaps a century later we may have other terms and ideas about processual ecological-cosmology (ecocosmology).

But for now, this is a growing field of expression which is filled with opportunity as it values relationships, mutual and beneficial experiences of the part and the whole TOGETHER, and the spiritual realm of not only humanity but creation itself.

Value, value, value is the teleological driver to any processual evolution regardless of forms or disciplines. My Christian word - or theistic/theological word for value - is LOVE. Specifically God's LOVE imparted from God's being to creation's being.

And guess what? In Whitehead's schemata of a processual cosmology BEING is always BECOMING. It is never static but always dynamic. Which means Spirit-driven inspiration is never at rest but always meeting the needs of creation - of which humanity is a kind or type of being within the greater complex of creation!

Which also answer's the evangelical eschatological phrase of "Jesus Come!" To a process Christian this phrase is more adequately-and-ably expressed as "Jesus BECOME ! " And guess what? If God's love is the common derivative-and-definition to the processual descriptor of VALUE re a generative and beneficial living evolutionary teleology within an entropic universe, then as the Beatles once sang, "All we need is Love." And to that we may all say, "Amen and Amen."


R.E. Slater
October 23, 2023

* * * * * * *

Why Process Theology Is an
Alternative to [Traditional] Christianity

March 8, 2019

This past Sunday (March 3, 2019) my local city newspaper included on its editorial page a column by a local pastor urging that an “outmoded” idea of God be discarded in favor of a better one. It read like a sermon, so I assume it was some version of one she preached to her congregation. She began by mentioning the Transfiguration narrative because it was Transfiguration Sunday. But that was her text (or pretext) for launching into a talk about two views of God—one “outmoded” and the other better for political and personal reasons. And she claimed the new, kinder, gentler idea of God (my words) is also more biblical than the outmoded idea of God.

*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*

The “outmoded” picture of God she offered up is that God is secretly “in charge” of everything that happens and uses “coercive power” to control people and events. That “God” is, she said, “dictatorial” and “despotic.” She did not name any names, but perhaps she was thinking of the God of Calvinism. (She is Presbyterian.)

The only alternative to that outmoded picture of God that she offered is of a God who acts relationally and persuasively and does not “coerce” anyone or anything. She indirectly dismissed the traditional divine attribute of omnipotence.

As a student and at least “wannabe” scholar of modern theology I recognized her talk/sermon/essay as rooted in and expressive of what is generally known as Process Theology. It is taught in many so-called “mainline Protestant” seminaries. It is a distinctly modern type of theology rooted in the ideas about God and the world of philosophers Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne.

Process theology “bloomed” in the 1970s especially in the United States. It’s main interpreters and promoters included theologians John Cobb, David Ray Griffin, Delwin Brown, Schubert Ogden, Daniel Day Williams, and Marjorie Suchocki.

In 1979, while in seminary, I took a course in “Process Christology” at Luther Seminary’s extension “Shalom” in Sioux Falls, S.D. It was taught by a theologian on the faculty of Augustana College. We read, among other volumes, Process Philosophy and Christian Thought edited by Delwin Brown (Bobbs-Merrill, 1971). I kept up a lively interest in Process Theology ever after that and wrote a chapter on the subject in 20th Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age (with Stanley Grenz) (InterVarsity Press) and The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction (InterVarsity Press). Over the years I got to know several process theologians and devoured numerous books and articles by process thinkers.

All that is simply to say I know process theology when I see (or hear) it.

The late Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson is recorded as having said that the only thing wrong with Process Theology is that it is such an attractive alternative to Christianity. Of course, many, perhaps most, process theologians are Christians. I don’t think Jenson meant to imply otherwise. Both of us (although I hesitate to speak for him) believe(d) one can be Christian while holding to a theology that is seriously defective and problematic from any orthodox version of Christianity.

As I read the pastor’s essay/sermon/column about exchanging an outmoded view of God for this new, improved one (Process Theism), I wondered how many readers would catch on to the following:

First, the essay/sermon/column presented a false either-or with an excluded middle. Well, many excluded middles. One need not throw the baby of divine omnipotence out with the bathwater of a “dictatorial” and “despotic” idea of God. There are many Christian (and other) views of God that fit neither model. I think, for example, of Jürgen Moltmann’s vision of God as self-limiting (but still omnipotent) love. I think, for example, of Robert Jenson’s own Karl Barth-inspired view of God in several books such as God after God (Bobbs-Merrill) and The Triune Identity (Fortress Press).

Second, the essay/sermon/column presented an idea of God that would, by logical extension and implication (as with all Process Theology) rule out miracles including especially God’s promised intervention at the end of history as we know it, in the future, to finally, once-and-for-all defeat evil. A God who has no other power than persuasive power leaves the future in our human hands. The old saying “Man proposes, but God disposes” has to be revised as “God proposes, but man disposes.” Our hope, then, is in ourselves, not in God.

In my own, humble opinion, the amputation of realistic, future eschatology (whatever the details may be) is one that effectively kills the patient of biblical, orthodox Christianity.

All that is not to say the pastor-writer of the essay/sermon/column is not a Christian. All I am saying is that her theology, Process Theology, is very seriously defective—biblically, in terms of Christian orthodoxy, and experientially (for hope).

So why does it matter? A person who drinks deeply at the wells of Process Theology, like a person who drinks deeply at the wells of Calvinism, ironically, cannot pray petitionary prayers hoped to make a real differences in what is going to happen. And that practice is central to Jesus’s own message (viz., importunity in petitionary prayer to God). A God who has only persuasive power, like a God who is all-determining, is not a God one can pray to to change the course of life and history.

*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined).

* * * * * * *

A Calvinist Loving On Process Theology

January 11, 2012

Paul Capetz – a real deal Calvinist, professional theologian, & Fuller Family Christmas Guest decided to replay to my sovereignty smack talking this week with a Calvinist rejoinder.  This is awesome and I am sure it will inspire you to get his book on the history of the doctrine of God (it’s awesome & for general audience) and check out the podcast 500th birthday we threw for Calvin.  Now…here’s Paul!

applaud Tripp Fuller for initiating this stimulating and provocative discussion about Calvin’s theology and the question of metaphysical determinism.  As someone with a deep appreciation for Calvin (I have taught 6 seminars on Calvin at my school in the past 20 years as well as written a book on Calvin’s understanding of religion), I hope I can add some words that are intended not polemically but thoughtfully, thereby giving expression to some of the issues with which I have had to wrestle as a student and teacher of Calvin.

Let me begin by stating that of all the premodern theologians, Calvin best captures the whole of what is important in my understanding of Christian faith.  He is deeply indebted to Luther in his doctrine of justification, he is profoundly Augustinian in his understanding that religion is a matter of the heart and its affections, and he veers in the direction of Wesley with his emphasis upon sanctification.  Moreover, his high view of the Old Testament and his belief that the third use of the law is its primary purpose account for his oft-noted affinities with Judaism and thus make him an important bridge between Jews and Christians.  Finally, one cannot help but notice that Calvin is also vitally concerned with the political life and the shaping of society in the direction of greater justice for all and care for the needy.  In each of these respects, I follow Calvin without reservation!

But there is another side of Calvin that explains the stereotypically negative picture of him.  First, there is his utterly deterministic view of divine providence.  Not only does God allow events we deem evil to occur but God is the active agent behind each and every event.  Of course, Calvin strives valiantly not to impugn God’s character by accusing God of injustice.  Still, it is hard for even the most sympathetic reader of Calvin’s theology not to find a logical problem in his theology at this point.  Second, his doctrine of election means that before creation God has predestined who is to be a recipient of salvation and who is to be damned.  Again, it is hard not to suspect that his position here leads to insuperable problems.  After all, what is the point of preaching the gospel if some people (indeed, the majority of people!) are incapable of responding to it by virtue of God’s decision to damn them before they are born?

As a theologian I employ an existential hermeneutic, if I may call it that.  What I mean is that I always look for the existential question being addressed behind any particular theological statement of doctrine.  So, for example, it is clear in the above two cases that Calvin is addressing two concerns near and dear to his heart.  First, his doctrine of providence is concerned to assure us that the events of personal life and history are meaningful because God is actively involved in all events.  Second, his doctrine of election is concerned to uphold the priority of God’s grace in human salvation.  But, having identified the motivating questions behind his formulations of these doctrines, we have to ask: are there other ways we could affirm these religious points without Calvin’s problematic interpretations of these doctrines?  This is how I believe we should approach the question of whether metaphysical determinism is really as essential to Calvin’s theology as most of those who call themselves “Calvinists” believe to be the case.

Process theologians and others with related viewpoints have correctly pointed to the influence of Greek metaphysical assumptions upon all classical Christian theology, whether Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant.  There can be no serious doubt, I think, that the classical tradition is guided by an unquestioned axiom regarding God’s impassibility.  I have found process theology particularly helpful in offering new ways to think about this issue, especially its insistence that there can be a perfect exemplification of receptivity in God.  If we let go of the classical bias that looks upon change and passibility as imperfections—and I think we should—then there might be another way of working through the problematic aspects of Calvin’s theology identified above.

There is, in my judgment, one other problem with Calvin’s theology and that is a formal or methodological one.  Calvin, like all the premodern Protestants, believed it is necessary to account for every single statement within the Bible and to make them cohere with one another in a “system” of doctrine.  Calvin’s Institutes of 1559 is probably the finest achievement in the era of the Reformation of this form of biblical theology.  Two centuries of historical-critical labor, however, have sufficed to demonstrate that there are multiple theological perspectives in the Bible that cannot be harmonized apart from doing damage to the integrity of the biblical text itself.  Let’s take the example of divine determinism.

Obviously, Calvin has plenty of exegetical support for his deterministic doctrines of providence and election in both testaments.  Yet the Bible itself also offers counter-examples where the emphasis is precisely to assert human responsibility and hope for a redemptive outcome of even the most desperate circumstances if only sinful human beings will repent of their destructive ways.  I believe that an honest reckoning with the Bible requires us to leave behind Calvin’s basic methodological assumption of a unitary biblical theology and to think systematically about the various possibilities offered to us by the Bible for thinking about providence and election.  But agreement with my view means that we have to move away from the understanding of exegesis and theology bequeathed to us by the sixteenth-century Reformers and to grapple with the difficult issues of modern theology that have arisen of necessity from the historical-critical study of the Bible.

In sum, I believe that there is much of importance to retrieve in Calvin’s theology but that it cannot be salvaged in its entirety.  But is this a betrayal of Calvin?  I think not.  If Calvin was able to adopt a critical posture toward Luther, why cannot Reformed theologians today adopt a critical posture toward Calvin?  I might note in closing that two of the finest heirs of Calvin’s tradition in the modern world have done precisely that: Schleiermacher and Barth.