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

Thursday, February 22, 2024

What is God in Character, Sovereignty, and Rule?

What is God in Character,
Sovereignty and Rule?

by R.E. Slater

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

What is Divine Sovereignty?

Here are several definitions of God's sovereignty. As a process theologian I work within a panentheistic framework and not a theistic nor pantheistic framework. Most of the definitions given below are from a theistic framework although I like how John Paul II expresses sovereignty as a dual relationship between God and creation.

In the kind of Process theology I have been forming (and yes, there are many kinds of process thought, not only Christian but Islamic, Jewish, Asian, etc) has come up from the Reformed side of my Baptist faith. I began with Arminianism and uplifted it into Open and Relational Theology then completed it as an Open and Relational PROCESS theology.

I have written past articles on sovereignty but as the years past my processual understanding grows with the subject. For today's purpose I have provided a simple definition and then have given my reasons for this definition. See what you think.

- R.E. Slater

Commonly - The sovereignty of God is the fact that he is the Lord over creation; as sovereign, he exercises his rule. This rule is exercised through God's authority as king, his control over all things, and his presence with his covenantal people and throughout his creation.

Lutheranism - The major components of the biblical concept of divine sovereignty or lordship are God's control, authority, and presence (see John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 21–115). His control means that everything happens according to his plan and intention. Authority means that all his commands ought to be obeyed.

Calvinism - The sovereignty of God is the same as the lordship of God, for God is the sovereign over all of creation. The major components of God’s lordship are his control, authority, and covenantal presence.

Arminianism - To Arminians, then, the decision to believe and repent is a decision which a sovereign God granted to humanity. Thus, free will is granted and limited by God's sovereignty, but God's sovereignty allows all men the choice to accept the Gospel of Jesus through faith, simultaneously allowing all men to resist.

Catholicism - The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) express the concept of God's sovereignty as his rule over his creation, allowing human libertarian free will and co-operation with him: "God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, [...]".

John Paul II 1993, Section II, Ch. 1, Article 1, §4 Providence and secondary causes, item 306.

Eastern Orthodoxy - In general, Eastern Theology places much more emphasis on human freedom and less on God's sovereignty than do the Augustinian and Reformed strands of Western theology. Orthodox view of human free will is close to the Wesleyan-Arminian view. - Fairbairn, Donald (2002). Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes. London: Westminster John Knox Press.

Process Theology - In Christian freedom, God is sovereign, but it is a sovereignty of love, not a sovereignty of control.

God's Sovereignty is One of Love - 
Not Power. Not Control. Love

by R.E. Slater

The Christian message I grew up with was one that I consider a terrible teaching to children and teens. I don't think it has changed much today. My faith now has no hell, hades, or purgatory in it... if these eternal states are real they must exist during our earthly lives such as seen with the poor innocents of Gaza, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Central America, and within America.

For God to be a God of love people say he must be just and avenge sin and evil. The Bible shares these thoughts of God's character in its passages time-and-again... that the God of the bible is a God of violence, ruin, and destruction. In fact, the bible ends on this "high note" of ruination and damnation in the last book of the bible, Revelation, completing its journey started at Adam and Eve's exile from the Garden of Eden.

Meaning, God's love is not unlike our own human emotions projecting our forms of justice upon the world so that we feel safe, secure, and free to live in peace and serenity within our communities.

This is how American evangelicalism projects itself. Full of guns, retribution, and revenge. It is little different from Islam's violent Jihadism.

And then Jesus comes along and says to the keepers of Torah - the priests, scribes, and later, rabbi's, of the first century - that their stories of Divine Imprecation and  Judgment speaks to their version of God and not to Jesus' version of God.

Said Jesus, "God's sovereignty doesn't rest on Might and Power but upon the weakness of Love" in so many words. That is, Jesus rejects the Temple's kind of Judaism and shows how God serves, sacrifices, shares, listens, heals, renews, and redeems. Not unlike Judaism's Old Testament (OT) God on his best days - but quite unlike their Warrior God which they have cultivated into their theology and deeply care about... needing it to be true as they live under the unwanted, secular reign of a foreign power known as Rome.

And thus, over the centuries since Jesus' coming, the better, humbler elements of the church seeks to be, and enact, love... but under Catholicism, Reformation Protestantism, and Orthodoxy we see the Wrathful-God-version of the OT overtake the Loving-God-version of the New Testament (NT) as read in the texts of Paul, Peter, John, and so on.

So what version of God is God?

Is God a God of damnation and hell? Or a version of Jesus's Loving Redeemer?

I, for one, might answer this query in a number of ways but the one answer I like most is the one stating that the narratives in the bible speak to the religious mindset of humanity at the time... which also includes the church ages after the NT in its own interpretations of the bible... including our own religious mindsets today.

And if I extend God's Spirit of inspiration from the Bible till now as an everyday common occurrence between men of any faith and God, then I have the foundations to question why our stories favor a Powerful God over a Loving God?

When looking around at the films, movies, and TV stories out on cable; or the best sellers and popular classics on the bookshelves and libraries; or the sports and SciFi genres of digital games; nothing seems to have changed in human cultures. We seem to be a violent species which find it difficult not to be us. And we have made of God a violent Power as an idol to ourselves.

As with Jesus - when teaching the OT - I find a deeper, more fulfilling inspiration of the Spirit in retelling the narratives of the bible using God's Love as the seed, theme, and outcome-objective of the story even as Jesus, Paul, and the apostles sometimes did. Otherwise, the spirit of this world will act according to itself and the outcomes in Revelation will be as real now as they been many times over in history.

Somehow, in our storytelling and worship, we must fill God's majestic holy Sovereignty with Almighty Love and not vengeful justice... which is unloving and unGodlike. For instance, I can teach "the Day of the Lord" all day long but ultimately it means God cleans house first with his people before judging the wicked and unjust.

The prophets warned of lusting for a God of justice over a God of love. Why? Because what we teach others is how we will learn to act. If we teach a violent God, then violence will be part of our life-character. And if teaching a loving God, then lovingkindness will become a part of our demeanors and relationships with others.

It seems to be a choice God has given us when sending Jesus and asking whether we will humble ourselves and repent and follow him - or stiffen our resolve to become our own God and see all of life as a tit-for-tat, eye-for-eye, struggle for supremacy over another. Which, in stark proverbial undertones, smacks of foolishness and unwise behavior.

This does not mean worshipping a loving God dispenses with justice... but  it does mean that we dispense a "measured form of justice" that is restorative and renewing amid the many sordid evils abounding around us.

If we follow a God of love and not a God of wrath and judgment it means that a civil society might have a better chance of acting civilly with one another. And in doing so this will greatly help a civil society - such as America's Constitutional democratic society - to lean into its idealism of designs and purposes when worshipping a God of love rather than a God of wrath and judgment.

R.E. Slater
February 22, 2024

Additional Reading Material

My office phone rang and I answered it. A stern voice said “Is this Roger Olson?” who which I confessed. The man introduced himself as pastor of Baptist church in the state, implying that he was a constituent of the seminary where I teach. Anyway, I got the message. “I hear you don’t believe in God’s sovereignty,” he declared. I responded “Oh, really? What do you mean by ‘God’s sovereignty’?” He said “You, know. God is in control of everything.” I decided to play with him a little. “Oh, so you believe God caused the holocaust and every other evil event in human history? That God is the author of sin and evil?” There was a long pause. Then he said “Well, no.” “Then do you believe in God’s sovereignty?” I asked. He mumbled something about just wanting to “make sure” and hung up.

* * * * * * *

A Short by Rance

"God loves you so much that he sent his Son to earth to die for you so you can go to heaven where there are streets of gold and you get to worship him and throw crowns at his feet forever....

"But, if you don’t accept him and believe in him, Jesus will throw your ass (actually your whole body) into a lake of fire (or a fiery oven, or outer darkness, take your pick depending on which passage you read) where you will weep, wail, and gnash your teeth as you are actively tortured day and night for the next trillion trillion trillion years (and you’re just getting started at that point!)."

Says I, "What a bunch of crock! And it’s not actually what the Gospel is!"

"And if that message really was in the Bible, and if it was the [actual] Christian gospel - which it isn’t; just more bad superficial interpretation - I, for one, would never believe it.

"However, if indeed this was the true Christian message (actually read the book of Acts to see that this is not even close to what the message was), I’d immediately start looking for something else to believe because this is just too insane.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is a crock of manure."