A Theodical Curve – A synthesis between neo classical and classical Theism – between the tension between Process and classical Theology

There are 3 apparently conflicting theodical (I think it is a word!) views and how they relate to God’s omnipotence. They perhaps can be related to a parent’s response to the pending tragedy of a child crossing a road. Why didn’t the parent rescue the child? Three possible answers: (1)They would not, (2)could but did not or (3) simply could not do anything. Applied to God:

1.Omnipotent God: boy walks into road – placed there by parent deliberately the car ordained by God for this particular event.

2. Self limiting God: Boy walks into road. Parent can do something but does nothing. God chooses to do nothing.

3. Process God: Boy walks into road. Parent can do nothing. God cannot do anything to prevent this event.

trajectory of Christ

Let’s draw a curve – a ‘u’ shape representing the trajectory of God through Jesus Christ from time beginning (alpha) top left with creation ending (omega) top right with the completion of all things.
Let the top left represent creation – 1 fits perfectly fine here.
Let the top right be the end of all things – 1 fits perfectly well here too.
Let the cusp of the U be the lowest kenotic point = the cross. Here God can do nothing (although it is a pivotal point in history) 3 perfectly fits well here.
Leading up to the cusp we have the incarnation – self limitation of God 2 fits perfectly well here.
After the cusp we have the resurrection and ascension and Pentecost – a foretaste of 1.
Each theodicy is correct when related to the correct God event. That is omnipotent God > self limiting God> Process God > … > omnipotent God.
God is beyond all things and each theodicy is only adequate in so far as it describes not the actuality of God but the revelation of God in each major event.
Process on its own does not sufficiently describe God any more than other forms of neo classical theism or classical theism but all are accurate within a given divine event context.
Arthur young also depicts the evolution of creation from the big bang to singular cells and onto complexity and greater movement and back to what may be termed de Chardin’s omega point. He also traces the same u curve to illustrate his point – see his ‘reflexive universe’. Maybe a similarity can be traced here.
But let’s go back to the Theodic curve and refine it. Down at the cusp we have the crucifixion. This should be shown rather as a point rather than a flowing curve rather similar to the bezier drawing converting a curve to an angle for the truth is that the cross was punctiliar – aorist rather than the perfect tense. It was the moment of Christ’s death that we are looking at here – the cry of ‘it is finished’ as a singular momentous act not part of a gradual flow but a cutting in – a de cision. This converts the u into a v but not with straight lines.
Let us also realise that when we stand outside time we can join the beginning with the end- the alpha with the omega – united in omnipotence – we have now a

C. Robert Mesle: Process-Relational Philosophy: An Introduction to Alfred North Whitehead

Process-Relational Philosophy: An Introduction to Alfred North WhiteheadProcess-Relational Philosophy: An Introduction to Alfred North Whitehead by C. Robert Mesle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliant book. I came across Mesle on ‘homebrewed Christianity’ podcast and he seemed sincere and clear in his description of Process Thought. The book did not disappoint. I am not a student in Philosophy and a slow learner and this book was very understandable to me. North-Whitehead is very complex and his usage of words is quite different to normal. I started reading Sherburne’s ‘Key to Process and Reality’ and was still out of my depth – this has bridged that gap. The other book I would recommend is Bruce Epperley’s ‘Process Theology – a guide for the perplexed’ which does not quote or try to explain P&R but goes straight into Theological Interpretation. I would also recommend any of John Cobb’s books as well as his questions and answers here.



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Roy Briggs: The Eve of Forgiveness

Eve of ForgivenessEve of Forgiveness by Roy Briggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While Roy’s book is a testimony to the power of forgiveness one is also carried along by the fascinating details of his life story. I know Roy and his affable and kind nature shines through each page. He is honest about his weaknesses but these are far eclipsed by his spirit of adventure and good intentions at every move ultimately leading to the courage to forgive and some startling consequences. The love of God shines through Roy out of every page in this book!



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Karen Armstrong: The battle for God

The Battle for GodThe Battle for God by Karen Armstrong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

KA as usual has thoroughly researched her subject and speaks with great authority on the subject of fundamentalism in the 3 major faiths. She differentiates between ‘logos’ … the analytical conceptual aspect of religion and ‘mythos’ … the intuitive aspect. Because these have been confused and out of balance and dis-integrated within the 3 faiths in their own individual ways there has been conflict within and between them. The book helped me to realise the part that western rationalism, control and greed has had to play in stirring up aggression in the East.
It was hard going acquainting myself with alot of the Islamic names/terms but a glossary is provided to which I often referred.
‘Fundamentalism is an embattled faith; it anticipates immanent annihilation’ – for this reason as we can see in history repression is not the answer. Neither is retaliation. It is a surprise to western (and eastern) secularism that religion and particularly fundamentalism is still so strong. Will it go away? All 3 religions have the golden rule at the centre and to return to that is the only answer. For that reason KA has set up Charter for Compassion which I encourage all to sign up to.



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Mission through being a receiver

I have just listened to yet another brilliant podcast on Homebrewed Christianity with Randy Woodley the “the Associate Professor of Faith and Culture and the Director of Intercultural and Indigenous Studies at George Fox Seminary in Portland Oregon”. Randy is of Native American Indian origin and a Christian. This is a post which I responded with:
I personally developed an interest in Native American Spirituality about a year ago when I came across it in a book by Jerry Katz: ‘Essential writings on Non Duality’. A whole Chapter is devoted to Ohiyesa whose Charles Eastman - OhiyesaAnglicised name was Charles Alexander Eastman. Having involved and familiarised himself with the western culture Ohiyesa was able to articulate his spirituality in a comparative and understandable way … much like our brother Randy. What struck me is not how much we can teach the Indians but rather the opposite. My Kindle in this chapter is riddled with underlinings!
Here are some quotes from Ohiyesa:
ON WORSHIP:
The worship of the Great Mystery is silent, solitary, free from all self-seeking. It is silent, because all speech is of necessity feeble and imperfect … It is solitary, because we believe that God is nearer to us in solitude, and there are no priests authorized to come between us and our Maker. None can exhort or confess or in any way meddle with the religious experience of another. All of us are created children of God, and all stand erect, conscious of our divinity. Our faith cannot be formulated in creeds, nor forced upon any who are unwilling to receive it; hence there is no preaching, proselytizing, nor persecution, neither are there any scoffers or atheists. Our religion is an attitude of mind, not a dogma.
FRUITFULNESS
If you ask us, “What is silence?” we will answer, “It is the Great Mystery. The holy silence is God’s voice.” If you ask, “What are the fruits of silence?” we will answer, “They are self-control, true courage or endurance, patience, dignity, and reverence. Silence is the cornerstone of character.”
CREATION:
The elements and majestic forces in nature—lightning, wind, water, fire, and frost—are regarded with awe as spiritual powers, but always secondary and intermediate in character. We believe that the spirit pervades all creation and that every creature possesses a soul in some degree, though not necessarily a soul conscious of itself. The tree, the waterfall, the grizzly bear, each is an embodied Force, and as such an object of reverence.
POVERTY/RICHES:
We original Americans have generally been despised by our conquerors for our poverty and simplicity. They forget, perhaps, that our religion forbade the accumulation of wealth and the enjoyment of luxury. To us, as to other spiritually-minded people in every age and race, the love of possessions is a snare, and the burdens of a complex society a source of needless peril and temptation.
PRAYER:
Prayer—the daily recognition of the Unseen and the Eternal— is our one inevitable duty. We Indian people have traditionally divided mind into two parts—the spiritual mind and the physical mind. The first—the spiritual mind—is concerned only with the essence of things, and it is this we seek to strengthen by spiritual prayer, during which the body is subdued by fasting and hardship. In this type of prayer there is no beseeching of favour or help.
But, in a broader sense, our whole life is prayer because every act of our life is, in a very real sense, a religious act. Our daily devotions are more important to us than food.
We wake at daybreak, put on our moccasins and step down to the water’s edge. Here we throw handfuls of clear, cold water into our face, or plunge in bodily. After the bath, we stand erect before the advancing dawn, facing the sun as it dances upon the horizon, and offer our unspoken prayer. Our mate may proceed or follow us in our devotions, but never accompanies us. Each soul must meet the morning sun, the new sweet earth, and the Great Silence alone.

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There is so much more but I would just make this point and I think Randy referred to the idea at the end.
Western Mission is often seen as a needing to have something to give. So often we think that if we accumulate (spiritually, intellectually, materially) we will ultimately have something to give away which validates this idea of mission. But maybe another idea which saves us from a domineering patronising type of goodness is not ‘accumulative’ but ‘kenotic*’ – we, emptied of self, go with nothing but our need to learn from the other – and Native American spirituality has a lot to teach US.
I have been also thinking if there is any biblical backing for this and remember right at the outset Jesus asked the lady at the well for something to drink – he initiated conversation with his own need. The disciples were to go out with nothing – depending on the goodness of others in so doing evoking the spirit of giving through those they were seeking to reach. On the road to Emmaeus Jesus was revealed at the point where they provided Jesus with the bread and the wine … similarly behind the closed doors when the disciples were afraid he asked them to give him Fish to eat – sure to prove He was not just an ethereal apparition – but maybe also to affirm this kenotic principle of offering need as the basis for God’s revelation. All a bit tenuous I know but I reckon there is a lot of mileage in seeing mission not so much as imparting information but rather as humble receiving and in so doing removing barriers of fear of proselytising and condescending giving thus building relationship through which God’s love can be realised.
* Kenotic is a from the Greek word Kenosein used only once in the New Testament refering to the self emptying of Jesus in coming from Heaven to Earth. (Philipians 2)

What comes first Faith or Works?

In the bible James states in the 2nd chapter of his letter: “As the Body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead”. This I find interesting because my instinctive usage of this analogy would be quite the opposite of James statement here. I would have said: “As the body without the spirit is dead so works without faith is dead”. Can you see what I’ve done? I’ve switched works and faith round. Faith would be equal to the spirit and works would be the result. This runs true in other parts of this letter – (If a man has faith let him show it by his works etc). Jesus hinted in a similar fashion in John Chapter 7:17 “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” It is in the doing that we discover a knowing. Action precedes revelation and not as one may think the other way round.

There is the story of a Dr Crane – it goes like this:

Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me. Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.” With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn’t return, Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?” “Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.

CS Lewis said it this way: “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”

So in all this the works precede the revelation of love and its power. In this way: “As the body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead.”

 

However more generally in the Bible we find the other way of seeing things. If a person believes he has eternal life. The Kingdom of God is at hand – it is time to repent and believe that we may be partakers of Kingdom life. He that believes should not perish but have eternal life.

What comes first Faith or Works? Both and Neither! Having both these ideas perhaps we could conclude that neither are wholly right or wholly wrong but both must work interchangeably. My faith is the result of my actions and my actions are the result of my faith. Let’s squeeze things a little more tightly and say “my faith is my work and my work is my faith”. They are no longer separated - faith is no longer an adherence to a belief system dictating some future response but rather a dynamic, existential, interactive relationship with a l(i/o)ving God moment by moment unfolding collaboratively his loving purposes.

3W2Db4UD is not something you do

Perhaps  3 Ways to die before you die is in itself a bit misleading. We cannot actually do this. There is the story of a couple of Africans who in the midst of religious awakening in Rwanda many years ago climbed a mountain and were going to fast and pray to the end that they may ‘crucify the old nature’. After a ‘very spiritual time’ they came back down the mountain horrified that half way down they had entered into a blazing arguement. A wise Christian said ‘Do you not know that you have already died with Christ?’ (A reference from the Bible). It seems that all the effort, stress and strain to achieve something paradoxically had produced the opposite. So lets get this straight – this is not something that we can gain any credit for. If it were so we would be defeating the object. Far from having ‘died before we die’ we and all our egoic structures would be very much alive!

I remember a time when a friend told me I was so humble. I felt very proud about that. There are times I have struggled so hard to be humble knowing, if I ever achieved it, i would be so proud. So equally however hard we struggle to achieve some super spiritual condition it will only result in a spiritual pride which is by far the worst sort of pride there is.

So lets rephrase this to 3 ways a dying can take place / happen before you die.

Celebration of death

Yes this is my first WordPress blog thanks to Mr Rossmeister. What a morbid title I hear you say … but wait …. there is more to this than meets the eye. All the great religions, metaphysics, philosophies and seekers for truth and reality have in one way another agreed with G K Chesterton who was once asked by a London newspaper to join other authors and thinkers to address the weighty and important question of “what’s wrong with the world.” His response:

Dear Sirs,
I am.
Sincerely yours,
G.K. Chesterton

Yes – if we are honest we all come to the same conclusion. If we choose rather to point the finger at others we ultimately discover that there are 3 fingers pointing right back at us. (that is unless whem you point at others you use all 4 fingers). Perhaps if we did not want to take responsibility for the whole world as did  Chesterton we can at least (there is no escape from it) conclude that … my main problem is myself.

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But isn’t death a bit … terminal? Couldn’t we soften the edges ease it a bit … make this a wee bit more palatable? I dont think so for at least 2 reasons … the very question betrays the quest for self(ish) preservation. It is as if the proposition of ‘dying before I die’ carries within itself its own reason for being. ‘Why should I die?’ … ‘Why do you ask?’ We need the statement with all its radical/ness to provoke the response which confirms its veracity. Jesus was full of provocative statements. He often followed questions with questions. The purpose being to create in the other an awareness of the truth he was proposing.

Secondly death deliniates a clear dividing line which other words fail to do. This dividing line separates us sufficiently from that which at best is merely a perpetuation of the old in new garb to a new spacious reality clothed in the pristine. It is this terminality which enables us to make clear the lines … the axe at the root of the tree … the ending which presupposes a new beginning.

Furthermore the whole idea of something new, lightbearing, novel has a certain wellbeing implied that can quite unintentially only serve the very self whose thraldom we sought to escape from – a point of return. Death therefore, dramatic as it sounds, is the only term that suitably carries us beyond the point of no return.