TNT bonus track: Young People & the Church

In this bonus track Bo chats with Micky Jones about the now infamous Rachel Held Evans post on CNN Religion about young people leaving the church.MP9004065481-196x300

Then Bo and Tripp chat about what the topic means as youth pastors at Mainline churches.

These two conversation were originally recorded earlier this summer as part of a bigger conversation that never came together … but instead of just getting rid of the audio, we wanted to use your responses to frame a future episode of the TNT.

Please comment on this post or use the SpeakPipe on the homepage to let us know your thoughts!

 

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A. J. Jacobs, Drop Dead Healthy, Reddit’s nastiest troll, & more Cultural Hottness [CultureCast 12]

In what may be their biggest get thus far, the CultureCast welcomes author, NPR contributor, and Esquire editor-at-large A.J. Jacobs to the show. On topic: A.J.’s latest book, Drop Dead Healthy, in which he chronicles the vastly different ways humans can bring their bodies to peak health, and how it feels to be the father of a cottage industry of life experiment books. Along those lines, Christian and Jordan discuss Rachel Held Evans and Lifeway Bookstores, Gawker’s exposition of Reddit’s nastiest troll, and Christian daringly endorses the iPhone 5.

The CultureCast has its own feed so if you want Christian & Jordan’s awesomeness automatically delivered to your door subscribe!! Here is iTunes feed & here is the straight up feedburner feed! Rate it & Comment when you subscribe.

* SUPPORT the podcast by just getting anything on AMAZON through THIS LINK or you can get some Homespun Craftianity. We really appreciate your assistance in covering all the hosting fees which went up 30 bucks a month due to the growing Deaconate!

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Wild Goose or Mild Goose?

This past weekend I got to participate in one of best and most interesting experiences of my christian life – Wild Goose West. This was the festival’s first venture to the left coast and it did not disappoint!   Billed as an intersection of ‘Art, Justice, Music and Spirituality’, the Goose brought its unique blend of expression and conversation over the Mississippi River and across the Rocky Mountains to County Fairground near Corvallis, Oregon. Folks from all over the western states migrated – and some dedicated veterans of Wild Goose East (held in NC) flew in.  It was quite a mix of people.

I was delighted by this first Wild Goose West. I had a hundred great conversations, listened to amazing speakers and interesting musical acts, as well met dozens of new friends. I was also challenged in areas of artistic expression, racial reconciliation and both sexual and gender justice.

 If I didn’t know better, I would say that this was the best spend of a Labor Day weekend in my adult life.

But alas I have a wrinkle that some others may not have had. I used to live in the Pacific North West and while I was there I both went to an evangelical school and ministered at an evangelical church. I have since migrated geographically south and theologically left. As a progressive-emergent type who continues to passionately hang onto my evangelical roots, I have plenty of friends who still live in the PNW and who are still solidly evangelical.  And no-one will tell ya the behind the scenes scoop like good friends.

Apparently not everyone was as thrilled with the Wild Goose experience as I was! Here were the four complaints that I heard:

  • “I thought it would be wilder.”
  • “I thought this would be more progressive. This is just a bunch of evangelicals with dreadlocks or hipster glasses.”
  • “The LGBTQ emphasis seems to be presumed that we are all coming from the same perspective. There is no room for disagreement.”
  • “I thought this was an open conversation but I don’t hear any conservative voices”

 Here are my four actual responses: 

  • Wilder? Short of LSD and nudity I’m not sure what more you were looking for. This is about as wild as a christian festival can get and still be christian. I mean, this isn’t Burning Man! Did you camp here last night? (It turned out that they had not)
  • Evangelicals with dreadlocks or hipster glasses? Really? I’m not sure how widely you are circulating or how big your sample size is but I am bumped into people of every stripe, color, economic background, family configuration, age and persuasion. I’m not sure what you were expecting but there is a fairly progressive tinge here – sure there are lots of emerging evangelicals … but I don’t think your characterization is fair.
  • The LGBTQ emphasis is part of the stated justice platform. In order for this to be a safe place for everyone there has to be some assurance that those who have been injured by the church before – and many have – that they are not re-injured here. So no, it is not an ‘open ended’ conversation where we start with a blank slate and see what everyone thinks about the issue. It is an aspect of the justice concern to have a stated inclusion policy from which to launch the conversation. But I think that people are allowed to disagree.
  • Having a conversation does not imply that every perspective will be represented in every exchange. It is not the host’s responsibility the make sure that every position of the spectrum is present. Here is how I look at it: the established church is like the city. It is institutionalized and has all the media (like Christian radio). The city is like a stream with a definite current – it predominately flows one way.  So we come out of the city to camp together in the country for a weekend. We are not responsible to bring the city with us and make sure that it gets a fair shake in all conversations. That city have the privilege of being the establishment and the benefits that come with that. The city can fend for itself. We came out of the city to engage justice, art and spirituality.

As I was flying home I got thinking “How could we make the Goose wilder?” I came up with three suggestions. The first two go together, the third is just for fun: 

 1. Move from the printed schedule being celebrity centered to question centered. 

So instead of it saying “Richard Rohr: contemplative practice”, Rohr would be given a question to answer “Does prayer get us there in the 21st century ?”

2. Move from solo presentations to conversations.

I don’t want to hear Richard Rohr. I want hear Richard Rohr in conversation with Nadia-Bolz Weber.  So the schedule would say “Does Prayer do anything in the 21st century? : Richard Rohr and Nadia Boltz-Weber.”

All of these marquee speakers has a schtick. We could still provide a time for the likes of Brian McLaren, Rachel Held Evans and Bruce Reyes-Chow to do their amazing (and polished) one hour presentations on the main stage if we wanted. But every other venue would be a conversation built around a question.

We did this with our Homebrewed Christianity Podcast each of the two nights and it was incredible!  As much as I love listening to Rachel Held Evans’ talk (and she could still do her solo thing) It was so interesting to hear her in conversation with J. Daniel Kirk the evangelical biblical scholar on the question “What does it mean for something to be ‘biblical’ ? ”

The night before we had Melissa Marley Bonnichsen (a Lutheran) in conversation with Eliacin Rosario-Cruz (an Episcopalian) on the question “How does liturgy, sacrament communal practice get us our of the rhythm of Hallmark holidays and the consumer calendar.

We also Brian McLaren, author of Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World in dialogue with Philip Clayton – provost at the new Claremont Lincoln University – the first inter-religious university in the world.

I loved Bruce Reyes-Chow’s session built around the question “Are we still talking about Race?”  But I would have loved it more if he was in conversation with Randy Woodley or  Richard Twiss.

3. Have the Hymns & Beer Tent every day (instead of just one) and don’t have anything else going at the same time.

At some point each day (one in the afternoon, one evening) folks will only have three options  sing at The Tent, take a nap, or have a side conversation with a friend.

I loved Wild Goose West. I can’t wait for next year. Those who organized and planned the gathering did an incredible job and I could not be more impressed. I know that normally a 96% approval rating would be enough … but those four comments really got me thinking and so I just wanted throw this out there in case anyone wanted to make the Goose a little wilder.

Let me know your thoughts on my suggestions or offer some of your own! 

-Bo Sanders 

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Trayvon Martin, Creation Ex Nihilo, Rachel Held Evans, & a Violent God: Why the Short Story is a Violent One

It has been quite a contentious week for God on the internet! Here is a quick snapshot:

  • This week the parents of Trayvon Martin rejected the apology from George Zimmerman. According to CBS News:

The parents of Trayvon Martin say they have a hard time accepting George Zimmerman’s nationally televised apology.
Last night, in his first interview since killing the unarmed 17-year-old, the former neighborhood watch volunteer said the shooting death must have been part of “God’s plan” and that he prays for the Martin family daily.
“I simply really don’t know what God George Zimmerman is worshipping because there’s no way that the God that I serve had in his plans for George Zimmerman to murder my son,” Tracy Martin, the teen’s dad told CBS News.

What God is George Zimmerman talking about? It is a fair question.

  • This week Rachel Held Evans duked it out with the Gospel Coalition.

Two guys, Jared Wilson and Doug Wilson, said some nearly unbelievable things about sex within the complementarian theology that women complement men (or is it compliment?)  vs. the view that they are equal to men. Rachel takes them on:

The two have insisted that they advocate mutuality in the bedroom, and yet, according to Doug, “the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party,” but instead “a man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants” while a woman “receives, surrenders, accepts.”  What does he mean by that? What’s wrong with an “egalitarian pleasure party”? (Sounds like fun to me!)
In other words:  How is complementarian sex supposed to be different than egalitarian sex? Does preserving male authority mean that a man must always initiate sex? Does it mean that the missionary position is the only acceptable one for Christians? Is it too “egalitarian” for both a man and woman to be pleasured? Does “submission” mean that a woman must perform sex acts she doesn’t like in order to please her husband?

What is an eggalitarian pleasure party? Why can’t that be honoring to God?

There seems to be a recurring problem that is inherent to the traditional view – it is tough to get around the fact that the short story is a violent one.
What I call the “Short Story” goes like this: A short time ago (say 10,000 years) God created the world in a short period of time (6 days) and He (always ‘he’) will come back shortly (any day now) and set things right.

The short story comes from an elementary reading of both the first book and last book of the Bible that is unaware of the two different genres they were written in. It is a violent reading because (in English) it makes it look like God does what ever God wants – or shall we say – whatever God wills. God acts both unilaterally and coercively to bring about what God desires.
As one of my favorite thinkers explains

“We now know that our world, rather than being created in six days, was created in something like 16 billion years.  This quantitative difference is so great that is suggests a qualitative difference in the nature of God’s creative activity.  The idea that God spent some 16 billion years creating our world suggests that God’s creative power must be persuasive, not coercive, power.  This is the natural inference, that is, if we continue to think of the world as God’s creation.  …

Rather than a return to a premodern or early modern view: We can understand God’s activity at the beginning of our universe as of the same type as God’s activity in history. No supernatural origin must be assumed. We still have, however, the question of God’s activity at the end.  Can God as consummator be understood in the same terms?  Classical theologians certainly did not think so. For example, a book entitled Armageddon says: The second coming of Jesus Christ to earth will be no quiet manger scene. . . . Cities will literally collapse, islands sink, and mountains disappear.  Huge hailstones, each weighing a hundred pounds, will fall from heaven, the rulers and their armies who resist Christ’s return will be killed in a mass carnage. No more Mister Nice Guy!

According to this theology, in other words, God’s past mode of activity in Jesus would not suffice to bring about the eventual victory of divine over demonic power.  God would have to resort to a degree of violence that would outdo the violence of the forces of evil.  The revelation of God’s love in Jesus was not, accordingly, a revelation of the divine modus operandi: The true nature of divine power, which is supernatural, has been, for the most part, held in reserve, and will be fully manifested only at the end.”

This is not a consistent God. God acts unilaterally in the beginning, has violent periods in the Old Testament – even while being loving, is mostly super nice in Jesus, and then turns mean again at the end- which allows it to end abruptly and violently. The God of the short story is a violent and inconsistently inconsistent god.
This what we were going after on the most recent TNT. That god is a false god and an idol. It must be repented of and renounced.
I will add something here that I did not say there: people who hold that view of God are most nice people who always hold in reserve the possibility and potential right to be violent in order to bring about the will of God. It is how their God acts and they might need to imitate ‘him’ in order to bring about ‘his’ will.

  • It explains how George Zimmerman’s actions could have been a part of ‘God’s plan’.
  • It explains how the guys at the Gospel Coalition could say that “a man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants” while a woman “receives, surrenders, accepts.”
  • It explains how people can say that while what happened to the American Indians was ‘unfortunate’ it may have been ‘for the best’ or ‘necessary’.
  • It explains how Jesus flipping over tables at church translates into carrying concealed firearms and using drones to drop bombs.

People who object always use the same 3 defenses:

  1. (S)words – Jesus told his disciples to buy swords and said that he came to bring a sword – but those are all misunderstandings we dealt with here. 
  2. Tables & Whips - snapping a whip and turning over tables isn’t the same as packing heat or using drones to bomb enemy combatants. We dealt with that here. 
  3. Spiritual Warfare - it is of no value if we deal with personal piety and the spiritual realm but skip the systems, structures  and institutions that comprise the ‘Powers the Be’ as Walter Wink called them.

Here is the simple fact: Neither Jesus’ sayings about swords, his flipping over tables or Paul’s allusions to the spiritual realm justify this permission toward violence. It is not OK to justify aggression toward minorities, women, or other religions. Our God is not behind it and does not support it. Quote all the Bible verses you want but this is not the real and living God. It is an idol and a graven image.
We need to repent of this line of reasoning and own up to the fact that we have created a God in our own image who loves all the things we love and supports all the things that benefit us.

 – Bo Sanders 

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Leaving the Church – Staying at Church

Rachel Held Evans had a post last month that she has graciously allowed us to utilize here. In this  week’s TNT podcast, Tripp and I are going to talking about Jesus & His (S)words - which should be fun as Tripp lays the smack down on a  pacifist metaphysic – but, as a pastor type,  I also wanted to pair it with something ecclesiastic.

Rachel’s post [link] and it’s follow up “15 Reasons I Returned to the Church” are wonderful.  Here is her initial post and then I was hoping to hear from the Homebrewed crowd. Why did you leave the church?  If you haven’t left,  Why have you stayed?  What would be the reason you leave? 

___

Eight million twenty-somethings have left the church, and it seems like everyone is trying to figure out why.

Last week, Christian Piatt offered seven reasons here, and four more reasons here. David Kinnaman recently authored a book entitled, You Lost Me, which details the findings of Barna researchers who interviewed hundreds of 18-29 year-olds about why they left the church.

I left the church when I was twenty-seven. I am now thirty, and after trying unsuccessfully to start a house church, my husband and I are struggling to find a faith community in which we feel we belong. I’ve been reluctant to write about this search in the past, but it seems like such a common experience, I think it’s time to open up, especially now that I’ve had some time to process. But let’s begin with fifteen reasons why I left:

1. I left the church because I’m better at planning Bible studies than baby showers…but they only wanted me to plan baby showers.

2. I left the church because when we talked about sin, we mostly talked about sex. 

3. I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities.

4. I left the church because sometimes it felt like a cult, or a country club, and I wasn’t sure which was worse.

5. I left the church because I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that humans share a common ancestor with apes, which I was told was incompatible with my faith.

6. I left the church because sometimes I doubt, and church can be the worst place to doubt.

7. I left the church because I didn’t want to be anyone’s “project.” 

8. I left the church because it was often assumed that everyone in the congregation voted for Republicans.

9. I left the church because I felt like I was the only one troubled by stories of violence and misogyny and genocide found in the Bible, and I was tired of people telling me not to worry about it because “God’s ways are higher than our ways.”

10. I left the church because of my own selfishness and pride.

11. I left the church because I knew I would never see a woman behind the pulpit, at least not in the congregation in which I grew up.

12. I left the church because I wanted to help people in my community without feeling pressure to convert them to Christianity.

13. I left the church because I had learned more from Oprah about addressing poverty and injustice than I had learned from 25 years of Sunday school.

14. I left the church because there are days when I’m not sure I believe in God, and no one told me that “dark nights of the soul” can be part of the faith experience.

15. I left the church because one day, they put signs out in the church lawn that said “Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman: Vote Yes on Prop 1,” and I knew the moment I saw them that I never wanted to come back. 

 

“I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals.” – Evolving in Monkey Town, p. 207

“We aren’t looking for a faith that provides all the answers; we’re looking for one in which we are free to ask the questions.” – Evolving in Monkey Town, p. 204

In the weeks to come, I’ll be sharing more about why I stayed with the Church–with a capital-C-- and about our search for a local faith community.

Why did you leave the church? 

Why do you stay? 


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Women you’ll Want to Read

The John Piper controversy from last week was too much for me to deal with. I don’t even have the energy to attempt to respond to that level of simplistic, inane thinking.

Two things: #1 If you want to read an amazing response to Piper (via Rachel Held Evans) then check out HBC Deacon Austin Roberts’ response here:

#2 It might be far more profitable to avoid the whole Twitter/Facebook/Internet argument and read these women:

Elizabeth Johnson on She Who Is 

Sally McFague on Metaphorical Language about God 

Rosemary Radford Ruether on Sexism and God-Talk 

Ellen Leonard on Women and Christ

Monica A. Coleman on Making a Way Out of No Way

Naomi Goldenberg on the Changing of the Gods and the End of Traditional Religions 

Rita Nashima Brock on The Feminist Redemption of God (Christianity) 

Letty M. Russell on Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church

Jacquelyn Grant on Black Women’s Experience as a Source for Doing Theology 

 

In my opinion, that would be a fantastic spend of your time.    – Bo

 

 

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Jesus loves you … some more than others?

In recent weeks both Tim Tebow and Marc Driscoll have been hot button topics of conversation in my circles. The whole thing peaked this week when Tebow was knocked out of the playoffs and Driscol was interviewed on a popular British radio show.

In the Driscoll interview (he was going after the host because his wife is a pastor) he said something that is hugely troubling about its implications for the value of certain types of people. Driscoll was asking about how many young single men have come to Christ in the past year. Not how many people, but how many of them were men. Still not satisfied, he asked about what kind of men they were – were they strong men?

 

Do you see the sequence? (some might call it a pecking order)

He asked not about numbers of people who came to Christ, not about Church health or the British context (ie. implications of having a Church of England)

  • How many were men … specifically young single men.
  • Not men in general, but a specific type of man (strong)

Some may want to simply dismiss this as an eccentric fascination of an isolated mentality. I beg to differ.  I see this as a ongoing, if below the surface, mentality that is pervasive in the North American Protestant-Evangelical-Charismatic camp (also known as ‘my people’).

I have written recently that we may worship success more than any God – and I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations about the fallout of the 20th centuries rejection of the Social Gospel or the inherent downside of anti-intellectualism that is still widely pervasive – what I am saying is that Driscoll’s views and Tebow’s fans are not an anomaly. They are the logical end expression of an underlying belief about who God is and how God works.

 

The Driscol-Tebow controversies are merely the public manifestation of an underlying theology surfacing in examples that bring to the public’s attention to what is always bubbling just below the surface – or behind the closed doors of the sanctuary.

The Gospel as it is configured in some quarters is surprising to those who are outside this stream. Does Jesus love everyone? Technically, yes. Is there a type of person that Jesus loves more … or a part of that person (soul, gender, etc.) that Jesus is more interested in?

If this concept is completely foreign to you – I may need to come at this a different way:

I had a chance to talk to a faithful saint who suffers from a chronic degenerative disease. She found a piece that I wrote about why we need to move away from old understandings about curses. She had undergone more than a decade of people ‘discerning in prayer’ that someone had placed a curse on her when she was younger and then attempting through intercession and deliverance to break the enemy’s power over her.

She was intrigued by my insistence that God was not picking and choosing who to intervene for and which situations to interfere in. She had heard last week’s interview with John Cobb where he said that we believe that God is doing in every situation all that God is able to do that in situation.

This is a radical assertion and a sharp departure from the common belief about how God can and does work in the world.

I told her about an old interview that Tripp did with Bruce Epperly where Tripp paraphrased him by saying “God does not hold out or run out”.   Think about the implications of those two statements:

In every situation God is doing everything that God is able to do

God does not hold out or run out

I love this view of God. Some people get really upset because God is not as powerful as the Zeus-Caesar (theos) character they have been told lives up in the heavens watching us all and intervening/interfering according to ‘His’ will. But we are actually saying that God is powerful – its just that God’s power is a different kind of power from the unilateral and coercive power that has classically been ascribed to the Divine Being.

In this past week’s TNT I said that I thought something really positive came out of the pushback we got from our cross-efforts with Rachel Held Evans and Kurt Willems. It became clear that Process-Relational thought really is saying something quite different than classical theologies based on Imperial assumptions and Greek metaphysics.

This is not a simple tweak of the existing system (like Open theology). This is not a program that you just download and install into your already in place operating system. It is not a patch that employ to get rid of the bugs and kinks in the classical program. Relational thought is a different operating system (to use the fun Mac v. Microsoft Windows analogy).

I am excited about the upcoming Theological Conversation Jan 31-Feb 2  between the Emergent Village and Process-Relational thought. I am not under the impression that P-R is for everyone or that many folks will ‘convert’. But I am hopeful that we can engage, in a significant way, the ongoing and persistent glitches that  (while they may rarely come to full blown Driscoll-Tebow levels) are perpetually just below the surface.

 

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TNT: Prayer and Process reaction

In this half-hour, Tripp and Bo chat about last week’s:

It is a wild and woolly 30 minutes as they prepare for the 2012 Emergent Village Theological Conversation. You have two week to sign up and get yourself to Southern California.

p.s. it was 76 and sunny here yesterday*

 

* previous results do not guarantee future success  

 

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Rachel Responses

Our friend Rachel Held Evans (podcast with her is here) posted a blog by our own Tripp Fuller that got an amazing response (287 comments at this posting). Tripp responded all day Friday, I did quick responses Saturday and Sunday night. I thought it would it would be fun to post them all here as a conglomeration of ideas that are open for discussion.

Omnipotence:  A Compliment Jesus Wants You to Take Back

I (Tripp) have one important rule to guide my theological thinking: God has to at least be as loving as Jesus.
It seems rather obvious for a Christian, given our confession that Jesus was indeed the ‘image of the invisible God,’ but throughout church history, God, Jesus’ Abba, has been given a very theologically destructive compliment– namely that God is Omnipotent , All Powerful.

While this philosophical compliment is absent in Scripture, yet present throughout much theology, it was John Calvin that made God’s power the ultimate theological principle.  I used to be a Calvinist. I read Calvin’s Institutes in high school, used Charles Spurgeon sermons for devotions, and quoted Jonathan Edwards to my crazy Arminian friends in college.  Then I realized the God I had come to know in Christ was way too awesome for my Calvinist theology.  The theology was not simply off, but set against God’s nature, name, and essence being love.

This isn’t to say Calvinists aren’t Christians (or that I wasn’t when I was there theologically). I am simply saying that omnipotence is a theological compliment Jesus wants you to take back for four reason:

1. An omnipotent deity is responsible for the evil in the world.  When God can do whatever God wants to do, whenever God wants to do it, everything that happens is either the direct will of God or permitted by God.  Of course Calvin, in his obsession with making God uber-powerful, rejects the idea of God’s permissive will and keeps God as the prime actor in all actions.  That means God has willed genocide, murder, rape, cancer, abuse, and the torture of children.  When God is omnipotent, one can read history as the will of God, and history is way too full of evil, suffering, and violence to imagine it as revelatory of God’s will.  If God ever willed the violent death of an innocent child, then that God is not Jesus’ Abba or worthy of a Christian’s worship.

2. An omnipotent deity is not capable of genuine relationships or love.  Loving relationships require openness, vulnerability, risk, and genuine duration.  We  intuit this. For example, when two lovers consummate their marriage in a passionate act of sweet love-making, it is their freedom vulnerability, and willingness to risk that make their intercourse an act of love and not rape.  If one side of the relationship  is determined, it just isn’t a relationship.  I remember in my Calvinist past thinking that God elected me to love God, but being coerced  sounds much more like a relationship to a gangster than God. There’s a big difference between a puppet and a person, an object and a subject.  The God of Jesus created, sustains, and redeems people, children of God.

3. An omnipotent deity runs eternity like a tyrannical dictator.  “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  Paul said that, and I think it makes perfect sense.  Of course, if Calvin is correct and God is actually the one in charge, then it becomes a bit odd…or flat our disgusting…to simultaneously think God elects people to suffer for all eternity for their sins.  That’s worse than me spanking my son for eating a cookie I made and gave to him.  This image of God is morally bankrupt and need not be defended.  Instead we could imagine God to be a Woman who seeks out each lost coin until it is found, or a faithful and patient Father waiting to throw a party for the return of his son.  These images sound like a God as loving as Jesus.

4.  An omnipotent deity builds crosses.  The cross and resurrection are the center piece of the faith.  The cross of Jesus was not simply a convenient way for Jesus to die so that God could raise him from the dead, but a symbol of Rome’s power.  Rome and only Rome built crosses and put people on them.  Jesus died with the power of empire inscribed on his cross-dead body.  It is that body that God raised from the dead, and it is the future of the Cross-dead Christ that we as Christians share. Yet for some reason, we so easily speak about God’s power as if God was being revealed in the building of crosses and not in their bearing. God’s self-revelation in Jesus was a rejection of the coercive, determining, and controlling power that the empires of this world love so much for the power of love.  Infinite divine love, the freedom it gives, the risks it takes and the possibilities it continuously creates offer an alternative ultimate theological principle for Christian theology and one I think coheres with the story of Jesus.

Process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once stated that, “When the Western world accepted Christianity, Caesar conquered; and the received text of Western theology was edited by his lawyers…. The brief Galilean vision of humility flickered throughout the ages, uncertainly…. But the deeper idolatry, of the fashioning of God in the image of the Egyptian, Persian, and Roman imperial rulers, was retained. The Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar.”  

This observation rings true to me, but Caesar’s lawyers do not have to have the last word and Christian theology does not need to protect an idolatrous image of God anymore.

Process is a theology that has grown over the last 100 years from the philosophy of Mr. Whitehead. It is a global community (big in China and Europe) that engages both theory and practice with contemporary scholarship. For those who take it theologically, it is a way to address the Bible that is fully faithful to Jesus‘ vision, while integrating modern Biblical scholarship at every level.

The easiest access point for most is to say that because God IS love, then God’s very nature is loving, and so God’s use of power is not coercive – it is persuasive (almost seductive).

 So God is not omnipotent.

Secondly, God is omniscient in that God knows all there is to know – but the future is undetermined.

Thirdly, God is omnipresent in an even more radical way than traditionally thought.

Lastly, God is neither immutable nor impassable – those are concerns of early Greek thought and not from the Christian scripture.
So quit saying God is omnipotent.  Jesus was just too loving for that to stick.

To learn more about Process Theology, check out  Marjorie Suchocki’s short PDF intro (free), and Bruce Epperly’s book, Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed. 

___

Thank you all for the amazing conversation today – and even the push-back! This is the major development of our era over the previous centuries … the people of god in theological dialogue :) I want to make three general responses to some clear trends that have been displayed here:

1) Open Theology: folks are right (like Kurt Willems) to say that there is a significant distinction between Open and Process thought. Open is only/primarily concerned with the nature of the future. They hold that God reserves the right to do whatever God wants … its just that in love God has chosen to limit God’s self. It’s like God is just being nice but “He” doesn’t have to if “He” doesn’t want to.

Process make a clear philosophical assertion that God is not just self-limiting. God’s essence IS love and that is the determining criteria of interpretation.

Thomas Jay Oord does a great job at addressing Philippians 2: this beautiful poem that illustrates a wonderful truth and draws a dramatic picture of how we should BE in the world – like Christ.

2) Classic theology, Calvinism and Theodicy: I really like that folks have objections. They should. My only concerns are with the “we are making God in our image” and “ this is too philosophical” objections.

I want to clarify – Process doesn’t start with the problem of evil, it was just an access point for this format of conversation. If people look at their theology’s approach to scripture, its philosophical underpinnings, and its accounting for evil… If one holds to an approach of the past, sees it flaws, and says “I can live with that problem” – that is one thing. BUT if someone doesn’t see the in-congruence (and thus ‘there is no problem’) then THAT in itself is creating a 2nd problem.

I think that you would really enjoy looking into “Process Theology – an introduction” by Cobb and Griffin… especially pages 108-110 which deal with the Trinity.

Two things that I want to address are A) the baby and the bathwater B) making God in our own image.

I get what folks are saying. Here are a couple of things to consider:

A)  No one wants to throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater … per se

  • That analogy actually illustrates an interesting patriarchy/hierarchy. IT comes from and era when Dad bathed first, Mom and then the kids … to the point that by the time one got to the baby … the bathwater was SO filthy that It was actually possible to lose the baby in the dirty water and throw it out.
  • We have indoor plumbing now. We take care of our babies. That proverb, that mentality, and that concern may need to be revised for the contemporary situation.

Theology is no different.

A) Making God is our own image: no one wants a God that is just a big version of themselves projected onto the screen of the heavens. This kind of anthropomorphic imagining has happened so often in history that there is a huge rubbish heap of Gods (Thor, Zeus, Rah, etc.) that folks have no time for anymore.

While we are not interested in making a god in our own image, we are in danger of making our concept of god just that irrelevant if we continue to use only frameworks from the 2nd – 16th century.

Process makes an important distinction between Primordial and Consequential nature of God (called the Di-Polar nature of God). This is an essential  element to engaging the huge concept and historic understanding that we are dealing with.

I would be interested in your response to this! – Bo

 

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Entry level Process

Some exciting things have been happing in this little corner of the conversation :

Rachel Held Evans put up Tripp’s blog about how God is not omnipotent

Our TNT podcast about why people should come to the Emergent Conversation this month is getting great feedback.

People are finding Marjorie Suchocki’s entry level PDF super helpful.

The schedule for the conference came together and looks amazing!

Bruce Epperly’s podcast with me continues to generate conversation.

I was reviewing his book Process for the Perplexed and found this quote that continues to rock me:

The world emerges from the dynamic interplay of flux and permanence, in which the eternal and unchanging finds its relevance through its relationship to the temporal and changing world, and the temporal and changing finds completion in its role as contributing to the ongoing universe, embraced by God’s everlasting and ever-expanding experience of the universe… God is not the exception to the dynamic nature of the universe, but rather the dynamic God-world relationship is the primary example of creaturely experience in its many expressions.

I am so excited that so many are open to having this dialogue about a faith that really a) works and b) makes sense.

 

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