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
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
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)
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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Process Studies - Introduction To Process Philosophy

R.E. Slater side note
Around the time Process Studies was beginning there was another movement going on known as "Boston Personalism" that has been lost to the historical records but seems to have had a very large effect upon the germ of Process Theology. For more on this subject go to the article in Relevancy22 titled: "Roger Olson - Is God Infinite or Personal? The Rise of Boston Personalism as Foundation to (but different from) Process Theology and Revival in Open and Relational Theology."

Wikipedia's link on Personalism describes it as the following but "personally" I like Roger Olson's introduction to the subject far better.
Personalism is a philosophical school of thought searching to describe the uniqueness of 1) God as Supreme Person or 2) a human person in the world of nature, specifically in relation to [other humans and] animals.
One of the main points of interest of personalism is human subjectivity or self-consciousness, experienced in a person's own acts and inner happenings—in "everything in the human being that is internal, whereby each human being is an eyewitness of its own self".
Other principles:
  • Persons have unique value, and
  • Only persons have free will
According to idealism there is one more principle
As an introduction to Process Philosophy I've listed several video channels that are fun to watch, informative and helpful in assessing where this branch of theology has grown and is going over the past decades.

As an Arminian Christian you'll love these videos but as a Calvinist Christian you won't. Having grown up as a Baptist in the mixed environment of both Calvinism (God Rules All) and Arminianism (God Gives Free Will) I appreciate both approaches but have lately, these past ten years, moved away from the excesses of Calvinism to a stronger position of Arminianism.

Consequently, "Process Theology + Piety + Personalism (it seems)" has opened up another world of perspective upon the subject of God, the Bible, and humanity's role in God's Sovereign plan. A plan more marked in my mind with "providing for creation's needs, giving up divine rule, and seeking strength through weakness (the Cross, Church, our growth of Faith, etc)" than it is by God "pre-determining all (closed futures), insisting on His divine adulation (idolatry), and showing strength through judgment (rule and prophetic schematas)." The first approach is guided by Divine Love. The second by Divine Judgment. I much prefer the idea that judgment is born out of love rather than love from judgment.

As further resource, throughout Relevancy22 you will find hundreds of topics dealing with hundreds of perspectives between the correlation of these ideas as they conflict with, and presage, each other. Thus Relevancy22's birth. To lend to the church another theological viewpoint into the halls of its experience with God and this world. And one, for myself, that seems to make a lot of sense giving a better understanding of God, the reading of His Word, the juxtaposition of sin and evil to the will of God, and the difficulty of faith and faith living in this life.

Thank you,

R.E. Slater
August 12, 2017

* * * * * * *

"The Philosopher's: (YouTube) Channel:

"The Philosopher's" Video Lists:

Published on Jun 12, 2016
An introduction to process philosophy. A short documentary on process philosophy and process thinking - by the danish process philosopher Kasper Johansen. This documentary was filmed in the spirit of process thinking.

Published on Jul 22, 2017
A further explanation of what is process philosophy. - This video is a continuation of a documentary I made on process philosophy last summer. This is a more indepht documentary on process thinking and how to understand process philosophy.

Published on Aug 8, 2017
This video is about the philosophical method of walking and doing philosophy. It helps to move your thoughts physically. This is what learned during a session of walking and philosophizing in deep in the woods of Northern Sweden.

Published on Dec 10, 2015
What is Process Theology?
Interview with Thomas Jay Oord at the Whitehead Conference in Claremont (CA), June 5th 2015.

Published on Jan 10, 2016
A short introduction to the process philosophy & process theology of Alfred North Whitehead (*1861, †1947), containing several photos and 4 speakers, describing some core hypotheses of Whitehead's metaphysics. The speakers are: John B. Cobb, David Ray Griffin, Charles Hartshorne and Rupert Sheldrake.

* * * * * * *

Process theology

*Not to be confused with Process Church.

Process theology is a type of theology developed from Alfred North Whitehead's (1861–1947) process philosophy, most notably by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000) and John B. Cobb (b. 1925). Process theology and process philosophy are collectively referred to as "process thought."

For both Whitehead and Hartshorne, it is an essential attribute of God to affect and be affected by temporal processes, contrary to the forms of theism that hold God to be in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable), and unaffected by the world (impassible). Process theology does not deny that God is in some respects eternal (will never die), immutable (in the sense that God is unchangingly good), and impassible (in the sense that God's eternal aspect is unaffected by actuality), but it contradicts the classical view by insisting that God is in some respects temporal, mutable, and passible.[1]

According to Cobb, "process theology may refer to all forms of theology that emphasize event, occurrence, or becoming over against substance [being]. In this sense theology influenced by [Georg Wilhelm Friedrich] Hegel is process theology just as much as that influenced by Whitehead. This use of the term calls attention to affinities between these otherwise quite different traditions."[2][3] Also Pierre Teilhard de Chardin can be included among process theologians,[4] even if they are generally understood as referring to the Whiteheadian/Hartshornean school, where there continue to be ongoing debates within the field on the nature of God, the relationship of God and the world, and immortality.


Various theological and philosophical aspects have been expanded and developed by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000), John B. Cobb, Jr., and David Ray Griffin.[5] A characteristic of process theology each of these thinkers shared was a rejection of metaphysics that privilege "being" over "becoming", particularly those of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.[6] Hartshorne was deeply influenced by French philosopher Jules Lequier and by Swiss philosopher Charles Secrétan who were probably the first ones to claim that in God liberty of becoming is above his substantiality.

Process theology soon influenced a number of Jewish theologians including Rabbis Max Kadushin, Milton Steinberg and Levi A. Olan, Harry Slominsky and, to a lesser degree, Abraham Joshua Heschel. Today some rabbis who advocate some form of process theology include Bradley Shavit Artson, Lawrence A. Englander, William E. Kaufman, Harold Kushner, Anton Laytner, Michael Lerner, Gilbert S. Rosenthal, Lawrence Troster, Donald B. Rossoff, Burton Mindick, and Nahum Ward.

Alan Anderson and Deb Whitehouse have applied process theology to the New Thought variant of Christianity.

The work of Richard Stadelmann has been to preserve the uniqueness of Jesus in process theology.
God and the World relationship.

Whitehead's classical statement is a set of antithetical statements that attempt to avoid self-contradiction by shifting them from a set of oppositions into a contrast:

  • It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent.
  • It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.
  • It is as true to say that, in comparison with the World, God is actual eminently, as that, in comparison with God, the World is actual eminently.
  • It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World.
  • It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God.
  • It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God.[7]


  • God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than coercion. Process theologians interpret the classical doctrine of omnipotence as involving force, and suggest instead a forbearance in divine power. "Persuasion" in the causal sense means that God does not exert unilateral control.[8]
  • Reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but serially-ordered events, which are experiential in nature. These events have both a physical and mental aspect. All experience (male, female, atomic, and botanical) is important and contributes to the ongoing and interrelated process of reality.
  • The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot totally control any series of events or any individual, but God influences the creaturely exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities. To say it another way, God has a will in everything, but not everything that occurs is God's will.[9]
  • God contains the universe but is not identical with it (panentheism, not pantheism or pandeism). Some also call this "theocosmocentrism" to emphasize that God has always been related to some world or another.
  • Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, etc.) remain eternally solid.
  • Charles Hartshorne believes that people do not experience subjective (or personal) immortality, but they do have objective immortality because their experiences live on forever in God, who contains all that was. Other process theologians believe that people do have subjective experience after bodily death.[10]
  • Dipolar theism is the idea that God has both a changing aspect (God's existence as a Living God) and an unchanging aspect (God's eternal essence).[11]

Relationship to liberation theology

Henry Young combines Black theology and Process theology in his book Hope in Process. Young seeks a model for American society that goes beyond the alternatives of integration of Blacks into white society and Black separateness. He finds useful the process model of the many becoming one. Here the one is a new reality that emerges from the discrete contributions of the many, not the assimilation of the many to an already established one.[12]

Monica Coleman has combined Womanist theology and Process theology in her book Making a Way Out of No Way. In it, she argues that 'making a way out of no way' and 'creative transformation' are complementary insights from the respective theological traditions. She is one of many theologians who identify both as a process theologian and feminist/womanist/ecofeminist theologian, which includes persons such as Sallie McFague, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki.[13][14]

C. Robert Mesle, in his book Process Theology, outlines three aspects of a process theology of liberation:[15]
  • There is a relational character to the divine which allows God to experience both the joy and suffering of humanity. God suffers just as those who experience oppression and God seeks to actualize all positive and beautiful potentials. God must, therefore, be in solidarity with the oppressed and must also work for their liberation.
  • God is not omnipotent in the classical sense and so God does not provide support for the status quo, but rather seeks the actualization of greater good.
  • God exercises relational power and not unilateral control. In this way God cannot instantly end evil and oppression in the world. God works in relational ways to help guide persons to liberation.
Relationship to pluralism.

Process theology affirms that God is working in all persons to actualize potentialities. In that sense each religious manifestation is the Divine working in a unique way to bring out the beautiful and the good. Additionally, scripture and religion represent human interpretations of the divine. In this sense pluralism is the expression of the diversity of cultural backgrounds and assumptions that people use to approach the Divine.[16]

Relationship to the doctrine of the incarnation
Further information: Incarnation (Christianity)

Contrary to Christian orthodoxy, the Christ of mainstream process theology is not the mystical and historically exclusive union of divine and human natures in one hypostasis, the eternal Logos of God uniquely enfleshed in and identifiable as the man Jesus. Rather God is incarnate in the lives of all people when they act according to a call from God. Jesus fully and in every way responded to God's call, thus the person of Jesus is theologically understood as "the divine Word in human form." Jesus is not singularly or essentially God, but he was perfectly synchronized to God at all moments of life.[17] Cobb expressed the Incarnation in process terms that link it to his understanding of actualization of human potential: "'Christ' refers to the Logos as incarnate hence as the process of creative transformation in and of the world".

Debate about process theology's conception of God’s power

A criticism of process theology is that it offers a too severely diminished conception of God’s power. Process theologians argue that God does not have unilateral, coercive control over everything in the universe. In process theology, God cannot override a person’s freedom, nor perform miracles that violate the laws of nature, nor perform physical actions such as causing or halting a flood or an avalanche. Critics argue that this conception diminishes divine power to such a degree that God is no longer worshipful.[5][18][19][20][21]

The process theology response to this criticism is that the traditional Christian conception of God is actually not worshipful as it stands, and that the traditional notion of God’s omnipotence fails to make sense.[22]

First, power is a relational concept. It is not exerted in a vacuum, but always by some entity A over some other entity B.[23] As such, power requires analysis of both the being exerting power, and the being that power is being exerted upon. To suppose that an entity A (in this case, God), can always successfully control any other entity B is to say, in effect, that B does not exist as a free and individual being in any meaningful sense, since there is no possibility of its resisting A if A should decide to press the issue.[24]

Mindful of this, process theology makes several important distinctions between different kinds of power. The first distinction is between “coercive” power and “persuasive” power.[25] Coercive power is the kind that is exerted by one physical body over another, such as one billiard ball hitting another, or one arm twisting another. Lifeless bodies (such as the billiard balls) cannot resist such applications of physical force at all, and even living bodies (like arms) can only resist so far, and can be coercively overpowered. While finite, physical creatures can exert coercive power over one another in this way, God—lacking a physical body—cannot (not merely will not) exert coercive control over the world.[26]

But process theologians argue that coercive power is actually a secondary or derivative form of power, while persuasion is the primary form.[25] Even the act of self-motion (of an arm, for instance) is an instance of persuasive power. The arm may not perform in the way a person wishes it to—it may be broken, or asleep, or otherwise unable to perform the desired action. It is only after the persuasive act of self-motion is successful that an entity can even begin to exercise coercive control over other finite physical bodies. But no amount of coercive control can alter the free decisions of other entities; only persuasion can do so.[27]

For example, a child is told by his parent that he must go to bed. The child, as a self-conscious, decision-making individual, can always make the decision to not go to bed. The parent may then respond by picking up the child bodily and carrying him to his room, but nothing can force the child to alter his decision to resist the parent's directive. It is only the body of the child that can be coercively controlled by the body of the physically stronger parent; the child's free will remains intact. While process theologians argue that God does not have coercive power, they also argue that God has supreme persuasive power, that God is always influencing/persuading us to choose the good.

One classic exchange over the issue of divine power is between philosophers Frederick Sontag and John K. Roth and process theologian David Ray Griffin.[28] Sontag and Roth argued that the process God’s inability to, for instance, stop the genocide at Auschwitz meant that God was not worthy of worship, since there is no point in worshipping a God that cannot save us from such atrocities. Griffin’s response was as follows:

One of the stronger complaints from Sontag and Roth is that, given the enormity of evil in the world, a deity that is [merely] doing its best is not worthy of worship. The implication is that a deity that is not doing its best isworthy of worship. For example, in reference to Auschwitz, Roth mocks my God with the statement that “the best that God could possibly do was to permit 10,000 Jews a day to go up in smoke.” Roth prefers a God who had the power to prevent this Holocaust but did not do it! This illustrates how much people can differ in what they consider worthy of worship. For Roth, it is clearly brute power that evokes worship. The question is: is this what should evoke worship? To refer back to the point about revelation: is this kind of power worship consistent with the Christian claim that divinity is decisively revealed in Jesus? Roth finds my God too small to evoke worship; I find his too gross.[28]

The process argument, then, is that those who cling to the idea of God’s coercive omnipotence are defending power for power’s sake, which would seem to be inconsistent with the life of Jesus, who Christians believe died for humanity’s sins rather than overthrow the Roman empire. Griffin argues that it is actually the God whose omnipotence is defined in the “traditional” way that is not worshipful.[28]

One other distinction process theologians make is between the idea of “unilateral” power versus “relational” power.[29] Unilateral power is the power of a king (or more accurately, a tyrant) who wishes to exert control over his subjects without being affected by them.[30] However, most people would agree that a ruler who is not changed or affected by the joys and sorrows of his subjects is actually a despicable ruler and a psychopath.[31] Process theologians thus stress that God’s power is relational; rather than being unaffected and unchanged by the world, God is the being most affected by every other being in the universe.[32] As process theologian Bob Mesle puts it:
Relational power takes great strength. In stark contrast to unilateral power, the radical manifestations of relational power are found in people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Jesus. It requires the willingness to endure tremendous suffering while refusing to hate. It demands that we keep our hearts open to those who wish to slam them shut. It means offering to open up a relationship with people who hate us, despise us, and wish to destroy us.[29]

In summation, then, process theologians argue that their conception of God’s power does not diminish God, but just the opposite. Rather than see God as one who unilaterally coerces other beings, judges and punishes them, and is completely unaffected by the joys and sorrows of others, process theologians see God as the one who persuades the universe to love and peace, is supremely affected by even the tiniest of joys and the smallest of sorrows, and is able to love all beings despite the most heinous acts they may commit. God is, as Whitehead says, “the fellow sufferer who understands.”[33]

Process theologians

See also

  1. Viney, Donald W. "Process Theism". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Metaphysics Research Lab, Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  2. Cobb Jr., John B. (1982). Process Theology as Political Theology. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-664-24417-0. ISBN 0-66424417-3.
  3. O'Regan, Cyril (1994). The Heterodox Hegel. Albany, New York: SUNY Press. p. 448: "Any relation between Process Theology and Hegelian ontotheology needs to be argued. Such argument has become more conspicuous in recent years". ISBN 978-0-791-42005-8. ISBN 0-79142005-1.
  4. Bonting, Sjoerd Lieuwe (2005). Creation and Double Chaos. Science and Theology in Discussion. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press. p. 88. ISBN 978-1-451-41838-5. ISBN 1-45141838-8.
  5. John W. Cooper, Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 342.
  6. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Process Philosophy", retrieved September 6, 2014.
  7. Whitehead, Process and Reality, Corrected Ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1978), 348.
  8. Charles Hartshorne, Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes(Albany: State University of New York, 1984), 20-26.
  9. John Cobb and David Griffin, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), 14-16, chapter 1.
  10. Hartshorne, 32-36.
  11. Donald Wayne Viney, Charles Hartshorne, "12. Dipolar Theism", retrieved September 6, 2014.
  13. Center for Process Studies, "CPS Co-directors," retrieved September 6, 2014.
  14. "The Body of God - An Ecological Theology," retrieved September 6, 2014.
  15. C. Robert Mesle, Process Theology: A Basic Introduction (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1993), 65-68, 75-80.
  16. Mesle, 101.
  17. Mesle, 106.
  18. editor, John S. Feinberg ; John S. Feinberg, general (2006). No one like Him : the doctrine of God ([Rev. ed.]. ed.). Wheaton. Ill.: Crossway Books. p. 178. ISBN 978-1581348118.
  19. Roger E. Olson, “Why I am Not a Process Theologian,” last modified December 4, 2013,, accessed May 7, 2014.
  20. David Basinger, Divine Power in Process Theism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), 14.
  21. Al Truesdale, God Reconsidered (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2010), 21.
  22. David Ray Griffin, God, Power, and Evil: A Process Theodicy (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 268.
  23. David Ray Griffin, God, Power, and Evil: A Process Theodicy (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 265.
  24. David Ray Griffin, God, Power, and Evil: A Process Theodicy (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 267.
  25. David Ray Griffin, God, Power, and Evil: A Process Theodicy (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 9.
  26. David Ray Griffin, God, Power, and Evil: A Process Theodicy (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 8.
  27. David Ray Griffin, God, Power, and Evil: A Process Theodicy (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 6.
  28. David Ray Griffin, "Creation Out of Chaos and the Problem of Evil," in Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy, ed. Stephen Davis (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981), 135.
  29. Robert Mesle, “Relational Power,”, accessed May 7, 2014.
  30. Schubert M. Ogden, The Reality of God and Other Essays (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1992), 51.
  31. Charles Hartshorne, "Kant's Traditionalism," in Insights and Oversights of Great Thinkers: An Evaluation of Western Philosophy, ed. Charles Hartshorne (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983), 174.
  32. Charles Hartshorne, The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964), 58.
  33. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (New York: The Free Press, 1978), 351.

Further reading

  • Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki's God Christ Church: A Practical Guide to Process Theology, new rev. ed. (New York: Crossroad, 1989, ISBN 0-8245-0970-6) demonstrates the practical integration of process philosophy with Christianity.
  • C. Robert Mesle's Process Theology: A Basic Introduction (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8272-2945-3) is an introduction to process theology written for the layperson.
  • Christian introductions may be found in Schubert M. Ogden's The Reality of God and Other Essays (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-87074-318-X); John B. Cobb, Doubting Thomas: Christology in Story Form (New York: Crossroad, 1990, ISBN 0-8245-1033-X); Charles Hartshorne, Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984, ISBN 0-87395-771-7); and Richard Rice, God's Foreknowledge & Man's Free Will (Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1985; rev. ed. of the author's The Openness of God, cop. 1980; ISBN 0-87123-845-4). In French, the best introduction may be André Gounelle, Le Dynamisme Créateur de Dieu: Essai sur la Théologie du Process, édition revue, modifiée et augmentee (Paris: Van Dieren, 2000, ISBN 2-911087-26-7).
  • For essays exploring the relation of process thought to Wesleyan theology, see Bryan P. Stone and Thomas Jay Oord, Thy Nature and Thy Name is Love: Wesleyan and Process Theologies in Dialogue (Nashville: Kingswood, 2001, ISBN 0-687-05220-3).
  • The most important work by Paul S. Fiddes is The Creative Suffering of God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992); see also his short overview "Process Theology," in A. E. McGrath, ed., The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Modern Christian Thought (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 472–76.
  • Constance Wise's Hidden Circles in the Web: Feminist Wicca, Occult Knowledge, and Process Thought (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7591-1006-9) applies process theology to one variety of contemporary Paganism.

External links

Reference Works

5 Things You’re Reading, When You’re Reading The Bible

5 Things You’re Reading, When You’re
Reading The Bible

by Benjamin L. Corey
March 13, 2017

I love the Bible.

It’s why I spent eight years of my life in seminary, why I’ve served as a church pastor even when they couldn’t afford to pay me, and is why even now I end up finding Greek flashcards in the most random places in my house.

But my love for the Bible includes honesty.

When we love someone or something, it’s easy to grow to see them the way you want to see them in your mind, often overlooking obvious realities that, if acknowledged, would create more work for the relationship. I did that for many years with the Bible, but now my love for it includes a willingness to embrace it for all it is– and to be honest about that.

In my years of studying, wrestling, and growing to love the Bible deeper and more honestly, I’ve come to embrace and acknowledge that when we read the words on the page, we’re reading a lot more than just those words. So, here’s 5 things we’re reading, when we’re reading the Bible:

5. You’re reading books and letters where the primary/original meaning is what the author intended the original audience to understand.

I remember learning in Sunday School that the Bible was “God’s love letter to us.” It’s a cute idea, but is less than helpful because we’re not the original audience, and that matters.

The reality is that these are sacred books, stories, and letters, where the primary/original meaning is the meaning the original author intended to convey to the original audience– and we’re neither of those parties. It’s almost like trying to understand an inside joke; until you understand the relationship between the sender and receiver of a message, and the context of what’s being discussed, it’s easy to walk away with all sorts of broken understandings of what was really being communicated. This makes things like understanding ancient culture, customs, and general history, a critical aspect of understanding the Bible.

4. You’re reading an unfolding story of people slowly growing in their understanding of God.

For those of us who grow up in conservative traditions, we’re often taught that the nature and character of God is perfectly revealed on every page of Scripture, but that’s not actually true.

The Bible, while a collection of books spanning centuries, is ultimately an unfolding story of people trying to understand what God is like. There are glimpses of God revealed throughout the story, as well as misunderstandings about God, and even blaming horrid actions on God– but the revelation of God is a progressive revelation. The entire narrative builds towards the introduction of a main character– Jesus– who is God made flesh and reveals that the nature and character of God has often been profoundly misunderstood.

The giant twist of the story was the realization that the only way to know what God is like, is to look at what Jesus is like– everything else gets reinterpreted in light of God made flesh.

3. You’re reading the judgment call, and even bias, of a translator.

Translation may involve the same part of your brain as math, but it’s not *exact* like math. The reality is that when translating ancient manuscripts into modern language, there are words and expressions that do not have a 1 for 1 swap. You also find words that could have meant many different things in the original language, and without the ability to ask the original author which meaning they meant or which meaning the original audience most likely would have understood, you’re left with no choice but to make your best guess– and that best guess can radically change the flavor of any given passage.

Other times there is outright bias on the part of the translator to the point where they will deliberately translate something in a way that is more favorable to their opinion or position. Either way, when you read the Bible you’re already reading someone else’s best guess, or someone else’s bias.

2. You’re reading nuance in English that does not exist in Greek.

Translation isn’t just a challenge from Greek or Hebrew into English, but also brings up reverse issues: words in English that carry flavors, associations, and nuance, that would not have existed in the original language. When this happens, we are subtly led to read things into Scripture without even knowing we’re doing it– unconsciously assuming that modern or English nuance actually applies to the text.

A great example of this is the word “hell.” The NT uses three completely different words that we translate into English as hell, even though all three Greek words have different nuance– none of them being the equivalent to what we think about when we see the English word, hell. Our version of the word didn’t exist in the first century, so using the English word “hell” causes us to read a modern understanding into an ancient text, wrongly.

1. You’re reading your own beliefs, assumptions, and generational theology.

Every time you pick up a Bible, you’re reading not just words on a page but are also reading previously held beliefs and assumptions into the text. This is a version of confirmation bias, which essentially is an unwillingness (often subconscious) to have your cherished view be shaken by additional facts or information, and is a *really* hard habit to break.

If your childhood was spent being taught that X was true, when you read the Bible you’ll read it in such a way that assumes X is true. When you encounter a passage that contradicts or challenges X, you’ll naturally look for alternative ways to understand the passage so that it lines up with your unwillingness to consider that X may not be true after all.

Believe violence against enemies is ok? You’ll read that into the Bible. Taught that God is full of wrath, that there’s a great tribulation about to come upon us, and that the end is here? You’ll read that into the Bible, too. That’s because it’s natural to bring our own beliefs and assumptions to the party with us, and to read the Bible in such a way that makes it conform to the view we already hold– we all do it, we just have to learn to be aware that we’re doing it.

I grew up in the world where people had bumper stickers that said, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it,” but it’s really not that simple. The Bible is a complex collection of writings. There are translation issues, narrative issues, nuance of language issues, and the human tendency to make something conform to a previously held belief.

I think we need to be honest about that, and allow that to invite us into a posture of humility when reading the Bible.

I still love the Bible every bit as much as I loved it back then, but I love it with more honesty now– even thought it creates a lot more work for the relationship.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What is the Higgs Boson, and why is it so important?

What is the Higgs Boson, and why is it so important?

by Graham Templeton
June 24, 2015

The Higgs boson is, if nothing else, the most expensive particle of all time. It’s a bit of an unfair comparison; discovering the electron, for instance, required little more than a vacuum tube and some genuine genius, while finding the Higgs boson required the creation of experimental energies rarely seen before on planet Earth. The Large Hadron Collider hardly needs any introduction, being one of the most famous and successful scientific experiments of all time, but the identity of its primary target particle is still shrouded in mystery for much of the public. It’s been called the God Particle, but thanks to the efforts of literally thousands of scientists, we no longer have to take its existence on faith.

Why has the Higgs been the subject of so much hype, funding, and (mis)information? For two reasons. One, it was the last hold-out particle remaining hidden during the quest to check the accuracy of the Standard Model of Physics. This meant its discovery would validate more than a generation of scientific publication. Two, the Higgs is the particle which gives other particles their mass, making it both centrally important and seemingly magical. We tend to think of mass as an intrinsic property of all things, yet physicists believe that without the Higgs boson, mass fundamentally doesn’t exist.

The reason comes back to something called the Higgs field. This field was actually theorized before the Higgs boson itself, as physicists calculated that in order for their theories and observations to jive, it was necessary to imagine a new field that existed everywhere in the universe. Shoring up existing theories by inventing new theoretical components to the universe is dangerous, and in the past led physicists to hypothesize a universal aether — but the more math they did, the more they realized that the Higgs field simply had to be real. The only problem? By the very way they’d defined it, the Higgs field would be virtually impossible to observe.

The Higgs field was thought to be responsible for the fact that some particles that should not have mass, do. It is, in a sense, the universal medium which separates massless particles into different masses. This is called symmetry breaking, and it’s often explained by way of analogy with light — all wavelengths of light travel at the same speed in the medium of a vacuum, but in the medium of a prism, each wavelength can be can separated from homogenous white light into bands of different wavelengths. This is of course a flawed analogy, since the wavelengths of light all exist in white light whether or not we’re capable of seeing that fact, but the example shows how the Higgs field is thought to create mass through symmetry-breaking. A prism breaks the velocity-symmetry of different wavelengths of light, thus separating them, and the Higgs field is thought to break the mass-symmetry of some particles which are otherwise symmetrically massless.

The (a) mouth of the Large Hadron Collider.

It was not until later that physicists realized that if the Higgs field does exist, its action would require the existence of a corresponding carrier particle, and the properties of this hypothetical particle were such that we might actually be able to observe it. This particle was believed to be in a class called the bosons; keeping things simple, they called the boson that went with the Higgs field the Higgs boson. It is a so-called “force carrier” for the Higgs field, just as photons are a force carrier for the universe’s electromagnetic field; photons are, in a sense, local excitations of the EM field, and in that same sense the Higgs boson is a local excitation of the Higgs field. Proving the existence of the particle, with the properties physicists expected based on their understanding of the field, was effectively the same as proving the existence of the field directly.

Enter, after many years of planning, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), an experiment massive enough to potentially falsify the theory of the Higgs boson. The 17-mile loop of super-powered electromagnets can accelerate charged particles to significant fractions of the speed of light, causing collisions violent enough to break these particles into fundamental constituents, and deform space around the impact point. With a high enough collision energy, it was calculated that scientists could basically super-charge the Higgs boson, pushing it up into an energy state where it would decay in ways that we canobserve. These energies were so great that some even panicked and said the LHC would destroy the world, while others went so far as to describe an observation of the Higgs as a peek into an alternate dimension.

As you can see from this chart of the composition of the universe, understanding
dark matter and dark energy will be fundamental to understanding our universe.

Initial observations seemed to actually falsify predictions, and no sign of the Higgs could be found — leading some researchers who had campaigned for the spending of billions of dollars to go on television and meekly make the true-but-unsatisfying argument that falsifying a scientific theory is just as important as confirming it. With a bit more time, however, the measurements began to add up, and on March 14, 2013 CERN officially announced the confirmation of the Higgs boson. There is even some evidence to suggest the existence of multiple Higgs bosons, but that idea needs significant further study.

So what’s next for the God particle? Well, the LHC just recently reopened with significant upgrades, and has an eye to look into everything from antimatter to dark energy. Dark matter is thought to interact with regular matter solely through the medium of gravity — and by creating mass, the Higgs boson could be crucial to understanding exactly how. The main failing of the Standard Model is that it cannot account for gravity — one that could do so would be called a Grand Unified Theory — and some theorize that the Higgs particle/field could be the bridge physicists so desperately desire.

In any case, the Higgs is really only confirmed to exist; it is not yet remotely understood. Will future experiments confirm super-symmetry, and the idea that the Higgs boson could decay into dark matter itself? Or will they confirm every tiny prediction of the Standard Model about the Higgs boson’s properties and, paradoxically, end that entire field of study once and for all?