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Process Theology


McKenna
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Hey everyone,

 

Wayseer mentioned Process Theology here, and I thought it was interesting. I was hoping maybe we could have a fuller discussion of it here - I want to hear others' thoughts on it without getting the Israeli thread even further from the OP than it already is.

 

Wayseer, do you mind if I copy + paste your post into this thread (or you could if you want, either way) so we have something to work off of? Thanks :)

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Here is the post.

 

McKenna - you are not alone - you are asking the question that is on most people's lips. So let me try to give you my take - because, like you, I have been pondering this question for some time.

 

The book of Job deals with why bad things happen to good people while book of Ecclesiastes deals with why good things happen to bad people. Neither provide any satisfying conclusion yet they demonstrate that our question is probably ageless.

 

The other half of the problem concerns our own assumptions - that life should be fair and that God should demonstrate that fairness by overt action thereby endorsing His 'perfect' creation. The corollary is that God's creation is not perfect - yet. In other words, our underlying assumption that God's creation is perfect and it is we humans who have fouled things up which is why we therefore have to beat ourselves to a pulp demonstrating our remorse in an abject state as eternal victims is all built on a false premise. Our assumption would prove correct if we had no free will - that we can exercise some semblence of choice indicates that there is no static state of 'perfection' - it would therefore follow that we have got the wrong message.

 

So, what is the message?

 

That we live in a state of change and choice indicates that something more is needed in our understanding of how God works. Having accepted that free will endows us with choice it would seem that God is asking for some contribution from His creation to the Creator - a feedback loop. We do this, God can do that which opens up further possibilities. This is Process Theology at work. We take part in creation when God is present in those choices we make. Now, thinking about this process it seems to answer a lot of questions - like why do bad things happen to good people - we make the wrong choices. It's not God, or some fictitious devil, that decides our fate - it's us - it's a matter of cause and effect. We make the right choices good things will follow - we become self-creating. OK, that's a rather simplified version but I trust you get the point I trying to make.

 

The important point is that our decisions do matter - they matter for the sake of creation. We are no longer thinking a programed universe running on a train line but rather a living in the midst of a creative effort that uploads to God the very essence of his Creation - which then creates further opportunities for further self-creating effort.

 

There is no 'reward/punishment' built into this system - nor any 'evil' or 'eternal damnation' because process is not built on dogmatic beliefs - it is built on action. Jesus said, 'Now go and do likewise'.

 

I have probably explained this rather badly and all too quickly - but then I'm still working through it myself.

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Actually, IMO, you explained it very well! :P I had read some about process theology, but hadn't really "gotten it" and hadn't been motivated to continue reading - this fits very well with my beliefs - although I do think God can and does intervene at times.

 

It seems clear to me that the answer to the ageless and supposedly unanswerable question about evil is answered by free will. I've been told that's a cop out.... ;) but I don't agree. The answer to why many things occur on earth is gravity... not a cop out either!!! :P

 

Thanks for starting this thread McKenna! and for the great start Wayseer!

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Thank you Cynthia - I'm really thinking out aloud here.

 

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) started out as a mathematician and logician and after a long and distinguised career ended up as the Professor of Philosophy at Harvard. He was apparently shocked at the collapse of Newtonian physics as a result of Einstein's work and as he had always been interested in theology set about to balance his beliefs. He wrote a number of books - his first to explore the aspect of theism, Process and Reality (1926). I can't pretend that I fully understand Whitehead - his philosophy is deep - but this ...

Rational religion is religion whose beliefs and rituals have been reorganized with the aim of making it the central element in a coherent order of life - an ordering which shall be coherent both in respect to the elucidation of thought, and in respect to the direction of conduct towards a unified purpose commanding ethical approval
(1926; 31)

 

.... His words are couched for the halls of academia but I get the sense that for Whitehead (the mathematician) religion, to be religion, must be rational and therefore functions to instill ethical behaviour.

 

Rational religion is a conscious reaction to the universe in which we live - a reaction which separates us in time from our tribal past where we followed the collective idea. The result, for Whitehead, of the emergence of rational religion meant that we had to experience the universe as solitary voyagers - alone. For Christianity this meant that Jesus was not the dialectician as many seem to think - he did not leave us with any doctrine. Rather, what Jesus left us was his experience of the Divine which he received by direct insight. We make of it what we will.

 

But is this not the way of each and every one? We stand alone and make what we will from our experience and from what insight, or intutition, we have. This is our freedom. For Whitehead, our 'solitariness is fundamental' (1926; 58). But it can only be out of this 'solitariness' that the potential and the dynamics to instigate change and adjust values emerge - whatever the values may be - that can only be achieved through the collection of individuals. Religion, in this sense, is nothing less than world loyalty. And, when a part of that world may hurt are we not all that much diminished?

 

So where is this God of Whitehead?

 

God is that non-temporal actuality which has to be taken into account of in very crative phase
(1916: 94).

 

To secure the imposed balance which is exhibed in the universe, there must be an unchanging God. But if we hold to this metaphysic then it may be stated that God also endorses evil. But here we may note some instability in the order of things - that there is a universal need to elimiate evil - in fact it may said that evil eliminates itself (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot et al). The fact that evil does not hold sway demonstrates the existence of instability - of choice - of freedom.

Thus if God be an actual entity which enters into every creative phase and yet is above change, He must be exempt from internal inconsistency which is the note of evil
(1926: 98). God is then that 'urge' in all our decisions towards that which we might define as 'good' - which is I suspect why evil is such hard work - you really have to put some effort into being evil - and which has within that decision the genesis of its own eventual demise.

 

The result is that Whitehead confidently claims;

The purpose of God is the attainment of value in the temporal world
(1916: 100).

 

And when I think about it - that makes sense.

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So, what is the message?

 

That we live in a state of change and choice indicates that something more is needed in our understanding of how God works. Having accepted that free will endows us with choice it would seem that God is asking for some contribution from His creation to the Creator - a feedback loop. We do this, God can do that which opens up further possibilities. This is Process Theology at work. We take part in creation when God is present in those choices we make. Now, thinking about this process it seems to answer a lot of questions - like why do bad things happen to good people - we make the wrong choices. It's not God, or some fictitious devil, that decides our fate - it's us - it's a matter of cause and effect. We make the right choices good things will follow - we become self-creating. OK, that's a rather simplified version but I trust you get the point I trying to make.

 

The important point is that our decisions do matter - they matter for the sake of creation. We are no longer thinking a programed universe running on a train line but rather a living in the midst of a creative effort that uploads to God the very essence of his Creation - which then creates further opportunities for further self-creating effort.

 

There is no 'reward/punishment' built into this system - nor any 'evil' or 'eternal damnation' because process is not built on dogmatic beliefs - it is built on action. Jesus said, 'Now go and do likewise'.

 

You did very well but to the last line --"There is no 'reward/punishment' built into this system - nor any 'evil' or 'eternal damnation' " For we are creatures that must learn to be accountable and good, we must be guided and corrected, but the punishment should be fitting only as much as needed to create the desire to follow the right path. Some will need more and others will need less, the tears and emotins can tell a lot about the person's current situation, just like communicating with an animal observation is very important.

 

Truth and Freedom to be...

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The other half of the problem concerns our own assumptions - that life should be fair and that God should demonstrate that fairness by overt action thereby endorsing His 'perfect' creation. The corollary is that God's creation is not perfect - yet. In other words, our underlying assumption that God's creation is perfect and it is we humans who have fouled things up which is why we therefore have to beat ourselves to a pulp demonstrating our remorse in an abject state as eternal victims is all built on a false premise. Our assumption would prove correct if we had no free will - that we can exercise some semblence of choice indicates that there is no static state of 'perfection' - it would therefore follow that we have got the wrong message.

 

I think this is the part of your post that I find the most interesting and thought-provocative. I've been turning it over in my mind for a few days, but haven't really reached any conclusions; merely more questions!

 

I guess the most important implication for us as Christians is - what does this do to our image of Jesus? Traditionally, the state of Creation is viewed as a sort of parabola: it starts out great, descends quickly into chaos due to man screwing things up, then Jesus shows up offering a solution to the problem, and eventually all is restored to perfection again on Judgment Day.

 

Yet our scientific knowledge of the universe tells us that Genesis didn't happen literally, that there was no 'fall' in the way it is described in the Bible, and that the universe is pretty darn huge, meaning even though we humans may have screwed things up here, we haven't come anywhere near dragging down the rest of Creation with us. So who is Jesus, in this story?

 

I think he can still fit into that traditional parabola, but I think it needs to be modified to reflect reality as we now know it. As far as I know there were no moral concerns in the universe before humans appeared, because morals require a certain level of consciousness to apply. No animal that we know of (besides humans) can commit a sin, at least in my opinion. So sure, Creation started out great, and it still is great most places...and it's even great here on Earth, sometimes. But some aspects of humanness certainly have caused destruction and chaos. And Jesus appears as one who can guide us out of it...to help us help God. Engage us in the process. And if we engage in that process...we can restore Creation to perfection. At least, that is the hopeful call and what we are working towards.

 

I think this fits into your other idea as well - the one about karma. I don't think karma is necessarily applicable on an individual basis (unless we really do reincarnate when we die), because clearly bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Yet perhaps it is applicable on a grander scale. When we do good things - they have repercussions. We may not feel them, due to circumstance, yet they have an impact on the world around us...and the same goes for negative actions. So to follow Jesus, to engage in the process of Creation with God, is to do positive things that have a positive effect on the world around us, for the good of all Creation.

 

Hmm...I was kind of thinking aloud (or...whatever the online equivalent is) here, so sorry if my thoughts are kind of rambly and confusing...does that make any sense? Is that similar to Process Theology and what you were trying to say - or am I completely off in my own little world here? :lol:

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Thank you thinking our aloud - I do that too.

 

I think you have picked up a valid point -

 

Traditionally, the state of Creation is viewed as a sort of parabola: it starts out great, descends quickly into chaos due to man screwing things up, then Jesus shows up offering a solution to the problem, and eventually all is restored to perfection again on Judgment Day.

 

Note the word Traditional - I think that is where our problem lies. We are trying to fit tradition into Process Theology. But if we applied PT to tradition we might come up with some answers.

 

Behind the word tradition lies an assumption - that we humans are both the centre and end of creation. A few traditional assumptions have been found wanting and have been dumped. We 'assumed' that the sun revolved around the earth - that went. Then we assumed the God and Heaven were above the clouds and that also was dumped when we ventured into space. The Hubble telescope has explored to the outer extremeties of the Universe - some 78 Billion light years from earth. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is just one of billions of such galaxies. Earth is a grain of sand along a thousand mile beach. To assume that we are the only form of life in the universe may well be an assumption at best or arrogance in the extreme. Clearly we are neither the centre nor the end of the universe.

 

So who is Jesus, in this story?
Well might we ask.

 

One thing we do rather well as humans is to tell stories. We probably do this more than any other activity apart perhaps of sleeping. Our life is full of story telling - we love and revel in it. Regardless of what we do for a living we inevitable settle back at the end of the day with a book of TV - story telling episodes. As an anthropologist it is useful to read children's stories from different cultures - they tell more about those respective cultures than do history books. Much is revealed through stories - or narrative - or legend - or myths. Stories 'inform' who we our and indicate our place in society. They also tell us where we need to go. Stories, in the respect, are repositories of Truth. These stories inevitable follow a theme that can clearly identified be it in StarWars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Schindler's List or The Last Temptation of Christ. That theme is one of goodness. Jesus is that story par excellence. Goodness triumphs over evil because that is the story we tell to ourselves - and we tell that story becuase we somehow know the Truth that lies therein.

 

If we then apply PT to the story of Jesus, in its fullest sense, we may start to see something that hitherto has laid dormant - that we take part in the unfolding story of creation. We may well yet write the script.

 

In all those series of decisions that we make as human we inevitable, not always, but is the best percentages of cases, make 'good' decisions. The institutionalised Church, despite some of the horrific tagents that beset it, has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of the early followers of Jesus. Secular society has adopted much of what the Church initiated. We no longer have a debate about whether we should education childred. We might have a debate about how it is done. We no longer have a debate about providing medical and health services, old age homes. We might debate how best to provide those services. We no longer debate that the poor and destitute should be looked after. These are now part and parcel of Western society. We have arrived at the present situation because of 'good' decisions. (Yes, I know there are holes in the fabric, but we are now in that position to 'know' there are holes to be fixed).

 

We arrived at this position as a result of a story and as a result of technology - the two go together. Science provides us with the technology, the Story provides us with the reason. PT marries those concepts rather well. Process Theologians would argue that God is therefore involved in the changing circumstances of existence.

 

So to follow Jesus, to engage in the process of Creation with God, is to do positive things that have a positive effect on the world around us, for the good of all Creation.

 

Go to the head of the class.

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We arrived at this position as a result of a story and as a result of technology - the two go together. Science provides us with the technology, the Story provides us with the reason. PT marries those concepts rather well. Process Theologians would argue that God is therefore involved in the changing circumstances of existence.

 

You made some really interesting points, which I enjoyed reading! I particularly like this final comment about science and 'Story' being able to coexist in one theology. If they really can live side-by-side in PT - then PT might just be what we're looking for (or something like it). At the dawn of the twenty-first century, religion is really going to need to start accepting science if it wants to live on...which I really hope it does!

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.... and science has to accept religion. I see no disconnect here. Rather I see a synthesis.

 

Richard Dawkins challenges this idea. His tomb 'The God Delusion' rails against, not religion so much, but against Christianity. He, in the same manner as many others, points to the many atrocities as evidence that believing in God is a delusion conviently forgetting that he is free to say as much as a result of living in a democratic society - yet another legacy of Christianity.

 

But careful reading of his book reveals that he is really more concerned with myth being promoted as fact - and in this I must agree with his views - it is my greatest concern. The problem is - if we accept the Bible stories as myth does it then follow that God is myth. This is the stumbling block for many. The problem - most people associate myth with something that is not true therefore, God is not true. But myth is not a pack of lies. Myth is the transmission of some principle - some moral object. But because we have not been taught how to spilt a myth and find the answer lieing therein, like splitting an atom, we usually throw the whole thing into the rubbish claiming it is all lies. Myth is not science. Yet anthropologist have been splitting myths for a couple of hundred years revealing the meanings locked inside. Unfortunately, anthropologists are not the flavour of the month - their work is generally difficult to read.

 

Stories and films are myths by another name. I have mentioned this elsewhere. One one hand the film is a piece of fiction on the other there is something within the narrative with which we connect - it makes sense. Indeed we don't generally go to films and read books that don't make sense, in fact such films and books don't get produce as they don't make any money. This then is real just as science is real. The 'hidden' message may not be readily identified but that does not mean there is no such message - and that message is that we 'do good'. While we usually don't go round splitting myths we can 'understand' the moral wrapped inside. But Richard Dawkins does not rail against films or books. It's poor old Christianity that becomes the convenient whipping post.

 

PT accounts for science as it does for myth within Creation. Indeed, if Christianity were to embrace science, perhaps assisted by PT, then we may well live to see something rather interesting.

 

McKenna you comments are encouraging and thank you for your interest.

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.... and science has to accept religion. I see no disconnect here. Rather I see a synthesis.

 

I kind of agree with OA on this one...I don't see science accepting religion anytime soon, and I don't see a reason for it to. It would defy the point of science, which is supposed to be evidence-based.

 

That being said, I think we as individuals should seek to accept both and synthesize them. Perhaps that is what you meant?

 

Richard Dawkins challenges this idea. His tomb 'The God Delusion' rails against, not religion so much, but against Christianity. He, in the same manner as many others, points to the many atrocities as evidence that believing in God is a delusion conviently forgetting that he is free to say as much as a result of living in a democratic society - yet another legacy of Christianity.

 

But careful reading of his book reveals that he is really more concerned with myth being promoted as fact - and in this I must agree with his views - it is my greatest concern.

 

Richard Dawkins strikes me as being as arrogant and certain that only he can be right as many fundamentalists...but that is merely an impression, I do not know much about the man. That being said, I too can understand the concern of myth being called fact. Myth and fact are distinct. But that doesn't mean we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as I assume he suggests we should, being an atheist. Just because not all of the stories in the Bible are factually true doesn't mean they don't contain truth as myths or as literary creations, or that religion should be dismissed altogether. (Of course, at the same time, just because they are myth doesn't necessarily imply that they contain truth...just that they aren't necessarily false, and that they held some truth/meaning for whoever wrote them down.)

 

The problem is - if we accept the Bible stories as myth does it then follow that God is myth. This is the stumbling block for many. The problem - most people associate myth with something that is not true therefore, God is not true. But myth is not a pack of lies. Myth is the transmission of some principle - some moral object. But because we have not been taught how to spilt a myth and find the answer lieing therein, like splitting an atom, we usually throw the whole thing into the rubbish claiming it is all lies. Myth is not science. Yet anthropologist have been splitting myths for a couple of hundred years revealing the meanings locked inside. Unfortunately, anthropologists are not the flavour of the month - their work is generally difficult to read.

 

Agreed!

 

There are many myths surrounding the Buddha yet that does not mean he never existed. The myths allow us to understand how people who knew him when he was alive - and people who have followed him since - viewed him.

 

Stories and films are myths by another name. I have mentioned this elsewhere. One one hand the film is a piece of fiction on the other there is something within the narrative with which we connect - it makes sense. Indeed we don't generally go to films and read books that don't make sense, in fact such films and books don't get produce as they don't make any money. This then is real just as science is real. The 'hidden' message may not be readily identified but that does not mean there is no such message - and that message is that we 'do good'. While we usually don't go round splitting myths we can 'understand' the moral wrapped inside. But Richard Dawkins does not rail against films or books. It's poor old Christianity that becomes the convenient whipping post.

 

Isn't there a slight distinction between fiction as we see it in books/movies, and myth? I'm not sure...but anyway, I see your point. Although I suppose I can't blame Dawkins for railing against Christianity more than films/books, as you don't get as many people claiming the literal truth of, say, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings (although I have no doubt there are a few of those too :lol: ). Yet there are admittedly far more constructive ways he could be spending his time and energy.

 

PT accounts for science as it does for myth within Creation. Indeed, if Christianity were to embrace science, perhaps assisted by PT, then we may well live to see something rather interesting.

 

That would be interesting! :)

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I kind of agree with OA on this one...I don't see science accepting religion anytime soon, and I don't see a reason for it to. It would defy the point of science, which is supposed to be evidence-based.

 

Let me pick up on this. I agree that science will have difficulty in accepting religion as it is now portrayed - that is, a God who intervenes momentarily, and somewhat arbitarily I might add, into the course of nature. That is not the fault of science - it is more the fault of religon. If we can accept the Jesus story as myth - that the stories point to something, the ONE, without then cloaking that ONE in vestiges of the judgemental and provocative God that sides with some people at the expense of others then we may well make some progress. After all, do not science and religion work on the common assumption - that what they do is 'good' for humanity? That has not always been the case but both and science are equally guilty here.

 

Just because not all of the stories in the Bible are factually true doesn't mean they don't contain truth as myths or as literary creations, or that religion should be dismissed altogether.
Of course. And I don't think Dawkins is actually dismissing myth. What he is concerned with is how religion, and more specifically Christianity, have grimly held onto their own brand of ontology as the only Truth.

 

There are many myths surrounding the Buddha yet that does not mean he never existed.

 

Actully there is far more historical evidence concerning the Buddha than one might suppose. He was the son of a well-known King (Warlord we now call them) in a distinct part of India/Nepal who had well establish connections with the 'Kings' of the surrounding area. The Buddha (Sidartha) was, as was the custom, to follow his father in running the kingdom. This was well know - Sidartha was a popular figure and was widely known by the local populations. That he turned his back on all that offered and started a monastic following is also well documented. The interesting thing is that there are few myths about the Buddha. I'm not saying there are none - but there is no way the generalisation of received myths as those that follow the life of Jesus. But, as Whitehead notes concerning the Buddha, "The historiacal facts about him are subsidiary to the doctrine' (1927: 51). On the other hand, the historical 'facts' concerning Jesus are paramount to the doctrine. (Which is one reason why there is so much debate about the 'literalism' of the Bible).

 

Isn't there a slight distinction between fiction as we see it in books/movies, and myth?

 

Yes. The point I was trying to make that even in those 'fictions' there is something which might recognise as 'good'.

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This may be off-topic relative to the discussion, but I thought it might be useful. It is a sort of annotated bibliography on process philosophy and process theology.

 

I found process thinking helpful because it relates to my experiences working in applied physics, which is what I did for a living. Whitehead had notions that apply to quantum physics, and he may have had some of those ideas even before quantum physics had become an established discipline. I also like the idea of God acting as a lure in the universe and not simply ordering it about.

 

About 1982 or 1983, I took a course on process theology at San Jose State. We used "A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality" edited by Donald W. Sherburne (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966). At that time I also read:

 

Brown, Delwin, To Set at Liberty: Christian Faith and Human Freedom, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1981

Ogden, Schubert, Faith and Freedom: Toward a Theology of Liberation, Nashville: Abingdon, 1979

 

Later, I picked up some other books relating to process theology. They are:

 

Cobb, John B., Jr., Christ in a Pluralistic Age, Philadelphia: Westminster 1975

___________, Process Theology as Political Theology, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1982

___________, and David R. Griffin, Process Theology, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976 (I think I used the books by Cobb in a course I took but I can’t remember for sure. I do remember that I liked what Cobb had to say)

Edwards, Rem B., Reason and Religion, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1972 (I found this in a used book store. I thought it was pretty good)

Griffin, David R., God, Power and Evil: A Process Theodicy, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976 (I used this book in a class on religious ethics–it’s very thorough, but I didn’t relate to Griffin’s conclusions all that well)

_________, ed., Spirituality and Society, New York: SUNY, 1988

James, Ralph E., The Concrete God, Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1967 (This is on the work of Charles Hartshorne)

Suchocki, Marjorie H., God, Christ, Church, New York: Crossroad, 1986 (I think this came from the same class as mentioned above. I liked it a lot, if you don’t worry too much about the diagrams. My theology is a lot less orthodox now, but what she says about justice still works for me)

 

Hope this info is of use to someone.

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My favorite quote from A. N. Whitehead:

 

"The brief Galilean vision of humility flickered throughout the ages, uncertainly ... There is, however, in the Galilean origin of Christianity yet another suggestion ... it does not emphasize the ruling Caesar, or the ruthless moralist, or the unmoved mover. It dwells on the tender elements of the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love; and it finds purpose in the present immediacy of a kingdom not of this world." Alfred North Whitehead (1929)

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Let me pick up on this. I agree that science will have difficulty in accepting religion as it is now portrayed - that is, a God who intervenes momentarily, and somewhat arbitarily I might add, into the course of nature. That is not the fault of science - it is more the fault of religon. If we can accept the Jesus story as myth - that the stories point to something, the ONE, without then cloaking that ONE in vestiges of the judgemental and provocative God that sides with some people at the expense of others then we may well make some progress. After all, do not science and religion work on the common assumption - that what they do is 'good' for humanity? That has not always been the case but both and science are equally guilty here.

 

I certainly hope they can coexist, and that science can "accept" religion in that regard - acknowledge its right to exist. Perhaps this is what you meant, and I was reading you too literally, because I was interpreting what you were saying as science accepting religious ideas, such as God, as truth, which science can't do if it's going to maintain its integrity as science...does that make sense...I'm confusing myself here!

 

Actully there is far more historical evidence concerning the Buddha than one might suppose. He was the son of a well-known King (Warlord we now call them) in a distinct part of India/Nepal who had well establish connections with the 'Kings' of the surrounding area. The Buddha (Sidartha) was, as was the custom, to follow his father in running the kingdom. This was well know - Sidartha was a popular figure and was widely known by the local populations. That he turned his back on all that offered and started a monastic following is also well documented. The interesting thing is that there are few myths about the Buddha. I'm not saying there are none - but there is no way the generalisation of received myths as those that follow the life of Jesus. But, as Whitehead notes concerning the Buddha, "The historiacal facts about him are subsidiary to the doctrine' (1927: 51). On the other hand, the historical 'facts' concerning Jesus are paramount to the doctrine. (Which is one reason why there is so much debate about the 'literalism' of the Bible).

 

Oh no, I know! I guess I wasn't very clear :) I was responding to the "stumbling block" as you called it of "if we accept the Bible stories as myth does it then follow that God is myth" by giving another example of a case where myth doesn't disprove the figure, but rather adds to our understanding of him. The myths I was referring to with regard to the Buddha were the stories that actually are myths, such as his encounter(s?) with Mara. They teach us that people saw him as resistant to temptation, even if he never actually resisted a demon named Mara. And just because there's a myth about him doesn't mean he didn't exist!

 

(Not that the myths prove he did exist, either, and obviously saying "God exists because there are myths about him" doesn't really work. But I think it's a valid point that myths about someone don't automatically mean they aren't real!)

 

Yes. The point I was trying to make that even in those 'fictions' there is something which might recognise as 'good'.

 

Valid point :)

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This thread has inspired another one of my questions, in this thread the question of GOD and the existence of GOD comes up. Now I know that I've approached this subject before, but I was thinking of starting a new thread asking Does Satan exist?

 

I know that some will answer yes and others will deny the existence of a demonic creature that is Anti-GOD...

 

So here I go again trying to draw the focus back onto is there an evil so bane that we could put a face on the evil as a person and if that person existed or exists or will exist do you believe in allowing this evil to live unfettered?

 

I think before we can expect to know if GOD exists we first have to expose the evil and remove the shackles from life.

 

My theory is progressive and it encompasses origins and brings us fully into a new era...

 

I'd consider more yet the night is nearing and end and I've got to be refreshed for work in the morning, so I'll stop here I've been on long enough, I hope my thoughts are met wtih understanding and helpful.

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This thread has inspired another one of my questions, in this thread the question of GOD and the existence of GOD comes up. Now I know that I've approached this subject before, but I was thinking of starting a new thread asking Does Satan exist?

 

GWB - if you wish to start another thread with your question please do so rather than derailing this one.

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McKenna - thank you for your observations. But may I pick up on this comment -

 

The myths I was referring to with regard to the Buddha were the stories that actually are myths, such as his encounter(s?) with Mara. They teach us that people saw him as resistant to temptation, even if he never actually resisted a demon named Mara.

 

Perhaps this not a myth per se. It is not a 'story' that is retold all that often unlike the one where the Buddha was born from his mother's side which indicates a supernatural birth pointing towards someone outside of ordinary human experience. Such stories (myths) are inevitable told by those who conceive the Buddha as a God.

 

The Buddha was at pains not to have himself elevated above the mundane world - he was a person who overcame suffering and reached enlightenment through his own practice and efforts - in this world. He simple taught others to do likewise. The Buddha recognised that he did not need to 'resist' anything - nor did he need to strive after anything. These activities are the cause of suffering - they cause suffering because they are not real - that are, like Mara, a play on our mind. The Buddha taught to recognise how the mind is influenced by desire and avoidance - once this is recognised one is free of such perceptions. In this sense Buddhism is similiar to Process Theology - one without God though.

 

The problem recognised by Whitehead concerning Christianity is that those 'myths' are important - for Buddhism, and Whitehead says much about Buddhism, myths are not important. The Buddha gave the world a doctrine - Jesus gave his life - which is why the life (myths) of Jesus cause so much discussion - they're important.

 

I apologise for labouring this point but I think it is essential to the concept of Process Theology, as far as I understand it. As Whitehead notes; 'Christ represents rationalism derived from direct intuition and divorced from dialectics' (1927: 57). On the other hand, dialectics is all important to Buddhism. 'The historical facts [myths] about him [the Buddha] are subsidiary to the doctrine' (1927:51). However, 'The reported sayings of Christ are not formularized thought. They are descriptions of direct insight' (1927: 56).

 

For me, Process Theology seems to give me the tools to balance 'direct insight' with 'dialectics' - intitution with experience. That intitution is largely generated from meditating on Bible passages while my experience is moulded by participation, be it a bible study course or a discussion forum.

 

I hope I'm making some sense here.

Edited by Wayseer
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I hope I'm making some sense here.

 

Kind of. I found your comments on PT interesting. But this was more discussion that I was really intending on the Buddha - it was just a side example and really didn't have much to do with my main point :blink:

 

But anyway. Back on topic.

 

For me, Process Theology seems to give me the tools to balance 'direct insight' with 'dialectics' - intitution with experience. That intitution is largely generated from meditating on Bible passages while my experience is moulded by participation, be it a bible study course or a discussion forum.

 

Sorry, do you mean intuition? (I misspelled it several times while trying to type it too, haha...)

 

What about PT allows you to do this? I mean, what is it specifically about PT that 'gives you the tools' to combine direct insight with dialectics?

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McKenna - I can understand your confusion. However, the example I gave concerning Buddhism is central to Process Theory. What I was endeavoring to illustrate was the difference in ways of knowing.

 

The central argument in Christianity is 'how' to know Jesus. To do this one undertakes a study of the text - namely the Bible. However, to understand that text, particularly concerning the Gospels, one must deal with myth, or to simplify, with the 'story' of Jesus. What that story says about Jesus is important, particularly concerning the resurrection, the Kingdom, rising from the dead, the miracles - these are core issues to the doctrine of the church. In other words, those stories are of vital importance - the doctrine, 'all the Law and the Prophets', hangs and depends on those stories. (Please accept that I'm generalizing here).

 

In Buddhism, the story of the Buddha is not important to the doctrine of Buddhism. (I'm using 'doctrine' here instead of metaphysic or dialect for simplification). The 'doctrine' of Buddhism can stand alone without the 'story' of the Buddha - where and when he lived and died is of no real concern. Not so with Jesus - when he lived, how he died, what he did are important - the 'story' of Jesus is central to the doctrine. In other words, there is no real debate about how the Buddha lived - what is important is what he taught. Whereas with Jesus, how is lived informs the shape and scope of the Christian doctrine. Do you follow?

 

So to your the next question.

 

This is more difficult to answer. What is entailed is how we come to know things. Science 'knows' things because it applies a particular style of 'knowing' - the rigorous analysis and the concept of replication and falsification. In dealing with metaphysics we do not have recourse to this style of analysis. But we do have recourse to logic and myth.

 

It is perhaps no accident that with my own 'canon within the canon', as Karen Armstrong oft notes, I can, through logic, understand much of the Bible. That 'canon', for me, consists of the Wisdom Literature and the Gospels of Thomas an 'Q'. Let's take something from Proverbs. P 26:10; 'Better is a neighbor who is nearby than kindred who are far away' (NRSV). I suggest we can all understand the logic in that statement and nod our approval.

 

Likewise, GoT saying 58; 'Jesus said, 'Fortunate is the person who has worked hard and has found life'. Here Jesus is giving advice, teaching. There is something to work for and that something will enable me to understand what this life is all about. Again, I suggest we can probably accept this saying and see the logic therein contained.

 

But how do I handle the resurrection? Logic would compel me to reject such an event happening - it remains outside the compass of my experience. I simple cannot answer as any answer would demonstrate my puny and imperfect knowledge of such things. But that does not mean I cannot 'know' intuitively what the resurrection might mean. Because, if I engage this myth with an honest vigor it may well open horizons I had, as yet, not contemplated and thereby enter a space where new meanings and new experiences converge - I enter a 'creative' space with God and having entered this space I might then learn something of the 'love' of God. So, rather than think in terms of 'something', a 'thing', i.e. the resurrection, I might think in terms of a relationship where the 'other', in this case God, becomes part of me and I become a part of God - albeit a pretty small part. And then the question begs - How does God act? Very likely through myth - through this myth of the resurrection I have encountered a new opportunity to 'create' - which seems to be God's overall intention - that we make God incarnate in our life's choices. Intuitively, it is the process of myth that the Word remains contemporary to this life and this time.

 

Well, that's my best shot at it. Your questions and welcome and have forced me to think through the labyrinth my own mind.

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McKenna - I can understand your confusion. However, the example I gave concerning Buddhism is central to Process Theory. What I was endeavoring to illustrate was the difference in ways of knowing.

 

The central argument in Christianity is 'how' to know Jesus. To do this one undertakes a study of the text - namely the Bible. However, to understand that text, particularly concerning the Gospels, one must deal with myth, or to simplify, with the 'story' of Jesus. What that story says about Jesus is important, particularly concerning the resurrection, the Kingdom, rising from the dead, the miracles - these are core issues to the doctrine of the church. In other words, those stories are of vital importance - the doctrine, 'all the Law and the Prophets', hangs and depends on those stories. (Please accept that I'm generalizing here).

 

In Buddhism, the story of the Buddha is not important to the doctrine of Buddhism. (I'm using 'doctrine' here instead of metaphysic or dialect for simplification). The 'doctrine' of Buddhism can stand alone without the 'story' of the Buddha - where and when he lived and died is of no real concern. Not so with Jesus - when he lived, how he died, what he did are important - the 'story' of Jesus is central to the doctrine. In other words, there is no real debate about how the Buddha lived - what is important is what he taught. Whereas with Jesus, how is lived informs the shape and scope of the Christian doctrine. Do you follow?

 

Very well. I understand the distinction, but thanks for elaborating on them :) It is interesting to compare the two religions (and their founders!).

 

It is perhaps no accident that with my own 'canon within the canon', as Karen Armstrong oft notes, I can, through logic, understand much of the Bible. That 'canon', for me, consists of the Wisdom Literature and the Gospels of Thomas an 'Q'. Let's take something from Proverbs. P 26:10; 'Better is a neighbor who is nearby than kindred who are far away' (NRSV). I suggest we can all understand the logic in that statement and nod our approval.

 

Likewise, GoT saying 58; 'Jesus said, 'Fortunate is the person who has worked hard and has found life'. Here Jesus is giving advice, teaching. There is something to work for and that something will enable me to understand what this life is all about. Again, I suggest we can probably accept this saying and see the logic therein contained.

 

But how do I handle the resurrection? Logic would compel me to reject such an event happening - it remains outside the compass of my experience. I simple cannot answer as any answer would demonstrate my puny and imperfect knowledge of such things. But that does not mean I cannot 'know' intuitively what the resurrection might mean. Because, if I engage this myth with an honest vigor it may well open horizons I had, as yet, not contemplated and thereby enter a space where new meanings and new experiences converge - I enter a 'creative' space with God and having entered this space I might then learn something of the 'love' of God. So, rather than think in terms of 'something', a 'thing', i.e. the resurrection, I might think in terms of a relationship where the 'other', in this case God, becomes part of me and I become a part of God - albeit a pretty small part. And then the question begs - How does God act? Very likely through myth - through this myth of the resurrection I have encountered a new opportunity to 'create' - which seems to be God's overall intention - that we make God incarnate in our life's choices. Intuitively, it is the process of myth that the Word remains contemporary to this life and this time.

 

Well, that's my best shot at it. Your questions and welcome and have forced me to think through the labyrinth my own mind.

 

I think this makes sense. Are you saying that when something cannot be deduced or understood logically, we must resort to myth? I think that's what you mean, and if so that makes sense. It makes sense in terms of Genesis (and all other cultures' creation myths) - people living thousands of years ago had no way of knowing how the world began (except, I suppose I have to say, through revelation), and couldn't possibly deduce or understand it logically. So, they had myths about it. Today this has changed and we no longer really need creation myths, but I still enjoy learning about them because they can provide some interesting insights both into how the culture thought and how they saw the world, and their own self-identity.

 

Back to your post. I really enjoyed your discussion of relating to the myth of the Resurrection in order to understand God. Perhaps this is why so many Progressive Christians feel it is unnecessary to know whether or not such a Resurrection really occurred, or what it entailed. I must admit I find that debate fascinating, but ultimately in my own personal relationship with God and Christ, it is not relevant; I accept that something happened and try to 'engage in the myth' as you put it. I think I need to get better at this. Perhaps it would help me understand God better.

 

So, how do you personally engage the myth of the Resurrection? Is this 'engaging' what Process Theology, as applied to Christianity, is all about? It would seem so to me, though I suppose it depends on how much emphasis one puts on the Resurrection. I personally find it important - though not as an isolated event in history, if indeed such an event occurred; but I guess this goes back to the mythological aspect of it. Maybe this is what Crossan (I think that's who it was) meant when he said something like, "The Resurrection never happened. The Resurrection always happens." I may dispute him about the first point, but I agree with the essence of what he was saying (that is, if I'm understanding him correctly!).

 

Anyway. Ramble ramble! :lol:

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Maybe this is what Crossan (I think that's who it was) meant when he said something like, "The Resurrection never happened. The Resurrection always happens." I may dispute him about the first point, but I agree with the essence of what he was saying (that is, if I'm understanding him correctly!).

 

Anyway. Ramble ramble! :lol:

 

Of the resurrection and of the quote above, if a person really didn't die could they then be resurrected? How could we possibly know the truth? Even today mistakes are made people go into coma's and a few even revived. Feigning or fainting a spell equal to death and three days later Jesus walks is quite a story, but certainly the question of death true death is not answered. We know how accounts can be fabricated one person could write a lie about anything and everyone could believe the lie instead of searching for the truth. Unless the truth is revealed in a way that you could then know with out a doubt and of this topic the resurrection there is no proof that can be offered to quell the questions that can not be answered. The realm of myth is a hypothesis that is repeated enough times to finally be believed as true just as the origins of the universe could have been created from a single event is a myth passed along to be believed right from the beginning of a flawed religious text.

 

As for the resurrection always happens? Maybe re-creation always happens almost like recreation... (tongue in cheek ;) ) Actually resuscitation might be a better description of what happened to Jesus and should be much more believable... It is what I believe but I can only explain my belief by the information that was revealed to me, I can't make you believe in my revelations you have to decide what you want to believe and what is true for you, but when it comes to the evidence of truth I have a lot to offer.

 

I agree that the resurrection is not important, and I would remove the Devil from the Details...

 

The only way we can create world peace is by being an example for others to follow exposing the dark with a shining light.

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