She was born in Fall

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I can’t let the day go without giving a shout out to my mother, Gertrude Marie (b. 11/1925, d. 04/2010). Here are Mom and Dad (David and Trudy), in Baltimore in 1942, the year they were married. And here are my thoughts of her on the occasion of her death in April 2010.

BORN IN FALL
She was born in fall when leaves do turn,
When winter calls and colors burn,
Then fell in spring as new leaves yearned,
And baby flowers sing.

Her course was set against the flow,
Her progress made with kids in tow,
The world did small affection show,
And little comfort share.

But faith she found, and passed it on,
And this past spring tried on her crown,
And with a regal saintly gown
Entered upon her rest.

My mind appoints fond memories,
Renews her presence here with ease,
Her alto voice and melodies,
And eyes of softest green.

Her hands a master sculptor formed,
Of ivory polished by the storm,
And now their craft and service mourned,
But cherished in each part.

A mother’s care was incarnate,
No harm was ever near me let,
But all my needs were always met,
My plate was always full.

What grammar then can I contrive,
To keep her here with me alive?
Would I her new estate deprive?
Oh let it not be so.

And thus with fond affection I,
Release my mother to the sky,
And with love constantly reply,
My dearest Adieu.

Dallas Willard (1935-2013)

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(Picture from here.)

Dallas Willard died this morning at the age of 77. He was (and is) for me the most profoundly insightful thinker and writer on the Christian life. The Church needed Dallas more than it knew, and I pray to God someone comes along to pick up his torch and step into his shoes.

Promises of Old

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(Picture from here.)

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I thought I’d honor the mother of my own four!

Promises of Old
The rain below bows to the sun
Who when the misty torrents done
Displays her colors through the shade
Arched high above all that was made
Keeping promises of old.

So like that mighty archway set
Is my love above regret
Ore storms which flooded all my course
Her colors shone against the worst
Keeping promises of old.

And slowly as her light reveals
The power of a love that heals
Whose heat restores to lands below
Their beauty once again bestowed
Keeping promises of old.

Sweetest light, and sun, and love
You are my rainbow high above
And by your steady warmth I can
Love you as sky is loved by land
Keeping promises of old.

(To Anita, August 9, 2010)

Is actus purus believed in by the Orthodox?

DSC_3153 copy 2We’d like to describe what we feel are the main objections to the two defining claims of two contrary theistic worldviews we’ve introduced, “classical” theism’s defining and non-negotiable claim that God is actus purus (a God in whom there is no unfulfilled potential) and Process theism’s belief in a God who is, if we may coin the phrase, processu operis, a “work in process” (whose existence and perfections are constituted in and as the ever changing process of God’s ongoing relationship with the universe).

Before we jump into the objections of these two understandings of God, I want first to clarify our earlier question about whether the Orthodox affirm actus purus. It is after all a well-known axiom of scholastic (Western) theology embodied in Aquinas, and the Orthodox are on record as criticizing scholasticism in general and the failure of the West to make a key Orthodox distinction between God’s essence and his energies. Fr Aidan also earlier registered some reservation about our suggestion that the Orthodox believe in actus purus. So before we describe the objections to both ‘classical’ and ‘process’ views, we’d like to offer a clarification.

All we mean by actus purus is what we understand Orthodox theologian David Hart to refer to as the denial of all potentiality in God. If that’s not an Orthodox belief, that would be great news to us. Besides Hart, I also remember discussing this over lunch with Paul Gavrilyuk a couple of years ago. He had mentioned what a promising work he thought Richard Creel’s Divine Impassibility (1986) was. “But Creel is an open theist,” I thought to myself. So when I asked Paul about open theism and what the main Orthodox objection(s) to it would be, he slightly shook his head and said that it goes too far by placing God “in time,” and that this wasn’t compatible with Orthodoxy. I get this sort of reminder that the Orthodox do share the fundamental tenet of actus purus (viz., that there is no potentiality in God) even though they don’t use the phrase and can criticize what the West does with it. But we’re open to the Orthodox clarifying this for us.

It’s all Process, Baby, all the way down

180px-Whitehead_anHaving located the center of “classical” theism as the belief that God is actus purus, that is, the belief that there is no potentiality in God, now would be a fitting time to race to the other end of the spectrum and try to find the center of that theism most unlike the classical view. That opposing view is Process theism.

Process theology grew out of the Process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) whose views are explained in his Process and Reality (1929), though when you read it you might prefer “encrypted” to “explained.” Whitehead’s cosmology was further developed and expanded by Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000). Today there exists a good deal of diversity among Process theists, but it’s safe to say that in essentials they all agree. And while it is always risky to boil down something as sophisticated and intricate as Process metaphysics to a few key points, as we move forward our conversation will require us to have on hand the belief or beliefs that form the center around which other Process convictions revolve.

Process theology has been experiencing somewhat of a revival. There are many online summaries and several book surveys that are far more user-friendly than Whitehead’s Process and Reality. Bob Cornwall has a nice brief summary here. Check out all you can. And in the meantime, allow us to post a short summary of our own:

Points of Process —

  • The most fundamental thing about reality is that it is a process of becoming, a process the smallest constituents of which (called “actual occasions”) are events (or “drops”) of experience.
  • Every “actual occasion” is in some minimal sense free, creative and self-determining.
  • God’s role in the process of the world’s becoming is to define the optimal outcome for every actual occasion with an initial aim. This aim is that occasion’s highest value, its most beautiful version of itself possible in that particular moment.
  • God “lures” or “persuades” (never coercing or determining) every occasion toward this aim.
  • God, like all existing entities, is in a process of becoming. God takes into his experience all the process of the universe, defining the aims and perfection of all entities and assimilating the increasing diversity of the world’s becoming. Thus God’s actuality (his actual experience) is co-constituted with the world and is improved upon (i.e., made more ‘valuable’, for value grows with increasing diversity) as God harmonizes the world’s growing complexity.
  • The God-world relation is a necessary and essential one. The material universe (or some universe[s]) exists eternally in God.

duchampdescendingThere is much more to Process that we cannot here discuss. But perhaps we could boil this down with a famous comment of Whitehead’s that reveals what we think is as good a candidate for being the defining center of Process as actus purus is for classical theism. Whitehead commented, “God is not to be treated as an exception to all metaphysical principles, invoked to save their collapse; he is their chief exemplification.” In other words, God and world together constitute a single ontology between them, a single “order of content and explication.” No ontological distinction between divine and created being per se, no categorical transcendence of creation, no “analogical moment” for David Hart. There is instead only a singular ‘being’ possessed by both God and the world.

If “classical” theism’s center is actus purus, a view which holds God’s self-constituting perfections to be utterly free and independent of creation, a God in whom there is no unfulfilled potential and thus no “process” whatsoever to speak of, we can say Process theism makes the opposite claim — that God’s existence and perfections are thoroughly historicized, constituted in and as the ever changing process of God’s ongoing relationship with the universe, a relationship which is as consequential for God as it is for the world.

Consequences follow from such a view just as inevitably as from classical theism, chiefly regarding the triune nature of God (Process doesn’t require a trinity and struggles to account for its necessity where it is affirmed), Christology, and eschatology. But these points will require more attention as the discussion moves on..

(Pictures here and here.)